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Juiced

Anyone else sore from shoveling snow? I was out twice today for a total of 90 minutes. As I sit here in front of my computer, I’m starting to feel certain muscles… ouch! But I do love to shovel, strangely enough. It’s great exercise and very refreshing! To all of you in the Northeast, please be careful!

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It’s been quite a while since I have done any juicing. Once upon a time, it was part of our daily routine, particularly when my son was in high school. We regularly shared a juice after school, but somehow juicing fell by the way side. The juicer takes up a lot of room on the counter, and it takes a fair amount of work to prepare and clean up.

But when your 19-year-old son says “I think we need to start juicing again”, you find room on said counter and you make it a priority. Our usual recipe includes 6-8 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 english cucumber, 2 oranges, 1-2 apples, and 1″ of ginger root. Unfortunately, apples and ginger were out of stock and were missing from this week’s grocery order. So we made do by adding some frozen strawberries and some minced (jarred) ginger (not quite the same, but it worked). Nothing like a huge glass of nutrients!

I know there are plant-based doctors who don’t agree with juicing (yes, it IS always better to eat whole foods and to chew them) but we have always found it to be beneficial. As someone who is perpetually dehydrated, juicing contributes to my hydration. Plus, the nutrients just always seem to boost our immune systems. I think you need to be careful about the balance of fruits and vegetables so you don’t get too much sugar, but otherwise, it works for us.

Do you juice? What recipes do you like best?

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Today’s recipe is for Chipotle-Mushroom Tacos with a lime slaw. Easy to make and very filling. The Lime Slaw adds a nice tang and some crunch. A bit of avocado and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

IMDb: Juiced (2006)

Overrated

The dreaded question of anyone who eats a plant based diet in any form (vegetarian, vegan, WFPBNO) is “where do you get your protein?” I was having this conversation with my son just today as he was eating the leftover tofu with sesame seeds from yesterday. Both the seeds and the tofu are great sources of protein!

Somewhere along the line, protein got elevated to this superior position in the world of nutrition. Not that protein isn’t an important macronutrient; it obviously is. But I think it’s been overrated in terms of its focus. I know so many people who are all about getting more and more protein in their diets, even drinking protein shakes and eating protein bars. As if more is better.

But there is such a thing as “too much”. Excessive protein can lead to a number of health conditions, including weight gain (I saw this first hand with my husband), constipation, and kidney damage. Depending on the source of your protein, other risks are cancer and heart disease.

So how much protein should you have in a day? On average, it’s 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. (A calculation I found online said .36 grams per pound of body weight.) If you are working out, it’s slightly higher.

Most foods contain all 3 macronutrients — protein, fat and carbohydrates — in varying degrees. You are probably getting enough protein, without supplementation, if you are eating a decent diet. If you aren’t sure, use cronometer.com to track your meals for a few days to see where you are at. Too much protein could be a reason you are struggling to lose weight.

Even if you are eating a plant based diet, it’s easy to hit your protein targets. I tracked my meals from yesterday in cronometer.com, and I ate 54.9 grams of protein. It was more than targeted, but over time, it balances out, as I’m sure there are a few days I’m slightly below that number. I wouldn’t want to be any higher, though. I did want to illustrate how easy it is to get your protein, though.

Great sources of protein for plant-based diet include: soy products like tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, lentils, beans, quinoa, and oats.

Protein IS important; I’m not downplaying that it is critical. Not getting enough is also an issue. Protein is important in building bones, muscles, cartilageĀ and skin. It helps oxygenate your blood and repair cells, and more. I just think the push for more and more protein can be damaging and you should really look at how much you are getting in your diet before trying to supplement and/or adding more protein foods to your diet.

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As a mentioned, a great source of plant protein is tempeh. I have shared a number of recipes with you previously using tempeh, a great meat substitute. One serving of this recipe (Tempeh Satay with Peanut Sauce) is about 30 grams of protein! That includes 4 oz of tempeh, 1 cup of rice, and 1/8 cup of peanut sauce. (A cup of broccoli is another 2.6 grams!)

