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What is the Big and Healthy Cookbook and why do I need it?  The Big and Healthy cookbook is a collection of over 400 recipes developed by employees, certified wellness consultants and clients of The Wellness Forum. All of the recipes are Wellness-Forum approved, all but 5 are vegan, and almost all are really easy to prepare. About 50 recipes are more complicated and designed for holiday entertaining and other special occasions. The recipes are packaged in a large binder in order to accommodate recipe additions to the book. Members can obtain new recipes monthly at no charge by visiting the passcode-accessed member-only part of our website and printing them out. Recipe additions are published every year in November and can be purchased by non-members by calling our office.

I have a lot of energy after consuming the shake – is this because of the caffeine in the green tea?  No, it is not. First, you should have a lot of energy after consuming high-quality foods since the reason for eating is to fuel the body. Eating frequent, smaller meals will insure that your energy levels remain high throughout the day. This is not related to the caffeine content of the tea. See the next question.

I’m trying to stay away from caffeine. Is it ok to have the tea in my shake every day?  It is true that all tea contains caffeine. However, the bioavailability of the caffeine depends on the amount of oxidation the tea has experienced. Oxidation causes caffeine to become bioavailable and additionally degrades nutrient value of the tea. You have seen oxidation occur – just cut up some lettuce and leave it on the kitchen counter for a while. When you return and the edges are browned, this is the result of oxidation. So, how does tea become oxidized? Machine-picking the leaves is an inexpensive way to harvest, but it breaks the leaves, causing oxidation. High temperature processing, also cheap, causes oxidation. Exposure to light and air and pouring hot water all further oxidize the tea. Wellness Forum tea is hand-picked; air-dried rather than processed; packaged in double-sealed containers to avoid exposure to light and air; and then added to the shake without any hot water for brewing being applied. This means that oxidation is minimized, and only a tiny amount of caffeine is bioavailable, while the nutrient value is preserved. It is easy to tell how much oxidation has occurred by looking at tea leaves. Broken leaves, and darker color of the leaves represent oxidation.

Is it okay to brew Wellness Forum green tea?  Yes, but remember that brewing the tea will cause oxidation and release some caffeine. A better alternative is to brew herbal teas (not de-caffeinated) such as chamomile, lemon, licorice, and others. These products really are not “teas” but rather roots, flowers, stems and other parts of plants that are brewed and consumed like tea.

Why shouldn’t I purchase green tea at the health food store?  There are two considerations when purchasing green tea. One is the level of oxidation, which is discussed in the question relating to caffeine. Cheaper teas are generally oxidized, as is evidenced by their appearance. The leaves are broken rather than whole-leaf, and they are not a bright-green color like Wellness Forum tea.  Another, potentially more important issue is place of origin for tea. Tea plants have a very special quality – they efficiently absorb everything from the soil. This is terrific if the plants are in a pristine environment with nutrient-rich soil. The problem is that teas are usually grown in Asia, where there is little to no environmental regulation. Tea farms can be located right next to industrial facilities spewing heavy metals into the soil. These contaminants are absorbed into the plants and can cause illness ranging from mild discomfort to vomiting, diarrhea and other adverse reactions. We have had reports from many people over the years who have become quite ill as a result of consuming inexpensive tea purchased in stores. Wellness Forum tea is grown in a very remote area of China where there is no industry – in fact, there is no road leading back to the farm. The soil is nutrient rich and the leaves are regularly tested in a laboratory for contamination. If you do purchase other tea, you must not only know the specific area it comes from, but also something about the nature of that area – what is located nearby, etc. Since most people do not have access to this information and it is not specified on most products, we instruct people to either use our tea or to leave it out of the shake entirely.

If dairy products are really so bad for you, why haven’t I heard that before? Good question! Where are we getting the “good news” about dairy products? From the dairy industry! This news comes in the form of advertising messages, not scientific information. We live in a democracy that values free speech, and I will always defend the right of the dairy industry to advertise their products. However, a good consumer must differentiate between advertising and scientific research. The scientific research about dairy is quite clear. The dairy industry’s own studies show that the more dairy consumed, the higher the bone fracture rate. And, dairy has been linked to anemia, constipation, allergies, asthma, chronic infections, and breast and prostate cancer. An excellent source of research on dairy can be found at pcrm.org – the website for the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine.

