The Story of “How Auntie Rhubarb Got Her Name”

The Story of “How Auntie Rhubarb Got Her Name”

Most people bring flowers to the graveside at a funeral.

When my Great Aunt left us a few years back, my 30 year old daughter adorned her graveside with a bouquet of rhubarb! This is the story of how Auntie Rhubarb got her name.

Sunshine and love filled my Great Aunt’s vibrant back yard on that warm sunny day back in 1982.

Her weed-free, always flourishing garden spanned the huge yard from the grassy area behind the house – all the way to the back alley, on both sides of the concrete path.

Row upon row of dark mounded soil produced a canvas of her gardening handiwork – potatoes, turnips, string beans, carrots, onions, pea pods, cauliflower, and broccoli.

The glorious smells of summer were abundant, and butterflies sparkled in the sunbeams.

The vibrant afternoon was filled with joyous laughter and the chitter chatter of my curious, talkative first-born – her two-year old great-great-niece.

With wide-eyed toddler curiosity, she wandering down the pathway and into the rows of tall sun-stretched plants, Auntie guiding her from one to another, encouraging her to sample this veggie and that berry.

And what first-time garden exploration is complete without some crunchy oh-so-tart rhubarb?

So Great-Auntie Barbara went into the house and brought out a bowl of white granulated sugar and some thinly sliced stalks of rhubarb.

We watched and giggled with each bite, as my little daughter’s face squished itself into that quivering reaction only sour rhubarb, no matter how much sugar, can incite.

More visiting, some iced tea and cookies, our bellies and hearts full… it was time to go.

“Say good-bye and thank-you to Auntie Barb” I prompted gently.

With the hesitation of a young learner, her petite little hand began waving good-bye, and she sang out “Bye-bye, thank-you Auntie Rhu-barb!”

Auntie “Rhubarb” howled! Her belly laugh was contagious and we all enjoyed the innocent confusion.

And it stuck!

Many other great-great-nieces and nephews were born after my eldest. Everyone of them endearingly called her “Auntie Rhubarb.” It just became her name.

Do you have a rhubarb story? Another summer-food short story? What’s your favorite way to eat rhubarb?

Please take a moment to share the rhubarb or summer-food love in the comments below…

Here’s one of my favorite rhubarb recipes – RHUBARB-MANGO CRISP CRUMBLE {oil-free}

When Vegan is Unhealthy!

When Vegan is Unhealthy!

Some people don’t believe a vegan intake is healthy.

As a nutritionist who’s eaten vegan for over 20 years (and written a book called Real-Life Vegan) I’m definitely here to say that we have solid scientific and anecdotal evidence that it absolutely can be.

But it also – absolutely can not be.

Confused yet? Let me explain!

I’m writing this blog to echo the concerns of parents and other family members for vegans who aren’t eating a healthy vegan intake, putting them at risk for dis-ease.

What is veganism?

Technically, this can be vegan intake:

And this too can make up a vegan intake:

And all of these are also vegan:

It might be obvious to you that these are not examples of a healthy intake for anyone, but to the compassionate animal lovers who are eating vegan because their hearts are reeling in pain from witnessing animal suffering, it might not be obvious.

Or, they might not be convinced that it matters.

In my 20 years as a nutritionist, I have seen numerous animal activists whose vegan intake has not served them in the long run: who’ve become sick, anemic, deficient, and failed to continue.

I’ve long heard vegans who say – “It’s about the animals! It doesn’t matter what I eat, as long as it’s not causing animal suffering.”

To which I reply:

To vegans seeking to spread the word about animal suffering who want to be able to live a sustained vegan lifestyle and influence others:

Thank you for your advocacy for a more compassionate world!

The future of humanity is bright because of people like yourself who want to live in a world where animals don’t suffer, and our environment isn’t being destroyed by cruel and unnecessary animal food production.

If you want to be an influential vegan, one who radiates the inner-light of peace and compassion, helping others become conscious in their daily choices…please consider how important it is to practice the same love and respect for your own body, as you do for your animal friends.

Our bodies are meant to eat whole-foods, as nature intended. Keep in mind that food is the raw material for every cell in our body. What we put in our body really does matter.

If you’re buying protein powder, or multi-vitamins, or omega supplements, in an attempt to make up for your junk-food diet, it’s never going to work.