Enjoy!

IMDb: Overrated (2016)

A Creative Life

As long as I can remember, I have been involved in some form of creativity.

In my school days, it was dance and music. I played my flute for hours on end (which I’m sure delighted my family)! In high school, my aunt taught me how to crochet, and I did ceramics (mostly painting) with my mom. For many years, I was addicted to counted cross-stitch. I have so many beautiful pieces in my house that took me hundreds of hours each. Writing became a creative outlet for me, as you all know, and now I am learning all I can about crafting with my Cricut!

One of the things I love about the creative process is the ability to get out of my head for a while. All you can do is focus on the task at hand; it’s a meditation of sorts. Creating is also a great mood elevator! Who can possibly be in a bad mood while playing music, dancing, or crafting? I love learning new things and the sense of accomplishment when it’s all done.

I know many of you are thinking “but I’m not creative”. But creativity comes in so many forms. Creating is not limited to musicians, painters, dancers, or writers. Are you enjoy photography? Are you a creative problem solver? Do you enjoy painting/decorating your home? Do you like to build things? Are you a creative conversationalist? Do you bake fabulous cakes? I think anything you can immerse yourself in and enjoy fully is probably a creative avenue for you.

The benefits of a creative outlet are numerous. Doing something you love can actually lower your blood pressure, lower the stress hormones in your body, and even help you to lose weight. (I know personally I’m not eating when I’m creating!) When we are finally allowed to move about the world again, hobbies are great ways to connect with new people or old friends. Finding time for yourself is an important part of self-care since it gets you away from the stressors in your life, even if just for a few minutes.

So what’s your creative outlet? What hobby brings you joy? If you don’t have one, what’s your plan to carve out a little creative time for yourself?

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If you are looking for a healthy snack this weekend, check out this (Vegan) Buffalo Wing Hummus recipe!

IMDb: A Creative Life (2010)

Cheese It

Circling back to my last two posts regarding dairy and starch, I thought I’d share one of our family’s favorite recipes. Whenever I ask my husband for help in menu planning, when I’m just stuck, my Macaroni and Cheese recipe is the one he always asks for.

Now, I know you are thinking, “but Michele, you said no cheese…” But I’m here to tell you that cheese can be made of ingredients other than dairy. Admittedly, it is with different results, and I don’t think you’ll find something that exactly mimics real cheese, but you can find many acceptable alternatives.

You can purchase many vegan cheeses, and you can even find recipes to make them yourself. Most are made from plant milks, seeds, nuts, soy, and more.

For my Macaroni and Cheese recipe, however, my “cheese” is actually made from vegetables. Shallots, onion, carrot, and red potatoes are cooked and combined, with the cooking water, with raw cashews and a few other ingredients.

One of those ingredients in nutritional yeast. While made from the same species of yeast as brewer’s and baker’s yeast, it’s a very different product. Nutritional yeast is grown and processed differently, and has a cheesy / nutty flavor. I think it can be an acquired taste for some, but my family loves it. (Maybe because we have acquired the taste…)

Nutritional yeast (aka “nooch”) can be fortified with additional B vitamins, but even non-fortified nooch contains B vitamins. It also contains protein, all nine essential amino acids, and many trace minerals. You can purchase nutritional yeast in most grocery stores or order it online.

So here’s the recipe for my Mac & “Cheese”, dairy-free and very starchy, served with a bit of salsa on the side. Enjoy!

IMDb: Cheese It (1926)

Starch Reality

The other day I briefly mentioned the Starch Solution Diet and I thought I should write a bit more about that.

Whenever people tell me they are giving up carbs, I always have to ask them to be more specific. All carbs? Or only “bad” carbs? I think a lot of people don’t realize that fruits and vegetables are mostly carbs. So if you’re giving up cookies, cake, and potato chips, that’s great. But if you’re giving up carrots, corn, and peas, that’s another story.

