For someone who’s used to eating a diet full of … well… garbage … the road to healthy eating can be a daunting one.
I suppose I should consider myself lucky that even though I’ve always had a weakness for baked goods, my diet overall has been relatively healthy my entire life. After all, I grew up watching my mother exercising daily for as long as I can remember and her go-to lunch was cottage cheese and fruit (ok, so at the time it was canned fruit, very possibly in syrup, but that was the 70s and things were different then and at least it was fruit!). So, for me, playing around with my diet and weeding out the not-so-quality foods wasn’t that big of a deal.
But, I totally get that for some people it’s not quite so easy – and there are a million reasons why this could be so … crazy schedule, kids, husband, budget, etc. I get it! I do! But that’s why I’m constantly saying, “It really doesn’t have to be that hard!”
Can it be overwhelming if you’re not sure exactly what to eat, how to prepare the food, or even what to buy? Yes! Absolutely!
But, I promise, it doesn’t have to be!
One reason, when it comes to what I refer to mostly as “clean eating”, there are no rules. You don’t even necessarily need a recipe. In fact, I recommend avoiding recipes — especially those ones on Pinterest!Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest! I can spend hours toiling away and pinning one recipe after another, very few of which I’ll ever actually try. Why? Because I too get overwhelmed if there are too many ingredients.
So, put down the recipe, and pick up these ingredients.
- Olive Oil (or another healthy oil of choice, i.e. coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil)
- Lemon and/or Limes — or Apple Cider Vinegar if you like a little stronger acid flavor
- Garlic (or garlic powder if it’s easier)
I use those five ingredients in just about everything I eat and that’s the extent of it. Whether it’s a salad (romaine, iceberg, Kale or other), grains like quinoa, rice or noodles made with quinoa or rice, or veggies, I primarily stick to those five ingredients and it’s so easy.
Want a little more flavor? Keep these in the pantry:
- Indian flavoring: Cumin, coriander, ginger (highly recommended for the doshas that like warming foods, i.e. Vata)
- A little kick: Red pepper flakes and/or cayenne (added benefit that they’re good for the metabolism and building heat)
- Italian flavors: Keep dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary
- Asian twist: Tamari sauce, wasabi powder, dulse flakes, sesame seeds or sesame oil
And then, have fun!
When I can’t really decide what I want, I either stick to the basics in the first grouping, or I take something out of the cabinet and take a whiff. If it hits me as appealing at that moment, I sprinkle a little in. If it doesn’t, I put it back and try something else.
It’s honestly just that simple!
I love when I learn new things from my father. Well, let me clarify that…
I’ve learned little lessons that have turned into important lessons from my father my entire life. I always describe him as one of the smartest people I know. He just makes sense. He always knows the right things to say. They may not always seem like the right thing at the time, and sometimes what he says is the last thing I want to hear at the time, but, the fact is, he’s usually right.
In this case, though, what I’m talking about is learning something new as it relates to health and natural remedies.
No one in my family has ever been a juice drinker. We drank water, iced tea, and diet soda — no milk, no juice.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started drinking a bit of OJ, especially when I’m sick. I try to stick to the lower sugar brands, but I figure as long as I keep it to a minimum, I’ll get the vitamin C benefits and keep the sugar relatively under control.
With the exception of juice in a cocktail, which I still try to avoid, and some less than tasty unsweetened cranberry juice detoxes in the recent past, that’s about the extend of the juice I’ve had in all of my 41 years. Until now!
When dad was in town last week serving as my post-surgery livery service we went to the organic market near my house to pick up a few thing. That’s when dad mentioned he’d been drinking unfiltered apple juice at the advice of his acupuncturist. I’d certainly seen it in stores but never really paid much attention. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined I would like apple juice! But, I thought, if dad is suggesting it, I should probably keep an open mind.
So we bought a bottle and headed home. A little ice. A little juice. A little sip. And what do you know? It was good. Really good.
Of course since I still wasn’t sure exactly why I was drinking this – other than my dad said I should – that meant I had to investigate.
According to the Martinelli’s brand website, unfiltered apple cider:
- Reduces the risk of certain cancers
- Protects against brain cell damage
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Reduces the risk of asthma
Recent findings also suggest it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
But, if you’re looking for something a little more immediate to show it’s doing something, there are the colon-cleansing benefits – so much so that it’s often recommended for detoxes.
According to one article I found on Livestrong.com, the unfiltered kind contains a good amount of pectin, which is known to slow the absorption of food and binds to toxins and heavy metals to get them out of your body. Apples and apple juice also have malice and tartaric acid, which protect the liver and aid in digestion. I’ve also seen it recommended to add some apple cider vinegar to your apple juice to give it an added boost.
Also, it’s important to choose the unfiltered kind – the one that’s cloudy. This still has the benefits of the peel in it – and that’s where a lo of the benefits come in.
Another benefit — apple juice can be very filling and can satisfy a craving for something sweet. Lately I’ve been taking a swig of the juice when I find myself wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat but not knowing what I want and it helps quiet the crazy cravings — at least long enough to get myself to eat nutrient dense foods that satisfy my hunger and my need for energy and what I like about drinking the juice as opposed to eating an apple is that I feel as if I’m getting the benefits without filling myself up on a piece of fruit and then can eat a full meal.
So to those who say “An apple a day… ” I say “A glass of unfiltered apple juice a day… “!
In my posting from this weekend, I mentioned that a trip to Rollin’ Oats was not only about the only social interaction I had all weekend, but it was also incredibly enlightening!
One lesson was my introduction to the many ways to use psyllium beyond just taking a capsule with a glass of water.
But, that wasn’t the only discovery I made. Standing in front of the coconut oils and reveling in the fabulousness of the magical substance and its many uses, I began talking to a woman who, I soon came to learn, had lost about 150 pounds — and she did it the healthy way, simply eating better foods and getting moving.
As I shared with her my not-so-secret secret about a Tampa-based coconut oil company, Kelapo, she told me about her little guilty pleasure, coconut crystals!
Rollin’ Oats had the brand Coconut Secret. I didn’t know much about it. My new, and smaller, friend from the oil-aisle told me she uses it like brown sugar. Her one suggestion was using it on roasted, mashed squash. From what I can tell, you can also use it like any other sweetener in tea, dessert recipes and on cereals. Supposedly it is more sweet than coconutty but it sounds to me like it’d be amazing in oatmeal and possibly even my morning pleasure… coffee.
It’s important to note here that when I changed my diet, there’s one of the common practice of vegans that I refused to fall into – and that is finding substitutes for unhealthy foods that just happen to be vegan — translation, foods that may not be made with animal products but are still made with a whole lot of ingredients not found in nature, i.e. all those fake chicken-like products you can find in the freezer section, etc. The same goes for sugar and sugar substitutes. Most of the time I would rather eat something less sweet than add a sweetener that’s just going to send me looking for more and more sweets. It’s no secret that eating sweet foods send us down a slippery slope of wanting more and more sweets. Granted, sweeteners with a lower glycemic index temper this slightly, but it’s still a practice I would rather avoid most of the time.
But, of course, the grocery store conversation still piqued my interest, which meant coming home and doing a little more research.
The crystals are made from the sap of the coconut tree and are sometimes called palm sugar and it DOES have some health benefits.
In addition to its low-glycemic index (GI 35) which makes it diabetic-friendly, the crystals are chock-full of other nutritional benefits including:
- 17 amino acids
- High levels of vitamin C
- Broad-spectrum B vitamins, including inosital which has a calming effect along with reducing blood cholesterol
- Nearly neutral pH.
- It also is high in inulin which means it’s digestive friendly.
- Now, I can’t speak for all brands, but this particular one is supposedly also good for raw foodies. The makers of it say it is enzymatically alive.
The other aspect of coconut crystals that is especially appealing is that it is not artificial like so many sweeteners out there. It’s not even a by-product of sugar like so many of the sweet-things out there today. Instead, it is an all-natural, whole food that just gives a little oomph to other foods – and to your body!
In the sake of full disclosure, I didn’t end up buying coconut crystals this weekend, but my order is in with Vitacost.com (the lowest price I could find) so I’m excited about getting my canister and trying it out.
I will be sure to report back with any updates!
In the meantime, here are some links to the various brand pages and where to buy.
I’ve known that there’s something a little odd about the fact that when I’m bored, one of my favorite activities is to go to Whole Foods or some other local organic market and wander around. A few years ago I used to actually have a routine on the weekend where I would go to a produce market and 2-3 organic markets to get all of the foods and treats I enjoy because no one store had them all. It would take me hours to complete the shopping circuit, but, oddly, it made me really happy!
At the time, I would chalk this somewhat odd behavior to at least being productive since I was buying foods that would last me a while and my diet was much stricter than it is now.
Well, today I realized something. I’m officially a health food geek. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a title I wear with a great deal of pride.
I spent most of this lovely Saturday wandering around aimlessly, even stopped to get a bite to eat at a restaurant/bar that has both good food and good outside atmosphere. Since I wasn’t exactly feeling it, I decided to head out and stopped at Rollin’ Oats on my way home to pick up some roasted veggies from their pre-made food section.
But, did I stop there? Of course not! And I learned a few interesting food facts along with way.
One was about Psyllium Husk.
Psyllium had come up in a conversation with a friend recently. She was looking for something to keep her ‘regular’ and psyllium supplements were at the top of my list of recommendations. But, I was only familiar with pysllium as a capsule.
Today, I discovered you can buy psyllium powder and the entire husk to use various ways — including in recipes. And there it was in the bulk food section right below the nuts all along. Despite all of my research into health food and, especially digestive supplements and high fiber products, I had no idea until I heard a gentleman asking about it for a friend of his who is coming to visit him.
For those of you unfamiliar with pysllium, it’s a source of serious fiber. I sort of envision it like a sponge. This is probably more than a bit of a simplistic explanation, but I think of it like a dry sponge/brillo pad in your intestine that absorbs water and expands as it moves through, scraping up and dragging all the gunk in the intestines with it, and, well, not to be gross, but then disposing of all that at the other end.
Being the nosy person I am and always overhearing conversations and piping in my two cents, I took this opportunity to ask the man about the psyllium powder and husks and how to use them. Unfortunately, he didn’t share a whole lot trade secrets, but it was enough to send the research part of my brain into overdrive when I got home.
Here’s what I discovered…
First, on top of the fabulous benefit of keeping you regular, because it’s so high in fiber (70% soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber) and because it expands the way it does, it can help with weight loss since it fills you up. I’ve read that it’s also highly beneficial in helping to treat IBS and even fights the risk of stroke in obese individuals.
And, here’s the part I really didn’t know before today…
- You can add psyllium to a juice or some other drink, just be sure you drink it quickly before it thickens up.
- You can add psyllium powder to baked goods to increase the fiber content without adding calories or flavor
- When combined with water psyllium works as an egg-replacement to bind ingredients in gluten-free baking!
- It makes smoothies thicker and decreases levels of the hormone ghrelin (a Dr. Oz favorite). Ghrelin is what tells you that you’re hungry, so by decreasing the levels, you feel full faster.
So, there you have it! The many uses of pysllium. But one really, really important note — Drink LOTS of water! Since psyllium absorbs all that water, if you don’t replace it, you will very likely end up dehydrated! You’ve been warned – from the girl who is so terrible about drinking water that I had to put an app on my phone to remind me. 🙂
Of course, you know what this means! Guess who’s going to be back at Rollin’ Oats tomorrow!
Diet is a funny thing. There’s healthy food. And there’s a healthy diet. But the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
Admittedly, I’m a prime example of that. I’m pretty sure my body has been screaming that fact at me for some time now. I’ve just refused to listen.
Of course, the great irony here is that my whole quest to eat healthy started because I wasn’t feeling good. I took out all the foods I knew to be “bad” and then the foods I thought to be “bad” out of my diet. That left, in my mind, only healthy and clean foods — with a few select exceptions, i.e chips and guacamole, sweet potato fries, and alcohol (don’t judge! A girl’s gotta have some vice!). But even my not-so-healthy foods I’ve managed to justify as being okay to eat because they’re not laden with ingredients that I can’t pronounce and all sorts of additives that are created in some creepy lab somewhere. They’re also, in my mind at least, void of processed sugar. So, that’s good, right?
Unfortunately for me, I’m also hyper-aware of the foods my body likes and doesn’t like, among them, foods that are highly recommended for most people, i.e. flax, salads, many fruits, agave, etc. With all that taken out, it doesn’t leave a whole lot, especially for someone who is often too impatient to cook and is anti-microwave, which means a hot meal at work has an added challenge.
Suffice it to say, with so many ‘rules’ in my diet, what should be a completely healthy diet, turns into a diet void of nutrition. Okay, maybe not totally void, but certainly not exploding with nutrients like you might expect. And, every so often, I realize the impact this is having on my body. I’m tired. I can’t concentrate. I become irritable.
Any of this sounding familiar??
Newsflash. It’s because your body NEEDS nutrients! No, really! It does! And, all the clean eating in the world won’t change that. The body cannot function on oatmeal, rice and chips alone. Even a bag of almonds from Starbucks, yummy and full of protein they may be, aren’t enough to keep your brain in top shape. And that protein shake… it’s a great start, but, again, still not enough to keep your body going when that’s all the protein you give it in a 24-hour time span!
As a general rule, 10- 15% of your caloric intake should come from protein. So, what does that mean? If you eat 2,000 calories a day, 200 – 300 calories should come from protein. Or, put another way, you should get 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 120 pound woman, that’s 54 kilograms, or 54-ish grams of protein.
Now, let’s take that a step further to putting it in bite size, digestable information – specifically for the vegetarians among us.
- A can of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup has 14 grams of protein. (hint – you’ll need 3+ cans for your daily intake!)
- A can of Amy’s chili (can you tell I like Amy’s??) has 30 grams of protein. (MUCH better)
- LightLife tempeh (1/2 a brick, which is about how much I eat/serving) has 19 grams. Not bad…
- Chip and Guacamole. Sorry… not so much
- Broccoli has 3.6 grams for a cup. Not bad… but that’s a whole lotta the green stuff
- Almonds have just over 7 grams per 1/4. Translation, you’re going to end up with an upset stomach if this is your only source
Coincidentally, I found this posted on Facebook today for a few more ideas.
So, to conclude… the good news: You CAN get enough protein in your diet, but you ARE going to have to think about it and it IS going to take a bit of effort on your part.
And, more importantly, it IS worth the effort.
Burger King was on to something when they started the slogan “Have it your way.”
If you can have it your way at Burger King, why not have it your way at anyother restaurant?
I find that most people are afraid to ask for it their way. When I started being pickier about my food consumption, especially during my days of being a raw foodie, I had no choice but to ask for what I wanted. I became a master at scouring a menu to see what ingredients they had available on various dishes and then combining them to a dish that worked for me.
Take for example a salad. Let’s say you find a salad that sort of works, but then when you take off all the toppings you don’t want, you basically have lettuce and tomatoes. But, search a little deeper, see those fish tacos with black beans and avocado? They can probably put those much more satisfying toppings on your salad. Or what about the walnuts that are on the ‘other’ salad? There’s no reason you can’t have those too! Or, did you see the sun dried tomotoes that they put on the fish? Why not ask for those to add a bit more flavor to your otherwise seemingly rabbit food?
I can’t say these requests haven’t led to a look of confusion on more than a few servers’ faces, but they usually oblige. Now, to be fair, I also usually give them a bit of warning before I start ordering just to let them know, in a self-debricating way, that I’m going to be difficult. Once they have that warning, they usually go along with my whims.
Even the other morning, I met a friend for brunch. They had an option on the menu that included fruit, yogurt, and granola served with a side of home fries or grits. Well, I just wanted fruit – and my guilty pleasure of home fries. And I wanted more than the tiny bowl that they serve as a side of fruit.
So, I asked. And, despite the server being a bit confused seeing that she was used to people ordering french toast covered in crushed Cap’n Crunch, she ended up bringing me exactly what I wanted and in the most economical way she could surmise.
Of course, I can’t say I have 100% success with this approach and there are times I leave restaurants not completely satisfied, but more than not, I get it my way.
All it takes is:
1. Start with a smile — and a warning doesn’t hurt either
2. Go into it knowing that your special request may end up coming with a nominal upcharge
3. Search the menu to find something close to what you want
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you DON’T want
5. Scour the menu to find what you DO want and ASK FOR IT!
6. The more specific you can be and the more confident you are, the more likely you’ll get exactly what you want
Enjoy having it your way!
I’m a snacker. I don’t really do meals. I pick. But that means I sometimes get hungry at random times and being a vegan, it’s not always quite so easy to grab something quick to eat just anywhere.
That’s why I surround myself with snack foods – and LaraBars are my usual go-to. LaraBars have gotten me through Italy and Ireland. They’ve gotten me through hectic days at work when there’s been no time to run out and grab lunch. And, LaraBars have gotten me through weekends when I’ve been heading out to meet friends but just need a little something until we get where we’re going for dinner.
I keep them in my desk drawer, my handbag, my work bag and even my glove compartment – and, yes, I have proof that all except the Joco ones do survive the Florida heat… a little soft, but they survive.
What I love about LaraBars is that they generally have only about 4-6 ingredients and I’m pretty sure that never includes honey or agave – the two sweeteners that make me nervous. Instead, they generally have a base of dates, one or two nuts for fat and fiber, and the flavoring like ginger or cocoa or apple. And, they’re filling.
If I had to find a downside, it’s that sometimes they can be too filling. They’re so tasty that I can’t always put them down after a bite or two and end up finishing the whole bar, which means I then get so full I’m not hungry for dinner.
But, I digress. Back to the topic at hand.
Lara has long been in a category all of her own. Even some of the other brands that I love like Vega and Garden of Life all still have agave, which is great for most people, just not for me.
And not that I don’t love my LaraBars, but I’m still always on a quest for new easy to eat foods that have minimal ingredients and none of the ‘stuff’ my body doesn’t like.
Then, at Rollin’ Oats the other day, I stumbled upon something I’d never seen before!
So, as I’m prone to do, I picked it up to check the ingredients, fully expecting it to have agave, and wouldn’t you know, it had none of that.
The Berry Almond version had: Organic Dates, Organic Almonds, Organic Barberries, Organic Bilberries, Sea Salt. That was it!
As for the other flavors:
Cashew: Organic Dates, Organic Cashews, Organic Almonds, Sea Salt.
Chocolate Almond Coconut: Organic Dates, Organic Almonds, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Coconut, Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Sea Salt.
Peanut Butter: Organic Dates, Organic Peanuts, Organic Almonds, Sea Salt.
Obviously they’re Gluten-Free, Soy-Free and Dairy-Free.
The bars are named after Kit Crawford, the co-owner of Clif Bars. As she describes them on their site, they’re a “delightful celebration of just how delicious simple can be.”
And, Delicious they are.
Like I said, I went for the berry for my first try. It’s heavy on the berry, light on the date, which means it doesn’t sit in your stomach like some bars can do. It has a nice tartness to it from the barberries and bilberries.
I love that they went with these unique berries and not the typical cherry, strawberry or raspberry. Barberries have anti-inflammatory properties and are known to help digestion and aid in stomach aches. Bilberries actually stop diarrhea and are known to be good for your eyes, even being proven to improve vision and other eye disorders.
I will definitely be adding these to my bar collection and will be giving the other flavors a try too!