Everyone calm down and relax. Drinking a bottle of motor oil isn’t going to kill her.
(A look at the new Nutrient Density list)

Our family used to have a cottage outside a little town called Calabogie in Ontario.  Now, when I say cottage I mean cottage.  Not an estate, not a home away from home, not a house that happened to be situated on  a lake.  I mean a very small cabin that was probably built by the 4th little pig.  The one who built his house out of cobwebs and farts.

The drive to the cottage was around 5 hours but that didn’t bother me one bit.  It was a simpler time when kids bounced around in the back of station wagons like tennis balls and the most popular booster seat on the market was a case of beer.

The cottage was dusty and gross and weird and I loved it. It’s where I first learned to fish, developed a taste for salty snacks like Bugles and discovered drinking an entire Coke bottle filled with engine oil wouldn’t harm a fly.  Or at least a 4 year old.

Damnit I was thirsty, thought my 4 year old self.  But since the adults around the cottage this particular day had also been quite thirsty, no one seemed to care or notice that the salty, crunchy, delicious Bugles had left me parched.  They had more important things on their mind.  Like who drank the booster seat.

So I found myself what looked like a bottle of delicious Coca Cola and I drank it down.  I drank all of it down.  Turns out it wasn’t filled with Coke but instead with dirty old motor oil.  It also turns out I couldn’t tell the difference between the taste of a bottle of Coke and dirty motor oil at that age. My palate has progressed significantly since then. I can almost always tell the difference between motor oil and Coke (unless it’s in a marinade which always trips me up).

When everyone finally realized what I’d done, my grandfather, who was a dentist, jumped into action and grabbed himself another beer.  The he sat on the porch, told everyone to zip it and relax.  I’d be fine.  Nothing to worry about.  I still don’t know if it was because he was way smarter than everyone else, or just way drunker.  Either way I lived through the ordeal with the only side effect being I crave Bugles every time I get an oil change.

The point of this is that eating one wrong thing isn’t going to kill you.  Unless it’s poison, in which case it probably will.

So even though I really do eat healthy for the most part I don’t worry about the odd night that I eat an entire bag of corn chips.  Also, who really knows what’s good for you anyway?  There are new results, new tests, new discoveries and contradictions regarding food every day. You can’t keep up with it. At least I can’t.

I just keep my diet varied, include pretty much everything and hope for the best.

Then I found the ANDI scores.  ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.  It’s a guide developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a family doctor in the U.S.  His guide was then pilfered and altered a bit by Whole Foods. It’s a scoring list of the most to the least nutrient dense foods.  So which vegetables have the most nutrients bashed into them based on the amount of calories they hold.

For example Kale and Potatoes are both extremely nutritous.  But Kale’s proportion of nutrients to calories is greater than the lowly (and my favourite) potato.  Nutrients divided by calories determines a food’s nutrient density.  It’s entirely possible motor oil would score higher on the ANDI guide than Coke.

Take a look to see how your favourite fruits and vegetables score in terms of their nutrient density.









Dr. Fuhrman published this guide to give people a better idea of what’s really and truly good for them but says:

“Keep in mind that nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the ones with the healthier fats) to include in our high nutrient diet.”

What I hear from that statement is “eat corn chips, Karen.”  Corn chips have a score of 6 by the way.

What it really means is don’t just eat high scoring, nutrient dense foods because you also need lower nutrient dense foods like  olive oil to be healthy.  Olive oil is filled with nutrients, but it’s also filled with calories which is why it doesn’t score high on the nutrient density list.

I repeat Olive oil is filled with nutrients.  Motor oil?  Not.  But it does quench a gal’s thirst.






  1. Susan says:

    If you don’t like kale or brussel sprouts you are over cooking them. Eating raw kale is not good for your thyroid. I think I worry to much about accidentally eating dangerous things but now I know I need to worry less, if motor oil won’t kill you. I won’t put that to the test though.

    • Karen says:

      No. Honestly. Cross my heart. I just do not like brussels sprouts. The same way you might not like eating hair? Is the same way I don’t like brussels sprouts. ~ karen!

  2. Celia says:

    My family had a cottage in Ontario as well. A one-room log cabin, hand-made by my great-grandfather. Shore of Lake Huron. Oh the memories! I love your column.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Celia! At my community garden there’s a shed that smells exactly like our old cottage (two rooms! ). It smells like musty grass with a touch of gasoline. :) ~ karen!