I remember hearing Dr. McDougall (of Starch Solution fame) speak a few years back and he said he was intentional about calling it the “starch” diet, rather than a “carbs” diet, because everyone knows what a starches are. In addition to the partial list of starchy vegetables below, starch also includes rice, pasta, whole grains, and roots. See Dr. McDougall’s full list of starchy foods here.

  • Beans (kidney, navy, pinto, black, cannellini)
  • Butternut squash
  • Chickpeas
  • Corn
  • Lentils
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes & yams

Starches are super important as a source of energy for us, and they provide an abundance of nutrients. They are full of protein (yes, protein), healthy fat, vitamins and minerals. Starches do a great job of filling you up so and your body will efficiently burn them off as energy.

Most “McDougallers” (followers of Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution) that you meet will profess to eating large quantities of potatoes (red, yellow, purple, sweet…). I am able to regulate my weight much more easily when I eat LOTS of potatoes. I like to say they are “magical”. That may be surprising to many of you, because the potato has been much maligned over the years. But the potato isn’t really the problem; what we do to it IS. We fry them, and we douse them with butter, gravy, bacon bits, sour cream, cheese, and more. And then we have the nerve to blame the potato, which is actually a very nutritious food.

The trick is learning how to eat these foods (and any vegetables, really) without all the toppings. There are many really healthy options. Some of my favorite toppings for a baked potato are mustard and sauerkraut, ketchup, these yummy mushrooms, salsa, or hummus.

So be careful when you give up the carbs. You may be giving up some super nutrition in the process.

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Here’s a recipe for a very starchy and nutritious chili for the cold winter days: Pumpkin Chili.

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For more information on the Starch Solution, check out the Dr. McDougall “color picture book” or his book, The Starch Solution.

IMDb: Starch Reality (2011)

Milk Money

Today is National Milk Day (not to be confused with World Milk Day which is in June).

According to nationaltoday.com, this day acknowledges the first time milk was delivered in sterilized glass bottles, allowing for a more safe method of distribution. The site lists some activities for celebrating this day like visiting a dairy or trying a new milk product. But the first suggestion is to learn something new about milk, so here are some facts you may not know.

  • Countries with the highest consumption of milk/dairy also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Get your calcium from green leafy vegetables.
  • 65-70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. When people say “I’m lactose intolerant”, that’s actually normal.
  • Casein is the protein found in milk which can cause the proliferation of cancer cells. Dr. Campbell of the Center for Nutritional Studies actually considers casein to be a carcinogen.
  • Cows are often pumped full of antibiotics because of the horrid conditions in which they are forced to live. This impacts humans because bugs become more and more resistant to antibiotics.
  • Cows eat 100 pounds of food and drink up to 50 gallons of water every day! Think of the impacts on the environment.

My personal enlightenment regarding milk came when I switched to a whole food, plant based diet. We switched over from cow’s milk to almond milk at that time. Prior to the switch, my son often had ear infections, a runny nose, and 5-6 episodes of strep throat per year. Since the switch (8 years ago), he has not had a single episode of strep, nor any other illness. Coincidence, or something else…?

If you can give up or reduce one thing in your diet, I recommend that it be dairy. I know, I know… but cheese! Cheese is highly addictive and SO hard to give up. I get it! When I make lapses in my diet, it’s usually the cheese that gets me. But the more you can give it up, the better you will be. Cheese is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt.

So remember, progress not perfection as we start out this new year. Reduce or eliminate cheese wherever you can. And if you can give it up completely, even better! Your body will thank you!

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You can actually have creamy taste without the dairy! This is one of my favorite recipes, using cashew cream! Check out: Cashew Cream of Potato Soup

IMDb: Milk Money (1994)

8 Years

Eight years ago today is when I started on my plant-based diet journey. I remember the date so vividly because it was the day following my last chemotherapy treatment. I had been researching plant-based diets throughout my treatment and only just dabbling with trying to eat a plant based diet. During that time, many people were cooking for me, so I ate what was delivered. But I knew that once my treatment was done, I was trying a WFPBNO diet. (Whole Food Plant Based No Oil)

I had been reading every book I could find on the subject, as well as watching documentaries such as “Forks Over Knives”. In the beginning, I was still cooking some meat and fish, since I wasn’t making my family eat this way. I had to do this for ME, and I could worry about them later. My husband joined me in being meat-free a few years after. My son eats whatever I cook, but sometimes indulges in eating meat outside the home.

