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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: The folly in calorie counting, sardine population down 95%, and Dow Chemical asks EPA to ignore science on pesticides

by | Apr 21, 2017

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week the folly in calorie counting, sardine population down 95%, and Dow Chemical asks EPA to ignore science on pesticides.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Children change parents’ habits, science-based pregnancy advice, and the real truth about saturated fat

by | Apr 22, 2016
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup. 

This week children change parents’ habits, science-based pregnancy advice, and the real truth about saturated fat.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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Experience Stretching: Why I No Longer Love In-N-Out Burgers

by | Sep 10, 2014

Photo by Peter Fuchs

I grew up in southern California and, like most people there, I thought In-N-Out Burger made the best cheeseburgers in the universe. In-N-Out is legendary in SoCal, and I longed for their iconic burgers and shakes for years after leaving for college.

Even later as a blossoming foodist in my early years of graduate school, I gave In-N-Out the benefit of the doubt among fast food chains because of their commitment to “freshness”, and would occasionally stop there on the long drives home down the I-5.

But as the years went by and my dedication to real, fresh and insanely delicious food continued to develop, I noticed my taste for In-N-Out declined. Today it would take a substantial bribe (think 4-figures) to get me to even consider taking a single bite of a Double Double.

WTF happened?

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For the Love of Food

by | Jan 17, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week sugar hijacks your brain, the blood type diet is debunked, and exercise improves your work-life balance.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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10 Tips To Save Money While Eating Healthy

by | Feb 4, 2013

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe (click for recipe)

Most people consider it common knowledge that healthy food is expensive and unhealthy food is cheap—that’s why we’re all so fat, right?

But for most people it does not need to be this way. Since I upgraded my healthstyle not only have I lost weight and become healthier, I have also managed to save more money.

How?

In a nut shell, I started cooking more at home.

It is a sad reflection on our culture that so many people rely on fast food for their daily sustenance, and my heart goes out to those who truly cannot afford better. But I contend that many of the bad decisions we make about food each day are more an issue of (perceived) convenience than price.

Last I checked burritos in San Francisco averaged over $5. And if you have properly set up your kitchen you will find it actually takes less time to cook a healthy meal than it does to place and fill your order at El Farolito.

Every penny counts in this brutal economy. Here are a few tricks you can use to save a buck and get a little healthier too.

10 Tips For Eating Healthy On A Budget

  • Cook at home The most important change I made to save money was to turn cooking at home into my default option rather than rely on neighborhood eateries as my go-to cop out. Eating out is expensive, no matter which way you cut it.
  • Shop on weekends If you already have fresh food in the fridge you will be more motivated to cook for yourself instead of going out and spending money. Make the habit of buying food ahead of time and you won’t be as tempted to waste money going out.
  • Shop seasonally When choosing what to eat, taste trumps health 90% of the time. (That’s why you rolled your eyes when I suggested you eat fewer burritos.) If you really want to start eating healthy you must want to eat vegetables, and that will only happen if the ones you buy taste delicious. Seasonal, farm fresh produce can completely change how you feel about vegetables and fruits—it also tends to be the best deal in the produce section.
  • Shop at the farmers market In my experience the best tasting produce in a chain grocery store is at Whole Foods. But if you have ever been shopping there you know what a dent it can put in your wallet (this does not apply to their non-fresh items, which are competitively priced and often cheaper than other stores). Rather than handing over your Whole Paycheck or settling for less than inspiring options at Safeway, do your weekly produce shopping at your local farmers market. If you shop intelligently (see below) you can get 2 meals for the cost of one burrito.
  • Focus on leafy greens Leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach and broccoli are some of the most nutritious, least expensive things you can buy. And this is true at any grocery store, not just the farmers market. Frequently, half a bunch of kale with some beans, grains and herbs is my entire dinner and costs around $1.50. It also takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Can you beat that?
  • Buy in bulk Canned beans are fine, but dried beans taste better and are way cheaper. Grains from the bulk bins at your local health food store are only pennies per serving. Cook these staples in large batches and save them in your freezer for cheap, quick and nutritious food anytime. This is also true of lentils. Just add some greens and you’re good to go.
  • Eat less meat This is probably the easiest way to save money. Whether at the grocery store or at restaurants meat is always the most expensive thing on the menu. I do not advocate a vegetarian diet, but limiting meat to once or twice a week is an easy way to cut back on both calories and expenses. If you are worried about protein (you needn’t be) you can eat beans, eggs and lentils instead.
  • Use fish from cans Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but fresh fish can be expensive (especially the wild sustainable kinds). Canned salmon, sardines (boneless, skinless), smoked mackerel and anchovies are inexpensive alternatives for protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Make fruit dessert If you think the farmers market is expensive my bet is you spend most of your money on fruits. I am the first to admit that fruit can be very expensive, especially summertime berries and stone fruits. While I do recommend you invest in some high-quality farmers market fruit, it will be easier on your wallet if you consider fruit a treat.
  • Think long term I am not arguing that buying every single food item at the farmers market is the cheapest way to shop, but it is almost certainly the healthiest. Our hedonistic tendencies may incline us toward cheap, greasy foods but you should consider what you are really paying for in the long run. Poor diet can be attributed to most cases of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a generally difficult, painful life. And I probably don’t need to convince you that a farm fresh salad costs less than a hospital trip and a lifetime of medication. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, but unhealthy eating can cost you your life.

