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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in food allergies (40)


Back to School Shopping for a Tender Foodie's Lunch


YIKES!  It’s August and it’s already time for back to school shopping.  Got pencils, notebooks, glue sticks?  Got any ideas for what to pack for school lunches, especially for a Tender Foodie?  I do.

Here’s the deal: I’m all for those adorable little gadgets and  Bento boxes with food arranged into creative scenes from the latest episode of Spiderman®  - you know, the ones made out of intricately-sliced red peppers and black beans and celery strands fashioned into a spider web.  But, the first few weeks of school are so HECTIC – who has time?  Take the pressure off and try some of these new, healthy and allergy-friendly alternatives in convenient small portions for kids of any age.  Yes, they cost a bit more and perhaps you might not put these in your kids’ lunches/snacks every day, but that also makes them a nice treat every once in a while. 

(See Notes on Potential Allergens at the end of the Article).



Let go of the stress and start experiencing a little Bliss.  Fruit Bliss’ ™ soft, dried and unsulphured (preservative-free) Turkish apricots come in a mini 1.76 package.  Moist but not sticky, they’re packed with iron and fiber.  They’re Certified Vegan and Non GMO Project Verified and just plain delish!  The mini apricots are sold at 39 Whole Foods stores across the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as many natural food stores from Maine down to Florida.  Want some now?  Use coupon code 10FRUIT for 10% off any order online.



For kids old enough to operate a microwave in their cafeteria, try Cocomama™ Quinoa Cereals in Banana Cinnamon, Wild Blueberry and Orange Cranberry flavors.  Simply tear open the BPA-free pouch and warm slightly for 20 seconds and 

wah-lah – it’s quinoa! That means scrumptious gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegetarian organic quinoa sweetened with light coconut milk and other yummy ingredients.  Unlike oatmeal, which can transform into glue in a matter of minutes, kids will love the consistent texture with no extra lumps, bumps or worse - drippiness. Cocomama™  is currently available in 28 Whole Foods in the North Atlantic Regionand launching this month with Whole Foods nationally, as well as Wegman’s stores in September.  

Just as easy, go online to purchase 6-packs for $21 (10% discount over retail).  The convenience and peace of mind knowing your child is having a nutritious  protein-rich food when you need a quick addition to the lunch box makes it worth it.  Plus, shipping for ANY order is always $3.99, so stock up.  


purely elizabeth™

Recently, purely elizabeth™ created mini packs of their fabulous ancient grain granolas.  Gluten-free certified, soy-free, no refined sugar and made with organic ingredients whenever possible, the 2 oz. bag mini bags even serve as their own bowl.  Just pour in milk or a dairy-free alternative  or ok, don’t;  I am  all for pouring it straight into your mouth.  My fave is the Pumpkin Fig, but just as yummy are the Cranberry Pecan, Blueberry Hemp and Original flavor.  A case of 8 bags is $22.  Try packing a tall container (I love a Ball canning jar) of yogurt with alternate layers of frozen fruit to keep it cold till lunchtime.  Your kids can add the granola on top for an instant yogurt parfait! 


Simple Squares™

If your Tender Foodie can enjoy nuts, try a Simple Squares™snack bar.  Choose from 4 flavors: Cinnamon Clove, Sage, Rosemary or Coconut.  Each kosher bar is infused with organic herbs and contains unsweetened coconut, organic nuts, 

organic honey, organic vanilla and a touch of sea salt.  Made of “unfired fare™” to maintain the integrity of the nutrient rich bars, the sweet treats contain just 10 grams of sugar (must be the lovely organic honey) and a whopping 10% daily value of iron and 6 grams of protein.  Now, that’s a satisfying snack that’s also good for your kids.  Sold in natural food stores, via or simply visit the Simple Squares™  website, and use the coupon code GFD to get 10% off of these nutritious sweets!


Notes on potential allergens:


Fruit Bliss™ products are produced in a facility that processes soy, milk, egg, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts.  

