FD Healthy: It’s Root Veggie Season!

Know Your Roots!

I realized summer was winding to an end as I started to see yellow school busses and a few fallen leaves.  Top ten lists of the signs of autumn are beginning to appear sighting all those warm fuzzy things we love like football season, autumn colors, crisp air and pumpkin spice everything.  

But here’s what I’m thinking…peak season for root vegetables!

Ok, so maybe most people don’t’ get as excited about rutabagas and parsnips as they do about pumpkin spiced lattes.  Let’s face it, root vegetables can be intimidating, gnarly and strange looking, with a reputation of tasting like dirt.  But, don’t run for the hills yet, keep reading for some inspiration to embrace these outcast vegetables.  Not only are they super rich in nutrients, they are also versatile in the kitchen and taste amazing when prepared well.


image2Health Benefits of Root Vegetables

Root veggies are packed with nutrients because they grow under the ground and absorb lots of good stuff from the soil.  Each variety has it’s own special benefits, so mix it up and try lots of different ones!  These  beauties also have complex carbohydrates and fiber to keep you fueled for activity, feeling full and regulate blood sugar for steady energy.



How to shop for your roots

A farmers market is a great place to find cool varieties of these seasonal oddities, but many of the more familiar roots like beets, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes are available year round at any supermarket.  Look for firm roots that feel dense.  If they have stems and leaves attached they should be fresh looking and not wilted.


image1 (2)Types of Root Veggies

The more commonly available root veggies are beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, radishes, onions and garlic. A few other fun ones to try are kohlrabi, celery root and yucca.

But how do I cook them?

Ah, the most important question!  You can’t get all those health benefits if you don’t know how to tame the knobby looking thing into something tasty.

Steaming is an excellent way to prepare many root vegetable as it tends to retain the most nutrient content.  It’s a great method for beets and carrots.  You can also steam roots for mashing like rutabega and parsnips. Puree with a touch of good olive oil and sea salt for a combination that will make your mashed potatoes jealous.

Roasting produces an excellent concentrated flavor.  You can combine an assortment of root veggies. Just be sure to cut them about the same size. Toss in a little bit of oil and season with salt and pepper and some hearty herbs such as rosemary or thyme.  Using a higher temperature in your oven (450) will produce nice caramelization and make them even tastier.

Saute or stir fry thin slices of root veggies for a quick and easy fix.  When combining with other veggies, add the roots to the pan first because they take longer to cook.

Grilling is also an option.  Brush thin slices with oil and seasoning for a nice smokey flavor.  

My Fave Roots!

I love celery root!  It looks kind of like a hairy clod of dirt at first glance, but when you cut away the deceiving exterior, inside there is a creamy white flesh perfumed with a delicate celery scent.  You can use it raw,  sliced very thin in salads or roast little cubes of it into caramelized perfection.  I use it all the time in pureed soups to replace regular celery because it adds body without add extra fat.

Kohlrabi looks kind of like an alien space ship, but this one is also a real gem.  The texture and taste is similar to a broccoli stem.  Just peel away the extraterrestrial outside and slice or shred it for slaw or an excellent addition to potato salad.  It softens nicely when cooked for a delicious casserole. The leaves are also edible and can be used like collards or kale.

Beets are available year round and pack a real punch when it comes to nutrition. Roasting them produces a deep flavor, but steaming is much quicker and preserves nutrients. You’ll know they are done when you can easily insert a knife into the center.  Let them cool a bit and then use a paper towel to simply rub the peel off.

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy beets.

Jeweled Hummus

The deep pigmented  beet root is  provides powerful compounds that protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Beans are high in fiber and protein and provide a boost of nutrition for a small amount of calories. Sesame is a good source of calcium.

1 can (15.5oz) white beans

1 or 2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp Sesame Tahini

Juice from 1 Lemon

1 medium cooked beet

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor for 2 min.  Serve as a dip with fresh veggies. Also great as a filling for wraps.


jennaJenna Ortner aka Lamb chop, is the chef manager for First Descents program nutrition. She currently lives in Virginia with her three daughters where she teaches yoga and health supportive cooking.


FDhealthy: Phytonutrients: Eating The Rainbow

FullSizeRender (5)Hello FD!

In my previous articles I have talked a lot about phytonutrients/phytochemicals and how they are important to our overall health. Since this is a relatively new branch of nutrition based research, I wanted to talk a little about what phytonutrients are and what benefits they actually bring to the table (pun intended).

