the newest zero calorie sweetener: monk fruit

monk fruit extract

Manufacturers have been using monk fruit as a sweetener for years, but it’s now gaining a lot of traction and you’ll find this ingredient in a lot more products. What I like about it is that has zero calories, zero carbs, and is not synthetic. The extract is pulled from an Asian fruit called Luo Han Guo.

I wanted to try this sweetener because sometimes I want to sweeten up a dessert without adding more calories or carbohydrates. I don’t like the medicinal aftertaste of stevia so I stopped using that years ago. A food blogger recommended NuNatural’s powdered monk fruit. The price tag for the tiny amount of monk fruit powder I paid was $30, and that’s for less than an ounce of the product.

What I found is that it’s really hard to control the amount that flows out of the little holes on the top. Sometimes, too much comes out and sometimes too little, so that means an inconsistent dessert. Only a small amount is needed for, say, a smoothie, and I don’t know how to calculate 1/32nd of a teaspoon. It’s not like honey or sugar, where more is just sweeter. More monk fruit is harsh and unpleasant. I found the best way to use monk fruit powder is to add 1/16th of a teaspoon to a full carton of unsweetened vegan milk, or to a pitcher of black tea, and shake it, or stir each time before pouring.

All-in-all, I’m not a fan of monk fruit, or maybe it’s just this brand that I don’t like. It doesn’t have a natural sweetness to it; it tastes a bit synthetic. I’ve found products that taste good with monk fruit as the last ingredient in it, like almond milk and some protein powders, but I won’t be buying monk fruit again. My favorite ways to sweeten up a treat is with fruit, honey or maple syrup.

If you want to try this brand of monk fruit, or want more information, here’s the link to the website and where you can buy it on Amazon:

7 foods you should never eat again. Healthy substitutes for your favorite fatty, sugary foods provided too.


There’s certain foods you should ban for life. Don’t worry, it’s not pizza. I’ve compiled this short list of foods that people commonly eat, but are so detrimental to our health, that we really should never eat them because these foods have one or more of the following elements: contain chemicals, are chock-full of sugar, contain cholesterol and increase LDL cholesterol levels, are high in fat and calories, contain saturated fat, they spike and increase blood sugar levels, are high in sodium, increases the liklihood of type II diabetes, are low in nutrients, and/or creates arterly clogging plaque in the body. 

Bacon – high in fat and cholestrol

Although, no one wants to give up foods they enjoy, you will feel so much better after you eat something healthy. Bacon may taste good, but I don’t know anyone that feels good after eating bacon. The high-salt and high-fat from the bacon will drown your energy, may cause chest pains and an upset stomach. Nitrate-free ham is a better alternative to bacon.

Mac & cheese – very low in nutrients, high in saturated fat and calories

There’s wheat and gluten-free macaroni that won’t hurt your gut, and vegan cheese made from nuts, that you can choose instead of traditional macaroni and cheese, but beware of how many calories you are eating. Even the healthier versions can be very high in calories. Nuts are extremely high in calories, but are a source of healthy fats.

Donuts – The most important meal of the day is breakfast. You don’t want to start your day with a fried, fatty sugar bomb.

How about having a smoothie sweetened with fruit for a sweet breakfast treat instead? You’ll get fiber and antioxidants.

Soda – full of chemicals, no nutrients, liquid sugar

Zevia is a zero-calorie soda sweetened with stevia so it doesn’t have fake sugar that causes cancer in lab rats. Zevia tastes good too. Just don’t get the cola versions if it contains caramel color because that coloring is linked to cancer too. Of course, filtered water is the best option, but if you can’t give up soda, Zevia is a better option.

Quesadilla – high-calorie, low-nutrient, high-salt

A quesadilla is typically made with flour and fatty, salty cheese, so it’s a high-carbohydrate junk food. Have a corn taco filled with beans, cabbage and vegetables instead of a quesadilla. You can find my recipe for Vegan Tacos with Coconut-Lime Yogurt right here on my blog

Cheetos – food coloring & flavorings (increases cancer), lots of oil, sugar

If you’ve never tried Trader Joe’s kale chips, you’ve got to; they are amazingly delicious, crunchy and they don’t taste like kale. They taste like crunchy chips with a cheesy flavor made from cashews. The bag is small at only 2 ounces, so it’s pricey for what you get, but it’s a healthy, guilt-free treat, and the small bag prevents you from eating too much. Here’s the link to my favorite one: .