I dropped 20 pounds or so, without really tracking, measuring, etc. I just ate the right foods. I leaned more towards Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution diet (70% starches, 20% non-starchy veggies, 10% fruit) and that worked well for me. I had so much energy, recovered well from my treatments, and felt amazing. All that AFTER surgery, chemo and radiation.

Over the years, I am sad to say, my discipline waned. While I never ate any meat, I did allow cheese to sneak back in my diet, ever so slowly. Throw in some junk food, and the 20 pounds started coming back on. As I said, this is a lifestyle, not just a diet. It can’t be short term; it has to be a life-long habit, with few, if any, lapses. I will talk more about dairy tomorrow, but I’m making a renewed commitment to no cheese.

It’s been a great 8 years of trying new foods, international cuisine, and hundreds of new recipes. A lot of it was trial-and-error. I learned new cooking techniques, as well. My food processor became my favorite appliance. It’s been such a learning experience, and I am better for it on so many levels.

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Here’s a new recipe that I tried today. I modified it quite a bit, but I think a further reduction of the oil is needed on the marinade. Overall, it was delicious although my boys didn’t think it was quite enough for dinner… Marinated Tofu Salad.

IMDb: 8 Years (2020)

The Tortoise and the Hare

I’ve always been a believer that “slow and steady wins the race”.

Jumping in 100%, all gung ho, might yield great short term results, but it often leads to longer term burnout. Making changes to our diets and LIFEstyle is for a LIFEtime. We didn’t become unhealthy or overweight in a week or a month, or even a year. It took time to get here, and it will take time to reverse course.

I am happy to report that I am down 2 1/2 pounds since the New Year. In a period of 9 days, that’s a good, steady pace. In general, losing 1-2 pounds a week should be the goal to do it safely. To do that, you need to eat 500-1000 fewer calories, OR burn more than 500-1000 calories, a day. (Eat less or exercise more, or some combination thereof.)

I found when I was eating a whole food, plant based, no oil diet (WFPBNO), I never needed to count calories because I was eating healthy food, with low calorie density (meaning you get a lot more food for fewer calories). Here’s a diagram from Forks Over Knives for an illustration:

But if you do need to track calories to be successful, do it. Track a normal day or two and then take a look at where you can lose 500 calories a day. For example, one tablespoon of olive oil is 119 calories. Do you cook with olive oil? How much do you use? Do you measure it? Imagine you are using more than one tablespoon… Also look at liquid calories, as they are an easy way to eliminate calories; just swap out with water.

If you are looking to burn some calories, check out this nifty calculator to see how many calories you can burn, at your current weight, just walking for 10 minutes a day.

My 2 1/2 pounds came from the elimination of calories from wine and late night snacks. (One 5 ounce serving of wine is 100-150 calories. So just eliminating the two glasses of wine with dinner is 200-300 calories right off the bat. Plus, who really pours a FIVE OUNCE glass of wine…?) It adds up quickly.

I have also added 15 minutes of yoga to my daily workout. All pretty easy, and I’m not feeling deprived. You can do this. Start where you are at in this moment and take a step forward. It doesn’t have to be a big step; it just needs to be forward.

Slow and steady wins the race.

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Here’s a nice low calorie density soup recipe from my friend at Klunker’s Kitchen: Tomato, Spinach, Orzo Soup. Super easy, quick, and delicious! And you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

IMDb: The Tortoise and the Hare (1935)

Bubbles

When was the last time you took a bubble bath?

For me, it was 2013! I used to take a hot bath with Epsom salts and baking soda every day after my radiation treatments. I know that’s not quite a bubble bath, but it’s close enough. It was a warm, soothing, restful 20 minutes.

