A Race To The Finish Line – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

January 1, 2015

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 50 – delivering on a promise.


One year ago today, I made a public declaration that I would do 50 healthy things in honor of my 50th birthday year. I had never made such a bold New Year’s resolution, and I certainly had never put one out for the world to see.

It was an interesting journey. I started the year with enthusiasm and fervor. Second quarter was slow and steady. In third quarter, I hit a bit of a lull, which forced me to race to the finish line in fourth quarter like my life depended on it. Thus, you’ve seen a plethora of posts over the past couple of weeks.

But I did it! I made it! Sound the New Year’s noisemakers please!

I really wasn’t sure how it would play out. I said in my first post, “My vision is that some of these things will be small and personal, while others may be larger and more organized. I would love your ideas, input and participation.”

And that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s been a mishmash of personal anecdotes mixed with highlights of some great brands that promote healthy living. Here’s a recap of the whole #healthy50 list:

  1. Electric Car – I bought a zippy little Nissan Leaf, and I still love it. I haven’t gotten gas in a year. What a time saver.
  1. Walking meetings – we’re on a quest to eradicate the dangers of sitting at Kuhn & Wittenborn.
  1. New shoes – The pros at Gary Gribble’s Running Sports helped me find the perfect fit to keep me going all year.
  1. Drinking Water – I still drink half my body weight in ounces each day.
  1. Kicking Sugar to the Curb – I completely eliminated sugar for three-fourths of the year. I’ll admit I’ve fallen down over the holidays, but I plan to get back on track.
  1. Breathing – My friend, Toby Kuhn, introduced me to a great breathing app to help with stress reduction. Dr. Andrew Weil has some great tips too.
  1. My Fitness Pal – I still think it’s a great tracker for accountability in diet and exercise.
  1. Fitbit – My goal is at least 5,000 steps each day, but I try to get closer to 10,000. My Fitbit keeps me accountable.
  1. 5 Fruits and Veggies/Day – It’s a “rule” for me and easier than one might thing if you focus.
  1. New perspectives – I had the opportunity to gain new perspectives about agriculture and life from a lecture by Vandana Shiva at Kansas City’s Unity Temple.
  1. Celebrate milestones – I celebrated my 25th anniversary at Kuhn & Wittenborn.
  1. Kombucha – I started brewing my own version of this ancient elixir at home. I’ll be honest – as the year went on, I got a little nervous about the safety of home brewing conditions. It was a great experiment, but….
  1. Sleep – I’m still trying my best to get 7-8 hours per night.
  1. Powerhouse greens – I’m still eating a LOT of greens in different ways – including the choco green smoothie I highlighted in this post.
  1. PiYo – I still go every Saturday morning, and I had fun introducing my teacher, Becky Feller, to my colleagues at Kuhn & Wittenborn.
  1. Road trip – I feel like one of the best things Randy and I have done as parents is to lock our kids in the car with us every summer. We’ve made great memories, and this year was no exception.
  1. Getting back to your roots – I had a great time connecting with extended family at my cousin, Troy’s wedding.
  1. Eat more pie – My favorite new brand I discovered this year is Pie Lab in Greensboro, AL.
  1. Expand your fitness horizons – Architecture and design students from Auburn University have a created an awesome model for community fitness at a park in Greensboro.
  1. Calm amidst the chaos – We had a wild summer, but Randy and I managed to find a little peace right in the middle of Atlanta at the Chatahootchee National Recreation Area.
  1. Play a team sport – We spend a lot of time watching our son’s baseball team. Karl Carswell and his gang at KC Barnstormers are the best in the business.
  1. Eat some weeds – My weekly CSA from Gibbs Road Farm and Cultivate Kansas City did a great job of introducing me to new produce this year – including purslane, often eschewed as a weed.
  1. Surprise – My family taught me to embrace the unexpected with an incredible birthday celebration.
  1. ACV – The advantages of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar are too numerous to mention.
  1. Campout – Spending the night with the members of Shawnee Mission Northwest Student Council made me optimistic about the future.
  1. Coconut Oil – This is my new wonder product. I use it for everything.
  1. Chicken man – With the importance of local, sustainably raised meat reaching new heights, I feel fortunate to know Mike and Dee Martin from 4D Acres.
  1. Bone Broth – I never thought I’d be boiling bones to make a healing soup, but turning 50 leads to weird things I guess.
  1. Bring your lunch – It saves money and calories. Our clients at GEHA had some great ideas. To see the videos we produced for them, click here.
  1. Try a new fruit or veggie – Just when I thought I knew them all, my colleague, Erin Carlson, introduced me to the watermelon radish.
  1. Mammogram – You have to do it, and really, it’s not so bad.
  1. Coffee – I can’t start my day without it, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. A new brand I discovered that gives back to soldiers, Green Beans Coffee, makes it even better.
  1. Catching up with old friends – Reconnecting with friends from college at the recently reopened JJ’s Restaurant was good for my soul.
  1. DIY cleaner – A mix of coconut oil and baking soda had my kitchen cabinets gleaming without the use of toxic chemicals.
  1. BOSU – According to the BOSU website, it’s the perfect tool for “active aging.” I guess that’s me.
  1. Sunchokes – This is another new food I learned to love this year.
  1. Healthy appetizers – Like most of us, I struggled to keep up healthy eating during the holiday season, but I found a few good alternatives.
  1. Healthy gifts – Likewise, the options for fitness-related gifts seemed to grow this year.
  1. Essential oils – I’ve developed a recent obsession with Young Living oils. They have all kinds excellent uses.
  1. Healthy holiday decorations – Brands like Sur La Table and others jumped on the healthy bandwagon with home décor.
  1. Dark chocolate – For most of the year, it’s the one indulgence I allowed myself. My favorite brand is Chocolove.
  1. Family traditions – My kids reminded me how important traditions are in strengthening healthy bonds between generations.
  1. Probiotics – I’m very interested in the role of “gut health” in overall health. I take a probiotic supplement every day.
  1. Jillian Michaels – When I can’t get to the gym, I work out at home with America’s toughest trainer.
  1. Sharing cookies at the dog park – Randy and his new friend, Ben, inspired me to be open to “strangers.”
  1. TeaShang Tea is one of my favorite healthy brands, and the health benefits of tea are numerous.
  1. Play by the rules – After weeks of holiday feasting, I felt the need to get back on track with some healthy living “rules.”
  1. Fish oil – It’s hard to get enough Omega-3s in your diet without supplements. I looked at several options.
  1. Pegan diet – Dr. Mark Hyman convinced me that combining the best of Paleo and Vegan diets to become a “Pegan” is a good idea. Read this excellent article.
  1. Delivering on a promise – In the end, I think this is really what it’s all about: finishing what we start and fulfilling commitments. It’s easy to say we’re going to do something, but to actually do it is more of challenge. However, that’s what the best people and the best brands do. They deliver on their promises. They execute plans. There may be some twists and turns along the way, but in the end, there’s a lot of satisfaction in completing what we start.

