Are You Eating Your Way to Osteoporosis?

healthy-bones-1We’ve all heard we need to be careful about getting enough calcium for the health of our bones.

We pay attention out of fear of osteoporosis. New recommendations tell us that we need around 1,000 mg per day of Calcium, plus a regiment of Vitamin D to help us to absorb it.

boneMassAs a woman, and a vegetarian, I’ve always paid particular attention to this. I don’t count my calcium on a daily basis, but I check in with myself about once a month and modify my diet if I feel like I’ve been lacking. With a recent scare concerning a stress fracture, I’ve developed a renewed interest in upping my calcium game. I don’t want a lack of effort in my 30s to lead to regret in my 60s and 70s. It’s time to get serious about my bone health!!

There are lots of ways to get calcium in your diet (dark leafy greens being my favorite). But what about the flip side? Are you eating diligently to intake calcium, only to foil your efforts with foods that rob your body of that same calcium? Here are some tips to make the most of your calcium.

label sodiumSodium

High sodium intake can actually cause calcium to be excreted in perspiration & urine. Every 500 mg of sodium leaches 10 mg of calcium from your bones! The kicker is that almost all packaged/ processed foods- as well as fast foods and some restaurants- contain loads of sodium. Be diligent and limit your sodium intake to 200–300 miligrams daily.

If you exercise heavily and sweat a lot, you can rid your body of some of that sodium you’ve been eating. For rigorous athletes, this can help regulate your body’s sodium naturally and easily, but even the most sweaty people can still overdo it on sodium with poor diet choices. So don’t count on ‘sweating it all out.’ Diet is still important!

cracked coffee cupCoffee

I know, I know, I’m treading on thin ice here. You coffee lovers are not going to like this one. Each cup of coffee pulls out an additional 40 mg of calcium from your bones. Green tea is the better alternative, with many health advantages over coffee, including the fact that it increases bone mineral density.


Contrary to what you might suspect, diets high in protein cause more calcium to be lost through urine. Animal-based protein is even more likely to cause calcium loss than protein from plants. Despite what I was told as a young vegetarian in the Midwest, this may be one reason that vegetarians tend to have stronger bones than meat-eaters. Learn more about calcium-rich foods and sample menus here.

sodaPhosphoric Acid

When I was a kid my track coach advised us all to stop drinking soda because it lead to bone loss. Back then, the concept was proven but the exact cause was unclear. Thanks to Mr. Ford, I avoided all carbonated beverages as a result, and I’m certain that I owe a great deal of my health to him because of that one decision.

Today, we know that it is specifically the phosphoric acid (not the carbonation) that is the risk. This ingredient might sound strange to you, but  this is a big factor in calcium loss in Americans. Phosphoric acid is a cheap, widely available food additive, particularly used a lot to acidify foods and beverages like cola. Phosphoric acid makes food and beverages taste tangy or sour. It’s like citric acid, but cheaper. The acidity of phosphoric acid approaches that of battery acid, which is why it makes a better toiler cleaner than a drink.

The Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing that, “The mean BMD (bone mass density) of those with daily cola intake was 3.7% lower at the femoral neck and 5.4% lower at Ward’s area than of those who consumed less than one serving cola per month. Similar results were seen for diet cola and, although slightly weaker, for decaffeinated cola.” Combined with all the other concerns with downing a daily soda pop, this should be a high priority diet change.

sugar in drinksSugar

This one is fascinating to me. Studies have shown that high blood sugar levels increase the risk of fractures. Basically, a state of high blood sugar causes your bones to age! “The collagen rods get gummed up, and the bones become brittle,” according to Runners Connect.  The high concentrations of sugar in drinks is astounding. This is why soda pop is a killer for calcium, with a one-two punch of both sugar and phosphoric acid!

calcium foods 1Remember, dietary changes are the best way to improve your health. Don’t just reach for a bottle of supplements, which may do little if not absorbed properly into your system. Eat more calcium rich foods, and avoid those bone robbers above. Combined with strength training, you’ll have strong, healthy bones well into your golden years!


February is the Month for… Tapping?

This is the time of year when I really miss having fresh, garden-grown food to pick from my yard. The jars of homemade pesto and spaghetti sauce are almost empty. The last butternut squash is sitting on the chopping block. And I am left with nothing else to look forward to, except spring.


heirloom-seedsThis is when I like to call up one or two of my gardening friends, and invite them to bring over their seeds and a sketchbook to start planning our spring vegetable garden beds. For folks like me, the act of planning and anticipating the new ways I’m going to make my garden more productive this year is almost as much fun as digging my hands in the warm summer soil.


