Truth In Labeling: You Just Never Know

By Nancy Mehlert, MS

Here is a great example of the uncertainty of ingredient labels and the fact that manufacturers have a great deal of leeway regarding what they put on the label.

In March 2016, I spotted this product (Left) and while “ Made in China” gave me pause, my confidence was regained when I saw the Non GMO Project Certification, USDA Organic Certification and the Certification as a Gluten Free Product.

The label read, Ingredients: Organic Black Beans. Manufactured on shared equipment and may contain trace soy. (Right)

That did not surprise me since their other products on the same shelf included soy pasta, specifically an edamame pasta.  Nevertheless, I was aware of the many health benefits of black beans including the obvious high fiber content and the protein was surprisingly good (this should have been my first clue!), so I gave it a try.  It was very good, and the texture was very much like wheat pasta. We decided to recommend it to our patients and, while not everyone loved it, many did.

Last week, (February 28, 2019), I picked up another box and noticed (since I’m always looking) there has been an interesting change on the package ingredients.

Now it reads, Ingredients: Organic black beans (black soybeans).  Contains soybeans. (Left)

It tastes the same and looks the same. Price is the same.  What I suspect now is that it has ALWAYS been soybeans. Who knew there were black soybeans? And why didn’t the manufacturer say that in the first place? Soy is a highly allergenic food for many people. I wonder if they had a few complaints?  Who knows what else we don’t know about this food product?

It is in a box.  It is a processed food product.  And it was not what we thought it was.  I’m glad lettuce is lettuce and an apple is an apple.  I’m sticking with real, whole food. Let’s all do that, shall we?

Be well. Choose well. Eat well.

By |2019-04-06T10:48:32-05:00March 21st, 2019|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Food Gums in “Healthy” Foods

By Nancy Mehlert, MS

Gums are common food additives used to add stickiness, thicken, prevent separation of ingredients, and improve texture.  In a small amount, they are generally considered safe.

When larger quantities are consumed, there can be reason for concern.  You may be surprised how easy it is to be eating a lot of them!  They are common in many organic, non-diary, non-GMO, certified gluten free foods, and are often chosen with the belief that these foods are cleaner. Look for them in nut milks, gluten free foods, salad dressings, protein powders, mayonnaise, non-dairy products, soups, and sauces.

Here are the ones I see most often: carrageenan, xanthan gum, gellan gum, guar gum, locust bean gum, and acacia gum ( a.k.a. arabic gum).  Only one of them, acacia gum, stands out with some favorable benefits and has the least negative impact when used in small amounts.  It is considered a pre-biotic, which means that it can actually feed the healthy bacteria in the gut.

Here are reasons to limit or remove the rest of them from your diet:

  • Multiple studies have shown that many gums create GI inflammation, especially carrageenan, which is believed to have the highest potential for harm, especially for those already suffering with gastrointestinal issues.
  • Many gums are very difficult to digest and cause diarrhea, bloating, cramping, and stomach pain. It is also common to experience symptoms unrelated to digestion such as a runny nose, congestion, hives or body pain.
  • Those with gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, or celiac disease should avoid xantham gum as it is produced by bacterial fermentation of corn, wheat and other grain based sugars.
  • Many gums can alter healthy levels of intestinal bacteria in some people. This happens by disrupting the normal mucous layer that lines the gut and contributes to chronic, low-level inflammation promoting changes to cells in the digestive tract, including the colon.
  • Agar gum, karaya gum, and konjac gum (a.k.a. glucomannan) can expand in the gut and, without adequate fluids, can cause esophageal and bowel obstruction.

If you already know your gastrointestinal health is compromised in any way, you may want to eliminate these gums entirely.  For most people, simply limiting their use to infrequent and small quantities would be wise.  Check all your packaged and bottled foods – you may be surprised!

Choose well, be well!

By |2019-04-06T10:58:17-05:00March 20th, 2019|Articles, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

The Sugar that Never Satisfies

By Nancy Mehlert, MS


You most likely have heard about high fructose corn sugar (a.k.a. HFCS) which is the most processed form of fructose, a simple sugar, and the most damaging to your health. Manufacturers make HFCS with corn starch and add it to many processed foods such as fast foods, soda, ice creams and condiments like ketchup and pickle relish. On labels it may be called high fructose corn sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup or fructose.

This is one of the most harmful substances for human health and we encourage you to audit your pantry, refrigerator and grocery cart to ensure you and your family are not consuming it.

Here’s why:

  • Many scientists are suggesting that this processed fructose is a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.
  • Processed fructose feeds pathogenic gut bacteria and disrupts a healthy microbial balance.
  • Fructose does not stimulate insulin production in the blood stream like other sugars, such as glucose, but goes directly to the liver for handling. As a result, leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone is never released to inform you that you are full.  As a result, you remain hungry, craving and unsatisfied.
  • The output of fructose being processed in the liver is uric acid, known to be a contributor to gout and heart disease.

