Corporate sponsorship of nutrition? Thanks, but please no.

When I first saw the link on California’s Dietetic Association conference, I didn’t even click through. Call it learned helplessness if you will—I’ve gotten burned out on seeing the ridiculous practices at conferences over the 18 years since I’ve been in the world of dietetics and nutrition.

I got emails from four clients asking about the article in the past 24 hours. FOUR. One client as far away as Chile. The emails all had the same general theme—can this POSSIBLY be true? This is disturbing. Is this typical for dietitians? Do you have to take these classes?

Let’s see: the answers would be yes, YES, somewhat, no. I’ve been concerned about corporate sponsorship since I was an undergrad, and it’s only gotten worse since then. No, these conferences are not required. RDs can get CEUs elsewhere, and that’s what I’ve done over the years. For me, it hasn’t been a principled stand, as much as other conferences interested me more. So I’ve been getting all my CEUs at Celiac conferences, mindfulness trainings, coaching certifications, a ton of webinars and articles, etc. And I’ve taught CEU courses to other RDs for years (shameless plug: I’ve got a gluten-free vegetarian course in May) so RDs certainly aren’t limited to these conferences.

I did speak at the Virginia Dietetics Association conference in 2011 on gluten-free diets, and I don’t remember seeing any corporate goofiness. The session was not sponsored, and I was paid a nominal fee and had to disclose any conflicts of interest, which is standard. I can’t say that was my main focus of awareness, but I also most likely would have noticed lots of corporate ickiness. I also have never seen corporate interests at local Virginia events. When I worked running programs for the health department in DC, essentially we vetted vendors for the large WIC conference we hosted, so it was a non-issue. Sponsors were strategic and appropriate—i.e., a breast pump company sponsored the lactation room. I consider that synergy. However, I’ve been aware that it’s quite an issue nationally. Long story short, it’s an embarrassment.

I do not fault RDs who choose to work for Pepsi, fast food and the like—everyone needs to choose where and how to work based on interests, available opportunities, finances and values. However, sponsorship is a different beast, because like it or not, we’re all painted with the same brush. Yes, RDs should and do have enough intelligence to discern that Mikky D’s isn’t health food. I also understand the argument that we should be educated about all foods, and that corporations potentially hold the key to making different nutrition changes on a broad scale. And yet… I honestly think all people are swayed by what we see repeatedly, and it’s disturbing that money likely influences AND’s corporate policy. To be clear, as the article points out, it’s not just AND, but it seems like all the nutrition organizations. This is nothing new under the sun, because physicians have conferences sponsored by drug reps, but that doesn’t make it any less distasteful.

There’s a one line claim in the article that a gluten-free panel talked about how a g-free diet is a fad diet, and was sponsored by the Wheat Council. While I’m concerned, I’m reserving judgment here without more details about how this discussion went down.

It’s hard for me to reconcile all the different parts. There are many, many thoughtful, committed and dedicated RDs, and yet AND’s refusal to evolve is disgraceful, and harmful to many RDs. I’ve been a member of AND since 2000, because I value the dietetics practice groups. I can’t belong to them if I’m not a member of AND. I also don’t have the energy to run for AND and try to make changes—it’s just not that far up there on my list of priorities.

It’s sad. People largely become RDs out of a desire to change the world of nutrition, and yet we’ve ended up as part of an institution whose values don’t mirror the majority of nutrition practitioners. I’m encouraged by the efforts of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, and hopeful that policy starts shifting, either due to advocacy or public awareness. From everything I’ve seen, I absolutely believe that most RDs want change. I certainly do!

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

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A Mother’s Day PSA

A few thoughts in honor of Mother’s day:

I’ve also been lucky that while I frequently get questioned about children, most people are well-intentioned. While some of the questions have been truly off the wall (do you have kids? Why not? Don’t you like kids? But you don’t LOOK like you can’t have kids) the majority have been quite respectful, which I appreciate.

And yet so many people have asked me, “Do you have a family?”, and I’ve always been stumped for an answer. Of course I have a family—I’m blessed with a loving husband and two 4-legged children with whiskers and tails. I have a sister, and other family members that care about me.

Almost everyone has a family, either by blood or by love.

But thOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAat’s not what those (well-meaning) people are asking. When they say, “Do you have a family?” what they mean is, “Do you have children?” There is a world of difference between those questions, and to miss that distinction is to miss out on the value of all sorts of bonds.

Please consider the words you choose.

Yes, I have a family. No, I don’t have children. I don’t know if I can get pregnant; I’ve never tried. I do know that I’ve chosen not to get pregnant or adopt because my medical issues are significant enough that I don’t have the physical energy and stamina to be the kind of mother that every child deserves. I do hope that changes and I don’t know what’s in store.

I suppose that’s probably too long to fit on a t-shirt.

While it fits for me, it also leaves out all sorts of people who choose not to have children for more perfectly valid reasons than I can count. In fact, I’d suggest that all reasons are perfectly valid and none of your (or my) business.

Happy Mother’s day to all of you who have given your time, energy and love to “mother”, nurture and care for children, elders, friends, animals, nature…

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Thankful for my darlings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow much for the kitteh in the window…

Houdini just turned 14 last week. 14! And he’s our baby kitty; Genghis is about 17. It’s been a bit of rude awakening for me that the dudes are, well, older gents. I adore them more than words, and they’re just a huge and wonderful part of my life.

I go walking every morning, and Hou waits for me in the front window. If I’m not out walking, he doesn’t spent time in the front window, but if I go outside, he keeps watch until I get back. G generally waits too on the carpet, but he can’t miracle his butt up to the window sill. It always makes me smile, and it reminds me how much the kitty contingent loves me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m also super grateful for my main (feline) dude, Genghis, and very aware of the preciousness of his kitty self. First, he’s aware of the preciousness of his self, and makes of a point of reminding me. I’m also aware that he’s also had more heart and thyroid issues over the years. Lately, it’s been the sniffles but it’s definitely getting him down, and he’s less frisky. He spends a big chunk of his time on the heated floormat with me. No matter how many times I schooch him over to the side, he always flops back and paws me to remind me of the important thing(s) in life.furlove

I’m also extremely grateful that G & H are great friends. Houdini loves Genghis, and Genghis loves Genghis, so they’re a perfect match for each other.

I don’t know if we’ve all got months more together or years, but in some ways, knowing that our time together is finite helps me treasure the time we have.

cookiesOn an entirely different note, I was really excited to see Carrie review my Divine Chocolate Chip cookies, and Shirley gave them a wonderful shout out in her Gluten Free Wednesday roundup.

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Thankful for relaxation–Thankful Thursday

I’ve been tired lately. Mr. Dude will tease me that I’m not getting in my usual solid 9-10 hours of sleep. My body just feels heavy, slow, and I had one of those moments this week when I wondered, how do I push myself to get moving again?

And surprisingly, the answer has been not to push at all. menmrgWhen I’ve made a point of relaxing and, essentially, ignoring the things that I can’t change, I’ve had the energy I need. It’s also been pretty stunning to notice which things fill me and which things drain me, and how pronounced it is. I didn’t realize how much it costs me to stay in a funky dynamic, but oh, I’m so not ready to uproot every part of my life. Guess some things will have to keep coming back and biting me in the butt.

Force gets you just so far before it starts breaking you down. I’m a bullheaded fighter by nurture, if not by nature, and I kinda enjoy finding out, again and again, that I can choose a different path and it’s much more peaceful. It’s such a well-ingrained idea that the only way to get something done is to work harder, but it just doesn’t work out for me.

And on an unrelated note, the Center for Mind Body Medicine shared a post I wrote on my journey with binge eating disorder. It’s important to me to share…and yet, um, they titled it “shame”. Gotta say the label made me feel like I wanted to curl up in a little ball, but I think I’m over it now.

 Additional note: I re-read this and realized this doesn’t quite sound like a “thankful” post, although it actually was mean that way. It’s not fun to feel like I’ve got Jello limbs, but it was great to be re-reminded that I’ve got the power to shift my experience, and it’s given me a lot of useful stuff to ponder!

There’s a great Buddhist saying called the Bodhisattva vow, “May all that arises serve the awakening of my heart and mind, and be a blessing to all beings.” It’s a comfort to me, especially on challenging days, to remember the possibility of a kernel of insight or wisdom or inspiration in any situation.


