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Chia Porridge Jar

Chia Porridge Jar
Serves 1
A great, quick meal that you can take to work or eat after a morning workout. Prepare the night before, then voila - ready to go when you are.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 1 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  2. 1/4 cup chia seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. 1 teaspoon raw honey (or stevia to taste)
  6. 1 tablespoon almonds, chopped
  7. 1/3 cup fresh blueberries, pomegranate seeds, or chopped fresh fruit of choice
  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Spoon into a 2-cup mason jar.
  2. Cover the jar with the lid and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In the morning, your breakfast is ready to go. Don't forget your spoon!
  4. Stir before eating.
Recipes for Life by Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm

Animal-Free Diet

There are many types of animal-free diets:

  • Vegetarians do not eat any meat, poultry, seafood, or animal flesh.
  • Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products, and no eggs, meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Ovo vegetarians eat eggs and no dairy products.
  • Ovo lacto vegetarians eat eggs, dairy products, honey, and no meat, poultry, or fish.
  • Vegans exclude all animal products including dairy, eggs, and honey.
  • Raw vegans eat only fresh and uncooked fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can be cooked to a maximum of 118º F.
  • Pescatarians are semi-vegetarian and eat fish and seafood, sometimes eggs and dairy, and no meat or poultry.
  • Flexitarians are vegetarians who occasionally eat fish, poultry, and meat.

Why Consider a Plant-Based Diet?

There are numerous benefits of eating a well-balanced, plant-based diet. Plant foods provide phytochemicals, plant sterols, antioxidants, fiber, and healthful fats. The most potentially damaging foods are processed foods and animal products. The American Dietetic Association confirms that vegetarians are generally healthier and have a lower risk of a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, some types of cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and adult-onset diabetes. Non starchy vegetables and fruits are more vitamin-and-mineral dense than any other foods. When you eat them, they make you feel energized and fresh. They are also the densest source of fiber, rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. All that fiber also keeps your colon clean, creating a happy gut, and you don’t feel sluggish. There are generally more antioxidants and phytochemicals in a vegetarian diet, and it is low in saturated fat. This means less weight gain. A plant-based diet also does not support animal cruelty and takes a more positive approach to the environment. Beef production uses 100 times more water than growing vegetables. It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat. Animal protein also contributes to 50 percent more greenhouse gases than planes, trains, cars, and ships combined.

What You Might Be Missing on a Plant-Based Diet

If you are vegetarian, there are some nutrients that you might be missing if you are not paying attention. This is not something you want to mess with. To have a properly balanced vegetarian diet, you need a good combination of all of the food groups and vitamins and minerals. Take extra care to make sure you do not become deficient in the following:

  • Vitamin B12: If you don’t eat animal products, your body will lack vitamin B12, which is naturally found in animals and not in plants. This is easily fixed by supplementing with B12 capsules, drops or getting a regular dose of B12 injections every week or two.
  • Vitamin D: Almost everyone needs to supplement with vitamin D. Even if you are out in the sun, it takes anywhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours for the vitamin D to metabolize in your body. This means no showering after your sun exposure! The amount of vitamin D you require should be determined by your health care provider.
  • Fatty acids: These can be obtained through algae, and nuts.
  • Omega 3: Almost everyone needs to supplement with omega 3 essential fatty acids. Cabbage and spinach are good vegetarian sources, and purslane is a leafy green that contains more omega 3 than any other leafy green
  • Iron: There’s plenty of iron in plants; the trick is to make it absorbable.
  • Calcium is well absorbed and abundant in a good variety of vegetables, so there’s no need to worry about calcium shortages. In fact, although the calcium content is lower in many of these vegetables than in milk, the absorption is significantly better. The best sources are bok choy, broccoli, and kale. Other good sources are almonds, dried figs, mustard greens, okra, tahini, tempeh, and turnip greens.
  • Protein: Not getting enough protein is another issue that comes up for vegetarians. How much protein you require is debatable; however, it is estimated by some that the daily protein requirement for adults is 0.8 grams (0.28 ounces per kilogram of body weight). Here’s a great chart to guide you.
  • Fiber is plant roughage from vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. It is important because it cleans out your digestive system and supports optimal colon health and intestinal bacterial balance. There are numerous studies that show high-fiber diets prevent colon cancer. The opposite is true of low-fiber diets, and there’s absolutely no fiber in meat.
  • Fat: Animal products contain a lot of fat. Fish is a bit lower in fat, and most vegetables, grains, and beans, as you would imagine, contain almost no fat. Dairy products are at an all-time high with butter at 100%.

