Eating healthy — just for the taste of it

Go back to nature.

That’s the advice from noted nutritionist and author Liana Werner-Gray, who brought her message to Shelter Island students in grades 6 and 10 last Friday — a message she believes saved her life when she was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous tumor in her throat at age 21.

She immediately realized her life had to change and she set about replacing her diet of junk food with whole-food recipes.

Among her books are “The Earth Diet” and “10-Minute Recipes.”

Because she wasn’t ready to give up tastes she loves, she set about seeking foods that would provide the same satisfaction as her old favorites, but were made with natural ingredients.

“We’re designed to eat fruits, vegetables, organics,” Ms. Werner-Gray told the students.

Besides running a business where she and her team teach the Earth Diet concept, she pursues a second career in the entertainment field, having appeared in several films. She tours frequently, teaching others the lessons she’s developed for eating a diet that brought her to a healthy lifestyle.

Some lucky students went home with samples of the foods she recommends and all received BPA-free glasses for use with the lemon water she also recommends. BPA, or Bisphenol-A, is a chemical in many plastic products.

Why lemon water? Even the most careless eater knows water is good for the body and far better than the sugary liquids most teens drink, But lemon water takes it up a notch, Ms. Werner-Gray said, and is good for the skin, cleanses the liver and achieves a healthy alkaline balance in the body.

Human beings are meant to eat food that’s as close to nature as possible, the author said. Packages of ingredients filled with words that are difficult to pronounce should be avoided. They are filled with preservatives and all kinds of chemicals the body can’t process, she explained.

Her books provide simple recipes for preparing muffins from natural ingredients that will delight the palate. The chocolate bars she recommends won’t spike glucose levels and are as satisfying as any found on a candy rack, with an added plus — the ingredients are natural.

Peanut butter aficionados, be aware that peanuts, for some, may not be conducive to good digestion. But “Sun Butter” is made from sunflower seeds and satisfies the craving for peanut butter without causing problems.

Rice that most buy at the grocery story is heavy with carbohydrates, but a rice-like product made with chick peas and lentils satisfies like rice and provides the body with protein and less carbohydrates.

Processed sugar, with which so many foods are filled, has a number of excellent substitutes, Ms. Werner-Grey said, listing honey, coconut sugar, natural maple syrup and even dates.

Another word of advice she offered the students — stay away from genetically modified foods.