Recently, my mother took us to a dude ranch.

The first day you are assigned a horse and instructed how to make it go, stop, turn left and  right. You are also told NOT TO LET YOUR HORSE EAT while on the trails.  Apparently , the horses know when they have a new rider and will test them to see how many tree leaves they can chomp along the way.  We were told some tree leaves can make the horses sick and some can even be fatal! It is imperative that you set the “no snacking” boundary Day 1 or the entire week will be a battle.

Easy enough.


I was assigned the gorgeous Palomino, Dreamer, white with brown spots, shiny and well-behaved.  I was proud and excited to hit the trails with her.

Eventually the novelty of being atop such a large, powerful beast waned as the relaxing Bowm-ba-deeda-bowm-ba-dee-da of the trail ride was constantly interrupted by Dreamer stopping to munch tree branches flanking the trail.

I would forcefully yank the reigns, I mean really yank, to pull her head away from these low hanging temptations.  I felt like I was pulling the bit through the back of her skull, but she’d thrash her head in protest, Guess what, Cowgirl, I’m eating this maple leaf.

I wanted to do as instructed, but I also wanted Dreamer to like me.  I didn’t want to fight.  What’s so bad about one little maple leaf (or 4)?  But, then it occurred to me:  this gorgeous creature out on the trail, surrounded by deliciously tempting treats, some harmful, some less so, is not unlike any one of us walking down the aisles of a convenient store, a grocery store, an airport, or the streets of Manhattan.  We are all inundated by food options.  Some healthy, some quite harmful.

Despite being yanked on week after week, Dreamer continued to sample the goods, but there was a notable difference in her once she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Too bad we don’t have someone jerking our reigns to keep us from unhealthy noshing.  Or maybe that’s what I’m trying to do here.

(picture is of Elsa, 9, yanking the reigns atop Fiona at Clear Creek Ranch 2012)

RANT: 5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies

Parents let their kids eat the scariest things.  Maybe they don’t know that things that are bright blue are loaded with dyes and artificial flavorings, or maybe they don’t know those things impact their children’s health.

If you have children in your life, PLEASE care enough about their health to make sure they are eating vegetables, even if you aren’t (though kids tend to eat what their parents eat).

Expose them to a new veggie each week (ahem, it wouldn’t hurt to expose yourself to new things too).

For the longest time apples, bananas and carrots were the only fruits and vegetables our kids ate because that’s all we bought!  I later learned that they love cucumbers, peppers, celery, melons, berries and will even eat leafy green sans dressing!  Who knew!!??

I don’t know that brussel sprouts will ever be a favorite, but hey….

So how do you get your kids to eat more or even try veggies?

1)  First, Explain to them how vegetables make their body healthy.  Vegetables’ bright colors are nature’s vitamins and nutrients that will help them grow, think and move

2) Consider, taking them to farms, farmer’s markets and stores and allow them to select the veggies they want to try

3) Include kids in the food cleaning, prep, and cooking which helps you and gets them excited about real foods!

4) If possible, have your kids plant veggies in pots and watch them grow, which will make them more interested and connected to the foods they are eating

5) Create funny faces with veggies on their plates


BONUS TIP: The best tip for getting kids to eat veggies…Serve veggies on their plates FIRST, while their main dish is still cooking.  When children are truly, hungry they will eat almost anything,  Initially, there may be a few days of fussing…

“But I don’t like [whatever new, unfamiliar thing is on their plate]”.

Vegetables are not a negotiation, just as wearing a seat belt is non-negotiable, this is their health we are talking about!  Eventually, like everything else they are exposed to repeatedly, these cancer-preventing, health-boosting, new foods will become part of their daily routine.

And most parents who cut out the packaged foods and increase the veggies see a dramatic improvement in behavior, asthma, eczema and even report cards!  Well worth a few days of fussing!

Choose restaurants that offer fruit or salad instead of fries on kid’s menus too!


I generally think surveys and scoring systems are for people with a penchant for mathematics and the mundane . . .

and for those who need to ‘get out’ more.

But Whole Foods and health foodies alike are using the ANDI score,  a numerical value which represents how nutrient rich a food is per calorie.  This “Aggregate Nutritient Density Index” was developed by Dr Furhman*, who may or may not need to ‘get out’ more, and can be explored further here.


Put simply, greens, like kale and collard greens, have the highest score (1000) and soft drinks have the lowest score (0).  Greens pack the most nutrition in per calorie than any other food—-so EAT THEM! OFTEN!