Are Vegetarians Healthier than Meat Eaters?

Most nutritionists agree that a balanced vegetarian diet is healthier than a non-vegetarian diet. If you’re not convinced, watch the documentary Food, Inc. As well, medical research and studies show that vegetarians have a 30% lower risk of heart-related diseases. However, the question of whether vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters depends on the vegetarian diet being well balanced. Dr. Connealy finds that one of the common problems she sees in her vegetarian patients is that they are not eating a well-balanced diet and have a higher percentage of body fat-to-lean tissue ratio. They replace meat with lots of refined grains like white flour, rice, pasta, and potatoes, and eat very little fresh fruit and vegetables. This, of course, causes all kinds of health issues. If you choose to be a vegetarian, you have to learn about a balanced diet, and you must eat lots of fresh vegetables and sprouted legumes. You can’t simply eliminate animal protein and eat whatever you want. You need to educate yourself and focus on a balanced diet.

Does It Have to Be All or Nothing?

Graham Hill, founder of feels that giving up meat is way too extreme for him. He saves his meat consumption to weekends, which is a really good start. Every little bit helps. I have many friends who are integrative doctors and are very well informed on nutrition, and none of them are vegetarians. They don’t eat a lot of animal products, yet they do eat some. Their portions consist of small, four-ounce servings, which they eat three or four times per week.

Dr. Andrew Weil cautions against purely plant-based diets, especially for children, and points out the nutrients you might be missing. One has to be very careful to ensure the right balance of the right foods. If you are feeding vegetarian teens, keep in mind that their growing bodies require more energy, and vitamins and minerals, at this age than at any other time in their lives. It’s important that they have protein included in all meals and snacks, and that their blood be monitored for proper supplementation. In fact, all vegetarians should have their blood tested regularly.

Incorporating more vegetarian meals into your diet can be a realistic goal. If done properly, you’ll definitely feel better for it. If you are going to eat meat, consume small portions. Most of all, please stop supporting inhumane factory farms and buy meat products from happy, grass-fed animals on ethical farms.

For more information on plant based diets, and how to stay balanced, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary recipe here.

Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their weekly health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health and exploding taste buds.


Fasting has been around in many different cultures for centuries. Fasting is a form of clearing out your system. If you’ve ever fasted, I am sure you realize that it is an emotional and physical challenge; yet it is a challenge worth persevering through.

In fact, Dr. Brian Clements, of the Hippocrates Health Institute, is a big advocate of fasting and feels that fasting one day per week can extend your life. The premise is that harmful toxins are stored in your fat, and when you go without food for an extended period of time, your body uses fat as an energy source. When the fat breaks down, toxins are released. Some other benefits of fasting include giving your digestive system a much needed rest, allowing your body to detox and cleanse, promoting mental clarity, increasing energy levels, clearing up your skin, helping with weight loss, improving your immune system, and increasing white blood cell count.


Juice fasts became very popular among celebrities a few years ago, and this encouraged many others to climb onto the bandwagon. So many people are now into juice fasting. This is fantastic because fasting is so incredibly healthy. Denise Mari, founder of Organic Avenue in New York, was one of the first instigators of the mainstream market juice craze. She worked together with her partner Doug Evans, to build a hugely successful company, which delivers organic juices right to you, and that’s your food intake for the day. This service is now available in many large cities across North America, through a large variety of companies.

Types of Fasting

  • Long term fasting: abstinence from food or calorie intake for a period over seventy-two hours.
  • Short term fasting: abstinence from food or calorie intake for a period of seventy-two hours or less.
  • Intermittent fasting: occasionally taking a break from eating.
  • Intermittent feeding: taking the  occasional break from fasting to eat during a predetermined window.

Fasting is so beneficial that numerous diet plans have been developed around the concept. Here are some of the most popular:

The Fast Diet

The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting by Dr. Michael Mosley is very popular in Britain. It encourages intermittent fasting. You eat the way you normally do for five days and fast for two days, consuming about 600 calories for men and 500 for women on the fasting days. Although you might experience some hunger pangs, Dr. Mosley says these pangs eventually pass, and you’ll find that fasting actually sharpens your mental capacity and your senses. You might think two days of fasting could lead to overeating on the no fasting days, yet this was not Dr. Mosley’s experience. Neither did he experience muscle loss. He found the first few fasts the most difficult, yet over time, the diet became easier. After two months, he lost about twenty pounds and says his overall health greatly improved.