I’m really having trouble sticking with my new diet – I know the right thing to do, but I just can’t seem to make myself do it.  First, it is important to remember, always, why you are doing this. A strong reason will motivate you and keep you on track. After that, the next important step is setting your life up for success. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator and get rid of the foods you know you are not supposed to eat. Willpower will not help you to stick with you new dietary patterns – if you have cookies, candy and cake in your kitchen, it will usually call your name until you finally give in and eat it. Make sure you have healthy foods available at all times in your house, in your office, and with you when you travel. You’ll be a lot less inclined to eat “bad” food when better alternatives are readily available. Planning is important. Figuring out what you are going to fix for meals, making a list, and shopping in advance will keep you from making poor, last-minute choices. Support is crucial! A friend who goes through this process with you can be helpful. Stay in touch with your Wellness Forum consultant, and if you are feeling weak and on the verge of making a poor decision, CALL! Join groups and spend time with people who value healthy eating and lifestyles. Many cities have a vegetarian society, the health food stores often offer interesting classes or potlucks, and attending yoga classes, aerobics classes and other exercise-related activities will reinforce your good behaviors. If you’re in a city that offers Wellness Forum classes live, make yourself a regular! Last but not least, if you “fall off the wagon,” get right back on. We all experience moments of weakness, let ourselves get sloppy about our habits or do things we aren’t supposed to do. Just do better starting now, and don’t spend time beating yourself up over it!

There are no good restaurants in my area so every time I eat out I end up having bad food.  Obviously it is easier to stick with Wellness Forum-style eating if you are in a restaurant that offers some healthy options. However, it is easy to eat healthfully in any restaurant with a little creativity. Here are some tips:

  • Order a large salad and ask that the cheese, meat, croutons and other unhealthy items be omitted and more vegetables added.
  • You can always order more than one of something – I have ordered 2 dinner salads and two baked potatoes, or two sides of asparagus as an entrée.
  • Order side dishes.
  • Order the accompaniments for the dinner items – I’ll ask for the steamed spinach that comes with the halibut, the fingerling potatoes that come with the beef, the broccoli that is served with the pork, etc. I’ve had some incredibly delicious meals this way!
  • Order a pasta dish with just ½ cup of pasta and more vegetables with marinara sauce.
  • Mix and match on the menu – order a big salad and instead of chicken, substitute tuna (the chicken is not likely to be organic in most restaurants).
  • Omit a sauce or substitute a different sauce on any dish to “healthify it.”

My diet is admittedly more restrictive than most people’s – I think it’s important to set a good example and I expect a lot out of my body, which requires me to be a little more diligent. It should encourage you to know that I have never been in a restaurant where I could not stick with my routine by using these methods.

I am doing almost everything I learned in class and I am so tired I can hardly get up in the morning. What is going on?  In the process of changing to the Wellness Forum’s diet, you have probably eliminated lots of stimulants like caffeine and sugar. Now, you’re getting an opportunity to see just how tired your body is when you are not stimulating yourself with these substances. The good news is that as your body recovers through a combination of improved diet, more sound sleep, exercise and reduced stress, your energy levels will start to increase. In the end you’ll find that your energy levels will be higher, and more sustained. It’s much better than the ups and downs that are experienced as a result of using caffeine, sugar and other stimulants.

I’m addicted to caffeine – what’s the best way to quit? If you are truly addicted to caffeine, you’re liable to experience headaches and other symptoms when you stop consuming it. Since most people are unable to quit cold turkey and suffer through withdrawal, it may be better to wean yourself off of caffeine by gradually cutting back by about 20% per day until you stop completely. You will still experience symptoms, but they will be considerably milder this way. Make sure you drink enough water – at least 64 ounces per day. This will reduce fatigue and headache symptoms significantly.

I took the class and my health is still not improving.  First, it takes a while to rebuild your body with food. Unlike drugs, there is not generally an instantaneous effect from dietary change. But it’s also important to take a really honest personal inventory. Have you really made the significant changes recommended in the Wellness Forum’s program? Of course, we always celebrate incremental change, but gradual, incremental change rarely results in a therapeutic effect. It is only by immediately adopting the entirety of the Wellness Forum’s diet and lifestyle that you can expect to begin rebuilding your health. Eating baked potato chips and fruit-juice sweetened cookies, or just adding the breakfast shake to your existing diet will not get the job done. So, ask yourself, are you consuming less than 10% of calories from animal foods? Have you stopped eating dairy? Are you eating large salads with every meal? Are you drinking enough water? Are you exercising 45-60 minutes 5-6 days per week? If not, it’s time to start. You may want to take the class again, or if you completed the class via distance learning, listen to the tapes again. Talk to a consultant and let us help you get on the right track for health building and maintenance.

