Healthy Grilling for the 4th of July


It’s a holiday weekend and many folks will be firing up the grill. Before you do, read this article from Dr. Joel Fuhrman and your backyard BBQ a healthy (and delicious) one.

Warmer weather and outdoor grilling often go hand-in-hand. Yet, research has shown that turning up the heat can cause potentially cancer-causing substances to form. Here are some ways to grill in the great outdoors while reducing your exposure to harmful substances.

  • Make vegetables your main attraction! If you have a grilling basket, fill it with your favorite sliced vegetables, or make vegetable skewers. Mushrooms, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash all combine well, but get creative with your top picks or seasonal harvests. Toss with a little water, balsamic vinegar, and some MatoZest or fresh or dried herbs such as basil, oregano or rosemary for a robust and nutritious dish. Try blending spices with walnuts and a bit of your favorite vinegar and brush it on the veggies frequently while grilling. If you are grilling any starchy vegetables you can soak or marinate them first in a water-vinegar mix to add to their water content to minimize the production of acrylamide, which is a cooking-related carcinogen formed when starches are cooked at high temperatures.1,2 Avoid eating the blackened portions of grilled vegetables, starchy or non-starchy.
  • Keep in mind that meats contain several harmful elements including animal protein, arachidonic acid and heme iron.4-7 When grilled or even cooked at high temperatures, carcinogenic compounds are also formed (see box).  Redefine the burger with bean or veggie burgers! Store-bought burgers often have added salt and concentrated soy protein, but you can make your own nutritious burgers. Try this recipe for Sunny Bean Burgers and toss them on the grill.
  •   As an alternative to burgers, serve up grilled portabella mushrooms (marinated in your favorite vinegar) and serve on a toasted whole grain pita with sliced tomato, raw onion and a pesto dressing made from basil, avocado and pine nuts.
  •   Grill corn on the cob in the husk or make party corn cobs by husking, spraying lightly with a mix of extra-virgin olive oil and water, and sprinkling with your favorite herbs. Place on the grill for 6-10 minutes, rotating frequently to minimize browning.
  •   When it comes to grilling, vegetables, mushroom and bean burgers are the safest choices. But for those who choose to grill and eat meat occasionally:
  • To minimize these harms, limit your portions consistent with a Nutritarian diet: Use only small amounts of meat mixed in with a bean burger and some mushrooms and onion. The phytates in the beans sop up the hydroxyl radicals and excess iron from the meat, reducing its toxicity. Also, anti-cancer foods like onions, garlic and cruciferous vegetables may help the body detoxify some of the HCAs.8-11
  • Completely avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausages. NOCs are potent carcinogens; there is convincing evidence that processed meats (and red meats) are a cause of colorectal cancers, and high intake of processed meat is also associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes.12-15
Meat-related Carcinogens3
Formed in meats cooked at high temperatures

  • Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) – formed in hamburger, steak, chicken, and fish as a reaction between creatinine amino acids and glucose. Higher temperatures and longer cooking times increases HCA production
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – formed from flames and smoke; when meat juices drip and flame hits meat
  • N-nitroso compounds (NOCs) – formed in the stomach from nitrate/nitrite preservatives, found in processed meats


  1. Parzefall W: Minireview on the toxicity of dietary acrylamide. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46:1360-1364.
    2. Hogervorst JG, Baars BJ, Schouten LJ, et al: The carcinogenicity of dietary acrylamide intake: a comparative discussion of epidemiological and experimental animal research. Crit Rev Toxicol 2010;40:485-512.
    3. National Cancer Institute. Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. Accessed July 1, 2014.
    4. National Cancer Institute: Food Sources of Arachidonic Acid []
    5. de Lorgeril M, Salen P: New insights into the health effects of dietary saturated and omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. BMC Med 2012;10:50.
    6. Kaaks R: Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Novartis Found Symp 2004;262:247-260; discussion 260-268.
    7. Brewer GJ: Iron and copper toxicity in diseases of aging, particularly atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Exp Biol Med 2007;232:323-335.
    8. Murray S, Lake BG, Gray S, et al: Effect of cruciferous vegetable consumption on heterocyclic aromatic amine metabolism in man. Carcinogenesis 2001;22:1413-1420.
    9. Walters DG, Young PJ, Agus C, et al: Cruciferous vegetable consumption alters the metabolism of the dietary carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) in humans. Carcinogenesis 2004;25:1659-1669.
    10. Kurzawa-Zegota M, Najafzadeh M, Baumgartner A, et al: The protective effect of the flavonoids on food-mutagen-induced DNA damage in peripheral blood lymphocytes from colon cancer patients. Food Chem Toxicol 2012;50:124-129.
    11. Wilson C, Aboyade-Cole A, Newell O, et al: Diallyl sulfide inhibits PhIP-induced DNA strand breaks in normal human breast epithelial cells. Oncol Rep 2007;17:807-811.
    12. Continuous Update Project. Colorectal Cancer Report 2010 Summary: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer.: World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research; 2011.
    13. Chen GC, Lv DB, Pang Z, et al: Red and processed meat consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Eur J Clin Nutr 2013;67:91-95.
    14. Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D: Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation 2010;121:2271-2283.
    15. John EM, Stern MC, Sinha R, et al: Meat Consumption, Cooking Practices, Meat Mutagens, and Risk of Prostate Cancer. Nutr Cancer 2011:1.

