Is Skim Milk Good For You?

There you are, perusing the chilly refrigerated section of your favorite supermarket. Although you buy milk on almost every shopping trip, your mind goes through a familiar dance when faced with a wall of choices. Skim or whole? Is there a difference between 1% and 2% milk, and if so, are such small increments that important? You care about your health and maybe you’re even trying to lose weight, so you pull a carton of skim off the shelf and put it in your basket. But did that deliberation lead you to the right choice? Is skim milk good for you at all?

Despite the lower calorie count and purported benefits listed on the carton, the answer is no. In fact, skim milk started off as a by-product of cream production used to fatten pigs! Surprised? Dairy manufacturers once threw away fat-free milk after the cream was skimmed off. Thanks to a flawed, controversial study by Ancel Keys linking fat consumption to heart disease, they could start selling skim milk to health-conscious consumers. Is skim milk good for you, or just a company’s bottom line? Some CEOs and marketers got a raise, but you got stuck with milk that hardly lives up to its famous “does a body good” tagline.

Real milk has rightfully been associated with strong, healthy bodies. In addition to being the most famous source of bone-building calcium, milk serves up vitamins D, A, E, and K. At least that’s what whole milk provides. You won’t find any vitamin K in fat-free milk because it’s concentrated in butterfat. Not only does skim milk skimp on vitamin K, the vitamins it retains are all fat-soluble, meaning you won’t be able to absorb them anyways unless you pair your skim milk with a thick spread of butter or a block of cheese! Artificially synthesized vitamin D is often added to skim milk, but this vitamin D2 is not like the vitamin D3 humans absorb from sunlight. In fact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the synthetic vitamin D2 is so poorly absorbed in the human body that it “should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods.”

Unfortunately, the problem with skim milk isn’t limited to the good nutrients it lacks. It also contains an ingredient that contributes to inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries: powdered milk solids. What starts out as regular liquid milk oxidizes when processed into powder, forming toxic nitrates. Why would anyone add such a dangerous ingredient to a supposed health product? Because without it, skim milk actually has a chalky taste and watery texture totally unlike regular milk. It also has a light blue color, which tends to turn off consumers, even if it reminds them of the milk Luke Skywalker’s aunt served him in Star Wars.

If skim milk isn’t good for you, is it at least good for your waistline? Again, this is a swing and a miss for skim. The trend toward fat-free foods has actually coincided with the trend toward childhood obesity, as evidenced by a Harvard School of Public Health study which found that “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” The same is true in adults, owing to the fact that healthy fats are key in sending the message of fullness from your gut to your brain. Is skim milk good for you in any way? No. In simple terms, you’ll eat less, enjoy more, feel fuller, and be healthier after a glass of whole milk than skim.


Do you have a Vitamin D deficiency?

Spring has finally arrived and the sun is shining oh-so-bright – BUT before you go and slather on your SPF 1000000+ and cover yourself up completely from it, make sure you read this!

What is Vitamin D?

Most of us think we can all list the vitamins and minerals we know we need to be healthy, and we probably all assume that if we eat a varied, balanced diet we will get them all. But that’s not necessarily true. There’s a very good chance you’re not getting enough vitamin D – especially if you live at a northern latitude. Many processed foods are fortified with vitamin D – but the best source is your own skin. When UVB rays from sunlight hit your skin, a chemical process begins that creates vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for life. Scientists are still working to uncover all the ways our bodies use it, but we know that it is essential for these body systems:

  • Immune system
  • Musculature
  • Heart function
  • Respiratory functioning
  • Nervous system, including the brain
  • Cellular repair and cancer fighting

Vitamin D deficiency has serious health consequences. It can cause brittle, soft bones, known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. A lack of vitamin D is also implicated in depression, high blood pressure, asthma, type-I and type-II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. In short, if you don’t have enough, you won’t be healthy.

Am I getting enough vitamin D?