  3. kardan says:

    If you are ever 3 years old, a handful of swallowed marbles are also totally safe. I remember playing “Hospital” and showing my dolls and stuffed animals how to take their “pills”. I probably ate a dozen marble pills because my patients were so stupid. Then I got freaked out and told my Dad who was (go figure) drinking beer with his friend. His friend asked if I could breath, I said yes and that was the end of it.

  4. Anne says:

    I remember taking a blanket and a rope to make a tent “in the bush” and sleeping out in it. We could make a fire and roast potatoes which were always half done and not really that good! Our kids say they were fortunate to grow up in the 70’s and early 80’s. Any spare time was spent on their bikes or ponies gone for the day and enough kids that someone could go for help if really necessary. For b sprouts, boil until just done, a little butter and a spoonful of Seville orange marmalade and maybe some chopped toasted walnuts if they’re handy. Num num.

  5. Tom Roberts says:

    Did you know that you can use a corn chip as a candle? You can also use just one to start a fire. I learned that from watching Les Stroud. Survivor Man.

  6. Who doesn’t like a good drink of used motor oil. It helps those corn chips slide down a bit easier.

  7. Mike says:

    Ah, but the real question is are you a 10W30, 5W40 or just a plain 30 weight girl? Choosy oil drinkers need to know. Good reading again, Karen!

  8. Gypsy says:

    I never was a fan of brussel sprouts until my daughter cooked them, now I love them! And no they probably aren’t that healthy the way we like them. Cook some nice thick sliced bacon, then add onions & brown them, then add the brussel sprouts (we quarter them if they are larger, half them if smaller), some garlic, & our ever present Lawry’s seasoning salt & Mmm, some real good eating!
    We didn’t have a cabin but grew up flipping, falling apart buildings they sold as houses. And we sure did live in them during all that remodeling. And about the time they got livable we sold it & started over in another shack! But we learned a lot, appreciated the things we had & also had some great fun along the way! I still laugh because my Mother didn’t know how to swim & my Father often worked away from the farm but they sure let us kids go swimming in the creeks & river with just an inner tube & we lived on 160 acres so no amount of yelling for help would have done us any good since the river was at the back of the farm! And usually no adult anywhere near! I must say for all of the complaining (very quietly so we wouldn’t get in trouble) we did about all of the work I am sure glad I know how to do so many things now because of all that work back then! I have more tools than most men & I love woodworking, re-modeling, refinishing furniture & reupholstering…all to my taste…..what a priceless gift!

  9. Connie S. says:

    Oh the memories! glad you survived cottage life Karen !
    Our humble little cabin came complete with resident mice and the occasional bat! (Yuk) You’d think that would be enough to put our kids off cottaging- but no….Good times!
    A radish scores 502 ! who would have thunk? I too thought they were only good for the salt . And seeing as the brussel sprout comes in at a respectable 490 I have a recipe to share with you Karen – So good it might even make a believer out of you ;) In a saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil. Stir in 1TBsp. of each: curry powder, brown sugar, and jerk seasoning or marinade OR TO TASTE (depends on how spicy you like it) and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add 2 Lbs. cleaned and halved brussel sprouts. Simmer for 10 min or roast @ 375′ 10- 12 minutes stirring occasionally.
    ( My kids – now young adults- still luv ’em.)

  10. Debbie says:

    Awesome column! I had to read this to hubby so we could both have a hearty, nutrient dense laugh.

  11. Carolyne says:

    Are these for cooked or raw veggies, or does it not matter.

    Now, putting on grammar hat, “on the amount of calories they hold” should be “on the number of calories they hold”

  12. gloria says:

    This is some really good writing, Karen. So many great lines. Thanks for the laugh.

  13. Dan says:

    Sweet. Yellow and orange peppers beat out their green, good-for-nothing-miserable-excuse-of-a-vegetable cousin by nearly 50%. Life’s too short to eat shitty vegetables. And while asparagus may be down the list, it has other benefits. Mostly of the olfactory sort when you pee a half hour later.

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OMG Karen..you must have been one tough kid..lol..if that happened today people would panic and be calling in a helicopter to fly you to the nearest hospital..the most exciting food thing I did as a kid was stick a peanut up my nose and I guess it kinda liked it there cause it didn’t want to come back out..I think the big question here is ..where is motor oil on the Doctor’s list??

  15. Laura Bee says:

    I remember sitting on a case of beer in the back of a pick up going down the back roads where I grew up. We had to take turns sitting on the wheel humps. :)

    Thanks for the info through the laughter!.

  16. Jennie Lee says:

    I was pleasantly surprised to see you mention Dr. Fuhrman. I highly recommend his “nutritarian ” diet, as set forth in his book “Eat to Live”. His diet is, I think, the most scientifically sensible one around, and very simple. Using it, at the age of 60, I reached my weight goal of 125 for the first time in my life. I’d been dieting for over 42 years.