What are your favorite money saving tips for healthy eating?

This post was originally published on May 20, 2009.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jan 18, 2013

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Harvard says “whole grains” aren’t always healthy, why you should eat carrot tops, and calling BS on Coke’s new ad.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week


What inspired you this week?

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Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That: How To Eat Healthy Without Fast Food

by | Jun 9, 2010
Quarter Pounder

Quarter Pounder

Last week in For The Love of Food I called out Men’s Health as B.S. of the Week for their article, “Eat healthy at the airport.” There seems to be a growing trend in the number of weight loss programs that support eating fast food. The idea is that some menu items have slightly fewer calories than others and do not contribute (as much?) to weight gain.

It is true you can lose weight eating anything (so long as you do not eat very much of it), but that does not make eating fast food a good idea. What is misleading about these programs is the grossly inappropriate use of the word “healthy.”

Credit the book Eat This, Not That for this special brand of quackery on which Men’s Health bases their article. They begin with the example of McDonald’s (because, you know, where else are you supposed to go eat?) and suggest you order the Quarter Pounder without cheese (and without fries and soda) over the Premium Grilled Chicken Club.

The reason?

The Quarter Pounder has only 410 calories compared to the 570 calories of the chicken sandwich, a 30% reduction.

To me this sounds the same as saying 7 cigarettes is healthier than 10 cigarettes.

Sure it might be “better” to smoke a little less, but do you really believe you are doing yourself any favors? You’re still ingesting something toxic. Would you be happy if China promised to put a little less melamine in your child’s baby formula?

After decades of consuming slightly smaller doses of poison is it logical to think you’d be a more sprightly 80 year old than you would have been eating full dose poison? I don’t think so.

Rationalizing

Rationalization is the name of the game here:

“Some people are going to eat fast food no matter what, it might as well have fewer calories.”

“It’s impractical to not eat fast food. What if I’m in a hurry?”

“There’s nothing else to eat at the airport, do you want me to starve?”

“I cannot afford to eat anything healthier. Value meals are the best!”

“I just eat crap then spend extra time in the gym, so it balances out.”

“I love junk food and could never stop eating at McDonald’s.”

*shiver*

The problem with all these faux arguments is that they are based on the assumption that fast food is an inevitable part of life, too powerful to resist or avoid. My guess is we can thank the McDonald’s marketing team for this twisted bit of psychology, but that does not mean we have to accept it.