When you break down the word, ‘phyto’ meaning ‘plant’, and ‘nutrient’ meaning a substance that nourishes a living being, it is pretty self explanatory. Together the word phytonutrient refers to the approximate 100,000 chemicals that occur naturally in plants and help protect them from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats. When we consume these phytonutrients, we are able to reap the benefits of their protective functions. Some of the more popular of phytonutrients we have been able to study include carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol, ellagic acid, glucosinolates, and phytoestrogens. Each of these have different properties, colors and benefits and can be found in different types of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas. Even more interesting is that some phytonutrients are absorbed better if they are consumed with fat, water or paired with certain other phytochemicals. This is why it is important to have a varied and colorful diet, to ensure that you are feeding your body a healthy spectrum of nutrients and allowing them their best chance of absorption.

An easy way to get a boost of phytonutrients into your daily routine is by making a smoothie for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack. Try this delicious peach smoothie recipe to get started! Remember, you can use any fresh fruits and vegetables you have around the house to help keep an exciting and varied diet.
Sunrise Smoothie

Citrus Ginger Peach with Green Tea

Yield: 16 oz. – Recommended 8 oz. serving size

In a high power blender combine:

1 cup green tea, brewed and chilled

1 whole orange, peel removed

1 whole lemon, peel removed

1 whole peach, cut in half and remove the pit (Mango also works nicely)

2 small chunks frozen banana (about 1/3 of a banana)

Blend until smooth and enjoy the sunrise!

Tip: Brew a little extra tea when you have your afternoon cup and put the extra in a jar to chill in the fridge and use in your smoothie the next morning.  You can also pour tea into ice cube trays and use the ‘tea ice’ in your smoothies to make a frosty drink.

Source: Jenna Ortner, aka Lambchop

Below is a quick introduction to which phytonutrients are found in fresh fruits and vegetables and what their benefits are. I encourage you to check out the links at the bottom and do some research on your own to learn more about phytochemicals and how you can incorporate them into your daily life. Cheers!

phytonutrient chart 2

Source: apathtohealth.wordpress.com


References on Phytonutrients:



Bio PicMy FD name is Kitchen Ninja (Kinja). I am from Auburn, AL. I graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors in Culinary Nutrition. I am currently Sous Chef at Linger in Denver. My passion is creating nutritious food for others and spreading knowledge of health through food and cooking.




FD Healthy: Impostor Health Foods

Impostor Health Foods | By Clara Darling

As we all know, there is always some new diet to try, new code word to look for, or new superfood that ‘cures everything’. We continue to give in to all these sales pitches in hopes that this time it will work, somehow forgetting the 20 previous fads we followed that did not work. We all do it, but why? Everyone wants to believe they are choosing what is healthy for them as well as their families, and most people learn what to think is healthy by reading articles online and in magazines as well as word of mouth from people around them. It doesn’t take much more than a statement that something is healthy, maybe some vague statistics, to make us believe it is true, because why would anyone lie about that?

Companies know this. They use it to their advantage. All businesses want to make money, and in order to do that they must somehow convince consumers that their product is the best, is unique in some way. This is why food labels often contain statements such as “all natural”, “organic”, “free range”, “made with real sugar”, “low sodium”, “paleo”, “vegan”, “non-GMO”, “fair-trade”, “local” and of course all the “frees”: “Gluten free”, “wheat free”, “fat free”, “sugar free”, “soy free”, “free of artificial colors and sweeteners”, “water free.” Ok I made that last one up but you get picture. All of these labels have good intention, however they quickly lose their meaning as companies find ways to manipulate these words, and make money doing so. So we create new words to convey health once the old ones lose meaning, and it snowballs to the point that no one knows what to buy anymore.

I wish there was an easy answer to all this, but the truth is there is no easy answer. There never will be. Mindless shopping and mindless eating is no longer an option for anyone wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. We have to think about where we shop, what we buy when we shop, where those products were made and most importantly how they interact with our bodies. Simply eating organic or eating gluten free isn’t enough. The food industry today is designed to keep you blind and confused. Don’t let it. Do your research and use your intuition. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Below is a list of five common impostor health foods that may seem like a good choice, but are often just empty calories with a pretty label.

1.) Free Food

Let’s back up to the word “free.” This one word is used to articulate product values across our grocery stores, but what does it really mean? In an ideal world, free means good, it means we don’t have to worry about something unhealthy being in our food. However, when a food is free of one thing, you can be guaranteed that it has been replaced with another to keep the flavor, texture and/or color recognizable. Usually this replacement will be something of equal or lesser value to your body, i.e. fat replaced by sugar, gluten grains replaced with a combination of processed starches and gums containing no nutritive value.

For example, when fat is taken out of ranch dressing, the taste is no longer appealing, so companies will add extra sugar and artificial flavors to mask it. Once it tastes better, they still need to add thickeners and artificial colors to make it look and feel like ranch (since the fat is what made the ranch thick and creamy in the first place). In the end you have a product, that although it is fat free, it is high in sugar and artificial processed bits that are no better for you.