Cocomama™ products are not manufactured in a gluten-free facility, but the line is cleaned thoroughly and each batch is tested to 10 pmm. The products are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, but are not necessarily peanut or tree nut-free since that is not part of their testing process.

Purely elizabeth™ granolas are certified vegan by Vegan Action, certified gluten-free by GFCO and are non-GMO Project Verified. 

Simple Squares™ are certified gluten-free and are soy and dairy-free with no refined sugars. Simple Squares packaging states “Good manufacturing practices are used to segregate ingredientsin a facility that processes other products, which may contain peanuts, tree nuts, wheat (gluten), milk, soy and/or eggs."


About Melanie

Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLPMelanie Potock is speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding.  Her work brings her into the homes and schools of her clients, kids, who for various reasons have difficulty with food or with eating. She works with kids and their parents to develop effective strategies that help children become “more adventurous eaters”.  At least 50% of her clients have food allergies or intolerances, and for them, “adventurous eating” takes on a special meaning.  Melanie is also the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids” and the executive producer of “Dancing in the Kitchen.”


More Posts From Melanie

Why Children with Autism are Often Picky Eaters

Review:  The Magic of the BellyFull Kit (From the Hopeful Company)

The 12 Days of Christmas -- My Favorite Lunchtime Things (Part 1)

Tips to Help Your Food Allergic Child Belong During the Holidays

How to Talk Turkey (and Food Allergies) at Thanksgiving

How Can Parents Feel Less Stress with a Food Allergic Child in School?

Follow Your Gut:  What's Eating My Daughter's Stomach? (Part I)


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is Good for the Immune System


Meditation is Good for the Soul.  Good for the Body.

This week I met with the wonderul Carol Hendershot, owner of Expressions of Grace Yoga Studio in Grand Rapids, MI.  We had a lovely chat about food, stress, the environment, movies, and also the crazy benefits of meditation.  I started practicing meditation a couple of years ago.  I now do it nearly every day.  I confess that I'm still in the toddler stages of meditation, but even so, the benefits I've received have been life changing.  When I start my day wtih even 10 minutes of meditation, the day flows more effortlessly. My appetite improves. I make better decisions. I feel more connected to everything that I do.  When I end the day with meditation, my sleep is more effortless as well.  When you practice meditation, you learn to sort through internal and exteranl junk and move it "out there", so that this ever popular, yet unwanted friend called stress gets less of a foothold in your body and immune system.   The stress doesn't become you.  It's becomes something you can move through and leave behind.


Carol and ApCarol Hendershot, BS, E-RYT 500 Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Teacher and Hadley, MSW have started a new program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and are offering a wonderful workshop starting this month.  MBSR was founded by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, and studied by different well-respected medical research centers.  Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, for instance, have found that: 

"Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density."

In real people terms, the study found that mindfulness meditators can better regulate emotions, remember stuff, keep perspective, and learn.  (See study abstract).

What's even cooler is that the benefits of meditation for the immune system is becoming fact. 


 Resarchers Say . . .

April Hadley, MSW Masters of Social Work Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Instructor

"Emotional distress activates neuroendocrine stress response systems and increases stress hormone secretion. Stress hormones are well-known to alter immune function...

Integrative approaches to promote wellness and reduce the distress associated with cancer are increasingly considered as essential components of cancer care. Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that shows promise as an approach to not only mange the emotional distress that accompanies disease, such as cancer, but to also produce biological benefits that may promote health and contribute to cancer control....

In predominately non-controlled studies of individuals with a variety of medical conditions, MBSR has been shown to assist individuals to more skillfully manage emotions and somatic reactivity to life stressors"

(Read the full article)

~National Institute of Health:  Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction on Immune Function, Quality of Life and Coping In Women Newly Diagnosed with Early Stage Breast Cancer


Sign Up

Interested in checking it out?  Sign up for a free orientation on August 15, 2012 (9:30am).  This free session is required before the workshop.  So if you can't make it to this orientation but would still like to participate, give Carol a call.