Dr. Mosley feels that fasting can lead to weight loss and long term health and wellbeing benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It gives your pancreas a rest, which boosts the effectiveness of the insulin it produces in response to elevated blood glucose. Increased insulin sensitivity will reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cognitive decline. The diet also resulted in an overall enhancement of mood and sense of wellbeing, perhaps as a consequence of the brain producing increased levels of neurotropic factor. This diet approach forces you to think about what you eat and when you eat. There is no daily calorie control or deprivation regime like most diet plans. You won’t starve on any given day, and you will still enjoy the foods you love most of the time. Once you lose the weight, sticking to the basic program keeps your weight off because it’s not really a diet. It’s a sustainable strategy for a long, healthy life.

Alternate Day Fasting

A slightly different approach to fasting is Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF), popularized by Dr. James Johnson. Having struggled with weight issues throughout much of his adult life and witnessing his patients’ weight loss challenges, he came up with the Johnson UpDayDownDay Diet, which he describes in his book The Alternate-Day Diet. On this diet, you fast every second day. On fasting days, men are limited to 600 calories and women to 500 calories. These calories must be consumed in one meal, normally lunch.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

One widely accepted approach to intermittent fasting is going without food for a 12-18 hour stretch. This can be as simple as skipping breakfast. It’s been drilled into our heads forever that we should never miss breakfast; however, this is not necessarily the case.

Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, has a master’s degree in human biology and nutritional science and is considered a guru of intermittent fasting. His extensive research indicated that one of the keys to longevity is to skip eating. In his book, he recommends two twenty-four-hour fasts a week. “Fat loss starts happening at about 12 to 13 hours and plateaus around 18 hours,” he says. What works for a lot of people is to have an early dinner, no bedtime snack, skip breakfast and enjoy a late lunch. This is a relatively easy way to accomplish an effective fast because you are sleeping through a large portion of it. If you can’t handle doing this twice a week, you’ll still obtain benefits by doing it once per week or even once a month! Human growth hormone goes up, insulin level goes down, cortisol level is stabilized, adrenals become healthy, metabolism is increased, hormones that burn body fat are boosted, and you lose body fat, hunger cravings subside, triglyceride levels drop, and the body adjusts from burning carbohydrates to burning fats.

Extended Fasting

Gabriel Cousens is a holistic physician, homeopath, psychiatrist, family therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner, Chinese herbalist, spiritual master, and founder of Tree of Life Center US. He fasts 2-4 times per year for 7-10 days at a time. Cousens believes that:

“Fasting is perhaps the simplest and most remarkable self-healing approach related to our food intake for re-balancing and clearing the body and mind and elevating the spirit. I call it the elixir of fasting. It is one of the greatest health benefits.”

If you decide to do a long-term fast, you want to avoid muscle loss, which can happen if  you don’t know what you’re doing. First and foremost, it is dependent on the kind of fast you are doing: a water fast, a total fast, or a juice fast. How much fat you have stored in your body and whether you exercise are also factors. Your body has three sources of energy: carbohydrates, which is the preferred fuel for quick energy; fat, which is its next source of energy; and protein. However, the body’s utilization of the three sources of energy is not always in this order. If you exercise during a long-term fast, this can cause muscle loss if you are not properly nurturing your body. Your body’s metabolism will shift to a fat-burning mode called ketosis as a result of fasting or depriving your body of carbohydrates. Both the Atkins and the Paleo diets focus on protein for fuel rather than carbohydrates, which helps your body burn fat for fuel and you don’t feel that hungry. They also maintain muscle mass. The body can convert some of the protein you eat into glucose; however, the body is not able to convert fat into glucose. The key component to this kind of diet is to have the correct amount of  carbohydrates and protein. You have to know what you are doing because this is based on a very specific formula.

As a general rule intermittent fasting is best for physical health, and long-term fasts are best for emotional, psychological, and spiritual health.

Is Fasting for You?

It may be difficult to believe so many benefits could result from simple fasting, however, the advantages have been extensively researched. Through experimentation, you will find the right approach for you.