Individual’s needs vary, but the Endocrine Society recommends infants get 400 to 1,000 International Units (IU) per day, children get 600 to 1,000 IU per day, and adults should get between 1,500 and 2,000 IU per day. The Vitamin D Council on the other hand has higher recommendations: infants should get 1000 IU per day, children should get 1000 IU per 25lbs of body weight per day, and adults should get 5000 IU per day. (1)

You can also get vitamin D through what you eat, as it is available in small quantities in some of these real foods:

  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish
  • Shiitake mushrooms

Since vitamin D is only present in low levels in these foods, you can’t get enough D through these sources. You may also be at risk for low levels of vitamin D if you:

  • Have dark skin. Dark skin contains a lot of melanin, which prevents UVB rays from permeating your skin and blocks the production of vitamin D
  • Spend a lot of time indoors
  • Do not allow sunlight to reach your skin: if you dress modestly or wear powerful sunscreen
  • Live in a northern climate with fewer hours of daylight at certain times of the year
  • Are older and have thinning skin
  • Are pregnant or obese—requirements are greater in these conditions
  • Breastfed babies also may not get enough Vitamin D

It’s hard to know for certain if your body is not getting enough vitamin D to function well. Your doctor can perform a blood test to know for sure. (In Canada, this test is not covered by health insurance unless your doctor suspects you have osteoporosis, rickets or other vitamin D deficiency-related issues – the test should cost about $30.)

How to get more Vitamin D to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency

There are two good ways of preventing a vitamin D deficiency: spending time in the sun, and taking supplements.

“But, wait!” you say, “I thought sunlight is bad for us—it causes skin cancer!” Yes—and no. We have become so vigilant about protecting our skin from the sun we’re also preventing our skin from the exposure to the sun that creates vitamin D deep in the layers of our skin.

Here’s the thing: a little bit of sun won’t hurt you. You don’t need to burn your skin to get enough UVB to produce vitamin D. Figuring out exactly how much sun exposure you need is tricky, but try to get sun on your arms and legs and face for a few minutes every day, as close to noon as possible.

The fairer your skin type, the less sun exposure you need. According to Dr. Michael Holick, author of The Vitamin D Solution (2), Canadians and others who live at mid-latitudes (e.g. Ottawa, ON) need between 10-15 minutes of sun exposure for Type 1 skin (very fair) and up to 40-60 minutes for Type 5-6 skin (medium to dark) between the hours of 11am to 3pm. So going for a lunch-time walk without sunscreen should be a safe and effective way of getting natural vitamin D – just make sure to do it sensibly and seek shade and shelter after you’ve had your recommended exposure.

Supplements are your fallback option for winter or if you’re particularly concerned about the hazards of sun exposure  Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, one of the best forms is as an oil, that you take as drops – look for it in MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil. All you do is just add a drop or two to your food every day.

As with any change to your nutritional regimen, check with your doctor to rule out any contraindications. Prevent vitamin D deficiency and improve your health!



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5 Reasons to Shop Your Farmers’ Market

Your local outdoor farmers’ markets are starting up soon with fresh, seasonal and delicious REAL FOOD! Need a reason to go out and see what your local farmers’ market offers? Here are five:

1. The Food is Fresher

Real Food sourced from your local farmer and farmers’ markets are harvested, picked or grown more recently than the food that’s shipped and stored at your supermarket. Farmers’ market produce is picked when ready, as opposed to being picked when they are under-ripe, but able to travel well.

In terms of nutrients, locally grown food is more nutrient-dense, because time and travel can cause nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and folic acid to oxidize in the air, as they are more sensitive to light and heat.

Then, there’s also the texture: the snap of carrots that are newly plucked from the earth instead of carrots that have been bagged, trucked and shelved is quite different! Getting to know a farmer means you can be fortunate enough to sometimes get eggs collected that very morning, and definitely only days old, instead of weeks-old eggs that were transported and stored before making it to your table.


2. The Food is More Flavorful

Speaking of same-day eggs – the taste between a fresh, pastured egg and a store-bought egg is incomparable. A pastured egg is “rich and egg-y”, while in contrast, a store-bought egg simply tastes like egg light; like it’s missing depth and flavor. For produce, it’s the difference between a watery, pink tomato and a field fresh, juicy red tomato that bursts in your mouth when you bite into it.


3. It’s More Eco-Friendly

It takes a lot less energy for your local farmer to deliver his wares to the farmers’ market than it does for produce, meat and other food to be flown in from around the globe.


4. It Helps Your Local Economy

Buying from a farmer in your area, not only supports local business, but also directly impacts a local farming family, and it ensures the livelihood and continuation of farms in your area. If you want the choice of having fresh, locally-sourced Real Food, the best way to show it is to put your money in the hands of those who are working your local lands.


