Award-winning teamwork.

I’m over the moon that a project I’ve been involved in for about a year now has received a major industry recognition:

My “Wholesome Kitchen” video series with the awesome marketing team from The Christ Hospital, part of their Healthspirations online outreach, has won a Silver in Modern Healthcare magazine’s Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards.

With the “Wholesome Kitchen” series, we’re sharing quick recipe videos that encourage the community to eat just a little bit more healthfully without sacrificing flavor or fun. The Silver award recognizes a video we filmed at Findlay Market in Cincinnati.

See my writing about health and wellness and my recipe videos for Healthspirations.

Is Instagram making us fat?

First, a caveat: I’m part of the system. Let’s call it the Social Food Media Juggernaut.

As a writer and content-maker focused on food & wellness, I write plenty of blog posts, share recipes through Pinterest and Instagram, even make those cute little recipe videos that show up in your Facebook feed. I’m part of the SFMJ.

Yet I’m often utterly dismayed by the SFMJ. The recipes and photos that cycle through my social feeds look delicious enough. But holy smokes! All you need to do to understand our nation’s obesity problem is to search ‘food’ on Pinterest.

Fried food. Stuffed food. Loaded food. Food that’s loaded and stuffed and thenfried. Unicorn food. Knockoffs of food from Red Lobster. Food made with bottled ranch dressing and boxed cake mix and canned soup and Just. So. Much. Cream cheese.

Maybe it’s just me. But, ugh.

Clearly, it is just me.

The word ‘recipe’ is the third most-searched word on Pinterest.

Per an article posted on in February, there were, at that moment, 168,375,343 posts on Instagram hashtagged #food. That was three months ago; think of how many more there are now.

Starbucks has 14 million followers on Instagram.

Posting pics of food — whether it’s a gorgeous recipe Instagram with perfect props and natural light or a blurry snap of that plate of wings you hoovered at the sports bar last night — has become an obsession.

Why? According to insight from psychologist Susan Albers on, we love showing off how virtuous — or how naughty — we are via pictures of what we eat and drink. We post to impress with that super pricey meal at that very exclusive restaurant. Sometimes, we post to gross other people out.

Mostly, we post food photos because we want people to understand us. French philosopher and prototypical foodie Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

With all these yummy things constantly streaming in front of our eyes, don’t you wonder what it’s doing to us? Honestly, my Instagram feed makes my stomach growl. I spotted a video for perfect oven roasted potatoes on Facebook and made them twice in a week. I bought rainbow sprinkles.

Look more closely, and you’ll see overt cues that tempt us to eat more, to eat unhealthy food, to cook with cheap mass-produced packaged foods. Microwave Cake-In-A-Mug! How cute! That’s 200 calories for you. Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl! There’s about a decade’s worth of carbs and fat. Crock Pot Chicken and Mushrooms — great! Let’s use canned soup AND dried soup mix AND cream cheese!

Want some irony? Check out this screen shot of my recent Pinterest search:

What’s more, this pornographication of food makes us more conscious of how something looks than how it tastes, and may make us value food less. A headline in The Guardian back in February hints at this problem: “Instagram generation is fuelling UK waste mountain, study finds.” The story references research suggesting that Millennials, inspired by photos in their social feeds, are experimenting with exotic ingredients, impulse-shopping and creating Instagram-worthy dishes, only to throw out leftovers and items they’ll never use again.

It goes on: “A post-war increase in household food waste is due to changes in how we value choice, time and money in relation to food,” said food historian and broadcaster Dr. Polly Russell. “Gone are the days of eating the same food, on the same days of the week, week in, week out. Most people today, particularly younger generations, demand variety. However, with a menu which changes often, it is more challenging to control waste and plan ahead.”

Big Food is paying attention. Guess who capitalized on the whole “unicorn” food trend sparked on Instagram? Starbucks, that’s who. The 400-calorie drink created a “significant” bump during its five-day run in April, according to the company, which promises even more “unique” drinks to come. Oh, goodie. More 400-calorie drinks.

