My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

20 Mar 2013

Fermented foods make a comeback

Fermented foods are yet another example of what's old becoming new again. Traditionally, almost every civilization regularly produced and consumed at least one cultured food. While our generation had all but forgotten traditional fermentation practices, now that scientific research is investigating the effect of active bacterial cultures from fermented foods on health, foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, chutneys, kefir, and yogurt are re-appearing in kitchens everywhere.

Cultured dairy products are dairy foods that have been fermented with lactic acid bacteria, known as probiotics. There is evidence of cultured milk products being produced as food as long ago as 10,000 B.C. While many types of cultured milk products can be found around the world, yogurt is by far the most common. Although the benefits of yogurt on digestive health had already been recognized, the microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov popularized its use throughout Europe in the 1900s, believing that lactobacillus bacteria were responsible for the remarkable longevity of Bulgarians.

Fermentation with lactic acid bacteria increases the nutritive value of foods because of improved bioavailability and can enhance the absorption of protein and minerals, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Lactic acid bacteria can synthesize the vitamins folic acid, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B12, even when they aren't provided in the diet.

Empirical research has identified a long list of health conditions that may be helped by consuming foods containing lactic acid bacteria, including colitis, constipation, diarrhea, gas, gastric reflux, heartburn, Crohn's disease, gum disease and high cholesterol. Recent studies have shown a positive effect of probiotics on autism and obesity.

Probiotic bacteria must be consumed every day to be effective as they cannot implant in the gastrointestinal tract and they do leave the body quite readily. Include a variety of foods fermented with lactic acid bacteria in your diet daily.

The fermentation process increases the shelf life of dairy products. Refrigerated, yogurt has a shelf life of 35-40 days.

Previously posted in the Chicago Tribune

13 Mar 2013

Gluten-free the second time around

Here's a picture of our little Benji-bear munching on celery
The past 12 months have been b-u-s-y! 

In the weeks following the release of Unjunk Your Junk Food, we sold & bought a house and had a baby, and since last fall I've been tied up with my job at Naturally Savvy (where you can read about what I've been up to over the past few months).   

Our son, Benjamin was born in April and, like our 3 year old before him, we've been raising him gluten-free - not because he has a gluten problem, but to prevent future intolerance.

At 10 months of age, his diet consists of breast milk, organic formula, pureed and steamed vegetables and fruit, some potatoes and brown rice (mostly in cereal form, and since the arsenic scare, considerably less than what we fed Olivia) and recently we've introduced some gluten-free bread. Aside from egg yolk, he has not tried any of the common allergens, including tomatoes or strawberries. They will be introduced into his diet slowly and one at a time sometime after his first birthday. His favorite snack - gluten free Nature's Path O's (which look like Cheerios but without the GMOs). So far so good - no sign of allergies.  

A few surprises: -My friends were right: it's hard to be as strict the second (or third, fourth...) time around. While the daycare staff has been educated about his dietary restrictions, I'm not as militant as I was with Olivia. Also, when he sees his older sister eating snacks or bread, he tries to grab some for himself - while we intervene when we see it happening, the only solution is to keep the home as GF as possible.

-In an interview with Dr. Tom O'Bryan, "The Gluten Doctor," I asked about breastfeeding. He explained exactly what I feared: gluten is passed to the baby through breast milk; hence, a gluten-free diet is recommended for breastfeeding mothers; and it's best that pregnant women remain gluten-free, too (yikes, too late!).

-Dr. O'Bryan also explained that 50% of celiacs react to dairy because it locks “into the same docking station” as gluten. So do coffee, oats, yeast. Hmmm.. 

-For on-the-go snacks, we love the new squeeze packs made with organic vegetables and fruit. The blends of greens & pear or kale & apple are awesome! Ben loves them because he can feed himself and they taste great. These didn't exist when Olivia was a baby, but I'm thrilled to have them now. 

Ben has shown signs of having a sweet tooth since food was introduced. Olivia had a 'salt tooth' and preferred salty tasting foods over sweet. It will be interesting to see how these tastes evolve as the kids get older and exposed to different foods and ingredients.