5. It’s More Neighborly

Farmers’ Markets are great community events, especially here in Canada where we spend much of the year cooped indoors, so it’s natural that outdoor, open-air farmers’ markets become a place to meet your neighbors! And besides, what could be more neighborly than getting to know your local area farmers who help feed your family. These farmers know their stuff – they know the land and their wares, and there’s a good chance they have a favorite recipe which uses their favorite product.

Why do you go to a Farmers’ Market: one of the reasons above, or do you have another reason? Let us know in the comments!


Is your favorite Canadian Farmers’ Market in our directory? If not, please let us know and we’ll be sure to add it!
If your business supports better health and wellness through Real Food, we’d love to help promote your business.


Should you join a CSA? 6 Questions to ask yourself

One way to eat locally and supportyour local real food producers is to join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, a CSA is a farm-share where a farmer offers up a number of shares, subscriptions or memberships, which you pay for in advance.

In return for paying your dues, at a set interval (usually weekly during the growing season), you receive a bounty of seasonal produce. Most CSAs come directly from a specific farm or group of farms, while others may supplement the weekly supply with other suppliers, during lower yield times of year, such as early spring or late fall. There are CSAs that offer only produce, while others might offer cuts of meat, or other products like yogurt, cheeses or bread.

Sounds great right? It sure can be, since you’ll get fresh, local food at a lower price than what you’d pay in the store, and you’ll learn more about what you eat and the farmer who grows it.

But here are a few questions to ask yourself before you join a CSA:

1. Can you commit and join a CSA for a set period of time?

Many CSAs operate by having you commit to a weekly share for a set number of weeks. This probably won’t work out for you if you plan on going away on vacation for four weeks out of the growing season.

2. Will you be available to pick-up for the set amount of time?

Since you’re buying a share, chances are the farmer won’t be able to hold your order if you miss the pick-up time. Before committing, make sure you have someone who can pick-up for you, or can take your week’s share if you can’t make it on your pick-up day.

3. How flexible are you with your cooking and meal planning?

If you plan your meals on what you’d like to eat instead of what’s available to you, it could get a lot trickier for you to figure out what to do with your week’s CSA box. You can’t usually determine what the produce you’ll be getting ahead of time, nor the quantity you’re likely to get, so it may be hard to plan for a specific recipe by relying solely on your CSA.

4. Are you an adventurous eater?

There’s a good chance you’ll be exposed to some local produce that you may never have tried before. Fiddleheads, wild garlic and gooseberries could all be found locally to you and could be included in your box. If you’re not sure what to do with them, there’s a good chance your farmer will have a good recipe, but make sure you’re up for a little real food adventure, or else you’ll feel gypped.

5. Does it work with your budget and way of eating?

The season and your locale will determine the contents of your CSA share, and while what you get will likely cost you less than buying at a store, it may be that you’ll still need to supplement your CSA share with store-bought produce to make up your recipes. The single bunch of broccoli may not be enough for all three of your mini-tree chomping kids, or your share may be plentiful in potatoes one week– not great if you’re on a low-carb diet, or sensitive to nightshades. If your budget is pretty tight, you might be better off buying the loss-leaders of seasonal, local produce from your local supermarket than participating in a CSA.

6. Are you willing to share the risk of buying into a farm?

Most CSAs work on the model that you buy a share of the farm’s growing season in advance of it actually producing any food. This means that while the farmers will do their best to produce a good yield, there is the chance that there might not be as much as expected should their be poor weather conditions, for example. Buying into a CSA creates a great sense of community with your local growers, but make sure that you’re aware of the possible outcome and have realistic expectations on yield.


If you’ve answered “no” to any of these questions, a CSA may not be for you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to support local real food. You can always buy produce from your farmer directly, but not as part of a CSA or shop your local farmers’ market. Another alternative is to see if your city offers a Good Food Box or similar type program. Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Victoria are just some of the cities that offer such a program. They are similar to CSAs, but don’t require the multiple-week commitment.


Paleo Chocolate Pie with Coconut Macaroon Crust

Icebox pie brings back lots of memories of my grandmother. She loved her treats and made many of them homemade. These days, it seems we satisfy our cravings more with store bought treats, which desperately lack any sort of nutritional foundation. I say, make dessert healthy!

Creamy and thick yet not immensely heavy like those with mega sugar content…this paleo chocolate pie filling is rich and has extra good fats snuck right in. It pairs perfectly with my Coconut Macaroon Pie Crust!