One year, I was pining over heirloom seeds with my friend Jeremy, talking about hoop houses and his garlic crop, when another friend stopped by. I didn’t know Jeremy’s friend (and I actually cannot remember his name), so let’s call him Matt. Matt came by to show Jeremy how to tap the maple tree in his front yard. I was intrigued…


Maple_syrupAs someone who strives to avoid processed sweeteners, and especially white or brown sugar, I have come to rely a lot on the natural sweetness of maple syrup for most of my baking needs. Maple syrup also boasts lots of minerals, and is simply made with one ingredient: tree sap. As simple as it seemed, the thought had never occurred to me to try to make my own!


What I quickly learned is that you don’t have to have a sugar maple to make maple syrup. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a maple at all! Lots of other trees are suitable, including box elders. The main difference is that the sugar content will vary, so the volume of sap you have to boil to make one gallon of finished product will vary. Of course, when I tell you that means 40 gallons instead of 30 gallons, does that really make a difference to the novice homesteader?? That’s a LOT of sap!


maple tap2Back to Jeremy’s house: Matt brought over a drill bit that was about the same size as the metal tree taps he had purchased at Downtown Home and Garden. We looked at the size of Jeremy’s tree- about 16” in diameter. Matt said it could probably handle 2 taps for a tree that size. He looked at the branches to make sure none would obstruct the flow down, picked a seemingly arbitrary spot at about chest level, and drilled a hole with an ever so slight upward angle. The second he removed the pulp-covered drill bit from the tree, a clear liquid began to pool up, then a steady stream trickled down the bark! It felt like we struck gold! Matt then placed the metal tap in the hole, tapped it in gently with a hammer, and we watched it flow for a second. I leaned my head down sideways and stuck out my tongue. “It kind of just tastes like water,” I said. “But a tiny bit sweet.” Then he showed us how to attach a milk jug to catch the sap. (Years later, I’ve upgraded to a clear tubing that flows down to a 5 gallon bucket that rests on the ground).


Within 20 minutes of meeting Matt, I had learned a valuable skill, and I could not wait to go home and try it! He gave me two spare taps to use back home. I promptly identified at least three trees in my yard that would work- 2 red maples and several box elders. I decided to just start with the maple closest to my house. Mine was a much larger tree, and could have easily had 4 taps, which I eventually did work up to.


StagesAfter 8 years, I still LOVE making my own maple syrup! I’ve had some hilarious ‘learning experiences’ along the way, but they only add to my love of being able to say, “I made this.” (Perhaps there will be a future post to share my maple syrup horror story). Boiling sap into syrup is one of those miracles of nature, like watching a tiny plant sprout up from nothing but dirt, water, and light. Making your own maple syrup is something I wish every child could experience!


maple_syrup_by_The_D34nNow that my yard is significantly downsized for my urban lot, I no longer have any trees of my own to tap. I’m still looking for a nearby neighbor to coerce into letting me tap their trees, or possibly resorting to guerilla tapping in the nearby park. In reality, though, the peak season generates tremendous flows of tree sap, sometimes 4-5 gallons a day! This is why proximity is key, to get that liquid gold home quickly, and start boiling it down, down down.

So… what are you waiting for? It’s February, and the sap will start flowing soon, but only for a few precious weeks. Go learn something new!

Let’s Talk About Sugar, Baby

salt-n-pepa-510f00199631fLet’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about sugar. (Thank you to those who get the reference).

34adc8f2ddceb53af48762feb471e28fSeriously, though, Americans consume on average 156 pounds of added sugar, per person, per year.That’s a lot of the white stuff. Sugar is in everything- I mean, EVERYTHING- we buy. It’s added to cereals, breads, rice at fast food restaurants, spaghetti sauce, ketchup… you name it. There’s a good reason it’s everywhere. It’s highly addictive. In numerous studies, over 90% of rats who were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between cocaine and sugar water, chose sugar. Those rats who were addicted to cocaine switched their preference to sugar. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Now THAT is saying something!labrat cartoon

It should come as no surprise that sugar is in things like soda pop or fruit drinks. The actual amount, however, may surprise you. Even seemingly healthy breakfast choices like oatmeal can pack a sugar punch. Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Strawberries & Cream or Peaches & Cream contains 12 grams of sugar in just one packet. Or Kellogg’s Smart Start Strong Heart, Toasted Oat? In 1 1/4 cup you’ll be eating 17 grams of sugar!colas

