Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat Your Trees

I can't remember where I heard this phase, though it was probably a line in a movie. A mother or babysitter had recited this to a little girl who didn't want to eat her broccoli. I found the line amusing. Like the little girl I don't always want to eat my I usually juice them when possible.

My new year's resolution list is not yet complete but a high priority is, as was last year, to eat more fruits and veggies. This year I will focus on more green additions. Since I have this week off from work I am planning to get on the right track before the new year. Here's what I worked on today:

5 kale leaves
1 pack of celery stalks
2 cucumbers
1 red apple
1 green apple
2 small punches of parsley
1 lemon
3 handfuls of baby carrots

In just 15 minutes I made 42 oz of moderately yummy but majorly good-for-you green juices, cleaned the juicer, and more than covered the 7 fruits/veggies a day recommendation. Hot damn, that's efficient! And productive. And healthy. Yay!

P.S. Here's what the juicer left behind. This would have taken all day to chew!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Research Methods and Bar-Hopping

What do these two things have in common? Research and bar-hopping are tons of fun when:

a) They are combined for the purpose of rating smoothie and juice bars.
b) You are a holistic health junkie and are subsequently turned on by such research.
c) You are a geek (for being turned on by any research).
d) You are conducting the research with an uber cute fellow geek, a man we'll call "C."*

We met up on Sunday to hash out the details. We plan to visit a variety of randomly sampled Philadelphia blending establishments and evaluate them on the following variables and merits:

Quality of ingredients
Atmospherics (Friendliness of staff - Ambiance - Clientele)

Note 1: "Company you keep" will not be factored into the equation as a cute man friend would surely confound the results.

Note 2: We haven't entirely decided if juice concentrate automatically lowers the quality rating. Your thoughts?

Here's the scale we are working on to rate the bars. These will likely require operationalization.

1) Orgasmic
2) Dreamy
3) Average Joe
4) Buyer's Remorse

The equation for final calculations is currently under review of a trusted mathematician and will be published here shortly.

We welcome your input before implementing this very important research project. We got so excited that we forgot to do a literature review.

*Editor's note: It is with sadness I inform you that "C" is no longer with HHJ. He had an unfortunate accident involving some rabid flamingos and Tina the polar bear at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Cute research partner "S" will be completing the project with me (Yum!).

Stay tuned...

Be Prepared

That's the girl scout motto. "Be Prepared." I chuckled to myself tonight as I recalled my girl scout days and this saying. I can be meticulous when it comes to preparedness. But such attention to detail and follow through have, for me, always been dependent upon the topics or tasks at hand. I've come to realize that my ever-changing food philosophy and my food plan could use some predictability. They needed to get better acquainted and live together in harmony. The missing link? Preparedness. With a bit of leeway for transgressions.

O's blog post (VitaMix Love 12/7/09) documented her own food philosophy and it also summed up mine. When reading her entry I thought, "That's it! That's what I am!" I'm a raw foods hopeful who on occasion will dabble in vegetarian and vegan foods but has "omnivore guilt." I'll add that I love enriched pasta and I am still in love with cheese and coffee. Shhh. Don't tell the kale.

When I last blogged about food plans I was attempting 50% raw and 50% cooked meals. But for the past few weeks I've slipped into a funk with food. A busy work schedule hasn't helped it. I tend to eat the worst when I have to put in longer hours at the office. The weather is also effecting the food plan. Summer and Fall were great seasons for juices and smoothies galore but now that it's getting colder I'm reluctant to blend even lukewarm elixirs on a regular basis. Sudden drops in blood sugar have also left me leaping for the nearest food-like item, which is usually pure crap (candy, cookies, etc).

Aside from these being bad excuses for poor food choices, I realized that these situations had other things in common: a lack of preparedness and a need for balancing consistency with creativity. Here are some goals I'm working on to fix my food plan and prepare the way for better health:

* Compile juice recipes; research and experiment regularly
Kristen Suzanne's blog is chock full of them.

* Have some quick fix meals or shakes that are always ready at home - Frozen berries, fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade soups, nut butters, and nut milks will have me covered.

* Store healthy snack options at work
Herbal teas, nuts, fruit bars (Larabars rock!) should do the trick.

* Explore healthy variations on less healthy food cravings - Anything involving cheese substitutes hasn't held up - if you have recommendations please send them! The search continues (as does my love affair with the real thing).

* Make weekly goals for health contributions - This will motivate me to focus on food preparation.

This weeks goals include:

1) 2 green juices
2) 2 leafy green salads
3) flax meal/seeds, chia seeds, or hemp seeds daily
4) make 1-2 smoothies this week

I'd love to hear suggestions and tips that work for you and keep you motivated!

Happy prepping!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Adventures in Blending

Christmas came early this year thanks to Olivia! Her enthusiasm for health is infectious (in a good way, of course) and it was awesome to have her literary contributions at Holistic Health Junkie. What's not to love? Handsome man friend + top notch blender + adventure abroad!

Olivia's blog post got me thinking about what I've been feeding my Oster (that's not an elaborate word for "mouth" - just my blender). Here are a couple new items I've included in recent smoothies. I'm going to try some of O's suggestions as well!