What is Wellness Forum Accelerated Weight Loss?  Most people will begin losing weight when they consume a Wellness Forum-style diet. However, since being overweight and carrying excess body fat is such a health hazard, it is advisable for some people to accelerate their weight loss. The Wellness Forum AWL plan is designed to do just that. It is based on the concept of calorie dilution, and calls for the substitution of calorie-dense foods such as animal foods, processed foods, and even higher-fat plant foods like avocadoes, with calorie-dilute foods that are high in fiber and quite filing, such as beans, rice, corn, potatoes, and vegetables. This results in restricting caloric intake without restricting food intake. You can, almost without exception, consume as much of the allowed foods as you want – the fiber content of the foods will keep you from overeating. This is important since the hunger drive is so powerful – it has kept humans alive for a very long time! Most people just cannot tolerate being hungry for very long, which is why so many diet programs fail – they require people to use portion control as a way to reduce calories. Hunger is only satisfied when the stomach as filled. Fill it with chicken and cheese and 3400 calories are required. Fill the stomach with beans, rice and salad, on the other hand, and it only takes 400 calories. The weight loss program starts with an initial consultation to review foods that are allowed and those that are not and to give basic instruction on how to get started. Additional consultations involve customized meal planning, dealing with the non-food issues associated with losing weight, such as attachments to foods, and exercise. Emails are sent weekly to motivate and remind you to stay on track.

I’m not hungry in the morning – can I have the shake for lunch? Once you start regularly consuming a high-quality breakfast, you’ll start being hungry when you wake up. It is really important to start your day with enough calories from complex carbohydrate to fuel your body. After fasting all night, your body is completely empty and must have fuel. You’ll either provide it from eating the right foods, or your body will be forced to break down stored glycogen in order to provide it, which is quite stressful. So, if you want to be healthy, there is no way to avoid eating a great breakfast daily. There are two issues with using the shake for lunch. First, you’ll still have to make a high-quality breakfast anyway, and, in my opinion, the shake is the easiest thing to do. Also, if you do not come home for lunch, you’ll have to have the equipment (blender and coffee grinder) and supplies to make the shake at work or wherever you spend your time during the day.

Can I make the shake in advance?  No – the shake will begin degrading and oxidizing from the time you prepare it, which means it should be consumed immediately after you make it.

Can I grind the flax seeds in advance?  No, flax seeds start oxidizing and becoming rancid after grinding, so they should be consumed immediately.

Do I need to refrigerate my flax and brewer’s yeast?  No – as long as your house is temperature-controlled, you can just store them in your pantry or cupboard.

Why am I consuming Brewer’s yeast? Brewer’s yeast is a great source of B vitamins, which help the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins. B vitamins also support the nervous system and help maintain muscles, including those used for digestion. B vitamins relieve stress, depression, irritability and fatigue, and help reduce some of the effects of aging. In times of either stress or infection, the body needs more B vitamins. Almost everyone today experiences stress from daily living. Stress does not necessarily indicate that something is wrong – just being busy can contribute to stress. Brewer’s yeast is the best food source of B vitamins. It tastes awful, which is why I advocate putting it in the Complete shake in the morning. It also needs to be consumed daily, if it is to compensate for the drain on our system of B vitamins induced by the stresses of daily living. Biotin, one of the B vitamins in Brewer’s yeast, has been shown to strengthen nails and improve the health of hair. Biotin also helps diabetics use insulin more efficiently and is useful for treating diabetic neuropathy. Brewer’s yeast is an important source of chromium, which contributes to maintaining lower sugar levels. Brewer’s yeast has been used by researchers to lower glucose levels in diabetics to almost normal. Although supplemental chromium is often difficult to absorb, the chromium is brewer’s yeast is readily absorbable. Brewer’s yeast contains minerals including selenium, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium. Brewer’s yeast can be used to relieve acne and acute diarrhea. Nutritional yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, although it does contain some B vitamins, amino acids and minerals. Although brewer’s yeast is named because it is recovered after being used in the beer-brewing process, the yeast I recommend and offer is grown specifically for use as a nutrient. The yeast left over after brewing is contaminated with beer flavor compounds and would not be suitable for our purposes. Most of the beer by-product yeast is used for animal feed. In Australia and the U.K., specific foods are made from the remains from brewing, such as Vegemite and Marmite. The value is supposedly as a flavor enhancer, but if you have ever tasted these foods, this is debatable! Brewer’s yeast does not contribute to yeast infections such as Candida. Food yeasts, unlike baker’s yeast, are not infectious. Nutritional yeasts are not live yeast cells – you could not bake bread with them, for example. Some people have been advised not to use Brewer’s yeast because of its phosphorus content because they suffer from osteoporosis. Naturally occurring phosphorus in foods and water is not harmful, and is essential for human function. Do not confuse the phosphorus found in supplements, or the phosphoric acid in soft drinks and other processed foods, with naturally occurring phosphorus. In order to avoid the intake of phosphorus you would have to discontinue eating fruits, vegetables and grains, not a good idea! The only contraindications for Brewer’s yeast are for those taking MAO inhibitors, as the tyramine may cause hypertension. Also if you are using meperidine, a narcotic analgesic, severe blood pressure increases can result from using Brewer’s yeast. Many people who have started using brewer’s yeast have reported higher energy levels, as well as being in a much better mood as a result of replenishing the B vitamins lost through our stressful ways of living. One of the reasons for the energy burst may be a constituent called NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), an antioxidant. NADH works as a co-enzyme to provide energy to cells. It promotes the synthesis of dopamine, a stimulating brain chemical. According to a study conducted by the Washington Neuropsychological Institute in Washington, D.C., people who took a red-eye flight from San Diego to Washington D.C. fared better on tests that evaluated mental and physical functioning if they took 20 mg of a supplement containing NADH after arriving at their destination. The research group stated that the substance takes effect within one hour of consumption. Another study was conducted by a New York Presbyterian Hospital and involved keeping a group of subjects up all night and testing their ability to think and solve problems the next day. Subjects who took NADH performed significantly better on tests measuring speed and accuracy than those taking a placebo. Other preliminary research shows promising results for NADH in the treatment of chronic fatigue and Alzheimer’s. As you might imagine, the supplement manufacturers have taken notice, and there are already a few NADH supplements on the market. The pill pushers are claiming that the supplement is better than the food source because NADH is destroyed by the digestive juices in the stomach before it can become effective. This is similar to the argument against eating raw food – the enzymes don’t make it through the digestive tract for the same reason. However, studies consistently show active enzymes do survive the trek through the intestinal tract. Again, it is always better to get something from the food source!

