Tosca Says...

"It is the food that we eat which is responsible for shaping such a vast array of body types. Yes, the food!" - Tosca Reno, Author of The Eat Clean Diet

Sunday, December 4, 2011

7 Foods To Change Your View of NOW

Clean eating is more than just an eat-this-not-that diet. It's about making lasting changes in when, what, and how you eat. Knowledge IS power. When you have an understanding of the science behind the foods you eat, and what they subsequently do to your body, suddenly those foods become a lot less desirable! 

This week, I'm going beyond the surface concepts of clean eating and sharing some articles from some of my favorite health resources. The first one is from Prevention Magazine, and, WHOA! Need to rethink all those canned tomatoes in my pantry (a staple for my grandmother's spaghetti sauce that I make monthly!) Ugh!

7 Foods You Should Never Eat

By Prevention Magazine
Published December 02, 2011
Read more:

Food scientists are shedding light on items loaded with toxins and chemicals--and simple swaps for a cleaner diet and supersized health. 

Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing. Often they're organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today's food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what's safe--or not--to eat. We asked them a simple question: "What foods do you avoid?" Their answers don't necessarily make up a "banned foods" list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health--and peace of mind.

1. The Endocrinologist Won't Eat: Canned Tomatoes
Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

2. The Farmer Won't Eat: Corn-Fed Beef
Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search

3. The Toxicologist Won't Eat: Microwave Popcorn
Olga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The problem: 
Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize--and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap

4. The Farm Director Won't Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes
Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The problem:
 Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes--the nation's most popular vegetable--they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: 
Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. The Fisheries Expert Won't Eat: Farmed Salmon
Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: 
Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

6. The Cancer Researcher Won't Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones
Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The problem:
 Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100 percent proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart's Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

7. The Organic-Foods Expert Won't Eat: Conventional Apples
Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them. But Kastel personally refuses to compromise. "I would rather see the trade-off being that I don't buy that expensive electronic gadget," he says. "Just a few of these decisions will accommodate an organic diet for a family."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interview with Tosca Reno

My apologies for the lack of posting this month! It's National Novel Writers Month and I've been trying to finish a book I started three years ago so all my writing time and writing energy has been poured into that.

I'll get back to regular blogging here in a few days (and I've got some great recipes coming to the blog!) but, until then, I wanted to share with you an interview I just came upon with my she-has-no-idea-who-I-am-but-I-call-her-this-anyway clean-eating mentor, Tosca Reno. 

The interview is from 2007, and while the best source of the latest info is in her latest book "The Eat Clean Diet Recharged!", this interview covers all the basics of eating clean and will probably answer most, if not all, of your initial questions about what it means to eat clean!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Break the Fast!

Sound like something you've heard before? No? Come on. Say it again. Out loud. Ready?

Break the Fast!  

Ok, a little faster. BreakTheFast! 

One more time, really fast, and take out the THE. Get it now?


Breakfast comes after a full night of (hopefully) deep sleeping, which means you haven't fueled your body with anything in seven or eight hours. Therefore, when you get up, it's time to Break the Fast!

I hate breakfast. Correction....I hate having to decide what to have for breakfast every morning. And then taking time to actually make it and eat it. Take me out for breakfast and have someone else cook it for me and I'm golden (and usually undoing a notch or two on my belt!) I guess I just hate making the effort myself...which is odd because I love cooking and baking in general. I think it comes down to the fact that my brain isn't ready to make any decisions when I get up in the morning and so I used to always just wait for lunch. (Did you notice the keyword there? USED to?)

Are you tired? Can't focus? Feeling irritable? Craving sugar by 10am? Gorging yourself on an unhealthy lunch? You probably didn't eat breakfast this morning, did you? (Ask me how I know this about you!)

So here's the boring knowledge part:
In reality, eating a healthy breakfast gets your brain and body working after a full night of rest and repair. What you eat for breakfast sets the tone of the rest of your day. When you start your day off satisfied with a tummy full of nutrition, your body doesn't need to crave anything because you've fed it well. "The choice we make to eat breakfast or not has implications for our families and for ourselves throughout the day." - Tosca Reno

BUT, being the busy moms (and dads), wives (and husbands), employees, friends, leaders, teachers we are, breakfast is too much work! I hear you! No, really, I hear you saying this loud and clear. I'm just like you! Too lazy to make something worthwhile, I would just shrug my shoulders and skip it alogether! 

But, let me ask you this....If your life depended on taking a pill every day...if you were going to die if you didn't take this pill every single morning...would you make excuses, shrug your shoulders, and not take it? Or would you find a way to work taking that pill into your daily routine no matter what the consequences?

Well, guess what? Your life depends on breakfast in the same way. A little bit of our bodies and brains die each day we don't eat a healthy, nutritious, breakfast. Because when we don't fill it up with the protein and good carbs it needs, it goes elsewhere to find it! That growling your tummy is doing when you skip breakfast? It's your stomach filling with acids and gastric juices in anticipation of nutrients....but then the nutrients don't come....and so the stomach has nothing to use those juices on...except the stomach it's encased in...and it slowly destroys itself.

Motivated yet?