Eat Healthy & Thrive

Delicious Plant Strong Holiday Meals



There are many ways that you make you holiday meals delicious AND healthy! Let’s face it, with the craziness and stress of the holiday season, we need all the nutrients we can get to stay healthy through it all.

Your holiday spread may not look like the one you grew up with – but change can a be a good thing. Especially if it means improving your health and passing that on to future generations.

It’s time to start some new holiday traditions! Find new favorite meals and yes, even desserts! It’s easier than you might think.

Try rethinking some of you favorites. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

Sweet potatoes – they’re packed with nutrients and taste sooo good. BUT, do they really need to covered in marshmallows or burried in brown sugar. Of course not! They are quite good all on their own, but if you want something a little more decadent, then whip you baked sweet potatoes with cashew cream, sprinkle them with chopped pecans or walnuts and voila! A yummy side that everyone will love.

Green bean casserole – ditch the canned cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. Seriously people! Who made the rule that the green beans had be a soggy mess, dripping in goo? Instead, saute your green beans in vegetable broth, add some shallots and either slivered almonds or pine nuts.

Salad – yep, it is rarely seen on most holiday tables. That needs to change! Make a delicious massaged kale salad (no oil please). Packed with phytonutrients, kale is a real power house. Lemon juice, avocado, fresh basil and other chopped vegetables of your choice (tomatoes, carrots, radishes, etc) – that could be a meal in itself!

Lets talk desserts…it’s everybodies favorite part, right? Portion size is the key here, even when the desserts are “healthy” – you cannot eat the entire pumpkin pie just because it’s vegan. sorry.

Here are a few healthier options for desserts:

Baked Apple or Pears sprinkled with cinnamon, raisins and chopped nuts. Yum!

And for those of you that MUST have pumpkin pie, here’s a recipe from our friends at Straight Up Foods:

Pumpkin Pie with Date Nut Crust

Pecan-Date Pie Crust

Ingredients 1¼ cups rolled oats ½ cup pecan halves (2 ounces) ½ teaspoon cinnamon 5 Medjool dates (2½ ounces) 1½ tablespoons non-dairy milk

Instructions 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle position. Place the oats, pecans and cinnamon in a food processor and blend until ground, about 30 to 40 seconds. This should be pretty finely ground but don’t worry if it’s not as fine as packaged flour. A little texture is okay (see photos below).

2. Add the chopped dates and blend for about 1 minute, until the mixture starts to clump slightly. Add the non-dairy milk, and blend until the mixture balls up like dough (this will happen quickly).

3. You could press the dough into the pie pan with your fingers, which may take a little longer, or you can roll it out with a rolling pin. I like to roll it out: place the dough on a flat surface (you do not need to chill it). I like to use a flexible cutting board for this because it makes it easier to transfer the rolled out crust to the pie pan. You can also use a big piece of parchment paper under the dough. You don’t really need to flour the surface before rolling out the dough, but you can if you like.

4. Place the ball of dough into the center of the cutting board and roll out from the center, turning the board each time to roll away from you. Roll out until the dough is about an eighth of an inch thick, pretty much as thin as you can get it without it breaking and making it difficult to handle. Roll out into a circle that is slightly bigger that the pie pan (to account for the sloped edges of the pan). You can also place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough while you’re rolling it out. If the circle is irregular, just borrow a piece from another area and press it in. This dough is pretty forgiving and you can easily add patches as needed.

5. After rolling out the dough. turn the rolled out crust over and gently place it over a standard size pie pan (not a deep dish), peeling off the parchment paper or flexible cutting board (that was under the dough); a tapered spatula can also be helpful in easing the dough off the cutting board. Ease the crust into the contours of the pie pan gently. Lightly press it into place. Trim any edges, and do a decorative edge if you like; just don’t wrap the crust over the edge since this will make it harder to cut after it’s cooked. You do not need to poke it with a knife or weight it down.

6. Place the pie pan on a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan (this helps the bottom of the crust cook better), and then place a piece of aluminum foil over the entire crust, just slightly tucking down the corners. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Ingredients 8 Medjool dates (4 ounces), pitted and chopped ¾ cup non-dairy milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ cup rolled oats, ground into flour (or ¼ cup flour) 1¼ teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground clove 1 can (15 ounces) cooked pumpkin (not “pumpkin pie mix”), or 1½ cups

Instructions 1. Lower heat of oven to 350 degrees. Place the dates, the non-dairy milk, and the vanilla extract into a blender. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, to allow the dates to soften.

