Only on the weekends

Only on the weekends

My kids told me the that their Dad makes better grilled cheese and better chocolate milk than I do.  How can that be possible?  Well, he adds extra cheese and butter on the sandwich and extra chocolate in the milk of course!  As a family, our diet is mostly healthy and we eat out only once or twice a week.  However, I often find Oreos, Doritos, premixed chocolate milk, yogurt with candy pieces and ice cream of all varieties when my husband B. goes shopping.  I can’t even go on about the secret weekend donut/dessert runs.  These take place early in the morning on weekends when I am still asleep or out for a run.

I have told B. that taste is acquired for healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits.  While sugar is readily accepted by kids.  Kids have more taste buds and their taste buds are more sensitive.  Taste involves not just physical signals but sensory ones too. (Accounting for Taste)  We find food to be tastier if it is plated nicely on pretty dish or a fancy spoon.  Food appears attractive when it it is presented with garnishes.  We are already bombarded with images of unhealthy foods that are loaded in fat, calories and sugar.  And those images are not of fresh, whole foods that are unprocessed fruits, vegetables or grains.

With each meal, I try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable.  I would like my kids to be exposed to these tastes everyday.  Taste can be changed.  For example, people with health issues that are forced to cut back or sugar or salt, find the foods they used to eat previously taste too salty or too sugary after a few months.  The more we eat certain foods, the more we get used to the taste.

While I can’t stop B. from buying junk food, I do have solace in the fact that taste changes with age.  (Taste changes with age)  As we get older, the number of taste buds adults have decreases.  Adults have around 10,000 taste buds and kids have 30,000.  And, we are more inclined as adults to try new foods and new tastes.  Grown ups look at food not only from a taste perspective, but a health perspective also.  I am confident that my kids will eat better as they get older.  Both of them now eat tomatoes, lettuce, onions, olives, broccoli and green beans which was unheard of just a few years ago.

I can assure you that I am not the food police in our house.  With a Dietetics and Nutrition background and I know how to counter the unhealthy food.  I let them eat the unhealthy food, but in limited quantities.  Big desserts in our house are for the weekends only.  I adopted this rule from one of my daughter’s classmates who was lamenting how horrible her life was without weekday desserts.  Before you think I am a mean and awful Mom…during the weekdays, my kids drink chocolate milk for breakfast and lunch.  I pack a little something sweet in their lunch like a small cookie or chocolate.  And they eat a PB&J for lunch everyday at school (their favorite).  I know they will remember the “dessert on weekends only” with great fondness…hardship makes us stronger…right?!

The following recipe is a vegan Hot Artichoke Dip that even my kids love.  It is low in calories and big on taste.  I hope you like it.

 

Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip

2 cans of quartered Artichoke Hearts (14 oz cans)

2 T Vegan Mayonnaise (I use “Follow Your Heart” Veganaise)

2 T Nutritional Yeast

1 t Garlic Powder

1 t Salt

Drain the artichokes and add them to a food processor.  Add the Veganaise, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt and blend until smooth.  If your dip is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water or several as needed.  Empty into a serving bowl and microwave for one minute or empty into a pan and heat until hot.  I like to eat mine with veggies, toasted baguette slices or toasted pita/chapati/naan.

 

IMG_1233
Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip with Veggie & Baguette slices
Not Organic?

Not Organic?

A friend of mine assumed that I only consume organic food made from scratch. That is very far from the truth.  Unless you grow your own food, you are eating processed food.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are minimally processed and meat substitutes and nut milks are heavily processed.  Most of us don’t have the means or the knowledge to grow our own food.  Although I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grains,  I certainly do consume my fair share of seitan, pea protein, nut cheese and some soy based products.  I just don’t have to time to make my own.  With an active family and schedule, I don’t feel bad about that.

IMG_0528.JPG
Grilled Eggplant, Red Pepper & Red Onions

Fruits and vegetables do not have to be organic.  I used to follow the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) Dirty 15 rule  because it ranked produce with a percentage of pesticides found after harvesting.  But, according to the Journal of Toxicology (article), some pesticides are more toxic than others and they are not all equal.  So, I try to buy organic when possible.  But, sometimes stores are low in organic inventory or the non-organic produce looks fresher than the organic.  A good washing of non-organic fruits and veggies removes most pesticides.  Simply eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial along with a balanced diet.

IMG_1069.JPG
Orgain Vanilla Almond Milk

My husband and my kids are not vegan.  They consume mostly organic eggs, milk, chicken and fish at home.  But, the kids get fast food when they are out with friends and we go to restaurants that do not serve organic meat and dairy.

According to the Washington Post, there are two main differences between organic and conventional animal products.  One is what the animals are eating and the other is the level of Omega 3’s.  I do care what the animals are eating and not so much about the Omega 3 levels.  (article)

Organic milk, eggs and meat come from cows that are pasture raised and grass fed and free range chickens that are not fed animal or poultry by-prodcuts.  I just feel better buying organic animal products, but when we go out…

IMG_1129.JPG
Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger Salad.  See below for recipe.

As long as you are eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit and grains with some protein (animal or plant based), you are on the right track.  If that diet includes organic foods, even better!  I would love to be the perfect, puritanical, organic, and unprocessed vegan but I’m not and I’m okay with that!

Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burger Salad

1 package Morningstar Farms Roasted Garlic & Quinoa Burgers (4 patties)

2 C Mushrooms, washed

2 Medium Tomatoes, washed

1 Medium Yellow or Red Pepper, washed and deseeded

2 T Garden Gourmet Basil Paste (or fresh basil if available)

2 T Olive Oil

1/2 t garlic powder

Salt to taste

Cook burgers according to the package.  While they are cooking, add olive oil, basil paste, garlic powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well.  Chop mushrooms, peppers and tomato into one inch pieces.  When burgers are done cooking, cut them into one inch pieces and add them and the veggies to the mixture in the bowl.  Mix well so the dressing coats all the pieces and serve. This recipe serves two.

Mellow

Mellow

I am not sure when it happened to me or when it happens to others.  As I mark another birthday and shake my head at yet another mole or spot on my face, I realize that I am now mellow.   Mellow can mean:  aged, cured, developed, rounded, seasoned, cultured or smooth.  To me, it means that I am much more easy going than I was in my younger days.

As a kid, there is so much pressure on perfection and learning things properly.  Aaah, the exuberance of youth!  I see my kids always wanting things to be perfect or to be the best at something.  My 12 yr old son has to have all his electronics devices in a certain way.  My 9 yr old daughter has to have her stuffed animals in a particular order when she goes to sleep.  And both of them love organizing their backpacks in their own way.  Heaven forbid, mom puts a water bottle in the wrong place.  Their motivation makes me smile.

As teenagers, we still have all that energy, only we pretend we are too cool to care.  My room was my sanctuary during my teens.  My two younger sisters and parents were not allowed to loiter.  All my favorite bands and actors were on my wall in the coolest arrangement of course.  A mean comment from one of my friends would send me into a sad brooding spiral.  “How could she?!!”

In my twenties, it was all about eloping (that’s another post), career paths, promotions and graduate degrees. No pressure or need for perfection there…right?  What I remember about my twenties is that B and I worked really hard and played hard too.  Everything just mattered so much more.

My kids came along in my thirties.  I had to make the agonizing decision to quit working and be a stay at home mom.  Being first time parents is really hard.  I remember torturing my family when they came to see the kids as babies.

“Did you wash your hands?”

“Is this one of the sterilized bottles?”

“That is a choking hazard…!”

I went from that to “You can still eat that…we have acids in our tummies that kill germs.”

In my forties, I really just don’t care about all the things I used to obsess about.   I tell my kids that they need to relax, that other people have it much harder and to stop complaining.  By now, all my family members know each other really well.  We used to push each others buttons in our younger days.  Nowadays, we still push buttons but less frequently and then say something nice afterwards…

And my friends, many of them are still neurotic about things.  They stress about aging, botox, kids and keeping up with the neighbors.  But many of them have also mellowed just like me.  It’s funny that words of wisdom from the past can help us throughout life.  My karate teacher told me “stand tall and be proud”.  One of my uncles told me “health is wealth”. And a teacher once told me “be thankful for what you have.”  And I tell my kids “do your best, if it doesn’t work out, try again, if it still doesn’t work out, move on to something else .”

 

Mellow Drinks

fullsizeoutput_1df3
Bourbon Hot Chocolate

 

Bourbon Hot Chocolate

3 T Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate or any sweetened chocolate

6 oz Water

1 oz Bourbon

Heat water in a pan until boiling or microwave in a mug for two minutes.   Add chocolate and make sure it dissolves completely.  Add Bourbon.  Viola!

 

 

fullsizeoutput_1dea
Rum & Coconut Cooler

 

Rum & Coconut Cooler

1 C Orgain High Protein Almond Milk or nut milk of your choice.

1 T Coconut Sugar

1 t Coconut Flakes Unsweetened

1 oz Rum

This is a cold drink.  Combine all of the ingredients together, paper umbrella optional.

 

 

You are holding the key

You are holding the key

“How do you do it”?

“How do you have the self-control”?

These are questions I get asked all the time about not just being plant based, but portion control and staying fit.  These are not easy questions to answer.  We are all different and what works for me may not work for you.  I can however, provide you with some habits that I formed in my teens.  During my senior year in high school, I lost fifteen pounds and have kept it off using portion control and running.  This post is about eating, I will talk about fitness in my next post.

Eating a meal should be only that.  Just eat, don’t do anything else.  Don’t multi-task.  Look at your plate and pay attention to your food.  Enjoy the taste and get the satisfaction and nourishment that it provides.

Eat sitting down.  When you are eating anything,  a meal or even a snack or having a drink, sit down.  Don’t stand when you are eating or drinking.  Take the time to look at what you are eating and drinking.

When you are still craving more of what you just ate, change the taste.  For example, when I am craving more potato chips and I have already eaten two servings, I wait.  I drink some water, then eat something with a completely opposite taste like cherries, or vegan yogurt or sorbet.   I forget the taste of the salty, fatty chips because I have tasted something else.

Portion out your food.  I know this piece of advice gets such a bad rap and a bad reaction from people.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with measuring or weighing out serving sizes.   Eating snacks like chips out of a bag usually means overeating because of their small serving size.  Serving sizes for potato chips are usually around 150 calories for 28 grams or around 14 chips.  I usually lose count after 4.  I have an inexpensive food scale and measuring cups/spoons.

Eat your meals on smaller plates.  I have both 10 and 8 inch plates.  But I always use the 8 inch plates.  This optical illusion works by tricking my mind into thinking my plate has runneth over.

Not having bags of readily available junk food forces me to make my own snacks.  If I am feeling too lazy to cook, I end up eating a fruit or doing something else besides eating.  See below for an easy yet healthy smoothie bowl.

I am not perfect by any means.  We all have good days and bad days.  But starting with a health eating goal in mind everyday is really important.  Do your best and try to stick with your eating goals everyday.  It will pay off eventually.  Good eating habits and physical fitness can help with weight loss and improve health.  It won’t happen overnight, it takes time and patience to change behavior and break lifelong habits.  Next post is all about moving!

 

Easy Smoothie Bowl

img_0144

There are thousands of great smoothie bowl recipes.  This one is easy, lower in calories and high in protein.  I did not have any of my favorite berries to add when the above picture was taken, but feel free to top with blueberries or strawberries.

1 container Silk soy yogurt (or your favorite low fat yogurt)

4 T Trader Joe’s Chocolate Hemp Powder

1 T unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Around 8 Pistachios (mostly crushed or whole if you prefer)

In a bowl, mix yogurt and hemp powder together.  Top with coconut, pistachios and fruit.  Enjoy!

Using the nutrition labels provided on all the ingredients, I calculated this smoothie bowl at approximately 310 calories with 15 g of protein.

 

 

What do you eat?

What do you eat?

IMG_2432
Quinoa with Cashew Cheese and Vegetables
It has been almost three years since I became a vegan.  I  became a vegetarian in college and that was 26 years ago.  I used to get asked this question.  “Why are you a vegetarian”?  As a vegan, I get asked “What on earth do you eat”?  Most people think that it is one big issue that causes people to “convert” to a plant based diet.  It isn’t that simple.

Meat always grossed me out as a kid.  My parents used to force chicken curry on all three of us girls.  I didn’t find meat particularly tasty.  My kid sister had secretly joined PETA when I was in college.  She went around pinning “Meat Stinks” buttons on everyones bags and purses.  She was a committed teenager and would lecture all of us about the ills of eating meat.   As a Nutrition major at Penn State, I watched a documentary in class about the most dangerous jobs in America.  On top was the meat packing industry worker.  They were dressed from head to toe in white suits and goggles.  They had to cut open animals that had just been slaughtered.  You get the drift…I haven’t forgotten those gruesome images.  We had amazing food at our dining halls at Penn State.  There were always two vegetarian options for entrees and a huge salad bar. I just gravitated toward the plant strong options.  And viola, I had become vegetarian!

As an adult, I kept reading about the energy it takes for animal farming, the manure waste pools that result with thousands of animals crowded into confined lots, the use of antibiotics and what the animals are fed to fatten them up.  Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and the documentary Forks over knives also contributed to my disdain for animal products.  My love of cheese and omelets diminished.  My friends always lament about cheese…”I can’t live without cheese…butter…”.  I really don’t miss the dairy because it is a paradigm shift when you start eating other wonderful foods.  I don’t miss it, really.  My running buddy and I decided to try eating plant based for a month.  I haven’t looked back since then.  She lasted three weeks and kudos to her because it is hard work being vegan!  It was easier for me because I have a B.S. in Nutrition and have been a vegetarian for so many years.

Now, I get teased relentlessly by haters.  I have so many friends and family who criticize me for my decision.  Here are some gems that I have heard over the past few years:

“You’re going to die faster than me”.

“Why are you torturing yourself?”

“Animals were meant to be eaten”.

“What will they do with all that milk if we stop using it?”  This one is astonishing because it came from my Dad, a board-certified physician.  He is convinced that I have become less healthy, lost my looks and am wasting my time.  My numbers from annual blood tests are great by the way.  There are many vegans out there that don’t know what they are doing and develop nutritional deficiencies.  There really is so much ignorance on veganism.  I implore people to educate themselves on the subject.  There are thousands of blogs and websites on plant based diets.  Let me know if you need some references.

Now, I am an easy vegan.   I am not militant and I don’t judge.  All comments are taken with a grain of salt (thank goodness that’s vegan!).  I really don’t care what anyone thinks!  Just don’t!  I patiently answer all the ludicrous questions because it has become my job to educate those around me.  People are clueless about Nutrition, Health and Food Production.  I used to think vegans were weirdos, not anymore.  I am now eating so many delicious foods that were not on my radar.  The food industry has us believing that their way is the only way.  It is not.  I am not trying to convince anyone to become a vegan.  That’s up to you.  If you have questions, need recipe tips or resource tips, let me know in the comments section or email me.  My kid sister who is now an Allergist, has just started a new blog called thefriendlyepicurean.com.  She is mostly plant based and has some excellent recipes.  You can also check out my Instagram page, it has many recipes that I developed myself.

 

IMG_0265
Blueberry Almond Milk Fool with Raspberries and Coconut