Here is why those arguments don’t hold water:

  • The “fact” that some people will continue to eat fast food does not preclude the need to have a diet that endorses it.
  • There is always something to eat besides fast food. In fact, there was actually a time when Burger King didn’t exist!
  • A few healthy-ish options can be found at the airport, but if you do a tiny bit of planning beforehand you don’t have to be stuck eating there in the first place. Another thing to consider is that starving would be healthier, since caloric restriction has been consistently shown to improve health, prevent disease and extend life. (But don’t worry, going hungry isn’t necessary.)
  • The organic kale and tempeh I ate for dinner last night cost the same (~$3.50) as that flaccid Quarter Pounder in the photo, and smelled 1000% better (yeah, I actually bought one). [For the record: I did ask for it without cheese and they just botched my order–can you imagine it looking even more tasteless? Blah. So much for tricking yourself into eating fewer calories.]
  • Working out is very important for your health, but it does not give you essential vitamins, minerals and all the other wonderful things offered by whole foods–exercise cannot substitute for a healthy diet.
  • There is room in your healthstyle for any food on special occasions. Personally I prefer to use my occasions for exquisite (rather than cheap) meals, but for some of you special may mean going out with the guys for game night or a road trip from L.A. to S.F. (i.e. the In-N-Out in Kettleman City). What is important is that you make sure foods that do not contribute (or are detrimental) to your health make up an extremely small proportion of your diet.

The Real Problem

I contend that the real issue is not that there is nothing else to eat besides fast food, but that we are not trained to recognize any other option. There is a whole world of food out there that does not include unsanitary chain restaurants.

The little secret those of us who don’t eat fast food know is that this other world is far tastier than the one of processed foods and chain restaurants. Also, the convenience factor is easily overcome if you approach it right.

The Answers

Your first defense against eating foods you didn’t plan for (isn’t that what fast food really is?) is to make sure you have a plan. Always.

Rule #1 is to know what, when and where you are going to eat all your meals throughout the day by the time you leave your house in the morning. Not doing this is setting yourself up for an uh-oh. If you are not able to know for certain the specifics of your meal plans, at least try to envision the most likely scenarios and think of ways to make them as healthy as possible. Trust me, these decisions are a lot easier if you make them before you are starving and willing to eat a deep-fried shoe.

Rule #2 is to always have a back up plan. Is there any chance that your friend will bail on you for dinner? Or that you will get stuck at work so long your neighborhood grocery will close? In cases like this it is best to have a plan B. I keep stuff in my freezer and pantry that can be whipped up at any given moment. I also store food in my desk at work for emergencies.

My go-to back up plan is carrying a small bag of nuts like almonds or cashews around with me where ever I go. That way I have something to snack on until I can get myself into a more favorable eating environment. Keep a small bag of nuts in your purse, glove compartment of your car, gym bag, desk drawer or carry on luggage. Your hidden snack should be in whatever container you will be sure to have with you at all times.

Nuts make a particularly good snack because their high fat and protein content (the super good-for-you kinds) make them very satisfying. One day when you are not starving try eating exactly 8 almonds, take a sip of water and wait half an hour. For me, this usually staves off hunger for at least another 45-60 minutes, and sometimes up to 2 hours.

It is more difficult to restrict your intake to 8 or 10 nuts when you are starving, however. But it is easier to exercise self-control if you believe (through experience) that a certain quantity is sufficient to satisfy your appetite. This is why I recommend you try this once before you find yourself in an emergency situation.