2. In a medium-large mixing bowl, add the oat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove and mix with a fork. Add the pumpkin.

3. Blend the dates, non-dairy milk and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Add this to the bowl of pumpkin and spices. Using an electric beater, blend until smooth. Scrape into the pre-baked pie crust and smooth out evenly.

4. Using the foil from baking the pie crust, create a few 2-inch strips and gently wrap them around the top edge of the pie (so that the crust does not get overcooked or burnt, see photo below). Place back on the baking sheet that you used to cook the crust. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

5. Remove and cool. The texture of pumpkin pie benefits from a long sitting period, so I recommend making it the night before you’re serving it. By morning it should be set up nicely. If you need to serve it the same day, make it first thing in the morning or let it sit for a few hours first (otherwise it may be like pudding). You could also put it in the refrigerator. If you want to serve it warm, thoroughly cool it first, then put it back into the oven on a low setting (200 degrees) to warm it.

Eat Healthy & Thrive

Plant Powered 4th of July Feast


The 4th of July usually involves backyard BBQ’s and potluck dinners, but those fun festivities don’t have to center around a slab of meat on the grill. Did you know that grilled meat (any meat – chicken, fish, beef and pork) contains carcinogens?

You can still fire up the grill – just toss veggies on instead! Grilled corn on the cob, eggplant, zucchini, onions, mushrooms and peppers are delicious and don’t forget about the fruit – pineapple, nectarines and peaches are simply amazing. Just load up some skewers with your favorites and toss them on the grill for a few minutes.

These plant strong recipes are definite crowd pleasers:

Spicy Watermelon Salad

This recipe is delicious and refreshing – a perfect summer side dish. The sweet watermelon is enhanced with the flavors of lime and mint and the kick from the chili’s rounds it out perfectly.

*adjust ingredients to taste

  • 5-6 cups Watermelon diced
  • 1-2 *chili peppers finely minced
  • 3-4 mint leaves minced
  • lime juice (1-2 limes)

*You can substitute red pepper flakes or sambal for the chili’s if you prefer.

Cut up watermelon into large chunks. Reserve any juice and mix it with the lime juice, mint and chili peppers. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate.




White Bean & Wild Rice Veggie Burger

  • 1/2 c uncooked wild rice, rinsed
  • 1 c red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 c celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp Mrs. Dash Original no-salt seasoning
  • 1/2 c almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 c cooked white beans or
  • 1 (15 ounce can) no-salt-added or low sodium white beans, drained 100% whole grain bread crumbs or old fashioned oats if needed to adjust consistency


Combine rice and 2 cups water (or no-salt-added or low sodium vegetable broth for additional flavor) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is tender. Drain any excess water.

While rice is cooking, water saute onions, celery and garlic over low flame for 10 minutes or until tender. Stir frequently to prevent burning; cover sporadically to soften vegetables, but uncover to let water steam off. Stir in basil, parsley, and Mrs. Dash.

Finely chop almonds in food processor. Add beans and process until beans are pureed and mixture is well combined. Place in a bowl and stir in wild rice and onion mixture.

Form into burgers. If mixture is too wet, a small amount of whole grain bread crumbs or oats may be added. Place burgers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes.



Israeli Couscous Salad

  • 1 1/2 c Israeli couscous
  • 1 c cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c minced fresh flat leaf parsley 10 to 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced (to taste)
  • 3 ripe nectarines, pitted and diced
  • 1 c halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 to 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mixed baby greens, as needed
  • 1/4 c toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds green onions, chopped

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Israeli couscous and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water until the couscous is at room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients except the last two. Toss well to combine.

Line a large serving platter with some greens. Mound the salad over them. Sprinkle the top with the toasted nuts and green onions. Serve at once or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.



Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream (Dairy Free)


  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen is fine)
  • 15 dates, pitted
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • Pinch sea salt

Place all ingredients and only 1 cup cherries into the blender and mix well. Add remaining cherries and pulse a bit to break them up. If you don’t like chunks in your ice cream, blend until smooth.
If you have an ice cream maker, chill the mix so it’s cold and process in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze in a large, airtight glass container. No ice cream maker? Just pour into a large, airtight glass container and freeze.
Thaw for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!



No Bake Berry Cheesecake (vegan)

* even though this is made with healthy ingredients, it is still calorie dense, so watch your portion size!

The recipe is definitely a labor of love – but it’s perfect for a special occasion.


