Carolyn J. Tabak, MD, MPH :: Certified Holistic Health Coach


Nov 2013

Organic on a Budget

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Organic on a Budget

By now you’ve likely heard that eating organically grown fruits and vegetables is better for your health. And it’s true: Organic produce has higher nutritional value and antioxidant content than its conventional counterpart. That’s because organic produce is grown in accordance with strict standards, does not contain toxic pesticides or genetically modified seeds, and has not been subject to harmful irradiation. Studies show that pesticides used in conventional produce have been linked to increased risk of cancer, nervous system disorders, and hormone disruption.

But for many, the downside to organics is cost. Organic food typically costs more than conventional alternatives, so how do you reap the potent health benefits when you’re watching your budget? Fortunately, all it takes is some savvy shopping skills to save on your food bill—while still making the healthiest choices for you and your family.


  • Buy bulk. Whenever possible, buy larger quantities. Warehouse stores such as Costco carry boxes of organic bananas and apples for much less than what’s offered at the grocery store. And if your regular grocery store has a bulk section, shop for oats, rice, legumes, and nuts (they’re almost always less expensive than packaged foods).  However, make sure that the turnover in the bulk section is good, otherwise you may be buying less than fresh.


  • Sign up for a CSA. In a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) model, farms offer shares to the general public. The money you give your local farm helps it start marketing earlier in the year. In return, you get a share of the crops every week at a fraction of the price you’d pay at an organic market. You get fresh, seasonal, organic produce and the farm gets support from the local community. Win-win!


  • Buy local. Local produce costs less because it does not have to travel. Local farmer’s markets host vendors who carry everything from organic fruit and vegetables to meat, eggs, and even flowers! If you walk down the street to the grocery store you will often see the same products at a higher price (probably from the same farmer, too!).  If you’re in the DC metro area, you can find many local farmer’s markets.


  • Grow your own. Some produce grows easily in a small garden plot or even on your porch. For example: organic herbs such as basil, dill, or thyme cost $2-3 per small bunch in the grocery store, but you can grow a small plant that feeds you several times over in a medium-sized pot on your balcony. Ditto salad greens!  I’ve got curly kale, lactinato kale and salad greens in my garden now, and they’re all ready to harvest!


  • Be selective. If you can’t afford to go 100% organic, rely on the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” —foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides—as your go-to reference for must-buy organics. Apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, and spinach top the list.

Stick to eating organic produce and your body, the environment, and your local farmer will thank you. By putting these techniques to use, you can also eat well without breaking the bank!

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Oct 2013

The Healthy Eater’s Motto: Be Prepared

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Girl scouts “Be Prepared” is the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts motto.  I’m adopting it as my healthy eating motto.  Since my daughter (in the bottom row in a skirt) had her first Girl Scouts field trip yesterday, it made me think about what being prepared means to me.

I spent this morning restocking my kitchen with the foods I eat almost daily.  I find that I make the best choices for myself when I know I have something ready to go that’s healthy and nourishing.  Though there is a cafeteria in my office building, I am usually tempted by things I no longer choose to eat, like omelettes for breakfast, or trail mix or pudding for a snack.  Though I like variety, lately I’ve been eating only two things for breakfast.  One is a baked sweet potato topped with cashew or walnut butter, and the other is a “raw” granola, a concoction of a few different kinds of nuts, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, goji berries which I top with a little coconut milk and chopped fruit.   I always keep nuts in my car and office in case of an “emergency.”  Sometimes, nuts seem a little boring for a snack, and I want something a little sweet.  In that case, I have a Triple-Chocolate Flaxie Maxie bar, something I adapted to suit my tastes and food sensitivities.  My daughter loves these too, so I like to keep them on hand.  Now I am excited to begin a new week, prepared with the things that I know will keep me and my family well-nourished and satisfied.

What do you need to be well-nourished and satisfied?  I’m here to help you discover what will work for you, in case you need a little “extra” preparation.


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Oct 2013

Triple-Chocolate Flaxie Maxie Bars

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originally from Replenish PDX now adapted by HealthCoach-MD so it’s good for chocolate lovers (and who isn’t one!), people with almond sensitivities, and fits in a 8×13 baking dish, so you can make bars, not squares.


1 3/4 cups cashews or hazelnuts (soaked and toasted in the oven is ideal)

1 3/4 cup walnuts

2/3 cup fresh ground flaxseed

2/3 cup shredded coconut

couple pinches of sea salt


7/8 cup cacao butter

7/8 cup cashew butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

30 drops liquid stevia (add the stevia, mix and taste to bring it to your liking)


7/8 cup goji berries

3T. cacao powder

1 ½ handfuls of cacao nibs



1. Pulse nuts, ground flaxseeds, coconut, nut butter, and salt in a food processor until coarsely ground.

2. Gently melt the cacao butter and cashew butter over low heat.
  Whisk together.  Take off heat, and add vanilla and stevia.  Pour into food processor.

3.  Add goji berries, cacoa powder, and cacao nibs to food processor.

4. Pulse to create a coarse and pasty mixture.

5. Press mixture into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish

6. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, until mixture hardens. Cut into 24 bars and store in refrigerator.

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Sep 2013

Coconut 101

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 Coconut 101For centuries, island cultures have exclusively used coconut and coconut oil as a staple in their diet, and according to a study conducted in the early ’80s on Polynesian populations and published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these people showed favorable heart and circulatory health.

And while conventional medical sources still condemn coconut oil as being unhealthy due to its high content of saturated fat, most experts in the natural health world agree that coconut is an uber-beneficial addition to your diet.  Even Dr. Oz says so!  Here’s why:

-It’s high in lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid found in virtually one other naturally occurring place—mother’s milk! Lauric acid converts to monolaurin in the body, which is known for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-protozoa properties. Due to this, coconut oil can help with dozens of conditions that would normally require prescription treatment like ulcers to infections and even HIV!

-It contributes to weight loss. Even though coconut oil contains saturated fat, 48% of its saturated fat is made up of the superstar medium-chain fatty acid. This means that it’s easily digestible and easily processed and put back into the bloodstream unlike the long-chain fatty acid found in traditional saturated fat, which takes more energy to digest and literally sticks around in the form of visible fat. Medium-chain fatty acids stimulate your body’s metabolism, which can lead to weight loss. They also have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body.

-It acts like a carbohydrate—without messing with your blood sugar. Because medium-chain fatty acids are delivered directly to your liver to be processed, they provide quick energy, without the insulin spike you get when eating carbohydrates. This is extremely beneficial for diabetics!

-It stands up to high-heat cooking. Unlike other liquid oils that turn rancid and become oxidized when cooked at high temperatures, coconut oil remains stable, making it the ideal oil for baking and cooking.  Plus, it tastes great!

-It conditions your skin—and your mouth! When applied topically, coconut oil can help protect skin from the elements that speed up aging as well as heal such conditions as psoriasis and eczema due to its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. For the same reason, when it comes to oral hygiene, a study by the Journal of Oral Health and Community Dentistry confirms a spoonful of coconut oil can clean your mouth more thoroughly than brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash.

By incorporating coconut oil into your daily diet (all it takes is eating one to three tablespoons per day), you can reap the many benefits of this tropical wonder without leaving the comfort of your home.

And, for some great recipes using coconut, try some of these, courtesy of The Spunky Coconut!  I recently bought this cookbook (by Kelly Brozyna, the author of the blog), and on occasion, I’ve served ice cream (dairy & sugar free) for breakfast.  It’s that good for you!

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Sep 2013

Back to School!

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crayonsSharpening yellow #2 pencils to a perfect point, while inhaling that yummy sawdusty smell, or better yet, feeling that excitement of opening a brand new box of 64 Crayola Crayons!…Ok, I admit it, my enthusiasm about the beginning of school is a little over the top.  Like clockwork every year, I get really motivated to learn something new, and I’m not even in school any more!  The best part about being a grown-up is that I get to choose my curriculum.  This year I’m choosing to learn even more about those frightened little parts of myself that say, “Don’t put yourself out there…Don’t try something new, you might fail.”  What happens if I say instead, “Go ahead.  Take a chance.  If it doesn’t work, I’ve just gotten one step closer to what will work!”

What is that part of yourself really hoping for this year?  Are you longing to fit into that pair of skinny jeans that you’ve had hanging in your closet for the past couple years?  Are you aching to be free from sugar cravings?  Wouldn’t you love to have more energy to pursue one of your hidden passions or dreams?  What’s stopping you or slowing you down?  If you’re anything like me, you need a coach, someone to keep you accountable to yourself, someone who believes that you CAN do this, even when that little voice says, “Don’t even try.”  That’s why even as a coach myself, I have my own coaches and mentors.  Many times, they even have visions for me that I am unable to imagine for myself.

I’m equally excited about what you might learn about yourself this year, so I’m offering 5 complimentary Back to School Strategy Sessions.  These will go fast, so don’t be late for class…Claim yours now!

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