One could argue that sheer addictiveness is not cause for alarm. My wife was ‘addicted’ to coffee, but she seems fine. I will admit I’m addicted to dark chocolate too. We all have our vices, right? But here are a few things you may not be thinking about when you enjoy your sweetened soup. Sugar is linked to:

  • Suppressed immunity
  • Weight gain
  • Premature aging
  • Various cancers — breast, ovary, prostate, rectum, etc.
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive problems, including chronic indigestion
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperactivity and concentration problems
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Nutritional deficiencies, including decreased ability to absorb calcium and magnesium
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Yeast infections

I have personally experienced several of these negative side effects to consuming refined sugar, and it opened my eyes. I wanted to learn more. I could tell that I was addicted to sugar, and I didn’t like it.

I grew up a Barkham, and we are known for having a dessert table equal in size to our Thanksgiving day meal spread. We have a wicked sweet tooth, and are excellent bakers. When I was a kid, I had zero self control when it came to sweets, and it caused me a great deal of mental anguish as I struggled, silently, to figure out how to deal with my insatiable cravings. I was a binge eater, often hoarding and hiding sweets from my brothers to make sure I would have enough. I was a sugar junkie.sugar-infographic1

It’s not like it’s easy to kick sugar. It felt like it was omnipresent in my life. I didn’t even realize how much I was consuming just in buying normal meals. Now that I am aware of how many of the foods I was eating contained added sugar, it’s no wonder I struggled for so many years.

For most of us, the solution starts with reading labels and doing homework. Ideally you would be making your own food so you really know what’s in it. But even prepackaged starter mixes can contain sugar as well.

Once you are ready to cut the addiction, be prepared to identify the symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Fuzzy thinking or foggy mind
  • Fatigue or sleepiness after meals
  • Gas, bloating or extended stomach after meals
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin problems
  • Allergy symptoms
  • Mood swings

Kicking the habit can take more than willpower. Your body will trick you into thinking you are hungry, when all it’s really trying to get is another fix of dopamine. Sugar hits the pleasure center in our brains, and, just like lab rats, we want to keep going back and pressing that magic button over and over again. There are a few tips you can use when trying to cut out sugar:

  • sourBe wary of ‘sugar-free’ foods. These often contain synthetic sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these taste sweet, they don’t help curb a sweet tooth so they tend to send confusing messages to the brain, which can lead to over-eating. There are also lingering concerns about cancer risks for some artificial sweeteners too.
  • Eat sour foods.  Sour foods, like apple cider vinegar, will naturally curb your cravings for sugar.
  • Eat fermented foods and probiotic beverages. They are  full of beneficial bacteria, which drive out disease-causing bugs that increase our desire for sugar.
  • Drink plenty of water. Your body may confuse thirst for hunger, and staying well hydrated will help to know when you are truly hungry.
  • Eat nutrient dense foods. Learn what’s high on the ANDI index and fill your plate with these foods that pack a lot of what your body needs into fewer calories.

There are lots of places where sweetness belongs, but it’s important to keep it in its place. There are numerous alternatives to sugar out there, and each will have its own good and bad points. A few ideas to get you started:

  • mapleMaple Syrup is a great sweetener (my sweetener of choice), also packed with beneficial minerals! It’s a very simple process to make it- simply boil down tree sap- and minimal processing makes it a plus in my book. It can be expensive, especially if you rely solely on this for all your baking.
  • Dates are a great way to get intense sweet for desserts. Puree the pasty fruits and thin it down as needed.
  • Agave is another very sweet alternative, derived from plants.
  • Honey is a product made by bees in order to keep their hive alive all winter long. Vegans do not consume honey because stealing it from the hive means that they are at risk of dying through the cold winter months.
  • Stevia is an herb found in Central and South America that is up to 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in your blood sugar. It’s granulated form makes it a nice substitute for recipes that depend on the crystalline structure for texture (like many brownies).
  • Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, found in foods such as beets, berries, and corn. Sugar alcohols aren’t digested well by the body, that’s what keeps xylitol from raising blood sugar, but it’s also what can give you gas or stomach aches.

fauxstess cupcakeAs with everything in life, moderation is key. I’ve re-trained my taste buds by cleansing my body of high sugar levels. Now that I eat much healthier, I don’t even like the taste of some of my favorite childhood junk foods. They are SO sweet, that’s pretty much all you taste! I rarely eat things with processed sugar in them anymore, and when I do, I can tell from the telltale withdrawal symptoms that come afterward. I am so glad the my days of sugar hangovers are long gone. Good luck in your own path to healthy!

