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“What The Heck Is Beet Sugar” & “Why Is Corn In Everything”?

Guest post by Kelly CavanaughScreen Shot 2013-12-30 at 9.09.23 PM

There are two compliments I can receive as a high school teacher that tells me I am doing something right.  The first can come from a parent or other family member of one of my students, “my child has told me all about the things we are doing wrong at our house”.  Normally, this comes in the form of a half-joking, half-serious comment.  Although I have provided their child with one more thing to complain about (and being a former high school student myself, there is a lot of complaining), I have also somehow managed to get their child to speak to them AT ALL about what is happening in their life.

The second comes from any student.  High school students are inundated by violent movies and video games, R-rated movies, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube, drama among best friends and boyfriends and the current events of the world.  It is practically impossible to shock them.  So when one of them says, “Is that true?!” or “Are you serious?!”, I know I’m on to something.

This year, the week before Christmas break, we spent time in my AP Environmental Science course researching where our food comes from.  I had my students make a list of 20 foods they (or their family) ate over the course of a couple of days, and asked them to bring the list in.

Day 1: We spent the day searching for which company produces the products they eat.  Not just the company, but the parent company that owns them.  Turns out, most of our food comes from 10-15 major companies. PepsiCo being the biggest.  PepsiCo owns smaller companies such as Quaker, Dole and Frito-Lay.  Day 1 there was a good deal of shock and awe in the room.  I am continually amazed that my 130 highly educated, very bright AP students do not know some of the common happenings of the world.

Day 2: Today, we checked out ingredients.  I gave the students a list of various names for corn, soy and wheat, and had them compare these lists to the ingredients in their products.  They also had to check to see if the products contain beet sugar or canola oil.  85-90% of corn, soy, wheat, beet sugar and canola oil are genetically modified.  While you can’t be sure which products have GMO ingredients, if it’s not organic, you have an 85% chance there are GMOs in it. (Insert more shock and awe here)  The two most common comments in Day 2: What the heck is beet sugar?! and Why is there corn in everything?!  Very good questions.

Day 3: By Day 3, the students are starting to catch on to the point of all this.  I only had them research 10 foods for Day 1 and 2.  What should have taken us roughly 45 minutes in total, is now pushing into Day 3.  They are infuriated at how difficult it is to find this information.  These are tech-savvy teenagers, and yet the information is elusive.  Today’s best comments include things like, “why does this website give me Facebook, Twitter and 35 Pinterest links, but no ingredients?!” and “This is impossible!”  My favorite, though was, “so, is the point of this to show us that everything comes from the same 5 places and same 5 ingredients and that none of this should be difficult to find?”.  Day 3 was a success.

Day 4: By day 4, I’d heard from a few parents via email, or running into them in the grocery store.  Continued reinforcement that the kids were paying attention.  Today, I had them look up five videos on Factory Farms.  Again, most of them don’t know where there food comes from, except in very general terms.  So this was eye-opening (if you don’t believe me, YouTube Factory Farms or “from Farm to Fridge” – pretty sure farm videos shouldn’t come with an explicit content warning).  By now, the comments had evolved into, “I’m never eating again” – always a classic.  Yet, what I continue to see happens…the shock wears off after a few days, and it becomes easy to go back to the usual food.  I encourage small changes to maintain awareness.

Day 5: Time to bring it all together.  I had students research non-GMO or organic alternatives to the foods on their list.  Once they found them, they had to view images of the packaging of both their product and the alternative, and choose which one they would prefer to eat based on packaging alone.  The students finally saw what I have been complaining about – it’s all marketing and packaging.  The websites that have fun activities, but no ingredients are listed.  The companies that are against GMO labeling.  I’m hopeful that at least a few will come back in January and tell me about their food-related conversations with their families over the holidays, and perhaps a few small changes along the way.





MEGAN MONDAY: Here’s To a HAPPY and HEALTHY Holiday Season – It Starts with Yourself

christmas guyMegan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.

No matter which holiday you may celebrate, this time of year tends to evoke a sense of stress and imbalance for many – especially for parents who are trying to establish and/or maintain healthy habits.  Whether it be the plethora of celebrations at work and school to the parties and social gatherings many families partake in for over a month, there are many opportunities for sleep to be lost, stress to mount, and dietary habits to go out the window.  All the while, you have messages bombarding you of what to eat, how to handle 3,876 tasks all at once, how much sleep you need to get especially during the holidays, etc. – this alone can send you into a tizzy.  What usually winds up happening is frustrations run high, tempers may fall short, and proverbially speaking, the wheels feel like they come off the bus more days than not.  We run out of time to prepare healthy meals, we feel guilty about it, our kids are ramped up on the treats that are dispersed day-in-and-out, and it feels like a never-ending hamster wheel of hurriedness.  So, what to do?

Foremost, when working with clients during this time of year especially, I think it’s really important to stop and take note of what special things the “holidays” mean to you – think back to when you were a kid and reflect on all of the traditions and joys that made you happy.  Next, be real with yourself.  I know with all of my posts I probably come across as some health fanatic who walks around with a whip to crack at every health-faux-pas I see…which is far from the truth.  We are all human and function in a capacity where we can do what we can with what we have.  While I am sure many of you aim to make the BEST choices everyday (don’t we all!??), we have to set our expectations within reasonable goals AND not beat ourselves up over every little thing.  I see so often parents walk around with this guilt that they are failing their kids if they didn’t have the carrot sticks ready for lunch or if mom was a bit grumpy for a few hours due to all of the added stress at this time of year.  Carrying around this self-defeat and harshness towards ourselves just perpetuates the cycle of running ourselves rampant.  In the field of health coaching, there is a concept called Primary Foods – and these are not the foods that we tangibly ingest to feed ourselves.  Rather, these are the self-care components of life that we often neglect to give to ourselves on a daily basis, or occasionally, at that.  Many times, we get wrapped up in taking care of everyone and everything else….but ourselves.