Visit or call 616-361-3660 for more information, the full class schedule or to register.


More Info on Upcoming Classes


8 Week - Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, is a unique program developed to help people better understand and work with all the stressors in their lives — medical, psychological and social. It is an education-based class in which you learn to bring the practice of mindfulness into your life, in both formal and informal ways.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that gives you the tools to build a foundation of clarity and calm in the midst of life’s rockiest times.  From this place of stability, you can engage the challenges and joys of your life with a renewed sense of energy and balance.  Mindfulness opens up a greater sense of choice, enabling you to meet each stressful situation more skillfully and with an increased sense of flexibility and creativity.   

Mindfulness is an effective compliment to the traditional treatment of many conditions including:

  • Anxiety and depression    
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic Pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer treatment and recovery
  • Heart Disease
  • Demanding work and life situations
  • Immune Disorders



Free Information Sessions:
Monday, August 13, 6:30 pm at Expressions of Grace Yoga, 5270 Northland Drive 
Wednesday, August 15, 9:30 am at Expressions of Grace Yoga, 5270 Northland Drive

8-Week MBSR Courses Beginning:
Monday, August 20, 6:30 pm • Carol
Tuesday, August 21, 6:30 pm • April
Wednesday, August 22, 9:30 am • Carol or call 616-361-3660 for more information or to register.


Can Spices in Our Food Relieve Inflammation?


Note from the Editor

Welcome to our newest guest blogger, David Fisher, R.D.  I'm very excited for David's contributions to the blog, he is a registered dietician who specializes in the application of autoimmune paleo and other similar protocols for managing autoimmune diseases.  Read his first article for The Tender Palate, and more about him below. Welcome David!

~Elisabeth Veltman


Chronic Inflammation & Foods

It seems that inflammation is the bane of modern existence. This nebulous state of the human body, or parts of it, is the body’s natural response to a foreign invader, be it an allergen, toxins, cancer or a virus, bacteria or parasite. Inflammation has also been linked to virtually all Western diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease. Inflammation is “good”, when it is a short-term situation that appropriately helps us heal (i.e. when we get a cold).  However, inflammation is “bad” when it becomes chronic (long-term), or is the result of a confused immune system.  Chronic inflammation is a sign of a deeper problem -- understanding the root cause through a trained physician is important - so if you are experiencing this, get yourself to someone that can help diagnose you.  The question we are exploring in this article is, simply: can food help relieve inflammation and help our bodies heal more quickly? 

If you read this blog you probably believe that foods not only have the power to improve health, but that they actually alter physiological processes like inflammation. It is true that foods, or specific compounds contained in foods, can influence inflammation in various ways. Omega-3 fats, and foods containing them, are commonly and appropriately called anti-inflammatory. Spices have also gained notoriety for the same capability and there appears to be some truth to this.

The Internet, TV, and even family and friends are full of passionate recommendations for spices, herbs, foods, or supplements (nutraceuticals) that help “cure” or reduce inflammation. Some of that information comes from cultural traditions (my mom had me drink echinacea tea to ward off a cold) and much of it is derived from modern science. Let’s review a few specific supplements and take a peek at the science behind them.

NOTE:  Please note that I will not be addressing fish oil and other omega-3 fats as I am focusing more on Western herbs and spices that we can use in our daily cooking, not the foods themselves.  For purposes of this article, I am also leaving out the thousands of years of practice that traditions like Chinese Herbal Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine gives us.  This is a powerful tradition that is best administered by a trained practitioner.  This article focuses on what you can do with cooking at home.

Herb/Spice Extracts and Inflammation

Here are components of specific herbs and spices that have shown scientific promise in reducing inflammation.