Why do you tell us to purchase brewer’s yeast only in bulk?  The brewer’s yeast in cans and jars is fortified and adulterated. It tastes terrible, and one tablespoon can, literally, spoil an entire blender full of the shake. Since bulk brewer’s yeast is not available in most stores, The Wellness Forum carries it for your convenience.

Is nutritional yeast the same as brewer’s yeast?  No. It has a different nutrient breakdown. Nutritional yeast is healthy and it is great for adding a cheesy flavor to soups and popcorn. But it is not brewer’s yeast. Many health food store employees encourage people to purchase nutritional yeast instead of brewer’s yeast because they do not know the difference and/or because they don’t carry brewer’s yeast.

I still don’t know what to make for dinner.  Most people make this into a harder project than it needs to be. First, think about how you currently function. Do you have 40-50 different dinners that you regularly serve? Or is it more like 5-7 that you rotate and serve regularly? If you’re like most people, it’s more like 5-7! And, you don’t have to stop making all of those dinners, but rather can just improve them by using the substitution principles you learned in class.  To make this easy on yourself, start trying one or two new things weekly – either a recipe from the Big and Healthy Cookbook, a new Wellness Forum food, or a recipe from another healthy cookbook you like. Over time, you’ll expand your repertoire of healthy meals and they’ll be as easy to fix and as much a part of your routine as the meals you currently fix. And, make sure you do a meal planning session with a Wellness Forum consultant. This will help you to get organized, and will result in a personalized grocery list, a suggested pantry stocking list and help you to explore recipe ideas based on your food preferences.

Am I getting enough protein?  Human protein needs have been grossly over-exaggerated. The World Health Organization established protein needs at 2.5% of calories and set the recommendation at 5% to be safe. Most Americans are consuming considerably more than this amount of protein daily. It is virtually impossible for an individual who is consuming enough calories daily to become protein deficient. Plant foods like vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, contain lots of protein, and are much better sources of it than animal foods.

I noticed that many of the authors and books you recommend and endorse are advocating a much stricter diet than The Wellness Forum’s – much lower in fat and usually vegan. Do you think this is best?  I believe the people you are referring to are Dr. McDougall, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Fuhrman, Howard Lyman, Dr. Neal Barnard and Drs. Goldhamer and Lisle. We all philosophically agree on basic principles, mainly that diet and lifestyle are the principle determinants of health, and that a plant-based, low-fat diet is best for humans. Within those parameters, you will observe some subtle differences in the recommendations we are making, but the similarities are greater. The biggest difference is that these people practice and teach a vegan diet. The reason is that their diets are designed to provide a rapid therapeutic benefit, and are generally administered to highly motivated people, many of whom are spending considerable amounts of money to travel and participate in a residential program. The Wellness Forum’s programs are designed to help people regain and maintain their health, and are effective in doing so. We do make it clear that the greater the shift in behavior, the faster recovery can take place. Vegan diets are healthful, and offer many benefits, including not having to worry about the safety of consuming animal foods. However, it is not necessary to be a vegan in order to enjoy optimal health, and the world’s healthiest populations are not vegan – they consume animal foods as a condiment, just as The Wellness Forum recommends. I do recommend vegan diets for their therapeutic benefit. Dr. McDougall and others have a long track record of reversing degenerative diseases by teaching people how to begin and adhere to a vegan diet. But this is not necessary for everyone.