When we get stressed and/or lack sleep, our bodies release cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone and this triggers and onslaught of unfavorable responses in the body – mood swings, fat storage, and cravings for sweets and “comfort foods.”  The thought of carving out MORE time for ourselves during this already hectic time of year seems improbable for many – but it’s not impossible.  I always try to show clients the “cost benefit” of taking an extra few minutes out of the day to take a bath, meditate, go for a walk, sit with your kids, read a book, etc. – while we are so busy to get everything else done, we don’t realize that we are becoming exceedingly unproductive by “multi-tasking” – too many things going on at once over-saturates our brains and our thought-processes go out the window, including our stress levels and cortisol levels in our bodies.  Not to mention we are setting this example for our children; observed behaviors are learned behaviors, and that includes the behaviors that are the aftermath of taking on too much during this busy time of year.

So how do we make this time of year truly enjoyable and “reset” our ways to where we restore love and appreciation back to ourselves so we can have as happy and healthy of a holiday time as possible?  Here are some tips and suggestions:

  1. Be kind to yourself. As simple as this sounds, a majority of us do not practice this.  Turn that chatter-off in your head of what you constantly still need to do; rather, focus on what you have already done and appreciate your efforts.  Know there will always be something to do – but you can’t do it all.
  2. Really go out of your way to give affection to your family and friends.  At times, we carry so much on our minds that we may just “zone out” and not even realize who is around us at times.  Give a random hug to those around you when you see them – everyone loves a hug and studies show that a majority of food cravings for sweets and comfort foods stem from the fact that individuals are lacking compassion and/or human touch.  It’s amazing what a hug can do.  Maybe even set aside a few minutes to do a family back massage chain – sit in a line and take turns rubbing each other’s necks, shoulders, and backs.
  3. Practice self-care.  Call it being selfish – whatever works for you, but self-care is a necessity.  Try something new for yourself each day – even if it’s for a few minutes.  Step aside and maybe take turns at home carrying responsibilities so each of you can take a moment for self-care.  Put your feet up; crack open a book; read a story to your kids; take a quick shower or bath; make yourself a healthy smoothie or call a friend you have not spoken to in awhile.  Just think of something each day that you can do to make yourself feel better.
  4. Damage-control your house.  What I mean by this is set yourself up for success rather than failure in terms of the amount of treats and goodies that can find their way into your home.  While it’s tradition for so many people to have treats at this time of year, which is totally fine, perhaps try and limit how much is around.  Let’s face it – when you’re tired, cranky, in a bad mood, and stressed, you’re more apt to grab what’s going to make you feel good and taste great – which is human nature.  Stock up on fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks to have on hand to curb the urge to grab “indulgent” treats.  Maybe have some healthy alternatives on hand and/or grab some healthy proteins instead like almonds or other nuts; different smoothies with spices and nut milks complement this time of year well; try some herbal tea to relax.
  5. It’s ok to not be perfect.  I mean this.  What does “perfect” even mean, anyway?  I personally don’t think it exists, so why strive for it when it mainly leads to stressing yourself out and making yourself feel like you’re coming up short?  Teach your children that it’s OK to make mistakes – learn from them and grow as a person.  I hear so many times from parents that they “did something wrong” and they feel like failures as parents, especially when it comes to their children’s eating and health.  Many times, parents don’t stop to first focus on what they are doing well and emphasize the healthy habits they are instilling in their children.
  6. This is a perfect time of year to focus on gratitude exercises.  Reflecting on the things you are already grateful for in your life serve as the best gifts of all, for they cannot be purchased in a store.  So many times, material objects hold so much value and importance in people’s lives and they don’t even realize it.  Try and move away from that and focus on what would still exist and be with you if you lost all material possessions.  Doing this with your family will help build a perspective that will leave you all feeling thankful for what you have.
  7. When you feel yourself really getting stressed over something, do the breath test.  Shut your eyes if you can, take a deep breath, and count to ten.  Try and remove the focus on what is making you stressed/mad, etc.  Heck, even start by just counting to three.  Pausing and forcing yourself to interrupt the thought process that focuses on what’s making you upset will help to disengage your bodily response.  Think if what you’re upset about is really worth it and serving you in the best manner.

While this list just touches upon the surface of some things you can do to try and take a step back from the instances that can take a Happy Holiday season and turn it into a harrowing one, my intent was just to give you some pointers and encouragement to know that you’re not alone and you deserve more than what you’re probably currently affording yourself.  Being able to engage in these activities will not only help you, but it will help your family, children, and friends, for when we’re our best, that reflects upon those around us (especially those who look up to us!).

I wish you all an incredibly Happy Holiday in whatever celebration you may be engaging in.  This is a time to embrace the best in all of us to propel us into a healthy and prosperous new year.

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:

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10 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Christmas Morning Breakfast Picks

christmas breakfastChristmas morning is many things. Most of them are wonderful.  But when you’re the parent of a small child, it usually means waking up at an hour that even a parent of a small child can’t comprehend.  Between the photos and giggles around the tree, the strands of ribbon and trails of wrapping paper someone will eventually shout “I’m hungry!”  (Just as you reach for another cup of coffee)  Fear not!  We’ve got you covered.  Below is a list of 10 of our favorite, kid-approved Christmas morning breakfast picks.  Healthy, delicious, easy and seasonal.  They won’t take up too much energy and will help power you up to enjoy the rest of the day together.  Hopefully, in your pajamas!

