Common Diet Mistakes Part 1

There are umpteen articles written about everyday eating habits that people regularly make that are sabotaging their health (or weight-loss efforts, or any other precise wellness goal).

Sometimes these articles include incredibly helpful information about easy swaps (or the new "it" term: diet HACKS. We seem to really love the work "hack" these days) that we can make to better ourselves without a lot of effort.

Lack of effort seems to be key.

While this makes perfect sense, with our busy schedules and complex lives, it sure does place our food and eating habits way down on the priority totem pole.

I'm all for easy and manageable, but I'm also for recognizing that a big part of how we got here was by turning what and how we eat into an afterthought or annoyance.

Food is a necessity of life. It is one of the things that connects all human beings. We have to eat. Therefore, I think it behooves us to concern ourselves with the quality of our food: how it is grown, prepared and the impact that it has on our health.

With that in mind, I'm writing this article in multiple parts. First, I will provide some easy steps/swaps that do make a difference without requiring much lifestyle change. Then I will talk about some actual lifestyle modifications that will really shape your relationship to your food.

PART 1: 5 Easy Diet Modifications

Healthy snacks, food swaps


Perhaps one of the easiest changes to make is to swap out any crappy oils and fats that you are currently using and simply use healthy, high quality ones that are meant for what you are doing. This means ditching trans fats and using only high heat oils when you are cooking at high temperatures. If you need a lovely list of oils/fats and their temperature range click here. Essentially there are oils you cook with and oils you toss with. These are what I recommend:

  • For heat: coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee or butter
  • For low/no heat: olive oil, walnut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, truffle oil

Pitch all of your ambiguous "vegetable oils" as they are surely trans fats. Say NO to stupid butter replacements, they are often full of rancid oils and trans fats. You are much better off buying real butter. Grass-fed, ideally.

Fat is important to do right. Most fat bypasses the liver and goes directly into our lymph after we digest it, meaning that toxins in fat are potentially more dangerous than water-soluble toxins. Buy organic as much as possible. 

In addition to cooking properly with fat:


Quit buying low-fat versions of things. Buy the full-fat version. If something is meant to contain fat and a company is trying to reduce the fat content, it will replace it with sugar. It then becomes a double whammy because now you are consuming twice the sugar without the fat present to slow down the absorption rate. Hello blood sugar spike! Your poor body's insulin will be in overdrive.

Yes, the full-fat versions will contain more calories. Adjust your portion sizes accordingly. But you should feel more satiated and your blood sugar won't spike. Plus, I mean, come on- it will taste better too.

In case this needs repeating: the fat-fearful age of the 1980's and 90's needs to go away now! We know that was a big mistake. It skyrocketed obesity in this country. Go back to eating food in it's original form, not some bastardized low-fat version. Eat real food.


Seriously people. Cool it with the sugary sodas, juices and "coffee" that is really a milk shake. A soda is not a thirst quenching beverage- it is a dessert. Let's be clear: soda is terrible for us and offers absolutely no nutritional value other than containing calories. Diet soda is worse. While it may be low in calories, the effect of the chemical cocktail on our bodies is worse than regular soda. If you occasionally want to consume a regular soda as a treat, fine. But recognize that it is a dessert item, not a beverage akin to water.

Juices are pretty terrible too. Unless you are drinking freshly squeezed juice (ideally of a vegetable variety) then you are essentially just drinking sugar. Yes, freshly pressed green juices have a lot of nutritional value, but store-bought apple juice does not. The vitamins degrade over time and store juices are pasteurized. In other words: the vitamin content is low while the sugar content is high. Lose the store-bought juice; instead, drink water and eat a piece of fruit.