Now this does not mean you should go douse all your salads in original ranch dressing, but on the occasion that you do, at least know what you are putting in your body.

How much sugar2.) Beverages

We all know that sodas are full of sugars and artificial flavors, but what about all those other drinks you buy at the store? Vitamin waters, sweetened teas, energy drinks, all of these things contain just as much sugar, if not more, than regular sodas. Read the labels, compare them to the label on a soda bottle, and pay attention to serving sizes. The label may say 38g of sugar, but a serving size is half a bottle. So if you drink the whole bottle you are getting 76g of sugar. As a comparison, the maximum amount of daily sugar suggested by the American Heart Association is 25g for women and 37.5g for men. Again, if you drink that whole bottle with 76g of sugar, you are getting over the daily maximum in one sitting.

Your best bet is always to just drink water. Water is necessary for every function of our body, and our level of hydration directly affects our concentration and mood throughout the day. If you need something with more flavor, put lemon, lime or cucumber in your water. Choose flavored soda water, unsweetened teas, or coconut water. You will be surprised by how much more energy you have during the day if you stay hydrated and avoid sweet beverages that spike your blood sugar.

3.) Yogurt (and granola)

This one is a particularly slippery slope, as it is often associated with healthy living in our country. To be clear, yogurt and granola can be an excellent health food. It contains many of the necessary nutrients our body craves: protein , fiber , carbohydrates , healthy fats, as well as assorted micronutrients (vitamins. minerals and phytonutrients). However not all yogurt and granola combos are the same, and most are not up to par with what could be considered healthy. Companies use advertising to make you assume that these products are good for you, when in all reality many of them are high in processed sugar, low in fiber and micronutrients. On top of that, the sourcing for their yogurt is often from cows raised on antibiotics and GMO corn, their granola from pesticide covered grains, their fruit preserved with extra sugar, and all of it stripped of nutritive value so that it can be shelf stable for a longer period of time. Again there are good choices out there, so do your research and make educated decisions on what you are buying.

Choosing your yogurt and granola:

First and foremost, make your own whenever possible.  Control what you are putting in your body, don’t let someone else decide for you. Choose a yogurt that is from a reliable source (this may mean you have to research the company or the area you are in). When possible choose yogurt made from cow’s milk that was raised organically, minimally processed, and without added sugars. If you don’t consume dairy, there are a number of yogurts made from alternative milks; again make sure these are minimally processed and don’t contain a high amount of sugar and additives(*note: alternative milks/yogurts will contain some small amount of thickeners or binders to keep them from separating).

Choose an organic granola that when you read the label contains whole grains, nuts, seeds and not a lot of added sugars and preservatives. Choose one without dried fruit and add fresh fruit to it. Or even better, make the granola yourself using your favorite grains, nuts and seeds. Try new ingredients you haven’t heard of, research them to find out their nutritional value. Have fun with it! Remember, the more you know about what you are eating the better.

hummus-and-vegetable-chips4.) Veggie ‘Chips’                                          

Just because a bag of chips is made from sweet potato, beets, cava root, or any other nutrient dense root, doesn’t mean that the chips themselves will be nutrient dense, or any better for you than regular potato chips. Veggie chips are still chips,  and chips are empty calories. When you thin slice a vegetable and deep fry it, the heat of the oil will kill the nutrients that were once present in that vegetable. On top of being devoid of nutrients, these chips are now soaked in oil that is usually a processed and nutrient-less fat. As if this isn’t enough, the chips are then covered in salt (sodium) to make them tasty yet addicting.

So what about baked chips? Granted these are better than fried chips since they don’t necessarily have the same high level of fat, but they are still going to be depleted of many of their nutrients from heat exposure and processing, and again covered in salt.

A better option: try buying beets, parsnips or carrots in the produce section at the store and slicing those into fresh veggie chips yourself. Keep a container of them cut and ready in your fridge so next time you crave chips you have something good to grab instead. These go great with hummus, bean dips, guacamole, and salsa. It won’t be the same of course, but if you make it a habit, soon your body will crave the nutrients from fresh vegetable instead of the salt from the chips.

5.) Cereal

One of the most common and deadly culprits hidden in food is sugar. As a country we are addicted to sugar, truly addicted. The reason is because it is in everything.

Cereal is an easy vessel in which to hide sugar and empty calorie ingredients. It is something that most of us eat, is considered a proper breakfast, and we grew up with it being sweet so we don’t think twice about it. But eating processed sugar first thing in the morning only makes your cravings worse, not to mention it will cause your blood sugar to spike which means your mood and energy levels will be uneven the rest of the day. Children’s cereals often contain as much sugar as eating a candy bar or drinking a soda, but do we let children have candy and soda for breakfast? No. So why would we let them eat, or let ourselves eat, a bowl of pure sugar for breakfast, often called ‘the most important meal of the day”. For one thing, the label is deceiving. It shows a nice long list of all the vitamins and minerals contained within that box. However these are synthetic vitamins that need to be added to make up for the complete lack of natural vitamins in a product, and those still don’t make up for the amount of processed grains, sugars and fats in that same product.