For more on Alternate Day Fasting, Extended Fasting, Intermittent Fasting, and Fasting While Exercising, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary FASTING recipe here.

Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their weekly health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.

Blood Sugar and Low-Sugar Impact

Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution and 8 time New York Times best seller, has inspired many people, including  President  Clinton, with the notion that “as long as you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight” as NOT being a true statement. Dr. Hyman believes very strongly that the type of calories you consume does make a difference because not all calories are created equal. The same number of calories from different types of food can have very different biological effects.

Think about 750 calories of soda to 750 calories of broccoli.

Here is what happens when you consume the soda:

  1. First and foremost, the soda contains empty calories with absolutely no nutritional value.
  2. Your gut quickly absorbs the fiber-free sugars, which makes the glucose spike your blood sugar, starting a domino effect of high insulin and hormonal responses.
  3. High insulin then increases storage of belly fat, inflammation, raises triglycerides and lowers HDL, raises blood pressure, lowers testosterone in men, and contributes to infertility in women..!
  4. Not to mention now your appetite is increased because the insulin effect on your brain and the fructose go directly to your liver where it starts making fat.

Now, here’s what happens when you eat the broccoli:

  1. Broccoli is a high-fiber, low-sugar carb that is digested very slowly. Because it has so much fiber, very few calories are actually absorbed.
  2. There are no blood sugar or insulin spikes, no fatty liver, and no hormonal chaos.
  3. After eating it, you eventually feel full, and you also get all the benefits of the nutrients in the broccoli like lowered cholesterol, reduced inflammation, and a detoxification
  4. Broccoli is full of vitamin C, folate, and all kinds of wonderful nutrients that nourish your body.

The Basics of a Blood Sugar Diet

The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet has been very effective for thousands of people. A recent book that also made it to the New York Times best seller list is The Sugar Impact Diet by JJ Virgin. Both diets unequivocally agree that the old paradigm of calories in and calories out is passé and that not all sugars are equal. In JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, she provides a revolutionary new approach to gradually transitioning into a low sugar impact diet for fast, lasting fat loss and optimal health.

Most other diets look at one aspect of sugar such as glycemic load, glucose load, fructose, nutrient density, or fiber quota. In The Sugar Impact Diet JJ combines all of these measurements to determine whether a certain food has a low-, medium-, or high-sugar impact on your body. She has provided extensive, easy-to-follow lists in her book, so there’s no guessing which category a food falls under. This helps you gradually taper and transition off sugar forever. You literally shift from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. You’ll learn to identify and eliminate the sneaky sugars from so-called healthy foods that hold your weight and health hostage.

If you suffer from sugar cravings and consume a diet made up of mostly high sugar impact foods, this may be the plan for you.

For more information:

Access your complementary LOW-SUGAR IMPACT recipe here.

Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their weekly health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.


We have researched many diets available on the market. In fact, we have discovered that there are over one hundred dietary theories! There are many diets that are very similar; some that are downright silly, and others that aren’t very healthy. However, most offered little nuggets of good information.

As we studied the diverse eating regimes, one point became obvious. We are all unique, and there is no single diet that works for everyone. After all, we are all wired differently, and what feels really good to me might feel really bad to you. It’s called bio-individuality. It’s why so many diets don’t work; they don’t take into consideration that “one man’s food is another man’s poison.”

There is no universal right or wrong way to eat since so many factors come into play including your age, gender, activity level, time and place of birth, and even your heritage. What works for me might not work for you.

For example, Rita Thomas eats a lot of food. She exercises regularly and has a crazy-fast metabolism. Then, when she had an injury a few years ago and was advised not to work out for a month, she cut her food intake by about two thirds and was amazed at how quickly her voracious appetite diminished. Her constant desire to snack disappeared. She listened to her body and followed its lead.

Know that change is demanding and takes time. If you incorporate five new supplements or five new foods into your diet all at once, you won’t know the effects of any one item, so make modifications gradually. Be patient and disciplined, so you are able to follow through with a reasonable plan. It will take time for your body to make adjustments, so go easy but be persistent. Don’t get frustrated; try to enjoy the process. Visualize your body as a complicated puzzle that you need to figure out.