Oh, and moderate amounts of coffee and tea are great, but a frappuccino and chai latte from Starbucks are, once again, dessert items. If you drink coffee and tea daily, ditch the sugar, or at least reduce it. If you don't like coffee without a massive amount of sugar and flavorings, you don't like coffee. Choose an alternate beverage. And if you don't like coffee, but "need" the caffeine, then there are a few options: fix your schedule and get more sleep (sorry, I realize that falls under the lifestyle section), try tea (there are lots of flavored teas that are flavored with fruit and spices, not sugar) try a B-complex in the morning (but not 5 Hour Energy- that thing is full of crap. Buy an actual B-complex vitamin), don't have a sugary breakfast- that will prevent the spike and crash.


I'm really sorry to break it to you, but none of the snacks in the processed snack aisle are good for you. None of them. I don't care what claims a box or bag are making, but the chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers etc. are NOT health food. The only possible exception are kale chips and other raw food snacks that are very expensive and only in health food stores. If you have the funds, then sure: buy containers of raw kale chips. But any classic processed-grain-based snack is not healthy for you. Act accordingly. 

Since we are not yet into the lifestyle section where I can talk about snack preparation at home, let's focus on what you can just buy that is a healthy snack:


  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Edamame
  • WHOLE FOOD fruit and nut bars. (No crazy additives, just whole food ingredients.)
  • Kale chips or other raw food snacks (generally pricey)
  • Dark chocolate (in moderation and I'm talking 55+% cacao)


  • Fruit and nut butters (I guess this can be crunchy or creamy)
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese (REAL cheese only. No weird ingredients.)
  • Applesauce (No sugar added)

I doubt many of those were particularly new, but tough poo. If you are looking for snacks without the prep, then you already know the deal: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the main thing. Snacking can be a great opportunity to up your veggie and fruit intake, or to eat a bunch of crap. Either make the swap or consider limiting your snacking.


I'm guessing you've already heard about this, but plenty of people still buy the white stuff so here I go:


In general, Americans eat too many grains, so if you can back off of the grains and swap them out for vegetables, even better. But, in the very least, if you are buying breads and pastas etc. buy the whole grain version. Even better, buy non-wheat whole grains to add variety to your diet and up your overall nutrition. Try millet, quinoa, buckwheat (it's not a wheat), farrow, barley, oats, rye, spelt, brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, amaranth, teff....I could go on. Swap out your same-old white rice or pasta for something else and reap the fiber and vitamin rewards.

continuing on with grains:


Breakfast cereals, even ones without marshmallows, are highly processed. But let's use the good, better, best model. Below is a spectrum of breakfast cereals on a list from least desirable to best.  These are just examples to give you an idea. Insert your current breakfast cereal choice as best you can. Then, no matter where you are starting from, swap your current choice for something at least one rung down.

  • Pure Sugar Cereal. (There are marshmallows, the theme is that it tastes like a chocolate candy, or everything is frosted.)
  • Highly processed cereal, but less added sugar (maybe it boasts being "whole grain" or having a lot of fiber but ultimately still super processed)
  • Quick Oatmeal (less processed than traditional cereals, but the quick version is still somewhat processed in order to cook so quickly.)
  • Slow cooking oats (Old fashioned or Steel Cut)
  • Chia seed "cereal" with choice of milk and other goodies (such as fruit, nuts/seeds, cinnamon etc.)

The last option is a great unprocessed breakfast that still has the classic "cereal" presentation. Of course, if you are also willing to think outside the bowl and work with eggs, smoothies, yogurt, my grain-free pancakes, fruit, vegetable scrambles, etc. EVEN BETTER.

I hope those swaps seem doable and helpful.

Although, to be fair, I think that lifestyle is very important. If you are always eating on the run, choosing a better option at the store is a good hack, but meal planning and prep are key too. Those are coming up in Part 2.

What's the Deal with "Raw" Almonds?

You may or may not be familiar with the new laws regarding the required pasteurization of "raw" almonds in the U.S.  For those of you who have not read about all of the shenanigans surrounding almonds, let me bring you up to speed.