I am really having trouble staying away from sugar. Join the crowd! Everyone has trouble breaking the addiction to sugar. And it is an addiction – the desire to consume it does not represent a character defect. Studies show that sugar causes many of the same responses in the brain as heroin and cocaine, and, in fact, Dr. Neal Barnard’s book Breaking the Food Seduction features a chapter on this topic. In one study he cites, subjects given the drug nalaxone, used in the emergency room to keep heroin and cocaine addicts from dying of overdose, reduced sugar and chocolate consumption by 95%! The best bet is to get rid of the sugary foods in your household, and not make them part of your daily routine. They are empty calories, and consuming them makes you want more. I have found that the best way to enjoy desserts is situational – this means I only consume them in very tiny quantities when I am out in restaurants or at parties. There is no more when I get home, which keeps me from consuming more.

I’ve always taken a multivitamin – isn’t it just good insurance? The body was specifically designed and engineered to process nutrients from food, in perfect synergy with one another. Isolated nutrients have pharmacological effects and should therefore be used for therapeutic purposes, for short periods of time, under the direction of a practitioner, and while changes are made in diet and lifestyle that address the underlying cause of the disorder. There are only a few nutrients in a multivitamin, while there are thousands of nutrients in foods. You don’t need much of any of these nutrients every day, but you do need a little of all of them. And you’ll get those from consuming the plant-based diet recommended by The Wellness Forum. As for those who say that you cannot get enough nutrients from food, they are correct if you are consuming the Standard American Diet. But consuming that diet with a multivitamin or supplement regime will not provide enough nutrients either. The money spent on a multivitamin would be better spent on high-quality foods. member that brewing the tea will cause oxidation and release some caffeine. A better alternative is to brew herbal teas (not de-caffeinated) such as chamomile, lemon, licorice, and others. These products really are not “”teas” but rather roots, flowers, stems and other parts of plants that are brewed and consumed like tea.

I have a lot of gas since I started this diet. It’s embarrassing. Will it go away? Converting to The Wellness Forum’s high-fiber diet will often cause the formation of more gas. For many people, this will go away once the body adjusts. There are a few things you can do to minimize the gas issue:

  • Don’t eat too fast. When you consume food quickly, you swallow a lot of air, which can cause gas.
  • Chew your food thoroughly. Swallowing whole foods without properly chewing can cause digestive distress and gas
  • Don’t consume liquids with meals.
  • Don’t overeat.
  • If beans cause gas, try soaking dried beans overnight, discarding the soak water and then cooking them on the stovetop. This is more time consuming, but will get rid of most of the gassy effect of eating beans.

If gas persists, it can be indicative of gastrointestinal problems that will require some treatment and repair. Years of poor diet, lack of adequate fiber and water, constipation, and taking antibiotics, birth control pills and other drugs, can result in poor intestinal health that may not resolve on its own. Consult with a naturopath to determine the best course of action for solving these issues.

I’m having trouble finishing the shake.  If you are having problems finishing the shake, reduce the fruit – use 1/2 banana and only 1/2 cup of frozen fruit. This will reduce the fiber and bulk of the shake and you should be able to finish it.

Eating this way seems expensive.  People often arrive at this conclusion as they compare foods or meals one at a time. This can lead to some erroneous thoughts about the cost of healthy eating. There is no question that some things are going to be more expensive. For example, you are probably going to spend more money on the breakfast shake than you have traditionally spent on breakfast. However, you will spend less on other things. Eating meat is expensive – it costs considerably less to consume beans and rice than beef roast. Eating prepared foods such as frozen dinners is expensive. Rice prepared in a rice cooker and added to a healthy soup is cheaper. Beans, rice, corn, potatoes and vegetables are quite inexpensive compared to what most people are eating. Additionally, as some of your habits change – eating at home more often since you’ll be planning better, taking leftovers to work for lunch, packing your child’s lunch instead of buying, – you’ll see some substantial savings. You’ll find that if you’re willing to do a little preparation, you can save a lot of money. Knowing where to purchase foods is important too. There are wide variations in most areas in the prices of healthy foods, depending on where you purchase which items. Your consultant may be able to help you with this in your area. It is important to evaluate your food budget after you make the conversion and know what you’re doing, and base your evaluation on the totality of what you spend on food, not comparing one food or meal at a time. And, take a look at some expenses that may have been deleted from your budget, such as co-pays on prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, etc.