  • 1 c raw nuts (any combination works. I use walnuts, almonds and cashews)
  • 1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted (soaked in water for 5-10 minutes)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a food processor, process the nuts and coconut to the consistency of course sand. Add the dates and vanilla and process until combined well.  Press the crust into the bottom of a nonstick spring-form pan or a pie plate. Place the crust in the fridge while you make the filling.


  • 2 c macadamia nuts (soaked overnight)
  • 1 package (organic) firm silken tofu (drained)
  • 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
  • 2 TBSP vanilla extract
  • ½ c lemon juice
  • 10 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in water for 5-10 minutes (blended into a paste with the lemon juice, using a blender or food processor)

The day before you plan on serving, blend the soaked macadamia nuts in a Vitamix or other high powered blender with just enough water to blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth and let drain overnight.

To make the filling:

In a food processor or high powered blender, process the macadamia cheese and the rest of the filling ingredients until smooth. Pour the filling into your crust and place in the freezer for an hour.


  • 1 package of defrosted raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or blackberries (or a combination of your favorites)
  • 2 TBSP chia seeds
  • 2 Medjool dates (blended into a paste with a small amount of lemon juice or water)

Mix all ingredients and leave in the fridge for several hours.

Right before serving, pour the berry mixture over the cake.



Eat Healthy & Thrive

Healthy Hoppin’ John



Growing up in the South, Black-Eyed Peas were a staple. And even now for me (in California), they’re comfort food. A reminder of my Southern roots.

Hoppin’ John is a (delicious) common dish amongst Southerners. Traditionally made with black-eyed peas cooked with either salt pork, hamhocks or bacon; white rice, onions and seasoning.

I decided to make a healthier, vegetarian option for you.

*You can either cook your own back-eyed peas, using fresh or dried peas – or – use canned (BPA free).

Nutrition Benefits of Black Eyed Peas
Low in fat and sodium, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, an excellent source of vitamin B1 and a good source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc.

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John


  • 2 15oz cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined and diced small (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water or vegetable broth
  • cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup sweet corn (optional)
  • 1-2 cups of cooked wild rice, brown rice or barley.


Saute onions and celery in 1-2 TBS of vegetable broth for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red bell peppers and sauté until just tender. Add the peas and stir gently. Put the mixture over medium-low heat and add seasonings. Add your preference of grains. Add the broth a little at a time until it reaches a consistency you like.

This dish is delicious hot with a side of cooked collard greens or cold, as a salad over a bed of your favorite greens.


Eat Healthy & Thrive

Twice Baked Vegan Sweet Potatoes

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes (Vegan)

Makes: approx: 14 servings 

Try to buy everything organic.

  • 7 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked and rinsed
  • 3 TBSP water
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup date sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP cold-pressed coconut oil (leave out if you are oil free)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Finely ground sea salt and pepper to taste (optional)


  •  Pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional)

Bake sweet potatoes at 350°F uncovered on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 40 minutes. Remove potatoes and allow to cool to a working temperature.

Carefully slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Leaving about 1/4″-1/2″ flesh attached to potato skin, scoop out the rest and place in food processor.

Place cashews, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and water in the blender and mix until creamy. Add cashew cream and remaining seasoning ingredients to food processor and whip until creamy. If you do not have a food processor, you can stir together filling by hand.

Fill your sweet potato shells with processed mixture. Top with pecans (and coconut if you wish) and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.

Once browned, remove and serve.

If there are any left, store in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat in the oven.

Eat Healthy & Thrive

Winter Squash – Health Benefits and Recipe

No single food provides a greater percentage of certain carotenoids than winter squash.

You may think of winter squash as a very starchy vegetable – about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. However, recent research shows that all starch is not the same. The starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.

The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in winter squash that have shown this food to have clear potential in the area of cancer prevention and cancer treatment.

Winter squash has an amazing phytonutrient content.

Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamins A and vitamin C. It is also a very good source of enzyme-promoting manganese and digestion-promoting dietary fiber. In addition, winter squash is a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper and vitamin K.

Have you ever tried Delicata Squash?

It’s delicious! Delicata squash, also known as Bohemian squash is oblong, with cream-coloured skin and green or orange stripes running the length of it.  With creamy yellow flesh, this squash tastes a bit like sweet potatoes.

Wondering how to cook it?

Cut off the ends, hollow out the seeds and slice into 1/2 – 1″ rings Season with garlic powder and paprika. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

*If you want a crispier texture, slice the rings thinner.

Eat Healthy and Thrive

Texas Caviar

Typically, you’ll see this dish served as a dip with tortilla chips, but who needs the chips? This delicious salad makes a wonderful side dish, or when served on a bed of crisp greens, the perfect meal!


  • 1 can black eyed peas (rinsed & drained)
  • 1 can black beans (rinsed/drained)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • jalepeno (to taste)
  • lime juice (to taste)


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate. Yep, it really is that easy!

Eat Healthy and Thrive