  17. marcia says:

    It’s nice to know that something I actually like to eat is high up on that ANDI list. I’m off to wash a container of 182’s, off the fruit list, for my afternoon nosh! Feeling healthier already. Thanks, Karen!

  18. Hahaha. I like your conclusions. If you don’t mind, I’ll skip the motor oil cocktail. :-D

  19. Jamieson says:

    Did my phone display cut off the end of this post? I can’t see any motor oil recipes and now I have a craving that just won’t SToP.

  20. Paula says:

    Brussel Sprouts ANDI score = 490. I looked it up on Dr. Fuhrman’s website, since the Whole Foods list isn’t interested in Brussels Sprouts, either. So, for those of us who truly appreciate the deliciousness of a beautifully caramelized roasted Brussel Sprout, munch away!

    • judy says:

      how do you prepare them? I keep seeing huge bags of them at Costco but every person who ever told me that their recipe would make me like them were ackkkkkkk………………… wrong

      • Grammy says:

        Judy, I have always loved them, but tried the roasting that everyone raves about and thought they were awful that way., even though I love most veggies roasted. I just barely cover the sprouts in a saucepan with water, bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer them until just tender when pierced with a fork. They will be bright, fresh green. Drain, toss them with a little butter (very little) and salt.

      • Paula says:

        Honestly, the most important thing is that they’re fresh. Chances are, if you had a bad Brussel Sprout experience, they were either overcooked or not fresh to begin with. Not sure about the Costco ones, but a huge bag means you won’t get around to cooking them all without them laying around for a long time, getting all stinky and nasty (unless you’ve got an entire army to feed). I like to get them at the farmer’s market, preferably still on the stalk, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You just cut them off, coat them with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste, and roast them in the oven. Simple is best, especially if you’re starting with great produce. If done right, the outside should be brown and crispy, and the interior almost creamy. Yum!

    • Karin says:


  21. Heather says:

    Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away my parents & I went out to dinner at some restaurant when I would have been maybe 7 or 8 years old. They ordered me a 7UP (no Sprite in those days) & it came with a lovely cherry on a cocktail pick. I ate the cherry & said “that tastes strange.” I took a sip of the drink & said “that doesn’t taste like 7UP”. My Dad takes a sip; “that’s turpentine!” A restaurant storing turpentine in a 7UP bottle. & the waiter picking the wrong bottle!

    Now, if this was recent there would have been law suits galore, health board inspections. Nah, I got a real 7UP & they maybe comped us a meal – don’t know. I survived (I didn’t drink much of the offending liquid.)

    Yes, Karen, where are the missing brussel sprouts?

  22. Karin says:

    That’s a great story! I guess I’m in the minority when I say I like kale. Hate eggplant, though. Hmph. Weird.

    • Grammy says:

      Perhaps a minority, but I like to think we’re the best ones. I love kale, although I’ve only ever eaten it cooked. I also love Brussels Sprouts. I like to mention that whenever possible here because Karen is a big baby about how much she doesn’t like Brussels Sprouts, so I imagine her twisting up her face whenever we say it.

      • Karin says:

        Brussels Sprouts? LOVE them! I’m with ya Grammy! We have a local store here in NC that sells a pre-made salad that has both raw kale and raw Brussels sprouts and it is FANTASTIC! Thanks for having my back Grammy!

  23. marilyn says:

    kale to me is like brussel sprouts to you…a big fat ugh!!

  24. Mary Werner says:

    McDonald’s french fries were said to be The French Chef’s favorite food and she lived into her 90’s. Loved watching Julia Child and her idea to eat with lots of variety just don’t overdo. At our cottage in Wisconsin, we caught BIG frogs from under the row boat. After tying a string around its leg, it became my pet for a week. At night the kids would go to sleep in the hammock while the adults drank booster chairs and we listened to all the stories and laughter. I got up to go to bed and yawned really big in front of my Grandpa while showing him my latest pet – and it jumped in my mouth. Lucky I had a string on its’ leg to pull him out. Motor oil, frog pee, hide under the desk if being attacked by the A-bomb – kids had it made in the 50’s. Radish’s? I thought they were just a way to eat more salt! I love Kale when it is baked until crisp with salt and a bit of olive oil. Really takes the place of chips for the kids – don’t knock it until you try it! I DO NOT eat it any other way, YUCK.

  25. ~JackieVB says:

    I had to do a search on broccoflower – so now I know what that is. I thought it was going to be something like broccolini. And I’m shocked that Cauliflower is more nutrient dense than a sweet potato. Just shocked I tell you.