Even if you are reaching for the granolas, the whole grain cereals, the boxes with pretty pictures of green farms and fresh produce that just look healthy, take another look at that label. Ignore the pictures and the catch words on the front. Look at the little words on the label panel. Those are the words that matter. Look at the amount of sugar in that box, as well as the serving size. Serving sizes can be as small as ¼ cup; when was the last time you ate just a ¼ cup of cereal? How much fat, protein, and dietary fiber is listed? Look at what ingredients are in it. Look out for words like ‘enriched’ flour, it is enriched because they stripped the grains of all it’s natural vitamins and minerals and are trying to make it sound better by adding back synthetic vitamins and minerals. Studies do show that synthetic and natural vitamins react the same in our body, however we add synthetic vitamins to products like cereal because it is otherwise an empty calorie food. Don’t be fooled by sneaky wording and advertising, know what you and your family are eating.

Bio PicMy FD name is Kitchen Ninja (Kinja). I am from Auburn, AL. I graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors in Culinary Nutrition. I am currently Sous Chef at Linger in Denver. My passion is creating nutritious food for others and spreading knowledge of health through food and cooking.




10 Ways To Love Yo’ Body


I want to talk about loving our bodies and not merely in a bar soap commercial sort of way. Although it’s important to come to love and accept our bodies no matter what they look like on the outside the kind of love I am talking about is more than skin deep. I am talking about the kind of revolutionary love that connects our minds and our bodies and can heal us from the inside out, a kind of love that it took getting cancer for me to understand.

Before I get into how I think we can all find this kind of love I want to share my own journey through frustration, betrayal and eventually acceptance, awe and love for my body. Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer I think I had a pretty typical relationship with my body for a 20-something-year-old. I saw it as serving primarily aesthetic purposes which meant I was often frustrated with it. I never hated it but always wished I was a little bit taller, a little less soft around the edges. My body also rarely performed the way I wanted it to. I was a particularly uncoordinated teenager and could never seem to run as far, swing the bat as hard or spike the ball with as much gusto as I would have liked. In some ways it felt like me and my body were in a constant battle and neither of us ever won.

Then, right around my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease and breast cancer in rather quick succession and I was overwhelmed by a feeling of betrayal. My body was literally attacking itself and in the process it was threatening my life. But I also began to feel guilty. Although I had always tried to eat healthy I had been doing so from a perspective of what would make me look good, not what would make my body feel it’s very best. I had been hard on my body, filling it with chemicals, demanding that it keep running at optimum levels despite the toxins to which it was exposed. I also felt bad about the treatment I was about to put it through. Over the course of a year my body sustained 20 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and 33 rounds of radiation. It was poisoned, slashed and burned, as they say.

As my treatment went on, however, I began to realize how resilient my body was, how it would bounce back from beating after beating, ever striving to make me feel well again. The combination of guilt and awe that I now found myself feeling, on top of the desire to be as healthy as I could, led me to begin thinking about my body in completely new ways. I began to be gentle with it, started to try and listen to what it needed and wanted, educated myself on what was best for it instead of what would make it look the way I wanted.

By the time I was diagnosed with advanced metastatic breast cancer this past January I no longer felt betrayed by my body. Instead I was deeply in love with it. I devoted all of my time and energy to treating it with all the kindness and care I could muster. I love my body, more than anything else, for letting me be here, for letting me exist on this earth, for allowing me to explore the world. Before cancer my body was an impediment to letting me be the person I wanted to be and now I am in awe of this incredible vehicle that works ceaselessly to try and keep me on the planet enjoying my life for as long as it can. I used to take my sight, my hearing, my ability to eat, to run and jump and play for granted. Now I know that cancer or some other debilitating illness could easily take those away from me so I am thankful every day for what my body lets me do.

Whether you have had cancer or not we could all use a little more body lovin’ in our lives. Here are 10 ways to learn to love your fabulous body:

1. Just listen: Our bodies are pretty good at communicating with us but, unfortunately, we are even better at ignoring them. We see much of our bodies’ communications: upset stomachs, headaches, aches and pains, etc. as annoyances to be covered up, not necessarily messages that something might not be quite right. After several years of dealing with chronic illness I have come to realize that often I intuitively know when something is wrong. I have always been right when a new lump or spot on a PET scan was cancerous and when it wasn’t. I went to the doctor before I had any obvious symptoms of an auto-immune disease because something was just “off.” We are taught to ignore, suppress and not give credence to the messages our bodies are constantly delivering when really we should be leaning in closer and listening as carefully as possible.