Paleo Chocolate Pie with Coconut Macaroon Crust

Rating: 5

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 1 delicious pie


For pie crust:
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 2 cups unsweetened dried shredded coconut
    • 1.5 tablespoon potato starch
    • 1.25 teaspoons stevia powder
For the pie filling:
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup light canned coconut milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 3 whisked egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 small-medium avocado


For pie crust:
    1. Preheat oven to 325F.
    2. Whisk all 4 egg whites until frothy, add vanilla and honey and set aside.
    3. In a separate bowl combine coconut, potato starch, and stevia powder.
    4. Add egg white mixture to dry ingredients and combine well.
    5. In a greased pie tin, press in mixture evenly, in center and up sides of tin.
    6. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges start to brown
For pie filling:
  1. Start by melting coconut oil and chocolate chips over medium heat.
  2. Once melted add in coconut milk, maple syrup, and salt. Note: I try to keep sweeteners to a minimum so i used only one tablespoon maple syrup; if you prefer it to be sweeter you can add another tablespoon.
  3. Now slowly add in egg yolks while stirring continuously.
  4. Allow chocolate mixture to heat and thicken (continue stirring).
  5. Once mixture reaches a pudding like consistency remove from heat, add vanilla, and add to blender.
  6. Add peeled and pitted avocado to blender and puree until smooth.
  7. Pour filling into pie crust and refrigerate for an hour or more to set.


Autoimmune Paleo – AIP Cookie Recipe

As I’ve said before, the diet I personally follow is designed to reduce inflammation and help with chronic issues. This diet of course is the Autoimmune Protocol or AIP for short. It cuts out eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds and nightshades and while at first glance it can seem highly restrictive, there are still plenty of foods that you can eat. Real foods like meat, vegetables and fruit are plenty, and when you eat ingredients over food products, your health with certainly benefit. (If you’re following AIP, I highly recommend getting a copy of the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, available as either a lovely hardcover book or instant gratification download as an eBook). It’s recommended that you limit your sweets while following AIP as high amounts of sugar can exacerbate inflammatory conditions, but this AIP cookie recipe doesn’t use any added sugar. Still, I wouldn’t make a meal out of them, despite how delicious they are. AIP cookie recipe - spice cookiesHonestly, this AIP cookie recipe came about as I was going to make some coconut-covered date rolls. (No recipe needed, really – just add a bit of water to some dates, mash into a paste, roll them into little balls or logs and coat them in coconut). The problem with date rolls are that I find dates to be almost cloyingly sweet, and I wanted something to tone it down, and really, I had a craving for some sort of baked treat. Well, thankfully roasted sweet potatoes are pretty much a staple in my house (as evidenced by my AIP Pizza, gingerbread and brownie recipes, which all use roasted sweet potatoes in part because we usually have them on hand), and they are a perfect way to temper the sweetness, and add some texture to what are some pretty delicious spice cookies. As a bonus, these cookies are nut-free, seed-free, egg-free and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) compliant. All the spices used in these cookies are “safe” seed-free spices that work with the AIP protocol. As these were baking, my son came home and declared that they smelled like pumpkin pie, and thankfully he wasn’t disappointed to have fresh-baked cookies instead. Enjoy!



Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) Spice Cookies

Rating: 5

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 30 cookies


  • 2/3 cup of mashed roasted sweet potato (about 1 small-medium sweet potato)
  • 1-1/2 cups dates
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • pinch of cloves


  1. If you don’t have already mashed cooked sweet potato, take one medium sweet potato and pierce several times with a fork. Microwave on high for seven minutes, covered with a moistened paper towel or damp cloth. Scrape the sweet potato away from the skin and mash with a fork, and set aside mashed sweet potato.
  2. In a small bowl add boiling water to the dates and mash with a fork until a paste-like consistency forms.
  3. In a food processor, add the sweet potato, dates and coconut, along with the ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Mix with the food processor until well combined.
  4. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, scoop out tablespoon sized spoonfuls of the mixture and drop onto the cookie sheet. Flatten out the balls to about a 3/8″ thickness, and about 1.5″ in diameter.
  5. Bake at 325F for 22-25 minutes until the cookies are stiff enough to be removed from the sheet, and edges are crisp. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


The Real Food Guide’s Pinterest board was featured on the Dr. Oz show

Yesterday, The Real Food Guide’s Pinterest board was featured on The Dr. Oz show in their National Healthy Pinterest Page survey. (Ironically, I’m actually not from the US, so it was great to be included anyway!)