Instead, focus on eating whole-foods primarily. Ensure the majority of your caloric intake each day is from whole grains and beans, with veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Sure, our bodies’ might be able to handle a small amount of empty vegan calorie indulgences occasionally but being honest with ourselves about how much of our intake is from whole-food sources and how much from empty calories or low nutritive processed foods is key to lasting health.


Enjoy all of your favorites – fries, pizza, burgers, popcorn, and sweet treats…whole-food style!

  • Instead of deep fried french fries that are soaked with damaging oils, eat “fries” made from potatoes that haven’t been peeled, baked in the oven.
  • Instead of pizza made from white refined flour crust and oil-based vegan cheeze, find or make a whole-grain crust, load it with veggies, and drizzle with a whole-food nut-based cheeze, or shredded smoked tofu.
  • Same with pasta. Use whole-grain pasta with a whole-food nut-based cheeze sauce, and veggies.
  • Instead of processed veggie burgers with white buns, enjoy a whole-bean burger with a whole-grain bun, and a delicious veggie salad or veggie sticks on the side.
  • Instead of movie popcorn that is typically made with damaging oils, make your own air-popped organic popcorn with a tiny amount of melted coconut oil and whole-salt or spices.
  • And avoid or minimize all of the refined, highly processed toxic sugar by making your own soda with fruit juice and fizzy water or iced herbal tea sweetened with fruit juice or maple syrup.
  • Use fresh and dried fruits instead of candy to curb your sweet tooth, because instead of leaving your body with empty calories and organ distress, they will fill you up with nutrition-packed whole sweetness!
  • Vegan desserts, from cheezecake to pie, made with the sweetness and richness of nuts and seeds and fruit is an excellent way to satisfy nutrient requirements and pleasure needs.
  • And if you’re a chocolate lover like I am seek out treats made with cacao beans or cacao powder, sweetened naturally with dried fruits, maple sugar, or coconut blossom nectar. For example, Zazubean has these vegan chocolate bars sweetened with coconut sugar.

Here’s to a healthy, happy, delicious vegan life!!


Needs some support?

Head on over here to learn about the Real-Life Vegan Nutrition-Made-Easy eCourse!

Or here to learn about private 1:1 programs with Victoria Laine, RHN.

Looking for whole-food, delicious, gluten-free, allergy friendly or vegan ingredients?

Or, discover Victoria's Books, chalked full of delicious recipes and how-to's!

When Gluten-free is Unhealthy!

When Gluten-free is Unhealthy!

What are villi? Villi are the hair-like projections along the intestinal wall that absorb nutrients in the bloodstream. However, in some people, when they get flattened or broken off from eating gluten (some aren’t properly diagnosed for years or decades) their ability to uptake (absorb) nutrients is severely compromised.

The grocery aisles are brimming with gluten-free packages of everything from crackers and cookies to cereal, bread, and frozen foods.

This might seem like good news for more than 1% of the Canadian population who deal with celiac disease, and the other tens of thousands who suffer from (non-celiac) gluten intolerance, however they could be doing more harm than good to their health, without even realizing it.

Walking down those aisles can seem like a huge relief to someone newly diagnosed or who has recently discovered that the gluten in some grains are causing symptoms.


But what if the gluten-free crowd is unknowingly eating products that instead of promoting health are actually depleting it?

What if those who need optimal nutrition the most (in order to allow healing to their damaged villi) are unknowingly eating low-nutrient food that prohibit the healing of their gut?

While a healthy gut might be able to get away with eating refined, highly processed food-like ingredients, the last thing someone with celiac disease or digestive challenges should be consuming is low-nutritive highly processed foods.

Yet, that’s exactly what’s happening!

Just pick up the packages of breads, cookies, bars, and other gluten-free goods and read the ingredient list. How many of those ingredients are whole, intact, gluten-free grain flours? Or do you read things like – corn starch, potato starch, white rice flour, tapioca starch? What about the other cheap, inferior ingredients? They’re abundant and promote weight gain and dis-ease.


While an intake of whole plant foods, like fruits and veggies, and whole-grains and beans is the best foundation for anyone looking to achieve optimal health, there is no reason to avoid bread, cookies, and other baked products providing you know how to discern the difference between those that will promote health vs those that will deplete it.

There’s a simple question one can ask yourself to discern the difference.