In 2001 and 2004 there were cases of salmonella contamination in almonds.  In response to this, in 2007 The Almond Board of California, which oversees nearly all of the almonds that are grown in the U.S., decided to implement a mandate that would require all almonds be pasteurized for safety purposes.  The interesting point, of course, it why on earth would almonds contain salmonella?  It has nothing to do with the almonds themselves, rather it is caused by runoff from nearby CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, which are the ridiculously inhumane and unsanitary mass confined animal feedlots that are referred to by Big Ag as "farms.")  

Instead of regulating the CAFOs and the issue of runoff, the Almond Board of California has demanded pasteurization of ALL almonds under their jurisdiction, which is essentially all almonds grown in the U.S.  Why would they do this?  Well, there is the safety concern side, but that would be best dealt with by actually going to the source of the problem.  Almonds are not the problem; the same thing has happened to other innocent foods such as spinach and melons.  The problem is the CAFOs and they will continue to contaminate their neighbors until they are forced to deal with their sanitation problems.  Therefore, there has been a lot of speculation that the true motivation for the mandate is for the larger almond growers to squeeze the little farmers by making them shell out the money to have their almonds pasteurized, which is a costly step.  Was it really a political power play on behalf of the powers that control the Almond Board?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Either way, the mandate doesn't really get to the heart of the issue and has created a system that now deceives the public.

What do I mean by deceiving the public?  The new law also dictates that these now pasteurized almonds can still be labeled as raw.  Say whaaat?  Yep.  It's a lie folks.  Pasteurized almonds, whether they are treated using the less undesirable method of steam heating, or are gassed with PPO (propoylene oxide, a known carcinogen), these almonds are not raw.  Truly raw almonds are a living food.  You can sprout them.  Pasteurized almonds are dead.  So why are companies allowed to lie to us and pretend that their almonds are raw when they aren't?

You can still buy truly raw almonds in the U.S. if you buy them directly from the grower at a farmer's market or online. There are a number of small companies that sell unpasteurized raw almonds: a few examples are One Lucky DuckRenegade Health and Bremner Farms.

A great resource with the latest on the pasteurization laws and the difference between raw and pasteurized nuts can be found here at

If you want to know which brands use steam and which use PPO check out this Guide to how almonds are pasteurized.  Keep in mind that all certified organic almonds must use the steam method, so buying organic is a great way to avoid PPO.


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Embrace Fermented Foods

One thing that the modern American diet is lacking that most traditional diets contain is fermented foods.  Traditionally, cultures have used fermentation to preserve food prior to the invention of refrigeration.  As with most traditional wisdom, this technique was beneficial to human health in many different ways that science continues to specifically identify.  Fermented foods are more easily digested because the proteins are already partially broken down.  And most importantly, they support good bacteria in our digestive tract, which is necessary for optimal health.


Everyday we rely on bacteria in our gut to keep us healthy.  Yup, bacteria for health. Perhaps you've heard about this, probiotics are getting a lot of attention these days.  Of course, the reason that probiotics are getting so much attention is that 1) people are having a lot of health, especially digestive-related, issues and 2) it threw a wrench in our bacteria-fearing belief system.  So yes, we need certain bacteria.  And we actually have a huge amount of "good bacteria" living inside of us everyday making things run smoothly.  The stats tend to vary on this, but in general we have hundreds of different species of bacteria living in our gut, which are comprised of 10 times as many microorganisms as we have human cells.  This is still a relatively new topic for scientific understanding in our modern biomedical model, but traditional/cultural methods of food preparation have been supporting this knowledge for a long time.  Fermentation. Heard of it?  Specifically lacto-fermentation, with the "lacto" referring to lactic acid producing bacteria known as lacto-bacilli.  I bet you've heard of that one.  That's what is listed on many yogurt containers.  Lacto-fermentation was originally developed to preserve food; the lactic acid inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria. Lacto-fermented food also does a whole bunch of super cool things such as: start the digestive process, aid digestion, increase vitamin levels (esp vitamin C), help maintain blood pressure, promote healthy bacteria throughout the gut and boost the immune system.  Rad, right?!  

