Thursday, October 31, 2013

Carrot Chickpea Salad Recipe

Carrot Chickpea Salad
1 bag shredded carrots (or about 2 cups if you DIY)
2 cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed (or about 4 cups cooked)
1 C dried apricots, chopped
¼ C sliced almonds
1-2 handfuls cilantro, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped

3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, pressed
½ Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
chili paste/harissa to taste
1 Tsp sweetener of choice (optional)

Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl & whisk until combined. Combine all ingredients in the salad plus dressing in a large bowl. Let sit as long as possible for flavors to meld.

Serve on top of greens with other fresh veg of choice. I chose to add bell peppers and cucumber, Carly went with celery. The recipe makes 4-6 portions depending on appetite.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

I feel like Wednesday snuck up on me this week! This is probably because my birthday was Monday, and I actually called out sick that day. If you read my last post you might have seen that I wiped out at the beginning of my long run on Saturday. I felt okay on Sunday morning so I did my usual bike ride and a light core/strength workout. By the time I got to Sunday night I had that awful whiplash feeling in my neck and my arm/shoulder was very painful. I had trouble sleeping and woke up feeling worse Monday than at any point before that. I'm improving every day and have still able to run like I'd planned. 

Enough of that, let's get to the good stuff! 

One of my lunch salads with a mish mash of leftovers on top.

Caribbean themed dinner - coconut black lentils, sauteed squash & onions, jerk pineapple slaw, sweet potato, plantains & peppers on a bed of greens

Veg burger salad with steamed broccoli and roasted delicata squash. 

I've seen a lot of people online weighing their salads and was curious about what one of my usual salads would weigh - 1 pound, 4.4 oz!

Random snack plate - raw onion bread with hummus & roasted tomatoes, bite of cookie and ibuprofen for my swelling!

My birthday brownie from Raphsodic Bakery - enjoyed throughout that day and the next!

Fancy moonshine cocktails at White Wolf Cafe for my birthday. 

White Wolf Cafe's roasted veg & hummus appetizer

Boddhisatva bowl at Stardust for my birthday - delicious tempeh in there

Vietnamese bun salad - one of our new go-to dinners

Monday, October 28, 2013

Birthday Weekend

Today is my 29th birthday. I can't believe I'm almost 30 and I'm so thankful to be healthier today than I've ever been in my life. I had a big weekend to celebrate and wanted to share some moments with you. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

25 Things I'm Grateful For

I just started subscribing to Fit Bottomed Girls and today there was a post called “Burpees and 25 Other Things I’m Grateful For”. Gratitude is something that needs cultivation. It’s easy to take things for granted and to focus on what irks, ails, frustrates, depresses us rather than the things that fill us with a sense of warmth, happiness, and gratitude. I know many of us do an exercise like this near Thanksgiving, but I think a more regular practice could reap huge mental benefits. I know I focus a lot on physical health on this blog, but mental/spiritual health is equally important. That said, here’s my list of things I’m grateful for:

1. I’m healthy enough to have run 73 miles by the end of the month
2. My sweet beagle
3. Palm trees out almost every window
4. The Central Florida Veg Fest and Jessie Ware concert I’m attending tomorrow
5. New friends
6. The rad Asics pants and shoes I can start wearing now that the weather is cooler
7. Delicata squash
8. Co-workers that are a pleasure to be around
9. Podcasts
10. A good book
11. A partner who still makes me laugh after 11 years
12. Hoodies
13. The Hype Machine
14. Compression socks
15. 14 amazing cousins (Mara, Kirsten, Caitlin, Jennifer, Amy, Lisa, Michael, Tucker, Tyler, Christine, Janee, Kylee, Aimee, and Christopher) and their spouses/children
16. The ocean
17. Roasted plantains
18. Safe drinking water
19. Parents who love and support me unconditionally
20. Foam rolling
21. Road trips
22. My bike
23. Shooting stars
24. Vitacost
25. Feedly

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

When I started prepping pictures for this week I realized I have an addiction to taking food pictures! I love making, eating and talking about food so much that I'm okay with it. Hope you enjoy my week in food. If you want to see more, check my Instagram.

Spaghetti squash topped with spinach, broccoli, peas, tomatoes, olives & nutritional part about being plant based is you can eat huge portions of delicious low cal veggies!

One of our go to meals - roasted chickpeas and cauliflower with curry spice. I usually eat it on a salad, Carly usually does a wrap. 

Random snack plate. Cactus pear, starfruit, carrots, nuts & a Mary's Gone Crackers cookie. 

Long run reward for the week, green smoothie bowl topped with kiwi, granola & coconut

More after the break for those who want to see vegan nutella, black bean brownies, tomatillo soup & other goodies!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Couldn’t Say it Better

I've been waiting until I had enough good links to do my second edition of “Couldn't Say It Better”. I hope you enjoy these articles/links!

10 Truths All Healthy People Know
I have to admit that I’m a sucker for lists. They are quick and easy to read and this one includes most of the things that took me a long time to know or understand, but that I fully believe in.

Hungry Planet: What The World Eats
This is absolutely one of the most telling and fascinating things I've seen. It features photos from the book “Hungry Planet” by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. They embarked on a project to capture the weekly food purchases of families around the world. Each photo shows the family with their food and has a description plus a dollar amount. This is important work and shows how much the processed food industry has degraded local eating habits.

Let's Retire These Damaging Mainstream Nutrition Beliefs, Please
Another list, but more rich with content and written by Andy Bellatti (a plant based dietitian that I highly respect). I love when nutritionists and dietitians get real and go past the mainstream messages they are supposed to send. Also, it’s good advice regardless of your feelings on plant based diets.

20 Wonderful Effects Exercise Has on the Mind
We all know that exercise is good for our physical bodies, and here’s 20 reasons why it’s good for our mental/emotional/spiritual selves as well. Move your bodies, people!

Drink Cherry Juice for a Sore Muscle Cure
I am a firm believer in using food as medicine. Even though I’m training for a half marathon I never take any anti-inflammatory drugs and I haven’t had a headache in at least 6 months. Cherries are my go to, and this article tells you why.

Today is World Food Day: Perspectives
This article is from Marion Nestle, who is not plant based but is one of my favorite nutrition experts. Her book “Why Calories Count” taught me a lot about food and how our bodies use it. She’s amazing! This is a nice, short article on some of the political realities of our world food problems.

How to do the Perfect Plank
It is what it says, and it’s very useful. We should all be planking regularly (I did three of these variations on Sunday!).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Carly and I meal plan every week, typically on Thursday night since she can go to the grocery store on Friday. We use an app called Our Groceries that lets you have multiple lists (of anything really). We keep a list called Menu and add ideas we find throughout the week. We also do our best to evaluate what we have and use up fresh ingredients and make good use of our pantry. One combination we come back to often is Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. We have it in a variety of ways, and last night we made a great version that I wanted to share.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
1-2 lbs Brussels sprouts, shredded (see below)
2 large shallots, sliced
1/2 c pecans, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 can (low sodium) kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 Tbsp tamarind chutney (or other sauce of choice)
1 head leaf or romaine lettuce, chopped
White balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper
Garlic powder
Smoked paprika

This salad has four main components that can essentially be prepared separately. First, cook the peeled & cubed sweet potatoes however you prefer. You can roast them in the oven or fry them in a pan. Season them with salt & pepper.

Next, prep the Brussels sprouts. You can shred them in a food processor, on a mandoline or by hand. To do it by hand, chop the bottom off the sprout and discard any outer leaves that fall off when you do so. Cut the sprout in half. Lay it on the cut side and chop along the sprout from the top to bottom in slices. Also prep your sliced shallots (onions will work if you don't have them). Saute the shallots and sprouts in the oil of your choosing. We have some vegan bacon flavored grapeseed oil that we used for this. Season the sprouts with salt, pepper, garlic and smoked paprika.

In a small pan, toast the chopped pecans for a few minutes until they start to turn darker. Remove from heat and use these as a topping. The pecans are optional, but added a depth of flavor to the salad that for me was the best part.

This dish lends itself to a variety of protein sources. I happened to have a can of kidney beans and some tamarind chutney. I threw them together in a pan just to get them warm. Carly had bacon on her salad. You could essentially use any legume, tofu, tempeh, seitan or meat of choice.

Last is to cut your lettuce. Assemble the salad: lettuce, drizzle of white balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, sprouts, sweet potatoes, protein & pecans.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I've been meaning to write this post for about a year now. In January of 2013 Brendan Brazier launched a free online program called “Thrive Forward”. At that time I’d been plant based for just less than six months and wasn't familiar with Brendan, but I kept seeing his name and the program popping up on blogs. The program is a series of videos, articles, and recipes that outline Brendan’s version of plant based eating. Over the last year it has expanded, and they've added a Sports Edition and now a bonus Thrive Kitchen section. I quickly decided to buy two of Brendan’s books to dig deeper into his food philosophy.

I learned a lot about nutrition in general from doing the program and it helped me make the shift from what I like to call a “substitute” vegan to being a plant based eater. “Substitute” vegans are the ones who like to substitute their favorite meat/dairy foods with vegan versions (ex. A pizza with seitan pepperoni and vegan shredded cheese). There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but my aim has always been to be as healthy as possible and I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. I do think that substituting is essential for anyone transitioning to a plant based diet because it’s hard to get over the messages we've been ingrained with and the food traditions to which we are attached.

I love the Thrive program because it’s all about being as healthy as possible and is super focused on whole foods. It also emphasizes mindful eating principles and not counting calories. This was the hardest thing for me to adjust to about the Thrive program because I was convinced that I needed to do that to maintain my weight. I put my trust in what Brendan had to say and stopped counting calories. I’m happy to report that as of my latest check up last week I weigh 148 pounds, 2 less than I was expecting! I don’t only use Thrive recipes, but the general program has become a part of my routine.

My “smoothie for breakfast, salad for lunch” philosophy stems directly from Thrive. I always have a batch of homemade energy bars in the freezer based on Brendan’s formula. I try to follow his principles about how to use nutrition to refuel after a workout, and the bars are my go to in the morning after my shower before my commute. I was lucky enough during the initial Thrive program to win an amazing Vega prize pack with (among other things) 4 giant tubs of protein powder and a case of coconut water. I am still making my way through the last of the powder, and in case you’re curious my favorite flavor Is Vanilla Chai. I use the powder in my smoothies, my bars, other baked goods, and oatmeal.

In terms of recipes, I've used his burgers and pizzas a lot. I’m recently trying to limit my gluten intake and many of his recipes do the same. I don’t eat quite as much fat as he uses in his recipes because I’m still not convinced that a super high or super low fat diet is ideal. In terms of athletic performance, I learned a lot from his books and the online program. His “Thrive Fitness” book has training logs and a specific workout plan that I followed when we were still in NC and I had gym access. It taught me a lot about using my workout time wisely/effectively and about keeping track of my workouts to monitor gains and/or problem areas. I am certain that my strength and cardiovascular endurance were both improved significantly because of his program.

I cannot make it any more clear that Thrive is an amazing free resource for anyone on a plant based diet, anyone who is plant curious, anyone who is an athlete, and anyone who wants to learn more about nutrition from a non-mainstream (aka non-shady funded) source. And in case you’re curious, I wrote this review/post solely of my own volition because I think it’s awesome!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Enchilada Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

I had a request for this recipe from Twitter (thanks Lauren!) The only thing I might have changed is to add a flax egg or flour or some kind of binding agent to the potatoes to make them firm up when cooked. As is common, the leftovers were better and it tasted great all mixed up!

Enchilada Shepherd’s Pie
(six big or eight small servings)

1-2 poblano peppers, sliced
1-2 bell peppers (only if you like them) , sliced
1-2 red onions, sliced
4 small-medium yellow squash, cut into large chunks
3 medium zucchini, cut into large chunks
1-2 C mushrooms, sliced
1 pint small tomatoes
2-3 cups frozen spinach
1 large can pinto beans, rinsed (or 3 cups cooked)
3 large sweet potatoes
Taco seasoning of choice (we use a blend of garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander & something spicy)

Hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400. Toss veggies (through tomatoes) with copious taco seasoning and oil of choice if you eat added oils. Spread veggies on a cookie sheet and roast 30 minutes or until they are tender. Mix the warm veggies with the frozen spinach and pinto beans when they are done roasting.

While the veggies are roasted, peel your sweet potatoes and put them in a pot of salted water. Boil until ready to be mashed. Mash the sweet potato and add more seasoning to taste. We didn’t add anything else to the potatoes, but as I mentioned before you may want to add milk and binder of choice here.

Spread the veggies in a 13x9 baking dish (you may not be able to fit them all). Top with sweet potato mash. This can sit overnight if needed. Bake at 350 degrees: if the veggies are still warm it should take about 20 minutes, if they are cold from the fridge it will take closer to an hour.

Garnish slices with hot sauce, scallions, cilantro, avocado, etc.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

It's been a pretty exceptional food week, sorry for the overwhelming number of photos! 

Cabbage tempeh casserole, in the dish and as served (always have to have raw veg with every meal!)

New go to snack after morning runs, half a banana with PB and cinnamon

Appetizer from our anniversary meal at Kabooki Sushi. Sauteed mushrooms, the dish is called Mr. Mario and it was incredible!

Anniversary dinner entree for me...vegetable moriwase. Hands down the best veggie roll I've ever had, plus some interesting and delicious veg on rice with an avocado hand roll and imported soy sauce. Heaven.

One of my random leftovers lunches...peppers filled with red cabbage, tofu, broccoli and plantains.

Great lunch out at Pasha Taverna & Lounge. I love eating Mediterranean because I can just order without asking too many questions. We split falafel, zaalouk, baba ganoush, grape leaves & hummus.

This is what I brought to the Ravens bar on Sunday to eat with my football. Healthiest lunch in the bar by a wide margin! Lentils w/BBQ sauce, red cabbage, beets, collard greens and acorn squash on a bed of spinach. 

Enchilada shepherd's pie. A mix of roasted squash, onions, garlic & poblano mixed with pinto beans, topped with mashed sweet potato and baked. Side of plantains (always). 

We are kind of obsessed with rice paper wrappers. Carly made me these mushroom banh mi rolls - tasted even better than they looked!

I realized (too late) that I haven't ever taken a photo of my go to dessert. Oats mixed with either PB2 or protein powder, topped with fresh berries. 

Harvest salad: greens topped with quinoa, butternut squash, apples, currants, carrots, cucumber, peppers, and toasted sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds/walnuts. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tasteful Pantry

There are a lot of blogs that do regular giveaways, and Vegan Perks is a great place to find them. I enter them like a junkie and haven't won yet, but they are a good way to find out about new products and services. As a result of one of the contests I started following Tasteful Pantry on Facebook. I happened to catch this post on their wall last week:

I answered correctly (50% - crazy!) and won a box of Mary's Gone Crackers! I had tried their Herb Crackers before, and I have been trying to limit gluten in my diet so I was super excited to get the box. I guess I have low expectations, but I thought I'd get one box of crackers in the mail. This is what they sent:

As you can see that's 3 boxes of crackers, 3 boxes of cookies and two bags of pretzels! So far I've only tried the N'Oatmeal Raisin cookies and they are fantastic.

The coolest thing about Tasteful Pantry is that they order products individually or do a monthly treat box order. Most of the monthly box companies have one niche (vegan, gluten free, organic, "healthy", etc.). Tasteful Pantry lets you customize your box based on diet, so you can combine vegan and gluten free or gluten free and nut free.

Many thanks to Tasteful Pantry for this amazing gift!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Isa Does It

If you have ever looked into vegan cooking or cookbooks before you've probably heard of Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Her website Post Punk Kitchen is hugely popular. She wrote several of my favorite cookbooks like “Veganomicon”, “Appetite for Reduction”, and “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World”. She has a new cookbook coming out on October 22 called “Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week” and I was lucky enough to view a preview copy through Net Galley (librarian perk!).

As I mentioned before, I love several of Isa’s other books. This one is no exception! It’s incredibly visually appealing and there are some gorgeous food photos in here. The first section of the book has really helpful cooking/pantry basics, along with my favorite section “Vegan Butchery” which shows you how to make all sorts of shapes with your vegan proteins. She also includes tips on making things easier, and includes a guide to substitutions for various allergies.

The recipe chapters are: Soups; Salads; Handheld; Pasta & Risotto; Stews, Chilis & Curries; Stir-fries and Sautes; Bowls (& a few plates); Sunday Night Suppers; A Few Basic Proteins; Breakfast, Brunch & Bakes for the Morning; and Desserts. As evidenced by the sections, there is something in here for everyone. I like Isa’s books because they provide a nice balance between healthy and indulgent recipes that should suit the taste of people like me who eat a very clean diet, or people that get down on pies and cookies. Also, she has recipes that are quick and easy mixed with recipes good for special occasions.

Her recipes are very accessible and don’t have too many weird or hard to find ingredients. I've been eating plant based for just under two years, and have scoured blogs and cookbooks for recipes the entire time. I still found plenty of new dishes in this book that I can’t wait to try. First on my list is Shiitake Banh Mis, followed closely by Sweet & Sour Brown Rice Salad and Olive-Lentil Burgers. I’m also intrigued by the Pizza Bowls because I love vegan pizza but have been trying to cut down the gluten in my diet. Hopefully you’ll be seeing some of my re-creations of these recipes on my What I Ate Wednesday posts soon! This book will be a great addition to any kitchen, regardless of what food philosophy you subscribe to.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Training Update

Half marathon training has been going great so far. I started foam rolling several times a week and I can see big improvements in my recovery and performance. I can’t tell if that’s from the training plan, the foam rolling, the clean eating, or a combo but so far so good!

In terms of the training plan I’ve been keeping up with my schedule with only slight modifications along the way. I’m also keeping a log of how I felt and any important notes from each day of training. The running has been going well. I am trying to stay at the correct speed to effectively train my body to burn fat and sustain a long performance. I don’t have a heart rate monitor, but my birthday is in less than 3 weeks (wink!). I have used several online calculators to estimate my ideal pace for a long run. Most of them put me between 11 and 12 minutes.

I do my best to hit that, but I’ve been closer to 10:10ish miles. My last long run was this past Saturday and my goal was 8 miles. I always walk for 5 minutes to warm up and then start running. The week before I hit the 30 minute mark of running, and that was the longest I’d ever run without a walk break so I made myself take one. I had trouble getting back in a good groove after that, so for this week’s run I decided to run until I felt like I really needed a break. I felt so good that I kept running for about 56 minutes after my warm up walk. Considering that I started with Couch to 5k struggling to run for more than a minute, I was floored!

I probably could have gone longer but I was near the one water fountain on my route and wanted to eat a date before I got there. The rest of the run felt good, and I pushed the last mile to go as fast as I could. I listen to and read a lot of running information and I’ve heard that adding a mile or two of fast pace at the end of a long run can be helpful. I ran the last mile in 9:16, the fastest of the whole run. I did 8.18 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Mile 1 (w/walk)
Mile 2
Mile 3
Mile 4
Mile 5
Mile 6 (walked to eat/drink)
Mile 7
Mile 8

I felt so great after knowing that I stayed at a pace that felt easy and sustainable. After my long run and weekly shorter runs I’ve made a point to add core work to my post-run routine. I am pretty much following this plan from Strength Running.

Foggy morning roads <3

On Sunday I’ve been doing 10k bike rides followed by strength/core work. I have flirted with the idea of triathlons and know my biking needs work! I also am still trying to find the right combination of moves for my strength cross training days. I did a workout on Wednesday morning (after a mile run for a warmup) that felt pretty good. I based it on 3 YouTube videos, 2 books and several articles/websites. Here’s what I did, just one set because of time, but I might shoot for two rounds on Sunday when there’s less time pressure.

Mountain climbers – 10 reps
Modified bicycle – 20 reps
Plie squats with lateral raise – 10 reps
Single leg deadlifts – 10 reps per leg
Pushups – 15 reps
Burpees – 10 reps
Hip thrusts – 10 reps per leg
Side plank w/lateral leg raise – 10 per side
Plank – 5 twists per side, then held for 30 seconds
Running motion V-ups – 30 seconds
Hollow man crunch – 30 seconds
Supermans – 15 reps
Plank row – 10 reps per side
Lunges – 10 per leg
Inchworms – 10 reps
Reverse crunch – 15 reps
Squats – 10 reps
Dips – AMRAP
Bridge with hamstring curl on exercise ball – 15 reps
Bird dog – 10 reps per side
Standing cross crunch w/weight – 10 reps per side

It felt pretty good and it was challenging enough to keep my heart rate elevated. Knowing myself, I will keep tweaking this until my race!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hearty Miso Soup

We love miso soup, but I’m hesitant to order it out because so many places put fish flakes in their stock. It’s not easy to find miso in conventional grocery stores, but you can usually buy it at any organic market or Asian grocery store in your area. Check out this great post from Happy Herbivore on what miso is

When we make miso soup at home we usually add some extra ingredients to make it more of a meal. When we make it traditionally we usually eat it as a first course to some spring rolls or sushi or noodle/rice dish. Here’s our recipe for a heartier version:

Hearty Miso Soup
serves 2

1 sheet kombu (a type of seaweed – again look for it at organic/Asian markets)
2-4 Tbsp miso paste of your choice
6-8 C water
Salt/soy sauce/Braggs to taste

1 package mushrooms, sliced
1 small head napa/green cabbage, sliced
½ package sprouted tofu (or whatever tofu you prefer), diced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1 sheet seaweed, cut into bite size pieces (we use kitchen scissors for this)
Sesame oil
Ponzu or soy or Braggs or Nama shoyu
Cracked pepper

Heat water and kombu in a pot until it comes to a boil. Turn off and remove from heat. Add the miso once the stock is no longer boiling, you do not want to add miso to boiling liquid. I usually keep the hunk of miso on a spoon and stir it in or smash it against the side of the pot to get it to dissolve.

Let stock sit overnight if possible, if not, keep on very low heat just to keep it warm.

When you are ready to eat the soup, prep the rest of the ingredients. If you chilled your stock overnight, heat it gently while you cook everything else. In a frying pan, sear the tofu to get nice color and flavor. You can season it however you prefer, we use sesame oil spray to fry it, splash it with ponzu or soy while it cooks, and season with pepper.

Remove tofu from pan, split between two bowls for serving. Add cabbage and mushrooms to the tofu pan and sauté until the cabbage is slightly wilted. Again you can season to taste using sesame oil, ponzu/soy and pepper.

Add half of the pan to each bowl. Pour broth over each bowl, and add scallions and seaweed to taste. I also drizzle Sriracha on mine before I eat :)

Happy Anniversary

I have to take a minute here to thank my amazing partner Carly for supporting me through this journey. Today is our 11 year anniversary - Happy Anniversary BQ <3

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

This has been a great food week, I'm excited to share!

Warm lentil beet & artichoke salad on greens. Recipe for the salad found here

Amazing new recipe for buckwheat zucchini cakes, we used this recipe ( but next time will add fresh raw corn. Served them with salsa, black bean dip, steamed broccoli & veggies/greens

Always love my rawsta, this time mixed with hummus and served with roasted acorn squash

We had to go out to a restaurant to watch the Ravens on Sunday and I got this black bean chopped salad, but I added my own nutritional yeast :)

Homemade hearty  miso soup. I'll post the recipe soon.

Potluck salad: greens, sweet & sour red cabbage, pasta/lentil blend salad, beets & chopped pears

Every week I made an "Elvis" smoothie with bananas and peanut butter. This shot is from my desk at work.

Pretty much my favorite dinner and it's super simple. Lentils, roasted sweet potato and steamed broccoli. Served on greens with peppers and beets, plus one bonus roasted plantain!

Friday, October 4, 2013

My New Normal

Perspective is key. Things will happen in our lives regardless of how much we plan for them (or don’t), and I've come to a point where I believe that perspective/perception of these things determines how much they affect us. We all filter our lives through our unique worldview and set of past experiences, it’s how we operate as human beings. This is especially relevant when it comes to food. We are socialized throughout our lives by our families, friends, peers and the media to feel a certain way about food. The more I learn about food, the more I realize how ingrained some of these messages our in our own minds and also throughout the medical community.

I've been listening to old Rich Roll podcasts for the last few weeks and have heard some great discussions with Thad Beatty (Sugarland guitarist who’s now a vegan Ironman), Dr. Garth Davis, and Dr. Michael Greger. Thad talks a lot about his family and their transition to plant based eating. He made such a good point, that as American’s we’re socialized to believe that certain diet related ailments are “normal”. I think back on my own life and all the things I thought were normal, or something genetic. As a preteen I went through a struggle with what was diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and had to drink these orange flavored Metamucil drinks twice a day. As a teenager I took lactaid pills regularly, even as I continued to eat dairy with almost every meal.