1. Banana Pear Muffins

banana pear muffins

2. Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes

sweet potato pancakes

3. Quinoa Veggie Mozzarella Frittata


4. Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter and Homemade Whole Wheat Bread – impress your family and yourself with your amazing culinary skills.  Then enjoy every bite of this delicious combination.

maple cinnamon almond butter sarah

5. Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast – This delicious dish with fill the entire house with yummy smells, inviting everyone into the kitchen.

6. Apple Stuffed Strata – prep this ahead of time for a really easy morning!


7. Sweet Breakfast Quinoa – Packed with protein and flavor, this easy dish with give everyone energy when they would otherwise collapse into the post wrapping paper haze.


8. Slow Cooker French Toast – No, that’s not a typo.  Click on the recipe and thank me later.


9. Christmas Tree Fruit Platter – Even if a “fancy” breakfast doesn’t come together for you, set out this fun tray of fruit and watch it disappear.

christmas tree fruit

10. Quick, power-up, breakfast-on-the-go ideas – headed out the door to Grandma’s house?  Throw one of these together for all-day Christmas cheer!

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Enter to win a FREE Health Coaching Session!

empower nutritionA message from Megan Kalocinski (of MEGAN MONDAY’S!)

In honor of the holiday giving season and my love to spread health and nutrition awareness to as many people as possible, I am raffling off an initial health coaching session to three lucky MySuperFoods fans.

What participants need to do is visit my website: and enter their contact info ONCE at the bottom of the page (opt-in) through 11:59pm EST on FRIDAY, December 20th.

Those who enter must submit their info through this form on my website to be eligible, not through MySuperFoods.

Three lucky winners will receive a private 60-minute initial health consultation with me via phone or Skype where we will highlight any health/nutrition concerns they have for themselves and/or family and possible solutions and suggestions will be discussed in addition to receiving a 50% discount on coaching additional coaching services.

Winners will be chosen at random and announced on Saturday, December 21st; winners must utilize their private coaching session with me by February 12th, 2014 and appointments are subject to availability.


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Healthy Holiday Swap-Out: How to Give Your Seasonal Treats a Boost

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.

gingerbread manThe holidays are that time of year where everyone loves to indulge in delicious foods and desserts….just in time before setting a resolution to get healthy again for the new year. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could still enjoy the foods and treats you love during the holidays and not feel like you need to dedicate the next year to working it off? Namely, many of the foods I am referring to are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats (which of course are what make everything taste incredible). However, Katie and I have unearthed some top-notch healthier alternatives that we think will leave your taste buds longing for more…. Of the less-junk-food-y version! I swapped out some of the most popular treats we tend to gravitate towards this time of year; I was pleasantly surprised to see how delicious these different options have been.
First up, eggnog (I think I mentioned this before, but I have been an addict since I can remember). While my memories of this delectable drink are more of an ingredient list consisting of spices, cream, eggs, milk, and sugar (believe me, I memorized the ingredient list as a kid so I could try and make my own when my mom wasn’t looking)….taking a look at the ingredient list now is quite a different story. For starters, eggnog in general is not healthy due to the fat and sugar content, but what’s added to eggnog now is so sad. Even the organic brands leave me disappointed (there is ONE brand that I can recommend that doesn’t put garbage in their nog: Organic Valley Dairy; the other organic brands I have seen put carrageenan in their recipe!). Forget conventional eggnog – it’s full of artificial flavorings, color, carrageenan, and other “stabilizers.” Pretty much, it’s a science experiment. So, I would suggest sticking to Organic Valley or some other organic brand that could be more local to you that clearly states on the ingredient list that nothing artificial is added. Please note that the serving size is ½ cup and in that ½ cup (who really drinks a ½ cup!??!) is about 8-10 grams of fat and about 16 g of sugar, so again…this is not a healthy treat (but if you’re going to drink eggnog and not make your own, I’d recommend going as “clean” as possible). OR, you could check out this neat alternative recipe that puts a delicious twist on my fave drink AND adds some nutrition…while sparing the bad fats and lots of sugar! VEGAN EGGNOG (Courtesy of TheChalkboard)
makes 7-8 cups
1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hours or more
2 cups filtered water
1 400 ml can of coconut milk (organic + non-BPA-exposed is preferable)
5-6 medjool dates, pitted
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg + extra for serving
Strain the cashews and place them in a blender with the 2 cups of water. Blend on high until a smooth and creamy milk forms, about one minute.
Add the coconut milk, pitted dates, vanilla bean seeds, sea salt, and nutmeg to the cashew milk. Blend the mixture on high again until you have a smooth, homogenous mixture. Transfer the nog to a serving vessel or jar and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. I like it slightly cooler than room temperature. Once you pour the nog out into serving glasses, top it with a bit of extra grated nutmeg.
Note: If you’re making this ahead of time, it’s great to shake it up in a jar or re-blend it right before you serve it to achieve that frothy quality of traditional nog.