Finally, please remember, it is more important to be fit than thin and it’s better to be fit and fat than unfit and skinny (according to Carl J. Lavie, MD, author of The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier). Dr. Lavie says that, while you might think longevity hinges on maintaining a normal body mass index, new research indicates overweight and even moderately obese people with certain chronic diseases from heart disease to cancer, often live longer and fare better than normal weight individuals with the same ailments. He says the extra fat provides additional fuel to help fight illness.

We’ve become so used to framing health issues in terms of obesity that we ignore other potential causes of disease. It’s important to look at our bodies as holistic systems and that’s what we hope this blog ispires you to do.

Throughout the next 2 months you will be getting a summary of different diets that that seem to work for many people. We’ll be going over Blood Sugar and Low-Sugar diets, Fasting, Animal-Free Diets, Raw Food Diets, as well as the Paleo diet and the pH diet. If you are struggling with how to eat to maintain good health, pay extra close attention throughout the next two months and try to find an eating plan that resonates with you. It might even be a combination of diets or, if you are already happy with the way you eat, you might find some interesting details to fine tune your eating habits. Make it a pleasurable experiment that gets you where you want to be!

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
– Albert Einstein

Access your complementary recipe here.

Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their weekly health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.

The Amazing Process of Digestion

Part of eating mindfully involves understanding how your body digests food. Once you grasp this, it brings a whole new awareness. It’s essential to fully comprehend what the food you eat, and the way you eat it, does to your body. While you might think digestion is a boring subject, gaining knowledge about it is important to change your relationship with food for the better, and achieve optimal health.

So what is digestion?  It is simply the breakdown of large food molecules into small food molecules that are more easily absorbed into the blood stream.

How to Improve Your Digestion

Every step in the digestion process requires energy. The more energy you use to digest food, the less energy you will have available to do all the other things you need your body to do, such as healing and regenerating itself. In her book Body Ecology, nutritionist Donna Gates recommends following the 80/20 principle. Basically, you eat until you are 80 percent full and leave 20 percent of your stomach empty to allow for proper digestion.

You can also help your digestive system by doing the following:

  • Drink a good supply of the right kind of water daily.
  • Eat a good balanced diet with the right mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, high fiber foods, and a healthy supply of vitamins and minerals.
  • Chew your food until it is liquefied. This is very important.
  • Enjoy your food. Eat slowly and mindfully.
  • Avoid stressful eating. If you are overstressed, your body is so busy dealing with your stress that it has no time to deal with digestion or absorption of nutrients. You can stress or digest; you cannot do both.
  • Do not overeat. This is less likely to happen if you slow down your eating.
  • Avoid exposure to artificial food additives, colorings, and preservatives.
  • Take a digestive enzyme supplement with your meals to boost your digestive juices and alleviate all the typical digestive problems. Digestive enzymes are produced naturally by your body; however, these enzymes often become depleted, particularly if you are older.
  • Drink a glass of water while you are cooking to stimulate your digestives juices. Do not drink while you are eating your meal as it can dilute your digestive enzymes that need to be emulsified while you chew.
  • Try adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to four ounces of water fifteen minutes before you eat a meal to increase the production of hydrochloric acid which is necessary to break down protein in the gut and may aid cellular absorption of glucose.

Digestive Aids


Probiotics are live microorganisms that help fight bad bugs in your gut, improve intestinal health, and are important to any discussion about digestion. There are many different strains of  these beneficial organisms that reduce the risk of infection by conquering dangerous organisms and suppressing inflammation. Probiotics promote the function of the intestinal inner lining to act as a barrier to potentially dangerous organisms and chemicals. Many problems can arise if the organisms in your gut are not balanced, including inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, asthma, allergic disorders, and even obesity. Pollution, stress, overuse of antibiotics, and the simple fact of aging all assist in the breakdown of a healthy gut. Probiotics can help restore the balance and treat lactose intolerance, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tracy Piper is a cleanse and internal fitness expert to many celebrities and offers her insider’s secrets in her book The Piper Protocol. A fabulous read that includes the best guide I‘ve ever seen on probiotics. Tracy believes that “the more species of probiotics you take, the better,” and it’s a good idea to rotate them. She points out that “there are also a broad number of species and strains that do specific things in the body so you can customize your probiotic supplements.” You really need to purchase Tracy’s book to get the full list along with a lot of really interesting information. Tracy offers a few other great tips on probiotics:

  • Look for a list that outlines the genus, species, strain, and the number of probiotics; fifty billion is ideal. Avoid if you see “proprietary blend” or “synthetic” enteric coating.
  • For best results, take probiotics every day, ideally on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
  • Your mouth has more bacteria than anywhere else, so break open a capsule, mix with a little water and swish between your teeth and into your gums on a daily basis.
  • To increase your strength and muscle mass, take an additional probiotic with your protein. It will enhance protein utilization.
  • For better preservation, all probiotics should be refrigerated even if they say no refrigeration and keep out of extreme heat.
  • You can take probiotics as often as three times per day.
  • Fermented foods were around long before probiotic supplements ever arrived on the scene and are excellent. Ideally you want to find brands with no added sugar, coloring, bindings or too much salt. This is covered more full in the “Fermented Foods” section of The Power of Healthy Living.


Like probiotics, enzymes are important to digestion and are either produced by your body or introduced to your body through the food you eat. Enzymes break down food to absorb the available nutrients. You can be eating a perfectly healthy diet, but if your body does not have enzymes, your body is not equipped to absorb all the goodness from the food. According to Tracy Piper, enzymes also metabolically “repair and digest unwanted debris in the blood and body, like bacteria, cellular debris and viruses.” If this is not happening, you can get sick and feel older and less energetic. Avoiding stress, living a healthy lifestyle, eating the best enzyme-rich foods, and taking good-quality supplements will keep an abundant supply of  enzymes in your body. Fresh, whole, raw, sprouted, fermented food that is still alive will have the most plentiful supplies of enzymes. The closer to nature the food is, the better. Cooked, processed, or dead food is devoid of enzymes. If eating too much raw food is a real chore for you, try juicing and blending to incorporate enzymes into your diet.

There are many different enzymes that are necessary for breaking down food. They fall into three major food groups: lipase for fat, amylase for carbohydrates, and protease for protein. Your body should produce these enzymes naturally; however, this unfortunately doesn’t always happen, often because of not properly chewing your food or eating too much processed food. Getting older also lessens your body’s ability to produce enzymes for the simple reason that your body does not function as well. Finally, a diet that is not properly balanced with sufficient supplies of vitamins and minerals can hamper your body’s ability to produce adequate enzymes. Changing all of these habits may still provide an inadequate supply of enzymes. I try to remember to take digestive enzymes right before each meal. If I’m going to make the effort to eat the perfect food, I want to make sure my body is getting maximum benefits from the nutrients.

For more detailed information on Digestion, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary recipe here.


Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.

Quick Sauerkraut

Quick Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is the most well-known of all fermented foods. Historically, most cultures eat some type of fermented food. This is unsurprising because fermented foods are such great digestive aids and natural probiotics.
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  1. 1 medium head of green cabbage
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
  3. 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
  4. 1 tablespoon mustard seeds (optional)
  5. 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  1. Sterilize one 16 fl. oz. glass mason jar with a wide mouth and lid.
  2. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside.
  3. Quarter and remove the core of the cabbage. Shred it by hand or use a food processor.
  4. Place the cabbage in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, and optional seasonings (if you are using them).
  5. Mix the cabbage well and then add handfuls to the jar. Use your fist, a muddler, or the end of a rolling pin to pack each handful down tightly. This should force the water out of the cabbage to create a brine. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of water (you want the cabbage to be covered with liquid).
  6. To create an inch of head space in the jar, take the reserved outer leaves of the cabbage, roll them up, and wedge them into the jar so that the chopped cabbage is completely submerged under the brine.
  7. Seal the jar with some cheesecloth and an elastic band.
  8. Leave the jar on a counter at room temperature for 1-5 days. Place a plate underneath it to catch any liquid that might bubble over and seep out of the top. Check the jar every 24 hours. When you see the mixture bubbling, it is ready to be sealed with a lid and stored in the refrigerator.
Recipes for Life by Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm

Organic Vs. Non-Organic

How many times have you heard that organic foods do not contain more nutrients than non-organic foods? So why bother paying all that extra money for organic? Well, putting aside the nutritional component of organic produce for a moment, the chemicals and pesticides you are eating when you ingest non-organic foods have been associated with cancer, nervous system disorders, and other serious health problems.  We appreciate TV host, speaker, chef, author, Andrea Beaman’s take on it.  She says these chemicals kill bugs and the only difference between bugs and us is size.  Eventually they’ll kill us too.

Are you still wondering, “why bother?”now?!