Step by step, be well and stay well by choosing well.

By |2019-03-04T06:30:29-05:00February 20th, 2019|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

A Simple Thing, Profound Effects

Nutrition Nugget By Nancy Mehlert, MS


I wanted to remind you about a simple thing with profound effects: harmful oils in our food. In my opinion, it is one of our “big rocks” for reducing inflammation, preventing disease and improving health.  Yet you may be surprised how easily they can sneak back into your pantry, cabinets and refrigerator.  Strictly avoiding these has huge health benefits and can dramatically improve your lipid profile and reduce many factors for disease.  Watch out especially for salad dressings, hummus, mayonnaise, chips and snacks, restaurant food and fast food. Even brands that seem otherwise cleaner or healthier can have these harmful oils. If you see the words expeller pressed in front of the oil, it is slightly less refined.


Here’s why: These oils are highly processed and damaged. Your body has no good use for them. They interfere, obstruct and cause damage. They are often stored as garbage in your fat cells. They are well documented to cause inflammation, oxidative stress, elevation of LDL cholesterol levels, harm to endothelial cells lining your blood vessels, damage to gut bacteria, DNA damage and have glyphosate residues in them which harm your gut lining and increase permeability. [i]    You can see why we recommend total avoidance if at all possible.

Here are the oils to avoid:

  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Hydrogenated oil
  • Refined Palm oil

Healthy oils are unrefined or gently refined without harmful chemicals such as hexane.  Better choices are olive oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, beef tallow, duck fat, cocoa butter, macadamia nut oil, coconut oil, almond oil, unrefined palm oil and palm kernel oil.  Check out salad dressings and oils made by Primal Kitchen, Spectrum Brands and Chosen Foods as good examples of better choices.  Your body knows how to make good use of undamaged, natural oils.   There have been controversies and issues in the olive oil industry over the last decade, so our current recommendations are to stick with high quality olive oil made in the United States, Australia or Chile. Cobram Estate and Bragg olive oil are other reputable resources.  Mediterranean olive oils have been found to be contaminated and blended with many of the damaged oils listed above.  

Coconut Oil and Olive Oil Article

Audit your kitchen and take a simple step with profound effects for the entire family.




By |2019-01-17T13:35:31-05:00January 17th, 2019|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|


This is a quote that I have found helpful in my journey and relationship with food and myself.  It has helped me to:

  • see boundaries as a way to love myself and know who I am and who I don’t want to be.
  • get comfortable reaching for a longer perspective, rather than be overcome with short term gratification.
  • be courageous and set some reasonable and needed boundaries for my life without concern for what others may think.

I hope you will take some time to read it a couple times, maybe even out loud.  May you find in it a nugget of encouragement or help for you or someone you love.   



“Boundaries, in a broad sense, are lines or things that mark a limit, bound, or border.  In a psychological sense, boundaries are the realization of our own person apart from others.  This sense of separateness forms the basis of personal identity.  It says what we are and what we are not, what we will choose and what we will not choose, what we will endure and what we will not endure, what we feel and what we will not feel, what we like and what we do not like, and what we want and what we do not want.  Boundaries, in short, define us.  In the same way that a physical boundary defines where a property line begins and ends, a psychological and spiritual boundary defines who we are and who we are not.”   Dr. Henry Cloud, Changes that Heal, Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.


May 2019 be a year of greater health, better relationships, meaningful work and daily gratitude.

Peace be with you.


By |2019-01-04T11:57:20-05:00January 4th, 2019|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

3 Sweet Options for Holiday Cooking

By Nancy Mehlert

It is always nice to be able to recommend new products that might simplify life, help children (small or big) eat better, or make things taste more like childhood memories. While nothing is perfect, these are reasonable for occasional use.  They are Non-GMO and made by companies that seem transparent.  They do not have MSG and are free of the most common allergens.


Lakanto Maple Flavored Syrup – a healthy replacement for maple syrup on pancakes or in recipes. Available online.


So Delicious Coconut Milk Coco Whip – Ideal for topping off pumpkin and pecan pie.






Swerve – A healthy choice sweetener made from Erythritol.  Non-GMO and vegan, this sweetener works as a cup for cup replacement for sugar in any recipe and can be used to caramelize and crystalize much like sugar.  It comes in white granular, brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar and is a great option for those who want to cook or bake without elevating insulin levels.