Next up….(and again, I have mentioned this recently in a recent post, artificially-colored sprinkles, dyes, etc. in holiday cookies, cakes, and candies. While they make everything look oh-so-festive, chances are, the dyes used are NOT natural, which means eating just one bite could mean a sensitivity reaction that you may not be aware of, especially in children. Synthetic dyes are BANNED pretty much everywhere else other than the U.S., due to their links to cancer, hyperactivity, ADHD, allergic reactions, neurological disturbances, headaches, and behavioral changes (especially in children). I know what you’re thinking: “Crazy Megan, at it again…. That’s not going to stop me from having the best-looking baked goods this holiday. Besides, it’s only one time per year!” Perhaps, but I’d rather eliminate these harsh chemicals from my food intake. Even small “doses” can add up quick, especially in little, developing bodies! Either ditch the color altogether or check out these better alternatives: India Tree makes concentrated natural food-dye drops made from vegetable concentrate and spices; Nourishing Joy has some awesome ways to make natural food dyes yourself. also has some suggestions. Better yet, the has a whole array of natural baking/decorating product list to choose from.

Candy Canes. OK, what would the holidays be without these characteristic staples of peppermint-y goodness? From hanging them from your tree to smashing them atop cookies and candies, how harmful could candy canes really be? Well, once again, if you read the ingredient list, candy canes would soon resemble something that would be used to lure little children in herds by the evil candy witch (ok, a little dramatic of a depiction there, but you get my point). Sadly, my holiday fervor was slightly dampened once I realized I would no longer eat conventional candy canes as a peppermint treat. That is until I found these awesome ORGANIC candy canes (are those three words allowed to be used in the same sentence?!?). Again, while not a HEALTH food (remember, just because something is organic does NOT mean it’s “healthy”…..but for a treat, I’d rather indulge on something that wasn’t created in a chemistry lab and should come with a toxic warning label on it). TruSweets/TruJoySweets has a delicious version that is made with less sugar (organic, too) and no artificial colorings or flavorings. Now you can make your peppermint bark in peace.

Speaking of peppermint bark (oh so tasty!)…..what could be so bad about this? It’s just chocolate and peppermint, right? Yea, not so much. It’s highly-processed, and usually made way in advance of the holidays, so there are tons of preservatives added to it. Not to mention the high doses of trans-fats, sugar, artificial food coloring and flavoring – this is a treat that definitely has a bark to it (and not the kind you want going into your body). So, Leanne Vogel ( created this awesome version that’s dairy-free (can we say allergy friendly!??!):

• 1 cup (8 ounces) semi-sweet dairy-free chocolate (I like to use
• 1 cup (8 ounces) coconut butter (this is different than coconut oil; coconut butter can be found in the same section of the store as coconut oil; it’s creamier and more smooth).
• 3 organic candy canes (I have to put this here, after my rant about the artificially-colored and flavored ones). If you can’t acquire organic candy canes, you can use a few drops of organic peppermint extract (although the bark won’t have much crunch, which is OK for your health’s sake!).

– Boil water in a saucepan; melt chocolate in a separate heatproof bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (this helps prevent it from burning or getting clumpy). Be sure to constantly stir and do not allow the hot water to splash up into your chocolate, as this can ruin it. It should take about 5 minutes to melt.
– Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper draping over both sides.
– Pour the melted chocolate into the parchment-papered-pan and smooth it out as best as possible.
– Put the pan in the freezer for about 2 minutes (or until the chocolate is set and hardened).
– Complete the same melting procedure for the coconut butter as you did with the chocolate and stir to make sure it’s smooth.
– Remove the chocolate in the pan from the freezer and layer the coconut butter over the top of the chocolate.
– Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top of the bark and place it back in the freezer to set for about 1 hour.
– Remove from the freezer, break into several pieces, and serve.

For more of Leanne’s awesome holiday recipes that are very allergy-friendly, check it out here.

Katie found some great recipes, too:
– She and I both are Peppermint Patties fanatics, but have both sadly retreated into avoidance-mode due to the scary ingredients (mostly artificial flavorings, etc.). Here is a recipe to make your own! (Courtesy of
– Fall Pumpkin Spiced Cookies from The Organic Family Cookbook. The “Delicious Gratitude Red Velvet Carrot Cupcakes” and “Chewy Decadent Caramels” (made with whipping cream, pure cane sugar, raw agave, butter and sea salt) sound pretty darn good!

Looking for a tasty nut-butter cookie recipe that doesn’t always have to be peanuts (especially for those peanut-allergy folks out there)? I found this incredible vanilla cashew butter cookie recipe. If you don’t mind the butter, fat, and sugar content of the original recipe, then go for it… I just recommend using all organic ingredients. If you want to scale back a bit on the fat and sugar, make these following changes: use less sugar (i.e. ¼, ½, to ¾ a cup versus the 1 full cup…and maybe add a few drops of stevia if you are concerned about the sweetness) and/or use coconut sugar or brown sugar; to cut down on the butter, use ½ stick instead of a full stick and add more cashew butter OR sub 6 ounces of organic low-fat cream cheese. These cookies are delectable.