You bet: I watch those superquick recipe videos. I search ‘#foodporn’ on Insta.
But I’m ever more mindful of what I — as a writer, teacher and recipe developer — put out in the world, so that I’m not contributing to the overconsumption.

By the way, check out my recent recipe for Buttermilk Biscuit Muffins. ;-0

2016: A (writing) year in review.

Globally speaking, I’m beyond ready for 2016 to beat a hasty retreat. Seriously.

Professionally, though, I’m still marveling at what a great year it was. Seriously.

I was fortunate to collaborate with a number of longstanding and new clients, broadening and deepening my portfolio of writing about food and wellness. My work fell evenly into two camps: writing for publication and online marketing content. The subjects were inspiring, the teams fun to work with, the finished projects stuff I’m proud of. A few high points:

A visit to one of my top clients. After working together — closely, on lots and lots of projects — for two years, I traveled to connect in person with my colleagues at the Produce Marketing Association. We’ve worked together to promote dozens of global events for growers/suppliers/retailers in the fresh produce and floral industry. It was so neat to meet the PMA team face-to-face. And 2017 looks to hold even greater collaboration.

Giving life to local food coverage. Call me old-fashioned, but I still love reading the local newspaper over my morning coffee. And my recipe file is full of old clippings from newspapers’ food sections. So when editor Amy Wilson asked if I’d regularly contribute to the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s weekly food coverage, I jumped at the chance. I got to write about the pleasures of eating breakfast for dinner, shared delicious ways to enjoy summer tomatoes, and declared that making your own butter is just about the best thing ever. Coolest encounter of the year: Running into an Enquirer reader, toting my recipe for herb and spice cashews that she’d cut from the paper, as she was buying the nuts at Dean’s Mediterranean Market. Local food — and local media — for the win!

Tackling a new medium: recipe videos. You know those 1-minute recipe videos you see in your Facebook feed all the time? Turns out, those take about 2 hours to film and are a whole lot of fun to create. Working with Curiosity Advertising and their client, The Christ Hospital, we’re rolling out a series of quick recipe videos.

Supporting local food producers, farmers and retailers. Serving as editor of Edible Ohio Valley remains a passion and pleasure, as we get to tell the stories of people who are working hard to bring beautiful, healthful food to our tables here in Cincinnati. One of my favorite stories to write this year was a feature on farmers’ markets and their importance to our community, economy and our collective health.

Here’s hoping you had a productive and fulfilling 2016, and that 2017 will bring you more of the same!


New work: Christ Hospital wellness site.

My food writing work hits the sweet spot when the subject intersects at healthy and local. So my new collaboration with The Christ Hospital and agency Curiosity Advertising is right in my kitchen, so to speak.

We’re working together to spotlight local food — producers, farmers’ markets, seasonal flavors — and encouraging the Christ Hospital community to cook and eat healthful foods. In addition to a new series of recipe videos — SUPER FUN! — I am writing online content around healthy cooking and eating. My subjects so far include a feature on local winter farmers’ markets, strategies for stocking your pantry to make home cooking easier, and ‘locavore’ New Years Eve party ideas. Take a look at some of the work:

Healthy fast food: how much of a pipe dream is it?

I’ve always liked Mark Bittman’s recipes, but I’m glad he’s moved over to the Opinion pages at The New York Times. He’s joining the voices of Marion Nestle (whom I heard speak recently, a real thrill) and Michael Pollan and others (and why aren’t there more of those others??) in advocating for serious change to our agroindustrial food system. Amen.

There are two fronts for this effort toward change: at home and in restaurants. Bittman’s latest story for The New York Times Magazine addresses restaurant food—particularly fast food.

What I’d like is a place that serves only good options, where you don’t have to resist the junk food to order well, and where the food is real — by which I mean dishes that generally contain few ingredients and are recognizable to everyone, not just food technologists. It’s a place where something like a black-bean burger piled with vegetables and baked sweet potato fries — and, hell, maybe even a vegan shake — is less than 10 bucks and 800 calories (and way fewer without the shake). If I could order and eat that in 15 minutes, I’d be happy, and I think a lot of others would be, too.