Grilled cheese sandwich – arterty-clogging, fattening

Instead of a grilled cheese sandwich, make a dairy-free sandwich with healthy fat from a creamy, fresh, ripe avocado. Toast one slice of bread. Add sliced avocado, lime juice, a pinch of sea salt and some cracked black pepper.

If you want healthy entrée and dessert recipes, more healthy alternatives to your favorite foods, like my lower-carb and lower-calorie BBQ Chicken Pizza or how to make quick-and-simple lower-salt, lower-fat sausages, order my book from



2-ingredient gluten-free pasta that tastes like the real thing

gluten free pasta sheels by Ancient Nutrition

I’ve tried whole-wheat pasta, and I just don’t like it. It’s too thick and chewy. Wheat products give me a uncomfortable feeling of fullness even with a small amount so I stay away from wheat and gluten. I’ve tried numerous gluten-free products, and have found that they just taste weird. Many gluten-free items contain rice, which isn’t good either because rice contains naturally-occurring arsenic.

When I saw this gluten-free pasta with just two ingredients: corn and quinoa, I had to try it. It’s also certified organic. The directions say to cook it in boiling water for 8-9 minutes, but that’s definitely not enough time because it’s hard to chew.

I put the pasta with a few shakes of salt, about two teaspoons of olive oil, in boiling water for 15 minutes. Then I drained it and rinsed the cooked pasta with filtered tap water. The end result is pasta that tastes really good. Make sure to get the “shells.” I tried the “elbows” which is their macaroni-style pasta, but that one tastes like the gluten-free pasta people dislike.

Use the cooking tips above for Ancient Harvest Shell pasta, and I bet no one will realize it’s gluten-free.

Here’s the link to buy it from Amazon, but I’ve found it much cheaper at the grocery store:

Naked Egg-White Protein Powder Review

Fit Girl holding a tub of Naked egg-white protein powder

Since I’m allergic to milk protein, I can’t have whey or casein protein powders to add to my fruit smoothies. Amazon has a 3-pack sample of Naked egg-white protein powders so I purchased it so see if I liked it enough to buy a tub of it. The 3-lb tub (pictured above) contains 44 servings for $65, which equates to $1.48 a serving which is a good price for a quality protein powder.

The one thing all three Naked egg white protein powders have in common is that the protein powder doesn’t assimilate very well; it clumps up and takes longer to get the protein powder dispersed evenly. My smoothies are fairly small so that could be why. My husband makes large smoothies with ice, so the smoothies he makes don’t have that clumping problem.

Here’s my review of all three egg-white protein powder flavors:

Plain: It has a slight unpleasant egg smell which goes away after blending with fruit and coconut milk. It has a subtle odd flavor, but if you add strong flavors like cocoa powder or coffee, or lots of ingredients to your smoothie, the odd protein powder flavor becomes unnoticeable. One serving has 110 calories (not bad, but I prefer it to be lower), 2 grams of carbs (great!), and 25 grams of protein (I prefer not to exceed 20 grams of protein at a time since one study showed that the body can only process 20 grams of protein at a time, and the remaining goes to waste). This has only two ingredients: egg white protein and sunflower lecithin.

Chocolate: It tastes like plain protein powder with cocoa powder, which I like because lots of chocolate protein powders taste like synthetic chocolate, and not the real thing. It’s 150 calories for one serving (which is kind-of a lot), with 6 grams of carbs (not bad, but I prefer it to be lower) and a whopping 25 grams of protein. Unfortunately, this has coconut sugar, but that balances out the cocoa so it has a pleasant flavor instead of that bitterness you get from chocolate.

