Quick and Easy Chili

With winter weather in full swing, I get the craving for all things soup, stew or chili. It is important to eat with the seasons and winter calls for warming foods with easy to digest cooked veggies since people would work less in the winter. When preparing foods, think about the season in which it grew and how the food was prepared to last a winter or summer without refrigeration or heat. It is interesting even our meat and eggs are seasonal. Constitutionally, warming foods and ferments are best for cool seasons, fresh veggies and salads and smoothies are best for warm seasons.

I found this recipe in a cooking magazine over 20 years ago, as I changed my health and lifestyle over the years I adapted my original junky recipe to suit what I was doing at the time. I also realized one day I had inadvertently been using tablespoons for spices instead of teaspoons, which was funny. What my chili has now become is a bowl of nutrient-dense ancestral goodness that is both inexpensive and easy to make.

A few key things: use grass-fed, grass-finished ground beef for the most nutrients and flavor. Contrary to popular belief red meat isn’t bad for you. It is the way we have industrialized our beef that makes it horrible. A grass-fed beef will be full of vitamins A and E, omega-3 fatty acids (necessary for inflammation management) and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a powerful polyunsaturated acid that boosts the immune system and may be cardio protective). In fact, pastured beef is one of the highest sources of CLA.

Soak your beans. Beans can be hard on the stomach, think about that jungle you heard as a child 😉 They contain anti-nutrients called phytates and lectins. These anti-nutrients are enzyme inhibitors that make grains and legumes difficult to digest. However, traditional cultures around the world knew that grains and beans need to be prepared before they are eaten. Soaking your beans overnight in some apple cider vinegar os the traditional way to do that. Besides, dried beans are so much cheaper than canned anyway and you get to ditch the toxin lined can to boot!

Lastly, give this chili a nutritional punch by using homemade (or now you can buy traditionally prepared, it just cost a lot of $) beef or chicken broth. A homemade broth contains all kinds of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and nutrients that are great for your health. A good stock will contain gelatin which is great for gut healing, joint pain and the immune system. In fact, gelatin as a therapeutic agent dates back hundreds of years. Remember grandmother’s chicken noodle soup for a cold? Campbell’s ruined it :/ Not only is broth super good for you, it provides amazing flavor too. My kids now refuse to eat chili with the boxed junk.



1-2 tbsps healthy fat, I like ghee, tallow or pastured butter or lard

1 large organic yellow onion, diced

1 organic green bell pepper, diced

1-2 jalapenos, diced

1 pound grass-fed, grass-finished ground beef

2 cups, homemade or traditionally prepared chicken or beef broth (I have used both, both are yummy)

8 oz organic tomato sauce

6 oz. organic tomato paste

16 oz dried navy beans, soaked 12-24 hours in filtered water and a tbsp. of apple cider vinegar

I just soak my beans the night before I plan to make chili, don’t get caught up here, it takes 2 mins and I often make my kids do it, it’s so simple.

Interesting fact, did you know white navy beans, lima beans, and lentils are easier to digest than other beans, chickpeas and black beans can be the hardest

3 tbsps chili powder

1 tbsps cumin

Dash sea salt to taste

1-2 tbsps clean hot sauce

Read your labels! Hot sauce is often full of sugar and msg. This brand [link] is my new fave

6-8 garlic cloves, minced

Chop your garlic first and let it stand until you add it to the end. Traditionally allow garlic to stand after cutting allows it to retain nutrients when heated up. Furthermore, add your garlic to soups and stews to retain even more nutrients


In a 5-6 quart pot or dutch oven melt fat and saute onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno until tender about 5-6 minutes

Add ground beef and cook until brown

Stir in remaining ingredients besides garlic, bring to a boil

Reduce heat to low, simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add garlic 5-10 minutes before serving

We serve with fresh sour cream, raw cheese, sauerkraut and pickled jalapenos

This serves about 4-5, I easily double this recipe for my family of 6 big eaters with leftovers. Once I made 8 servings for a fundraiser! This is great if you have a large crowd or want chili for dayz J


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Did you know that the average American consumes about 3000 calories on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Most people will gain weight over the holiday season and typically half of that weight will remain until the following summer. While I am not an avid calorie counter this does remind me that it is important to have a plan in place so I do not sabotage the hard work I did the other 11 months of the year. Preparation both mentally and physically are key to success.

In addition to preparing a whole food nutrient dense holiday feast try these ideas to optimize digestion and see how you respond physically, mentally and emotionally. This may the beginning of some valuable new traditions.


Don’t shirk exercise, move when you can.

For some the holiday season can last up to 6 weeks. During the hustle and bustle of the season it is really easy to put fitness on the back burner. Instead of letting it all go and hopping back on board January 1st, make it a priority (this is a conscious decision) to keep exercise in the mix. In fact, activity will help you better handle those “choice” meals you are making during all the errands and festivities. Exercise makes you more insulin sensitive and studies suggest that exercise can overcome slip ups in diet as long as they are not continual and consistent.

On feast days, consider moving dinner up a couple hours and take an after dinner walk. Again, exercise is known to boost insulin receptivity and the movement will help you beat those post meal blues. Allow the kids to play at a park or start a family tradition of flag football.


Stay away from stress.

