(Raw) Vegan Gluten Free Pizza Crackers

(Raw) Vegan Gluten Free Pizza Crackers

Maybe it is because I am a child of the 80’s that I remember eating pizza-flavored crackers as I grew up. I’m probably thinking of the Combos Pizzeria Pretzel, pizza flavored bugles crackers, or the inimitable Combos Pepperoni Pizza Cracker, although the thought of pepperoni-flavored anything pretty much freaks me out now.  Still, I love pizza and it is probably one of my favorite foods.  So what could be better than a pizza-flavored snack?  A healthy pizza-flavored snack, of course!

Carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper cut up and ready to be juiced.

Carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper cut up and ready to be juiced.

So here it is, the ultimate snack of goodness that your kids will love because it tastes like pizza and that you will love because there is nothing that could even remotely be construed as unhealthy in it.  That’s right, they are vegan, gluten-free, raw (if you keep the temperature on your oven below 115 F/46 C), fat-free, and they are even kosher enough for the strictest of Passover-keeping Jews (and there is no diet more strict than that – they make gluten free and paleo look like wimps).  I am honestly convinced that this recipe is the snack recipe to end all snack recipes.  Because it is made of amazing.

Add spices to juice pulp to flavor it.  When the pulp is dehydrated, the flavor concentrates and makes these crackers FULL of flavor!

Add spices to juice pulp to flavor it. When the pulp is dehydrated, the flavor concentrates and makes these crackers FULL of flavor!

The key ingredient in this recipe is juice pulp, so you actually kind of get a two-for-one deal in this recipe.  Sure, you get a crunchy snack cracker that tastes like pizza, but you also get some super healthy (and yummy) juice to drink.  It really is an all-around winner.

Juice pulp and spice mix spread on a baking tray, ready to be dehydrated into crackers

Juice pulp and spice mix spread on a baking tray, ready to be dehydrated into crackers

Vegan Gluten-Free Pizza Crackers


4-5 packed cups juice pulp from red/orange veggies (I used carrots, beets, and red capsicum/bell pepper)
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1 tsp rubbed oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt (I use pink himalayan salt)


  1. Juice your vegetables and discard the juice.  Just kidding! Drink the juice and keep the pulp to make these crackers.
  2. Mix all ingredients.  I recommend using your hands to ensure all ingredients are evenly distributed and to break up any clumps of pulp.
  3. Using the flat of your palm, press pulp mixture evenly onto 2 cookie trays lined with baking/wax paper.  Depending on how thick you want your crackers to be, this will fill 2 medium or 2 medium-large trays (or 1 giant tray).  Alternately, press into the trays provided with your dehydrator.
  4. If you are making thicker crackers, score the pulp with a knife so you can break the crackers apart easily later.
  5. Optionally sprinkle top of crackers with sea salt.
  6. Place the trays in your oven on the lowest setting.  I use 50 C fan forced, but keep it below 46 C if you are going for a raw option.  (Although this designation makes me confused, as it definitely gets above 46C in the Aussie outback on a regular basis, so I suppose nothing grown there could be considered raw… but I digress.)  Bake until crispy.  Times vary depending on your oven, settings, and thickness of the crackers.  I make mine quite thin and with fan force on it takes only 3 hours to fully dehydrate these crackers.  If you are doing thicker crackers, do not have fan force, or use a centrifugal juicer that does not get out as much juice as a masticating juicer, it may well take 5 hours to complete this.
  7. Break apart crackers and test.  If you made thicker crackers, break on the lines you scored.  If you made thinner crackers like I do, you will find they have shrunk and cracked on their own during the dehydrating process.  They won’t be perfect little squares, but who cares when they taste so good?!  If crackers are not crunchy and brittle, return to the oven and check again in 30-60 minutes.
  8. Enjoy crackers on their own or with toppings that pair well with pizza, like sliced olives, sun dried tomatoes, etc.  Store extra crackers in an airtight plastic container or ziplock bag.


  • Finely chop up “pizza” toppings and mix them in.  My favorite is olives but other toppings such as sun dried tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, roasted red bell peppers/capsicum, crumbled tofu, mushrooms, tempeh, or vegetarian meat substitutes.  Be sure not to overdo it with the “toppings” as you still want your crackers to be crackers!
  • Change the spices added.  These crackers really smell and taste like actual Italian pizza, but mixing in other flavors like basil won’t hurt.  Or change the spice mixture completely, swapping for instance with Mexican spice mix to make “taco” crackers.
The final juice pulp crackers have a nice reddish-orange color that suits their pizza flavor.  They're very high in fiber and also have lots of great nutrition.  Because they are so highly concentrated, they also have a delicious flavor - you will be really surprised!

The final juice pulp crackers have a nice reddish-orange color that suits their pizza flavor. They’re very high in fiber and also have lots of great nutrition. Because they are so highly concentrated, they also have a delicious flavor – you will be really surprised!

I hope your kids love these crackers as much as mine do!  I’ve actually had to restrict my older toddler from eating too many or he’ll eat the whole lot of them.  Of course, if you have a child who suffers from constipation, eating the whole lot of crackers might be a good move – these snacks will keep your kids very regular!  But given that most kids today do not enough enough fiber, these crunchy crackers are a really healthy addition to your kids’ diets.  In fact, even my “big kid” had been sneaking crackers from their box constantly – and he’s the one who’s supposed to be doing a juice fast!

How to Get Your Kids to Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

How to Get Your Kids to Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

Recently, we’ve been looking at heart disease in children, which is becoming more and more prevalent as obesity rises.  A new study showed how eating a low fat vegan diet reduces many more heart disease risk factors in children than the predominant American Heart Association (AHA) recommendations did.  But the chief complaint from those on the vegan diet in the study was that finding no added fat vegan options was difficult and expensive.  So, if you have that added hurdle, it makes it even harder to get your kids to eat a heart healthy diet.  Here are some ideas for ways to get your kids to eat a heart healthy diet.

Getting kids to eat healthy can be challenging under the best of circumstances.  Even famous celebrity chefs can find it difficult to get their kids to eat their gourmet healthy meals.  With teenagers, I have always stressed communication as the key to inspiring healthy kids, while with younger children I focus mostly on getting them involved.  These strategies hold true for a heart-healthy diet just as much as for an overall healthy diet.

Start Young

The younger you start your kids eating a healthy diet, the better.  Taste buds can get corrupted very easily and once they switch off to trying new foods or to eating healthy things, you will have a very hard time getting them back.  Even as a health-conscious adult, I have a hard time giving up the unhealthy flavors of my youth.  We never drank a lot of sugary drinks, so I don’t have a problem giving those up, but when it comes to dairy or the occasional cookie, I have a hard time saying no. Once these tastes integrate themselves into your kids’ minds, you will find it difficult to eradicate them. When kids are young is the best time to make healthy eating part of their lives and habits, forever.

Lead by Example

Kids often model their own behavior on what their parents do.  For better or worse, conscious or unconscious, this is pretty standard among children.  Parents are their primary role model.  So change your diet, too.  Show your kids you enjoy eating spinach and cauliflower and they’ll be more interested in trying it.  Friends are amazed that my toddlers will sit and eat spinach (even raw!) but to me, it is no surprise – they see my husband and I eating it all the time.  Kale, beets, brown rice, and whole grain bread are all part of the diet they regularly see us eating, so they eat these foods, too.

More Family Time

Did you know that kids will eat more fruits and vegetables if you eat meals together as a family? Once again, kids have more opportunities to see parents modeling good eating habits.  There is also the “peer pressure” effect, applied in a positive way.  When kids see the rest of the family eating a meal, they are more likely to, as well. Eating meals together as a family has a lot of relationship benefits, too.  In fact, family dinner is one common recommendation family therapists make.  When I was a kid, family dinner almost every night of the week was the norm, but times have changed.  Today, each member of the family eats at a different time, making it easy for kids to grab for convenience foods or just the tastiest bits of whatever meal is on offer.  Eating together makes it socially unacceptable for a child to just grab a bag of chips from the corner store to have for dinner – that child now has to sit at the table and eat from what is on offer.

Start Slowly

Don’t try to change your kids’ diet all at once.  Switching from a meat-heavy, fatty, salty, sugary to a sugar-free, low-fat vegan diet will be a shock to your kids’ system.  If their taste buds are corrupted, you need to wean them off unhealthy foods slowly and teach them gently to love healthy food.  Change one snack and one type of food at a time.  Swap out sugary fruit roll-ups for all-natural fruit leather one week.  The next week change out buttery Ritz crackers for whole grain Mary’s Gone Crackers.  Change from serving macaroni and cheese to serving macaroni and red pepper cheese dip, then swap out the macaroni for whole wheat options or for broccoli.  By making changes slowly and gradually, you will not see an immediate change like you would if you changed your kids’ whole diet over suddenly, but the changes you do make are more likely to stick.  And it is much more important to teach kids to have a healthy lifestyle that lasts than to have them shed pounds suddenly only to pick them up again a few months later.

Get them Gardening

Food education programs with a lot of success, like the Eden Village Camp I was involved with, teach a farm-to-table approach.  Kids who grow their own vegetables are likely to love eating those vegetables.  Growing vegetables is a great teaching tool for many subjects, like science, as kids learn about life cycles and the environment.  But growing something also promotes a sense of pride and ownership in kids that makes them more likely to try – and keep eating – those foods they’ve grown.  And growing things doesn’t require a full-scale garden or even a back yard!  Kids in apartments can grow veggies in pots placed by windows and the need to water and care for plants gives kids a gentle sense of responsibility and stewardship that is great for their maturity.

Take them Shopping

Getting kids involved in the food selection experience also gives them a feeling of power and control.  Kids, like adults, want to feel they have some measure of control in their lives.  The younger the child, the more difficult it is to give them safe freedoms.  In a world where you can get arrested for letting your kid play unattended in a park across the street, how can we give our kids the freedom to make choices and grow up?  We are all required by law to be helicopter parents, like it or not.  So taking your kids to the store with you and letting them help with the shopping is a great starting point.  Begin by letting them pick out the fruits and veggies for the week.  With very young kids, including toddlers, just bring them along to the store and let them pull a few things they want to eat off the shelves.  Use it as a teaching opportunity for older kids, too.  Before you go to the store, take the time to do a little bit of “homeschooling.”  Sit down with them for an hour and plan out meals for the week, how much of what they need to buy, and then have them use math to figure out how much it will cost as you go through the store.  The amount of time you invest in involving your kids in food shopping will be repaid in the amount of time you will not have to spend fighting to get them to eat nutritious foods later in the week.

Teach them to Cook

Cooking is one of my favorite creative endeavors.  It is an opportunity to challenge oneself and is a rare opportunity to see nearly instant gratification from the fruits of your labors.  Kids are more likely to eat food they themselves have prepared, and teaching kids to prepare healthy meals will benefit you as a parent down the line, even if it requires a bit of time investment now.  Imagine never needing to make your kids’ lunches again, or being able to ask your kids to make dinner a few nights a week!  Kids of all ages enjoy cooking.  Even very young kids can learn to stir a bowl.  Help them decorate healthy pizzas or casseroles with a variety of ingredients, or make dinners they can assemble themselves, such as a salad bar or taco bar.  Giving them the responsibility of helping and the freedom of choosing is a great way to encourage kids to eat healthy food.

Try, Try Again

Finally, don’t give up!  Getting kids to eat a healthier diet is a challenging task.  Don’t expect them to jump on the bandwagon with enthusiasm right away (if they do, consider yourself fortunate!).  It might take a lot of effort, and it might take some time.  Just be patient and keep trying.  There are a lot of different strategies you can implement and an infinite amount of yummy and healthy foods to try.  If one doesn’t work for you, discard it and try a new one the next day.  If you come across one that really works for you, add it to a list of special foods to make again.  (Like my favorite Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup, which everyone in my family loves and I make once or twice a month.)

I hope these tips and tricks work for you and if you have any other ideas please share them in the comments so we can all benefit.  Here’s to helping inspire healthy kids and to motivating our kids to eat a heart healthy diet!

Easy Fat-Free Vegan Tomato Soup

Easy Fat-Free Vegan Tomato Soup

Given the recent study that was released, showing a low-fat vegan diet is the best way to reduce heart disease risk factors in children, I thought it is a great time to showcase one of my family’s staple meals: tomato soup.  If you’re like me, you grew up with tomato soup as the ultimate comfort food.  When I was a kid, I would have a can of Campbell’s tomato soup with a buttery grilled cheese sandwich and it would warm up my whole world.  Today, I make my own, homemade tomato soup, which takes just about the same amount of effort as the canned version, but is much, much healthier.  Instead of an unhealthy sandwich of refined white bread holding together a clump of gooey animal fats, I ladle my homemade comfort soup over brown rice and voila! I have instant, healthy, completely fat-free vegan comfort food for the whole family.

Before making this soup, I toss all the tomatoes I need to use up in a big tub of water and wash them as I go.

Before making this soup, I toss all the tomatoes I need to use up in a big tub of water and wash them as I go.  You can use up any type of tomatoes you have around, and can even use up tomatoes that are older, going mushy, or have bad spots (just cut them out).

One of the biggest complaints in the heart disease study I examined yesterday was that vegan foods with no added fat were more expensive and difficult to find.  I believe that if people only knew how easy it is to replicate traditional unhealthy processed foods at home they would no longer rely on the processed versions.   Tomato soup is amazing and it is also amazingly easy to make a delicious version to rival anything you can get in a can.

Begin by adding onion (then garlic) to the bottom of your soup maker or pot.  Normally I add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil but for this no added fat version I simply omit that step.  Because the entire soup cooks together in broth, rather than sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil first, the oil is purely optional.

Begin by adding onion (then garlic) to the bottom of your soup maker or pot. Normally I add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil but for this no added fat version I simply omit that step. Because the entire soup cooks together in broth, rather than sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil first, the oil is purely optional.

I guess I have become a bit of a tomato soup connoisseur.  I have tried and tested dozens of tomato soup recipes.  Some I like better, some less. My all-time favorite tomato soup recipe is one I picked up from the cookbook “Market Vegetarian: Easy Organic Recipes for Every Occasion” by Ross Dobson.  It’s a bit more time consuming, however, with the added step of roasting the vegetables prior to turning them into soup.  When I was single, I was happy to take that extra step, but as a busy mom… who has time for that?!  I want tomato soup, I want it now, and I don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes of active time making it!

I add fresh tomatoes to my soup maker up to the fill line before adding broth.

I add fresh tomatoes to my soup maker up to the fill line before adding broth.

I will admit this is a bit of a cheat recipe for me.  One day nearly two years ago, my husband came home with a masticating slow juicer and a surprise – a soup maker!  At the time we joked that it was a “wife replacer” because my husband is obsessed with soup, so we have soup as a meal almost every day of the week, especially when the weather is cool, but even frequently when the weather is hot.  I asked him why I would need such an item when I make so much soup on the stove.  But I have since changed my tune.  While I still make a lot of my soups on the stove or in my trusty crock pot, the soup maker has become my go-to for quick soups.  This recipe is one example of a recipe I love to just toss in and let go, but if you don’t have a soup maker, don’t worry.  I’ll provide easy instructions.  It might take an extra couple of minutes of time, but it still won’t be much more involvement than making a can of soup would be!

The finished tomato soup in the soup maker, still frothy from being blended just 1 minutes ago, but a bright red color and smelling great!  My mouth is watering!