If for some reason you end up hungry and do not have your handy bag of nuts, you still have non-Whopper options:

  • Grocery stores Most grocery stores have fresh sections with cut up vegetables, fruits, hummus, lean meats and lots of other healthy items (nuts included). Pretend like you are having a picnic and nibble on a few of these things instead or resorting to the drive-thru. You will get plenty of calories, I promise.
  • Delis A small sandwich with lean meats and vegetables is a pretty good, easy option if you can find a deli. I would not call this an ideal meal, but it’s better than a BigMac for sure.
  • Non-chain restaurants If I am resigned to eating in a restaurant I haven’t planned on the first thing I look for is a non-chain restaurant, preferably a place that specializes in soups, salads and sandwiches. These places are usually well stocked in vegetables and often boast organic produce. They can be a little pricier than a Happy Meal, but it is worth it if you don’t have to eat a gray colored mystery meat patty, right?
  • Colorful plates Wherever I decide to dine, I search the menu for dishes that sound like they have a high percentage of vegetables, preferably multicolored. Ordering a side salad or vegetables instead of potatoes is an easy way to accomplish this mission.
  • Little bread Giant servings of generic, processed breads made of refined white flour are the biggest problem at most mediocre restaurants. If you can, try to order something that doesn’t require too much bread. This is especially true if you will be sitting on an airplane for the next several hours.
  • Avoid cheese Cheese is delicious and I love to eat it occasionally. However, it is common these days for restaurants to bury plates in cheese to mask the crappy ingredients they used for the rest of the dish. Chili’s low quality cheese is hardly worth the extra few hundred calories being used to cover up the fattening, mediocre food you ordered.
  • No sweets Sugar is one of the most dangerous things you can eat and should always be consumed with caution. We all love desserts, but you will be much better off saving your sweet tooth for truly special occasions. Airport terminals really aren’t that special.
  • Healthy fats I go out of my way to find healthy fats like nuts, fish and salad oils when I am eating solely to satisfy my hunger. These fats will make sure you stay full as long as possible.
  • Lean proteins As far as satisfaction goes, what is true for fats is true for proteins. Because they digest so slowly proteins help you feel full longer. Fish, eggs, nuts, beans and even whole grains like brown rice can give your meal a more satisfying impact.
  • Eat simply When you are eating on-the-go and in restaurants you are unsure about, your best bet is to stick to simple items. Avoid menu descriptors like glazed, gooey, cheesy, creamy, fiesta, piled, smothered, etc. Sauces are really a problem at airport-style restaurants. Stick to predictable items to keep yourself out of trouble. A turkey sandwich or chop salad are usually pretty safe.

The basic message is to find fresh foods and eat as balanced as possible. No matter what you order this is probably not going to be the most delicious meal of your life, so you may as well try to make it as healthy as possible. A little planning–like eating before heading to the airport–can go a long way in saving special occasions for food that is truly special.

What are the biggest obstacles you encounter when stuck somewhere without food?

Article was originally published June 3, 2009.

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For The Love of Food

by | Apr 23, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Be sure to check out my guest post today over at Ecosalon! Top 10 Mistakes Made By Farmers Market Noobz

No good news this week for those of you who still love processed foods. Turns out sugar (not fat) causes heart disease, processed soy products causes cancer and the health insurance industries puts their extra money into fast food stocks. Luckily there is still hope for those of us interested in eating real food with actual taste.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What did you find worth reading this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Dec 18, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m back! Sorry for being MIA the past few weeks. But you’ll be happy to hear my thesis committee meeting is over and I aced it. That means I will, finally, get my PhD in 2010. Woohoo!

Also thanks to all of you voted for me in the Wellsphere HealthBlogger Awards! I came in 8th! Not bad for just starting campaigning for votes last Friday. Thanks everyone!!!

Not all the links below are from this week since I had to include a few of the gems I’ve collected since Thanksgiving. I’ve also shared the latest info on BPA, which is getting worse.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

10 Best Links of the Week

Did you miss me?

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How I Lost 20 Pounds In 9 Months Without Dieting

by | Sep 23, 2009
Quarter Pounder

Quarter Pounder

Today one of my best and oldest friends, David Goodman, shares his remarkable story of how he dropped 20 pounds this year so far “without hardly trying.”