Make time for some stress management. Stress is detrimental to your health and can mess with your blood sugar balance. A meal that may not have been that bad for you in a relaxed state all of a sudden becomes a major body burden when eaten in a stressed state. Digestion begins in the brain.  Employ tools to manage stress like deep breathing (download a breathing app that sends you reminders), reflex points, essential oils and mental re-framing. Don’t forget those workouts are a great form of stress management too. This will not come naturally for most of us. You must decide to make this happen 🙂


Remember Digestion begins in the brain.

Take a few moments pre-meal to sit down take a big deep breath and show some gratitude for your food. This will trigger salivary amylase to begin digesting those delicious carbs. Chew, chew, chew your food and set your fork down between bites. Turn off that Thanksgiving football game and enjoy the company of your family. Take time to set a beautiful table and add some mood lighting. This puts you in rest and digest mode so your body can properly digest your meal. Stop and think: many of our ancestral traditions were not created to make more work but rather to set us up to rest, digest and enjoy the company of our friends and family. Reframe your perspective.


Consider a little intermittent fasting during the holiday season.

Restrict your eating window and allow your body to rest and recover from those seasonal indulgences. Digestion takes up most of your energy stores. When you rest from this process the body then has time to prioritize detox and healing. This process, called autophagy, occurs when we restrict our eating window to 8-10 hours, giving the body 14-16 hours to rest and digest. Fasting can be done many ways, but typically you can either have a late breakfast or an early dinner. I try to restrict my eating to daylight hours.


Pair your starches with healthy fats.

Feel good about ladling a generous helping of gravy over those mashed potatoes. Fats help to balance the blood sugar spikes that result from a meal high in starch, and are imperative for management of inflammation. Furthermore, those good fats will help you to feel more satiated so you are not going back for seconds and thirds of that sweet potato pie.


Hydration. Hydration. Hydration.

Water is the number one deficiency in most Americans. Every organ and cell in the body needs adequate hydration in order to function well. When we do not get enough water, our body prioritizes some areas of function, like digestion, at the expenses of other areas, like brain function and detox. Some research has shown that dehydration is at the root of many of today’s diseases. In the chaos of holiday prep and planning it is easy to let hydration slip. Set a reminder on your phone or fill 2 quart jars in the morning to remind yourself to get hydration in. Associate hydration with certain activities. For example, I typically hydrate when driving. Now I get thirsty any time I am in the car. Start your day with a full glass of water, not coffee. Add a pinch of sea salt, not table salt (!), for added electrolytes and minerals. Sea salt is a great adrenal boost as well.


Don’t throw away those bones!

One of the best things about a Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey is the amount of healing broth you can make from the bones. Bone broth provides minerals and amino acids important to the gut lining. It is great to sip for a snack or to use as a base for soup. On average I get 17 quart sized jars of broth from my Thanksgiving Turkey!


Remember eating well is a form of self-respect.

When you are tempted by friends and family to indulge a little too much remind yourself that you are respecting your body and your health. Prepare yourself for the inevitable pressure by establishing a non-negotiable baseline. For example, I always remain gluten free, opt for healthy fats, forgo dessert (because I cannot control myself around sugar), and limit myself to no more than 2 really good alcoholic drinks (no cheap wine or crappy mixers for me!). While I loosen up my daily diet sometimes, I know this is what I absolutely need to feel good and I stick to it. FOMO (fear of missing out) is for the birds, I would rather not miss out on feeling good.

Furthermore, have your excuses ready when you get pressured to participate. I once had a friend tell me she related her “no” foods with going to bathroom when making excuses to friends and family. She says, “No one ever wants to discuss bowel movements!”

Lastly, consider your future self, this is called responsibility debt, do not put off healthy habits until January when you can continue to incorporate them today. We all know that something will come up at the beginning of the year and then we get in this cycle of putting things off and allowing our future self to take care of it. Before you know it you hit 2019! Repeat for 10 years and you get the picture. Again respect yourself by not abdicating responsibility to your future self.

Check out this great illustration of responsibility debt here. http://physiqonomics.com/responsibility-debt I am linking this for me, not just you 😉


Ditch the guilt.

One of the things I teach in my classes is to remove guilt from the equation. Guilt can make a “choice” meal indigestible when it may not have affected us otherwise. The motto is “Whatever I eat, I choose it consciously, I enjoy it thoroughly, and then, I let it go.” Think of your meals as “choices” not “cheats” and plan those choices. Think about your food before devouring it. When you do make a choice, consider it an experiment, put on your lab coat and discover how those choices make you feel.

An invaluable supplement to have on hand is some activated charcoal. This will help you detox those “choices” a little better. However, do not use charcoal as an excuse to indulge too often. If you have more than 4 “choices” in a row you are off track and need to reevaluate your plan.


Plan ahead.

We all know the holiday season is not a time for strict rules and regulations and it is OK to loosen up a little. What is your plan for January? Don’t start thinking about this January 1, have a plan in place now with a solid start date. Preparation is key to success. Sign up for a detox, clean eating challenge, exercise plan or some PT. However, pick one and enlist some help/accountability, don’t overdo it and set yourself up for failure.


Remember the reason for the season. Do the dishes tomorrow. Enjoy your family today.

On feast days, remember the reason for the season and give yourself grace and time to just be. Dishes will always be there, our loved ones may not be 🙂

Emphasize celebration and gratitude, not food. While food is certainly a part of the fun it isn’t what this season is about. Reframe your brain to prioritize family, friends and gratitude.

“Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”



Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. Visit her site at Hearts for Health for more tips and suggestions for healthy living.



Today we are under more stress than ever and yet taking our bodies to farther limits. As an athlete who does not rely on stimulants for an artificial boost in performance, I often employ other more natural modalities to support my body before, during and after exercise. One of my favourite discoveries has been the use of essential oils. It may surprise you to hear that the right oils can enhance physical performance, boost energy and even provide pain relief.  For years I used only lavender and peppermint but as I learned more about oils I started adding in others to my tool kit. Here are my top picks:



While peppermint is one of the oldest go-tos for soothing digestion, there is a surprising link between peppermint oil and athletic performance. Using peppermint oil daily can help you to work harder longer.

  • Improves respiratory function, dilates bronchioles and increases oxygen intake, for improved stamina and performance
  • Increases pain tolerance and workload efforts
  • Relieves aches and pains
  • Decreases blood lactate levels, which elevate after strenuous exercise an cause muscles soreness
  • Improves mental clarity and concentration
  • Relieves sore muscles (think Icy Hot without all the junk)
  • Relieves nausea and indigestion (think pregame jitters)
  • Directly affects the brains satiety center and reduces cravings, helping you keep that nutrition on point

Action Item: Pre-work out dilute a 2-3 drops peppermint EO in coconut or other carrier oil, rub palms together and rub on chest, then cup hands over face and inhale deeply. Inhale peppermint EO when uncontrollable cravings hit.



Renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties, these days Copaiba is getting a lot of buzz. However copaiba essential oil has been around for quite some time, 10 years with Young Living, and it has been used traditionally by natives for far longer. The copaiba tree is found deep in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest where it is tapped similar to a maple tree, the resin is then steam distilled.

  • Has the most published research on anti-inflammatory effects, the main component of this oil is beta-caryophyllene, which is why cannabis (CBD) oil is getting all the hype these days. This oil registers BCP at 55%, the highest of any other oil including CBD.
  • Natural pain relief, copaiba blocks the sensation of pain
  • Protects the liver
  • Neuroprotective
  • Powerful antioxidant

 Action Item: Dilute and massage copaiba oil into muscles soon after a strenuous work out, to help prevent soreness. Or use at the onset of soreness.



Lemongrass is a woody fibrous grass originating in southeast Asia, and is often used in Thai cooking. Although lemongrass essential oil is traditionally used for digestion and purification, it is great for muscle relaxation as well.

  • Relieves inflammation
  • Improves circulation and promotes lymph flow
  • This oil contains high level of the component citral, which has a warming effect, great for tired muscles
  • Regenerates connective tissues, excellent for ligaments and joint issues
  • Powerful antifungal properties, inhibits candida albicans
  • Improves focus, clarity and relaxation
  • Anitoxidant

Action Item: Although there are numerous oils to help with fatigued muscles this is by far my favourite. It is especially good for stressed joint and ligaments. I often dilute and rub into my trick knee. It is great post injury as well.



In studies, the constituents of lavender have been shown to have both sedative and narcotic effects. Many pain relieving creams will contain lavender.

  • Relaxes body and mind
  • Promotes restful sleep, imperative for recovery
  • Soothes aching muscles and regenerates tissues, speeding the healing of cuts, burns (even and bruises (sunburn)
  • Reduces appetite (along with grapefruit)
  • Reduces mental stress and increases alertness
  • Repels pesky bugs

Action Item: Diffuse lavender oil at night to promote a good nights’ sleep, especially when you have an event the next day.



Traditionally the leaves of wintergreen were used by Native Americans to increase respiratory capacity during endurance running or difficult labor. It is a natural antioxidant and immune enhancer.

  • Methyl Salicylate, the active constituent of wintergreen has strong soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, the synthetic version of this ingredient is used in NSAIDS like Ibuprofen https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2371308
  • Wintergreen oil has been incorporated into many musculoskeletal ointments and creams like Bengay and Icy Hot
  • Absorbs quickly into skin and has a numbing effect
  • Soothing properties make it ideal for massage
  • Great for masking odors
  • Naturally freshens breathes, so it is found in many toothpastes and mouthwashes

Action Item: I prefer this oil for tension headaches, or mix with copaiba post-work out for those extra hard PR days. Place a drop of Wintergreen oil on a cotton ball and stick it in your gym bag.


Note: Essential oils are very powerful and can be used in excess. When applying topically it is always best practice to dilute a few drops into a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil. Not only is this for safety, in fact many oils are more effective when used in dilution.


As you can see essential oils have many properties that are useful to athletic performance and recovery. They are particularly useful when recovering from injury. Furthermore, each oil has multiple uses that often overlap one another so you don’t have to break the bank stocking up. As I mentioned previously, I used just peppermint and lavender for a long time before branching out. Although, I do think I am now officially an oil junkie! I hoard them ya’ll. Whether you get one oil or a few I think you will find you can great results by adding essential oils to your athletic regimen.


Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. Check out the full article with 5 more oil suggestions, resources and citations, or to purchase essential oils. Visit her site at Hearts for Health.


