Celebrate Gluten-Free in Style – Introducing Dunwoody Bakery

Earlier this summer, my sister-in-law was visiting me here in Connecticut. She had recently met a talented gluten free baker at Whole Foods in Georgia.  Knowing about my business and personal interests in gluten-free living, my sister-in-law kindly passed along my card in hopes of a connection.

Soon enough, Jill Baker-Lesperance (yes, her maiden name is Baker), reached out to me for some assistance.  Shortly after our introduction, I received a giant box filled with gluten-free treats — cake pops, snack bars, sugar cookies….oh my!

While I live a paleo diet most of the time, it felt liberating to indulge in these treats….and also fun to bring them to a friend's deck party and get some instantaneous feedback from regular folk (you know, those people who wouldn't even think of eating anything free of gluten!).  Just a few crumbs remained on the serving dish so yes, Dunwood Bakery in Connecticut was a huge hit.

Unfortunately (or maybe in this case fortunately), I wasn't able to share the giant and beautifully decorated sugar cookie shaped like beach sandals…..more like, I took one bite and decided this cookie was all mine.  Seriously, this cookie reminded me of my childhood…..while the texture was a little different than what we left for Santa Claus, the taste came in surprisingly close.  It's a known fact that gluten free baking can be a real challenge especially when it comes to mimicking the real deal – I am impressed, Dunwoody Bakery is a master.  In fact, many of their customers are not gluten-free! 

These cookies would make fantastic favors at any birthday party for kids with food sensitivities.  Dunwoody Bakery also creates custom cupcakes and more!  So if you're gluten-free but want to fit in like the regular folk (see paragraph #2), place your order today!  As a nutritionist, I wouldn't recommend indulging in cookies or cakes everyday but there should certainly be room in your life for celebration that involves tasty food.  If you're in Georgia or passing through, stop on over at the bakery to see Jennifer in action.  Alternatively, the Dunwoody Bakery products are also now featured at three Whole Foods locations in Atlanta

Jill uses organic ingredients as much as possible and her love and care is seen and tasted in everything that comes out of the oven.  What I love most about Dunwoody Bakery is that the idea sprung from Jill's Celiac Diagnosis in 2010.  A baker all of her life (and born into a name that fit her so appropriately), Jill found a way to continue her passion and provide others a means to enjoy a gluten-free diet that's full of flavor and enjoyment in every bite.

Get Your Metabolism Out of the Dumps by Doing These Six Things!

Are you following your weight loss program and not getting the results you should? It could be due to a slower than normal metabolism and poor fat burning.  I know this is a common problem because I see this so often with my clients.  They have tried several so-called diets with little or any results. I constantly scour the research looking for a reason and the nutrients that will help or support my clients in their efforts.  There are six great tips that have great research behind them and are rapidly becoming my favorite new plateau-busting methods.

The first is the active constituent from Green Tea, EGCg.  Green tea has been shown to have many great health benefits including antioxidants and blood sugar stabilizing but the thing that has me most excited in this research showing that it can increase energy expenditure by 4% which translates to an average of 100-150 more calories burned a day.  This same study showed improved fat metabolism of 10% and also the inhibition of an enzyme called pancreative lipase which could prevent weight gain.  Jupel, C, Armand M, Pafumi Y, et al.  Green tea extract (AR25) inhibits lipolysis of triglycerides in gastric and duodenum medium in vitro.  J Nutr Biochem 2000; 11:45-51.

The second interesting nutrient is Grape Seed Supreme.  We have all heard the great benefits of grape seed and skin extracts for the heart but I was delighted to discover that it also helps with fat metabolism.  The new research, recently published in the journal Nature, found that "When cells were exposed to resveratrol, our studies showed a pretty dramatic reduction in the conversion to fat cells and a lesser but still significant increase in the mobilization of existing fat, or the rate at which the cells metabolized stored fat, " said Mark Leid, a professor of pharmacology in the OSU College of Pharmacy.

There is also new research coming out all the time to support the use of the fatty acid CLA for its numerous positive effects on weight loss including helping to support fat burning, especially fat around the waist and helping to increase insulin receptor sensitivity.  One of my favorite studies found that after only a month men who supplemented with CLA (with no dietary intervention) lost an inch around their waists.  When you use these three nutrients in the right combination, I am sure you will be pleased with the results!  Of course, diet and attitude is key too and that's why my other tips focus on food and mindset.