Keep this knowledge in mind throughout your life when things might happen that could potentially disrupt your gut ecosystem.  For example, antibiotics.  I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics, I think they are way overused in this country.  Again, I could get on a soap box about that one, but I also do understand that there are times when antibiotics are truly necessary.  Just remember, with the interconnectedness of all systems within our bodies, it is very hard to adjust one thing without it having consequences somewhere else.  If you are going to be on antibiotics, this might be an excellent time to include some extra ferments in your diet.


What you need: (for jar fermentation)

1. Jar with a two-piece lid 

2. Good quality sea salt

3. Time: a couple days to a couple weeks

4. Temperature: approx. room temperature 68-72 is ideal

5. (If you are not vegan) A fermenting agent: whey, or a kefir or yogurt starter

Fermenting can be vegan, you can drop the fermenting agent and just use salt and water.  

I've been taught 2 Tablespoons of salt per 1 quart of vegetables.  I find this to be too salty so I use 2 teaspoons per 1 quart.  Put veggies in jar, mix salt with enough water to cover the vegetables.  Leave about an inch of air at the top of jar. Seal lid tight, let sit for approx. 2-7 days. It's ready when the lid no longer has any give in it.  Then stick it in the fridge where it will keep for several months.  (Hotter room temperatures will ferment faster, colder will ferment slower. Check the lid for firmness.)

If dairy is not a issue, use 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup liquid whey for 1 quart of vegetables.  Or dissolve one packet of starter in water plus 1 Tablespoon salt for 1 quart of vegetables.  Again, cover vegetables with water, leave 1 inch at the top.  Leave at room temperature for approx. 2-7 days.  When the lid is firm, they are ready.  It will keep in the fridge for several months.  Note: You can buy whey or simply strain it out of yogurt yourself.  

*The above are general guidelines.  Different foods, such as beverages, vary.  But the above is a good rule of thumb.  

Below I've included some fun pictures and recipes of lacto-fermented foods that you can make at home. Be careful, though.  When first introducing ferments into one's diet, slow and steady is key.  Just a tiny bit to start while your body adjusts or else you may have some rather undesirable detox reactions.  Happy Fermenting!


Sauerkraut - 1 quart

1 med cabbage shredded

(Optional-- Any additional vegetables of choice, chopped)

2 tsp salt

*** For cabbage, knead it with your hands in a bowl (after it is shredded and salted) to use its own water.  No need to add additional water, just squish out the cabbage juice!

Take salt, cabbage and cabbage water.  Add to jar.  Make sure water covers all vegetables and there is 1 inch of space at the top.  Needs approx. 3-5 days to sit on counter.  Will keep 3 months in fridge.



Beet Kvass.jpg

Beet Kvass - 2 quarts

1 med beet chopped

1 T salt

5 cloves garlic chopped

1 cup whey

Water to fill

Chop beet and garlic.  Add all ingredients to jar.  Fill with water until 1 inch of space remains. Needs approx. 2-5 days to sit on counter.  Drink diluted or undiluted with water depending on personal taste.  Drink about 2 ounces a day. Or start off smaller if necessary.

Fruit Kvass.jpg

Fruit Kvass - 1 quart

1 apple chopped

1 handful berries

1 inch ginger sliced or minced (your preference)

1/2 cup whey

Water to fill

Put ingredients in jar, fill with water leaving 1 inch at top. Sit in room temperature 2-3 days.  It will last in fridge a few weeks.  Drink a couple ounces a day, or start off smaller.


*Kvass can be made with any fruit combo, vegetable combo or fruit and vegetable combo.  Experiment!


Fermented Ketchup 1/2 quart

12 ounces of tomato paste (buy it in jars, rather than cans if possible)

1/8 cup of whey

1/8 cup maple syrup

1 T sea salt

1 clove garlic mashed

Mix ingredients together.  Fill jar.  Sit in room temperature about 2 days.  Transfer to fridge.  If you prefer thinner ketchup, add water after fermentation.


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.