Valerie's Blog

Fallin’ for Healthy Foods

 

I recently joined a community garden right behind the building where I live and am so thrilled to have the chance to grow delicious and organic vegetables this fall. After three weeks of growing in the community garden, I am convinced that anyone can garden, too! Even if you don’t have your own garden, remember that you can still find fantastic organic options during autumn. This month, I am highlighting what’s healthy and in-season during fall.

  • Look for sweet potatoes this fall! They’re high in vitamin A and fiber, and are a much healthier substitute for regular, brown potatoes. Check out one of our newest recipes, Sweet Potato Pie, at the end of this post for some sweet potato inspiration!
  • Winter squash is fantastic because it’s high in fiber and vitamin A. There are many different varieties of winter squash including acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and several varieties of the seasonal favorite: pumpkins. My favorite is baked acorn squash!
  • Broccoli has been one of my favorite vegetables since I was a kid. This beautiful vegetable is high in folate (B9), vitamin C and vitamin K. Keep in mind, nutritionally it’s best to quickly steam your broccoli.
  • I absolutely love kale! Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K. My favorite ways to enjoy kale are making homemade kale chips and adding kale into delicious, healthy soups. If you have some room outside, growing your own kale is very easy.

Yours In Good Health,

Valerie Douglass, DTR

Mary’s Gone Crackers

 

Here’s one our newest recipes for fall:

Sweet Potato Pie

 

Filling

1 lb sweet potato

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

1 cup coconut palm sugar or sugar of choice

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Pie Crust

1 cup gluten free flour blend of choice

2 cups Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Crumbs

3/4 cup coconut oil or butter (chilled)

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or sugar of choice

1 tsp. xanthan gum (optional, but helps pie crust bind together)

 

Preparation

1. Boil sweet potato whole or cut into large chunks, skin on, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until soft. Drain. Run cold water over the sweet potatoes and remove skins. Set aside.

 

2. Combine gluten free flour blend, Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Crumbs, sugar, and xanthan gum into a food processor and pulse 3-5 times to break down the crumbs. Add butter or coconut oil and pulse another 3-5 times to break up the fat.

 

3. Press the crumb dough into a pie pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

 

4. Combine skinned boiled sweet potato and the rest of the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Combine with mixer on medium speed until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust.

 

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

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A Healthier School Year

This school year, Mary’s Gone Crackers is challenging you to keep your kids (and your whole family!) healthy, and help fight America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics. Did you know that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years? Providing your kids with a balanced daily diet at an early age teaches them healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime! Here are some tips to help keep your kids in optimal health this school year:

1. Weekly Shopping: Making one shopping trip for the entire week is a simple way to ensure your refrigerator and pantry are stocked with healthy foods, plus it saves you time and energy from making multiple trips to the store! Try to shop primarily the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the inner aisles, as this is where the healthiest foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy, are generally located.

2. Kick Start the Day: It is essential to start the day off right with a balanced breakfast. An ideal “for kids” breakfast has an assortment of protein, carbs and fiber for sustained energy and focus in the classroom.

3. Hot & Cold Lunches: Always keep food safety in mind. Store hot foods hot and cold foods cold by packing the day’s meals in a suitable lunchbox.

4. Can the Soda: If your kids drink soda, find a tasty healthier alternative they will enjoy that isn’t packed with sugar. There are many other great-tasting beverages for kids besides soda! A reusable water bottle is a great way to keep them hydrated without loading them with sugar, and if water is too boring, you can try adding fresh mint or lemon. Remember, diet soda is NOT a suitable alternative to regular soda.

5. Fruits & Veggies: Opt for fresh fruits and crisp vegetables as delicious snacks. A small bag of carrots or an apple is an easy grab-and-go portable snack.

6. Sweet Tooth: Do your kids crave sugar? Provide them with the right sugar. Let them get their sweet tooth fix by packing delicious fresh fruit or a 100% fruit juice box.

Looking for more food tips to survive the school year? Please feel free to reach out with more questions toValerie@marysgonecrackers.com.

In Good Health,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Make your BBQ Healthy This Summer!

Isn’t summer the most tempting season to indulge in barbecue fare?! Don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Here are some healthy BBQ tips for you and your family!

1. Bring your own healthy, delicious dish to a barbecue gathering. If you’re gluten intolerant, you’ll be guaranteed a safe gluten free dish to eat and will be saved from the calories of other unhealthy options.