Keep this question in your back pocket for when you’re shopping and you’ll be empowered to provide yourself with power-packed nutritious staples and goodies.

“Are the ingredients a whole-food origin, or refined?”

Why does the answer make such a critical difference?

Because when components (the fiber-rich bran layer and the fatty acid and vitamin E rich germ layer) of a whole grain are stripped away from the the starchy endosperm, and only one component is used, this is not what nature intended and that’s why we get into trouble. The bran and germ are what help slow the metabolism of the starch, keeping blood sugar in balance, moving the food through the digestive tract at a healthy pace to expedite bi-products of metabolism that can be harmful if circulated too long, and a whole host of other benefits.

The same with sweeteners. Refined sugars (there are numerous names) are not whole food sweeteners. Whole-food sweeteners have intact nutrients “as nature intended.” Some examples are – whole sugar cane (Sucanat), coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, dried fruit or fruit puree (date paste) or dehydrated fruit powered (date sugar).

Ditto for fats. Whether it’s the cheap, highly refined sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, or the highly marketed coconut or olive oil…they’ve been extracted, creating imbalance in the body. Eating the whole foods they were extracted from (sunflower seeds, coconut, and olives) provides the body with all of the components it needs, as nature intended, to create healthy cells.

Protein Powders. Have you ever heard of a food called “protein powder?” Of course not.  Protein powders are extracted from dairy milk, soybeans, peas, and other whole-foods. One component of the whole. Promoting imbalance and dis-ease.

Do yourself a favor and leave them on the shelf. Find better alternatives. They are out there! You may have to search a little harder to find them but it’s worth the effort. And making your own with whole-food ingredients is the best way to know what exactly is going into your tummy.

Check out some of my whole-food baking recipes.

Here’s a few whole-food bars and crackers I buy from time to time for convenience:
Lara Bars
goMacro Bars
Okanagan Rawsome crackers


Just because it’s organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Repeat after me: “Just because it’s organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.” 

Organic refined sugar, organic refined flour, organic refined oil…they’re all refined. They’ve been stripped of most of their goodness, the stuff nature intended to be metabolized by the body as a nutrient package.

Organic implies the ingredient hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides, but if it’s had the majority of the health promoting components removed…”just because it’s organic, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.”

Interested to learn more about gluten-free, whole food, eating?

Looking for whole-food, delicious, gluten-free, allergy friendly or vegan ingredients?

The Fiber Factor

The Fiber Factor

Dietary fiber plays many roles in building health and preventing dis-ease.
For example:

  • Fiber helps prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes by slowing the metabolism of blood glucose.
  • Fiber helps prevent and reverse diabetes (minimum 35-50 grams)
  • Fiber helps regulate weight by satiating with less calories.
  • Fiber promotes the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut, which strengthens the immune system, helps to balance the nervous system and aids absorption and digestion of nutrients.
  • Fiber lowers blood cholesterol.
  • Fiber decreases the risk of heart disease.
  • Fiber helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Fiber binds dangerous toxic matter for excretion.
  • Fiber binds and draws out excess hormones.
  • Fiber lowers the risk of many cancers.
    ….and yes, dietary fiber helps prevent constipation, as well as lowering the risk of bowel disease!

Looking for whole-food, delicious, gluten-free, allergy friendly or vegan ingredients?

Or, discover Victoria's Books, chalked full of delicious recipes and how-to's!

Meeting Rip Esselstyn in the Midst of Chaos!

Meeting Rip Esselstyn in the Midst of Chaos!

It took many years to write and design Real-Life Vegan: The Big Book of Whole-food Success, and it’s taking years to launch it into the world. They say all good things take time, but my goodness me!

Unimaginable obstacles have been plentiful and overwhelming.

After the success of Health By Chocolate in 2008, and the fantastic feedback to the Real-Life Vegan pre-publication copies in 2012, the next step was to fully release Real-Life Vegan into the world in 2013.

That all came to a halt when my daughter was in a serious car accident. Once we got her back on her feet,  I finally made my long-dreamed-about move to Mexico in 2014, still hopeful the new book’s full release was just around the corner. Wrong again.

It wasn’t until I met Rip Esselstyn in person in February 2015, that I came to the painful realization that once again it wasn’t going to be launched as planned. Ugh!