Avoiding being SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

It’s November… in the Midwest. That means that we just lost an hour of after work daylight, the beautiful fall colors have shriveled up and blown away, and it’s now too cold to enjoy a long walk at lunch. Combined with the horrid flashbacks to last winter’s Polar Vortex, I’m already wishing it was April.

10505604_681175418631752_7611515933911836064_nWhile the first snow of the year is quite beautiful, the grey skies that follow can really take their toll. I first realized in high school that my mood took a turn for the worse every year when the sun became a bleary memory. I felt low energy, depressed, easily annoyed. I even had bad posture, which left my shoulders achy. It was like 4 months straight of my worst PMS symptoms. Then I heard the term SAD.

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)is a type of depression that creates a physical and emotional response to a lack of exposure to the sun. About 60% of those affected are women. It tends to evolve into a vicious cycle of feeling lack of motivation, becoming more sedentary, and eventually you degrade into being a perma-stain on the couch. SAD sucks.

Thankfully, there are some easy, healthy solutions! Regardless of whether or not you have an actual diagnosis, you will benefit from each of these winter month lifestyle tips:

  1. Get Active! I know. That takes motivation. But TRUST ME, you won’t regret it. Physical activity boosts our immune system, improves our mood, reduces stress, and is also good for your body. Just 30 minutes per day will transform your winter doldrums into a winter wonderland. If you are a hardy soul, it’s ideal to do this outside, because exposure to nature (even in its frozen form) is also a great mood booster. Or stick to the gym if you’re a winter wimp like me (best $10/month in my entire budget!)
  2. Chia MealOhhhh…MEGA-3! Omega-3s are a fantastic way to maintain good levels of dopamine and serotonin, which your brain produces naturally. These neurotransmitters improve your sense of happiness! Eat your omega-3s in the form of flaxseed, chia, walnuts, and hemp.
  3. Zzzzz…  Your body is in need of deep sleep to restore itself and lift you from the fog. Although hot bevvies are oh so cozy, avoid caffeinated ones after 3pm, so you can be fully ready to hit the hay for a solid 8 hours. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the next full season of your favorite show on Netflix, either. Have a bedtime, and stick to it!
  4. Get Chock-full of Vitamin D. Normally we can meet our daily quota be simply being exposed to the sun for as little as 15 minutes per day, but this can be challenging when you are bundled up like an Eskimo. The average goal is 40-65 ng/ml of 25 OH vitamin D. You can buy vegan D2 or lichen-based D3 supplements, but should consider asking your doctor about the right choice for your diet.
  5. kale chardBump up your Greens! Yes, as my wife always says, “salads are for summertime,” and it can feel wrong to eat them once the cold sets in. So switch it up! This time of year is when I go kale-CRAZY, and start throwing that good green stuff in all my soups, stirfrys, and baked dishes. It may be tempting to go for that creamy comfort food, but you can have the best of both worlds. Eating healthy makes you FEEL more energetic, regardless of the season. Don’t let your good habits hibernate this winter!
  6. Be Social. Studies have shown that the happiest countries on the planet are those where people focus on community. In other words, take solace in friendships. Host game nights. Share meals. Enjoy the slower part of this season for the ability to enrich your relationships through deeper conversations. Nothing is as heart-warming as a good hug!


Don’t Go Vegan… Health Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

It’s happened a number of times. Somebody who is an avid meat eater suddenly gets slapped in the face with a diagnosis. They are told to change their diet… or else. So what do they do? Go vegan? That sounds so extreme, right?

If you are in this unfortunate situation, there are typically two paths that lead away from this door. The first, is to ask for prescription pills and ignore the doctor’s advice. This results in a low impact on your lifestyle, but also a low impact on your lifespan. tv-dr-house-hugh-laurie-pills-faces-house-md-1920x1080-wallpaper_www.wallfox_net_93

The second is to go ‘whole hog,’ so to speak, and commit to a completely vegan lifestyle change, including giving up every food you’ve ever loved. This will result in drastic improvements to your health and life expectancy, but not without sacrifices. You will spend hours more preparing your meals each week, you will find social gathering more challenging, and your family may not support you and your new zest for life.