¥    Allicin and diallyl sulfide from garlic
¥    Curcumin from turmeric
¥    Gingerol from ginger
¥    Humulene from hops
¥    Eugenol in basil, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leaf
¥    Piperine in black pepper
¥    Capsaicin from hot peppers
¥    Anethole in tarragon, anise and fennel
¥    Carnosol in rosemary
¥    Perillyl alcohol in caraway seed
¥    Quercetin in allspice, horseradish and onion
¥    Sulphoraphane in mustard

The first striking thing is the number of different compounds in a wide array of herbs and spices. Even more impressive is that this is not an exhaustive list.

The Studies

There are a few standard methodologies behind the studies of these spices and compounds. Most of the results come from either cell studies (in vitro) or animal studies.

Cell Studies

In cell studies a scientist examines how a specific compound affects the metabolism of a cell or group of cells. These can either use bacterial cells or human cells. In some cases in vitro studies look further, to components inside cells, such as using mitochondria to evaluate the effect of coenzyme Q10. The benefit to these studies is great control (minimizing confounding factors). The result, however, is greatly removed from everyday human life.

Most of the compounds listed above affect some part of the metabolic signaling that results in inflammation. You might be familiar with TNF-ɑ, or interleukins (IL) 1, 6 or 8, which are signaling molecules that help regulate the immune system by doing things like telling cells to ramp or up slow down an inflammatory response. Herbs and spices affect these and other compounds, and in this case reduce inflammation.

Animal Studies

Animal studies use any number of different critters. The results do not translate directly to humans, although they are one step closer. Research often follows this path: cell study, animal study, and then human study.

It isn’t until you reach the point of placebo-controlled, randomized human intervention trials that solid, scientific recommendations can be made to affect specific outcomes. For instance, only after a human trial would doctors be able to recommend that you take 500 mg of curcumin once daily for thirty days to reduce acute inflammation in a celiac patient who has been exposed to gluten* (this is a fictional example).

Not many studies have reached the point of human trial.  But this doesn’t mean that we can’t try using these herbs and spices, and potentially their specific extracted compounds (like curcumin from turmeric) to affect certain conditions. It just means that we have no proof it will work.

Cinnamon & Turmeric: Data From Humans!

The most extensively studied spices relating to inflammation appear to be cinnamon and turmeric. When I say extensively studied, I mean there have been some human trials done, but they are mostly small, and are largely preliminary in nature.

One research group showed promise in two studies with regard to cinnamon and postprandial (after-eating) glucose and insulin levels. One tablespoon of cinnamon with a rice pudding significantly reduced blood glucose and delayed stomach emptying (which might have been the mechanism for reducing blood glucose). A half tablespoon of cinnamon did not have the same effect in a similar trial, but it did decrease insulin levels. Reducing blood glucose and insulin (when elevated) could very well reduce inflammation. The best part? I know of no side effects of using cinnamon when making dessert. I certainly can’t say that for drugs used to lower blood sugar in diabetics.

Curcumin has been tested in real people with diabetes and shown to reduce blood sugar. It was also tested in a very small human trial on rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease. The group of 18 experienced a significant improvement in morning stiffness and joint swelling, which is clearly represents a reduction in inflammation. Similarly, ten men with psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition, all found either improvement or resolution after eight weeks of applying a gel containing curcumin.

Enough With The Research – EAT REAL FOOD

The take away here is that we are beginning to understand some ways herbs and spices, and their constituents, affect inflammation. We have some good theories and we are slowly beginning to test them (no one said the scientific method is fast!). The nice thing is that one conclusion can already be reached: EAT REAL FOOD. Choose fresh food and prepare it with plenty of delicious herbs and spices. Doing so will give you all these beneficial ingredients and infinitely more that we’ve yet to identify and test on a mouse.

If you want to test some of these compounds in supplement format as well, you can give it a try. Just be sure to listen closely to your body to determine if you are helping or hurting. Check with your doctor to be sure that there aren’t certain herbs or spices that might interact with the medication that you are currently taking.  Also, make sure you watch for food allergens in your supplements.  Many supplements are either made or processed with common allergens like dairy, wheat, soy and yeast.  Start with high quality supplements and call the company to make sure that they are processed in accordance with your particular food allergy requirements.