2. Eat to nourish your body not just to please your taste buds: I’m not saying don’t eat delicious food. Goodness no! What I am saying is that we should eat with nourishment as the main motivator. I have actually discovered that food can be even better when we eat for our health rather than our taste buds. Often times that plate of pancakes looks tempting but leaves us feeling sluggish and unfulfilled. It’s because those yummy pancakes aren’t providing what we most need. I’m not advocating any kind of particular diet because I don’t believe there is a one size fits all. I do think that we should be eating, and teaching our children to eat, what makes us feel good, not just what tastes good.

3. Don’t work out, have fun: It wasn’t until I started rock climbing regularly that I realized how much fun a good workout could be. I used to force myself to go to the gym no matter how bored I was with my routine. Now I’ve let go of any strict rules I once had for myself (“must get x amount of cardio in every week”) and just try to move my body in whatever way is the most rewarding. Sometimes I really feel like a good stretch so I dig into yoga. Other times I feel like a nice sprint so I go for a run. Don’t be afraid to dabble in lots of different activities, to try something new, to go outside and to make playing your passion.

4. Recognize when your body feels good: We often pay so much attention to what is going wrong with our bodies that we fail to pay attention when our bodies feel good. Chemo was a really good teacher in reminding me to appreciate how good it feels to feel good. A good day during chemo was one where I didn’t have terrible mouth sores, I wasn’t terribly nauseated and I could get up and walk around for more than a few minutes without feeling exhausted. Today I try to appreciate whenever I am feeling strong, vital and whole and am grateful to my body for letting me feel that way.

5. Pay attention to the mind-body connection: Our minds and our bodies are intimately connected. Nearly everything we think and feel is playing out in some way at the physiological level. It’s easy to recognize this when we are feeling a negative emotion. When the tears start rolling or our hearts start pounding the connection is clear. But it goes the other way as well. Positive feelings calm our bodies down, release happy hormones and boost our immune systems. One benefit of paying attention to this connection is that when we are overwhelmed by negative emotions just concentrating on our bodies instead of the negative thoughts can help us relax. It’s an incredibly powerful connection that can keep us sick as well as help us heal. Just think of the commonly occurring placebo effect. Just believing we will get better can make a sugar pill as effective as medicine. That’s a mighty powerful mind!

6. Respect the R&R: We love to be busy. Our bodies (and our minds) do not. Our bodies love sleep and downtime but we so rarely give it all that it requires. Don’t be afraid to go to bed early, take a nap, let yourself unwind, allow yourself do nothing but just be present. Your body and your brain will thank you.

7. Build the right team of healers around you: You would never send your pet to a veterinarian who didn’t care about animals so why do so many of us put up with doctors who don’t fully respect us and our bodies? Contrary to popular belief YOU are the number one expert on your body so you should find doctors and healers who respect that idea above all others. You want a team who wants to work with you to help you find the root causes of your health problems and lead you on a path to ultimate wellbeing.

8. Forgive your body: It’s easy to feel betrayed by our bodies. We all deal with some sort of illness, or allergy, or weakness or cancer. Our bodies are fragile and we live in a pretty toxic world. Just as we often make mistakes so do our bodies. It’s part of our humanity. While it’s ok to wade through all the anger and frustration you need to come to a more accepting place I do recommend you give your body a break whenever possible and try to respect all the ways in which it is working for you even when it feels like it’s not on your side.

9. Don’t make comparisons: We all know we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to the unrealistic and heavily Photoshopped standards we see all around us but in reality we shouldn’t compare our bodies, what they need and their strengths and their weaknesses to any other body. Each one is completely unique. Each of our bodies has different needs when it comes to food, workouts, environment, medicine, sleep, etc. Don’t feel bad if your body is different from those around you. Just respect its little quirks and do what you can to meet its unique needs.

10. Be in awe: Our bodies are absolutely incredible instruments. The millions of billions of tiny little processes that have to happen every second to keep us breathing, keep our blood pumping, keep our immune system going are worthy of our unending awe. Our bodies are constantly fighting to keep us healthy, constantly recovering even when we don’t treat it very kindly, constantly doing everything it can to keep us here for as long as it’s able. If that isn’t worthy of our unconditional love I’m not sure what is!









FD Healthy: Stay Hydrated!

FullSizeRender (4)


Dehydrated? You need more than a water bottle!  Pick up your fork!

When do we need to drink more than plain water to stay hydrated?

When you do high intensity exercise for more than one hour or in intense heat.  Your body loses not only fluids ,but also electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Electrolytes control a huge list of body functions including fluid level, temperature control, cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory rate, digestion and neurological function to name just a few.