Now, I’m not really saying vegan is bad. It can be the healthiest lifestyle choice you could ever make. But it only works if you actually stick with it, and that may be harder for some than others. What I am saying is this:

  1. Make a plan, then transition slowly
  2. Don’t consider it ‘failing’ if you eat animal products once or twice a week. Being 70% vegan is still much healthier than you were!

vegan-30-daysChange isn’t easy. Nobody said it would be, but there are a few things you can do to ease yourself into this new, healthier lifestyle that will increase your chances for long term success. I’ve seen a lot of people fling themselves into a brand new lifestyle without support, little preparation, and the results are ugly. They get discouraged, they hate the food they are eating, they complain to their family and friends, and eventually they give up and revert to their old habits, after disparaging healthier foods to everyone they know, making it harder to return. If you want to feel inspired to make change, take the 30 Day Challenge!

Here’s the deal… you’re not wrong: Healthy foods taste bad.

At least, you THINK they taste bad. But there’s a reason for that. You see, most Americans are accustomed to a certain set of flavors. The more you eat out, or buy pre-packaged, processed foods, the more saturated your body is with the three primary taste pollutants: Sugar, Salt, and Fat.

elfspaghetti4When we eat these things in abundance, our bodies build up an accumulation of these taste pollutants. If you go without them for a few hours, the levels are depleted, and they force your body to create cravings for them to replenish the supplies. Sugar, Salt, and Fat are great things to stockpile when you are living off the land and you don’t know when you will hunt or gather your next meal. Today, however, these taste pollutants are in over abundance, yet our bodies are still genetically pre-programmed to want to stockpile them to ward off starvation. What you and I know, that our stomachs’ don’t, is that we have no shortage of food at our disposal, and these cravings are false triggers.

Because you have high levels of taste pollutants in your body, this also affects the way that foods taste to you. It’s like when you build up a tolerance to spicy foods. Over time, things you used to like no longer taste flavorful, and you are constantly adding more heat to get the flavors to register. The same goes for salt, sugar, and fat. When you eat a lot of salt, you think that everything needs more salt. Your palette is saturated, and the taste pollutants are actually blocking out the other flavors that are present in your food. When is the last time you ate a meal and thought, “Hmmm, this really needs more basil (or rosemary, or any other spice)?” These other spices are equally enjoyable, but we are not programmed to crave them in the same way that we do taste pollutants.

Try This Experiment.

potato chipPlace a potato chip in your mouth. Don’t chew it, just let is sit on your tongue and slowly dissolve. The acids in your saliva will flood to the surface and start to break down the starches. Think about what flavors you are tasting first. Salt? Oil? Is it getting sweet as time goes on? The things we crave the most are driven primarily by those three taste pollutants, and little else.

The amazing thing is how your taste buds will respond to your change in diet. If you go 30 days without eating any processed, high sugar, high fat, high salt foods, your body will begin registering new, exciting, unique flavors that you previously could not taste. You will discover NEW FLAVORS in foods you may have tried before but not liked! This is the biggest challenge to changing your diet. Until your body has time to rid itself of those reserves of taste pollutants, you really will think that healthy food tastes bad. But your taste buds will recover, and you will learn how good the natural flavors are.

Taking on the Classic: PB & J

When I was growing up, my dad was a health nut. Well, sort of. We bought whole wheat bread, and very few kids’ cereals with neon colors. I also grew up on Jif peanut butter and iceberg lettuce, which I had no idea were NOT health foods. I remember one time eating an entire head of lettuce, likely because my body was craving iron, and I really needed some dark leafy greens, but iceberg was as close as I could get. I also hated tomatoes until I was 19, when I tasted my very first homegrown tomato, and was floored by how flavorful it was!

jifThe first time I tried natural peanut butter, I thought it was disgusting. I looked at the ingredients on the jar and all it said was, “peanuts.” I grabbed my Jif container and compared. “Peanuts, Sugar, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil…” The list went on. I had no idea that the only reason I like peanut butter was because I was basically eating sugar, salt, and fat. I couldn’t even taste the peanuts.

It’s hard to switch cold turkey. Think of changing your diet like quitting smoking. Sure, there are a few folks out there with the will power to one day just decide to stop killing themselves.But most of us need more transition. Our taste buds need time to relearn natural flavors.

I didn’t cast aside my favorite peanut butter completely, but I decided that I would start by switching to a natural peanut butter that at least did not contain partially hydrogenated oils. Then, next time I bought a jar, I tried one without the sugar. Just peanuts and salt. Over time, I learned how much I actually love the rich peanut flavor, and I went without the salt too. Just peanuts. I love it, and the thought of eating that fake Jif junk again is no longer appetizing. It’s pretty amazing how our tastes can change over time!