Today is National Bubble Bath Day! I think it’s a great time for a reminder that self-care is a super important part of your overall health. While a bubble bath is great, it often feels like a real indulgence. Sometimes it’s just too much work (do I have to clean the tub before I soak in it?). But self-care doesn’t always need to be extravagant or time-consuming. We usually associate self-care with the likes of massages and facials, but it also includes simple, easy, and quick items like the following:

  • Enjoying a warm beverage uninterrupted.
  • Spend a few minutes doing something you love: read a book, do a craft, listen to/perform some music.
  • Connect with a friend. Even if it’s virtual, touching base with those we love is super important.
  • Just sit in solitude and quiet. Doing absolutely nothing.
  • Treat yourself to take out.
  • Avoid the negative people in your life, even if it’s only for an hour.
  • Say “no”. I always remember someone telling me that “no” is a complete sentence!
  • Take a break from social media.
  • Wear something that makes you feel great. I know we’ve all gotten used to sweats and t-shirts, but dress up a bit, just because.
  • Use the fancy dishes, light a candle, make your dinner a special event (even if it’s just pizza).
  • Get outside.
  • Find something, or someone, that makes you laugh.

These are all relatively easy things to do, with (mostly) no expense. What would you add?

So go do something today, and every day you can, for yourself. Maybe even a bubble bath!

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The recipe of the day are these amazing Cauliflower Tacos! Made with cauliflower rice, you truly won’t even know you aren’t eating meat! They are super quick to make, delicious, healthy, low-calorie, and your whole family will love them!

IMDb: Bubbles (2011)

On the Right Track

Accountability is an important aspect of successful lifestyle changes. Whether you hold yourself accountable, or work with a partner, having to answer to someone is an effective strategy for keeping yourself on the right track.

As I refocus on my health this new year, I am employing both strategies. First, I believe my writing this blog is a form of accountability. As I write about my challenges, my approaches, my successes, I am sharing those goals with all of you and I want to be a good example. I also have an accountability partner for the whole “drink less wine” thing! That one seems to need a lot more support!

Holding yourself accountable is a little harder, since we tend to be more forgiving of ourselves when we lapse. But one of the things that works for keeping me on the right track is, yep, “tracking”! (See what I did there?) šŸ™‚ I use a number of different tools, which I’ll share here, but you can use whatever works for you.

  • I weigh myself every day, and then I write that number down. Sometimes I just track it on a piece of paper in my bathroom, and other times I track it on a spreadsheet. (I do love Excel.) You can write it on your daily planner, calendar, or tracking app, just write it down. This does a few things: holds you to account when your memory gets fuzzy on all those numbers, allows you to a chance to reflect on your decisions from the prior day, and shows your progress.
  • When I have a specific nutritional goal, like eat 30-40 grams of fiber a day, I use a chronometer. (https://cronometer.com/) This tool allows you to really get into the details of your nutrition. It can track fiber way better than I can, but it tracks so much more than that. Think you aren’t getting enough potassium, or iron, or whatever? This app tracks calories, carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. I may not use it every day, but it’s my go-to when I need to hold myself accountable for a period of time.
  • Another fitness tool I use is My Fitness Pal. It does similar things to the Cronometer, although I find the latter more detailed/specific. However, My Fitness Pal will calculate the calories (and other nutritional info) per serving of a recipe that might be missing that info. I often modify recipes and need to recalculate. I don’t do this every day, but might track calories for a period of time to get back on track.
  • If I have multiple goals, I will create a weekly checklist for myself to keep my goals in the forefront of my mind, to track my water intake, or to track whatever habit I’m trying to establish. At the end of the week, I’ll review my successes and challenges to think about what new approaches I might need to take the following week.

How do YOU keep yourself accountable? I’d love to hear what works for you!

Today’s recipe is one of my favorite soups. With onions, garlic, ginger, and lemon, it is a pot full of immunity-boosting deliciousness! The cumin and cayenne give it slight kick. SO good! Four Corners Lentil Soup

IMDb: On the Right Track (1981)