It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I lost my brother-in-law, Craig. Craig actually hadn’t married my sister yet, but they were engaged to be married and we’d spent enough time with him to be “family” to me. Craig was one of these guys you immediately liked. He had a hearty laugh, a whip-smart sense of humor and knew his way around the kitchen. He got his greatest joy from cooking, eating, traveling and talking about food and beer, which makes the type of cancer he had all the more cruel.
Craig was diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 intestinal cancer in the winter of 2016. He never told us what stage he had, but I knew it was bad when he told me he would do the chemo, knowing it was palliative only. For a while, you’d never know he was sick. While I didn’t see him daily (he lived in Youngstown with my sister), he’d email or FB message me about his treatments. I felt a special bond to him at this time since he trusted me with medical and nutritional questions given my previous employment in critical care. He told me when he’d felt tired or lacked energy, but he never lost his hair and didn’t start losing weight for several months.
He spent the last 6 months of his life like anyone dying should. He and my sister traveled where they could, visited his sons in Chicago and Pittsburgh and came down to see my family over the 4th of July holiday. It was then when I realized how sick he was. He’d lost a LOT of weight and was unable to eat much of anything. I wanted so badly to show him one last taste of Cincinnati- Findlay Market, Terry’s Turf Club, Madtree Brewing- and we did all of it. He was such a good sport, despite not being able to eat and drink as much as he’d used to. I’m so grateful for that last visit with him.
Craig eventually needed to go on IV nutrition because the cancer had grown too much, he’d lost a lot of weight and his digestion was severely affected. He and my sister relied on me for information as I used to advise doctors on how to order IV nutrition when I worked in a hospital. I knew he was really malnourished and that his gut function would likely not come back. I last saw him on Sunday, October 1. He was weak, nauseous and exhausted. Sadly, he committed suicide October 2. I look back and wonder what I could have done to help him. Could I have suggested Hospice sooner? Could we have talked about his pain control more? It’s heart breaking to know this is how his life ended and that my sister had to find him this way. We are still processing it. Never take family for granted.
So while this post was NOT very diet-related, here are a few tips to protect your gut:
- Get a colonoscopy if you’ve got a family history of cancer or when you turn 50. Yes, the prep is a “pain in the ass”, but having colon cancer is much worse. Pay attention to changes in stool habits- constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.
- Eat more plants. Fiber is really on your side here. Based meals around more vegetables and fruit- especially dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Eat berries, apples, pears and melon for fiber and cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
- Eat whole grains. Research is finding that younger people are developing GI cancers sooner and there is question if it’s related to the “anti-carb” phase that’s so popular. What most people don’t realize is that whole grains are protective against disease. Choose steel cut oats, 100% whole wheat bread, bran cereal and shredded wheat, bulgur, quinoa, barley, brown rice, farro in place of processed grains.
- Limit alcohol. We all love a good beer or glass of wine, but excessive alcohol consumption is linked with several types of cancer. Be moderate- one drink/day (or less) for women and two or less per day for men.
- Limit red meat and avoid processed meats. Consumption of beef, pork, lamb, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, brats and mets are linked with increased risk of colon and other gastrointestinal cancers. Enjoy fish and chicken as well as meat-less protein sources such as beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh or other vegetable-based foods.
- Stay active. Regular exercise may help you lose unwanted pounds, which in turn helps reduce your risk of cancer. Exercise also improves immunity to prevent disease.
You know you’re a nerd when you’re looking forward to standing outside for 5 hours in the heat to sell T shirts. I never thought I’d enjoy giving up a weekend day to do a tent show, but I have drunk the kool-aid. I don’t exactly feel like an “artist” at these shows. I really don’t have artistic talent. Words are my muse. Nonetheless, I get a charge when I meet people that get my humor and buy my food pun shirts.
Part of my reason for selling shirts is to raise money for food insecurity. I am very concerned about those in Cincinnati that go hungry and don’t have access to nutritious foods on a regular basis. I am donating 10% of sales to Produce Perks- a program that helps low income individuals purchase twice as much produce at Farmer’s markets and Healthy Harvest Mobile markets around the city. For more information, check out the link: https://produceperks.org/
If you’re downtown this weekend, come and visit me! I’ll have my new “Happy Guactober” and “This. Is. The. Wurst” available- just in time for Oktoberfest! For more styles, sizes and designs, check out my shop page: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/shop
Some people are really crafty. They can take pipe cleaners and make them into dolls. Or sew pillow cases or paint beautiful pictures. I’m not one of these people. My craft is verbal. Words are my medium. I love games at baby showers where you have to come up with as many words as possible using the future baby’s name. It’s no wonder I started a line of food pun T shirts. With all the wacky fad diets out there, I honestly want people to take food a wee bit less seriously. My Ts are meant to start a conversation. Whether that is about food or life, it doesn’t matter. I just want people to smile when they see them.