If you’re in Canada and want to see the clip from yesterday’s Dr. Oz Show where my Pinterest page was featured, skip on to the last 3 minutes of the episode called “New Rules to Declutter Your Life and Transform Your Health”, you can view it for the next week on (Fair warning: you’ll be subjected to many many commercials before finally getting to the clip).

Thanks to everyone who voted for my Pinterest page!


3 reasons why you should stop eating sugar

Arguably, refined sugar is the single worst food on the planet.

It offers zero nutritional value and contributes to a whole host of health hazards from diabetes to heart disease, obesity to depression.

Unfortunately, sugar is also one of most addictive foods on the planet and, as a result, is intentionally used by almost every major food producer to make their products more attractive and irresistible to consumers.

It’s added to ketchup, salad dressing, pasta sauce, sandwich bread and canned vegetables. Heck, it’s even added to table salt!

Avoiding sugar is no small feat, but it’s a battle worth waging.

Here are three reasons to stop eating sugar today:

1. Eating Sugar is a Blood Sugar Roller Coaster Ride

We all know how this one works. You feel tired and a little sad. You need to wake up — there’s work to do! You grab a donut or a cookie or even an “it-looks-really-healthy-on-the-box” granola bar. You eat it and up the rollercoaster track you go.

It feels great! It’s a rush! Look how tiny everyone looks from here!

But what goes up, must come down and an hour later you’re plummeting down that coaster track, the ground hurtling towards you. You feel grumpy, tired, and a little sad again.

Up and down, up and down. This condition, also known as “dysglycemia,” not only plays havoc on your energy levels and mood, it can make you anxious, shaky and nervous. It can cause headaches and make it seem impossible to lose that 10lbs you’ve been trying to shed.

Even worse, over time it can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. It’s no joke.

2. Eating Sugar Causes Inflammation

When you eat large amounts of sugar your body needs to pump out a large amount of insulin to try to move all that extra sugar in your blood into your cells where it can convert it into a usable form of energy.

Your body can quickly become overwhelmed by these large amounts of sugar, and unable to produce enough insulin to move all that sugar into the cells.

This means that the sugar sits in your blood for much longer than it should and actually causes damage to the blood vessels and other tissues. As with any other damage it finds, the body responds with an inflammatory reaction to try to heal itself.

And, as we are now learning more and more, where we have inflammation, we have all kinds of chronic disease and illness such as arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, allergies and even heart disease.

3. Eating Sugar Throws Your Hormones Out of Whack

If you’re struggling with PMS, infertility, low libido, acne or any other condition commonly linked to hormonal imbalance, the best thing you can do is ditch the sugar.

Chronically unstable blood sugar (i.e., years of riding the roller coaster described above) takes a heavy toll on your adrenal glands, thyroid and liver; all important players in your hormonal (endocrine) system.

These guys already have enough work to do. If you want them to keep your body luscious and humming, don’t make their jobs any harder!

So there you go, three solid reasons to break up with sugar…today (it’s not me, it’s you).

While quitting the white stuff might be one of the toughest things you ever do (check out my own sugar detox story), in the long run you’re going to feel great, look amazing and get back the energy you had when you were a kid. I promise you, it’s worth it.


Eat REAL fat: Still hanging on to your low-fat ways?

“Eat Butter – Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” This cover is in stark contrast to the one that scared many people off butter in the first place, from 30 years ago.

If you’re not a Time subscriber, don’t have time to read the article or just want to get quickly up to speedon why margarine is bad and butter is good, watch this clip from the documentary Fat Head, below. Or better yet, go watch the whole Fat Head documentary, or find some time to read Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.



A food that’s 80% protein, high in good fat, fiber, and micronutrients & no one’s eating it

Much of the standard American diet consists of varied forms of wheat, soy and corn. Same, low-nutrient, processed garbage that has lots of refined sugar, artificial flavoring and coloring added to it. So many people are willing to eat the same, repackaged “foods” and yet, there’s a food source alternative that used to be eaten in many cultures, is 50-80% protein, high in good fat, fiber, and micronutrients & no one is eating it. In addition, this versatile food source can be eaten savory (sautéed in butter and garlic), or sweet (chocolate coating helps it go down), and is more economical and ecologically easier to raise than meat. Any guesses as to what this food is?

Would you be willing to try? Let me know in the comments.