Today’s post on gluten is the last in a 3 part series on allergenic and harmful ingredients hidden in our food. The first part discussed MSG, a chemical that excites our cells to death, but makes our food taste awesome. The second part was about sugar, and how manufacturers use it mask tasteless food and hijack our tastebuds to keep us wanting more and more. Today is all about gluten and where it is found.



Gluten is a controversial buzzword that we often hear these days, in fact 30% of Americans are currently trying to avoid eating gluten, but do you even know what gluten is? Skeptics will actually quiz you :/ I know, I used to be one.

Gluten is a family of proteins found most commonly in wheat (think delicious bread!) but also in other grains like barley, rye, spelt and triticale. Coming from the Latin root “glue”, gluten when combined with water helps bind foods together and rise giving our breads, pastries and other foods a fluffy, satisfying texture. Gluten may taste delightful (seriously!) but glue in my intestines certainly does not sound like a good thing…


Gluten is found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, spelt and triticale



Today’s wheat is not the wheat our ancestors ate. It has been hybridized and industrialized to the point that there is no longer predigestion of grain taking place, wheat used to take a long time to harvest and would sit in the sun to dry as part of the process. Also, the flour is now ground finer than with a traditional mill making it more readily absorbed by the body. And, surprisingly, modern wheat now has extra chromosomes and proteins that did not occur in ancient grains.

Want to avoid gluten? You better become a proficient label reader. It is not just in the obvious places like bread, pasta, cereal, cake and crackers. Similar to sugar and MSG, food manufacturers hide gluten in pretty much everything processed and fast food. It is best to take the perspective that there IS gluten in a product until it is proven not to be.

Keep in mind, just because a box says gluten free does not mean it is healthy. Refined gluten free foods often contain loads of sugar or other sweeteners, bad fats and msg. A packaged food should have 5 ingredients or less of easily pronounceable ingredients. Remember, pastured meat, fruits, veggies, and herbs are all naturally gluten free ?



Gluten sensitivity shows up many different ways. It actually hard to isolate since it mimics so many other diseases. The most common symptoms are digestive distress of all kinds, stomach pain, gas, bloating, and IBS. These make sense but it can also show up as joint pain, rashes and fatigue. These symptoms will occur shortly after eating gluten foods. Gluten is even capable of breaking down the blood brain barrier which can result in a multitude of mental symptoms like brain fog and depression. Recurring exposure to gluten in sensitive individuals can ultimately progress to auto immunity after a long period of time.

Often when people eliminate gluten from their diet they find that they feel much better. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people are gluten intolerant, and 8 in 10 are genetically predisposed to sensitivity. In a society where our #1 source of calories is refined flour and people rarely cook this is especially problematic!


Digestive issues are a big sign of gluten sensitivity



  • Make a commitment to try 6 weeks GF
  • Learn to read labels and be vigilant
  • Start by checking medications and supplements
  • It’s OK to take your time to phase out GF foods and adjust, but once they’re out keep ‘em out
    • Start with obvious things like bread and pasta
    • Then tackle the hidden items
    • Set a date to be completely GF
    • Clean out your pantry by that date
  • Stay away from junk food and fast food, almost all have gluten, MSG, and/or sugar
  • Remember just because it says GF doesn’t mean its healthy
  • Focus on the things you CAN have instead of the things you can’t have. Mindset is more than half the battle.
  • Food journal to see what foods trigger you and reveal hidden gluten
  • If you drink, stick to rum tequila, potato vodka and distilled spirits
  • Not all grains are bad. After your elimination period, when you phase back in gluten grains choose ancient whole grains like einkorn which is naturally low gluten and make sure they are properly prepared, think sourdough bread from an artisan baker.
  • Consider working with a practitioner to determine whether your health issue is gluten or something else.

Check out this Celiac quick start guide 


Have you gone gluten free? If so, how has it affected your health? Let us know in the comments.


Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. Check out the full article with resources and citations, or to find ancestral recipes and healthy lifestyle hacks visit her site at Hearts for Health.

It doesn’t take much to become dehydrated…especially living in a hot climate like southern Texas. Even a slight change in our water levels can lead to dehydration, and if we constantly fail to top-up on H2O whenever we lose it (and we lose it a lot), then we may become chronically dehydrated. Thankfully, our body will let us know when this happens. Here are 10 signs to look out for to determine if you’re dehydrated.

1: Your Mouth Is Dry and Your Tongue Is Swollen

The No. 1 sign that you’re not sufficiently hydrated is probably the most obvious: you’re thirsty. The mouth dries out and your tongue becomes slightly swollen as your body cries out for hydration – signs that should not be ignored. The best way to avoid dehydration is simply to drink water whenever thirsty. If, however, you’re drinking enough water and you’re still noticing signs of dehydration, then some other underlying condition may be source of your problem.

2: Your Urine Is Dark Yellow

As blood pressure falls and tissue dries out in the dehydrated individual, the kidneys will kick into action and try to conserve water by concentrating the urine or by stopping the production of urine entirely. As the urine becomes more and more concentrated, its color will become darker and darker until it reaches shades of dark yellow or even amber.

3: Constipation

When we’re healthy, the food we eat moves freely through our colons. The colon will absorb water from foods we’ve eaten while leaving behind waste. The waste left behind is what forms the stool itself. Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or when muscle contractions are slowed. When we’re dehydrated, the colon will try to conserve water and will absorb too much water from our food, causing our stools to become hard and dry. The result is constipation.