I have had a lot of fun this year with my #healthy50 list. Many great people and great brands played a role, and I am eternally grateful for your encouragement and participation.

I’m not making such a bold resolution this year, but I am committed to maintaining an interest in healthy brands and healthy lifestyles. I look forward to seeing what unfolds in 2015, and I wish you all health and happiness.

Becoming a Pegan – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 31, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 49: eating a “pegan” diet.

My close friends tease me about the various healthy eating trends I’ve followed over the years. I was a near vegetarian for a long time. Recently, I’ve been trying to eat more meat because I feel like I need protein. I am definitely a devotee of local and organic foods. I go back and forth on dairy and grains. But mostly, I am an admitted research junkie, and as findings have changed over the years, I have also changed my diet.

Recently, I came across this article, written by Dr. Mark Hyman, that is the best summary I’ve seen of current thinking that makes sense to me. Dr. Hyman has recently been named Director of The Cleveland Clinic’s new Functional Medicine Center. I find it fascinating that arguably the most credible medical clinic in the country is embracing functional medicine.

Dr. Hyman says it’s his job to figure out the best way to keep my patients healthy. We now know that food is medicine, perhaps the most powerful drug on the planet with the power to cause or cure most disease.” Therefore, he believes doctors have a fundamental responsibility to help their patients sift through all of the confusing nutritional studies reported in the media

I really encourage you to read Dr. Hyman’s entire article, as he talks a lot about why nutrition research is confusing and flawed. He talks specifically about two diets that are popular now which both seem to generate good results: Paleo and Vegan. “Essentially, each camp adheres to their diet with near religious fervor. And each can point to studies validating their point of view.  We call this cherry picking,” says Dr. Hyman.

He goes on to say that he has spent a lot of time reading between the lines, analyzing methods and the actual data to learn what the studies actually demonstrate. His conclusion is that most people should become “Pegans,” a term he has coined for a hybrid of Paleo and Vegan. Both diets focus on real, whole, fresh food that is sustainably raised. No argument there.