Best organic choices:

Here is a list of the foods most likely affected by pesticides:
(originally referred to as the “Dirty Dozen” but now there are more than a dozen!)

  • Green Beans
  • Leafy Greens (kale, collard greens)
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Red Peppers
  • Celery
  • Apples (THE WORST!)
  • Teas and Spices

What you can get away with:

These “Clean Fifteen” foods are those, least likely, to hold pesticide residues:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Potato
  • Watermelon

How to avoid toxins all together?

To avoid toxins and pesticides, the best of all bests is to plant your own garden if you have the time and space. If this isn’t possible, the next best option is to buy organic and in season from local farmers. If this is out of the question financially, buy as much organic as you can, keeping the Dirty Dozen in mind; and check out the section on “Detoxification” in our latest book The Power of Healthy Living. You’ll find there are many ways to help eliminate some of these toxins from your body.

Researchers have started tracking the nutrient components of organic versus non-organic produce, and the findings weigh very heavily in favor of organic. For example, tests show that organic tomatoes have as much as 55 percent more vitamin C than non-organic tomatoes. In 2005 a team of Newcastle University researchers found that organically produced food had higher levels of specific antioxidants and lower mycotoxin levels than conventional samples. The study found organic crops are up to 60 percent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown ones. Professor Carlos Leifert, lead author of the study, said in the October 2014 issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, there are “statistically significant meaningful” differences between organic and standard produce, with organic having from 19 to 69 percent more antioxidants. One other study showed substantially higher levels of minerals.

Organic is not only better for your body, it’s also much better for your planet. Studies have shown that organic farming uses less energy, less water, and no chemicals. That means less erosion, maintained soil quality, and more conserved biological resources. As well, new reports show that current yields from some organic crops are exceeding those of non-organic crops.

For more detailed information on Organic Eating, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary recipe here.


Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.

Genetically Modified Foods

Right now in the United States, about 60% to 70% of the foods on our grocery store shelves contain GMOs, and there is absolutely no labeling to indicate this. As a result, we cannot always be certain whether the foods we are consuming are GMO or not, and the number of GMO foods is growing. This is absolute craziness.

The affects of GMOs

Animal studies on the effects of GMO foods have revealed all kinds of issues, including infertility problems, immune system complications, accelerated aging, insulin issues, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. Most of this research is funded by industries with a vested interest in finding no negative effects, so outcomes are always in their favor! And there have be no studies done on the long-term effects …

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building the non-GMO food supply, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. Here is their response when asked if GMOs are safe:

“Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.”

There are positive steps you can take to avoid GMOs and it starts by buying organic foods that contain the 100 percent USDA certified organic label.  GMOs are not permitted in organic products. If you cannot afford organic, then look for Non GMO Project seals. Buying local is also a great way to avoid GMOs; ask questions of your vendors about the lifecycle of the product and the philosophy of the producer.

Organic or Non-GMO?

Max Goldberg is one of the nation’s leading organic food experts and keeps us well informed on his website. Some of his readers tend to confuse the terms organic and non-GMO. So here’s the deal: non-GMO is not better than organic. Look for 100 percent USDA certified organic because all organic food should be non-GMO. Non-GMO is always second best to organic. If the product you want to purchase comes in a box, a can, or a jar, read the labels and check every single ingredient.

Here are some at-risk ingredients to avoid because they are probably genetically modified:

  • Beet sugar
  • Canola rapeseed
  • Corn ingredients and products
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soy ingredients
  • Papaya
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Yellow squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Actions you can take to ensure a non-GMO future for food production:

  • Stop buying GMO and processed foods. In the 2014 documentary Origins David Wolfe suggests you “vote with your money.” If you stop buying processed foods, there will be no market for them.
  • Get involved. Insist that your governments conduct their own studies on the safety of GMOs rather than relying on studies conducted by biotech companies who are only in it for the money. 
  • In April of 2014, Vermont was successful in passing a no-GMO bill, yet the very next month, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) confirmed it would sue in an attempt to overturn the bill. Jackson County in Oregon is the only other state that has had some success in banning the growth of GMO crops.
  • Stop supporting junk food restaurants. We were delighted to read that McDonalds reported a 30% drop in revenues for 2015 and is closing 700 locations. We’re sure it’s because of these revenue drops that McDonalds announced that they will be launching their first organic hamburger in Germany. Yay! If we continue to send the McDonalds’ of the world the message that we don’t want to eat unhealthy food, they will be forced to incorporate new, healthier, affordable choices into their menus if they want to survive.
  • Ban these brands from your grocery cart:
    • Pepsi Cola
    • Nestle
    • Kraft
    • General Mills
    • Naked Juice
    • Gerber
    • Organic Boca Burgers
    • Cascadian Farms
    • Simply Frito-Lay

You can be proactive. Even if all you do is a sign a petition, it’s a great place to start. And please, let your governments know that what they are doing to our food supply is totally unacceptable. Make them accountable by asking them why they subsidize junk food, making it so affordable yet not organic food?