Sugar, Awww, Honey, Honey!

cinn rollsThe same goes for sugar. Sugar is in more than you might realize. Buying a healthy veggie sandwich at Subway? Sugar is the bread. Switching to a tofu burrito? Sugar is in the rice. Seriously, the fast food chains are not dumb. They lace everything with these three food pollutants in order to CAUSE CRAVINGS for their food, so you will come back and buy it again, just to get another hit of that white crystal. This is what you are up against.

The best way to know what contains sugar, is to make your own meals. Read labels. Know that sugar comes from a variety of places, including natural fruit sugars, and it’s the processed white sugar and brown sugars that are most dangerous. You can also experiment with modifying some of your favorite recipes with natural sugar substitutes. No, put down the Splenda. I said natural substitutes. We get sweetness from a variety of places, including dates, maple syrup, agave, and even honey (thought this is not considered vegan because it’s a stolen animal product). I prefer maple syrup because it is chock full of great minerals, and if you live in the north, you can even learn to make your own maple syrup!

Go Vegan AND Go Home

cs_diet_nutrition_cooking_at_home_articleGoing vegan is a great way to clean up your diet and your life. There are numerous health benefits, too numerous to list here (but you can read more here). Veganism can be a daunting thought for most people. Relax!!! There is no ‘vegan police.’ You can eat vegan without labeling yourself as vegan. In fact, you can still be an omnivore, but eat 90% of your meals vegan. That is perfectly okay! You need to do what is right for you.

There are lots of reasons why people choose a vegan diet, but when it comes to health reasons alone, every time you choose to go with the plant-based alternative, you are making the right choice for your future. So go 100% vegan. Or go 50% vegan. But more importantly, go home and cook something for yourself that is not laced with excessive amounts of refined Salt, Sugar, and Fat.  I consider myself 85% vegan, because when I go out to eat, I will still get dishes with cheese from time to time. Life is not about being absolutely anything, but about balance and moderation.

SpicesSharing is Caring!

The best part about learning to prepare delicious healthy meals for yourself is sharing with others. Instead of blowing your budget eating out all the time, invite your friends over for dinner. Host a TV viewing party and feature delicious homemade treats (though I recommend testing out the recipe first to make sure it turns out okay). Don’t be offended when you friends want to add salt or sugar to what you’ve made. Remember, it’s a process. Not everybody can taste all the delicious new flavors that you can, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you are eating healthier, exploring some delicious new foods, and enjoying life for a long, long time.

Announcing Kale’s Kitchen in Indianapolis!!!

kklogo_finalCreative dining destinations are popping up all across the country, and Indianapolis is about to get a place on the map. A new food incubator model has been taking hold in cities like D.C., New Orleans, with over 200 locations nationwide. We are really excited to announce that Kale’s Kitchen is bringing this concept to Indianapolis, and will be the first of its kind in the state, combining a food incubator with community dining space.

Kale’s Kitchen is the brainchild of co-founders Bethany Schultz & Kelly Weger, who recently moved to Indy from Ypsi (Ypsilanti, Michigan). As a perfect pair, we marry diverse backgrounds in the food industry and sustainable living, and are passionate about incorporating the two ideas.

Why Carts?

TheLunch Room CartBack in Michigan, we participated in the startup success of The Lunch Room, Joel & Phyllis’ new vegan restaurant. Originally, The Lunch Room was an underground supper club, popping up at various locations as they developed multiple themed menus. When Mark announced his new opening of Mark’s Carts in Ann Arbor, they did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to build a cart and rent kitchen space to test their food on a larger audience. After just two years of success at the cart scale, our friends then graduated to a full brick and mortar restaurant, utilizing another crowd-sourced funding to launch their success.

penguin popsIt is exciting to see how the cart concept lowers barriers for new food entrepreneurs. Years earlier, Kelly had her own cart business to introduce the world to Kelly’s Penguin Pops- an organic paletas business. As a first time food business owner, the learning curve was steep. Her career as a sustainable Architect left her wanting to do more with good food. Kelly spent lots of time researching regulations, understanding health code rules, figuring out where to find commercial kitchen space to rent, and then getting city permits to have her cart located on the sidewalk to sell the popsicles once they were made.  Once the paletas business was up and running, there were a lot of lessons learned along the way. Marketing, logistics, and sustainable packaging were all challenges that she had to overcome without anyone to call on as a mentor. Simply getting her cart loaded up and transporting it to her vending space was a hurdle each day.

The idea of a fixed location where you can make your food, and sell it too, is a huge time saver! If Kale’s Kitchen had existed in 2006, it would have been a completely different outcome for Kelly’s paletas, and we are thrilled to be able to provide that level of cooperative assistance to foodie newbies. Everything came together when, in 2014, Bethany completed her two business degrees from Eastern Michigan University and a Plant Based Nutrition Certificate from eCornell, and moved to live in Indy full-time. Finally, the timing was right to launch our idea!