My spouse will not do this with me. Although life would be easier if entire households would adopt this diet and lifestyle together, it does not always happen that way. Remember that the reason you’re doing this is for you! Your health is important and taking optimal care of yourself is your right and privilege regardless of what anyone else in your life decides to do. A couple of logistical tips may be helpful. You can make a vegetarian dinner, separate your portion and then add chicken or beef to it for a spouse that wants to consume animal foods more regularly. You can request that your spouse place “bad” foods in a place you will not be likely to see them, at least often. We have some clients whose spouses keep the “bad” foods at their offices or locked in their desks at home. Don’t write your spouse off – by setting a good example, you may influence him or her to join you later. Don’t push it, but rather just continue serving healthier foods and sticking to your decision and, over time, your spouse may come more your direction.

My friends and family do not understand and they are putting a lot of pressure on me to eat they way they do.  Your friends and family don’t understand because they do not know what you now know. And, you are not doing this for them, or to seek their approval, but because you have decided this is the best thing to do for your health. It is normal for people to react this way. One reason is that your changed habits can make them uncomfortable. Watching you make more healthful choices often makes them painfully aware of the poor choices they are making every day. It would be easier for them to get you to change back to unhealthier habits than for them to take a harder look at themselves. If you stick with your plans (and you should!), over time your friends and your family will become more cooperative. They will recognize that this is not a tangent or fad, but rather a decision you have made about how you are going to live your life. My experience, and the experience of my clients, has been that people become more accommodating over time and eventually try to help you rather than deter you from your path.

Do I have to give up grilling altogether?  You don’t have to give up anything altogether, but some things just should not be consumed regularly, and grilled animal foods are some of them. Grilling animal foods causes the creation of heterocyclic amines, which have been found to cause cancer. Therefore, grilled animal foods should be an occasional treat. This problem does not exist with grilled vegetables, such as portabella mushrooms or zucchini.

Are Smart Balance and Earth Balance the same? They are not the same. Earth Balance is made from polyunsaturated vegetable oils that are not hydrogenated. Smart Balance claims to help in lowering cholesterol, a claim I find ludicrous. Cholesterol levels are almost always a reflection of the diet, exercise and lifestyle patterns of an individual, and are not remedied by consuming any one food, particularly one that is high in fat like Smart Balance. Butter substitutes are not health foods and are to be used sparingly for a treat. Taking a poor diet and finding substitutes in order to continue to eat that poor diet is not the objective of The Wellness Forum’s program. The course is designed to assist you in changing the structure of your diet entirely. A healthier junk food diet will not benefit you at all.

It seems like organic animal foods are considerably more expensive than conventional ones. One of the most important recommendations we make at The Wellness Forum is to substitute organic animal foods for the conventional animal products most people are consuming. The reason is that farmers inject animals with antibiotics, steroids and hormones in order to reduce the incidence of disease, and to promote rapid growth. The problem is that the residue of these substances remains in the meat and you end up ingesting it when you consume animal foods. This is one of the reasons why Americans are experiencing higher rates of antibiotic resistance, children are sexually maturing at earlier ages, and the cancer rates are increasing. Almost everyone fears that organic foods will be unavailable or will most certainly be more expensive. Making this change is not as hard or expensive as you might imagine. First, let’s address the cost issue. As you have learned in the course so far, it is best to reduce the amount of animal food you consume, and increase the amount of plant foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, you consume daily. You’ve also learned the reasons why – lower rates of degenerative diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. And, it is easier to maintain optimal weight on a diet like the one we advocate. If you consume smaller portions of animal foods less often, you can afford to improve the quality of animal foods you are buying. This is called redirected spending. For example, if you are accustomed to purchasing ground meat once per week at $1.99 per pound and you serve 8 ounces of it to each of 4 members of your family, that results in an expenditure of $3.98 per week (2 pounds are required). With an average of 4 weeks in a month, you’ll be spending $15.92 on this food. Let’s say that organic ground meat costs twice as much – that’s $3.98 per pound. Seems more expensive. But, if you consume it every other week and the portions are 4 ounces instead of 8, your cost per month to serve ground meat is only $7.98 even though the food is organic and more expensive, because your consumption will be reduced. You’ll only be buying 2 pounds of meat per month, rather than 8. You’ll actually have money left over to spend on something else! Now, let’s deal with logistics. You are most likely to find organic meat at Wild Oats. Some of you may not live close to Wild Oats, which may make it seem like this would be more inconvenient. However, the good news is that animal foods can be frozen and they keep for a reasonable period of time. So, you can visit Wild Oats once every 4-6 weeks, and stock up on those things that are not readily perishable, including animal foods that you will freeze. You can purchase fruits and vegetables and other foods at your local grocery store.

How do you maintain all of these better habits while traveling? 