By |2018-11-19T13:34:26-05:00November 19th, 2018|NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

13 Tips for Regret Free Holiday Eating

by Nancy Mehlert, MS

Most would agree that the Fall & Winter Holiday Season can be very challenging from a health and weight
perspective. The food fest can be seemingly delightful and delicious but can also bring negative
consequences, great temptation, and unwanted weight gain. Beginning a new year tired and digestively
distressed is not pleasant. Take heart! With a good strategy in place, you can enjoy the holidays
without the dreaded consequences.

Here are some tips to help you succeed:

    •  Halloween Candy- The Gateway Drug:  For starters, avoid allowing the candy fest during
      Halloween to start your downward spiral into sugar, cravings and overeating. Get the candy out
      of the house (better yet, don’t let it in at all) on November 1 and be determined to eat clean
      until Thanksgiving day. This alone can make a huge dent in the damage we can inflict on our
      health during this time of year.
    • Use the 80/20 Rule: Recognize that 80% of your nutrition choices need to be the clean
      foundation that your “cheating” rests on. Stay on track 80% of the time. This helps your body
      defend and protect from the 20% indulgence.
    • Attitude Matters: Choose a happy and cheerful attitude about your strategy. Enjoy your
      exceptions slowly, deliberately and happily while also finding contentedness as you eat
      healthfully most of the time.
    • Examine past years: You are familiar with the adage, “If you keep repeating the same behavior,
      you can expect the same results”. Identify what has derailed you in the past. Change the plan,
      alter the routine, stop participating in some of the events or situations that are troublesome for
      you. Start some new habits and traditions that foster a healthier approach.
    • Narrow the Scope: Not everything that looks good, tastes good or feels good – will afterwards. Check
      out buffet tables and food offerings carefully and determine what one item matters most to
      you. Be selective. Rather than dropping boundaries and rules for a week or a day, narrow that
      down to a specific meal time with a set duration of an hour or two. Then jump right back on
      track. Once you choose to enjoy an exception to the rule, savor it and refuse to impose guilt on
      yourself. Set boundaries and limit the frequency and quantity of your indulgence.
    • Abort: When you take a bite or sip of an indulgence, savor carefully to see if it is truly delightful.
      If not, abort the indulgence. After all, it isn’t worth it, right? (Yes, even if it means you toss it in
      the trash along with the money you just spent on it. This cathartic response makes you think
      more carefully next time. Throwing something away helps you to mentally part from it for
    • Order On Line: Walking in the grocery store can be fraught with temptations and eye candy. Stay
      focused on nutrient dense, quality foods by ordering on line and picking it up, curbside.
    • Create Bumper Days: Identify primary events where delectable food will be available and create
      clean bumper days around them. In other words, eat very clean and healthfully the days before
      and the days after the event. This is a good practice for Thanksgiving Day, for example.
    • Determine to Focus on Other Things: If you tend to get focused on food too much, you may
      want to intentionally choose and create ways to focus on some other things. Focus on
      thankfulness and keep a daily “Thankful Journal”. Focus on a specific family member you would like to love better
      and engage in acts of kindness to improve that relationship. Focus on serving others, taking a deeper faith walk, or
      learning to love and care for yourself better in every way.
    • Gather an accountability partner or two: Ask a friend, or your children or spouse to join in the effort to make wiser
      choices during the holidays. Working together as a family or group of friends can be very helpful and much more fun!
    • Plan to prepare healthier indulgences: Many favorite foods can be made in healthier ways.
      With planning, many foods can feel like an indulgence but truly be healthy. Look for ways to
      reduce sugar, wheat and carbohydrates while increasing nutrition, vegetables, healthy fats and
      fiber. Try to choose organic, Non-GMO foods, pasture raised meats and poultry, and sweeteners
      such as erythritol and monk fruit. Whole 30, Paleo and Keto cookbooks and on line posts can be
      helpful resources as is our newly revised and expanded Health Reset Protocol Cookbook. (Be
      sure to reserve your copy today!)
    • Check out new vendors such as Just Vanilla – A Free-from Bake Shop,, a new
      bakery in The Woodlands/Spring area that has dairy free, vegan and keto options for baked
      goods. When eating out, choose restaurants that specialize in cleaner options, such as True
      Foods in The Woodlands, Town Center.
    • Feel the reward of starting the new year without the need for guilt or a resolution to get back on track.

The Woodlands Institute for Health and Wellness is here to support you through this season. For help
with nutritional accountability, putting your strategy together or specific ideas that will help you
succeed, schedule an appointment with our Nutrition Specialist, Nancy Mehlert, MS.

Celebrate well, eat well, be well.

By |2018-10-30T05:22:01-05:00October 25th, 2018|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

The 1-2-3 to Feeding Your Brain

By Nancy Mehlert, MS

Here’s the 1-2-3 to feeding your brain:

#1 You need choline, a water soluble vitamin-like substance, essential to the brain.