4: Your Skin Lacks Elasticity

Dehydration reduces the elasticity of the skin (also known as “skin turgor”). Doctors may actually use skin elasticity as a quick check of dehydration through a special test called the “pinch test.” Basically, the skin on the back of the hand is pinched and pulled upwards, and then released. Skin with normal turgor snaps rapidly back to normal while skin with decreased turgor remains elevated and drops slowly. Although this isn’t the best test of dehydration, the elasticity of the skin is still a good sign to tell us if we’re hydrated.

5: You Have Heart Palpitations

The heart needs a healthy and normal body environment in order to function properly. Because the heart is a muscle like any other, with reductions in blood flow and changes in electrolyte concentrations due to dehydration, the timing of our heart can be affected and we may begin to experience abnormalities in the heart’s beating pattern (called palpitations).

6: You Get Muscle Cramps or Spasms

Proper hydration is extremely important for the active individuals. Although it’s not entirely understood how dehydration affects muscle function, it’s probably related to an imbalance of electrolytes. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are electrically charged ions that our muscles use to contract. If we’re chronically dehydrated, we may develop a lasting electrolyte imbalance that can lead to continuous muscle cramping or spasms during or after exercise.

7: You Feel Lightheaded or Dizzy

With a drop in blood volume and pressure, dehydration can also cause us to feel lightheaded, faint or become dizzy. One of the key signs of dehydration-related dizziness is a sudden rush of lightheadedness when we stand up too quickly, a condition called orthostatic hypotension.

8: You Feel Tired or Fatigued

When we’re properly hydrated, water moves from our cells into the bloodstream in order to maintain the appropriate amount of blood in our blood vessels and to regulate blood pressure. With chronic dehydration, blood volume and blood pressure may drop such that the oxygen content of blood drops as well. Without proper oxygen, our muscle and nerve functions slow down and we become easily fatigued.

9: You Stop Producing Tears

It may sound silly, but if someone is outright bawling and they have nothing but dry eyes to show for it, then there’s a good chance that they’re dehydrated. Tears are actually used to clean and lubricate the eyes. Although tears for crying differ in composition from tears used for real lubrication, all tears contain water. So, if we’re low on H2O, we may stop producing tears.

10: You’re Overheating

Water plays a key role in body temperature regulation. When we begin to overheat, we sweat. By sweating, we lower our body temperature through evaporative cooling. Because sweat is mostly made up of water, when we’re dehydrated, we’ll stop sweating and can quickly overheat. Anyone who’s ever suffered heatstroke understands the importance of hydration on a hot summer’s day!

Original Article: Click Here

All Made Simple – by: S.George

Contact: [email protected]

“If you continue to do what you have always done, then you will continue to be who you have always been…you must change to change…”

This is the 2nd in a 3 part series about hidden ingredients in our food that undermine our health. The 1st post discussed hidden names for MSG, an ingredient the can cause foods to be highly palatable but damages brain cells and neurons. Today, I will focus on sugar.



The sugar consumption of the average American is 22 teaspoons of sugar a day (1 tsp = 4 grams) and the total for the year is 130 pounds! This many not seem like a lot since we are used to seeing sugar everywhere. To put in perspective though, consider that long before the industrial revolution the average consumption was 5 pounds of honey, a natural sugar, a year. And, the AHA daily recommendation for sugar intake, which is honestly still too high, is 5 tsps for women, 9 for men and 3 for children. Americans are inundated with sugar! Never before in the history of man have we had an emergency need to lower our blood sugar. The results are devastating.

Refined sugar is one the worst ingredients in our modern diets. With the saturated fat scare of the late 1900s manufacturers needed an alternative to make processed foods highly palatable. Otherwise, processed food, which is very refined and has no nutritional value, is virtually tasteless. So, we began replacing fat in our foods with sugar. Sugar excites our taste buds and makes our food taste awesome. Turns out, sugar also causes us to want to eat more and more and it is highly addictive. Total win if you are food manufacturer. In fact, it has come to light that the sugar industry has paid to hide the health effects of sugar. If you have a hard time controlling yourself with food it is because your taste buds are being high jacked. It takes a conscious effort to change this trend.



Sugar is empty calories. It is especially damaging because it not only has no nutritive value, it actually leaches vitamins and minerals from our body. Excess sugar consumption negatively impacts almost every bodily system. The results of long term excess sugar consumption are numerous:

  • Blood sugar dysregulation and diabetes
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Leaky gut/dysbiosis
  • Obesity
  • Tooth decay
  • Impairs the immune system
  • Feeds cancer
  • Inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • Frustose is particularly damaging as it can only be metabolized in the liver. Excess consumption will overload this vital organ, resulting in what is known as “skinny fat”.

If you are working out then throwing back the sugar post WOD you are undermining your health and your gains!



Reaching that daily sugar limit may be a bit easier than you think. Why? Well, sugar is in EVERYTHING! I have an autoimmune condition that requires me to eat extremely low sugar. When I embarked on my no sugar journey many years ago I was completely shocked at how much sugar I was consuming and I did not even eat candy or drink sodas at the time. Learning to read labels and locate sugars is imperative to experience optimal health.