Risky Business?

©Andrew Burdick Photography, 2010.  All Rights Reserved.You’ve probably heard it before. A friend with a knack for making that one killer dish, and everyone says, “You should start a restaurant!” There’s a lot that goes into making that level of commitment. Until now, culinarily-inclined hobbyists had to risk significant investments when they decided to try going pro. Whether it’s leasing an entire restaurant space, or buying a food truck and renting a commissary kitchen, the costs can add up quickly, with no guarantee of success. It takes a LOT more than good food to make it in this industry!

The failure rate of restaurants can be quite high, but Kale’s Kitchen will be a new collaborative, community-focused model. Our tenants are our partners, and we want to improve the likelihood of their success. The idea behind a food cart is more like a ‘micro-restaurant.’ Limited menu, limited hours, but high quality, specialized food! By combining the commissary kitchen with an on-site vending space for carts, it eliminates a number of the barriers for food start-ups. Sharing the costs of the kitchen and dining space makes it affordable for everyone as they figure out their target audience. This model is ideal for new food businesses to test the waters.

Our Concept

Kale’s Kitchen will offer hard-to-find commercial kitchen space, as well as technical assistance like marketing, codes & regulations, management, and sales assistance. We are passionate about enhancing our community, partly to broaden our own options for good, healthy, local food. We plan to be a resource for food vendors, to help push them with questions about good business practices.

interior hall rendered

“Ultimately, our goal is to build a network of successful, sustainable food businesses,” explains Kelly, “so that when they graduate, and move out to their own brick-and mortar storefront, they are good stewards of the environment and our community.”

What’s Already Out There?

Indy city marketBethany has been working with Indy Kitchen, as well as the City Market, to identify the need for this type of space in the city. Indy Kitchen is a commercial kitchen, which offers hourly rentals and technical assistance. Owner Linda is excited at the idea of another option for food businesses to make their dishes. Similarly, City Market offers vending, but has limited hours & space.

“The demand is growing,“ exclaims Bethany, “we want to provide a sustainable and convenient location.”

Cool Spot to Meet & Eat

solar awningWhat really sets Kale’s Kitchen apart, is the modern aesthetic and sustainability values. Local foodies will get to enjoy a plethora of exciting new food options when they come to dine at Kale’s Kitchen. This new space will be in a retro warehouse with modern & eclectic decor, including indoor and outdoor seating areas, live music on special occasions, board games, and food grown on site. There are also plans to serve beer and wine to go with your plate of deliciousness. The space will also teach our community about sustainable living, incorporating sustainable design features, a demonstration garden, renewable energy, and compostable take-away containers. Our goal is to be Net Zero by 2020, which means that we will operate as efficiently as possible, and generate our own power using renewable resources.

“There’s a lot of waste in the food industry,” Kelly continues, “and we hope to change that by teaching both vendors and customers about a more sustainable way to do business.

So When Can I eat Here???

cartmenuSoon! We are planning to open in 2015. Right now we are searching for the perfect location, with walking, biking, and mass transit options. We are targeting locations near downtown, and hope to land in Fountain Square. We’ve got some great ideas, and are looking forward to being inspired by the space to influence our design. We will let everyone know once we actually have a location picked out, and we begin renovation work!

Interested in being a culinary entrepreneur? Kale’s Kitchen is currently looking for those folks who are ready to start launching their own micro-restaurant. Once the building location is finalized, early adopters will get a chance to influence which pieces of equipment will be installed, and remodeling will get underway immediately in order to open the doors in 2015. Kale’s Kitchen can be reached at, or online at (soon to be starting 11/1/14)
kelly bethanyAs neighborhoods like Fountain Square continue to grow, we look forward to their support of small, independent businesses like ours. With our passion for local, sustainable food, we are optimistic that this could be the start of a massive local foods movement in our new community!

Making Lemonade out of… the Master Cleanse

the-last-supper-03This Sunday will be my last meal. Well, for 10 days, at least. You see, every year I choose to take 10 days to torture myself in an unusual form that I never would have fathomed a decade ago. It’s called, “The Master Cleanse.”