2. Say “no thank you” to potato salad! Potato salad is the most common culprit for food borne illness at summer gatherings. The ingredients commonly used in potato salad are extremely susceptible to bacterial growth, especially when left out for countless hours. Saying no to potato salad is a win-win!

3. Skip the ribs and hamburgers! There are still plenty of healthy options to grill. Try turkey burgers, chicken breasts, fish and grilled vegetable kabobs (my favorite!) with zucchini, mushrooms, squash, bell pepper and onions.

4. Be conscious of the sauces you are adding. Sauces are generally laden with calories and sugar, not to mention unnecessary ingredients and preservatives! Instead, try olive oil and fresh herbs for marinades.

I wish you all a wonderful summer! Need recipe ideas or other nutrition advice? Please e-mail me at Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com.

Best,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Keep It Fresh with Fruits & Vegetables!

Since it’s the beginning of summer, I wanted to highlight one of the best parts of summer — eating fresh fruits and vegetables! Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and full of essential vitamins and minerals, which make them the perfect summer snack. It’s easy to substitute something on your plate for a green salad or a side of fruit. For example, a medium apple has about 4 grams of fiber and a diet that is high in fiber will help you stay satisfied longer.

ChooseMyPlate.gov, a great site for all things nutrition, recommends half of our plates should be full of delicious fruits and vegetables for each meal. Choosing a variety of colors of fruits and veggies is a great way to make sure you are eating a variety of vitamins and minerals. Here’s a guide to show you how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables on a small budget: Fruits and Veggies Matter.

Nutritional fruit power houses are coconut, berries and avocado. The best vegetables to consume are leafy greens (kale, broccoli and spinach), tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Folic acid, vital for a healthy pregnancy, is abundant in leafy, green vegetables. Summer farmer’s markets in your area should be abundant with delicious berries, beans, squash, plums and plenty of leafy greens. I definitely splurged at Downtown Chico Farmer’s Market last week!

Since most fruits and vegetables don’t have a very long shelf life, be sure to frequently buy small amounts. And of course, remember to choose organic whenever possible!

Yours in Health,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Healthy Sugar Options

After spending last week in Chicago at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, I realized that healthy snack options in today’s conventional supermarkets are at an all-time low. As a nation we are obsessed with sugar! After seeing all the new sugar-laden products coming to market I have a new understanding as to why our nation’s diabetes and obesity epidemics are still on the rise.

While in Chicago, I read an article in USA Today that estimates obesity could affect 42 percent of Americans by 2030. To be classified as obese, an individual must have a body mass index (BMI) above 30; average BMI for someone in the normal weight range is 18.5-24.9. Calculating your body mass index is simple: multiply your weight in pounds x 703 and divide that number by your height in inches squared. You can find several websites online that will do this calculation for you, such as the National Institutes of Health.

So, is sugar the only cause of the obesity epidemic? No, but it does play a vital role in weight management and overall health. Sugar is in virtually everything found on grocery store shelves, and it’s incredible difficult for most of us to know which types are best for us. With new options like Stevia and Agave, it is easy to be confused about what is healthy and what is not. I personally do not recommend artificial sugars including sucralose and aspartame, which can be found in sugar packets that are pink, blue and yellow. These sugar substitutes have been scientifically altered to be calorie free and do not break down in the human body. For more information on artificial sugars, here’s a great article from the Mayo Clinic. The sugars I recommend are raw honey, pure maple syrup and coconut palm, of course in moderation!

Mary’s Gone Crackers uses organic coconut palm sugar in its line of love Cookies. Not only is coconut palm sugar full of vitamins and minerals, it is also the single most sustainable sweetener in the world! For more information on coconut palm sugar and all of our ingredients, please visit the Your Products section of our website.

Yours in Health,

Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Celebrating Whole Grains!

Whole grains are nutritional powerhouses, and as a nutritionist I’m always encouraging people to eat more of them. Not only are whole grains naturally low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals, but they are also a great way to add more fiber into your diet. In honor of National Whole Grains Month, I wanted to share a few answers to common questions I often hear about whole grains!

How much whole grain should I be eating?
According to the Whole Grains Council, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that whole grains account for at least half of the grains an adult consumes. That amounts to 3-5 servings of whole grains daily. Children should also eat at least 2-3 servings of whole grains or more.