More Resources

For more detailed information on GMOs in your food, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary recipe here.


Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up for their health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.

Food Identity Theft

Are you mindful and intentional about your daily eating plan? Most people live on autopilot and don’t even think about what they will snack on during the day. Even the healthiest people can get sidetracked by spontaneous decisions in all aspects of life. Eating is certainly one of them. When it comes to the foods you choose, you have to be focused on planning and preparation in order to make the right choices. Be intentional. Be mindful that the foods you eat and the way you eat them are part of an entire ecosystem of health, from the health of your planet to the health of each person on it.

A great place to start is to encourage food producers to abandon their deceptive practices and focus on supplying healthy, organic foods that are not genetically modified, mislabeled, or misrepresented. We don’t want to dishearten you; we simply want to make you aware of how the decisions about what you eat can contribute to a more positive, mindful future for our planet.

So many foods have suffered from identity theft. News stations are reporting more and more on how the food we eat contain fraudulent ingredients, and in no small amount. One report for example found that pepper contained stems and starches, paprika contained synthetic industrial dyes that mimic the color, and saffron is actually black pepper cut with stems and cheap spices.

As if that isn’t enough, reports have found:

  • Extra virgin olive oil diluted with cheap vegetable oil
  • Caviar that did not come from sturgeon eggs
  • Dog food that contained no meat
  • Pomegranate juice containing cheaper juices, mostly grape and pear
  • Whole wheat crackers made primarily from processed and refined white flour
  • Teas filled with fern leaves and lawn grass (even some organic teas contained fern leaves, lawn grass, weeds, and goose foot)
  • Sheep cheese that was not sheep cheese
  • Jars of so-called 100 percent lemon juice that, when tested, only had 10 to 35 percent of actual lemon juice

Reports like this really make you realize how far some companies will go to make a buck.

The website is sponsored by Citizens for Health, a nonprofit consumer action group that keeps consumers informed about food threats. They report that sometimes companies try to mask ingredients by changing the names of them.

While the culprits add ingredients we don’t want, other companies claim their products contain certain items that aren’t even there! An example of this is the blueberry scam, where you think the product you are buying contains nutritious, antioxidant rich blueberries and surprise: not one blueberry can be found in the entire package! Health Ranger, Mike Adams, is a research director, food scientist, food activist, and outspoken consumer health advocate who is founder and editor of His investigations found that McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets contained mysterious fiber hair-like structures, pasteurized milk contained pus, and Vitamin Water contained more sugar water than vitamins in the water. Even Coca-Cola’s own attorney has publicly admitted that Vitamin Water is not a health beverage.

Another health food advocate worth noting is Vani Hari who started the website to help consumers understand what is actually in the food we eat, how to make healthy buying decisions at the grocery store, and how to live an organic lifestyle. It was Hari who led the charge to convince Subway to remove a controversial ingredient in their bread that was used to make yoga mats after receiving 50,000 signatures in twenty-four hours on her petition to the chain. Hari also investigated Jello, which has a warning label in Europe but not in the United States and Canada, noting that the “fun” food contains gelatin from animals in factory farms, artificial flavor, red #40 made from petroleum and is contaminated with carcinogens, artificial food dyes, GMO sugar and preservatives, and BHA linked to cancer that are banned all over the globe.

Moral of the story? Be intentional. Be mindful that the foods you eat and the way you eat them are part of an entire ecosystem of health, from the health of your planet to the health of each person on it.

For more detailed information on Mindful Eating, pick up your copy of the Recipes for Life Boxed Set.

Access your complementary recipe here.

Health Coach Rita Thomas and Chef Erin Holm hope to inspire families, friends and communities to live happier, healthier and more delicious lives.
Sign up to their health and recipe blog to start your journey to good health.