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always struggled to exert my own will above insatiable cravings for foods. I struggled with eating disorders as a teenager. This consisted of binge eating and bulimia. I recovered, thanks to the unwavering love and support of my high school sweetheart, and am proud to say that it’s been over 15 years since I have considered myself ‘sick.’ However, recovery is a long road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI never thought of myself as someone with any willpower when it came to food, so when I first heard about this crazy cleanse where you eat nothing for 10 days straight, I thought, “impossible.” I could hardly imagine going that long without dark chocolate! Because of my past, I was also very careful to be sure that I was doing this for the right reasons.

Master-Cleanse-DietI was at a critical time in my life where I was learning all about healthy eating and finally began to ENJOY cooking fresh food. Still, going without food? Forget it! That’s when my dear friend, Jeremy, told me about the cleanse. I had heard of it before, but never knew anybody who had tried it. He said, “It’s so great! Kelly, you should do it with me next time!!” Hah. I must have grilled him for an hour straight with nosy questions. In the end, he convince me to try it with him, knowing that I could quit at any time.

If Jeremy hadn’t been such a trustworthy, easy-going guy, I would have thought I was joining a cult. The online conversations are a little extreme. Lots of people go off the deep end. First, there are the crazy Hollywood types that think this spiritual journey is only about weight loss (NEWSFLASH- you will gain back all of your weight and then some unless you listen to your body!). Then there are the, “I haven’t eaten for 40 days” folks. Dude, that’s INSANE. But, I decided to try it, mostly because of the way my friend explained it to me.

beyonce-lemonade-diet-300x168You see, the Master Cleanse is NOT about weight loss. It’s NOT about defying nature, or depriving yourself for some sick, twisted, holier-than-thou trip.No, it’s about your body, nutrition, and cravings.

Americans have a well-established relationship with processed foods that cause cravings. We are constantly overloaded with sugar, salt, and fat… in just about everything. You eat a burrito, you eat sugary rice. You eat a salad, you eat sugar-laden dressing. It’s… EVERYWHERE. Over time, these build up in your system, and only when they start to deplete does your body start to crave more. Not unlike caffeine, it NEEDS to replenish! And then, you eat something that satisfies your cravings, and the cycle repeats itself.

The idea behind the Master Cleanse is that, for just those 10 days, you are giving your body a chance to fully rid itself of those cravings. The sugar, fat, and salt slowly leave your system, and it’s like a giant, shiny, red “RESET” button for your body. Suddenly, your able to listen to yourself again. You start to crave strange, healthy things, like kale! And, if you are careful, you will ease out of the cleanse with a much healthier, happier you.

There is a risk, depending on how long you stick indexwith the cleanse and how ‘dirty’ your diet was before. If you did not completely detox, you may find yourself still craving those things like pizza, and you might not have the willpower to convince yourself to hold off- at least for a few weeks after you resume eating solid food. If you do run into this, and give in, you will find that your weight rebounds, and then some. But if you hold fast, you will be setting yourself up for a lengthy stint of healthier eating!

If you are thinking about doing this, here are my top tips, after 5 years of learning along the way:

1. Do NOT come off the cleanse and eat pizza, or anything other than raw veggies, fruits, and juice. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Yup, pizza. It took another 8 months to regain my normal, healthy weight after coming off the cleanse too quickly.

2. Persuade others! You’ll be shocked at how much a part of your daily life food is, especially when it comes to being social. The best way to do this is with friends, so you can hang out together, drink your lemonade concoction in solidarity, and not be tempted by food.

colon-anatomy_s3. Be prepared. You will be juicing LOTS of lemons. I like to break up the monotony be doing lemons one day and limes the next. And if you haven’t read about the salt water flush… do. This is not a surprise that you want to experience in the office bathroom.

4. Relax! This is a time to be self reflective. Journal. Paint. Play music. Meditate. This is naturally a time of more solitude, and can be a very enjoyable retreat. And if you are struggling, it’s OKAY to stop early. It’s your first time!

5. Have fun! Feel free to test your boundaries. The first time I did this, I was terrified of working out while on the cleanse, so I actually cheated and added protein powder to my morning mix. I’m sure this negated some of the benefit, but, ah, well. The next year that I did it, I went 100%, and was surprised to find that I actually had one of the best workouts of my life! I was leaner, I ran harder, I was more focused. Whenever I started to feel low energy, I just drank more lemon concoction.

Even if this cleanse is not for you, remember, the goal is to eat healthier. Less processed. Less sugar. Less salt. Healthier fats. I hope this inspires you to be the best YOU possible!

P.S. Despite the up-sells you will find online, there are no pills, books, or any other junk required. Just the basics will do fine: lemons, maple syrup, cayenne, water, and then salt, laxative tea, and herbal teas.Lemonade-Diet-Recipe1


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