There are the obvious high sugar culprits like:

  • Soda (12-39g sugar per can)
  • Coffee drinks (12+g per drink)
  • Energy drinks (30+g per can)
  • Candy, desserts, and other refined carbs

But did you know that soda consumption accounts for only 1/3 of sugar intake? Look at these surprising foods that contain sugar:

  • Meats: sausages, bacon and lunch meats
  • Salad dressings, 4-5g per tbsp
  • Condiments: BBQ sauce, 13g; ketchup, 10g (no wonder kids like to drown their food in ketchup!); and those freaking amazing Chic-Fil-A sauces (in fact chicken nuggets contain sugar in the batter!)
  • Beef jerky, 10 grams
  • Cereal, 20 grams
  • Bread, 6 grams per slice
  • Yogurt, up to 10 grams per container
  • Pasta sauce, 12g per ½ cup
  • Granola/protein bars, up to 16 grams
  • Alcohol mixers, 50-60 grams
  • Non-dairy milks, 10g
  • Nut butters, 9g
  • Protein powders, up to 15g
  • Supplements, especially gummy vitamins
  • Most restaurant foods and all fast foods

Do you eat any of these foods?

This meal is full of sugar.



Now that people are becoming more health consciousness and the cat is out of the bag on sugar manufactures are resorting to more tactics to hide the amounts of sugars that are in food. It is important to know these:

1. They call sugar by a different name, here is what to look for:

  • Anything with sugar in the name
  • Any ingredient ending in –ose: sucrose, galactose, glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, etc.
  • Any syrup: tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup
  • Any malt: barley malt
  • Maltodextrin
  • Nectar
  • Corn sweetener, corn solids
  • Raspadura or Panela
  • Sorghum
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Caramel
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) This is a cheap version of sugar made from corn and is far worse than sugar. It is especially damaging to the liver as it is almost 90% fructose. You will find it in almost all fast foods, sodas, condiments and highly palatable processed foods.

2. The higher up an ingredient is on an ingredient list, the more of it is in the food. In order to hide the fact that many foods are mostly sugar, you will find 2 or 3 different types of sugar so they can be placed lower down on the list.

3. Serving sizes will be smaller. So less sugar is listed. For example a peanut butter cup may be listed as having 3g of sugar per serving, yet there are 2 servings…. for one cup…. who on earth eats half a peanut butter cup?! It’s just shady.

4. Use of artificial sweeteners. Aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and may have no calories but they are absolutely detrimental to your health. Also, just the taste of sweet causes our bodies to respond as if we were actually consuming sugar. Diet sodas are NOT the way to go when trying to avoid sugar.

5. Beware of foods labeled “No sugar added”. These foods will use “natural sweeteners” like fruit concentrates which still have the same effect of sugar within the body. They are concentrated, highly refined and have no vitamins and fiber to modulate the effects of the “natural” sugar.

6. Use of “healthy” alternatives like organic cane sugar, cane juice, beet sugar, fruit juice, molasses, and coconut sugar. They are all still sugar with the same effects as sugar. They are used to mask foods with no nutrition and no taste. Agave nectar is highly refined and is 80% fructose.

7. Note on sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols include xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol and are 300x sweeter than sugar. While these alcohols are sometimes better metabolically than straight up sugar, they are highly refined and they can be really hard on those people with intestinal dysfunction. Plus, remember just the taste of sweet can still be harmful.



Between the addictive nature of sugars, the prevalence of it in our foods and the ways that they are hidden, it is no small feat to break that sugar habit! But, your body will thank you for it. Here are some strategies to get started and remain successful:

  • Get mad! Be angry at the effects sugar has on you and the way manufacturers use sugar ti high jack your taste buds.
  • Eliminate or dial back processed foods.
  • Cut back slowly to avoid the sugar withdrawals.
  • Exercise raises dopamine like sugar and will help you get over the hump.
  • Eat a protein rich breakfast.
  • If cravings hit, sub good fats for sweet, go for nuts, avocado, or some raw dairy.
  • If desserts are your thing have a low glycemic fruit. Fruit sugar is combined with the vitamins necessary to process it and fiber.
  • Sub smoothies, combined with protein and good fat, instead of sweet drinks and sodas. Or try a low sugar kombucha, like GT brand.
  • If you juice, juice veggies. Fruits without fiber are a big sugar hit.
  • Sniff some peppermint oil. I can help with this 😉
  • Make your own dressings, sauces and condiments. I LOVE lemon juice and olive oil for salads.
  • If you must have some sugar, eat a piece of dark chocolate, use those healthier less processed sugars sparingly (think raw honey, pure maple syrup, fruit juice, or whole leaf stevia powder), and consume before a workout or activity.
  • Set up some accountability. Find a friend to sugar detox with, tell a coach, or join a sugar detox group. Adrien does Shred 10, I do the Restart program, and there are many others
  • Save your kiddos. The metabolic effects of sugar are even worse for children. Have your children detox with you, mine did, and get out of the habit of rewarding children with sugar.

“Experts now predict that for the first time in history, the current generation of children will not outlive their parents due to poor diets.” – Sweet Deception

Eventually, your desire for sugar decreases after about 3 weeks and it becomes easier. That is why so many sugar detox plans are 21 days. I rarely crave sugar any more. Hang in there, you can do it!