He says the influence I’ve had on him through conversations and articles here at Summer Tomato has helped him make better food choices almost subconsciously.

David and I have a long diet history together (he’s the friend from college I mention in the link), and I am honored to have him share his success story with you. Though he says he is only beginning his journey, I think we can all agree he has made tremendous progress already.

Congratulations Dave!

Dr. Darya: Or how I learned to stop worrying about my weight and love food

And drop 20 lbs in nine months.

by David Goodman

In December of 2008 I weighed 225 lbs. As of yesterday, I weigh 205 lbs.

It’s actually hard for me to view this as a big accomplishment. I have been planning to lose a lot more weight. (My goal is to weigh closer to 165 lbs). But the funny part is that while I have been “planning” to lose all this weight, I have, as Darya pointed out, lost a significant amount. And I have lost it, I can assure you, without being on a diet.

Darya told me that this was exactly the kind of weight loss she believed people could achieve by following her advice. She also reminded me that if I kept up this same pace every nine months, it wouldn’t be that long until I reached my goal. And significantly, I certainly won’t be gaining more weight, which is often the trend for people as they get older.

When Darya asked me to think about how I lost these 20 lbs, the reason was hard to pinpoint. Because it hadn’t occurred rapidly, and because I didn’t actively try to lose weight with a restrictive diet, it was almost like it didn’t “count.” Also, because I haven’t reached my ultimate goal, I don’t really feel like a success story just yet.

On the other hand, losing weight without trying is pretty awesome. And if this weight loss keeps up and stays off, I’ll be right where I want to be in 18 months.

So how did this happen, you ask? As far as I can tell, it went like this:

Darya and I have been talking about food for the past year. I have never been much of a cook and I ate out for most of my meals. I think I was eating fast food about 5-10 times a week.

As I talked to Darya and read her blog, I found myself thinking more and more about “good” food. In fact, without really meaning to I started categorizing food into two groups: “real” food and “crap” food. From what I could tell, simply put, real food grows in the ground, or eats food that grows in the ground. Crap food is made in laboratories and/or mass produced. It is fried or filled with sugar or both.

At first my categorizing food as crap didn’t really stop me from eating it. I was used to my routines and didn’t think about actively changing. Talking and thinking about health, nutrition, and good food made me want to behave differently, but I figured I would need to make major life changes to accomplish that, and I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. This is what I meant when I was “planning” to lose weight.

But I think it was hard to read and talk about healthy food and not incorporate some of that into my life. Slowly, without realizing it, I just started eating green vegetables more often. I definitely put more nuts, fish, and brown rice into my diet too. I don’t think I was eating those foods very much at all before I started talking to Darya about healthy food.

(Read more: Get Fit By Becoming A Food Geek)

Most of all, I stopped eating fast food so much and started making more meals at home. This happened so gradually that it is hard to remember the exact chain of events. Nine months ago it was 5-10 times a week for fast food. These days I usually go more than a week without having it at all. Last week I only had fast food once (I had a cheeseburger at In-N-Out. Sorry Darya, but in my defense, I was pretty drunk).

(Read more: Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That: Why Fast Food Is Never Healthy)

My eating is still far from perfect. I could do a lot better on the size of my portions and I still eat crap food from time to time. Also, to reach my ultimate goal of 165 lbs I think I am going to have to start exercising more. During the last nine months the most I did was go walking a few times a week. My gym attendance was inconsistent at best. But I think what my experience really shows is that gradual progress is possible with a few basic, common sense changes to what we eat.

Also, the food that I have been making and eating at home has been delicious. I don’t miss the crap food that I haven’t been eating and I look forward to the fresh, healthy food that I’ve been preparing.

Maybe this losing weight thing doesn’t have to be so hard. Maybe it’s just a matter of paying more attention and really being conscious about what we are eating and whether or not it’s really good food.

(Read more: How To Get Started Eating Healthy)

Have you lost weight eating real food? What are the biggest challenges for you?

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