Vanilla: I found this flavor to be really strong and overpowering, but my husband liked it. If you add bitter greens to your smoothies, this might be the best option. A serving contains 110 calories (not too high, but I try not to exceed 100 calories in protein powder), 2 grams of carbs (this is low which is great since I add carbs from fruit), and 25 grams of protein (a lot!). This does have coconut sugar in it though.

My recommendation is to try all three flavors to see which one you prefer; it’s three for $9.99, which is $3.33 per sample. Here’s the link to order:

Taste-wise, I like Naked’s egg white chocolate protein powder the best, but because that one contains coconut sugar, it’s still sugar, and because it doesn’t blend very well, I wouldn’t buy this for myself.

Broccoli with creamy guacamole dressing, cumin-dusted chickpeas, dried cranberries, walnuts & vegan chorizo bits

Mexicali Broc and Guac

I wanted a healthy low-carb Mexican dish with guacamole, and this vegetable, bean & nut salad exceeded my expectations. The creamy guacamole coats the broccoli so nicely that each spear is delicious! The roasted chickpeas add texture and protein. The dried cranberries have a wonderful sweet and sour punch. The walnuts add a nice crunch, and additional healthy fat. The vegan chorizo bits are optional, but I like them because they add additional crunch, more protein and lots of heat! If you don’t like spicy food, just omit the chorizo. I’ve nicknamed this recipe: Mex Broc and Guac

 Vegan Broc, Guac and Spice


  • 1 can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • cumin
  • Salt
  • chorizo (optional. I used Tofurky Chorizo Style)
  • 2 large bunches of broccoli
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • Prepared guacamole
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chickpeas on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. With a potato-masher, press down half the chickpeas to smash them. Sprinkle salt and cumin to lightly dust each one. Heat in oven for 30 minutes so that some of them are crispy-crunchy.

Place the crumbled chorizo onto a heated fry pan (no oil is needed), and cook until some pieces are crisp. The amount to cook depends on how much each person would want. One tablespoon is enough for me, but my husbands likes about four tablespoons. Think of it as crumbled bacon bits on top of a salad to determine how much to cook for each person.

Next, fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating up, slice the broccoli into long, thin, bite size pieces, keeping a lot of the stems attached to the broccoli flower head. After the water boils, add a few shakes of salt, and add the broccoli. Turn on the timer for 5 minutes. Check the broccoli (taste a piece) to see if it’s done enough for your liking. Some people like broccoli fairly raw, but I like broccoli that’s firm, but soft enough so that my teeth still sink into the stalks fairly easily. You probably won’t need to cook the broccoli more than 9-10 minutes. After the broccoli is cooked, drain the water through a colander. Then, add the drained broccoli to a salad spinner to remove any excess water; this makes it easy to get the guacamole to stay on, and won’t thin out the dressing.

In a large glass bowl, add the broccoli, diced red onion, and dried cranberries. Add one cup of guacamole (this is the dressing) to the bowl, and toss with your hands so that all of the broccoli is coated with the guacamole. Plate ¾ to 1 cup of broccoli on a large plate. Remove the cooked chick peas from the oven and place on a hot pat. Add three or more tablespoons of chickpeas on top of the plated broccoli. Then sprinkle one tablespoon of chopped walnuts on top. Lastly, add the cooked chorizo bits on and around the plate. Serve cold or cooled down.

Serves 4.

The vitamin no one takes, but should

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Vitamin K2 works with vitamins A, D, and calcium to strengthen bones and keep our bodies healthy and running efficiently. Without vitamin K2, calcium could end up in joints and arteries. Lack of this essential vitamin is linked to osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, bone fractures, plaque in coronary arteries, vitamin D toxicity, insulin resistance, MS, excess body fat, and even cancer. “Vitamin K2 completely blocks free radical accumulation” (pg 112). “Vitamin K deficiency is also linked to Alzheimer’s’” (pg. 113) and “…increases our risk of diabetes” (pg 112). How does Vitamin K do this? It has many roles, one being that Vitamin K improves insulin absorption. If you think vitamins are not important, a reminder is that doctors insist on pregnant women to take prenatal vitamins to prevent disease and deformity in their unborn children.