My friend likes to say it was a “Rip off.” I love her twisted sense of humor!

Will 2016 be the year?

I really hope so and am working hard to make it happen. I’m about to launch a Kickstarter campaign, and I hope you can be a part of making Real-Life Vegan finally become a reality!

I’d first become aware of Rip Esselstyn when I worked for the city of Edmonton Fire Department providing individual nutrition counseling and programing for the fire fighters. The department was going to hold a health & wellness conference, so I was in touch with Rip about the possibility of coming to Edmonton to speak. (The conference was unfortunately cancelled due to budget cuts.)


Rip Esselstyn is the famous fire fighter in the New York Times best-seller and documentary Forks Over Knives, (presently available on Netflix, for those who haven’t yet seen it!)

When I was thinking about who I’d ask to write the foreword to Real-Life Vegan, a friend suggested Rip. Given the working title at the time “Whole-foods to the Rescue!” we thought it would be a great fit. So I dug up his email address and contacted him.

Even though he was super busy writing his second book, and he and his wife were expecting a new baby soon, he generously agreed to write the foreword.

To have someone endorse my work with words of encouragement for my readers is a great gift. It was then that I hoped to one day meet and thank him in person, but he lives in Austin, Texas, so the chances were unlikely.

When an untimely opportunity to be in Austin presented itself, however, I was torn.

Rip Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives, The Engine 2 Diet, and Plant-Strong.


I’d started out five months earlier in the spirit of adventure, driving 4,600 km from Edmonton to San Miguel de Allende, in the heart of Mexico. My grand plan was to live there indefinitely and become part of an ecoVillage, returning to Canada occasionally for things like book launches, and to visit family and friends. My virtual nutrition-consulting and education business allowed me the privilege of living anywhere.

In those short 5 months, however, so many difficult and life-altering challenges occurred that my head still spins when I think about the intensity of it all.

It all started, to my horror, when I checked in with the Mexican consulate to complete my visa requirements, which resulted in learning that I was in the country illegally and would have to drive back to the US/Mexican border, a 3-day, non-stop trip, to re-enter with a missing stamped document.

Realizing I could be thrown in jail if I was stopped by police prior to obtaining the document was to say a bit stressful!

Living out in an incredibly beautiful canyon meant sacrificing reliable internet and telephone. It resulted in having to drive the dusty road into the city and back, most days, to be able to work and be in communication with family. It wasn’t something I had planned for, and in the scheme of things created another level of stress.

Every business owner’s nightmare happened when my website was hacked, just as I was launching a brand new on-line course. Having recently lost my virtual assistant due to exciting new work he’d taken on, and along with the internet, phone and other daily challenges, getting the site back up took weeks and was extremely exasperating.


These, and several other challenges, from car problems to a bug infestation, weren’t fun, but they paled in comparison to learning that my adult daughter back in Canada was critically ill and the doctors, including several specialists, couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  So, in January I flew back to be with her while we continued to search for the answer.  When she was finally diagnosed with a life-threatening infection, we were told the delayed diagnosis and treatment would most likely take its toll and cause a serious chronic condition that would take heroic and expensive measures to overcome.


I knew my dream of living in Mexico was unraveling. My daughter’s future was precarious. I had no choice but to fly back to Mexico, repack my car and drive the long road back to Canada to be with my brave, ailing daughter.

So it wasn’t exactly perfect timing to arrange a visit with Rip, but sometimes, especially in the midst of chaos, we have to grab opportunities even when the conditions aren’t perfect, right? (I know! What was I thinking?!) But it turned out that I had to stay a day in Austin to wait for the next friend who was going to accompany me on the rest of the journey north.  So the day before I left the heart of Mexico, I emailed Rip on the off chance he might be available. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard back that he could spare a few hours for me.

After several long days of more travel, too many sleep-deprived nights, as well as starting to process the emotions of disappointment in having to say good-bye to dear friends and dreams of life in Mexico, I arrived in Austin feeling pretty rough instead of with my usual vigor and zest for life.

Then there was a major mix-up for my friend who had accompanied me from Mexico to San Antonio and was supposed to fly back the next morning to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his dear wife. Due to delayed flights, he finally arrived 2 days later. I felt awful.