Here are some additional characteristics of a healthy diet on which both camps agree:

  • Very low glycemic load – low in sugar, flour and refined carbohydrates of all kinds.
  • High in vegetables and fruits. The deeper the colors, the more variety, the better. This provides a high phytonutrient content protective against most diseases. (Although the Paleo camp recommends lower glycemic fruit such as berries.)
  • Low in pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and probably no or low GMO foods.
  • No chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners and other “Franken Chemicals” that you would never have in your pantry.
  • Higher in good quality fats – omega 3 fats for all. And most camps advise good quality fats from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Although some, such as Drs. Esselstyn and Ornish still advise very low fat diets for heart disease reversal.
  • Adequate protein for appetite control and muscle synthesis, especially in the elderly.
  • Ideally organic, local and fresh foods should be the majority of your diet.
  • If animal products are consumed they should be sustainably raised or grass fed.
  • If you are eating fish you should choose low-mercury and low-toxin-containing fish such as sardines, herring and anchovies or other small fish and avoid tuna, swordfish and Chilean sea bass because of the high mercury load.

Next Dr. Hyman outlines areas of more controversy.

  • Dairy – Both the Paleo and Vegan camps shun dairy. They believe for most people, it contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and may increase (not decrease) the risk of osteoporosis. I go back and forth on this one. I’ve been trying to eat more goat and sheep dairy, as they seem to be more digestible for me.
  • Grains– It seems like the gluten-free trend is everywhere. Dr. Hyman believes that for millions of Americans gluten creates inflammation, autoimmunity, digestive disorders and even obesity. But he believes they can be part of a healthy diet in limited amounts. Here are some guidelines: Any grains can increase your blood sugar. And if you eat any flours made from grains, you might as well be drinking a soda. Stick with small portions (1/2 cup at a meal) of low glycemic grains like black rice or quinoa.
  • Beans – Beans are a great source of fiber, protein and minerals. But they do cause digestive problems for some and can trigger spikes in blood sugar.  Dr. Hyman believes moderate amounts are ok – meaning about up to 1 cup a day.
  • Meat – Here’s the key point. All meat is not created equally. Is it feed-lot beef that has more palmitic and myristic acid7 that raises cholesterol and increases inflammation, or is it grass fed beef that has more cholesterol neutral stearic acid and contains protective omega 3 fats and vitamins A and D that raises glutathione and other antioxidants?    “The evidence in my mind is trending toward meat not being linked to death or heart attacks,” Dr. Hyman says. However, he goes on to advise eating limited amounts, “Eat meat as a side dish or condiment, and only consume grass fed and sustainably-raised.”
  • Eggs – For years we were taught that eggs contain cholesterol so they must be bad. In fact, eggs have now been exonerated, and egg yolks have many beneficial nutrients. In general, eggs are a great low cost source of vital nutrients and protein.
  • Fish – Mercury in fish is a legitimate concern. Choose small, omega-3 fat-rich fish such as sardines or wild salmon.

So, how does all of this net out if you decide to become a “Pegan?” Here are his “rules.”

  • Focus on the glycemic load of your diet.
  • Focus on more protein and fats, but be picky –Stay away from most vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, corn, and especially soybean oil. Focus instead on omega-3 fats, nuts, seeds (flax, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin), coconut, avocados, sardines, olive and yes, even saturated fat from grass-fed or sustainably raised animals.
  • Eat mostly plants – lots of low glycemic vegetables and fruits. This category should make up 75 percent of your diet and your plate. Try for 2 to 3 vegetable per meal.
  • Avoid dairy – Dr. Hyman says it is for growing calves into cows, not for humans. Try goat or sheep products but only as a treat and try to eat organic.
  • Avoid gluten – Dr. Hyman says, “Most is from Franken Wheat – so look for heirloom wheat (Einkorn); if you are not gluten sensitive, then consider it an occasional treat.”
  • Eat gluten-free whole grains sparingly– they still raise blood sugar and can trigger autoimmunity.
  • Eat beans sparingly – lentils are best. Stay away from big starchy beans.
  • Eat meat or animal products as a condiment, not a main course. Vegetables should take center stage and meat should be a side dish.
  • Think of sugar as an occasional treat – in all its various forms (i.e., use occasionally and sparingly).

Clearly, diet is a complicated proposition with many opinions and beliefs — with proponents each fervently arguing their point of view. Personally, I don’t like to argue. I feel like we can all learn from each other and from new information in the unfolding story of “the healthiest diet in the world.” Dr. Hyman’s point of view, as outlined in this article, currently makes sense to me. I think I’m officially declaring myself a Pegan for 2015.