Note: If you are doing all the right things with your diet however, and are still having trouble, it may be time to seek professional help. There can be gut dysbiosis, thyroid and/or adrenal issues, malabsorption of vitamins and several other issues that can cause you to crave sugar and be a roadblock to success. As a nutritional therapist I can help with this too 🙂

What are some sugar busting strategies you employ?


Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. Check out this article with resources and citations, or to find ancestral recipes and healthy lifestyle hacks visit her site at Hearts for Health.

This is the first in a 3 part series about hidden additives in our food. First, I will tackle MSG. In the following posts I’ll address sugars and gluten.What these foods all have in common are they are highly addictive, highly damaging and often hidden.

As our society’s pace of life has picked up we have more and more frequently turned to manufactured food to make ends meet. The problem is that real food is not cheap and fake food tastes bad. Not a great combo if you are a food manufacturer. So our food giants have to find ways to make less than palatable food taste great and cost less. Enter MSG.



Glutamic acid in it’s natural form in needed by the body. It is a non-essential amino acid that has important functions in the brain and nervous system. It also helps to heal the intestinal lining. It is found in many foods like cheese, milk, meat, fish, grains and legumes, seaweed, and bone broth.  The human body actually contains over 4 pounds of glutamic acid and if it is not found in the diet, it can be manufactured within the body. When we eat food containing this acid our body breaks it down regulating the amount extracted and excreting the rest. It is not stored in the body and is mostly harmless.

The problem arises when glutamic acid is altered by modern processing. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a byproduct of protein manufacturing. Through chemical processing the glutamic acid is broken off of protein, bound to a sodium molecule, purified into a white powder and added to foods to make them taste A-mazing. MSG can kill cells within the brain by exciting them to death. Therefore it is often referred to as an excitotoxin.



MSG has a cumulative effect and has been linked to numerous health conditions like metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s and other brain and nervous issues. More immediate reactions to MSG can include brain fog, tingling, headaches and migraines, lethargy, numbness, shortness of breath and pain shortly after consumption (usually within about 3 hours and up to 24). Some people are more sensitive than others. It seems that severity of symptoms after exposure is often related to the health and permeability of a person’s intestinal wall. The rate of leaky gut in our society is ever increasing making many people very sensitive to this toxin.

It’s not just in junk food…



Because MSG tastes SO GOOD, it is found in highly palatable processed foods and restaurants. That is why MSG toxicity is often referred to as restaurant system. The more refined the food the more the addition of flavor is necessary.  The FDA only requires MSG be labeled if the added ingredient is 99% pure MSG. As a processing agent or byproduct MSG is not required to be labeled. This leaves the burden on you as a consumer to look for the hidden byproducts in your food. Reading labels and knowing what they mean is one of the most powerful tools you have for changing your health. At this time over 40+ ingredients contain MSG and do not require a label!

Following is a list of the most common hidden MSG names that I see when I am browsing through the inner aisles of the grocery store:

  • Glutamate
  • Anything hydrolyzed or any hydrolyzed protein
  • Yeast extract, autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Whey protein (concentrate and isolate)
  • Soy protein (concentrate and isolate)
  • Soy sauce (and extract)
  • Carrageenan
  • Annatto
  • Bouillon, stock, chicken and meat flavor
  • Natural flavors, flavoring, seasoning, enzymes
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric acid
  • Anything ultra-pasteurized

This is not a complete list, rather it is only what I see most often. To find a complete list check out the Truth in Labeling Campaign. MSG is not just in food but also in vitamins, supplements, medications and vaccines. It is also in skincare and cosmetics. Your skin is the largest organ in the body and is highly permeable. If you won’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it on your skin. Because, MSG is often a byproduct of unnatural protein break down in the food industry, you need to be extra vigilant when selecting protein powders. So many protein powders on the shelves are toxic and contain many additives besides MSG. Read your labels and know your source.



  • Salad dressings and sauces
  • Nuggets, fish sticks and sausages
  • Store bought broth and bouillon
  • Seasonings, especially mixes like ranch or taco (Lawry’s brand contains yeast extract)
  • Chips and sweets
  • All fast food
  • Vegan foods
  • Protein powders and meal replacement shakes
  • Baby food and formula


The best way to avoid exposure of course is to stick to whole foods as found in nature as much as possible. If you cannot avoid processed food try to find packaged food with 5 or fewer ingredients. Remember “natural” doesn’t always = safe. Check those organic and natural labels. Not all MSG can be avoided.  As always remember to support the health of intestinal skin so that it continues to be an effective barrier against less than perfect food and pathogens.



Book: Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Dr. Russell Blaylock 

Video: Sneaky Names for MSG

Sneaky Names for MSG

Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry


Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. For more recipes and lifestyle hacks visit her site at Hearts for Health.


Aug 11

Chia Pudding

We lead a busy life in the Files home. As my kiddos grow into their teen years we have lots of school, meetings and activities, yes, even homeschooling. Aside from weekends, we often don’t have time to cook and clean a big hearty breakfast like I desire. If I don’t have time to clean it, I do not start it. Can’t recover. Nor am I organized, or energetic, enough to prepare something real involved the night before. I truly admire people like that. I am not one. It is easy to get into a rut with quick and easy on-the-go breakfast ideas, I mean you can only eat so much fruit, and protein bars are not exactly healthy on the regular. Enter ch-ch-chia! Yes, I say it like that in my head. Every time. Can you tell how old I am?