  26. Jody says:

    Where do Brussels sprouts fit in the list? I’d they’re not on the list guess I don’t have to eat them.

  27. Grace says:

    I found a bottle of coke as a kid that was oil too! But I realised it wasn’t coke after one sip. What was up with storing oil in drink bottles anyways??

    • Jessica says:

      Same here! I was in middle school though and attempting to sneak Coke I know my mom wouldn’t want me to have. Jerks!

  28. Tigermom says:

    “I mean a very small cabin that was probably built by the 4th little pig. The one who built his house out of cobwebs and farts.”


    Thanks as always for the useful info and the laughs.

  29. Ev Wilcox says:

    Hmmm, noticed the absence of Brussels sprouts on that list. Did SOMEONE alter that list?

  30. Su says:

    I don’t care how good Kale is for you…. still don’t like it. Pass the Bugles please

  31. Darlene Cox says:

    Hi Karen
    We haven’t seen nor heard about the girls for awhile. How are they???

    • Karen says:

      They’re good Darlene! An update on Cuddles coming up next week and another chicken post in another few weeks. :) ~ karen!

  32. Kim says:

    Do you think the consumption of that motor oil may have something to do with how smoothly you tackle and complete all the wonderful Stuff you do? LOL You have brought back memories of going to our “camp” as a family when I was a child. I am from down east so it’s called a camp. I remember fetching the adult beverages from the cold brook for them and my sneakers being sucked off in the mud, sitting on porcupine quills which can penetrate thick jeans, being bit so bad by black flies I bled, being afraid that when using the outhouse there might be something down the hole that would bite my ass……ahhh…such fond memories! Thanks Karen!!! (I did really have a wonderful time there)

  33. Jack Ledger says:

    I certainly can appreciate your reflections on cottage life in Calabogie having experienced that time on a daily basis for many years as a child. The beauty of that day is that, as children, we were given free reign, long before the time when “helicopter” parenting became the norm. And we made it regardless of our penchant for “self-lubricating”. And truthfully, we all had a wonderful time save for the occasional alcohol induced parental “dust-ups.” Let’s hear it for the “50’s”!!

  34. SK Farm Girl says:

    I have a tear in me eye after reading your reminiscent story of visiting the cottage as a youngster! It brought back fond (and very similar) memories of my own experiences at my Grandma’s cottage when just a wee lass myself! We didn’t have a motor oil issue, but there was the time my younger brother took enough sips of everyone’s “booster seat beverage” to successfully get his four-year-old self drunk! GASP!!! The horror – I know – that a young child be given sips of “booster seat beverage”! But hey, it was the early 70’s and those big blue eyes of his, hooded with female-envy-kind-of luscious long lashes looking all cross-eyed waaaaaaaay down the end of that stubby brown bottle being so carefully clutched in his chubby little hands while his teeth were clenched over the neck of the bottle and with great excitement waited for the cold bitter beverage to hit his taste buds must have been pretty damn cute! I mean really, there’s nothing much funnier than a little kid taking a swig out of a beer bottle except maybe when that same kid drops the f-bomb (in perfect context I might add) just as Grandma sits down next to him the next day at breakfast! Yup – 42 years later his beverage of choice is still a “booster seat beverage” and he still drops the f-bomb but he does devour Swiss chard, loves fresh radishes and raids my strawberry patch whenever he comes to visit!

  35. LeeAnn says:

    Haha…Love it! I was also an adventurous eater. I ate one of those green mosquito coils when I was a kid. What could be more appealing than a bright green twirly thing?

  36. Grammy says:

    Thank you, Karen, for telling us about the drinking a bottle of motor oil incident. It explains so much.

    As for the nutrient density list, I think the good doctor meant it is okay to eat an entire bag of potato chips (not corn chips), as long as you wash them down with Pepsi and not motor oil. That’s how I read it, anyway.

  37. Lynn says:

    I agree every day it seems like they are telling us eat this or that , stop eating this . Confusing is a understatement to say the least . My personal motto if you want to call it that is this ( eat fresh , eat well , eat what you like ). If you do not over indulge an you can eat less processed foods you will be happy an healthier . No I am not a health nut I just have never enjoyed eating a lot of processed foods . Much to hubby’s dismay . He is a big foodie loves to eat out …

  38. Dominic says:

    At least I’m a big fan of greens & Swiss Chard. Kale can suck it though, if I want to taste dirt, I’ll just eat dirt.
    Is there an alcohol based list? Wondering where Samuel Adams and Bulleit Rye 95 land…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *