Category Archives: Food, Cooking, Living!

“Detox” Naturally – Eat Your Way To Better Health

Your body is a natural detoxifier – In ScienceBasedMedicine, we learn that, “The liver performs a series of chemical reactions to convert toxic substances into ones that can be eliminated in bile, or the kidneys. The liver is self-cleansing – toxins don’t accumulate in it, and unless you have documented liver disease, it generally functions without any problem. The kidney excretes waste products into the urine – otherwise the substance stays in the blood. To argue that either organ need a “cleanse” is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of human physiology, metabolism, and toxicology.”
More info in my article from

But no doubt, we eat foods that aren’t the best for us – we may drink too much alcohol and not enough water.  Getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables daily may take some planning, but I guarantee that if you follow this eating plan for at least a week, you’ll get fabulous nutrition without being hungry or resorting to a “detox” diet plan.

Prepare to succeed!  Go shopping, stock up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy (if you choose) –

If you are hungry, feel free to add more vegetables – they are unlimited – this guide is the minimum servings you need daily.

A great website with a FREE database of foods is the USDA’s SuperTracker.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 14.37.10

First, create your profile.  Then, choose your goals – weight loss, maintenance, or weight gain – you can even get recommendations for pregnancy – pre-pregnancy, or first, second, or third trimester.  Put in your vitals – height, weight, age, sex – and goal – and see the recommendations for nutrition, portions, and even click on each food to find out more.  It’s our USA Tax Dollars at work!

woman exercise

Calories Equal Food: What to Eat: How Many Servings Do You Need?

Make Your Menus: click here for information about serving sizes of fruits and vegetables

                                                             Second Nature EatingEating smaller meals more frequently works ideally for me: I translate this eating pattern into portions: for example,
1300-1400 calories 1500-1600 calories
Breakfast ~250 ~300
Lunch ~400 ~500
Dinner ~400-500 ~500
Snack ~100 ~100-150
Snack ~100 ~100-150
What To Eat? 1300-1400 1500-1600
Starches: grains, breads, legumes, starchy vegetables 4 5
Meats and meat substitutes: Non-meat eaters, estimate ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce of meat – 3 oz of tofu has 8 g of protein – see more substitutes ideas here.
4-5 6-7
Dairy and Dairy Substitutes: per cup – can choose unsweetened soy milk or soy yogurt. 2 2
Crunchy Vegetables: 1 cup raw or 2 cups leafy greens or 1/2 cup cooked At least 4- more is fine At least 4-more is fine
Fruits: 1 small-med piece or 1 cup chopped or 2 tbs dried – I don’t recommend juice 2+ 2+
Added fats and oils – -light spreads (avoid all partially hydrogenated fats, margarine), avocado is great! oils like olive or canola oil-based salad dressing are best – buy organic if possible 1-2 3+ added
Other treats, such as wine or chocolate, depending on your activities!
Sample Menu 1300-1400
Breakfast:~250 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1 starch

1 cup nonfat milk: 1 milk—80 calories1 cup berries: 1 fruit—60 calories

about 3/4 cup cooked oatmeal: 1 starch—approximately 100 calories

Total: ~240 calories

Snack:~100 calories

1 milk

1 6-ounce cup unsweetened yogurt: 1 milk—100 calories
Lunch: ~400 calories2 meat

2 starches


2 slices whole grain bread or cup of quinoa: 2 starch—200 calories2 ounces turkey or tuna or salmon: 2 protein/meat—200 calories


Carrots and cucumbers—free

Snack: ~100 calories1 fat 1 small handful almonds (24): 1 fat—approximately 100 calories
Dinner: ~4003 meat

1 starches

2 veggies

2 fat

3 ounces broiled fish: 3 lean protein—210 calories1 small baked potato with salsa: 1 starch—100 calories

Broccoli and tomatoes, sautéed in nonstick pan with ½ tsp olive oil and herbs: free veggies plus 1 fat—50 calories

Tossed salad with vinegar, lemon, and ½ tsp olive oil—50 calories

Snack ~1001 fruit

1 milk

Sugar-free hot chocolate—60 calories½ Granny smith apple, sliced thin—40 calories
Sample Menu 1500-1600
Breakfast:~300 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1-2 starch

1 cup of nonfat milk: 1 milk—80 calories1 whole cup berries: 1 fruit—60 calories

1- cup cooked oatmeal cereal: 1-2 starch—approximately 150 calories

Snack:~150 calories

1 milk

1 fruit

1 6-ounce cup unsweetened yogurt: 1 milk—100 calories1 whole orange: 1 fruit—60 calories
Lunch:~500 calories

3 meat

2 starch

1-2 fat


Large tossed salad: free vegetables3 ounces canned salmon or broiled fish: 3 meat

