Jill's Blog

Since 2007, Jill has been sharing health and weight loss tips and tricks here on her blog.

She also writes about nutrition for chronic illness at NutritionWithJill.com and about nutrition for gut health at the LDN Research Trust.

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4 ways to save money while eating better

If you just finished your taxes, you may be thinking about how to spend less money this year. Here are four ways that also help you eat healthier:

1. Get fresh food straight from a local farm with a CSA membership.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs mean that you buy shares in a family farm and get a weekly delivery of goodies. You typically pay less than at the store, because there is no middleman. It also benefits farmers. A Google search can tell you about options near you.

2. Replace conventional meat with more vegan meals.

Most Americans overeat animal protein, and conventional methods (i.e., concentrated animal feeding operations) use hormones, antibiotics, high-pesticide feed, and other cost-cutting measures that appear increasingly terrible for human health. Plus, researchers at the USC Longevity Institute report that reducing protein intake, especially from animal foods, is healthy in numerous ways that promote slower and healthier aging.

3. Skip meals when you don’t feel like eating.

I know, I know… Researchers have done a complete 180 on this one. But skipping a meal now and then is currently believed to be good for gut health, and most people do not grossly overeat afterwards, as previously thought. In fact, research suggests that people only eat about 110% at the meal following a short fast.

4. Drink less alcohol.

You’ve probably been seeing the depressing headlines about how any benefits from alcohol have been overhyped. Some studies about the benefits of resveratrol were even fraudulent and retracted. Bummer! ... but a good opportunity to save money and get healthier.

What else do you do to eat healthier and save money? We’d love to hear about it!

15 ways to promote good gut health

Growing evidence suggests that gut health is all health. In other words, many health conditions either originate in the gut (e.g., autoimmune conditions), or are made better when gut health improves. This goes for mental health as well as physical.

So here’s a handy list of 15 ways to promote better gut health:

  • avoid excess sugar and processed foods, which feed “bad” bacteria
  • avoid artificial sweeteners, which alter the gut microbiome
  • avoid wheat, which increases intestinal permeability
  • avoid excess alcohol
  • eat plenty of colorful plant foods, especially veggies, which feed good microbes
  • avoid unnecessary chemicals that may alter microbes, including unnecessary antibiotics, antimicrobials, preservatives and others
  • eat fermented foods (e.g., Kim chi or sauerkraut) for the beneficial bacteria
  • get adequate vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids
  • get regular exercise
  • manage stress
  • get enough sleep
  • a probiotic supplement may help
  • chew food thoroughly
  • eat organic or non-GMO when possible, to avoid the herbicide glyphosate, which some experts believe may worsen gut health
  • take a digestion break (i.e., don’t eat for several extra hours) so that the gut’s cleaning wave can do some intestinal housekeeping

The research keeps pouring in, suggesting that Americans have severely underestimated the importance of gut health in the past, especially for people living with chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders, mental health issues or neurological problems. So it’s time to re-evaluate our diets from our guts’ point of view, and maybe to learn to love sauerkraut (...we’re struggling with that one, too!).

Happy Healthy Easter!

This week's tip is brief:

Be mindful on Easter!

That cute little Easter Bunny can bring loads of weight gain. In fact, since we started keeping track of client results (in 1997) Easter is the #1 weight gain holiday of the year! It beats out Christmas, Thanksgiving and even Halloween! We can't explain exactly why, but suspect it has something to do with brunches, candy, Easter bread, and/or not being as "on guard" as on other holidays. So strategize NOW and make us proud.

Happy Easter!

Lessons from Lent on breaking free from junk-food-desire

Over the years, our nutrition practice has witnessed countless people discovering these valuable lessons over Lent, and wishing they had internalized them sooner.

Lesson 1: The loss is temporary.

Giving up a favorite junky food (for Lent or any time) is hard....but only for a few weeks. Once a processed food loses its hold on your brain and taste buds, it often stops appealing at all. Taste buds change to love whatever feeds you when you are most hungry, so no food is the permanent love of your life. You move on to healthier things that are just as beloved.

But then, after Lent, you eat the old treat again and...

Lesson 2: The old infatuation comes back shockingly fast.

