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Creating a Joyful, Compassionate Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a deeply treasured holiday that brings families and friends together in celebration of a bountiful harvest, and all we have to be grateful for. Since the 1800s, turkey has been the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving feast, with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes as traditional accompaniments. Other side dishes vary to reflect regional differences, with sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, turnips, Waldorf salad, and pickles commonly gracing our tables. For plant-based eaters, Thanksgiving can cause anxiety, especially if your loved ones have expectations that are outside of your comfort zone. How do we navigate a celebration that is centered around a very animal-based centerpiece? The answer is with love, compassion, and plenty of delicious plant-based food!


For some individuals, Thanksgiving is a holiday that they prefer to share with those who embrace their passion for plant-based eating. Plant-based potlucks or gatherings with like-minded family or friends make perfect sense. This year, due to COVID, the celebration may be limited to immediate family, so it could present the perfect opportunity for creating new traditions. Enjoying a purely plant-based Thanksgiving feast does not mean cutting your nonveg extended family out of Thanksgiving. You might begin a new tradition of hosting a family pancake breakfast or a scavenger hunt followed by hot chocolate and pumpkin pie.


For other individuals, Thanksgiving is all about family, regardless of where they lie on the diet spectrum. When the festive meal is shared by people with very different dietary leanings compromise and compassion become the order of the day. Let’s consider two scenarios. It is your year to host Thanksgiving dinner. You have been plant-based for less than a year. Your dad has let you know in no uncertain terms that he expects turkey. Your sister reminds you that its only once a year, and that a traditional meal is a must. You do not want to stuff and cook a turkey, but you do want to celebrate with the family you love. Now, the second scenario. It is your parents’ year to host the meal. You know the meal will feature turkey, sausage cornbread stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes with cream and butter, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, green bean casserole with cheese, and pumpkin pie with eggs and whipping cream. How can a plant-based eater host or attend a Thanksgiving dinner that is typically loaded with animal products? The following tips will help you create a joyful, compassionate Thanksgiving with the omnivores you adore.


You are the Host

  1. If you can accept having turkey in your home, but don’t feel comfortable preparing or purchasing it, ask another family member if they will cook the turkey, dressing and gravy. You can offer to provide the plant-based centerpiece, all the side dishes, dessert, and beverages.
  2. If you prefer not to have turkey in your home, ask your family and friends if they would be open to a plant-based feast. Make a centerpiece you know everyone would love – or make two centerpieces (e.g. tofu turkey and stuffed squash). If they are resistant, consider asking someone else to host the Thanksgiving meal, and offer to prepare a few of the dishes. You might also consider hosting another special event such as a brunch or a games night.
  3. Make your table look festive and inviting. Decorate with fall colors and a natural centerpiece.
  4. Go all out with the side dishes – make them look gorgeous (which is easy to do with colorful vegetables). Make plant-based versions of family favorites, and perhaps add one or two new additions that you know everyone will love.
  5. Enjoy the company. Talk about all the things you are grateful for, regale your family with stories of days gone by, play games, or sing songs around a fire.


You are the Guest

  1. Talk to the host about what you can do to help with the meal. Offer to make a plant-based centerpiece, stuffing, and gravy.
  2. Discuss the side dishes and dessert and find out if your host is willing to do some of the side-dishes plant-based. If your host is willing, offer to supply plant-based substitutes for the dairy/eggs, and perhaps some wonderful recipes. You might suggest using a little olive oil instead of butter on the Brussels sprouts or egg replacer and plant-based cream in the pie. If she prefers to use butter and milk for the mashed potatoes, you might offer to bring plant-based milk and prepare a separate bowl for your family.
  3. Express your gratitude for everything your host does to accommodate you and your family.
  4. Be positive and light-hearted in your conversations. Avoid any negative comments about the food (whether those comments be about health, ethics, or the environment). If someone attempts to engage you in conversation about why you don’t eat turkey, you might suggest getting together at another time to discuss the topic.
  5. Be compassionate. For many of us, eating plant-based is about compassion – for animals and for people. Being compassionate means being conscious in your actions, and in your choice of words. It means lifting others up and doing your best to understand what they are feeling. It means doing what is within your power to make others welcome, comfortable, and respected.