Last but not least, hot chocolate (especially the flavored ones). There’s something to be said for cozying up to a warm mug of hot chocolate around the holidays (or all winter long, for that matter). I used to love tearing open a little packet of Swiss Miss or Ghiradelli hot chocolate. Used to is the key phrase here, as with mainly everything else processed, these hot chocolates contain everything BUT real chocolate in many cases. Rather, you’ll see ingredients like artificial flavorings, colors, too much sugar, alkalizing agents (i.e. what makes cocoa “dutch” – this is a topic for another article), preservatives, stabilizers, hydrogenated oils….the list goes on. These are definitely things you do NOT want going into the human body if you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Rather, make your own (and it’s not that hard!).
– In a small saucepan over low heat, use about 2 tablespoons organic cocoa or cacao powder (raw is best, meaning it was not processed or heat-treated, this preserving beneficial antioxidants) mixed in to about 1-1/2 cups of your liquid base of choice (you can use low-fat organic milk, water, water mixed with milk, or nut milks).
– To cut out sugar (this is what I do), add about 3-4 drops of stevia and whisk until heated.
– If you want, you can add a drop of organic peppermint extract.
– Just note that cocoa powder does naturally contain caffeine, so this is something to consider for young children. I personally do not feel children should be getting caffeine, but if hot cocoa is a treat in your house, I’d rather see a healthier version prepared.

While I did not intend to put the Scrooge on your holiday fare festivities, I hope you found these suggestions helpful and even if you implemented just one, that’s saving you a bunch of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients. Plus, it’s fun to try new things and broaden your healthy horizons. I hope your holiday season has been going well so far!

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:


MEGAN MONDAY: Give Your Diet Some Pow With Pomegranates

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.

pomegranateI was shopping for Thanksgiving dinner ingredients when I came across lovely pomegranates and have been hooked on eating them since. With their dark, rich, red color and delectable nutritious seeds, pomegranates seem to fit perfectly with the holiday season décor as well. I figured now would be a great time to highlight these fantastic fruits before they are no longer in season (which will end in several weeks, so get your fill now!). Many of you have probably seen the interesting bubble-like bottles of POM Pomegranate juice in your grocer’s refrigerated juice section. The almost-black in color juice is so rich looking, it screams phytonutrients (although, unfortunately, as with most processed juices, most of the “true” nutrients are broken down or damaged by the time you drink it due to heat [pasteurization], processing, and time spent on the shelf; my advice – make it fresh and save the money and added sugar). You may have also seen these intriguing and bulbous creatures lining the shelves at your local grocery store and not know what they are or what to do with them. I must admit, pomegranates are not the easiest nutritious delicacy to tackle, as they take some time and preparation to remove the seeds, but the effort is exceedingly worth it. A super cool fact about pomegranates is each one contains exactly 840 arils (seeds) – these are seeds surrounded by a sac of succulent juice. It is the arils you want to eat (not the white pith or outer peel).
The best part? Pomegranates are packed with all kinds of vitamins and antioxidants – plus, kids generally love them! My 22-month-old will sit there and shovel handfuls of seeds into his mouth like they were candy (a note of caution – the seeds can be seen as a choking hazard to young children, so you must supervise them when eating and make sure children start off eating just one at a time). Just be careful when cutting, peeling, and finally eating pomegranates – the succulent seeds spray juice easily, which can stain, and is very dark in color. A funny, relevant story my husband shared with me last week was about a co-worker friend of his who has been bringing pomegranates to work to eat at lunch; however, his friend had no idea how to eat them and was eating the rind and spitting the seeds out (and making a huge mess, to boot). When my husband asked me, “How do you actually eat a pomegranate?” and I heard about the fruit travesty that was occurring for several days at his job, after I was finished laughing, I then realized that many people probably don’t know how to eat them, which is why I will attach two handy videos on the easiest ways to do so. Dress-up your holiday food décor and give your daily nutritional intake a make-over with these tasty treats that won’t be around fresh for much longer! Pomegranates are available fresh from October through January and are picked when ripe, so when you see them in stores, they are ready to eat. When selecting a pomegranate, consider that the heavier the fruit is, the juicier it will be and also feel for browning and/or soft spots – these usually indicate that the fruit is rotting in that part (which can be easily cut off if it’s not too large). They also make GREAT additions to holiday recipes (see the collection below).
Health Benefits:
– Pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants (it’s considered the greatest anti-oxidant fruit!), thus leading to disease-fighting powers – three different types of polyphenols (a potent form of antioxidant) can be found in this super fruit. Count on pomegranates to help prevent different types of cancer and fight heart disease by reducing arterial plaque build-up. These phytonutrients also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

– These fruits are high in vitamin C and potassium, which is important for immunity, anti-inflammation, cell growth and repair, and healthy nervous-system function.

– Pomegranates are high in fiber and low in calories.

– The juice of fresh pomegranates contains phytochemical compounds that stimulate serotonin and estrogen receptors, improving symptoms of depression and increasing bone mass in lab animals = skeletal AND mental health boosts!

Storage Suggestions:
– Whole pomegranate fruits can be stored for a month in a cool, dry location.
– You can also refrigerate them for up to two months.
– Frozen pomegranate arils (already peeled and separated from the outer skin) or fresh juice will freeze for around 3-4 months if kept in an air-tight container.
(This is how I personally get the seeds out of a pomegranate):

– Simply add pomegranate arils to any salad for added color and flavor.
– Substitute pomegranate juice for any citrus-based juice (they complement each other well) in recipes or dressings.
– Make a refreshing drink by adding pomegranate arils to sparkling water OR add fresh pomegranate juice to sparkling water for a delicious and nutritious flavor boost.
– Thanks to for these great suggestions:
• Many years ago, Grenadine was made from pomegranates (the dark, red syrup that is used to make “Shirley Temple” drinks for kids). Sadly, bottled versions today are made with artificial flavor and food coloring – no pomegranates at all. To put the pomegranate back into grenadine, make your own at home. It’s easy:
Homemade Grenadine: In a small saucepan, simmer 2 cups of pomegranate juice over medium heat and
cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat and add 1 cup sugar, stirring constantly until
dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Store in a tightly closed jar or container in the refrigerator for up to a
Here are some other great ways to use this syrup:
o Drizzle over pancakes, waffles or french toast
o Stir into plain yogurt, smoothies or oatmeal
o Pour over frozen yogurt, ice cream or pound cake

• Great garnish: Pomegranate arils add a dash of color, flavor and texture to many dishes. Try sprinkling or tossing arils in:
o Guacamole or salsa
o Creamed spinach
o Brown rice, couscous or quinoa

• Pomegranate-infused BBQ Chicken: Put some zip into BBQ sauce by combining a ½ cup of pomegranate juice and ½ cup of BBQ sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Baste the sauce over a chicken while it’s baking or slather over chicken in the final minutes of grilling.