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Divine Chocolate Chip Cookies (grain free, vegan)

cookies and milkI confess, I’m totally in love with these cookies.

In grad school, one of my dear friends started calling me Cookie Monster, because I took my cookies very, very seriously. I still do, and it’s been way too long since I’ve had chocolate chip cookies that meet my approval. Chocolate chip cookies are matter of great importance, as you well know. We all have a difference sense of exactly what they should look and feel like. My friend Carrie has perfect Chocolate chip cookies that my sweetie loves, but I can’t have the eggs or sugar or grains, so I’ve spent years adventuring. Some recipes I’ve tried are too greasy, or too flat, too coconut, too crumbly or just not right. I hadn’t had any that met my standards for almost 1o years, and clearly that’s unacceptable, and called for serious experimentation.cookie sheet

And so I finally found my cookie, and it was totally worth waiting for. So good. Firm, almost crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. I know this sounds like crazy talk and takes a good deal of restraint, but they also freeze really well, and so they’re my cookie of choice for travel.

Instead of coconut oil or butter, these babies feature macadamia nut butter. I’ve got the directions here for a flavored version, but it really boils down to putting macadamia nuts in a food processor, turning it on, and scraping down as needed. Easy, peasy! For this recipe, you just want to get pure macadamia butter—no maple syrup, no salt, just the roasted macadamia nuts,  a food processor and, of course, lots of love.

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with a slipat mat or parchment paper. Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly except the chocolate until well combined–this can also be done in the food processor– and then stir in the chocolate chips or chunks. Portion out cookies by the heaping tablespoon, roll into balls and flatten down on the cookie sheet. They can get cozy, since the cookies won’t spread much.cookies

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the sides are just starting to turn a golden brown. The tops will not brown. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before moving them.

Makes about 18, depending on how much cookie dough ends up in your mouth pre-baking.

*Almond flour: This recipe works perfectly with blanched almond flour from or Honeyville. I tried a few different cookie recipes that I found on other sites that specified Bob’s Red Mill’s flour and they came out totally crumbly for me, which may be an ingredient issue—I only use almond flour that’s certified gluten-free, which is either Honeyville or BRM sells blanched almond meal which is marked GF but is not certified; it looks like it’s a little coarser. I don’t know if BRM flour works in this recipe. Please let me know in the comments if you experiment.

**I used 73% chocolate in the 1st picture, and 85% in the 2nd. The lower cacao chunks are firmer and prettier. Both are crazy delicious.

I’m submitting these lovelies to Gluten Free Wednesdays. Hop on over to see a bunch of wonderful recipes!


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Happy 6th Blog-niversary to me & you! Thankful Thurs

master little

Nope, this isn’t a foxy post, but I couldn’t resist sharing this pic of this little cutie.

Wow, 6 years of blogging? I actually had to count that one out to be sure. I can’t believe how long that it, and yet…it feels like I’ve been blogging forever.

I started blogging because I wanted to share my food…but under it all, I started blogging because I felt isolated. I was having such severe physical issues that I couldn’t go out with people or invite them to dinner, and this was my way of having that needed connection. I needed a way to see and be seen, a way to connect, a way to share, a way to actively take part in community.

A lot has changed for the better in these past 6 years, and I’m still grateful for having my blog as an outlet, and the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with.

So thank you for reading, joining me on my journey, and letting me see into your lives, too. Writing this blog has been an adventure for me, and it’s been something I treasure.

My favorite posts? I can’t even wrap my head around my all-time favorites, so just my 6 favorites of this year:

Food posts:roasted broccoli

and my favorite written posts

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Goofball foxy babies! (video & pics)

goofball foxiesFoxy babies were definitely enjoying their holiday weekend! Mr. Dude got a video of the babies…don’t miss the pounce at :49

Download Video with | Convert YouTube to MP3 | Replay Media Catcher

This pic cracked me up…a little foxy still frame action!2014-04-19 - Baby foxes 05There was lot of foxy pouncing…2014-04-19 - Baby foxes 02a lot.2014-04-19 - Baby foxes 03


2014-04-19 - Baby foxes 07If the foxes haven’t gotten you smiling yet, I’m afraid it may be a lost cause. Last try:2014-04-19 - Baby foxes 08And I know this is a food blog, so I promise to share divine chocolate chip cookies later this week…cookies and milk