Recovery starts before exercise begins.

Foods contain so many more electrolytes as well as vitamins and minerals and health protective compounds than sports drinks.  Not to mention, fresh whole foods do NOT contain added sugars, chemical, synthetic vitamins and artificial colors.

-Season when you cook.  Salt is a flavor enhancer.  Don’t be afraid to season your fresh whole foods when cooking.

-Eat lots of fresh fruits and Vegetables.  Bananas are high in potassium but also oranges, melons, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

-For especially high water content (90% or more) cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, green peppers, cauliflower, strawberries and grapefruit.

-Dairy is not the only way to get calcium.  Dark leafy greens, broccoli, legumes, almonds  and sesame and sea vegetables are all very high in calcium.

-Magnesium helps fight fatigue.  Eat plenty of green veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts.

Coconut water is relatively low in carbohydrates and rich in potassium, but neither coconut water nor most sports drinks contain enough sodium or carbs for heavy perspiration.  For long bouts of exercise you may need to supplement with more carbs (think raisins, dates, or banana) to keep blood sugar up.

Ditch the chemical laden sport drinks and try this hydration drink recipe for a long day on the river, at the beach or on the rocks (pun intended).


Master Recipe

1 quart of liquid – plain water, green tea, herbal tea or coconut water

¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt

¼ cup fresh juice – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or any fresh fruit puréed

1-2 Tablespoons sweetener – honey, stevia,  or maple syrup

Great additions:

Fresh ginger root – brew in tea or hot water and then cool.  Ginger calms the stomach and may help reduce muscle pain

Chia seed are high in omega 3’s , potassium, calcium and antioxidants.  Make your own chia gel by pouring 1 cup of water over 3 Tbs of chia seeds.  Let it sit overnight in the fridge. Use the gel to stir into your drinks in any amount you like.


jennaJenna Ortner aka Lamb chop, is the chef manager for First Descents program nutrition. She currently lives in Virginia with her three daughters where she teaches yoga and health supportive cooking.




One Day At A Time- PTSD and Anxiety after cancer


Sometimes it’ll just hit me all at once out of nowhere.

I’ll be in the car driving home, or walking around on my college campus and then suddenly… I’m crying. And I mean like ugly crying… hardcore sobbing with streams of tears rushing down my face. My hands usually start trembling and my knees go weak. I just want to curl up in a ball and disappear. Sometimes it gets so bad I can’t even see anything in front of me. All I can think of is, Cancer…I had cancer.

And the strange part is, most of the time I don’t even really know why I’m crying about something that happened to me over two years ago. I don’t feel anything except the numbness that echoes through me like footsteps in an empty hall. But still, my whole body tenses as if I’m staring down an invisible enemy. In my head, I know I’m not in any immediate danger. My brain is telling the rest of me to get it together and suck it up. Don’t be such a baby, you’re fine now, I try to tell myself. But of course, that doesn’t help.
Something insignificant triggers a piece of a memory, and then at once it all comes back to me. Half-second memories and nightmares flood my mind, causing each breath to feel like a desperate gasp for air before drowning. I try to stay focused on the present, but visions of the past demand my attention and force me under. Needles going into my chest port, painful bone marrow biopsies, liters of neon yellow chemotherapy, blood and platelet infusions, being violently ill, wheelchairs, electrocuting pain all over, wondering whether the chemo or the cancer would kill me first, wondering if it will just come back one day anyways…

As I drop to my knees shell-shocked, I realize… I am drowning inside of myself, and no one else even knows it.

Eventually, I reached a point where I had to talk to somebody about what was going on. Thankfully, I was able to receive free post-cancer counseling therapy through a local nonprofit. Talking with my counselor about these thoughts and feelings has helped immeasurably, and I would highly recommend anyone who has been affected by cancer (whether by their own diagnosis or that of a loved one) seek professional counseling. My counselor told me I exhibit many signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and anxiety, but that it’s not uncommon for survivors to experience those issues after treatment ends. It hadn’t really occurred to me before that this might actually be a common struggle for many other adolescent/young adult (AYA) cancer survivors, too. Maybe I wasn’t just “being a crybaby.” Maybe this wasn’t something I could just force myself to “get over.” Maybe this was somehow… normal?

After talking with my fellow FD campers, my suspicions were confirmed. PTSD is a fairly widespread issue among AYA cancer survivors, often accompanied by other underlying issues such as “survivor’s guilt,” depression and anxiety. Not everyone experiences these problems to the same degree, and some do not experience any of them at all. But for those of us who do, these mental and emotional struggles can be every bit as crippling as the physical challenges of cancer and treatment. Unfortunately, there is still a large gap in information, research and resources available that address AYA cancer survivors’ mental health issues during and after a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

First Descents plays a crucial role in filling part of this gap by providing AYA cancer survivors with the chance to connect with one another and find healing through incredible outdoor adventures. FD provides survivors with a chance to redefine their physical and mental limits by learning a new outdoor skill. Furthermore, FD helps survivors reclaim their bodies from disease to use as strong, capable tools for adventure and fun, rather than seeing themselves as broken or sick victims.