Upon trying the treat again, many people don't even enjoy the first few bites. The food seems over-flavored and over-processed. But habit, curiosity, or a quest for that old "hit" make them finish the treat and before they know it, they are having fresh cravings.

Lesson 3: Next time you do all the work to break free, don't go back!

When you work hard to give up a junky food, and reach that wonderful place of no longer wanting it, don't get curious about trying it again! Instead, reap the rewards of living free from junk-food-want.

Valentine's Menu for Romance and Health

Nothing shows true love like food that is both romantic and healthy. Here are some Valentine's ideas to get you started:


  • Flowering tea served in a glass mug or wine glass, so your Sweetie can watch it blossom
  • Heart-shaped dallop of salsa on top of a veggie omelet
  • Yogurt or oatmeal with berries shaped in a heart on top
  • Sprinkle cocoa nibs or cocoa powder on fruit, to promote feelings of looooove

Lunch or Dinner:

  • Sexy salad--Did you know that lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in Victorian times?
  • Add wild Alaskan salmon or other cold water fish, for a youthful heart and brain
  • Add heart-shaped carrot and cucumber slices to look like confetti
  • Black forbidden rice is exotic and exciting...as grains go
  • Mole sauce contains cocoa powder, so theoretically promotes feelings of love
  • Parsley and mint, in recipes or just as a garnish, can help keep your breath fresh and kissable

After Dinner:

  • A brisk walk with your Sweetie not only prevents blood sugar spikes, but also promotes physical attraction. Research suggests that having an elevated heart rate together gets mis-attributed to love and attraction. What a perk!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Super Bowl Snacks

Watching football (i.e., hours of sedentary snacking and high adrenaline) is the optimal condition for promoting blood sugar spikes, fat storage and inflammation, if you don't watch it.

One way to reduce the risk is to do a good workout before the game, to deplete your muscles of glycogen. Another option is to choose healthier snacks to replace the chips and pizza. Here are some ideas:

  • pepitas: toasted spiced pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • toasted salted coconut slivers (try Dang brand, unsweetened)
  • bell pepper slices dipped in toasted sesame oil and tamari
  • jicama sticks dipped in guacamole
  • hummus lettuce wraps
  • slices of cucumber with toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top
  • celery dipped in almond butter
  • kale chips (just bake kale at 350 and see how much it resembles Pringles!)
  • turkey slices wrapped around asparagus spears
  • hearts of romaine dipped in low-fat ranch dip
  • chicken skewers
  • shrimp cocktail
  • toasted sunflower seeds or spiced pumpkin seeds
  • walnuts or almonds (in the shell, to slow you down)

If skipping your favorite junk food bums you out, take heart: Research shows that most people mindlessly much on anything within reach during the Super Bowl, and enjoy it the same whether it's raw veggies or hard core junk food.

So make us proud Sunday! And please share your healthy snack ideas. We can never have too many.

Eating for trillions (of gut microbes)

Gut microbes have become celebrities in the worlds of nutrition and wellness, and with good reason. They appear to play a significant role in everything from inflammation to weight to mood and they appear to be involved in a growing variety of medical conditions.

Microbes are found doing numerous different jobs, including extracting and producing nutrients, helping to protect and repair the intestinal barrier, sending signals to the immune system about potential threats in the environment, and much more. Current theories posit that microbes are especially relevant to allergies and autoimmune disease, because they can either signal the immune system to be relaxed OR they can instruct it to stay on high alert and to over-react.

Maybe our microbes’ influence shouldn’t be surprising, given that we have trillions of them all over the body. In fact, a human body contains fewer human cells with less DNA than the microbes that live in it and on it. Some scientists hypothesize that we evolved with these microbes so that we humans wouldn’t need to do so many tasks all on our own. Instead, we allow microbes to live on us and, in exchange, they do some of the work for us. That means that each of us is not just an individual, but a whole big walking microbial community!

The exciting part to me is that these trillions of microbes can be managed to help us be healthier, happier, leaner and more youthful. If we take care of our microbes, and create the right conditions for beneficial microbes to flourish, then THEY will help take care of US. On the other hand, if we allow conditions to be right for “bad” microbes, we’ll have to live with the mayhem and destruction they can cause.