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More foxy…

Because a day without foxy babies is like a day without sunshine, right? Scroll for a bunch more foxy pics.wild oneThe wild child was off on independent study while everyone else hangs out at the shed. For whatever reason, one of the kits is much more adventurous/agile than his/her sibs.

mama wildoneThe wild child and mama

mini meThe wild child was also the only one who is able to scamper up onto the logs so he/she spends some time with mama. Mama preferred high ground, maybe she was hunting?wrestling foxiesand when in doubt, foxy babies either sleep or wrestle. It was hard to get clear shots because they’re always in motion!chillin

Fingers crossed that they come visit tomorrow when we’ve got good light.

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Wow foxy! Thursday Thankful (a little early)

play(keep scrolling for a ton of pics)

I know last week’s thankful was for the foxy babies, but I’m afraid watching these little ones don’t get old. Not even when they get big. All week, I have been stalking them and I see a little head, grab a camera, and *poof!* little noggin disappears. Or it’s too dark, or raining, or I can’t get good pics for another reason.

Until today.

four foxies!I discovered that there are FOUR baby foxies, and I got to see the pretty lady, too!

i see youDo you see her? How ’bout now?

foxy mom logAnd of course as soon as mama showed up EVERYONE wanted lunch.

momma nursingAnd they trotted around after her, clearly quite hungry.

momma and nurselingsWow. And stay tune for part II tomorrow!

I’m grateful for this foxy treat…

Posted in cheryl's musings, Foxy family, thankful thursday | 4 Comments

Gluten Freedom Giveaway & mini reviews

gluten freedomFirst things first! Dr. Fasano has a wonderful new book out called Gluten Freedom. I’m doing a giveaway on my main site and have a cover-to-cover review here. Short version: buy it! It’s terrific.

It seems to be the month of great books, and I’m way behind, so a bunch of mini-reviews will have to do until the dust settles for me:

Ali and Tom of Whole Life Nutrition havealis brownies put together a gorgeous new masterpiece, the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. I got it Friday morning, and I had already made the Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Bites by Friday night. I brought them to a potluck, and they were amazing. Rich, dense, just sweet enough, satisfying and completely delicious. I’m hoping to do a thorough review later. I think the Almond Lime Dipping Sauce is next, but it’s got a lot of competition!

blender girlBlender Girl has a new book out,  Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts, and Drinks–100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes! Although I adore my Vitamix, I actually dislike smoothies, so I didn’t think it would be a book I’d get into. However, there are soup recipes, cracker recipes, dressing recipes, sauces, dessert recipes…all of it gluten-free AND vegan, and gorgeous pics to boot. I love that all the ingredients are real food based, and they seem relatively quick and easy. Oh, an extra bonus: there are some recipes that include soy ingredients, but most don’t. Of everything, the Raw Chocolate Orange Torte looked most amazing. As someone who is allergic to pumpkin, the Sugar-Free No Pumpkin Pie will absolutely happen! There’s a lot of pages that I’ve marked.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also received a copy of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free and Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery. What can I say…it’s BEAUTIFUL. I mean, everything this gorgeous, and I get excited even reading about it. I know I promised myself that I was done adding cookbooks to my collection, but she had me at Gourmet Dark Chocolate Mesquite Brownies and Salted Caramel Apple Muffins. All recipes are gluten-free, sugar free and vegan. The recipes do contain grains, so I’ll be making some as a treat for E when we next have company visiting, and I know the book will be an appreciated part of my lending library.

cover-smallLast but not least, a former colleague and mentor, Dr. Gary Kaplan released a new book which will be out in a few weeks, called Total Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Chronic Pain and Depression. Dr. Gary is an osteopath and acupuncturist who has spent years helping people recover from autoimmune and other chronic illnesses. As a Georgetown professor and NIH consultant, he has a unique perspective that’s both grounded in research, but also incorporates a variety of integrative and complementary approaches. For years, I’ve been sending clients to Dr. Gary when they’ve done everything and are still stuck and many have made tremendous progress. He’s also offering a bunch of freebies for people who pre-order before May 6th.

Disclaimers: I received free copies of Gluten-Freedom, Whole Life Nutrition, the Blender Girl, and Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats. My opinions are my own and I have not been compensated for any of these reviews.


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