As I gained weight I started experiencing muscle and joint pain all over, but particularly in my knees. I used to get regular sinus infections, was stuffy a lot of the time, and generally had low energy. Now I know that all of these symptoms and illnesses relate directly to diet. It seems so obvious, but it really isn't. Almost every podcast I listen to, or story that I read about someone shifting to a plant based diet contains that aha moment where we realize that conditions considered part of the “normal” experience of being human were actually directly attributable to the decisions we made about what to put in our bodies.

Dr. Garth Davis’ talk with Rich Roll focused a lot on his training as a physician, and his work as a doctor who performs gastric bypass surgeries. He talks about the dearth of training about nutrition in the medical field (echoed by Dr. Greger in his appearance), and the prevailing attitude that humans are naturally prone to certain conditions. The most widely used pharmaceutical in the US is for treating high cholesterol. This is crazy to me now knowing how easy it is to lower your cholesterol by making dietary changes. I realize there is a genetic component to cholesterol, but it’s nearly impossible to have high cholesterol if you’re eating a plant based diet.

Dr. Davis also discussed the common mindset in the US that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is a radical form of treatment, but cracking open your chest or cutting out sections of your stomach isn’t. I found this picture on a blog this week and had to share it:

When you think about it in those terms it makes you wonder why people are so afraid to try plant based eating. I think the main reason is that people think they’d feel like they were missing out on things if they did. I’m not going to lie, there are times when eating plant based makes life difficult. Group dinners, social events, etc. don’t always make for the best dietary environments for those of us who are plant based. I consider that minor though in relation to how much better I feel, look, etc. Also, food tastes so much better to me now. I never experienced the sweetness of a carrot or the depth of flavor in raw corn cut off the cob until I stopped eating the fake foods that were tricking my taste buds with added sugars, salts and fats.

One last thought on this line before I wrap up. Our dog was acting strangely a few weeks ago. She was lethargic and would yelp in pain if you tried to touch her back or pick her up. She stopped jumping up on the couch/bed and wouldn't want to go for walks. All very atypical for a beagle. We called the vet and he asked if she was still eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom normally. She was. He said if she didn’t have a temperature that she was probably fine, and only to bring her in if she had a fever or stopped going to the bathroom.

She recovered and then it happened again. We found out that aging beagles (she’s almost 8) are prone to back problems, and that she is likely injuring her back when she gets overly active. We now have muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories that we can give her if she needs them. The moral of this story is that for our pets, not having regular bowel movements is a sign of serious health problems, but for most people bowel related issues are seen as no big deal! I know so many people who struggle with constipation and think it’s fine that they only poop once every few days. Likewise, I myself experienced irritable bowel syndrome. No one in the medical field ever recommended dietary solutions to this problem, and no one seems to think it’s strange that they don’t have regular bowel movements.

There’s a joke in the vegan community that you know you’re a vegan if it takes you longer to pee than to poop. It’s funny and it’s also true. I have regular bowel movements at least three times a day, usually around the same times. It’s amazing how well your body will work when you treat it with respect!
I hope that as the plant based movement gains momentum people will start to develop new ideas about what is normal, and to understand that many of their ailments directly relate to what they put in their bodies. I know it’s not realistic to think that everyone will switch to a plant based diet, but I think everyone would benefit from decreasing consumption of processed foods and increasing their intake of dark leafy greens, vegetables and fruit. It’s really not that hard, and it tastes good too!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday

It's that time again! Here's my best foodie shots from the week:

I LOVED this meal. I basically roasted all my favorite veggies: acorn squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower & asparagus. I ate it on greens with raw sugar snap peas and leftover quinoa and drizzled the whole bowl with tahini. I ate this again for lunch the next day!

My post-8 mile run smoothie bowl. I topped it with buckwheat groats, dried coconut, almonds, sunflower seeds & blueberries instead of granola.


Polenta pizzas. Mine is on top, Carly's on the bottom. Mine had zucchini, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Carly's had caramelized onions, tomatoes, cheese & arugula. 

I'd been craving sushi. Left is a cucumber plum roll, right is a veggie roll. 

Madras curry chickpea bowl

Vietnamese Bun salad - pretty much one of our favorite meals. Lettuce topped with quick pickled cucumber & carrot, raw snap peas, peppers, rice noodles, tofu, cilantro, scallions & sriracha

Massive taco salad with sauteed mushrooms, squash, onions & red beans plus raw cucumber, peppers, jicama and avocado.