Tofu: A Plant-based Protein Superstar

Tofu, also commonly called bean curd, is made by coagulating soymilk using calcium sulfate or nigari salts to form a solid block. Tofu comes in a variety of textures, from silky or soft to medium, firm, or extra-firm. An extraordinarily versatile product, tofu has unique nutritional features and health benefits that have been established over many decades. Tofu absorbs the flavors of whatever dish it is used in – firmer tofu tends to work well in savory dishes, while soft or silky tofu is perfect for desserts.

First produced in China during the Han Dynasty about 2,000 years ago, its use spread to other parts of Asia, and in time tofu became a dietary staple in households throughout Asia. Tofu is now a much treasured, economical protein source for people around the world, particularly those who prefer plant-based protein sources.


Tofu Nutrition


Tofu is an excellent source of high-quality protein, containing the necessary amounts of all essential amino acids. It is also a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, calcium, selenium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Tofu is relatively low in calories and has a very low glycemic index of 15. It is cholesterol-free, sugar-free, and low in saturated fat and sodium.  As a minimally processed soyfood, tofu is packed with protective phytochemicals including phytoestrogens, flavonoids, phenolic acids, saponins, and phytosterols.

The table below compares the nutrient content of one serving of tofu with one serving of beef. The nutrients highlighted in green are higher in tofu than ground beef, while the nutrients highlighted in orange are more concentrated in ground beef.


Tofu vs 80% Lean Ground Beef

Nutrients Tofu, firm (0.5 cups) Ground Beef (3.5 oz/100 g)
Calories 181 254
Protein 21.8 17.2
Carbohydrate 3.5 0
Fat 11 20
   Saturated fat 1.6 7.6
   Linoleic acid (n-6) 5.5 0.42
   Alpha-linolenic acid (n-3) 0.73 0.05
Cholesterol (mg) 0 71
Fiber (g) 2.9 0
Vitamin A (IU) 209 14
Thiamin (mg) 0.2 0.04
Riboflavin (mg) 0.13 0.15
Niacin (mg) 0.48 4.2
Folate (mcg) 36.5 7
Calcium (mg) 861 18
Iron (mg) 3.4 1.9
Magnesium (mg 73 17
Manganese (mg) 1.5 0.01
Potassium (mg) 299 270
Selenium (mcg) 22 15
Zinc (mg) 2 4.2

Source: USDA Nutrient Database


In terms of nutrient density, tofu is a far better choice than 80% lean ground beef. While the beef is higher in calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, riboflavin, niacin, and zinc, the tofu is higher in protein, carbohydrate, fiber, essential fatty acids (linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid), vitamin A, thiamin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and selenium.

In summary, tofu provides an excellent compliment of nutrients. It is a healthful addition to any diet and is a great protein choice for those who eat plant-based. For plant-based children, tofu helps to balance a high fiber diet with a high quality, digestible, lower fiber protein source. For those with higher protein requirements (e.g. seniors and athletes), tofu makes meeting protein needs easier.


Health Benefits


While fewer studies have singled out tofu, multiple studies have demonstrated health benefits of soyfoods in general. It is interesting to note that two of the world’s five Blue Zones (places where populations live the longest, healthiest lives) use soy, including tofu, as dietary staples.

Evidence suggests that regular soy consumption lowers risk of coronary heart disease by reducing LDL-cholesterol and blood vessel inflammation and improving blood vessel elasticity. Soy has also been shown to protect against some forms of cancer (especially breast, prostate and GI cancers). Several studies have demonstrated improved insulin sensitivity with soy consumption. Due to the high isoflavone content of soy, it also appears to favorably affect bone health, brain function, symptoms of menopause, skin elasticity, depression, and kidney function.


Tofu Safety Concerns


Tofu is not always portrayed in a favorable light. Concerns about allergies, antinutrients, and impacts on thyroid hormones are hotly debated on the internet. While some individuals do need to avoid or limit soy due to allergy or severe thyroid problems, for most people, soy foods are both safe and nutritious.

The prevalence of soy allergy is about 0.4% in children (who are at the highest risk). The most common reaction to soy in infants is eczema. Most children do outgrow their soy allergies, but those who are sensitive or allergic to soy need to avoid it.

Soy foods, like other whole plant foods, contain a variety of antinutrients, including trypsin inhibitors and phytates. Trypsin inhibitors can interfere with the action of trypsin, an enzyme needed to digest protein, while phytates can reduce mineral absorption. Usual preparation techniques, such as soaking and cooking dramatically, reduce these compounds. Since tofu is made of cooked soybeans, phytates and trypsin inhibitors are significantly reduced.

Soy products, including tofu, do contain goitrogens, as do many other foods such as cruciferous vegetables and flaxseeds. These are not an issue for healthy people, however, if you have an underactive thyroid, you can reduce the impact of dietary goitrogens by varying your diet, cooking goitrogenic foods, and ensuring you meet the recommended intakes for iodine and selenium.


How much tofu and soy are safe?


While it is always advisable to consume a varied diet and not rely too heavily on a single food source, no adverse effects of soy have been noted in Asian populations consuming the most soy (about 25 grams of soy protein; 100 mg isoflavones per day), so this seems a reasonable upper limit for adults. Thus, for healthy adults, intakes of 3-4 servings per day seem a reasonable upper limit, while intakes of about 1-2 servings a day are suggested for children.


Tofu Selection


                There are many types of tofu to choose from: soft, medium, firm, silken, sprouted, fermented, smoked, and flavored. Some tofu comes packaged in water, while other tofu comes in aseptic packaging and can be stored for several months. Generally, the package will provide an expiration date. Tofu can be frozen for about 5-6 months.

If you are looking for tofu to replace meat in a stir fry or other main dish, generally firmer tofu is the best choice. If you want tofu for a pudding, smoothie, or dessert, soft or silken tofu is usually the appropriate choice. Do read the label to double check calcium content, as it can vary wildly depending on the type of coagulant used. If you are concerned about digestion, select a fermented or sprouted tofu. If you are looking for convenience, select a smoked or flavored tofu that can simply be sliced and eaten.


Tofu Tips


  1. Select Tofu. Select tofu with a short ingredient list. Some flavored or jarred tofu can contain a lot of added fat, salt, and preservatives.
  2. Drain Tofu. If tofu is packed in water, you can drain it by placing it between two plates and placing a heavy can on top. Let sit for about 15 minutes and drain.
  3. Freeze Tofu. If you want a tofu that is less moist and more chewy texture, simply freeze it. Squeeze out the excess moisture. After freezing, tofu soaks up sauces and flavors beautifully.



Meal Ideas


Breakfast – Add soft tofu to smoothies; use medium or firm tofu to make a tofu scramble or breakfast burrito.

Lunch – Blend soft tofu to make a veggie dip, or slice smoked or flavored tofu for sandwiches or wraps. Bake seasoned, cubed tofu and add to salads.

Dinner – BBQ tofu, bake tofu, or add tofu to stir fries. Add cubes of tofu to soups or stews and use tofu to replace feta in lasagna.

Desserts – use tofu to make puddings, mousses, “cheesecakes”, and other desserts.

Culinary tofu eating. Tofu isolated on white background.

Decadent Triple Layer Chocolate Caramel “Cheesecake” with Raspberry Sauce

Makes 16 servings.

This is decadent dessert which was created to celebrate a special birthday and the reunion of dear friends. It is very rich, so a little goes a long way. Play around with the ingredients and get creative with the decorations! Add a dollop of cashew pear cream for extra points!