I wish I could tell you that during my FD1 kayaking trip I mastered the roll, or even a simple T-rescue. But I didn’t. I was too scared to be willingly flipped over in my kayak with my head underwater. The fear of being out of control, trapped, and drowning was too overwhelming for me. At the time, I didn’t understand why. But now I can see how to a large degree, it was my PTSD and anxiety that held me back. The feeling of drowning was all too present in my daily thoughts for me to be able to enjoy those underwater exercises. I chose to stay upright in my kayak as much as possible that week, and honestly, I still felt every bit as happy and accomplished as any of the other campers by the end of the week.

That’s part of the beauty of FD. They encouraged me to go beyond what I thought my limits were (both physically and mentally), but they never forced me to do something I didn’t feel safe doing. The motto of the week was, “Choose your own adventure.” For someone who hasn’t had much say in what’s gone on in her life, it was refreshing to have choices.

I learned tons of valuable lessons about myself and about life in general during my week on the water. I learned that life will throw you rapids, and sometimes your only option is to ride straight through them. They may end up being the most fun thing ever, or can be as scary as hell. Either way, it’s up to you to decide how you’ll tackle those rapids and what your mindset will be when riding through them. Your mindset probably won’t change your circumstances, but it certainly will change your experience of those circumstances.

I also learned that my body is stronger than I thought it was. I am (surprisingly) not made of glass! Or cancer! Who knew? After my week on the river, I was inspired to spend more time outdoors enjoying nature and being physically active. So I started out simple by go for long walks, then I started running, then I moved on to horseback riding, and soon I hope to get back in the kayak and master those skills I wasn’t ready to try before.

With PTSD and anxiety, there are good days and bad days. Counseling, friends, family, writing, art therapy and being active outdoors have all played a part in helping me outnumber the bad days with good ones. As I apply the lessons learned on the river to my everyday life, I’m finally reaching a point where I can roll myself upright from the waters of a bad day. I’ve finally found the creative outlets, resources and people that can help give me a T-rescue when I feel the rapids of PTSD pull me under. Even though the panic attacks and episodes come every now and then, they don’t scare me as much as they used to. I’m getting stronger, one day at a time. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe I’ll go on an FDX trip soon, and I’ll be able to roll and T-rescue with the best of them. After all, I’ll have had lots of mental practice. 😉

Elise Intern LS pic1Elise Frame (“Lil Sis”) is a 23 year-old student at the University of Texas studying Communications with a focus on Nonprofit Development. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 20, but recently finished chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free in October 2014. Elise participated in an FD1 kayaking trip last summer and discovered a previously unknown love for the great outdoors. She now enjoys stand up paddleboarding and kayaking on Town Lake in Austin, Texas, where she currently lives. As a passionate young adult cancer awareness and prevention advocate, she has served as an intern at The LIVESTRONG Foundation, and currently contributes to The Huffington Post‘s young adult cancer blog series, “Generation Why”.

The Amazing Health Benefits of Turmeric

turmericMost of us by now have at least heard of Turmeric and that it has some pretty amazing health benefits.  The orange-colored spice that’s part of the ginger family, is often a part of amazingly delicious Indian and other Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian dishes and has been a staple their cooking for thousands of years. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines use turmeric to clear infections and inflammations on the inside and outside of the body. But beyond the holistic health community, Western medical practitioners have only recently come on board in recognizing the benefits of turmeric.

Turmeric has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-septic, and a serious cancer blocker. It can be taken as a supplement for joint pain and can be added to food in varying ways.  It can be added to any dishes you cook (curries, soups, rice dishes, etc), but best to add when almost finished cooking in order to keep it closest to it’s raw state for maximal nutrition benefits. Or simply sprinkle it on raw to vegetables, eggs, tuna salad, smoothies and dressings.

Turmeric is pleasantly inexpensive, mild in taste, and benefits the entire body.  Adding it to your body is one of the best things you can do for long term health!

To learn more about this amazing spice, here are a few links to some great articles covering more details of it’s enormous benefits.

FDhealthy: 15 Foods To Keep You Healthy This Winter!

LacinatoKaleThe following 15 foods are known for their immune boosting properties as well as keeping your nose and throat clear.  We could all use these boosts as we try to stay healthy this winter season. And don’t forget about your Vitamin D from the sunshine.  It has been shown to support our immune system in a big way!