Now, here's the helpful practical piece:
The Clean Eating Principle, in a nutshell, is to always pair a lean protein with a complex carbohydrate. (I've got a whole post in the works about these principles, so bear with me for this post.) By far, the healthiest breakfast option is oatmeal. And I'm not talking the apples and cream packaged variety! Whole rolled oats is the ONLY oatmeal that counts. One cup packs a whopping 8g of fiber (a full third of the amount of fiber you should get each day!) Top it with some ground flaxseed and some fresh berries for an extra boost of some good carbs and then throw in a side of egg whites for your protein and...VOILA! Your body won't know what to do with itself it will be so amazed!

Here are just a few tips to make sure you stay consistent with breaking the fast...every day!

  1. Keep a supply of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. 3-4 egg whites plus one yolk will round out any breakfast's protein requirement! Keeping a good supply of raw eggs as well for those times when you're in the mood for some scrambled egg white goodness. 
  2. Once per week, make a large batch of clean-eating granola bars (recipe forthcoming) for a good combo of lean protein and complex carbs for those days when you are on the go!
  3. Discover Ezekiel bread! You can find it in the freezer section and though it's a good bit more expensive than regular bread (there's a post coming about that, too!) It's worth the time and money it would take to make your own clean-eating bread so to me it's totally worth every penny. It's also gluten free, which is great news for gluten-sensitive clean-eaters!
  4. Mix some muesli or granola into your favorite Greek yogurt and you've got another quick breakfast idea with your protein and complex carb in one (Yoplait and Dannon - among countless others -  are NOT acceptable yogurts for clean-eaters, by the way.)
As with all my posts, a lot of what I'm sharing comes from what I've learned by educating myself about clean eating. By far, the biggest resource for me has been The Eat Clean Diet. Recharged! by Tosca Reno (my clean-eating heroine.) She has a whole chapter dedicated to breaking the fast and the importance of breakfast. If you have questions, I'm happy to try to answer them. But if a new breakfast routine (or clean-eating in general) is of interest to you, I highly recommend getting this book! you go! Make a habit of breaking the fast wisely, every day, and be amazed at what happens!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Formula For Health

Nutrition is far more responsible for what you see in the mirror than you think. For the person who hates to exercise (like me), this is great news! It means you can greatly change your appearance without getting up at 5am every day to work out. Yahoo!!!

According to The Eat-Clean Diet, Recharged! by Tosca Reno, the Body Beautiful/Body Healthy Formula is as follows:

10% Genetics + 10% Training + 80% Nutrition = Body Beautiful/Body Healthy!

Yep, you read that right. 80% Nutrition!

This was a HUGE eye-opener for me. It meant that by just changing the way I eat and the things I eat, I could change 80% of what I saw in the mirror. And, here's the good news. YOU CAN TOO! Realizing this, and making changes as a result, is the FIRST STEP in eating better...healthier...CLEANER!

Now, this doesn't mean you shouldn't get some sort of exercise a few times a week. Exercise plays a huge role in our overall health, and reduces your risk of disease and injury. Plus, muscles burn fat. So the more exercise you work into your life, the more muscles you create and the more fat you will get rid of! So get off the couch and do something! The key for me is making it fun. Family bike rides, power walks with a friend, or laps in a pool with my daughter cheering me on are definitely motivators for me. Plus, if I have a goal (like a triathlon I've already paid for!) I know I HAVE to do some training so I don't come in last or pass out trying. So find what works for you and get moving!

Friday, November 4, 2011

How I found Clean Eating.

I. Love. Food.

Most people do. But I really do. My mom swears my first word was "fwies?" I grew up in Upstate NY in the 70s where Carrols was THE place for french fries. Every time we would drive past a Carrols it was the same. "Fwies? Fwies mommy?"

But, if you asked my grandmother what my favorite food was growing up, her answer might surprise you.


Yep, vegetables. Green Beans, especially. I couldn't get enough green beans! Or Broccoli. Or corn. Or....wait for sprouts!

How can a girl whose first word was the same as one of the most nutrient-void foods in existence like brussels sprouts? I told you. I love food.

So....where did that girl go? Well, I assure you, she still loves a good fry! But she's learning that anything in moderation is okay. It's ok! But it should not be the everyday. Enter...clean eating.

What got me into eating clean, you ask?

In March of this year, I did my second-ever triathlon. It was a sprint, so it was considered fairly "easy" (ok, I thought I might die halfway through.) But I had done a mini-sprint a few months before and got hooked on the sport. I love it. (Almost as much as I love brussels sprouts.) I'm the type of person who - if I'm going to exercise - I've got to have something to work for. A goal (and a training buddy) gets me motivated to get my butt off the couch and move my body. If I don't have someone waiting for me to swim, bike, or run with them, I just won't get out and do it. So I tried it and now I'm hooked.

Well, just one week after that triathlon, and the same day I reached a major milestone on the treadmill, I injured my ankle hiking in Nevada. It really put a damper on my spring (and summer!) I couldn't swim (my favorite form of exercise.) I couldn't bike (my second favorite.) And I definitely couldn't run (the thing I despise the most so I was actually ok with that.)

I couldn't even walk for two weeks. All I could do was sit. Sit and watch my waistline expand. In a matter of four months, I weighed more than I did post-pregnancy with either of my children. Time for a change!

Since I couldn't exercise, I knew I had to watch what I ate very closely. That's when I discovered Clean Eating, and the amazing truth that 80% of our body shape is nutrition. Nope. Not exercise. Nutrition! As soon as I could, I went out and got Tosca Reno's book The Eat Clean Diet, Recharged! and started my journey of eating clean.

This blog is just part of that journey. And I hope you'll join me.