Nutrient number four is attitude.  I find there is a switch that goes on and off in dieters.  This switch is something that seems uncontrollable…it goes on and off as it wishes.  What if there was a way to turn this switch on all the time?  You know the one. The switch that says, "Yes, I want to take care of my body every day,"  "Yes, I am ok with moderation."  "Yes, I feel 100% satisfied with this body of mine!"  There are two techniques used at Healthful Direction that help target the subconscious mind and help to rewrite the programming going on in your brain.  By using these techniques in our sessions together, you can start to get rid of that self-sabotaging behavior.  The first technique is called The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or as some like to say, 'tapping.'  There is a boat load of research on how this technique can help calm the nervous system down in a way that sets you up for great success in every area of your life such as body image.  The second method used is called Psych-K.  I find that this technique can really zero in the issues very quickly!  Cellular Bruce Lipton is a huge proponent of this technique and I'm sure he'd agree with me when I say that it can work remarkably well for permanent weight loss!

The last nutrient I am going to refer to today as it relates to a stuck metabolism is food sensitivities.  These are different than food allergies where one would might into anaphalactic shock.  A food sensitivity is a delayed reaction, meaning that your symptoms can develop many days after consuming a substance.  The LEAP test helps to determine what these foods are that are causing an inflammatory response in the body leading to possible weight gain.  With the elimination of these foods that you specifically are testing for (yes, truly individualized), you can free yourself from the inflammation and the extra weight too.  In fact, a headache, fatigue, skin condition and more might get solved in the same elimination process!

So as you can see, there are may ways to heal a metabolism that is in the dumps.  Give all types of nutrients a try because often it is a combination that is truly the most potent and beneficial for you.

In Health & Happiness,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

What To Do with Un-ripened Green and Ripened Yellow Plantains:

I'll admit it.  I'm on a plantain kick!  In November, I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Florida and discovered how delicious the fried plantains tasted on my wahoo fish salad.  I got my fill of plantains on that trip and recently re-discovered their magical sweetness and versatility. 

Before I share some fabulous plantain recipes, let's talk nutrition.  Plantains are an approved starch on the Paleo Diet and therefore something I wholeheartedly approve for my clients.  They aren't exactly the first thing you think of to pick up at the grocery store but adding them to your cart brings a few bonuses:

- They are dirt cheap

- They have a long shelf life

- They are versatile in that you can cook them ripe or be creative, and cook them unripened.  See my recipe explains at the bottom of this blog!

The unfortunate story of plantains is that they come with the risk that they've been heavily sprayed with pesticides unless of course they are organic.  So choose organic if it's available.  If not, be thankful that plantains carry a thick skin (thicker than that of a banana).  In fact, peeling them may require a new set of skill set

The nutrient profile is very promising as they provide a rich source of beta-carotene, are packed with Vitamin C, and contain healthy amounts of B6 and the minerals magnesium and potassium.  They offer a sweet flavoring if sauteed with your main dish or a satisfying crunch if baked.  This crunch is often missing from a paleo diet so for those of you who miss the 'chip crunch,' this may just do it for you….certainly does it for me.

Here are two very simple plantain recipes which will surely put a smile on your face and belly!

Simple Plantain Chips (Grain-Free, Bean-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free)

4 large green (unripened) plantains
1 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
Salt and spices to taste (see notes below)
Homemade guacamole for dipping!

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a hummus consistency.  Spread the batter evenly onto your baking sheet.  The thinner the batter, the more crispy these chips will turn out.  Baked for 10 minutes and then remove to score crackers with a sharp knife.  Bake approx a remaining hour until golden brown (cooking time will depend on the thickness of your spread).  Voila, the plantain cracker is born!  These are most excellent dipped in homemade guacamole.

A big thanks to The Paleo Mom for supplying the original recipe which I've modified by doubling and experimenting with varied spices & dips.  Speaking of spices, when I first made these, I added some salt after they were spread out on the baking sheet.  Other times, I have experimented with spices such as cinnamon (savory sweet), cayenne pepper (for a kick), and dill or rosemary (herbal fusion).  Anything is possible!  Also, the longer these are baked (without burning), the sweeter they will become.  If they aren't cooked fully through, they will be a more mush consistency so I recommend a thinner chip for that crispness we are all in search of when finding that 'perfect' chip.  As you'll see in this picture, in my first attempt here, some chips came out thicker than others.  All were delicious but the thinner ones were certainly more in line with what my mouth was searching for!

Fried Plantains

1-2 ripe plantains (they will start to turn black, to get here you may have to leave your unripened plantains sitting on the counter for 2-3 weeks)
1-2 TB extra-virgin coconut oil

Peel the plantain and slice into any shape you desire (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick).  With a warmed cast-iron skillet, add the coconut oil and make sure it is evenly spread in the pan before adding the sliced up plantains.  Keep your heat at medium-high and make sure you are keeping an eye on them to ensure they brown but not burn.  These are super quick to make and will be cooked through in about 5 minutes total. 