It felt like I just couldn’t catch a break, so when all of a sudden I found myself walking up the set of steps to Rip’s office, and realized just how physically drained and mentally harried I was, I wondered about the wisdom of having asked for this, but then again I thought, “perhaps it would be a happy distraction from the chaos?”

I had really wanted the opportunity to to let him know how grateful I was for his endorsement, and connect with him in hopes he could help promote Real-Life Vegan.


So here I was, doing my best to rally, and thankful I was able, if barely.

It was such a pleasure to meet him. We chatted about our families, his wife’s amazing schools project, and his exciting new line of ENGINE 2, PLANT-STRONG food products for Whole Foods Market, (also where his office is located.) He also took me for a delicious plant-strong lunch, and I was blown away by the amazing whole-bowl choices.

Engine 2 Plant Strong Food

Engine 2 Plant Strong Food

In preparing for the rushed trip back, having to make such an abrupt about-face in my life plans, I really hadn’t had time to think about how the book launch was going to be impacted.  But now, telling Rip about why I was having to get back to Canada, my daughter’s diagnosis and uncertain recovery, it was hitting me, “I would have to put the launch of Real-Life Vegan on the back burner – again!”

So many emotions began colliding as we wrapped up our conversation and I was preparing to leave. Something delightful had just happened and now it was ending, and I was going to have to go back to the reality of the chaos I was living. I was starting to feel physically woozy, the room started to spin, and all of a sudden I felt like I was going to burst into tears. I wondered for a minute if I might even collapse.

I’m fairly certain he wasn’t aware of how shaky I’d become, I was doing my utmost to hold it together.

I was trying to take a deep breath and center myself when Rip suggested we take a parting selfie.


Of course I wanted a picture with Rip!

I struggled for several long seconds before agreeing, knowing the internal struggle I was having just to stay upright and keep the conversation going, never mind smile for a camera. I always wear my emotions on my face and I was sure there was distress written all over it. I tried to relax, but my face felt twisted and stressed; there was no faking it.

Nope, no selfie!

No selfie…but here’s Rip again!

He texted the photos from his phone, but I never received them. That’s okay, I don’t need a photo that would remind me of my conflicted heart that day.

I thanked him sincerely and left too quickly, certain I was becoming incoherent, and that tears of both gratitude for his kindness mixed with those of grief, were going to burst forth at any moment.

Even though it was an awkward good-bye, I’m really happy for having had the opportunity, and that I had the courage to ask for it.

And now that Real-Life Vegan is about to launch (if the Kickstarter campaign is successful), I’m even more grateful that I got the chance to connect with Rip. Of course, should I ever meet him again, I’d love a re-do of that selfie, hopefully under much more relaxed conditions!

I humbly hope Real-Life Vegan will take its place amongst the other great inspirational plant-strong books, so that more people will be influenced to make this world a healthier place by achieving both personal health and improving our environment.

In the meantime, Rip has been working on his third book, which will become a great resource for many of my clients, I’m sure. (I’ll share details about its publication in an upcoming post.)

It was a long trek home, and it’s been a long journey dealing with the devastating effects of my daughter’s health crisis, so I am thrilled that the time has finally come to launch Real-Life Vegan: The Big Book of Whole-food Success!


One of the concepts I share with clients who are struggling to change their health habits is the idea that progress doesn’t often happen in a neat and tidy straight line. In fact, it can look pretty messy with stops and starts, and side roads.

It seems my success at getting Real-Life Vegan into the world is taking the long windy path and I assure you there’s been a lot of learning in the process. Some of that learning has resulted in exciting improvements to Real-Life Vegan since the five hundred pre-publication copies were available in 2012.  (You’ll learn about those changes and updates in the Kickstarter campaign.)

Life is full of mystery, and I’m sure I’ll never understand why so many obstacles and challenges have come my way these past years. I’ve learned though, that the more difficult life’s tests are, the more grateful I become for the small and mysterious blessings that seem to sprout out of the pain and confusion.

And that includes knowing how grateful I am for you, my devoted and patient readers. 😀

Thank you!!



“This entertaining, educational, inspirational, and how-to guidebook will help everyone, no matter where they are on their plant-based journey to reach their health goals.” – Rip Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives, The Engine 2 Diet


You’ll learn soon how you can support the Kickstarter campaign to help publish REAL-LIFE VEGAN: The Big Book of Whole-food Success. vl_logo_fork1