First, for those of you who just can’t live without your shake in the morning (that’s most of us!), there are several options:

  • For trips lasting a few days to a few weeks, get a travel blender. TriBest makes a great one and you can purchase it online. It grinds flax, and the jar is large enough for the whole shake.
  • For a quick overnight trip, where I am carrying on my luggage, I’ll just grind up the tea, flax and yeast the night before, mix with the Complete and place in a baggie. I always carry my own spoon and a large plastic container, and can combine the mixture with orange juice from room service or the breakfast buffet at the hotel.
  • Another alternative is to take your coffee grinder, along with the tea, flax, yeast and Complete, and grind the ingredients daily, and mix with orange juice or plant milk.
  • Almost all hotels have a bar, and almost all bars have a blender. Hotels have allowed me to combine my shake ingredients in the blender in the bar, if I am not traveling with my own blender.

If you are a regular visitor to a particular location, and stay at the same place, you might ask if you can purchase a coffee grinder and blender to keep at the hotel and use while you are there. As for airport rules for transporting these items, you’ll need to check coffee grinders and blenders, since the sharp blades are considered a security risk. It is best to keep the ingredients in their original containers with the labels so that if your bag is searched by the Transportation Safety Administration, it will be easy for the inspectors to figure out what you have. I always take the shake ingredients with me. I cannot always do the whole concoction, including fruit, in a blender, and I’m not particularly fond of orange juice instead of plant milk, but I’m better off consuming the major ingredients daily than not. I feel better and my energy level is better if I stick with my routine. Where you stay has a lot to do with how easy it is to eat well. I always choose suite hotels if I have a choice since they generally have refrigerators, and some have small kitchens with equipment and utensils that allow you prepare meals. In a downtown area, you can often walk to a grocery store. Cabs, your local host and others can help you to obtain provisions locally as well. I still do love to explore restaurants in new places, but eat fewer meals out than I used to, and save those experiences for special people and really great restaurants. The airlines have drastically cut back meal services (a great contribution to public health!), and there is little healthy food available in airports. You should plan to bring enough food to tide you over until you arrive at your destination. I usually pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, some cut up veggies, an apple and a couple of Wellness Forum bars. Additionally, I bring with me Wellness Forum soup mixes, Wellness Forum cereals, bars, some raw nuts, trail mix, dried fruit and some plastic spoons. I do this so that I’ll have stuff to munch on, and I can be prepared no matter what happens. For example, I’ve been in hotels that do not offer room service until 5:30PM and I have to leave at that time to go to the venue where the lecture will be held. I can run filtered water (I never travel without my water filter) through the coffee machine, mix it with WF potato soup combined with black bean soup (hearty, filling and delicious) and I won’t be hungry, nor will I have to eat vending machine fare or other junk. It is just as important to continue your exercise routine when you are on the road. I am a great fan of Bikram yoga, and have managed to locate studios in other cities so I can take class while I am there. I always bring my running clothes and shoes, and if the weather is decent, ask locals about great places to run. Most hotels have a workout room, and those that don’t can usually refer you to someplace nearby where you can take aerobic classes or lift weights. And, remember to stay hydrated, particularly while flying. I always ask for extra water, and I take a couple of large bottles with me on the plane. As I mentioned before, I bring my water filter, and fill a couple of bottles in the morning and take them with me to drink throughout the day. I will not drink tap water, and the availability of bottled water can vary depending on where I find myself, so having a filter with me is the best plan. I have been asked on several occasions if I ever just “let myself go” and treat myself. I do, but I do less of it than I used to. The reason is that I just do not want to be bloated, tired and sluggish either while I’m traveling or when I return from a trip. It’s more fun to be energetic and alert and remain able to fit into my clothes.

Why do pediatricians recommend milk for children?  There are several reasons for this advice. Medical doctors do not receive much, if any training about nutrition in medical school. Although medical doctors receive impressive training about pharmacological intervention and surgical procedures, they are generally not the best source of information about nutrition. It is important to note that many doctors have decided that nutrition is an important component of health, and are working at gaining knowledge in this area. There are several such enlightened physicians associated with NSA. Doctors, however, are not the only medical professionals advocating milk for both children and adults. This is, in my opinion, partially based on the inappropriate relationships we allow between industry and agricultural organizations, with health professionals, organizations and schools. The USDA was formed by Congress with a mission statement that included promoting the sale of agricultural commodities in the U.S., effectively making the USDA an advocacy organization for farmers. Although I agree that farmers should have an advocacy organization, this same organization should not be determining the food intake guidelines for Americans. The dairy industry, in addition to the support it receives from the USDA, is very powerful and wealthy. It contributes large amounts of money, along with other agricultural groups and manufacturing companies to organizations like the American Dietetic Association, in exchange for “position papers” that promote the consumption of various foods, such as dairy, and additives, such as artificial sweeteners. In other words, the recommendations are advertising disguised as “health advice.” The dairy industry also provides “educational” programming to thousands of teachers for use in the classroom. This is nothing but self-promotion and should not be tolerated. An examination of the scientific literature results in an overwhelming amount of evidence indicating that the consumption of dairy foods is linked to anemia, constipation, chronic infections, juvenile diabetes and cancer. As consumption of dairy foods increases in various populations throughout the world, the incidence of all of these diseases increases as well.