Kale and Collard Greens – high in vitamins A and C

Beets – high in vitamins A and B, antioxidants

Lemon – high in antioxidants and vitamin C

Ginger –  strong antimicrobial, antibiotic, and also high in antioxidants

Cinnamon – antimicrobial

Blueberries – high in pterostilbene, a known immune booster

Red Grapes – high in resveratrol, another known immune booster

Turmeric – high in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, great for overall cell health

Curry – strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties

Oregano Oil – stimulates the immune system, antimicrobial, antiparasitic Coconut Oil – antiviral, antimicrobial

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)– high in Zinc

Garlic – high in sulfuric compounds, anti-fungal

Parsley – high in vitamins C, B12, K, and A (big supporters of the immune system)

Apple Cider Vinegar – balances out the body’s pH levels. (viruses thrive in an acidic environment so pH balance is key!)

FD Healthy: Coconut

Health Facts on and Ways to Use Coconut Oil


People are beginning to know the health benefits of adding coconut oil to their diets.  It’s the oil of choice for health-conscious people, and it’s used in everything from smoothies to cooking vegetables to personal care products. You can use coconut oil both inside and outside your body.

It’s even useful for cooking because coconut oil has a much higher temperature tolerance than even extra virgin olive oil. Its fat molecules stay intact, in other words, at higher stovetop temperatures, so that makes it safer for use as a cooking oil. It’s also widely used in raw foods recipe as a stabilizer and source of delicious plant-based fats with their own unique nutritional properties.

Virgin coconut oil is 44.6% lauric acid, 16.8% myristic acid, and 8.2% palmitic acid, and it’s composed mostly of medium-chain-fatty-acids (MCFA). MCFAs are widely regarded as extremely useful for providing sustainable energy due to their molecular structure. Many bodybuilders and athletes rely on MCFAs as a key part of their high-performance diets.

Here are several ideas for using coconut oil. If you’re right now cooking in a pan with something like olive oil, try replacing that with coconut oil. Coconut oil resists creating high-heat carcinogens, meaning you can cook with it at higher temperatures without poisoning your food as often happens with corn oil, soybean oil or other cheap, low-end vegetable oils.
Secondly, you can add coconut oil to just about any smoothie to give it a fatty “ice cream” flavor and texture. Try blending frozen fruit with palm sugar and coconut oil! It makes a delicious, ice cream textured dessert that will just blow your mind with its nutritional potency, too.  It also makes a great spread on toast and other foods.
If you’re into raw foods recipes, you’ll find yourself using coconut oil for all kinds of things. Especially desserts, where coconut oil is often part of the icing that goes on the raw cake or pie. It’s super delicious!

You can use coconut oil in practically any recipe that calls for vegetable oil or shortening.  It can also be used as a partial or full replacement for butter. It doesn’t quite have the butter taste, but it’s close, and the healthy fats in it resemble butter in many recipes. (Try replacing half  or more of the butter in a recipe with coconut oil.)

Finally, you can use coconut oil to make your own skin care products. Melt a small amount of bees wax in a pan with coconut oil, add some medicinal herbs or tinctures, and you’ve made your own skin salve or lip balm! Coconut oil is a wonderful base for all sorts of personal care products.  It’s great for skin, hair, face and your entire body, head to toe.

Don’t forget to “eat” your suncreen this summer!

by Lisa Nielsen

Not conventional, synthetic sun block that’s loaded with poisons, but edible sun block in the form of carotenoids which help people obtain youthful, glowing skin.

Carotenoids are a family of nutrients that protect plants and animals from excess sunshine. Just like melanin (our naturally produced sun block), they are colorful molecules which reflect UV Rays.

When humans ingest carotenoids they are deposited into the skin to prevent sun burn and keep our skin looking healthy. Ultimately they ward off oxidative stress, which can lead to skin cancer.

Leading sources of carotenoids are: eggs, spirulina, chlorella, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards and spinach), yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and squash).

The recommended daily intake of carotenoids can be achieved by consuming 100-200 grams per day of the above vegetables and fruits.

However, the most potent of carotenoids is a red pigment found in algae, salmon, trout, shrimp and lobsters, known as astaxanthin. Once ingested by humans, astaxanthin is 1000 times more effective at protecting skin from UV damage compared to other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein, and helps you look and feel younger!
Most antioxidants fade away once they scavenge free radicals, which does not help skin that is under oxidative stress for long periods. Astaxanthin, on the other hand remains on standby for further protection. Oxidative stress within the cell is diminished and cellular function remains intact among the electron rich astaxanthin molecule.

Naturally occurring astaxanthin is far more beneficial than icky, synthetic sunscreen. Make sure you pack plenty of carotenoids in your meals this summer!