His conclusion: Yes, healthful fast food is possible—and it’s gaining traction. Healthful fast food won’t be as cheap as the Dollar Menu (of the three—fast, cheap, healthful—it seems we can have two). Small fast-casual restaurants in California (natch) are leading the way. But there’s hope: Chipotle started out with just one outlet, and look at where they’ve come.

Read more of Bittman’s article: Yes, Healthful Fast Food is Possible. But Edible?

Fast food: Why we need to slow down

We eat in our cars, at our desks, on the go, in front of the TV. We eat drive-through, take-out, delivered, packaged and prepared meals.

We need to slow … down.

Consumer trends around the globe show that over the past three decades people are purchasing more prepared foods at the grocery and eating out more. It’s projected that we’ll spend a record amount at restaurants in 2011. We’re consuming an increasing number of calories and bigger portions. Simultaneously, we’re getting less healthy.

While debates rage over the food industry’s contribution to our growing waistlines and our resulting health problems, the bottom line is this: What we eat, where we eat and how we eat are all 100% under our control. We can choose to eat a fast-food lunch on the go (spending that extra $6 and adding 150 calories to our day). We can throw a frozen meal in the microwave and call it dinner.

Or, we can dedicate an hour of the day to cook and enjoy a meal with our families. We can spend a few minutes in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast. Eating sensibly doesn’t take much time or money, but it does require you to make a conscious decision to do so. Here are some steps you can take:

Respect food. Prepare it with love, enjoy it with mindfulness, use it to your healthy benefit.

Shop your local farmers’ markets. Studies on both coasts have shown that farmers’ market produce is comparably priced to grocery produce—and it’s much fresher, it’s better for the local economy and it’s more sustainable.

Be mindful of what you put in the shopping cart. Why buy salad dressing that’s full of high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives, when you can make your own salad dressing for much less money and better health?

Be careful about coupons. Buy-one-get-one on PopTarts seems like a good deal. But is it? Is that coupon prompting you to buy something you don’t want or need?

Read more about these and other steps you can take toward your own slow-food movement and eating healthier today in my article for Why a Fast-Food Nation Needs a Slow-Food Movement.

New work: Recipes and blog posts for

I love collaborating with my editors at and, and here’s why: Their goal, like mine, is to help people who perhaps don’t love to cook learn to prepare healthy food for themselves and their families. My work with Spark presents an unusual challenge—unlike readers of, say, Edible Ohio Valley magazine (to which I contribute the Cultivators column), Spark-ers aren’t necessarily devoted cooks or foodies. I have to write with Spark members’ unique needs in mind: They want quick, easy recipes for food that tastes great and supports their health and fitness goals.

My work for Spark includes a new series of Power Foods articles that dig deep into the nutritional profiles of common fruits and vegetables and offer simple ways to prepare them.

Why Potatoes Are Good for You—This Power Foods article extols the virtues of the poor potato, so maligned by low-carb diet gurus. Potatoes lend themselves to unhealthful preparations, like deep frying and topping with sour cream and butter. But all the specialty varieties are fantastic when prepared simply.

I also regularly contribute a series of 10 Ways With … articles for

10 Ways to Enjoy Tomatoes—This article gives Spark members a variety of quick and easy ways to cook with this summer garden staple.

Another ongoing assignment: Hack the grocery store, with a series of Better Than Store-Bought recipes that let Spark members make homemade versions of supermarket staples, with an emphasis on recipes that are healthier or less expensive.

Fresh no-cook tomato sauce—If you still have access to ripe local tomatoes, either in your backyard garden or at the farmers’ market, then you’ll want to make this. I’ve tried other fresh tomato sauces to toss with pasta, but this one is different: You warm a bit of olive oil and drizzle that over peeled and diced tomatoes. The warm oil gently heats the tomatoes and deepens their flavor.

Chewy-Crunchy Granola Bars—So many store-bought granola bars include high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or preservatives. My version of homemade chewy-crunchy granola bars offers great texture, healthful whole grains and nuts, and tasty dried fruit.