I am lucky to be married to one of those crafty people. My husband Ryan bakes bread, paints pictures and has a talent for graphic design to boot. Near Valentine’s Day, I asked him for an “Olive you” T design and he made it. https://soundbitesnutrition.com/product/unisex-jersey-short-sleeve-tee-3/
I’ve been racking my brain for a pun with avocados. With fall and Halloween around the corner, we made “Happy Guactober”. The shirt just makes me giggle when I see it! I made it long sleeved, but am able to order short-sleeved shirts if desired through print on demand. This design is not yet available on my web site.
Now through Aug 31, I’ll be taking pre-orders for Happy Guactober Ts. Once I have at least 10 orders, the shirts will be printed and ready for distribution by mid September. They are locally printed at DIY in Walnut Hills at Essex Studios. If interested, please email me your size and send payment via https://www.paypal.com to firstname.lastname@example.org for $30. There’s lots more styles, sizes and colors on my shop page: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/shop
I recently returned from a lovely vacation to Denver with my family. This was a first for all of us and we were pretty psyched to go west. Every year we travel with my in-laws. While most people might cringe at the thought, I’m lucky to have a loving and versatile set of in-laws that understand my desire to avoid chain restaurants as much as possible.
Almost every year, we’ve done a beach vacation and we tend to be in the vacation house a lot of the time. This year was the exception. We had no pool or beach to hang out at, so we ate out daily, sometimes twice a day. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan our food very well. We bought our usual amount of hummus, blocks of cheese, cartons of yogurt, fruit, crackers, etc. And along the way, a cherry pie, fudge, granola bars and nuts for hikes, etc. By the end of the week, we had WAY too much food and had to eat or toss a lot of the perishable stuff. We overate to get rid of some of it, but it killed me to throw out perfectly good milk, cheese and leftovers. Here’s 10 mistakes we made this year and tips to avoid them:
- Don’t shop hungry. The rule applies at home as well as on vacation. You’ll be more likely to pick up impulse items like key lime pie.
- Plan at least one meal for home (i.e. breakfast). No need to pick up multiple boxes of cereal or loaves of bread. Consider how many people are in your trip and how much you’ll actually eat.
- Buy non-perishable, healthy snacks. Nuts, dried fruit or low sugar bars (such as *KIND bars) can travel with you in the car or plane without a mess.
- Indulge in small servings of local food. No need for a large jar of local jam or whole peach pie. You’ll either eat too much or end up tossing it like we did.
- Split meals when dining out. Portions at restaurants tend to be big and while you can take leftovers home, who really eats the leftover burrito or pasta?
- Buy less booze. You can always go back to the store for another bottle of Malbec, but you can’t take it on the plane with you.
- Reel your kids in. My daughters will order multiple side dishes just to “try the food”. We ended up with half-eaten salads, pasta and other dishes. Just because you can order more doesn’t mean you should.
- Don’t over-snack your kids. It’s easy to keep kids quiet on long car rides by overloading them with snacks. When it’s time to stop for a meal, they may be less hungry. My girls ordered food but ate very little.
- Order water at meals instead of soda. It may be a treat for your kids to get soda, but they fill up on sugar and don’t eat as much of their meals.
- Enjoy small servings. My dad used to say, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”. A child’s size ice cream cone is fine, even for adults. Don’t get swayed by ordering more than you’ll eat. Better to return home lighter in your clothes than your wallet.
* Brand rep for KIND snacks, #client #sponsored #samples
I believe it was last summer when I was in Old Navy checking out T shirts. I have always loved T shirts- but not just any T shirts. I’ll only buy a concert T shirt if the look AND feel is cool. I have to like the design and feel good when I wear it. Like most women, I don’t like boxy, ill-fitting or scratchy shirts. I want something soft and stylish that also starts a conversation. If you haven’t already figured this out, I have a silly personality and like to make people laugh.
Back to Old Navy. They have some cute stuff, but what I saw on that late summer day was a shirt that said, “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” with images of a doughnut, a taco and slice of pizza. While this is cute, as a nutrition professional, I can’t really wear this without getting the old sideways glance. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the above foods in moderation, but I wanted some FOOD in my food T shirts.
Fast forward a month or so. I start thinking of all the food puns I’d thought up over the years and all the fun food shirts I’d seen while on vacation, at farmer’s markets or food trade shows. I thought to myself, “why can’t I make my own”? And so, I did.
I had met a guy named Chris Glass through People’s Liberty. Chris is a designer and photographer with his own line of T shirts called Wire and Twine https://wireandtwine.com/. His designs are simple, eye-catching and whimsical- just my speed. We met over coffee and I asked him what he thought of my ideas. At the time, I had a handful and he helped me narrow down the top 3 he thought “had legs” as he likes to say. Chris put together some ideas and voila- Peas Romaine Seeded, This. Is. The. Wurst and Praise Cheeses were born. We decided that unisex would be a good way to start without having to invest too much money. The brand I chose is 90% cotton and very soft.
Chris put me in touch with a few local printers but I’d hear the best things about Aaron Kent at DIY. http://diyprintingshop.com/index.html I can’t describe Aaron any other way than to say he’s a character. He is a daredevil when it comes to sports and has a soft spot for the community, humanity and his 3-legged dog, Stealer (the healer). Aaron has been printing my Ts in his shop in Essex Place (Walnut Hills) since the beginning. I always enjoy our quirky conversations.
Now comes the hard part. I have to sell a fair number of shirts to break even. I made a “test batch” of Peas Romaine Seeded and gave them to 30 friends, family and foodies that get me and would enjoy the Ts. From there, I set up a pre-sale and sold 60 or so around Christmas. In addition, I connected with a friend that worked with the Dairy Council and pitched her a T shirt idea and “Eat, drink and be dairy” emerged. The Dairy Council has purchased at least 50 of them! I have donated a fair number of shirts to school, church and other raffles. To me, it’s a kick just to see people read them and smile.
I literally went door to door to several Cincinnati gift shops and small markets to ask if stores would carry them. I was lucky that a few people at the Epicurean Mercantile at Findlay http://emcotr.com/ liked them as well as Clifton Market https://cliftonmarket.com/. I also have a handful of shirts at Kennedy Heights Arts Center. The shirts are “on consignment”, which means, if they sell, the store takes about 20% of the sale. If not, they are under no obligation to buy them.Typically when items are sold wholesale, the store buys them at 50% of the retail price.
Flash forward a few more months. I am struggling to keep some inventory at home for when I get a random order (about once or twice per month) and wanted to offer more ladies cut T shirts. I was also trying to figure out how to keep some shirts at stores and fulfill online orders. So I learned about POD (print on demand) from my web designer. I played around with a few and decided on printify.com.
So if you’re looking for a T shirt, tote bag or mug for yourself or a friend, check out my online shop! It is a labor of love and I hope the items bring a smile to your face. https://soundbitesnutrition.com/shop
Now that my daughters (12 and 14) are old enough to realize that I counsel people about their food choices, I worry at times about what message they’re receiving about their own. What they hear from others is likely not the same as what I teach. Do they think carbs or dairy are “bad”? Are they avoiding potatoes and rice? They are fragile butterflies just emerging from the cocoon into a society that shames them for eating and God forbid, enjoying food. I’m trying to change that message.
In our house, no food is off-limits. While we may have bribed our girls with jelly beans during the potty training years, for the most part, we try not to reward the girls with food OR demonize food. Sure we encourage fruits and vegetables, but we also have our share of foods that other people might see as processed or less than healthy. Let’s face it- ALL food is processed in some way whether it’s milk, fruit or frozen vegetables. Our processed foods include things like boxed cereal, whole wheat crackers and yogurt. It’s not like we’re living on Little Debbie Cakes here, but we may have Oreos on occasion.
My husband recently became a fitness fanatic, but has never stressed that our girls need to work out. Obviously, we love when they participate in team sports, but they get a daily workout when walking the halls at school and to & from their bus stops. They go on walks with me when time allows, but we are not members of a fancy gym. Having rheumatoid arthritis and pre-diabetes, my girls recognize that I need to move to stay healthy. I wan them to see physical activity as a way to be healthy, not necessarily “skinny”.
We try to handle snacks like any other food. Are you hungry? Please eat something! If you’re eating because you’re bored, go find something to do. My girls know that we’re lucky to have a full pantry and options of things to eat at any time. But they recognize that food insecurity and food waste are real. They are developing a healthy respect for food. Take the food that you want to eat, but don’t overload your plate. They know I cringe when they throw away uneaten food!
Finally, we don’t use the D word (diet) or F word (fat) in our house. Being peri-menopausal is no picnic. I feel a little thicker than usual, but they don’t need to hear that. No one wants to hear “I’m on a diet”. I stress how lucky we are to be healthy, how nutritious food helps them grow and be strong But if we bake cookies or bread, we eat it. FOOD IS FOR EATING is often said in our house when someone has eaten the last apple or cup of yogurt or sometimes the cookie.
Bottom line- use neutral language about food. Use kind words about your bodies. Teach your kids that food is for health, but also enjoyment. Little ears are listening.