Never heard of K2? Most people haven’t. When people think of Vitamin K, that’s K1 from green leafy green vegetables, which doesn’t readily convert to K2. It’s rare that people are deficient in Vitamin K1. K2 sources used to be abundant, but because of practices to increase profits, instead of increasing nutrients in the foods we eat, most people are deficient in K2.

K2 comes from fat, butter, and liver from animals that roam freely in the sun and eat grass (now they are fed blood, organs, and grain, and are sheltered in small confined spaces), and from bright orange egg yokes from chickens who are out in the open air, getting natural vitamin D from sunshine. K2 also comes from natto, which is spoiled, slimy soybeans that is found in some Japanese diets. You can get your K2 from kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish with vegetables (I tried it and my stomach hurt for hours), and from emu oil (which you can buy and use to moisturize your skin).

Joint pain could be caused from eating sugar, a lack of exercise, or from a deficiency of K2; Calcium can settle in joints instead of building bones. K2 pushes calcium where it needs to go and ushers it away from where it shouldn’t. K2 deficiency could also be an indication of frozen shoulder where the shoulder becomes calcified, resulting in pain and limited range of motion.

When searching for a K2 vitamin, look for K2 with MK-7. You don’t want Vitamin K2 with MK-4, that’s synthetic, and potentially harmful. If you’re vegan, you don’t want MK-4 because that’s from animal products. Even if you’re not vegan, MK-4 isn’t the most beneficial form of K2. You want the natural non-animal form of K2, which is MK-7. Look for one that is non-GMO and has the GMP designation, which stands for good manufacturing practices.

Dr. Kate Rheamume-Bleue, author of “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox,” recommends taking vitamins A, D3, K2, magnesium and calcium together with some fat. You can omit the Vitamin A as long as you take these vitamins with food containing protein. If you’re taking blood thinners, she recommends no more than 50 mcg of K2 MK-7 per day (see 2nd link below). If you cannot find this small amount of MK-7 by itself, you can, instead search for a multi-vitamin which will typically have less MK-7. She recommends 120 mg of MK-7 for most people, but she ups the dosage for her type 2 diabetic and overweight patients to 240 mg of MK-7.

This is one I ordered:

K2 MK-7 90 mcg $11.86 60 soft gels

For those on blood thinners:

Low dose 45 mcg MK-7:


1.       Source: Rheaume-Bleue, Dr. Kate. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox. How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life. Wiley. 2012. Print.

Photo: Me

Nutrient Deficiencies: Are nuts, grains & beans the culprit?

gluten-free vegan berry millet breakfast bowl

I was baffled that my blood tests show that I am deficient in many nutrients, like zinc, magnesium, and iron, even though I eat a well-rounded, whole-foods diet. I stay away from wheat, gluten, fried foods, fast food, and limit packaged foods and sugar. I make all my meals from scratch. I’m a healthy weight and exercise regularly. So, what the heck is the issue? At first I thought my nutrients were low because I don’t consume a lot of calories, but my iron levels have been low for years. I have added probiotics, which helps with digestion, but I am still nutrient deficient. My various trainers over the years have told me time-and-time again to stop eating nuts, but I love nuts. They are my favorite go-to snack, and they’re good for you.

I have cut back on nuts, and added more grains to my diet, but I realized that my body will only tolerate so much quinoa, rice or oats in one day. That maximum limit my sensitive stomach seems to be okay with is a total of 1 ½ cups of total grains a day, which isn’t a lot. The same problem goes with beans; some is good, more is no-so-great, even with the addition of probiotics chock-full of enzymes. Do those on Paleo diets that omit these foods know something I don’t. Is phytic acid from grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes really something I need to be concerned about, or it is just another diet-scare tactic?