What is the best way for athletes to get protein? What carbs maximize a workout?  The best diet for athletes is the diet recommended by The Wellness Forum – plant-based, 10% or less of calories from animal foods, low-fat, high fiber, complex carbohydrate, etc. The difference for an athlete is that based on the increased activity level, the amount of calories consumed may need to increase. The macronutrient structure of the diet – in other words, carbohydrates, protein and fat – would remain the same. The Wellness Forum presents a great workshop on sports nutrition – if you ask for it, we’d be happy to present it for you!

How does diet affect thyroid and is it possible to stop taking synthroid?  Diet affects every cell, organ, gland, system and process in the body and that includes thyroid function. It is possible to restore the thyroid to normal function in some instances. The variables include how long the problem has persisted, as well as which treatments have been used. As always, it is important to consult with your doctor before discontinuing any medication. And, it is important to build your health status before attempting to reduce meds.

Is there really a connection between diet and cancer? Absolutely! Some of the best studies that have been conducted on the connection between diet and disease have compared people living in different regions of the world, their dietary habits and their rates of numerous degenerative conditions, including cancer. And the results of this research are conclusive; the more animal protein, fat, and refined foods in the diet, the higher the rate of cancer. At one time it was thought that genetics was the reason, but now studies have tracked people as they move from one part of the world to another and adopt the habits of their new home. When people move from Japan, for example, a country with very low cancer and obesity rates, to a country like the United States, within one generation, their obesity and cancer rates, as well as the incidence of other major killers like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are equal to ours.  One of the best books on this topic is called The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. Dr. Campbell and his team have received over 74 grant-years of funding from the National Institutes of Health to study nutrition and cancer. He has conducted the largest and most comprehensive population study on human nutrition ever undertaken, involving over 800 correlations between diet and health. And his evidence is quite clear – the rate of cancer in humans is directly related to the percentage of animal protein in the diet. The more animal foods people eat, the more cancer they get.

Why do some people eat anything they want, don’t exercise and manage to stay a reasonable weight? First, this is often a temporary phenomenon. You haven’t gotten to this part of the curriculum yet, but as people age, they lose lean muscle mass and gain fat. The problem this creates is that it takes between 25 and 50 calories to maintain a pound of lean muscle mass, but only 2-3 calories daily to maintain a pound of fat. So, the same number of calories that maintain a certain weight over time, tend to put weight on an individual as he or she ages. UNLESS he or she decides to eat right and exercise, in which case an individual can maintain a lean body and continue to burn more calories. It is also important to remember that the results of a poor diet and lifestyle vary from person to person. One person may gain weight, another develops cancer, another has clogged arteries, etc. There are lots of skinny and unhealthy people in the U.S.!

I know the food being served at my child’s school is not good for him but I don’t know how to change it. Any suggestions? There is no question that the foods served at school are a detriment to children’s health. Not only does consuming them lead to obesity and ill health, but offering these foods daily teaches our children that it is ok to eat junk food daily, a value system no one agrees with. The first step is to make sure your child is not eating unhealthy school lunches. This means packing lunch daily. If your child loves chicken nuggets and pizza and complains, one solution is to compromise (what we did in my household) – your child can purchase lunch one day per week and he can decide which day, while on the other days lunch is provided from home. In terms of how to begin making changes, start talking to other parents. Volunteer to make a presentation to your child’s class about healthy eating. The Wellness Forum Foundation offers programs, packaged presentations and other tools to facilitate this process (a distance learning course will be available by the end of this month), and organizes a conference every summer that features workshops that facilitate changing nutrition education and nutritional offerings in the schools. For information, call us at 614 841-7700.

I saw the term “non-genetically modified” on a food product. What does this mean?  Genetically engineered foods are those that have been modified by inserting genes from another plant or animal. The purpose is to give the food a characteristic that it would not normally have. For example, Round-up Ready soybeans are genetically altered to allow farmers to spray enormous amounts of herbicide on the soy in order to get rid of pests – amounts that would normally be quite detrimental to the soy plant. Great for the manufacturer of Round-up and for the farmer who can indiscriminately spray the crop, but maybe not so great for the consumer. Analysis of genetically altered soy foods shows that their nutrient breakdown is altered in the process of inserting these foreign genes, resulting in increased amounts of some nutrients and decreased amounts of others. There are no human studies that show that these combinations are safe, but animal studies indicate that they are not. The most common genetically engineered food in the country is soy, and fortunately, it is easy to avoid by purchasing organic soy foods, which are available everywhere. The soy in Complete, by the way, is not genetically engineered.