So...what can we do to recruit our microbes to be an army of helpers? Lots of things! Current research suggests that we can…

• Eat to feed the “good” microbes by maximizing the variety of plant foods in our diet, especially vegetables

• Starve the “bad” microbes of their favorite fuel, which is sugar and processed carbs,

• Stop eating foods that kill or disturb good microbes, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and foods containing antibiotics (e.g., animals raised where overcrowding necessitates widespread administration of antibiotics),

• Eat beneficial bacteria directly via fermented foods (especially veggies), like sauerkraut, kim-chi, natto, etc.

• Leave enough time between meals to get truly hungry, which allows for the intestines to do their natural cleaning wave, called the migrating motor complex,

• Reduce stress, which influences microbes,

• Stop killing beneficial microbes via over-use of antibacterial soaps, mouthwash, detergents, and unnecessary antibiotics

As you can see, there’s a lot we can do to manage our microbes. Who couldn’t use a few trillion extra helpers on their wellness team?!

New Year's Res-illusions Mistake

Some surprising nutrition findings explain why many Americans don't lose weight after the holidays, despite eating healthier. Here's the (rather humbling) summary, after grocery bills were examined for 207 households:

On average, households bought more unhealthy food during the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day) compared to the previous months. No surprise. After January 1, they bought more healthy foods. Again, no surprise.

HOWEVER, after January 1, while buying more healthy food, they still purchased holiday levels of UNhealthy food. They just bought MORE food and MORE calories. Doh!

If you want to see the gory details, the complete article can be read at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110561

Since I'm currently in Truckee, where the Donner Party famously starved to the point of cannibalism, I'm reminded that over-buying food is a survival instinct baked deep into our biology. But...if your New Year's weight loss has been stymied, you might want to pay closer attention to your grocery purchases.

Happy new year!

New Year's Willpower Tip

Happy Almost New Year!

If you want to improve your health habits in the new year, then here is a valuable tip:

Willpower succeeds much better when you focus on what you WILL do, rather than on what you WON'T.

For example, replace "no-no" resolutions like this:

  • I won't eat bread at dinner
  • I'll stop overeating
  • I won't drink booze on weeknights
  • I won't eat just to alleviate stress

with "to-do" resolutions like this:

  • I will eat a salad with dinner
  • I will set my fork down between bites to eat slower
  • I will drink herbal tea after dinner
  • I'll get a massage when I'm overwhelmed with stress

The best to-do items are those that actively interfere with the unwanted habit. For example, mindless nibbling isn't possible when you're taking a bath, a walk or a yoga class. And, incidentally, if you wanted to justify playing computer games, they've been proven to help people avoid nighttime munching.

It's a seemingly minor shift in focus, but it hugely raises your chances for success: So take some time RIGHT NOW to rephrase any "will not" resolutions into positive "to-do" items.

And have a wonderful new year!

Holiday Food: How to Enjoy More while Eating Less

Happy Holidays!

Here are 10 ways to maximize your joy at the holiday table while minimizing weight gain:

  1. Be the best conversationalist (i.e., slowest eater) at the table.

  2. Cut your food in smaller pieces.

  3. Use all your senses: Savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season.

  4. Prepare nice responses to food-pushers, so you don't overeat just to please someone else.

  5. Plan active fun, especially right before or after dinner, when it will help blunt a blood sugar spike. A short walk or game of Twister can make all the difference.

  6. Prioritize. Remember that consuming alcohol and dessert at the same meal pretty much guarantees you'll gain fat. If that's not worth it to you, choose only one or the other.

  7. If a big splurge IS worth it to you, then listen to your taste buds and appetite. If you've been eating cleaner recently, you'll notice that you get satisfied much more quickly than you used to.

  8. Have an attitude of gratitude. It's good for your mental and physical health and has also been shown to make people eat healthier without even trying.

  9. Expect that splurges may blitz your taste buds or stretch your stomach, making it harder to eat right for a few days afterwards, when clean eating tastes bland and under-satisfying. It's part of the price you pay, but so long as you expect it, it's not such a big deal.

  10. Focus on the people more than the food. Try to get even more enjoyment out of connecting with others than you can out of the food. See if you can bond with your table-mates and make a memory that lasts longer than the taste of rich foods.

Happiest Holiday wishes to you!!

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