My favorite way to enjoy these is in a fish salad like that of which I had at a restaurant in Florida.  However, they are also great as a side dish on a platter.  In both cases, they add quite a punch of sweetness.  Hopefully this my friends will prevent you from diving into any dessert!

In Health and Happiness,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

Lacking in Fruits & Vegetables? My Personal GREENS Recommendation!

As a Nutritionist, i know that getting the protection and health benefits greens, fruits and vegetables provide is a must, not an option.  Green foods are rich in important minerals and compounds known as phytonutrients, which the body needs, not only to function properly, but also to function optimally. 

Today's standard American diet is severely lacking in the whole food goodness of fruits, vegetables and green extracts.  Instead, it is full of starches that are difficult to digest, saturated fats, and refined sugars, which gradually lead to imbalances and deficiencies in health promoting minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium.  Minerals like these, along with phytonutrients, are our front line defense against life threatening illnesses like cancer, CVD, and diabetes, as well as degenerative disease states such as osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and osteoarthritis.  Furthermore, the over-acidity resulting from today's typical diet makes losing weight quite difficult, robs the body of its energy and vitality, accelerates the aging process, and compromises the immune system, making you highly susceptible to frequent illnesses.  Therefore, daily consumption of nutrient-dense, alkaline producing fruits and vegetables is not just smart; it is essential.

Two of the main challenges I find in getting clients to increase their much needed fruit and vegetable nutrition are convenience and taste….until I discovered both Designs for Health's  and Metagenics line of greens and reds powders.  These include an abundant source of alkalinizing green juices, enzymes, prebiotics, and antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits and berries.  To ensure absolute nutritional potency, no fillers or bulking agents are added to these formulations.

These are without any grain-derived components like oat and pea fibers whose allergenic constituents can wreak havoc on the immune system.  These components are commonly found in other green extracts.  In addition, there's no alfalfa grass, which has clearly shown by scientific research to have adverse effects on your health.

Both of these powders (I rotate!) are an integral part of my personal health routine.  Every spoonful nourishes your body for sustained energy and vitality, immune system regulation, rejuvination and total well-being.  One tablespoon can easily and conveniently be enjoyed in a healthy beverage of your choice.  I love mixing it in my smoothie but it's also pretty good mixed with filtered tap water!

The Designs for Health line has several varieties of greens products.  The lemon-lime flavor is very refreshing for the summer or there is the option of unflavored, cranberry/orange, mint, strawberry (for the reds/fruit powder).  If you've tried the greens or reds powders from the health food store and were dismayed by the taste, know that other options exist!

The reason why these products rank superior to others on the market are as follows:

** Organic Ingredients: which means free of pesticides, insecticides, heavy metals

** Paleo Profile: no grain/legume fibers or components, least allergenic

** No Alfalfa: a common ingredient in all other leading brands (which as shown to cause autoimmune disease)

** Gentle Processing: this helps to retain potency

** High Orac Value:  For instance 5 teaspoons of PaleoGreens has the equivalent antioxidant capacity as 4 servings of vegetables, based on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity), a USDA-developed method of measuring antioxidant activity

** Great Taste & No Added Sugar!

These professional grade products are available by contacting me or if you are a client (or become one) you may order directly via websites such as Emerson Ecologics.

In Health & Happiness,

Alison Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

An Exploration Into Corporate Wellness with Soft Serve Dairy-Free Ice Cream

This week Healthful Direction enjoyed a day of corporate wellness with GE.  During the day employees were challenged to provide healthy tips in order to be entered into a drawing for a Vitamix!  Healthful Direction's summer workshop which is slated for June will show GE employees how to utilize the vitamix or other blender systems to create healthy, easy snacks and treats. 

At HealthAhead Day 2013, Healthful Direction was introduced to Faith Goulbowne, Director of Catering and Events for Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit CO. 

Their soft serve ice-cream and pops are both gluten and dairy free!  Even better, it's free of all 8 major allergens.  In fact, only three ingredients are used: frozen fruit, water and organic cane sugar.  While only a few retail stores exist at the moment, you can have their items shipped to your home. 

I love how this company is making waves in Corporate Wellness by offering healthier alternatives.  Apparently regular soft-service ice-cream can contain anti-freeze (or a similar ingredient) as a preservative. 

Chole's has introduced an incredible vending machine for that post lunch sweet tooth or that 3pm pick-me-up.  There is sugar in these products so I don't recommend for daily use but pair with some nuts, and your blood sugar will thank you!  Given the purity of the ingredients, this is a much better choice than a Snickers bar or even a bag of heavily salted pretzels. 

These are a great summertime treat…consider for your child's birthday party as it's a safe alternative for those allergic or sensitive to nuts, gluten, and dairy. 

Give them a try, and let me know what you think!

In Health,


Alison  Held, M.S.
Clinical Nutritionist

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