The finished tomato soup in the soup maker, still frothy from being blended just 1 minutes ago, but a bright red color and smelling great! My mouth is watering!

One thing I love about this recipe is that you can use up whatever tomatoes are around.  If I end up with a lot of tomatoes that are just too ripe to make salad with, into this soup they go.  If I have a few tomatoes with spots, I cut them out and toss the good parts in the pot.  If I have too many tomatoes or if they are in season and I can pick up a case for cheap, I make a massive quantity of this soup and into the freezer it goes for future consumption on a lazy day.  My baby is obsessed with tomatoes, so anything that tastes like tomatoes is an instant winner with him.

Are you saying I need to give up my tomato for the paleo diet?!

I love tomatoes, in any form!

Another great thing about this recipe is that it is really versatile.  You can mix it up and add in all sorts of different flavors and even different ingredients.  You can make it thicker or thinner.  You can add fat or not. You can add dairy or not.  Or you can just make it as is.  After all, it only calls for four ingredients!  What’s not to love?!

Easy Vegan Tomato Soup


10-12 tomatoes (depending on size)
1/2 medium onion, preferably red
2 large cloves garlic
~2 cups vegetable broth
(pinch salt, if your broth is a low-sodium version)


  1. (Optional) Put 2 cups of brown rice and 4 cups of water in a rice cooker and set to cook.
  2. Quarter your onion half, peel your garlic, and add them to your pot (or soup maker).
  3. Quarter your tomatoes – approximately 12 roma tomatoes, 9 vine ripened, or 6 beef tomatoes.  If using giant beef tomatoes, you should cut them in eights instead of quarters.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pot and add broth to just below the tomatoes (not too much unless you want a very watery soup).  If your broth is low sodium, you should add a pinch of salt here.  Salt helps bring out the flavor of tomatoes.
  5. Plug in soup maker, set on “smooth” setting, and go relax until it beeps.
  6. Put on the stovetop on medium-high and cook for approximately 30 minutes.  Watch to be sure it does not boil over – if it begins to boil reduce to a simmer.  Stir at 20 and 25 minute marks.
  7. Pour soup into a blender and blend until smooth, approximately 1 minute.
  8. Place a mound of brown rice in a bowl, pour soup over, and serve.


  • If you’re not going for the fat-free version, I find a small amount of oil can help make this soup taste a bit more creamy.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of the pot before adding all your other ingredients.
  • Try a red pepper and tomato soup.  I know this is a flavor of soup I’ve seen in the organic brands at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  Just substitute a red capsicum/bell pepper for a couple of the tomatoes.  You don’t need more than one really big one or two smaller ones to get a good flavor.
  • Add fresh herbs.  Almost any fresh herbs will work – tomatoes are so versatile and seem to work in pretty much any cuisine I’ve ever found.  Toss in some leaves of fresh basil just before blending.  Fresh oregano, rosemary, and thyme are great.  Add a nice big sprig of rosemary or thyme and remove just before blending, or sprinkle just a bit on top and blend it in. Or try dried herb blends, like an Italian herb blend.
  • Add spices.  Spice mixes give a fantastic foreign dimension to this all too traditional American soup.  Add some curry powder, moroccan spice mix, or even Mexican taco seasoning for an all-new experience.
  • Add some dairy.  Keep it vegan by topping your bowl of soup with some cashew sour cream, or splurge and go for the real thing.  Or sprinkle some cheddar or shredded pepper jack cheese on top.  Mix cream or whole (full cream) milk throughout before serving to turn it into a cream of tomato soup.
  • Double, triple, quadruple this recipe… it freezes well and doesn’t take much effort to double.  You will need to extend the cooking time before blending so the increased amount of liquid and vegetables come to the right temperature.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring 10 and 15 minutes into the simmering.

I hope you can see that this soup is soup-er easy (I couldn’t resist).  It is also incredibly versatile.  I think it tastes just as good as the tinned kind – no, better!  Because it’s made with fresh tomatoes, it has that mouthwatering fresh flavor no tinned version ever could.  And with all the possible variations your family will never get bored.  You can play with the flavor variations endlessly!

For families with kids in school, consider making this in the morning and sending it for lunch in a thermos.  In a good thermos it should still be hot enough to eat at lunchtime.  Send it with a container of brown rice on the side your child can spoon in as they go.  In other parts of the world, soup for lunch is a standard, but in western society it is much less common.  Your child will no doubt really enjoy the change!

I hope you enjoy this easy and tasty recipe.  Please let me know what variations you have tried and how you like them!

New Study Shows Vegan Diet Reduces Heart Disease Risk in Kids

New Study Shows Vegan Diet Reduces Heart Disease Risk in Kids

We think of our children as immune to certain diseases we associate with old age.  We don’t expect them to get arthritis or to have a stroke.  Yet, sadly, with childhood obesity on the rise, more and more of our children are at risk for heart disease.  Just as type 2 (once called “adult onset”) diabetes has become commonplace among the youth of today, risk factors for heart disease are on the rise in younger and younger children.  The good news is, you can turn it around, and it’s easier than you think.

Earlier this month a study came out in The Journal of Pediatrics showing just how powerful switching to a healthy diet is.  Researchers wanted to evaluate how effective different diets were at reducing risk factors for heart disease in children.  Many studies of this nature have been done on adults, but this one is specifically targeting precursors of heart disease in children, which I have mentioned before is an increasing concern, with 70% of obese 5-7 year old kids exhibiting at least one risk factor for heart disease.

The current mainstream guidelines for reducing heart disease risk are those put forth by the American Heart Association (AHA).  While many doctors and individuals have long criticized their standards as being far from sufficiently rigorous, the AHA has been loathe to further restrict their recommended diet.  Perhaps they are concerned that being too strict will frighten people away from keeping to the recommendations.  But in the meantime, their diet is far from ideal.  So, what exactly are the AHA recommendations?

Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars and sweeteners.  As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish — at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds.  Also try eating some meals without meat.  Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products and lean meats and poultry (skinless).  Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.


On the AHA diet, which is definitely healthier than the average diet, kids did see their diets improve and become healthier.  But how much healthier?  1/3 – 30% – of their calories were still coming from fats, although less than 7% of those calories came from harmful saturated fats.  Because they reduced meat intake, daily cholesterol intake dropped to less than 300 mg/day.  Sodium intake also dropped to 1,500 mg/day.

To determine if this diet is truly the ideal in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease in children, researchers, led by Dr. Michael Macknin, tested both the AHA diet and an alternate vegan diet.  He and his team of researchers selected 28 obese children between the ages of 9 and 18 to participate in the study, which ran for 4 weeks.  They then randomly selected children to participate in one of the two diets.  At least one parent of each child in the study was also required to stick to the diet.  This makes it much easier for kids to stick to the diet, follow through with the study, and maintain a positive attitude.  The addition of this provision is actually a good example of what I repeatedly have said: Lead your kids by example.  If you want to inspire healthy kids, you need to also be eating a healthy diet!  Participants in the study also attended two-hour educational nutrition information sessions once per week, which affirms again what I have repeatedly said: Kids need to be educated about how food affects their health so they will be motivated to make healthy decisions.

What was the vegan diet like?  Children on the vegan diet were given plants and whole grains, although they limited their intake of fatty plant foods, like nuts and avocados.  They were given no animal products and no added fat was used in food preparation.

As a result, and no doubt in spite of a bit of cheating and leniency, consumption of animal proteins dropped from an average 42 grams per day to just 2.24 grams per day.  The percentage of calories from fat was just 18% (compared to 30% for the AHA diet), with only 3.6% coming from saturate fats (compared to 7% on the AHA diet).  Clearly, the vegan diet is a dramatically healthier diet than the AHA guidelines, if we look just at nutritional intakes.  (Of course not all nutritional values for foods were tested, but we can easily make an educated guess that those children on the vegan diet were consuming more vitamins and minerals, as their diets included more nutrient dense vegetable and whole grain ingredients.)