After quite a bit of research over the years, having digestive issues, and odd blood work, I do believe that the phytic acid is doing me harm*. Phytic acid protects nuts, seeds, grains, and beans, and unless the phytic acid is removed, it won’t unlock the nutrients from these foods for us to digest. What’s even worse is that phytic acid can reduce our absorption of vitamins and minerals (1,2,5,6), but I don’t want to give up these foods and I don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen soaking and sprouting food. The good news is that sprouted quinoa, sprouted rice, sprouted oats, sprouted nut butters, sprouted vegan protein powder, and sprouted nuts are available in specialty stores or on-line. I haven’t seen any reputable information on whether canned beans have less phytic acid, but I choose to buy Eden brand beans because they include kombu which helps with digestion.

Unfortunately, there are other foods that I eat often that also contain phytic acid: chocolate and coconut. I’ve switched to carob powder instead of chocolate, and I like it because it’s sweeter, and not bitter like cocoa powder. Coconut is another food I eat every day. I do like coconut flakes sprinkled on top of a smoothie or in a dessert, but you can buy freeze-dried sprouted coconut (I haven’t tried it yet, but definitely want to). I could probably put the chunks of freeze-dried coconut in my food processor to shred it.

I use coconut milk in my smoothies, but since the fiber is removed, the amount of phytic acid is quite low (3). Since the specific type of phytic acid in coconut is different than what is found in nuts, seeds and wheat, it won’t deplete minerals so we don’t have to worry about giving up coconut (4). While we cannot remove all phytic acid by eating sprouted versions of these foods, it is reduced greatly by soaking and sprouting, it’s impossible to remove one-hundred percent of phytic acid completely from our diets and some is good because it fights against cancer.

What I plan to do is purchase spouted grains, spouted nuts, sprouted nut butters, and sprouted oats when my current supply runs out. When I want a chocolate snack, I’ll use  carob powder instead of cocoa. I plan to eat chocolate only on occasion, and limit grains overall, and add more vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, and various squashes so I get my healthy carbs to fuel my muscles and give me energy. I’m also going to buy a big bag of oranges and eat one a day to boost iron stores. I’ll probably look for a probiotic supplement that contains phytase, which is an enzyme that enhances nutrient absorption. Staying healthy is so much harder because of the way food is produced today.

*If you have high iron stores, you don’t need to be concerned about phytic acid.

P.S. For more information about nutrition, check out my book at

  1. Blum Ms, RD, CDN, CNS; Esther. Cave Women Don’t Get Fat. Gallery Books. 2013. Print. Pg. 21-22.
  2. Rheaume-Bleue, Dr. Kate. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox. How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life. Wiley. 2012. Print. Pg. 230-233.

Tone It Up vegan protein powder review

Tone it Up vegan protein powder samples

Target Stores sell Tone It Up Vegan protein powder in tubs, and they sell samples for $2.49 each. The sample flavors they had available for sale were Chocolate and Vanilla so I bought one of each. I wanted to try the Peanut Butter flavor, and my husband wanted to try the Coconut and the Café Late protein powder flavors, but we didn’t want to buy the tubs for $22.99 in case we didn’t like it.

First, I tried the Chocolate pea protein powder. I added one frozen banana and one cup of So Delicious plain coconut milk. The end result was a really sweet, thick, slightly chalky smoothie, with not much of a chocolate flavor. I recommend, instead of adding milk, using one cup of cold filtered water to thin it out, and adding a few teaspoons of cocoa powder for a richer, stronger chocolate flavor, which should balance out the sweetness. For a chocolate pea protein powder, this is the best tasting one I have tried to date.

The following day I tried the vanilla protein powder with 1 ½ frozen bananas, with one cup of cold filtered water. It tasted like vanilla pudding. It had the perfect thickness, just the right amount of sweetness, but also a slight chalkiness from the pea protein. The vanilla flavor is a bit strong for my liking; it tastes more like French Vanilla. I prefer subtler, more natural flavors, but this is the best vegan protein powder I have tried, and what’s impressive it that it has no sugar, just 3 net grams of carbs, and is only 90 calories per serving. It is a tad lower in protein at 15 grams (20 grams is more common and preferred). The other downside is that a tub only lasts two weeks if you have a smoothie every day like I do, but $46 for a months’ supply of protein powder isn’t too bad.