Here are the foods to eat often so that you get plenty of choline for your brain:
• Vegetables – dark green veggies like swiss chard, asparagus, spinach, green peas, green beans, collard greens and bok choy. Also, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Mushrooms are also a good source of choline.
• Fish – contains both choline and omega-3 oils. Sources include shrimp, scallops, tuna, salmon, sardines. Buy wild and source for sustainable.
• Meats and Eggs – pasture raised eggs, pasture raised chicken and turkey, and grass fed beef are all excellent sources of choline. You are what the animal you are eating ate, so buy good quality in which the animal consumed its natural diet.

#2 You need Omega-3 fats. They are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory. The ones that really support your brain come from animal sources, specifically marine sources. There are Omega-3 fats in some plant foods (such as walnuts and flax), however they are not the Omegas that support and get into the brain.

So, in terms of brain health, ideal sources for Omega-3 fats include:
• Fish – especially wild-caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring. Buy wild and source for sustainable.
• Omega-3 Fat Supplement – such as Krill Oil or Cod Liver Oil, sourced carefully for purity and quality.


#3 You need AIR – BREATHE DEEPLY – the brain demands more oxygen than any other organ in the body. If you are a shallow breather and/or don’t get much exercise, your brain is HUNGRY for oxygen. Breathe deeply often and get moving.

Eat well. Be well. Think clearly.

By |2018-10-01T07:35:41-05:00September 20th, 2018|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Digestive Kindness and Patience

When we decide to move from one diet to another, it is important to make the change slowly over a period of one to two weeks. It may not seem like a big deal to move from omnivore to vegetarian, or processed food to whole food, or elect to dramatically increase fats while reducing protein, but the pancreas and gallbladder, the two organs responsible for making the enzymes needed to digest the food you eat, will be unprepared to handle the initial change.  Often a one time digestive discomfort is taken as a reason to not eat the food again, when all that is needed is a slower ramping up in quantity over time and perhaps a little digestive support.


Regardless of whether you are increasing fat, or adding meat to an otherwise vegetarian diet, a good way is to begin by adding in single bites or teaspoons.  One bite of chicken or fish, or one teaspoon of coconut oil, for example. The next day or so, if no digestive discomfort presents itself, increase again by another bite or another teaspoon. Each day, the pancreas and gallbladder will become aware of the greater need for different enzymes and begin to adjust accordingly.


The older we become, the less productive our pancreas and gallbladder can become, so it may be necessary at some point to use supplemental digestive enzymes every time you eat, or for heavier meals that include more fat and protein. Whole food has many of its own enzymes, so you may find that just eating real food (vs. processed and fast) dramatically improves your digestion and comfort after meals.


Be patient and kind to your body.

By |2018-09-05T10:54:34-05:00August 24th, 2018|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|

Individualized Nutrition

By Nancy Mehlert, MS

As you scour the internet or  bookstore for the next NEW diet, please keep in mind that there isn’t one perfect diet for everyone.  We are each biochemically unique. Our lifestyles and abilities are unique. The goal should be to find a way of eating that works for you, your lifestyle, and contributes to providing you with optimal weight and health.  Below is a list of the many factors that will impact your ideal food choices, how and when you eat, as well as the macronutrient (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) content that might be right for you.

  • Digestive styles – efficiency or inefficiency with carbohydrates or proteins.
  • Metabolic rates – resting metabolic rates vary greatly among individuals and should be tested with a reliable medical device (TWIHW uses Metacheck)
  • Food sensitivities and allergies (both food and environmental)
  • Activity Level – which may be too little or too much depending on these other factors
  • Weight status – over, under or normal
  • Medical history – surgeries such as gallbladder removal, stomach lap bands, partial colon removal, as well as diseases such as thyroid, cardiovascular, and autoimmune diseases, cancer and metabolic syndrome, all have a direct impact on dietary approach
  • Emotional and social issues around food
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Genetic mutations
  • Age and stage of life
  • Toxic burden on the body
  • Stress level and status of adrenal health
  • Composition of microbiome (i.e. the balance of microbes in GI tract)


The latest fad diet could be a mistake for you. Choosing a vegetarian diet may be perfect or it might be problematic. Or 130 pounds may be a realistic goal weight for you or a totally unhealthy one. We are all unique, so seek your personal nutrition lifestyle for optimal health. If you are interested in discussing your nutrition lifestyle and want to work toward finding a healthy diet to maintain optimal health, call our office to schedule a nutrition consultation today.

By |2018-07-27T13:12:16-05:00July 25th, 2018|General, NANCY’S NUTRITIONAL NUGGET|
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