What were the results of the study?

Children on PB had 9 and children on AHA had 4 statistically significant (P < .05) beneficial changes from baseline (mean decreases): body mass index z-scorePB (−0.14), systolic blood pressurePB (−6.43 mm Hg), total cholesterolPB(−22.5 mg/dL), low-density lipoproteinPB (−13.14 mg/dL), high-sensitivity C-reactive proteinPB (−2.09 mg/L), insulinPB(−5.42 uU/mL), myeloperoxidasePB/AHA (−75.34/69.23 pmol/L), mid-arm circumferencePB/AHA (−2.02/−1.55 cm), weightPB/AHA (−3.05/−1.14 kg), and waist circumferenceAHA (−2.96 cm). Adults on PB and AHA had 7 and 2, respectively, statistically significant (P < .05) beneficial changes. The significant change favoring AHA was a 1% difference in children’s waist circumference. Difficulty shopping for food for the PB was the only statistically significant acceptability barrier.

In layman’s terms, this means that kids on the plant-based diet showed significant improvement in nine different categories: body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, insulin, myeloperoxidase, mid-arm circumference, weight, and waist circumference.  High sensitivity C-reactive protein is one measure of inflammation in the body and is a major indicator of heart disease risk.  Myeloperoxidase is an enzyme necessary for healthy body function, but in elevated levels is associated with risk for coronary artery disease,* to the point that high levels over a 13-year period was shown to have more than doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.**

In contrast, children on the AHA diet showed statistically significant improvement in only four areas: mid-arm circumference, weight, waist circumference, and myeloperoxidase.  Clearly, the vegan diet was more effective in reducing risk factors for heart disease.  However, the AHA diet did show a 1% change in waist circumference, which shows it was good for losing weight in the right places.  On the other hand, the vegan diet resulted in greater health benefits even if those benefits were more internal than external.

(If you are an adult reading this and want to reap the benefits, you can.  Children’s bodies are more reactive to changes in their diet than adults, so they show more significant results more quickly, but adults also showed major benefits.  On the plant based diet, adults benefits in seven of the risk factor areas, while on the AHA diet they benefited in two of the risk factor areas.  If you put your child on one of these diets and you join him/her, you will also stand to gain – or, in this case, to lose! Haha!)

Dr. Macknin’s conclusion was:

As the number of obese children with high cholesterol continues to grow, we need to have effective lifestyle modifications to help them reverse their risk factors for heart disease.


We’ve known that plant-based diets are beneficial in adults in preventing and possibly reversing heart disease. This study shows that the same may be true in children too, though more studies are needed.

Of course this study was limited in scope, as not many children were tested.  Also, the study ran only for four weeks.  But just think about that!  Statistically significant benefits in nine areas were found in children on a plant based diet in just four weeks!  That’s such a short time.  It is really amazing.

The one complaint participants on the low-fat vegan diet had was that food was expensive and difficult to find.  It does not need to be this way.  Of course if you are buying convenience foods, it will be more of a challenge and more expensive.  Processed foods in the vegan market are niche, and fat-free vegan foods even more so.  I would suggest that more foods be made at home and less processed foods consumed, to take a page out of the paleo diet book.

We shop in bulk at farmer’s markets, often going once a week to stock up on fruits and vegetables.  I then use these to make healthy meals for my family.  Perhaps tomorrow I will post a recipe for an easy fat-free vegan tomato soup.  I often make big batches of this comfort food when tomatoes are in season and freeze containers for use later in the year. I find prices in farmer’s markets are 30%-50% lower than in supermarkets, I can support local farmers directly, and the food is more fresh.  On my last trip to the farmer’s market, I got 10 kg (22 lb) organic grapes for $10!  In the US, some farmer’s markets are even offering to double food stamps, so even people on food stamps can take advantage of the findings in this fantastic study.

With childhood obesity on the rise, we as parents have the power to combat it.  It’s not as hard as it might seem – even if you cut back and begin to follow the AHA guidelines, your child will benefit.  Go gradually and slowly transition to a more plant-based diet.  Even I cannot claim to be vegan (we eat a small amount of dairy and a tiny amount of fish once a week, but lots and lots of eggs), but take the steps you can in the right direction and it will only benefit you and your kids.  I know if my kids showed one of these risk factors for heart disease, or showed signs of obesity, I would not hesitate for a moment to switch to an even healthier diet than the one we are currently on.  We all have to start somewhere! Go ahead, take the plunge – or at least the first step – in the vegan direction!

*Zhang R, Brennan ML, Fu X, Aviles RJ, Pearce GL, Penn MS, Topol EJ, Sprecher DL, Hazen SL (November 2001). “Association between myeloperoxidase levels and risk of coronary artery disease”. JAMA 286 (17): 2136–42.doi:10.1001/jama.286.17.2136

**Heslop CL, Frohlich JJ, Hill JS (March 2010). “Myeloperoxidase and C-reactive protein have combined utility for long-term prediction of cardiovascular mortality after coronary angiography”. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 55 (11): 1102–9.doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2009.11.050

Healthy 100% Whole Wheat Hamantaschen Cookies (Parve!)

Healthy 100% Whole Wheat Hamantaschen Cookies (Parve!)

Boys excited for healthy, yummy hamantaschen

Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrating, as usual, the Jewish mantra: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”  In this case an ancient king of Persia was ruling over much of the Jewish population during the first exile.  His top advisor, Haman, was vainglorious and when Mordechai, the Jewish spiritual leader of the time, refused to bow to him, he was so incensed he convinced the king to permit a decree that all Jews be killed on a certain day.  To choose the day, Haman drew lots (purim in Hebrew).  Unbeknownst to both Haman and the king, Queen Esther was actually Jewish.  She interceded with the king and exposed Haman’s evil plot.  The king hung Haman and his ten sons and issued a decree allowing Jews to defend themselves against his previous decree.  Once again Jews survived in the face of overwhelming anti-Semitism!

Mixing together ingredients

Step 3


Today, Jews celebrate this holiday with a variety of customs, one of which is to make “hamantaschen,” triangular shaped cookies.  Some say these represent the three cornered hat Haman wore.  Other people say that they are “ha-mun taschen,” translated from Yiddish as “the poppyseed pockets” in reference to the most traditional filling.  Regardless of what the history of hamantaschen are, they are delicious.  And who doesn’t love a holiday where the tradition is to eat lots and lots of cookies?!

Mixing together hamantaschen wet ingredients

Step 3


Of course, having a holiday centered around sweets does present a problem for parents who want to inspire healthy kids.  Just preventing kids from having cookies and sweets would be difficult to say the least, as well as potentially backfiring when they are exposed to such foods away from you.  Also, for Jewish people who want to raise their children with a sense of tradition and love of the beauty of the religion, it would be counterproductive to prevent kids from partaking of one of the most delicious traditions.

Sifting together dry ingredients for healthy hamantaschen

Step 4


My solution is to come up with a cookie that is healthy and tasty, but without processed white flour or processed sugars. Even a Google search for “healthy hamantaschen recipe” turns up the usual unhealthy suspects: Eatingwell.com‘s recipe calls for sugar, white flour, canola oil, and butter, while Food.com‘s “low fat” hamantaschen recipe still calls for a half a cup of butter (as well as sugar and white flour).  So I decided to come up with my own healthy hamantaschen recipe – one that is not only parve but can also be converted to be vegan if you substitute egg replacer.

Mixing together hamantaschen dough

Step 5


Now your kids can enjoy cookies just like all their friends and still be eating something healthy and good for them!

Healthy whole wheat hamantaschen

100% Whole Wheat Hamantaschen

Please note that the recipe below is for a very large number of cookies – approximately four dozen.  You may want to cut amounts in half to make a more reasonable number… or just freeze the extra for a treat throughout the year!