I encourage my clients to approach herb and spice extract supplements (and really, all supplements) cautiously. Natural does not always mean safe, and with the limited research available it is difficulty to estimate appropriate doses required to see any benefit, assuming one even exists.  Real food is the best approach.

For the research lovers, I encourage you to dig around PubMed and Google Scholar for information on the supplement you’re interested in. Odds are you’ll find some sort of research that will help you with your experiment. These resources are incredibly easy to use, even for the lay person.

For the rest of you I encourage working with a healthcare practitioner or even seek the advice of a friend who has already experimented with the supplement in question. Start slow and listen to your body.

Lastly here is a delicious turmeric tea recipe to help you get started using some of these spices. Let me know if you like it as much as I do!


About The Author

David Fisher, R.D. is a registered dietitian with a deep interest in ancestral health. His own ongoing battle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, an autoimmune condition, has given him a unique perspective and has allowed him to apply the principles of the autoimmune paleo protocol in order to maximize his own health. In his practice, he applies autoimmune paleo and other similar protocols to help patients manage autoimmune diseases.

David holds a bachelors in Management from St Louis University and completed my nutrition training, including dietetic internship, at the University of Nevada, Reno.  He is a Registered Dietitian with the American Dietetic Association.




Aggarwal, B. B., M. E. Van Kuiken, and L. H. Iyer. "Molecular Targets of Nutraceuticals Derived from Dietary Spices: Potential Role in Suppression of Inflammation and Tumorigenesis." Experimental Biology and Medicine 234.8 (2009): 825-49.

Aggarwal, Bharat B. "Targeting Inflammation-Induced Obesity and Metabolic Diseases by Curcumin and Other Nutraceuticals." Annual Review of Nutrition 30.1 (2010): 173-99.

Heng, M.C.Y., M.K. Song, and J. Harker. "Drug-induced Suppression of Phosphorylase Kinase Activity Correlates with Resolution of Psoriasis as Assessed by Clinical, Histological and Immunohistochemical Parameters." British Journal of Dermatology 143.5 (2000): 937-49.

Hlebowicz, J., A. Hlebowicz, and S. Lindstedt. "Effects of 1 and 3 G Cinnamon on Gastric Emptying, Satiety, and Postprandial Blood Glucose, Insulin, Glucose-dependent Insulinotropic Polypeptide, Glucagon-like Peptide 1, and Ghrelin Concentrations in Healthy Subjects." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89.3 (2009): 815-21.

Srivastava, Raghvendra M., Sarvjeet Singh, and Shiv K. Dubey. "Immunomodulatory and Therapeutic Activity of Curcumin." International Immunopharmacology 11.3 (2011): 331-41.

White, B. "Clinical Inquiry. Does Turmeric Relieve Inflammatory Conditions?" Journal of Family Practice 60.3 (2011): 155-56.


Trillium Haven Restaurant: Opening July 6

Chairs ready to unpack and set up, and some gorgeous lightThere is good news for Tender Foodies in Grand Rapids.  Another restaurant, the new Trillium Haven restaurant in the Kingsley Building (1429 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids) expects to be accommodating people with food allergies. 

But don't over run them right away, Tender Foodies.  It's always best for food allergy peops to wait a month or two before venturing into any new food joint.  Even experienced restauranteurs with the most educated staff and well-practiced systems have a pretty steep learning curve during opening weeks.  Food allergy training, and the prevention of food allergy-sized cross contamination are systems that can typically be last. So it's safest for people with food allergies to wait until any restaurant opening kinks have worked themselves out.

Executive Chef Joel Wabeke spent 5 years at working with the fabulous, and much missed Andrew Voss.  Chef Voss is a notable talent who always showed a great deal of respect for people with food allergies, from the service at the table to the deliciousness of the cuisine on the plate, and I am excited to see the magic that Joel will create. 