Now that’s NOT to say, if all you ate were greens, that you’d be nutritionally balanced, even though you’d have a high ANDI score (hence the problem with scoring systems).

You’ll need to eat a balanced diet of all kinds of veggies, predominantly greens, to maximize your nutrition and health.  (For you knuckle heads out there: you can’t  just add a leaf of kale to your bacon cheese burger and think you’re beating the system. Your body knows what you’re doing.)

So, again, if you eat a variety of foods (eggs, nuts, seeds and beans have relatively lower ANDI scores, but you need them for protein and healthy fats) including numerous vegetables of differing colors, AND LOTS OF GREENS, you’ll maximize your health, reduce aging, arthritis, and prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer.

* I’ve never met Dr Fuhrman, I’m sure he ‘gets out’ plenty—that comment was based on a photo from the header on his website and it was “judgy” of me—I am grateful he cares about our nation’s health, as I do.

** For the record, since writing this blog, I have now listened to one of Dr Fuhrman’s lectures and he seems like a pretty cool, very smart guy.

RANT: Fruits of Labor

Each summer I intend to take the kids to a u-pick-ur-own berry farm.  Our son likes blue berries and our daughter, strawberries, but unfortunately neither one loves berries enough to get behind this fun, healthy, potentially disappointingly laborious activity.
“Do we have too?” (Clearly they need a little more labor and little less luxury, because berry picking is fun right?! Am I wrong here people?)
They’d never been berry picking, until last Thursday when we attended the Kruger Farms Summer Concert series, which is a pretty sweet set up.  Every summer Thursday night, out at Sauvie Island, OR from 6:30-9:30 , $10 per car, bring a blanket and whatever you like to the grounds.  There is a gorgeous farm with a view of Mt Hood, lantern lights, food carts, and a makeshift stage amongst berry bushes.
 (Confession: I had no idea what a blueberry bush looked like until this event!)
I’m sure they have this sort of thing in lots of communities, and if they don’t, they should.  So seek one out, or even better, create something similar in your ‘hood!  It’s just good clean wholesome fun AND quite profitable for the farm owner!
Plus, after harvesting her own, our strawberry lover is now a blueberry lover.  Funny how a little hard (or not really  hard, in this case) work can make you really appreciate the “fruits of your labor” (pun, and fun, intended!)

RECIPE: Strawberry Smoothie

So you’ve heard “juicing” is all the rage and wanna check out a nutritious smoothie option, but don’t have pomagranite seeds or kumquats? Or maybe you’re just looking for something a little less noxious than a pop-tart or egg McMuffin to start your day, but don’t wanna get too crazy health-nutty….This is the ‘starter’ smoothie for you.  I always have these ingredients in my freezer, so that if the veggie drawer and fruit bowl are empty, I can still whip up a deliciously healthy smoothie!  It’s my “go to”.  My “safety smoothie”.  My back up plan. My —I think you get the idea.

I recommend freezing any produce that’s about to go bad, so you can throw it in your own version of a “go to smoothie”—or you can let it rot in the fruit bowl and start a fruit fly farm! Your call.

strawb sp smoothi

Combine the following ingredients in a blender and drink it* in!

1 cup frozen organic spinach

5-6 frozen organic strawberries

1 cup water

1-2 dashes of cinnamon

1-2 Tbsp of honey or maple syrup

(* “it” being the amazing healthy, nutritional wonderfulness, but also the smoothie itself)


[photo hijacked from http://www.natashaskitchen.com]

RECIPE: Kale Salad

My mother passed along this delicious recipe, and I’m sorry I don’t have the source!  But I do have the decency to admit it and share it nonetheless—I wouldn’t want you missin out on this once, just because I’m a slacker!


1- 2 Tbsp minced onion (red, white, yellow or green)
1 Tbsp olive or flax oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 bunch of kale, shredded or sliced thinly
1 cup red or green cabbage, shredded
1-2 carrots, shredded or matchsticks
½ to 1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds

Make the dressing by mixing together the onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt.  Set aside.  In a mixing bowl combine the shredded kale, cabbage and carrots.

Pour the dressing over the kale and massage the dressing into the kale (with your hands) until the kale starts to soften. This is the key to breaking down the kale and making it easier to chew and digest. Pretend your are making meat loaf! Massage until the kale starts to get brighter green and softens. Add in the avocado and sunflower seeds and mix gently to combine. Enjoy!