4 eggs
1/2 cup organic coconut oil (melted)
1 cup agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4&1/2 cups whole white wheat flour (I used regular whole red wheat flour and I would definitely recommend using white wheat instead for these cookies!)
2&1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (bicarb soda)
1/2 tsp salt
(a few teaspoons of water may be necessary)


  1. Gather all ingredients, including filling for your cookies.  This dough dries out especially quickly because it is whole wheat.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C/160 C fan forced and line cookie trays with baking/wax paper.
  3. Whisk together eggs, coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract.  If you choose to add wet seasonings like zest (see variations below) add those now too.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients well: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (And spices if you are using – see variations below.)
  5. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring slowly with a wooden spoon, until you get a crumbly dough.
  6. Knead the dough until you get a smooth dough, adding teaspoons of water if the dough is too crumbly to come together smoothly, or tablespoons of flour if dough is too tacky to be easily worked.  Be careful to knead dough until it is just smooth, as overworking the pastry can make it tough.
  7. Separate the dough into 4-6 balls.
  8. Select one ball and roll it out flat on a floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin until it is 1/4-1/8 inch thick.  Be prepared to work hard here – whole wheat flour is harder to roll out than white flour.
  9. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or the rim of a 3-inch glass to cut out as many circles as possible.  (Do not use a smaller size or you will not have room for filling!) At this stage I skip to step 11 – I fill and bake as I go to avoid the dough drying out. If you choose to cut all circles first, cover unused circles with a damp cloth or dish/tea towel to avoid drying out while you roll out the rest.
  10. Gather the scraps, add to the next ball of dough and repeat process until all dough is used up.
  11. Place one teaspoon of filling (I recommend healthy plum butter filling) in the center of each circle.
  12. Fold one side over the edge of the cookie, slightly covering the filling and pinch on one end.  Fold the next side, overlapping on the pinched corner and pinching down to seal.  Each of the three sides should have one end over another side and the other end under another side.  This over-under-over-under-over-under strategy will keep your hamantaschen from coming open while baking.  If your dough is too dry, add a tiny drop of water or beaten egg to help it stick (I do this by dipping my finger in, shaking off drops, and then spreading a very thin layer on the offending area).
  13. Place finished hamantaschen on your prepared lined baking sheet/tray. My oven is small so I fit 12 on each tray, but a bigger tray can hold about 20.  They do not need to be widely spaced because they do not expand much.
  14. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden.
  15. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before transferring them to a Ziplock bag or plastic container for room-temperature storage.  Cookies can also be frozen.


  • For slightly sweeter cookies, add an extra 1/3 cup agave nectar.  I like mine to be less sweet so I have a slightly reduced amount of sweetener.
  • For a different flavor to your cookies, substitute other flavors for the vanilla extract.  Almond extract is a good one and the thought of using a rum extract is extremely tempting to me.
  • For another way to get a different flavor into these cookies, add in zest or spices.  A couple of teaspoons of lemon or orange zest would be lovely.  Or mix in some spices, such as cinnamon or chai spice.
  • To make it easier for yourself, substitute self-raising whole wheat flour for the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in this recipe.
  • For a more elastic dough that is easier to roll out, consider mixing in a few tablespoons of vital wheat gluten during step 4 above.
Hamantaschen dough rolled out and cut into circles

Step 9


Hamantaschen with filling

Step 11


Step 13

Step 13

I hope you and your healthy, inspired kids enjoy this delicious recipe! Please let me know how they turn out… and have a happy holiday!

Boys eating healthy whole wheat hamantaschen

The Healthiest Hamantaschen Filling: Plum Butter!

The Healthiest Hamantaschen Filling: Plum Butter!

A spoonful of plum butter prune hamantaschen filling

Hamantaschen, those triangular cookies that are the most delicious and traditional of Purim foods, can be filled with all sorts of things.  Usually I buy a jar of jam and just spoon it in.  This works just fine if you don’t care about how healthy it is – I have yet to find a store-bought jam that meets my high standards regarding processed sugar.  Of course, there is always the option to make your own jam, without using processed sweeteners, but golly that’s a lot of work! Who has time for that?  I need something healthy, easy, and fast.  Enter: prunes!

Prunes?! Yes, I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but it is my husband’s favorite hamantaschen filling.  There’s a reason it’s such a traditional hamantaschen filling.  Cooking the prunes enhances their natural sweetness, giving you a filling that is sweet and gooey.  It’s just plain YUM.

Normally I turn to The Shiksa in the Kitchen for all my hamantaschen needs.  In my experience, she’s just got it right.  She even has an amazing recipe for plum filling.  Perfect!

Except… not so perfect. Her recipe calls for things like orange zest, which I generally can’t be bothered with, and brown sugar, which is basically just white processed sugar with a bit of molasses added back in.  Her recipe calls for sugar because it helps bind the filling together and acts as a preservative.  What I wanted to know was, ‘Is it possible to find a healthier alternative?’

So I did some experimenting.  I made a couple batches of plum butter.  I made over 4 dozen hamantaschen.  And I think I’ve figured it out.  It’s vegan, gluten free, and free of processed sugar.  And it’s even easier than Tori’s version.  Win!

Plum butter prune hamantaschen filling before cooking

Plum Butter (Prune Jam)


2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup organic pure Canadian maple syrup


  1. Mix all ingredients except maple syrup in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and let boil for one minute.
  3. Lower heat so pot is at a constant simmer when covered (for me this is low heat, but depending on your stove and pot it could be medium-low).
  4. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. (I used this time to de-clutter and just stirred every time I walked past the pot on my way to put something away – by the time I finished making this sweet treat my tables were all clutter-free and I really deserved a big test taste!)
  5. Simmer uncovered for another 3-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly to ensure prunes don’t burn, until liquid reduces and only approximately 3 tablespoons of liquid are left.
  6. Add the maple syrup and mix it through.
  7. Simmer uncovered another 2-3 minutes to allow liquid to reduce again. (This is a very important final step in the cooking process, as failing to reduce the liquid sufficiently will render your plum butter runny and not good for filling hamantaschen!)
  8. Use a potato masher to break up the prunes.  You may want to use a fork to smush up any pieces that remain too big.  If you like your fillings more smooth, you can whiz it a few times with an immersion blender.  (Just using the potato masher worked for me – I like nice big chunks of fruit in all of my jams and fruit spreads!)
  9. Cool to room temperature, but preferably refrigerate before using.  (Refrigeration will allow the mixture to congeal fully and will give you best results when making hamantaschen.)


  • Try adding some orange zest, as in Tori Avey’s version of this recipe.
  • If maple syrup is not your thing, substitute a mix of agave nectar and molasses (treacle).  Agave nectar on its own is probably too thin to get the desired consistency but molasses on its own is going to give over too much flavor and not enough sweetness.  Try mixing 2/3 agave and 1/3 molasses to get the right consistency and flavor.
  • Increase the amount of orange juice and reduce the amount of water.  I haven’t tried this, so if you do and it doesn’t work out, you’ll have only yourself to blame.  That said, this is the next alteration I’ll experiment with because I think the only thing better than plum butter might possibly be plum and orange butter.
  • Add some spices.  Cinnamon is my number one recommendation – the combination of cinnamon and orange with the cooked prunes is just heavenly!
  • Substitute the orange juice with apple juice.  Then cinnamon would really be amazing!
  • Give a hint of Indian comfort by substituting black tea for the water and orange juice, and then using chai spice to add extra flavor.

Finished plum butter prune filling for hamantaschen

This amount of Plum Butter is enough to comfortably fill about 8 dozen hamantaschen if you use just one teaspoon per cookie, although if you sample some it won’t go so far.

Not making that many?  No problem!  Extra plum butter can be used as a filling for other cookies and can even be used as a secret filling in something like cupcakes or sweet muffins.  But best of all, it is a perfect topping for toast and an amazing filling for peanut butter and jelly.  Or you can do what I did this morning – make some healthy pancakes and use plum butter as a filling to make a sandwich your kids can hold in their hands and eat.  Who needs butter and syrup?!

I hope you enjoy this yummy holiday recipe and please do share with me your feedback and if you’ve tried any of the recommended variations, or if you have any additional variations to share.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The Government Won’t Protect You

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): The Government Won’t Protect You

You cannot count on the government to protect you and your children from the dangers of genetically modified organisms. In the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed that GMOs are safe for consumption – yet they had done no studies on safety at all.  And no wonder… the FDA official who created their GMO policy used to be the attorney and later the vice president of Monsanto, the largest biotech company out there.[i] Talk about bias!

The only requirement for a GMO to meet FDA standards is for it to be “substantially equivalent” to the natural food in its nutrition profile.[ii] This means that if GM soy has roughly the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, etc., as traditional soy, it is acceptable for human consumption. There is no mention in that protocol of it needing to be synthesized the same by the human body, or that side effects, like infertility or digestive problems, are forbidden (or even measured at all). Tests on GM products are not required, and when done, are done by the companies themselves and are kept secret, so that the true effects of these products are unknown unless examined by independent scientists.[iii] At the times when these tests have been, by court order, provided to independent scientists, they found that there were significant physical changes to test animals as a result of the GM diet, which the GMO companies nevertheless determined were “irrelevant” when it came to human consumption.[iv] When these scientists do undertake these tests, they are criticized by the companies, which do not want the truth about their products to be known.[v]

And there is no obligation for companies to label their products in the USA. The FDA has not approved any such regulation because the food companies are a powerful lobby. And even the “healthy” brands, such as Morningstar Farms, are opposing a GMO labeling law. This is because their products contain GMOs. In short, you cannot even make your own informed decision not to buy GMOs just by reading the labels on your favorite products. And don’t think you’ll be safe if you live outside the US or if you buy foreign products – the World Trade Organization (WTO) forbids governments to restrict the sale of GMOs because that would be an “unfair trade practice” or a “technical barrier to trade.” The WTO is no more concerned for your safety than the big companies are. Fortunately, in the European Union, GMOs are more highly regulated than in any other parts of the world.[vi] Even with their stricter review system, 49 GMOs have been approved, including 28 varieties of GMO corn, 7 GMO soybeans, 3 oilseed rapes (canola), and one sugarbeet.[vii] It is a good precedent that in Europe, unlike in America, foods containing GMOs at any point in their production must be labeled, even if the GMO cannot be detected in the end product.[viii]  In Australia only unprocessed foods with a GMO as the main component need be labeled. (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/gmfood/labelling/Pages/default.aspx)

The only way to avoid eating genetically modified foods is to stop buying conventional processed foods unless they are labeled as GMO free. In the United States, over 80% of processed foods contain some form of GMO, including: rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, soy products, vegetable oil, soft drinks, dairy products, eggs, meat, chicken, pork, infant formula, and additives used across the board, such as in ice cream, margarine, tomato sauce, peanut butter, etc. Even the fruits and vegetables in your typical grocery store are not safe.[ix] For instance, a new type of apple was recently engineered so that it would not turn brown when it is bruised – you cannot even buy apples without them being genetically engineered.[x] The only safe option is to buy organic produce.

The behavior created as a result of eating genetically altered foods is not the kind of behavior you want to encourage in your kids. Nor are these the kind of side effects you want them to experience. GMOs are not better for your kids because scientists have messed with them – they’re worse. Any substance that can cause antisocial behavior, nervousness, anxiety, and increased stress is a type of poison. So stop feeding your children processed foods containing GMOs. GMOs are poison.

[i] See Part 2, Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[ii] Society of Toxicology. The safety of genetically modified foods produced through biotechnology. Toxicol. Sci. 2003; 71:2-8.

[iii] Spiroux de Vendômois J, Cellier D, et al. Debate on GMOs Health Risks after Statistical Findings in Regulatory Tests. Int J Biol Sci 2010; 6(6):590-598. doi:10.7150/ijbs.6.590.

[iv] Séralini GE, Mesnage R, Clair E. et al. Genetically modified crops consumption at large scale: possible negative health impacts due to holes in assessment. Environ Sci Pollut Res.

[v] Spiroux de Vendômois J, Cellier D, et al. Debate on GMOs Health Risks after Statistical Findings in Regulatory Tests. Int J Biol Sci 2010; 6(6):590-598. doi:10.7150/ijbs.6.590.

[vi] Davison, J. (February 2010). “GM plants: Science, politics and EC regulations”. Plant Science 178 (2): 94–98.doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2009.12.005

[vii] Staff EU register of genetically modified food and feed European Commission, Health and Consumers, EU register of authorised GMOs, available at http://ec.europa.eu/food/dyna/gm_register/index_en.cfm, Retrieved 32 February 2015

[viii] GMO Compass, New Labelling Laws: What Has Changed? Available at http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/regulation/labelling/93.new_labelling_laws_gm_products_eu.html; See also European Commission: Food, GM Food & Feed – Labelling, available at http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm.

[ix] Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[x] Pollack, A. “Gene-Altered Apples Get U.S. Approval” New York Times. Feb 13, 2015, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/14/business/gmo-apples-are-approved-for-growing-in-us.html; Tennille, Tracy (Feb 13, 2015). “First Genetically Modified Apple Approved for Sale in U.S.”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved Feb 2015, available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/first-genetically-modified-apple-approved-for-sale-in-u-s-1423863994

More Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

More Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

For the past couple of days I have been exploring genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  I first explored how GMOs work and how GMOs are created.  Then I looked at some of their effects on animals.  Now I am going to look at some effects that have been observed in humans and also some of the motivations for creating GMOs and the impacts those GMOs have had on the societies into which they have been introduced.

In spite of the challenges associated with testing the effects of GM foods on human subjects, scientists have been able to do some basic studies. One major study revealed that the toxic genes inserted into genetically modified soy do in fact transfer to the bacteria that live in our gut.[i] Essentially, once we eat genetically modified foods, we are carrying around toxins that we cannot get rid of – and the full effects of which are unknown. Even being exposed to genetically modified plants – without eating them – has made people ill.[ii] The very safest bet for you and your family is to never feed your children genetically modified foods, ever.  If you have ever fed your kids genetically modified food, stop, immediately.

Today, our food sources are no better off for having been tampered with. Genetically modified foods (often called “genetically modified organisms” or “GMOs”) are found everywhere. In fact, they are so prolific that they are in almost everything. There’s no requirement to label things as such, so companies don’t. Big companies want to make money and they know they won’t do that by boasting of using genetically engineered fruits and vegetables.

In fact, money is the reason companies genetically engineer their plants in the first place. Some people believe GM foods must be higher in nutrients, bigger, or better tasting, simply because they have been modified. But this is not the case. Not one of the internationally approved genetically modified foods has been altered to improve nutrient load, size, or flavor.

Most genetic modification is done to increase yield, so farmers can grow more food in the same amount of space and therefore sell it later for less (yet earn more). According to the World Health Organization, all internationally approved GM products are altered to create “resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides.”[iii] In other words, companies are creating plants that have toxic pesticides as part of their genetics. Genetically modified plants are ones with pesticides you cannot even wash off.

And humans have also had allergic reactions to these pesticides and the genes for them that are coded into food, including redness, itchiness, swelling, skin eruptions, eye irritation, sneezing, and even hospitalization.[iv] Simply coming into contact with GM crops containing these pesticide genes, or even merely breathing the air nearby during pollination has caused hundreds of people to become ill with headaches, dizziness, extreme chest pain, extreme stomach pain, vomiting, fever, allergies, and respiratory, intestinal, and skin reactions. Blood tests showed the reaction was to the pesticide gene contained in the nearby GM crop, so there is no doubt as to what is making us sick.[v] This should come as no surprise when you are consuming what is, quite literally, poison.

These chemicals reduce digestive enzymes, which could make it much harder for your child to digest not only GM foods, but really any foods.[vi] Mice fed these toxins began having allergic reactions to foods they used to find harmless.[vii] In some cases, the mice began reacting to such a range of foods that they actually died.[viii] But these kinds of tests are not routinely done on genetically modified foods before they hit your table, so you would never know the real risks of feeding them to your children. It’s not a risk you want to take because even in small doses, over time, these toxins will be stored and come to harm your child.

It’s no joke or exaggeration that these foods can kill. In India, thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats died after grazing on cotton plants that had been altered to include a pesticide gene – the same gene that is inserted into the soy and corn sold to you and I.[ix] Those animals that did not die suffered from illness and had difficulties reproducing.[x] Animals in Asia and even Europe have fared no better, with countless cows, water buffaloes, horses, and chickens dying after being fed genetically modified corn.[xi]

Animals like cows, buffaloes, and horses are much bigger and stronger animals than we humans, yet they have died as a result of eating genetically modified foods. We humans are not safe. And indeed, hundreds of people have died from, and thousands have been made ill or disabled by, contamination contained in genetically modified food.[xii] GMOs kill. They are poison and if we feed them to our children, we are feeding them poison.

[i] Netherwood et al, “Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,” Nature Biotechnology 22 (2004): 2.

[ii] See for example Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; “Study Result Not Final, Proof Bt Corn Harmful to Farmers,” BusinessWorld, 02 Mar 2004; and “Genetically Modified Crops and Illness Linked,” Manila Bulletin, 04 Mar 2004.

[iii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

[iv] M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992). “Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead,” Bhopal, Nov. 23, 2005. http://news.webindia123.com Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005; and M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[v] See for example Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; “Study Result Not Final, Proof Bt Corn Harmful to Farmers,” BusinessWorld, 02 Mar 2004; and “Genetically Modified Crops and Illness Linked,” Manila Bulletin, 04 Mar 2004.

[vi] M. Malatesta, M. Biggiogera, E. Manuali, M. B. L. Rocchi, B. Baldelli, G. Gazzanelli, “Fine Structural Analyses of Pancreatic Acinar Cell Nuclei from Mice Fed on GM Soybean,” Eur J Histochem 47 (2003): 385–388.

[vii] Vazquez et al, “Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant,”Scandanavian Journal of Immunology 49 (1999): 578–584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000b).

[viii] V. E. Prescott, et al, “Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity,” Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (2005): 53.

[ix] “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6416-mortality-in-sheep-flocks-after-grazing-on-bt-cotton-fields-warangal-district-andhra-pradesh-2942006

[x] “Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields—Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh” Report of the Preliminary Assessment, April 2006, http://gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/6416-mortality-in-sheep-flocks-after-grazing-on-bt-cotton-fields-warangal-district-andhra-pradesh-2942006

[xi] Mae-Wan Ho, “GM Ban Long Overdue, Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines,” ISIS Press Release, June 2, 2006; and Mae-Wan Ho and Sam Burcher, “Cows Ate GM Maize & Died,” ISIS Press Release, January 13, 2004, http://www.isis.org.uk/CAGMMAD.php

[xii] William E. Crist,Toxic L-tryptophan: Shedding Light on a Mysterious Epidemic; and Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2003, chapter 4, Deadly Epidemic

How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Affect Animals

How Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Affect Animals

Most of the studies done on GMOs are done by the companies that produce them.  They have the money, time, and staff to undertake studies to see if GMOs are safe to consume.  However, these companies have a vested interest in showing their products to be safe.  Their experiments are done in secret and only the information the company wants is released.  Of course they do not want to do an intense study of how their products impact humans because if the impact is negative, there will be no way to keep that secret.  Independent scientists have limited funding and support for these studies and doing a large-scale human study is quite difficult.  Animal studies are one very important way to learn how genetically modified foods affect us.

Remember that “you are what you eat” really is true, especially for children. Your children are growing and that means they’re using their food for much more building, unlike adults, who use their nutrition mainly for upkeep, repairs, and energy. Toxins, allergens, or altered nutrients are easily assimilated by their bodies and made a part of them for life.[i] One of the biggest concerns is that genes for antibiotic resistance, which have been added to plant DNA, will be transferred to humans upon consumption. If this is a concern, it is a concern on a much higher level when it comes to your children, who are still growing and developing.[ii]

In humans, it’s hard to measure the effects of eating GMOs because there are so many other factors in our lives that can throw off scientific studies. GMOs are most often found in processed foods, which means that the health impacts on people who eat GMOs could be coming from a variety of sources: a diet high in fats, sugars, and simple carbohydrates, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet of overly processed foods, and, of course, a diet high in GMOs. If someone who lives this way gets sick, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly what is triggering what illness and why.

Not so in mice. Mice are a great substitute for humans because they’re social and physically active animals. It’s easy to measure their ability to learn new tasks and it’s not hard to keep an eye on them and observe changes in their behavior. We can easily assess physical changes in their bodies by doing autopsies on them. Plus, we have total control over the food we choose to give them, which means we can create an experiment in a controlled environment.

You can even try this experiment yourself: Take two groups of mice. Feed one group healthy, normal food. Feed the other group only genetically modified food. Now sit back and see if you can notice the difference. What you’ll see – what has been noticed before when this experiment has been done – is that the mice on the GMO diet become less social. They become withdrawn and hide in their own parts of the cage rather than playing with one another. And if you try to pick them up, they’ll run away, frightened, and try to climb the walls, which is not normal behavior for a mouse accustomed to being regularly handled.[iii] If a diet of genetically modified food causes anxiety and aggression in mice and rats, imagine the effect it could be having on your child!

Of course, these are just the behavioral impacts you or anybody else can see for yourself. You don’t need to be a doctor or a scientist to observe these changes. Yet, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) warns that animal studies on the impact of genetically engineered food have noted in their subjects infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.[iv] That is to say, not effects you want to foist upon your children.

Let’s look at a few specific examples of side effects of GM foods that have been noted in animal tests. In one study, rats were fed a diet of GM potatoes. The result? Excessive cell growth in their stomach lining – a condition linked to the development of cancer. Their immune systems and some of their other organs were damaged, too.[v] When fed a lifetime diet of GM corn, they developed tumors and females died young – even when the dose they were fed was very small. The results were shocking because tumors began to develop within just a few months.[vi]

Speaking of organs, one of the organs that is a good barometer of changes in diet is the liver, which cleans toxins and wastes out of our bodies. In rats who ate GM potatoes, their livers were smaller and partially atrophied,[vii] while in rats who ate GM canola the livers were 12-16% heavier.[viii] The liver cells of mice fed GM soy reacted just the same as if the mice had been eating toxins.[ix] But there is hope. Once the mice were switched to a non-GM soy diet, their livers recovered.[x] The human body is incredibly resilient and even if you’ve been feeding your child poison for years, they can still recover, but only if you switch them to a healthy, natural diet.

No wonder many animals that have been tested will instinctively steer clear of GM foods. When given a choice, mice, rats, cows, pigs, geese, squirrels, deer, elk, and even raccoons will all choose a natural food source over a genetically modified one.[xi]

This is why it is so imperative that we insist our governments mandate labeling of GMO food and ingredients.  We at least should have the option of choosing to avoid these foods.  In the meantime, be a smart shopper.  Many foods now advertise themselves as GMO free and buying those products sends the message that we as consumers want food that is all natural.

[i] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[ii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

[iii] I.V. Ermakova, “Diet with the Soya Modified by Gene EPSPS CP4 Leads to Anxiety and Aggression in Rats,” 14th European Congress of Psychiatry. Nice, France, March 4-8, 2006; “Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005; http://www.regnum.ru/english/526651.html; Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,”Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

[iv] Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S, et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric. Food Chem. 2008; 56(23):11533-11539. Kilic A, Aday M. A three generational study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: biochemical and histopathological investigation. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008; 46(3):1164-1170. Dean A, Armstrong J. Genetically Modified Foods. Executive Committee of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. May 8, 2009. Available at http://www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html

[v] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,”Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84; Stanley W. B. Ewen and Arpad Pusztai, “Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine,” Lancet, 1999 Oct 16; 354 (9187): 1353-4; and Arpad Pusztai, “Facts Behind the GM Pea Controversy: Epigenetics, Transgenic Plants & Risk Assessment,” Proceedings of the Conference, December 1st 2005 (Frankfurtam Main, Germany: Literaturhaus, 2005)

[vi] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

[vii] Arpad Pusztai, “Can science give us the tools for recognizing possible health risks of GM food,”Nutrition and Health, 2002, Vol 16 Pp 73-84.

[viii] Comments to ANZFA about Applications A346, A362 and A363 from the Food Legislation and Regulation Advisory Group (FLRAG) of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) on behalf of the PHAA, “Food produced from glyphosate-tolerant canola line GT73,” http://www.iher.org.au/

[ix] M. Malatesta, C. Caporaloni, S. Gavaudan, M. B. Rocchi, S. Serafini, C. Tiberi, G. Gazzanelli, “Ultrastructural Morphometrical and Immunocytochemical Analyses of Hepatocyte Nuclei from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Cell Struct Funct. 27 (2002): 173–180.

[x] M. Malatesta, C. Tiberi, B. Baldelli, S. Battistelli, E. Manuali, M. Biggiogera, “Reversibility of Hepatocyte Nuclear Modifications in Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Eur J Histochem, 49(2005): 237-242.

[xi] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

Playing G-d: An Introduction to Genetically Modified Foods

Playing G-d: An Introduction to Genetically Modified Foods

Humans love the idea of playing god. We love to build and to create. We even enjoy having the power to destroy. And we think we know best when it comes to everything, including plants and animals.   If there’s something we don’t like about them, we want to change it.

In the past, this took the form of selective breeding, so you would find farmers planting the seeds from their very best crops again and again in order to get better quality vegetables, which seems harmless enough. But selective breeding can also bring out certain weaknesses, as we see with many domesticated breeds of animal. Certain types of dogs and cats sport weaknesses that come from generations of selective breeding and inbreeding. German shepherd dogs often have hip problems, for example, and Persian cats often have respiratory issues. You would think that things like this would clue us in that we’re really not meant to be tinkering with such things… but apparently it doesn’t.

Today, humans are tinkering more than ever.   Wealthy people are cloning their dead (or even live) pets. And scientists are able to select human embryos based on the desired sex of the baby so that if you don’t want a girl you don’t have to have one – or if you do want one, you’ll be sure to get her – provinces that once were considered to be untouchable, entirely up to G-d. Of course, there is always speculation that scientists will continue to engineer human babies to create “designer” babies, with the “perfect” hair or the “perfect” eyes. If this doesn’t scare you, it should. Just look at what happened when people tried to engineer cats and dogs.

The problem is that when scientists tweak just one little thing in the DNA – whether of a plant, animal, or human – they don’t always know what else it might trigger. In one study, just one foreign gene was inserted into a plant, but when the DNA was examined, that one change had affected the way 5% of the genes in the plant worked. That’s a massive amount of change. And there is no way to predict what will change or how.[i] It is a technique that completely sidesteps any of the safeguards associated with natural breeding, transfers genes across the boundaries of biological kingdoms (merging plants and animals), and has been used commercially for less than 20 years.[ii] Scientists are only just now beginning to understand its full range of effects.

You see, adding genes to plant DNA is not like cutting and pasting a paragraph from one document to another in a word processor, where the results are clean and crisp. DNA, with its thousands of genes and complicated twisted double helix design, is not just something you can snip apart and put back together again. To get new genes in, scientists have to blast cells with a “gene gun” or attack cells with invasive bacteria.[iii] Because these techniques are so imprecise, changing or adding even one gene can alter hundreds or even thousands of other genes in the plant.[iv] It can turn on genes, turn off genes, or cause existing genes to act differently.[v] And in the process of being inserted, the inserted gene itself may change or react differently.[vi] The scientists doing the genetic modification may know what effect they want to have, but they cannot control or predict the full effects their changes will really have.

As a result, scientists are only just beginning to understand the effects of genetic modification on foods we have been consuming for decades.   The biggest problem is that scientists just don’t always know what to test for. Just because a test for certain nutrients comes back fine, it doesn’t tell us about all the other components of foods we’re ingesting, from antioxidants to allergens. The GM soy discussed above contains fewer antioxidants, protein, fatty acids, and amino acids, and more allergens. GMOs cause animals to age faster, infertility, problems in immune systems, improper insulin uptake (diabetes), problems with production of cholesterol, and physical changes to the kidney, liver, spleen, and entire gastrointestinal system.[vii] That certainly was not what Monsanto was intending when it engineered it, yet it is not entirely unexpected.

Remember, companies can insert any genes they want into their new plant creation, without knowing the full range of its effects. A company can insert a gene taken from the peanut plant into a corn plant and possibly transfer the peanut allergen, too.[viii] But you, as the consumer, have no way of knowing what changes have been made to a particular plant’s genome, or their source. If you don’t avoid GM foods altogether, you have no way of protecting your children from them.

[i] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[ii] Freese W, Schubert D. Safety testing and regulation of genetically engineered foods. Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews. Nov 2004. 21.

[iii] See for example 233-236, chart of disproved assumptions, in Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA 2007.

[iv] J. R. Latham, et al., “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation,” The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006, Article ID 25376: 1-7; see also Allison Wilson, et. al., “Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications,”Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews – Vol. 23, December 2006.

[v] Srivastava, et al, “Pharmacogenomics of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) and the cystic fibrosis drug CPX using genome microarray analysis,” Mol Med. 5, no. 11(Nov 1999):753–67.

[vi] Latham et al, “The Mutational Consequences of Plant Transformation, Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2006:1-7, article ID 25376, http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jbb/; Draft risk analysis report application A378, Food derived from glyphosate-tolerant sugarbeet line 77 (GTSB77),” ANZFA, March 7, 2001; E. Levine et al., “Molecular Characterization of Insect Protected Corn Line MON 810.” Unpublished study submitted to the EPA by Monsanto, EPA MRID No. 436655-01C (1995); Allison Wilson, PhD, Jonathan Latham, PhD, and Ricarda Steinbrecher, PhD, “Genome Scrambling—Myth or Reality? Transformation-Induced Mutations in Transgenic Crop Plants Technical Report—October 2004,” http://www.econexus.info; C. Collonier, G. Berthier, F. Boyer, M. N. Duplan, S. Fernandez, N. Kebdani, A. Kobilinsky, M. Romanuk, Y. Bertheau, “Characterization of commercial GMO inserts: a source of useful material to study genome fluidity,” Poster presented at ICPMB: International Congress for Plant Molecular Biology (n°VII), Barcelona, 23-28th June 2003. Poster courtesy of Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini, Président du Conseil Scientifique du CRII-GEN, http://www.crii-gen.org; also “Transgenic lines proven unstable” by Mae-Wan Ho, ISIS Report, 23 October 2003, http://www.i-sis.org.uk

[vii] Smith, JM. Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias. Institute for Responsible Technology Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans. Available at http://www.wanttoknow.info/050520schooldietchange

[viii] World Health Organization. Food Safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available at http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/