Is it possible to eat enough whole grains on a gluten free diet?
Yes, there are some fantastic gluten free whole grain options! Quinoa, brown rice, millet, and amaranth are all great sources of gluten free whole grains. All of Mary’s Gone Crackers products are made with whole grains, and our Crackers and Pretzels are certified by the Whole Grains Council. You’ll find that some gluten free grains have more nutrition than other grains that contain gluten. For example, did you know that quinoa is a complete protein? It is also a good source of magnesium, riboflavin and iron, and takes about half as much time to cook compared to rice!

What makes a grain whole?
A whole grain includes three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined flours have lost their germ and bran, which increases the shelf life of products such as white flour. This also decreases the product’s nutritional content, which is why we see many cereals and breads in this country fortified to add lost nutrition back in.

Still curious about whole grains? Please send me your whole grain or general nutrition questions at Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com.

Yours in health!
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Genetically Modified Foods

When was the last time you looked at an ingredients label? Do you ever find yourself wondering what’s really in your food? Today’s food labels are flooded with engineered ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and mono sodium glutamate, making it difficult for consumers to know what their food is really made of. And what about the foods that don’t come with an ingredients label; how do we know anything about them?

Since there are currently no requirements for labeling GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods in this country, most of us don’t realize that we are consuming them on a daily basis. My fear about GMOs is that we will not see the extreme effects until much later in the future and the damage will already be done. A recent republished article in The Huffington Post reported the findings from a study discussing why we should be cautious of genetically engineered foods. The study highlights the potential effects that GMOs have on our entire bodies including our vital organ systems, and showed that genetically modified ingredients caused decreased organ activity in rats. The conclusions were that further research needs to be done to understand how this will affect the population.

The top genetically modified crops consumed in America are soy, corn, canola and beets (for sugar), and the health consequences of GMOs to future generations are currently unknown. Most industrialized countries have banned GMOs but the depressed economy and rising costs of food have Americans choosing less expensive processed foods over options with real nutritional value. Every day consumers are faced with the decision of price vs. quality. Instead, health-conscious consumers should base their decisions upon long-term health effects.

My choice about food is simple, if I don’t have to eat foods created in a lab, I won’t. Crops should be susceptible to failure and the value of your health should be held higher than the price of food. I would love to hear from our readers about why you choose non-GMO. Please feel free to send your comments to Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com.

Mary’s Gone Crackers is fully committed to using only certified organic and non-GMO ingredients and always will be.

Yours in health,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers

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Why Vegan?

One of today’s most popular diet trends is becoming vegan. In case you aren’t aware, being vegan means no consumption of animal products. This includes meat, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy products and even honey for some. While this may sound very intriguing, this (like other lifestyle changes) comes with a lot of work. There are many benefits of eating a plant based diet.

While I’m not vegan, I do believe a diet high in plant based foods is healthy. These foods are a great way to give your body the antioxidants and polyphenols it craves. Vegan options for foods rich in antioxidants are carrots, broccoli, kale and citrus. Rich sources of polyphenols can be found in berries, nuts, flax seed and dark chocolate. While researchers aren’t certain of all the benefits of polyphenols, we do know that they have been shown to prevent disease and slow down the aging process. Another advantage of eating a wholesome diet high in plant based foods is that filling up on low-fat, antioxidant rich foods prevents us from filling up on highly processed, high fat foods. Remember, lowering the portion of animal foods and increasing plant based foods in your diet is a great direction to go! The vegan diet is much lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber compared to other traditional diets. For more information on advantages, please visit http://www.vegan.org/.

People on a vegan diet have to be aware of potential vitamin deficiencies, the most common being B-12. B-12 is most abundant in animal based foods like red meat and eggs. To get enough B-12 from plants can be very challenging and vegans and vegetarians often take supplements to be sure to get enough. Other common deficiencies are iron, zinc, omega 3’s and calcium. Mary’s Gone Crackers uses ancient grains including chia seeds and flax seeds to provide you with many of these common lacking nutrients. Being vegan requires a high level of consciousness to what you are consuming to make sure you do your best to prevent these deficiencies.

Mary’s Gone Crackers is fortunate to have our very own “Vegan Marketeer”. Since I don’t have any personal experience being vegan, I reached out to him for some insight.

From Golden: “One of my favorite things about Mary is that she made her products Vegan. The wonderful thing about Vegan food (all our products have always been Vegan) is that it does not matter why you choose them, so long as you do.

One person is Vegan because s/he eschews violence in all forms. Hens being caged under cruel conditions to increase egg production; or cows living in factories never walking on grass, given growth hormones and antibiotics. We do not contribute to these forms of violence.