But talk to me this time next year — you never know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Boosting Omega-3 – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 30, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 48 – fish oil.

In the past 10 years or so, many Americans have turned to fish oil supplements as a strategy to include more Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. Most medical experts agree that Omega-3 plays an important role in reducing various types of inflammation.


Studies about the role Omega-3s play in heart health are mixed. Some purport it lowers blood pressure, reduces triglycerides, slows the development of plaque in the arteries, reduces abnormal heart rhythms and lessens the chance of sudden cardiac death. Other studies have refuted some of these benefits. However, when I asked my primary care physician her opinion, she cited a study showing that women who take fish oil supplements have a greater chance of surviving a heart attack if they do have one. For her, that is enough to think fish oil is a good idea.

In addition to heart health, Omega-3 has also been cited as beneficial to brain function, skin and hair growth and several other diseases such as arthritis, lupus, osteoporosis, asthma, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, breast cancer and colon cancer.

Of course, diet is usually seen as the best way to get essential nutrients. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acid include wheat germ, fresh fruits and vegetables, along with fish, olive oil, garlic, flax seed and walnuts. However, many nutritionists say it’s actually hard to get enough Omega-3s from diet alone, which leads to the consideration of a supplement.

Each individual should definitely discuss his or her own situation with a doctor. But for me, the benefits of supplementation seem reasonable. So, the question becomes, which supplement is best?


My doctor recommended the Kirkland brand from Costco. Based on price and quality, she thinks it’s a good bet. I’ve recently heard about some other products that are interesting, though. My son’s athletic trainer, John Renzi,  gave him a product called Coromega 3+D. It’s an orange-flavored squeeze packet that promises better absorption than fish oil softgels. My son likes the taste. My friend, Lori Cross, the mother of two young girls, also uses an interesting product with her family. It’s called Barlean’s Lemon Zest Omega Swirl. She uses it in smoothies and even as an ice cream topping. What a great strategy to sneak in the “good stuff.”

100820-P14461I also find it interesting that so many brands are looking for ways to make health more palatable.  I predict we will see even more in 2015.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you think fish oil supplements are worthwhile? Why or why not?

Playing by the Rules – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 29, 2014

Regular readers know I’m doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 47: following the rules.

When I started the quest to make this my healthiest year, I wasn’t really sure what path I would take. I had a few ideas, but I also felt I needed some structure.

Thankfully, my friend, Heather Welch Westfall, started a lifestyle challenge group that gave me exactly what I was looking for. The challenge rewarded participants for various behaviors. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Drinking water – half your body weight (in ounces) each day
  • Eating at least five fruits and vegetables each day
  • Walking at least 5,000 steps each day
  • Exercising five times per week
  • Eating sugar no more than twice per week
  • No snacking after dinner

Each week, Heather added some additional “fun” activities like trying a new food or doing an activity with family or friends.

I really try to incorporate these rules into my everyday routine. For me, the accountability of checking these items off my list is very effective. I will admit I’ve fallen off the wagon quite a bit during the past couple of weeks. I look forward to getting back on track as the holidays wind down.

What rules do you follow to stay healthy and fit?

Shang Tea – A Great Brand for Healthy Living

December 28, 2014

Regular readers know I’m doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 46: exploring the benefits of tea.

Today I want to highlight one of my favorite brands for healthy living: Shang Tea. Shang Tea is located in Crown Center, home to both Hallmark Cards and our agency, Kuhn & Wittenborn. It was founded by owner Zehua Shang, a native of China. After moving to the U.S. in 2000, Shang wanted to share the culture of tea that has been benefiting the health of his people for centuries. All of his tea is grown high in the Fujiian Mountains, which are known for having the perfect climate, soil and water to grow premium teas.


My husband, Randy, has been a Shang devotee for a few years. I became a believer this year when Shang cured me of a cold.

Going to Shang’s shop is a sensory experience. He sits you down at a tasting table and explains the differences between white, green, oolong, and black tea that are determined by the processing of the leaf and the cultivar of tea plant that is used. Similar to wine and cheese, every type of tea has a unique process used to create the final product that you drink.

As explained on Shang’s website, “In general terms, white and green teas are the least processed teas. White tea for example, is plucked and air dried, whereas green tea is plucked, withered, and then lightly steamed, roasted, or pan-fired to retain the green color in the leaves. Leaves used to produce white and green tea are handled very carefully to prevent any bruising of the leaves which can lead to them oxidizing or turning black.

On the other end of the spectrum you have black teas, which are almost completely oxidized. After plucking, the leaves are withered and typically rolled to bruise the leaves; then they are placed in a humid room to oxidize. Once the leaves are fully oxidized, they undergo a final drying phase.