Chia seeds are high in quality protein, fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Up to 75% of the fats found in chia are omega-3, a nutrient must, especially for athletes. Better yet while researching I found that the word chia originates form an ancient Mayan word for strength. Moreover, it is said Aztec warriors prized chia seeds for their ability to help with energy and endurance.  Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but I like it. Fast and easy + nutrient dense + strength + SO yummy = breakfast from heaven.

Chia seeds have the ability to absorb water easily giving it a gel like consistency, hence the “pudding”. Once you mix up your chia pudding base you can add all kinds of different topping and flavours. This helps me from getting bored. Also, it keeps well so it’s great for batch prep. Basic chia pudding only takes about 5 mins to make. Now, that’s something I can handle the night before.


Mix ingredients, allow it to sit in a glass dish in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, stir, sweeten if desired (a drizzle of honey or pure maple is all we need), serve and top if you have the time.

Sometimes chia can become really thick. We have noticed different brand seeds absorb liquid differently. If the consistency is too thick just add some more milk and stir.

This recipes serves about 3. I double it for my family of 6.


  • Blueberries + Maple + Cardamom + Cashews
  • Mango + Dark Chocolate + Mint
  • Coconut Milk + Strawberries + Wildway Granola (our favourite!)
  • Vanilla + Pumpkin Pie Spice + Coconut Flakes
  • Pomegranate + Dark Chocolate
  • Orange + Vanilla + Walnuts
  • Banana + Cinnamon
  • Be creative and make your own



  • Sprinkle in or on smoothies
  • Sprinkle on fruit bowls
  • Top a fresh salad with them
  • Add them to quinoa or rice dishes
  • Use to thicken sauces
  • Add to breads, muffins and crackers
  • Sprinkle in coconut water with a dash of sea salt, and a splash of lemon for an electrolyte drink
  • Some people even use them as an egg substitute



Have you tried Chia Pudding before? What’s your favourite topping?


Kristen Files is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health through diet and lifestyle changes. For more recipes and lifestyle hacks visit her site at Hearts for Health.

This is the first of a 2 part series on sourcing healthy food, where I highlight :


Did you know that how your food is grown greatly impacts its nutrient content? Just because a food is labeled organic in the store does not mean it is your healthiest option. My perspective may seem biased since I run a health food co-op but the more I learned about our food systems the more shocked I was. This is what led me to start sourcing my food differently. We often spend a pretty penny on our organic food, but these organic foods don’t always give us more nutrients.

(Grocery organic isn’t always the healthiest option)


With people becoming more aware of the dangers of a processed food diet many are turning to organic food as the answer. In fact, the term organic is one of the most powerful words in the supermarket, bringing to mind storied images of pastured animals and pristine produce. Since organic labeling began in 2010, organic food has become a $26.7 billion dollar industry ($52 billion worldwide). While organic food is good, there are some things to consider when making organic grocery store purchases. Unfortunately, not all organic food is equal, and labels are often misleading. There is more than one type of organic and it is important that you know the difference.



When you think of a conventional farm you think of technology, machines, automation, perhaps some inhumane practices but you definitely don’t think of the human touch or caring. Well, many industrial organic farms aren’t that much different. They can consist of farms that produce food on a large-scale industrialized system. They too may rely on machines, added fertilizers and pesticides, and confine their animals.

(“Pasture raised” often means access to pasture, not time spent there)



Yes, pesticides. Did you know that the USDA approves the use of 20+ synthetic chemicals while still allowing food to be labelled organic? This is still an improvement from conventional farming, which allows the use of over 900 chemicals, but it isn’t exactly pesticide free. In fact, 20% of organic lettuce in a USDA survey of produce tested positive for pesticides!

Organic pesticides can actually be more harmful. They are less effective than conventional pesticides requiring more applications. Ideally, organic farmers would use these pesticides as a last resort but some do not. The government has no tracking system for the use or volume of pesticides in organic farming. Industrial organic farmers have no vested interest in disclosing this information either. The idea that organic = no pesticides benefits them. You are at the mercy of their transparency. Yet you cannot know your grocery organic farmer and ask questions, sometimes they live across the world.

Furthermore, those beautifully packaged precut veggies you see on the grocery shelves are often preserved using noble gases, something definitely not found in nature. Without these added gases fruits and vegetables begin to decompose shortly after harvest. Food, once harvested is not meant to last days, weeks or even months. Always shop produce out of the box or bag if possible.



Lastly, did you know that many organic companies are actually owned by corporate food giants? Up to 92% of organic brands are owned by some of the nation’s largest food processors. These companies by playing both fields, conventional and organic, show they care much more about the dollar than your health:

  • Applegate, Justin’s = Hormel
  • Aidell’s = Hillshire
  • MaraNatha = Hain Celestial
  • Annie’s Homegrown, Muir Glen, Larabar, Cascadian Farm = General Mills
  • Earthbalance = Pinnacle foods
  • Horizon Organic, Earthbound Farm, SO Delicious = Whitewave
  • Burt’s Bees = Clorox

Did you know that you cannot even visit these farms? In some cases it is even illegal to take photographs.



Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Seasonal Food Guide

Locally Sourced Food Near You:

Index of pesticides allowed in organic agriculture