Others choose to conserve natural resources. Animal agriculture consumes vast amounts of land and water and contributes to desertification in areas where trees are cut down to produce more animal products.
Still others are concerned about global warming. Animals, mostly cows, produce incredible amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more harmful than CO2. Transportation and refrigeration of animal products are the third leading cause of CO2 emissions.

And everyone wants to stay healthy. Mary’s Gone Crackers products contain no animal fats or proteins. In addition they are all made with organic whole food. Our goodies are practically a functional food, delivering heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory) in each serving.
Whether you choose Mary’s for ethical, environmental, personal health or social justice reasons, you are right and you are choosing Vegan.

We support your good choices and encourage you to eat Vegan by eating Mary’s Gone Crackers, crackers, cookies and pretzels. Go Vegan! Go Mary’s!”

This month’s newsletter highlights why all Mary’s Gone Crackers products are vegan. For additional information on why we’re committed to being a vegan company, be sure to sign up!

Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers
valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

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A New Year, A Healthier You!

The beginning of a new year is a great time to remind ourselves what our bodies need to be healthy and happy. Trying to come up with some New Year’s resolutions? Mary’s Gone Crackers is here to help! Here are some resolutions from our team members.

Marjorie, Acting Marketing Director, will be celebrating her one year anniversary as a non-smoker. Her New Year’s resolution for 2012 will be to embrace a new eating lifestyle with portion control and less red meat. Also, she will be incorporating exercise into her daily life.

Marjorie, I would like to congratulate you on being one year smoke free. You’ve probably added many extra years onto your life. I would recommend starting slow with physical activity. Building muscle takes time and when it’s done too quickly your body will let you know. Understanding that seeing results takes time will cause you to become less frustrated in the next few months.

Laura, Sales Support Tech, would like to lose 30 pounds.

Laura, I would recommend incorporating moderate exercise in your daily routine. I’d also recommend being conscious of the things you are eating and how they make you feel. Generally the foods that make you feel sluggish are the foods that contribute to extra pounds. Developing a healthy relationship with food is the key to a long, happy life.

Liz, Confidential Executive Assistant, would like to lose weight and spend more time playing with her dogs.

Liz, your resolutions go hand in hand, what a better way to lose weight than to spend time exercising with your dogs?

Serena, Bookkeeper, wants to become more conscious of what foods she’s eating and the nutrients her body needs.

Serena, understanding what your body needs, is a lifelong journey. Keeping a food diary is a great way to show yourself what you eat on a daily basis. It’s easy to forget that you may have been indulging in more sweets lately or that your busy schedule is causing you to be less prepared for lunch, hence eating out more. Also, a great way to be more conscious of what you are eating is to read nutrition facts. It is sometimes the foods that are labeled as healthy are actually higher in calories and fat than other brands.

My resolutions are to drink less coffee and more tea, incorporate more Omega 3’s into my diet and to exercise on a regular basis.

To incorporate more Omega 3’s I would like to have fish at least once a week. Since I am very picky about where my fish comes from, I think a fishing trip is in order! If it is in my freezer and available, I will definitely eat more.

Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Best,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

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Any tips for enjoying the holidays without regrets?

Hi Lori, Can you believe it’s December already! Something I’ve always emphasized is moderation. The holidays are the easiest time of the year to overindulge. This year, feel free to enjoy the foods you love, just in smaller quantities. You will feel just as satisfied, minus all the guilt. I would also recommend to start meals with salads and vegetables. This will make it easier to eat other foods in moderation. Attending a holiday party? Try bringing a platter of our vegan, organic crackers along with some homemade guacamole or hummus. In honor of the upcoming holidays, here’s a healthy gluten free recipe to share with others.

Mary’s Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Apples
5 Organic Granny Smith apples (should be very crisp and tart)
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 small lemon (juice from)

Topping
½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup walnuts or almonds (chopped well)
½ cup Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Crumbs
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ cup* melted butter (or substitute with ghee, coconut oil or other light tasting oil)
*enough fat to ensure all topping ingredients are coated but crumbly enough to sprinkle on top of the apples.

Preparation
1. Peel, core and slice apples.
2. Put apples, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice in a large bowl, mix well and pour into an ungreased baking dish.
3. Shake the pan to distribute the apples well.
4. Combine all topping ingredients and mix well.
5. Evenly distribute the topping on the apples and pat down.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until apples are tender and bubbly. If topping begins to brown too much, turn the heat down to 325 and cover with foil.

Best,
Valerie Douglass, DTR
Mary’s Gone Crackers, Inc.
valerie@marysgonecrackers.com

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