Anja Mast and Michael VanderBrug are the owners of this sure-to-be favorite in Eastown.  Staff memberw will be required to do a rotation on their Trillium Haven Farm, a well known CSA in Jenison that uses organic practices.  Owning both a farm and a restaurant puts Anja and Michael in a unique position to take the farm-to-plate concept to a whole new level.  When I spoke to Anja Mast, she said, "It will be like nothing you have seen before. It will be a different kind of dining experience." The farm will now completely support the restaurant, even during the winter months. 

I had a chance to see the restaurant pre-opening, during a Green Drinks event hosted by Trillium Haven and Guy Bazzani.  Here are a few pre-opening teasers I snapped with my iPhone.  The brick, stone, steel, and wood give a wonderfully grounded feeling to the space.  I'm excited to experience it with the sounds, aromas and hustle of a working restaurant.  You can be sure a review is in the near future. 

A wine rack over the bar.

The stainless steel bar.

Light sockets hung and waiting for their bulbs.

A large, wood table ready for assembly (note: this is slated to be the "coolest" spot to dine.)




As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine's June, 2012 edition.


Too Much "No" in Your Life?

I don’t know about you, but there has been a little too much “no” in my life, lately. Of course, for Tender Foodies, “no” is a word we use a great deal, and we need to learn to say it well. But the issue of turning something away, something that we normally would love to accept, transcends the narrow world of food allergies. “No” is not an easy word.  

Over the last few months, I’ve listened to more than a few women say, “yes” when perhaps a little (or a lot) more self-protection might be in order.  My heart was disquieted as these pretty amazing chicks described their choices. A couple of friends were getting mixed up with people who were not treating them with even a modicum of respect.  They stood up and said, “Hey, that’s out of line.  If you want me to trust you, knock it off,” but then felt guilty and apologized. Or they manipulated the situation to a perceived advantage.  I’ve also listened to stories from people with Celiac Disease who had trouble turning away a dish that their well meaning, but untrained friends made “just” for them, even though that dish contained ingredients that would harm them and make them suffer horribly.  

But as I listen to myself become the dreaded voice of reason, I wondered if the many “no’s” that I’ve had to say lately have given me a more negative outlook on life. “No” is a gift.  So, why is it so hard to say, and when do we get to say, “yes”?

Maybe it’s simply physics. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, perhaps too many “no’s” build up like needy vagrants begging at our doorstep unless we find that shy “yes” hiding just around the corner.  These “yes’s” are the gifts of “no” but we must go through the work to look for them.  

Here are a few of the "Gifts of No" that I've found.


“No” Creates Safety

I asked Joan Hofman, MA, LPC for some guidance with this one.  Joan is a licensed professional counselor, who uses a variety of progressive (and super interesting) energy therapies in her practice.  

“For most people, “no” creates a sense of boundary so you can stay safe and secure, but there are additional challenges for someone with food allergies.  “No” keeps you safe from a potential allergic reaction, but you also need to find a way to keep from implicating to another that their level of caring is not enough. It’s an incredibly awkward moment to say, “Thank you for loving me but the way you’re showing it could kill me.” “

When we reject a friend’s offer of food, or anything well-meaning, it can feel like we are accusing them of not caring. In reality, they don’t have the knowledge, the tools, or the power to create a dish that is safe enough for us to eat.  It’s not their fault.  It feels wrong to put them in that position, and in a sense, it is. But it isn’t wrong to say “no” and we certainly don’t need to put ourselves at risk. It’s not our fault either.

So how do we handle it?  Realize that it’s not just about the food.  Since everyone responds differently to rejection, address each host’s natural need to feel good about themselves as care givers via the food.  Let them know that you are fine and that you appreciate them without eating a bite.