The power of our food choices

Regardless of our politics, I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel completely disconnected, misrepresented and dismayed by government. It can make us feel powerless: After all, what individual can affect changes in the policies and systems that work against us? Big Money and Big Industry and Big Pharma and Big Ag shout louder and wield more influence and therefore shape the country and society and economy we all live in.

At a food and farming event, I glanced a bit of hope, and it’s this: We CAN make a difference by the small choices we make, especially when it comes to food.

Earlier this year, I attended the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association and, while I’m not a farmer or grower or producer, it was amazing to be in the company of those folks. I attended sessions about season extension, cover crops, companion planting, seasonal eating (other sessions dealt with topics like business planning and marketing for small farms, large-scale composting, raising livestock, fracking and Monsanto and GMOs). Over and over, I heard the mantra that the food community is at the heart of a movement (or revolution or whatever you want to call it) that can reshape our economy, our health, our industry, our environment, our communities and our relationships.

Now, before you think I’ve gone and drunk the Kool-aid, I’ll admit that I am already part of the choir to which the event was preaching. I’m not a farmer, but I know that my health and wellbeing depends on farmers doing their work with integrity and care. I love good, healthy, local food, and so I benefit from their labor.

The most important takeaway I gleaned (pun intended) from the conference was this from Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety: We are not consumers. That which consumes, destroys. We are creators. And with every choice we make about our food, we can create one of two futures: 1) an industrialized, modified, commoditized, adulterated food system, or 2) a localized, holistic, humane, just, biodiverse food system. WE get to decide.

A few other nuggets I jotted in my notebook:

  • Because of poor soil stewardship, in 2008 alone, 2 million acres of Iowa farmland lost 20 or more tons (each!) of topsoil … it all washed down the Mississippi River, carrying with it chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. There’s a huge biological ‘dead zone’ at the Mississippi DeltaThink about this for a sec.
  • Collectively, we’ve invested more than $600 trillion (that’s a ‘T’) in the global derivatives market. The world’s GDP is $65 trillion. Do the math: There’s not enough money to cover those investments—and this complex financial system is incredibly opaque and off-the-radar. We’re making incredibly risky global investments … and yet, the farmer up the road can’t get a loan to buy fencing to house his livestock? WTF?
  • We need to break the physical and psychological disconnect between the industrial food system and our plates. Andrew Kimbrell noted that we’d make very different choices if we could see what goes into making this stuff.
  • Food is the most intimate relationship we have with our environment.

Here’s the thing: We have the power to improve our communities, our economy, our bodies, our planet. We do. We can shape our future simply through the foods we choose to eat ourselves and share with our families and neighbors.

Food for thought: Fuel your brain (and get better ideas)

You’ve heard the phrase ‘starving artist’—but you may not know what a role diet plays in our creative and artistic pursuits. We may think of food as fuel for our bodies, but it charges up our minds, too. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables and nuts have all been shown to assist with brain function.

Healthy vegetables and fruits fuel the body and the brain

Healthy vegetables and fruits fuel the body and the brain

In fact, studies have shown that foods high in antioxidants—like blueberries, plums, strawberries, walnuts, artichokes, kale and spinach—can help boost the brain’s natural cellular repair function and may improve memory. James Joseph, who leads the neuroscience lab at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, wrote in the study, “Weighing just 3 pounds, the brain accounts for only 2 percent of the body’s total mass, yet it uses up to half of the body’s total oxygen consumed during mental activity. Phytochemicals, together with essential nutrients in foods, provide a health-benefits cocktail of sorts.”

(Or you could get your antioxidants IN a cocktail, like this Blueberry Muddle.)

Other studies have shown the value of Omega-3 fatty acids in promoting our mental capacity and ability. And if you’re considering a fast-food chicken sandwich and side of fries for lunch, know this: Diets high in saturated and trans fats can negatively affect our cognitive ability.

Tips for feeding your brain and satisfying your body:

Don’t skip lunch. Even if you’re cruising on a creative project, be sure to fuel up mid-day. See Worth Eating below for links to a couple of wonderful make-ahead salads packed with brain-happy whole grains and veggies.

Snack smart. Take a quick break to eat a piece of fruit and a handful of healthy roasted almonds. My favorite pick-me-up afternoon snack is a sliced honeycrisp apple with 1 Tbsp. of natural peanut or almond butter.

Eat whole foods. As author Michael Pollan and nutrition advocate Marion Nestle advocate, avoid packaged foods that make health claims. Get your fiber from whole grains, your antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. Nutrients delivered in pills or supplements work in isolation and lose the benefit of being in their natural form and consumed in combination with other nutrients.

Drink more water. If you’re feeling sluggish or hungry, drink a glass of water before you reach for another cup of coffee. Fatigue is a sign of dehydration. Drinking water throughout the day helps nutrients circulate through your body, including to your brain.

See Worth Reading below for a link to more information on how diet impacts creativity.

“If you think of the brain as an engine, it’s going to run better on high-grade fuel. That’s what a brain-healthy diet provides.” — Paul E. Bendheim, neurologist


The Diet, Exercise and Creativity Connection: Learn more about how what you eat affects what (and how) you think.

Best Brain Foods for Brain Function, Health and Memory: From WebMD, here’s a list of brain-boosting “superfoods” to stock at home and in the office.

Worth Eating

Lentil Salad with Chard and Tomatoes: This healthy salad is packed with protein, legumes and leafy greens, which can provide energy and nutrients to keep you going. Make a batch on the weekend and pack it for an easy workday lunch.

Delicious Cooking with Whole Grains: A roundup of wholesome grains (like quinoa and farro) that make terrific bases for hearty and healthy salads and side dishes.


The cost of whole food vs. junk food

As I’ve been researching and writing about the benefits of choosing local, whole foods, I’ve bought into the argument that nutritionally poor food is cheaper than nutritionally better food; i.e., that eating fast food is cheaper than eating what you cook yourself.

The argument is commonly made. And different voices point to different reasons for this cheap-bad-food problem. Some writers and industry-watchers blame U.S. farm policy for creating cheap, high-calorie foods (primarily through subsidizing corn and, by extension, high-fructose corn syrup). See this article for that line of reasoning: Corn subsidies make unhealthy food choices the rational ones. Other voices say that it’s not so much farm subsidies, but rather the mega food producers that are dumping cheap ingredients on the market in the form of calorie-intensive, highly processed food. See this article: Is US Farm Policy Feeding the Obesity Epidemic?

The truth is out there, amidst all the rhetoric. Mark Bittman’s recent column for The New York Times raised the question, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? As Bittman writes, it ain’t necessarily so. He cites an example: a McDonald’s meal for a family of four (two adult meals, two Happy Meals with drinks and sides) runs $28; while a home-cooked meal for four (a whole roasted chicken, potatoes, a simple salad, bread and milk) costs about $14.

A study on food affordability conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and released in May 2012 debunks two common canards in the food debate: First, junk food isn’t the only affordable option for low-income families. And second, healthy food is not just for rich people and farmers’ market hipsters. But the survey gets at the core of the problem: Cost is but one of the factors in our food decisions. Access to healthy food, our preference for sweets, family food traditions and available time for preparing meals all influence what we eat.

“The ubiquity, convenience and habit-forming appeal of hyperprocessed foods have largely drowned out the alternatives: There are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States; in recent decades the adjusted for inflation price of fresh produce has increased by 40 percent while the price of soda and processed food has decreased by as much as 30 percent; and nearly inconceivable resources go into encouraging consumption in restaurants: fast-food companies spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009.” — Bittman

See what we’re up against? What a massive cultural change is required to fix the obesity epidemic? Why it’s important that kids learn to enjoy growing, preparing and eating simple, healthy food? It’s taken us a generation to get fat; it’s going to take another generation to make healthy eating the norm. Bittman equates the good-food movement with the anti-smoking movement: Think of how much advocacy, public-service messaging, peer pressure, education and policymaking it’s taken to move smoking from something that’s cool to something that’s nasty.

A generation from now, won’t it be great if junk food is the aberration, not the norm?

photo by jeffreyw, creative commons license