The bottom line is that these two protein powders taste good, have healthy ingredients, and aren’t too expensive. They don’t have sugar, rice, dairy, stevia, or sugar alcohols. The sweetness comes from zero calorie, zero carb, Monk fruit extract. Since the smoothies are thick, you can save money and calories by omitting milk.

The cheapest store to buy Tone It Up protein powder is at Target for $22.99. Amazon sells the same ones for $35! Even though I am raving about these two flavors, I still prefer my plain collagen protein powder by Great Lakes because there isn’t that chalky texture, it’s not sweet so I can adjust the sweetness by adding more fruit, and it has more protein at about 20 grams for 80 calories.

If you are looking for a sweet, flavorful, vegan pea protein powder, definitely give the Tone It Up Chocolate and Vanilla flavors a try.

P.S. If you are looking for carb-controlled, whole-food, vegan smoothies, check out my cookbooks: Slimming Dairy-Free Smoothies & Desserts, and The High-Five Diet at

Sets & reps depend on your goals. Quick guide

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Since someone else’s fitness goals may be different than yours, it might not be in your best interest to copy someone else’s program. Here’s a simple guide to follow based on whether you want to slim down, increase strength, bulk up like Arnold, or increase power. Make sure to change your workouts every four weeks. To correct and/or prevent imbalances, and to get the maximal benefits of a strong healthy body, incorporate cardio, balance exercises, weights, core training, plyometrics, and flexibility (stretching/foam rolling/Yoga) into your routine.


Goal: lose weight, gain strength, and tone up

  • Reps: 12-20
  • Sets: 1-3
  • Tempo: 4-21 seconds
  • Rest between sets: 0-90 seconds
  • How often to train: twice a week (minimum)


Goal: lose weight and add muscle

  • Reps: 6-12
  • Sets: 3-5
  • Tempo: 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down
  • Rest between sets: 0-60 seconds
  • How often to train: 3-5 times a week


Goal: max muscle gains

  • Reps: 1-5
  • Sets: 4-6
  • Tempo: fast/explosive
  • Rest between sets: 3-5 minutes
  • How often to train: 3-5 times a week


Goal: speed (great for athletes, those in sports)

  • Reps: 1-10
  • Sets: 3-6
  • Tempos: fast/explosive
  • Rest between sets: 3-5 minutes
  • How often: 4 times a week



Rep:  repetition. How many times you perform an exercise at one time. Example: 12 reps = 12 bicep curls

Sets: Three sets of 12 reps = 36 repetitions. Each set represents a break. Take a break, or do a different exercise between each set.

Tempo: the time it takes to complete the movement


P.S. To see the results of your hard work, make sure you are eating the proper nutrients and aren’t overeating. Need recipes, tips, and the best methods to lose bodyfat? Order my book at

Photo: me

Source: Clark, M., Sutten, B., and Lucett, S., NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2014. Print. 360-362.

Vegan Buttery-Roasted Cauliflower

mustard lemon cauliflower

I bought a large bag of frozen cauliflower at Costco which had all these different colors and varieties (purple is my favorite). Whatever type of cauliflower you have on hand will do. Serve this recipe as a side dish, or as a nutritious snack. I ate the whole thing at once because it’s so tasty.  

frozen cauliflower

frozen cauliflower


  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon low-calorie vegan buttery spread (I used Earth Balance)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Grated lemon peel from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt…to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place parchment paper on baking sheet. You may need to cut it so it lays inside flat. Place cauliflower pieces on parchment paper so that they are separated. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. While cauliflower is cooking, melt buttery spread in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, until melted. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt, and stir until incorporated.

roasted cauliflowerAfter the cauliflower has cooked for 15 minutes, baste the cauliflower with the lemon-butter-spice, and cook 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and place on hot-pad. Let cool a few minutes before eating. Taste a few pieces to see if you like it as is, or you can sprinkle some salt on it. I prefer it with a touch of salt.


P.S. If you want lots of easily-accessable, healthy, dairy-free recipes, check out my cookbooks at

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