“No” Helps Us Be Authentic

My secret crush, Anthony Bourdain, would probably hate me.  Anthony is a chef, author, and the star of Travel Channel’s “No Reservations”.  He is a true believer in eating whatever is put in front of you because if someone went through the trouble of making it, you should be gracious enough to eat it. As I watched him swallow an unwashed warthog rectum in Namibia, knowing full well that powerful antibiotics were in his future, I knew he meant what he said. This is the guy who calls vegetarians, “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit” for, I believe, this very reason.  Obviously, I don’t share his disdain of my vegetarian friends but I am terribly amused by his Agatha Christie-like mistrust of them. On the flipside, I also believe that food is a gift to be graciously accepted, and as a Tender Foodie, I am in constant conflict because of this belief.

I imagine standing in front of Anthony in his kitchen, with my little allergy card, squeaking.  “Uh, Chef, I have to go over the ingredients with you.  I can’t eat this, this, this…oh and this…and this…by the way, were those nuts processed in a gluten-free facility and can we sautee the ingredients for that foi gras without dairy?”

But if I had to, I would do it, for two reasons:

1.    If I don’t question my hosts about ingredients (or simply withdraw from the meal and opt for strictly social interaction), I would be worthless to society.  I couldn’t function.  Maybe right then and there, and maybe for the next 5 days starting tomorrow.  Either way, life is too important to let myself be incapacitated or incur long term damage. Health is freedom and I’ve got shit to do.

2.    For better or for worse, this is who I am.  If I can’t embrace it, how can I expect anyone else to?  

One of the many things I admire about Anthony Bourdain is that he is true to himself. He is authentic. I trust that he would at least respect me for being the same.

“No” Offers Possibilities

When I lived in New York City, one of my yoga teachers (Amy Ippoliti at Elena Brower's Vira Yoga) said something that forever changed me.

“Make the sweeter choice.”  

This statement was so profoundly different than my own learned system of veiled self-sacrifice that it struck a bell in my head. Ding! Choices fly by at every moment, so why take the distasteful one, the “should” that limits you to only one option?  (Uh… sacrifice is pretty final, eh?)  

A “yes” to that second brownie is enjoyable, but a “no” to a 3rd might leave us open for a healthier tomorrow.  That’s not so hard.  But even if life itself presents a series of very harsh realities, there is a choice that is sweeter than the other.  The options may not be “what we want”, but if we look for the possibilities and choose the sweetest of the lot, we can get ourselves out of some pretty serious jams.  Let go of the toxic and make space for healthier interactions that offer an increasing number of sweet possibilities.

“No” Builds Trust

I am a pleaser, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to please, and receiving pleasure from pleasing. Plus, saying “no” is risky. People don’t like hearing it and sometimes they become angry or disappointed.

Still, the biggest mistakes in my life (so far) have come from saying “yes” when the core of my being was telling me “no.” Hard lessons have taught me that if I’m feeling stressed in a relationship, it’s time to immediately dive down to the center of my being and become honest with myself. Life will change for the better, however unpredictably, if I can find those two little letters, purse my lips, and say them as truthfully and as kindly as I can.  

I don’t know Mike Robbins but I love what he has to say about this:

“Our ability and capacity to say "no" with confidence is one of the most important aspects of creating peace and power in our lives. This is about creating healthy boundaries, honoring ourselves, and being real -- it's not about being closed, cynical, or unwilling.”  

~Mike Robbins, Author, Motivational Speaker

When we choose to focus solely on external qualities like being a nice gal or a faithful friend, and ignore our priceless, internal intuition, trust is more easily broken. People don’t feel that we mean what we say. Communication disappears. But if we balance those external values with the gifts of honoring our “Yes’s” and “No’s”, others can tell when and how they can count on us.  If we receive the same in return, we know when and how we can count on them.  Eventually, we simply trust each other.

This balancing the gift of “no” with our quest for “yes” takes lifelong practice. But like a muscle, perhaps the more we work it out, the stronger and more beautiful we become.  Like returning daily to the piano to practice our scales, listening to our intuition is the most humbling of work that builds a foundation for an effortless and magnificent life.

About Elisabeth

Elisabeth VeltmanWriter, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at