1 ½ cups nuts (e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or a combination)

1 ½ cups soft dates (if hard, steam to soften)

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup unsweetened, dried, shredded coconut

Pinch of salt


Salted Caramel

1.5 cups (packed) dates

¾ cup nut butter (cashew or mixed nut butter are great)

½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp vanilla


Chocolate Cheesecake Filling

3 cups cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed*

1 cup non-dairy milk (cashew or almond work well)

200 grams dark chocolate 60 – 80% depending on sweetness you prefer

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla

Pinch of salt


Raspberry Sauce

1 bag frozen raspberries (12 oz or 340 g)

1/3 cup water

2 teaspoons cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water



  1. Prepare crust. Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is still crumbly but well combined. Press together to test. If it holds together, it is ready to use. If not, pulse a little more. Press into a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate for a few hours or freeze for at least an hour before adding the caramel layer.
  2. Prepare caramel. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth. Remove from processor and carefully spread over the crust. Refrigerate or freeze.
  3. Prepare cheesecake filling. Melt chocolate on low heat stirring frequently. While chocolate is melting, blend cashews, milk, lemon, and vanilla in a high-powered blender until very smooth. Add melted chocolate and blend into the cashew mixture – first on low speed, gradually increasing speed until thoroughly mixed in. Pour on top of caramel layer. Chill until firm – ideally overnight or a minimum of 4 hours.
  4. Raspberry sauce. Over low heat, place raspberries and 1/3 cup water. Heat to boiling and then combine cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water and stir into the raspberries. Keep stirring for about 3-4 minutes until cornstarch thickens the mixture. Pour into a jar to cool. Use to decorate the plate or simply pour a little over each slice of cake.
  5. Decorate. An easy, pretty way to decorate is to melt about 50 g chocolate and pour swirly lines over the chilled cake. Add raspberries around the edge of the cake and in the middle for color. For a fancy birthday cake, you can add a 4th layer of chocolate fudge frosting (or replace the caramel with fudge frosting) and reserve some frosting to pipe around the cake. If using as a fourth layer, make this layer number 2 after the crust and the caramel layer number 3. For extra points, sprinkle a little cocoa powder on the plate before serving.

*If you need to do a speed soak, use boiling water and soak 30 minutes or more.


Chocolate Fudge Frosting

½ cup pitted soft dates, packed

½ cup boiling water or hot non-dairy milk

½ cup nut or seed butter

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla



Put the dates in a heatproof bowl or a large glass measuring cup. Add the boiling water and let soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dates and the soaking liquid to a food processor. Add the nut butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract and process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Use immediately or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

Cracked Grain Pumpernickel Bread

Cracked Grain Pumpernickel Bread

This bread is yummy. It is a little reminiscent of a loaf or bran muffins. It is a very heavy, nutrient-dense, high fiber bread. It does not hold together like regular bread, so works better for open-faced sandwiches rather than traditional sandwiches. It is wonderful with nut butter and bananas or with avocado and tomato slices. It can be toasted, if desired. Enjoy!


4 cups (1 L) cracked multigrain cereal (e.g 8-grain or 12 grain)

2 cups (500 ml) mixed seeds (chia, pumpkin, sunflower, etc)

1 cup (250 ml) ground flaxseed

1 cup (250 ml) rye flour (or other whole grain flour

1 tsp (5 ml) salt (or 1 ½ tsp (7 ml) , if desired)

5 ½ (1375 ml) cups hot water (just below boiling)

¾ cup (185 ml) molasses

3 Tbsp (45 ml) apple cider vinegar

1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together cereal, seeds, flour and salt. In another bowl stir together water, molasses, vinegar and baking soda.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir well for at least 2-3 minutes.

Cover and let stand overnight or for 4 hours.

Spray or oil two loaf pans. Divide dough into the 2 pans.

Bake for 1 hour then lower the heat to 250 degrees F and bake another hour or more until firm. 


Cracked Grain Bread (2)

Kick Diabetes Essentials Just Released!

I am excited to tell you that Kick Diabetes Essentials has been released. This book provides the fine details of how to kick diabetes with a plant-based diet and lifestyle. It is jammed packed with research, practical guidelines and delicious recipes. This book provides a thorough analysis of plant-based vs low-carb (e.g. keto) diets. It is a must read for everyone who wants to prevent or treat diabetes with the healthiest diet on the planet. The guidelines are not only appropriate for those with diabetes, but also those who have or are at risk for other chronic diseases. 

Just Released!

Just Released!