Whole wheat pita bread: 2 starch

1 tablespoon nonfat salad dressing: 1 fat

Snack: ~100 calories1 milk

½ starch

1 nonfat unsweetened yogurt or Greek yogurt: 1 milk2 tablespoons nugget cereal or wheat germ: ½ starch
Dinner: ~500-6003 meat

1-2 starch

1 fat

Shrimp with broccoli4 ounces medium-sized shrimp sautéed with 1 teaspoon olive oil; garlic, tomatoes, red peppers, and snow peas:

3-4 lean protein, 1 fat—approximately 300 calories

Big tossed salad with vinegar, lemon, and ½ tsp olive oil—50 calories

½- 1 cup brown rice: 1-2 starch—100-200 calories

Snack ~1001 milk

1 fruit

Sugar-free hot chocolate—60 calories½ Granny smith apple, sliced thin—40 calories
Total: about 1500-1600 calories Opt for a glass of red wine or a square of dark chocolate—approximately 100 calories

LIA Restaurant in Valéncia

When we landed in Valéncia July 8, 2020, I’d noticed this restaurant near the Mercat Centrál – and we finally tried it for the first time May 8, we were so pleased! An interesting menu and delicious food and service. We returned again with Andrea & Phil on May 28, and they were equally impressed. LIA Restaurante Valéncia

Small Changes, Big Rewards for Weight Loss

We are so lucky to live here in Cuenca, Ecuador, the land of an abundance of interesting and exotic vegetables and a cornucopia of fruits – however, this bounty of produce doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to lose weight and keep it off.  Many have brought their S.A.D. (Standard American Diets) with them – and it’s not hard to understand why – just about everything you can find in American grocery stores is available here in Cuenca.

If your goal is weight loss and better health, but you’re loathe to “go on a diet” because you hate that feeling of deprivation so typical in restrictive diets, try this trick.  Make ONE change each week, and see what happens…just by adding less fat to your food, or substituting a non-calorie beverage for a high calorie one can produce calorie deficits that show up in pounds and inches off.

Make some small changes and see how quickly the pounds can come off.  Small changes in what you eat and drink can have HUGE benefits!

On a baked potato:potato with salsa

Skip the added fat – save 100 calories per pat of butter – replace with 2 tbsp of fresh tomato salsa and…

…realize the potential to save 8-10 pounds of calories per year – by reducing 75 calories per day.

When dining out – you order pasta:

Gourmet fish, Mediterrean style

An entrée of pasta and cream sauce has about 1200 calories! You select grilled fish and vegetables and save at least 400 calories…you are more satisfied from lots of lean protein and fewer refined carbs…

…realize the potential to save up to 12 pounds of calories per year!


Your typical breakfast is a bran muffin:

A bran muffin might sound healthy, but they’re typically full of oil and sugar…it can have more than 500 calories, depending on it’s size…because it’s full of sugar, it shoots your blood sugar up, then crashing down, making you feel hungry within just a few hours.

cereal milk berries

Instead you switch to a cup of whole-grain, low sugar cereal, a cup of low or nonfat milk, and a full cup of berries…

…you reduce the calories for breakfast by at least 200, you feel better! There’s a potential for creating a 20-pound weight loss calorie deficit in a year!


Your habit is to drink a can of soda in the afternoon – you like that caffeine pick-me-up…

Each 12-oz regular soda has 150 or more “empty” sugar calories – shoots your sugar up, and crashing down again.  Instead, you reach for water, agua con gas, or a diet soda …

Potential calorie savings daily over the year equates to almost 16 pounds of fat – just skip the sweet stuff.

By the way, if you’re watching your calories, that 12-oz glass of juice has as many calories as a 12 – oz soda!  It would take at least 5 or more oranges to make a 12-oz glass of juice – would you peel and eat five oranges in a sitting?  No, you’d be full at 1 or 2.  Skip the juice, drink herbal tea, or water – and lose weight with just a few heorange instead of OJalthy changes. It’s hard to eat an excess of calories from fresh, whole vegetables and fruits, but it’s oh, so easy to quaff calories quickly when you’re drinking juice.




Take a look at your usual diet – and then make it better!  Just a few small changes can pay off big-time.  You can save hundreds of calories daily, thousands yearly just by ditching fried foods and choosing baked, broiled, grilled or sautéed.  Hundreds of calories saved by cutting back on added fats like buttering your bread or over-using salad dressings and added cheese means 10, 20, 30 pounds lost within one year, just by making your choices reflect your goals.

Red Bananas – Pura Vida

Oh My!  I just love red bananas!  Until I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador, the only bananas I’d peeled were those long, skinny, yellow ones – how about you?

You don’t know what you’re missing until you’ve uncovered the smooth, silky, creamy, slightly orange flesh of Red Dacca (the official botanical name)…so don’t miss it.