In the middle are wu-long or oolong teas, which fall between white/green and black on the spectrum. Wu-longs are partially oxidized and can appear either green or reddish/black depending on the level of oxidation.”

Shang can also explain exactly which tea is beneficial for various health and wellness pursuits, which brings me back to how he cured my cold. I walked into his shop one day around noon, and he heard me sneeze. He promptly sat me down at his tasting table and poured me a cup of his special brew. He sent me home with a care package and instructed me to drink six more cups that afternoon. He promised that if I followed his prescription, I would feel fine the next day. I’ll admit I was skeptical, but Shang was right. I woke up the next morning symptom free.

Most of Shang’s teas are of the loose-leaf variety. Shang says in order to get the tastiest and smoothest cup of tea, tea leaves need to have enough space to expand and allow the water to flow around the entire tea leaf, which cannot be done with a tea bags. Tea bags contain chopped tea leaves, which lose flavor more quickly and also release tannins more quickly resulting in a bitter taste.

One of our recent favorites is Shang’s brick-aged white tea.

After allowing freshly produced white tea to mature for 6-12 months, the tea leaves are lightly steamed to make them pliable. The leaves are then pressed into a cake that is wrapped with tea paper and stored in a special room to age and ferment. Currently, Shang’s brick aged white tea is around 7 years old. As Shang says, this tea has “an earthier and woodsier quality” than many teas, but it’s definitely interesting. Similar to a fine wine, well produced and properly stored tea cakes continue to develop better flavors and complexities over time.

I love Shang’s business philosophy. He embraces the essence of all truly great brands – making a human connection that truly improves people’s lives. He’s on a mission to bring the health benefits of premium to tea to Americans, and he provides a great customer experience along the way. If you are in Kansas City, I highly encourage you to visit his shop. If not, you can order online.

Sharing Cookies at the Dog Park – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 26, 2014

Regular readers know I’m doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 45: beware of “strangers.”

My husband, Randy, brought cookies home from the park this morning. He got them from his friend, Ben, a retired railroad man and Korean War vet. Ben’s been telling Randy about his wife’s famous Pfeffernusse (German Pepper Nut) cookies, made with a distinctive blend of anise seeds, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves.


Ben really wanted Randy to try the cookies. He said they’re especially good with coffee. He wanted to be sure Randy would be at the park this morning because his wife was making a special care package for Randy.

A year ago, Randy and Ben were strangers – just two guys who share a ritual of walking their dogs around a trail at a park in Shawnee, KS, early in the morning. I’m not sure how they really started talking, but I imagine they began with simple pleasantries that slowly morphed into deeper conversation and finally real friendship.

I started hearing about Ben a few months ago. Now, several times a week, Randy tells me some bit of news he’s heard from Ben. They’ve become an important part of each other’s morning – checking in with each other and genuinely caring about each other’s well being. A couple of months ago, Randy had to be in the hospital, so I took over the early morning dog walking routine. Randy told me to look for Ben because he would be interested to hear how Randy’s procedure had gone. Indeed.

I’ve been a little melancholy this morning in the aftermath of Christmas. I’m always a bit disappointed when the festivities are done. It seems we plan and prep and flurry around in a hubbub of activity for weeks, and then it’s over so quickly.

But Ben’s cookies have brightened my spirit. The unexpected connection between these two “strangers” at the dog park may just epitomize what it’s really all about.

Working out with America’s Toughest Personal Trainer – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 24, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 44 – working out with Jillian Michaels.


As I have previously mentioned, I’m a social exerciser. I really need the motivation of a group or teacher to keep me going. However, there are some days, like this morning, when I just can’t make it to the gym.

So, I work out with Jillian instead. Jillian Michaels is my fitness hero. Working out with her in person would be my ultimate fitness fantasy, but since chances of that are pretty slim, I subscribed to Jillian’s online program.


It’s much more affordable than a “real” personal trainer, and I think it’s a great value. The program includes meal ideas, three levels of exercises and an excellent app.   I also have Jillian’s “30-Day Shred” video.


All of her workouts are fast-paced circuits that integrate strength, cardio and abs. I really like her three-level approach from beginner to advanced that allows for improvement and greater challenge over time.

I know many people will be vowing to exercise more in a week or so when New Year’s resolutions come around. I highly suggest you consider Jillian’s program. I’m still trying to figure out a way to make my fitness fantasy come true. (If anyone has any connections, I’m all ears.) In the meantime, I’ll just have to make do in my basement.

What are some of your favorite fitness programs to do at home?


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