Anti-oxidant smoothie
– Handful of organic baby spinach
– 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (preferably fresh, which would equate to the juice from 1 pomegranate)
– About ¼ cup frozen organic blueberries
– A few frozen organic strawberries
– 1 tablespoon freshly ground flaxseed
– (optional) ¼ avocado
– Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!
Pomegranate Kid Spread
– ½ cup small curd cottage cheese
– 2 Tbsp (or more) pomegranate arils
– If no nut allergy is present, 2 tsp ground pecans or almonds
– Combine all of the ingredients together and you can either spread on whole grain toast or on apple or peach slices.

Some websites with great pomegranate recipes:
What are some of your favorite recipes and/or uses of pomegranates?
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:

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empower nutritionHere is your chance to work with Megan and invest in your family’s health and well-being….at a special 50% off savings rate. What better way to kick-off the holiday season or to get the gift that will keep on giving to yourself or a loved one? Why buy something for someone that is a “material” thing when they can have the gift of health? This special will run this entire week through 11:59 pm PST on Sunday, December 8th. I work locally in-person and distance via Skype and telephone sessions.

Featured 50% off health coaching services:

* 75-minute “FrameWork Session” – This basic one-on-one session will allow me to carefully review and make suggestions based on your health goals and concerns: $75 (normally $150)

* 2-Session Package – This is a great option to get your feet wet into working with a health coach. A 30-minute introductory session, plus 2 60-minute sessions is included where I will cover in-depth any nutrition and/or health concerns & goals you have. I meet you where you are at and guide you towards making sensible and realistic changes that you can handle. We can cover everything from cabinet clean-outs to why you and your children are craving certain foods. Resources are included: $150 (normally $300)

* 4-Session Package – (super savings!) This is the same as the 2-Session Package, but with two additional private coaching sessions. Just think all that you can accomplish and cover! Resources are included: $275 (normally $575)

* “Toxin Tune-Up” – Concerned about what you should/shouldn’t be using from foods to health care products? This in-depth program (available in a group or private format) teaches you everything from what’s lurking in our foods, products, environment, and homes to how it’s affecting your body and what you can do to make sensible changes to protect your family. The program is covered in 4 60-minute sessions, complete with handouts and resources for your reference:

$200 for the private/individual program (normally $400) and $125 for the group program format (normally $250; sessions are conducted on a group conference call with a limit to 6 participants per group, so act fast!)

Please contact Megan directly if you are interested and mention the MySuperFoods special! Act quickly, as available spots fill-up fast.


-phone: 703-795-6277


Check out: for more info about Megan and Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching

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What Would Megan Use? A List of Products and Brands the Health & Nutrition Coach Trusts and Uses, Part II

seal of approval 2Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach.

I was thrilled to see how well the first edition of this article went over and how helpful many of you said that the suggestions were, so I won’t delay in rolling out my suggestions that focus more on foods and supplements that I love to use.  Thank you to those of you who contributed your own suggestions as a follow-up!!  It’s great to hear feedback and what others have found to work, too!!  We all learn from each other.

As noted in my first article, this sampling of things I am recommending to replace or add to your stash is simply by my own use and loving of the products.  I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH ANY OF THESE COMPANIES, SO MY ENDORSEMENTS ARE STRICTLY FROM LOVING THEIR PRODUCT(S):

First things first, I want to begin by reiterating the fact that our society, world, homes, etc. have been INUNDATED with harmful chemicals, so doing whatever we can to safeguard ourselves and loved ones starts in the home  and has the greatest impact over time.  A general rule is to use organic or genuinely all-natural (read the label!!) when you can, as this is the best defense against lots of harmful chemicals, additives, etc.  Just know that not everything is perfect, and even organic products have their flaws (i.e. carrageenan being added to must nut and seed milks, INCLUDING organic!).  The main point is to pick the best quality option that will cut your exposure and risk from harmful ingredients, etc. to a minimum.


–          With the holidays right around the corner, I am sure many of you are baking, making, and storing away.  I mentioned in the last article to use glass for storage and mixing whenever possible, but even things like cellophane, ZipLoc bags, cupcake liners, etc. carry tons of chemicals that LEACH into your food at an alarming rate!  So your healthy recipe that you worked so hard on to make as nutritious as possible will most likely come in contact with terrible things if you use any of the aforementioned products.  Instead of cellophane, try using parchment paper or a cotton dish cloth (even with a rubber band to secure it in place around lids, etc.) to cover food.  Some people even prefer using aluminum foil, which I think is fine, as long as it doesn’t touch the food, as there is a concern over aluminum and our health.  Cellophane is riddled with tons of toxins like hormone disruptors and neurotoxins that leach into your food, even if the cellophane is not directly touching the food. Also, I found these great baggies to use instead of conventional store-bought or ZipLoc brand plastic baggies: Natural Value baggies and similar products that do not use PVC or plasticizers (these are the dangerous things that leach into your food).  And whatever you do – no NOT microwave food with cellophane and/or plastic baggies.  This is just a recipe for chemical disaster, as heat causes the chemicals to be released at an even more alarming rate.  How about those cupcake/muffin paper or aluminum liners?  Try the If You Care brand of baking cup liners that use no chemicals and are eco-conscious.  They also make other products like roasting bags for meat, etc. that replace the chemical-laden -counterparts found in the grocery store that people have been using for years (flashbacks to how many Shake-N-Bake dinners you ate as a kid?!?).  Lastly, try and use pans and tins that are NOT non-stick, as due to the concerns that I mentioned in the part I article about toxins used in the manufacturing process that are released each time you cook or bake.  Reference this article for more info about toxins in our cookware:


–          Don’t buy eggs that come in Styrofoam cartons – the chemicals in the Styrofoam leach into the eggs (their shells are permeable) and then are transferred to you when you eat them.  Buying eggs that come in a cardboard carton is best.


–          Food coloring.  Ah.  What else would we use to make our holiday cookies, cakes, and everything else that requires color?!?  You know my rants about how horrible artificial food dyes are.  Well, food coloring is just a concentrated form of those artificial food dyes, so I highly recommend switching this out with a natural-based food dye brand that is made from spices and dyes from nature.  While these natural food dyes may be a little more pricey, I think the health and well-being of everyone eating anything colored with dye is worth it.  I use India Tree brand and they work great.  Here’s a post that highlights some concerns over food dyes:


–          The same concern goes for food flavorings as food dyes – the artificial ingredients are enough to make one cringe.  These food flavorings may smell and taste great, but they are made with enough chemicals to emulate a mad scientist’s lab.  Try using essential oils or natural extracts instead.


–          As mentioned earlier in regards to the concern over aluminum being a health concern (aluminum is linked to neurological disorders, especially in children and the elderly – our bodies are barraged with aluminum daily from the environment and all the products we wear on our skin to ingredients in food to vaccines.  Minimizing our intake and exposure is best.)  One source of aluminum that many people are not aware of is baking soda – try and read the ingredients in baking soda to make sure it’s aluminum free.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a version, as well as Rumford, Argo, and Ener-g.  Just be sure to read the label AND ingredient list to make sure it’s aluminum free.


–          Speaking of Bob’s Red Mill… this is a decent company that makes a HUGE array of different flours (gluten-free included!) that are more nutritious and nutrient-dense than traditional processed flour.  The company also has other ingredients like rice, grains, and seeds for cooking.  I also really like Lundberg Family brand for rice products and all kinds of gluten-free options and alternative baking ingredients.  They also have a line of snacks like rice cakes, etc. that are nice alternatives.  Check out this former article that highlights options:


–          Don’t cook at high temps with olive oil anymore!  Use something like grapeseed oil or refined coconut oil; these stay more stable at higher temperatures and their fatty-acid chains do not become damaged by high heat as much (which in turn makes what would be a healthy oil into a dangerous oil to your health due to the free-radical damage that occurs).  I have been able to find organic brands of both in large containers at Costco and other warehouse stores.  This is a great option, for I use coconut oil for many things, including making my own body butter.  Refined coconut oil does not have much of a coconut smell or taste, so many people prefer that for cooking over the raw, unrefined version (which works great as a body butter or addition to a smoothie to add some healthy fat to your diet, not to mention all of the health benefits.  See this former article:


–          Try and switch out that traditional white table sugar with a healthier alternative (please note: sugar is something that should be used sparingly regardless.  I like to use different natural sweeteners instead of refined table sugar).  One of my faves is Sweet Tree brand organic coconut palm sugar (I order mine through!).  I like the coconut palm sugar because it has naturally occurring magnesium, nitrogen, zinc, potassium, calcium, and amino acids…not to mention it has a much lower glycemic load than most sugars, so it has a slower absorption into the bloodstream (which means less sugar spikes and crashes).  Read about the health concerns regarding sugar here in a past article I wrote:


–          Most food from a can is a bad idea….and here’s why:  the first reason is the high prevalence of the chemical (toxin) BPA.  BPA is used to line most cans and undeniably leaches into the food (with tomatoes being the worst!!!).  Who cares about BPA?  Well, BPA is a known hormone disruptor that has been linked to many hormonal and reproductive malfunctions, especially in children and pregnant women (and their unborn fetuses).  I avoid food in cans at all costs unless I know for a fact that the can is BPA free.  There are very few brands that use BPA-free cans, and my favorite brand is Eden Organic.  Not only does this company make sure their packaging is safe, but they don’t add anything artificial to their products.  While I mostly buy their canned beans, they also offer a fantastically-wide array of other products, including tomato products, which is super important, as the acid in tomatoes tears right through the BPA lining of cans and creates the highest level transferred in foods.  Trader Joe’s also uses BPA-free cans for their beans and other food products (you’d have to check their website on which products for sure), but they don’t advertise on the can that it’s BPA-free (which I wish they would do so consumers could make a better choice!).  Also, these brands tend not to add salt, which can add up and be a health concern.  I absolutely love BioNaturae tomato products – they use BPA-free cans and glass jars to package their tomato products (and they are organic, which is especially important for tomatoes).  I use their jars of fresh organic tomato puree for a majority of my recipes and will never go back to using anything else.


–          Nitrates and preservatives are something you want to stay away from, especially for children and/or pregnant or nursing mothers.  Meats, meat products, and some cheeses like bacon, deli meats, sausage, hot dogs, deli/sliced cheeses, etc. are loaded with them.  While I am not a huge fan of eating lots of meat, I know some individuals out there love their bacon and deli sandwiches, which is why it’s important to select a brand that does not use nitrates, nitrites, or preservatives.  Applegate Farms makes a great selection of meat products that are free from these additives, including hormones and antibiotics (some of you may have even seen their comical commercial).  I know Trader Joe’s offers some meat selections that are also free from additives, in addition to Columbus brand deli meats.  Just be sure to read the ingredient list to make sure nothing questionable is added.


–          Looking for an awesome brand of coconut milk for your recipes or as a great dairy alternative?  I love the Native Forest brand of organic coconut milks that come in BPA-free cans (one of the only brands that does this).  I order mine in bulk from for a reasonable price.  This unsweetened coconut milk is delicious and makes recipes come to life.  My son even enjoys drinking the low-fat version instead of cow’s milk on some days.


–          A neat nut butter alternative I heard about from a friend and have been using is NuttZo.  While the company makes a variety of different nut butters, some with peanuts, but most varieties without, it offers a nice healthy and organic change to sandwiches, snacks, and recipes.  My favorite version is the crunchy Seven Nut & Seed Butter.  Since it’s peanut-free, I feel safe giving it to my toddler who loves it on fruit.  It’s high in Omegas and minerals!


–          Pasta can be tough thing to switch to if going gluten-free or just looking for a healthier alternative while keeping the taste great.  With all the concern around GMOs today, I highly recommend buying organic.  I have switched to using gluten-free pasta when I can and have fallen in love with Ancient Harvest Quinoa brand.  It does not taste gluey or like cardboard and is gluten-free.  It cooks up beautifully and you’d never know it was a healthier alternative to wheat-based pasta.  Katie also found a neat lentil-based pasta that I ordered and am going to try this week: Tolerant Foods organic lentil pastas.


–          Let’s face it – this time of year, we’re all running around in a nutty fashion, and our eating tends to take a back-seat in the priority department.  While I am not a huge fan of replacing meals with shake or food bar products, I did find an awesome bar that will help fill your belly until something more ample comes your way (and if you don’t have a pouch of a MySuperFoods Super Snack on you already): Pure Bars are a delicious, organic fruit bar or fruit strip snack (adults and kids alike can enjoy them!).  These bars are gluten-free, vegan, Kosher, organic, and made from fruits, nuts, and ancient grains.


–          Looking for a protein boost here and there?  I am normally not a fan at all of isolated protein shakes or products, for I feel they are so heavily processed and unnatural.  However, I have been using SunWarrior vegan protein powders in smoothies and even sprinkled on top of cereal, yogurt, or pureed fruit to add a boost to my protein or my toddler’s protein intake.  While many people like using whey protein powders, I know many individuals are dairy-sensitive or don’t want a dairy source for protein.  I also like that SunWarrior uses all plant-based proteins, but not entirely from rice (which is commonly used as the main protein powder alternative to whey).  SunWarrior uses all non-GMO products and is soy-free, so it’s very allergen-friendly.  With a combination of raw pea protein, cranberry protein, and hempseed protein, it offers a nice variety of nutrient-dense and easily-digestible complete essential amino acids.  It comes in vanilla, chocolate, or natural flavors – but I must admit, it does not have the super-sweet or creamy taste and texture of most protein powders offer.  It may take a few tries of mixing with different ingredients to get used to the taste, for it is a little different at first.


–          I am a huge fan of taking spirulina and chlorella (blue green algae and chlorophyll products from nature) to boost immunity, take in natural proteins, minerals, and vitamins, in addition to naturally detoxifying the body and pumping a great dose of antioxidants into the blood.  I must admit, I am thrilled that I found tablet forms in both, for the powders were a bit much for me to stomach (the taste is very, um, sea-dense and meaty), and thankfully the tablets go down easy.  After much research into which brands are best and most pure, I use Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica brand (I order on for the cheapest price) for my spirulina (and kids can take this, too!  My son actually stomachs the powder form when I mix it with fruit and even yogurt).  For chlorella, I order mine through the online store at Natural News (the brand is called Health Ranger Select), for it has been rigorously tested by a third-party for purity and processing standards.  This brand also lists the purity testing results online to show exactly what showed up in the tests, so I love that there is full-transparency with the product, not to mention it’s sourced from the cleanest harvest.


–          For other vitamin and supplement products, I am not going to re-invent the wheel – rather, I am going to reference you to this previous article I wrote on vitamins and supplements that I trust (if you use supplements; I know some people prefer not to use any supplements whatsoever, which is totally fine!):


–          I am also a huge fan of probiotics and am going to refer you to this article as to why I feel they are important to take and the brands I trust and use (this is especially important for this time of year when our immune systems begin to become run-down and more vulnerable):


–          Water filters – since we are 70% water and it is a vital element that we must take in plenty of on a daily basis, it makes sense that we drink only the cleanest and purest available, right?  Please reference this article for my suggestions on the best water filters and why filtering our water is so important (including our shower water!):


While this list is far from complete with everything you can use as a healthy alternative (and from what lines my cabinets), in essence of time and web space, I figured I’d highlight these.  Please feel free to add your own suggestions and/or ask questions based on things you’d like to see better alternatives for.  Chances are, I have researched it!   Have fun experimenting with any of these products you want to try…and let me know what you think!

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: or feel free to send her an e-mail at:





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