Now, I’m not one to memorize the genus and species of the fruits on my table, but the red banana has it all over the common yellow one.  Red bananas are shorter but plumper, almost hearty…the flavor sweeter, more red red bananacomplex.

According to Wiki, in Ecuador red bananas are known as Platano colorado or Plátano rosado. 

All bananas are nutritionally fabulous – they’re high in potassium and soluble fiber, making them heart-healthy.


And although they contain about 14 grams of total (not added) sugar, their glycemic index is relatively low – this is attributed to the fiber plus the fruit is rich in pectin.  Pectin helps blunt the natural sugar’s impact on blood glucose levels, so eating rich bananas aren’t off limits to people with diabetes.  Plus pectin is good for digestion.  Read more about the nutritional benefits of bananas on The World’s Healthiest Foods. 

We drove to to Machala from the Yungilla valley, and passed hectares and hectares and hectares of banana plantations – amid the thousands of rows of yellow bananas

mercado banana

we spied patches of our favorite red ones.  On our way back we bought a bunch from a roadside stand.  Sure, one dollar can buy you 10 – but until you’ve seen them, this statement just is a bunch of words – it doesn’t do it justice.  Each single red banana weighs the equivalent of two – even three yellow bananas.  They’re just big, fat, wonderful fruits. I’m in love 🙂

Back here in Cuenca, we buy red bananas at the 10 de Augusto mercado, on Calle Larga between Tarqui y Padre Aguirre.  Once you’ve had a red, you’ll never go yellow again.

Healthy Cooking – Top Kitchen Essentials

Buying the right equipment makes it easier to cook healthfully.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on new equipment – I’ve gotten some of my favorite pots, pans, and even electronic equipment at garage sales and Goodwill.

I’ve underlined the basic essentials – the other equipment can be accumulated as you go along.

Plates and Bowls: Bigger is not better

which plate has more food

Studies show that the larger the portion, the more you eat, so it stands to reason that smaller dishes makes eating healthfully easier. Avoid buying plates that look like platters – research shows that smaller bowls, plates and cups help people manage their portions – a simple strategy, but it works!


Nonstick pans and pots: A smart strategy for weight management is to add less fat to your food. Invest in some good quality (heavy weight) non-stick – they’re great for sautéing, soups, stews and more. A favorite alternative to nonstick is anodized aluminum – conducts heat beautifully but behaves like nonstick…a bit pricy, though.

Don’t pre-heat a nonstick pot or pan without some broth or a little oil in it – read here for more about purchasing. Read more here about recommendations for cookware.

Saucepans – 1 quart and 4 quart

Stock pot – regular or nonstick

9” skillet – great for quick-sautéing onions and garlic, on the way to a tasty sauce.

Baking pans – for fresh bread and loaf cakes.

Pyrex (or glass) mixing bowls with lids – for microwaving, re-heating and cooking; can double as mixing bowls.

Baking sheets

cookwareShallow-sloped sauté pan, or wok – nonstick or anodized aluminum works great here too.

Pizza pan – nonstick is great – but be sure to not use a metal pizza cutter on nonstick.

Tea kettle

Mixing bowls with lids

Electronic Kitchen

Blender: great for smoothies, blending soup, and whipping up eggs.

Optional: Mini-blender (portable, for quick smoothies on-the-go); electric hand blender (great for soups and sauces).

Coffee pot – electric –or a non-electric French press uses boiling water poured over ground coffee.

Microwave oven – for quick-cooking vegetables and re-heating leftovers. A convenience, but not essential.

Slow cooker – can use as a rice cooker too.

Hot air popcorn maker – not essential but an inexpensive way to pop corn healthfully.

Food scale – if it’s in your budget, electronic scales are great especially if you’re a baker.

Standing mixer with attachments, including dough hook – again, not essential but convenient.


Utensils for nonstick or anodized aluminum cookware – plastic and/or wooden: read more here about how to safely use nonstick cookware.

Good chef’s knife – you can spend as little as $20 or as much as $200 – a good knife will save you a lot of time and make cooking more fun. Read more here.

Paring knife

Serrated knife

Kitchen shears

Skewers for kabobs

Garlic press

Lemon/lime press



Measuring cups and spoons

Plastic containers – Serving-size (small and medium) plastic containers with lids that go from freezer to microwave: great for storing made-ahead healthy soups and stews – your own healthy “fast food”.

Plastic storage bags – Gallon, quart, and sandwich-sized plastic re-sealable bags.

Marking pens and painter’s tape – write the date on the containers and plastic storage bags

Flexible cutting boards – These inexpensive plastic boards prevent cross-contamination: designate on especially for raw chicken – disinfect with hot water and soap, or in the dishwasher after use.

Ice cube trays (for frozen fruit treats).

Salad spinner – the insert can double as a colander.


Vegetable steamer – if you have a microwave, you can steam veggies quickly in glass bowls in the microwave.