Pictured from left to right:

Hemp Seeds (from Nutiva via Whole Foods) - provides a nutty taste and 2 tablespoons will get you 11 grams of protein!!!! Added bonuses: omega 3, zinc, magnesium, and iron. It also tastes great on pasta and salads!

Flax Seeds - Essential. Fatty. Acids. (and fiber).

Chia Seeds - 2 tbsps offer 10% of daily calcium needs, omega fatty acids and 6 grams of dietary fiber!

Maca Root Powder - (contents not pictured) helps with stamina, libido, and fighting stress and fatigue. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Whole Foods sells flax seeds in bulk and they are very inexpensive. You can also snag your hemp supply there for around $10/8oz bag. I store the hemp and flax in the fridge. The chia seeds and maca powder are available at Nativas Naturals online store. A health food store in my area happens to carry their products (Yay!). The Navitas website includes a store locator.

My favorite blends to date:

Blueberry + raspberry + strawberry + frozen acai + chia and flax seeds

Banana + hemp seeds + oat milk

Any smoothie can get old over the course of time. If you find yourself in this predicament I recommend the Smoothies Bible. It contains over 300 recipes and they are organized by health topics. Hung over? Have a headache? Want to boost immunity? There are specific recipes for them all. No excuses for boredom either! The smoothies in this book are mighty tasty!

Next adventure: Smoothie and juice bar-hopping...with a cute and saavy research partner.

Keep in touch!

Monday, December 7, 2009

VitaMix Love ~ by Olivia

The ever-wonderful Jen invited me to guest blog ages ago, and I'm excited to finally share a bit of my story with you, her readers. This is a passionate, international love story (the unabridged version--whoops!) involving a girl on a mission, a very handsome man, and a blender. Yes, a blender. A VitaMix to be exact.

I had been coveting a VitaMix ever since I first began really exploring the raw food lifestyle about two years ago. Those suckers are impressive! It seemed you could add just about anything to a smoothie in those canisters, and within seconds, it would be silky goodness. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Sadly, even used models were a bit (ha!) beyond my very, very modest budget. Health was a priority, and I’m a first-rate foodie, but I also had nearly five figures of credit card debt, and I just couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a blender.

Enter: very handsome man. About a year ago, I begrudgingly went on yet another date through In fact, I was so reluctant to meet this guy that I showed up on time, went to the bar next door, had one more glass of wine, and then, newly fortified, entered the original meeting place and introduced myself. Had I known what was waiting for me, I would have gotten there early. Sitting on a bar stool, sipping a beer, was a tall (6’4”!), handsome, well-traveled aspiring writer. In short, my dream man. Here we are on a hike in Busan, a coastal town in South Korea:

What does this have to do with a blender, you ask? Well, this wonderful fella challenged and inspired me. Within months, I had arranged to join him for work in Korea for a year. A job that would allow me to travel and pay off that crushing debt. After the summer crunch, I decided I deserved a treat. Keeping my three priorities for the year in mind (1. Health, 2. Paying off debt, 3. Savoring this new part of the world), I decided I would finally splurge and buy myself a VitaMix. Used. Through eBay. And it works like a charm.

(For any of you out there struggling in the VitaMix v. BlendTec debate, I encourage you to check out the ever-amazing Kristen Suzanne’s review on Kristen’s Raw. She also has a stellar review of juicers, which makes me covet the Hurom. Maybe that’ll be my next splurge when I return to the States.)

One of my dearest friends from the States was coming to visit, and offered to lug the HEAVY blender 8,000 miles for me so I didn’t have to pay international shipping. In a bittersweet twist, the handsome man broke his jaw the day before my friend was due to arrive. Although his surgery and hospital stay complicated the visit, we were brilliantly lucky to have the VitaMix. I was able to make a host of different veggie-packed soups to help keep him nourished while his mouth was wired shut. It may have also held up to a twice-daily peanut-butter-and-chocolate milkshake habit.

Thankfully, the wires are off, the milkshakes have stopped, and the VitaMix is now mostly fulfilling a single role: making my super-delish green smoothies. I am not raw vegan, even though I feel best when I do follow that lifestyle. I’m not even vegetarian, despite my omnivore guilt, compounded by staying informed through sources like Food, Inc., Tom Robbins’ Diet for a New America, and the amazing resources over at CrazySexyLife. But I do believe in Sarma Melingalis’ approach. To paraphrase: rather than panicking about not being raw, just try to add more raw food to your diet. Add more good stuff, and soon you’ll be craving more good stuff. Start a good cycle.

I can’t seem to get in the regular practice of yoga and meditation, but I have gotten into the green smoothie practice. And man oh man is it great. I was skeptical at first. I mean, drinking kale? Really? But I wanted to give it a shot. So the first chance I got, I cut up some kale, threw it into the VitaMix with some fruit and flax seed and green powder, turned thing to high power and…blew a fuse. I had plugged it into our transformer, but it just couldn’t handle the full power. We finally figured out a way to make it work (unplug everything else, save the router, and only turn it on half-way), and I have been savoring my green smoothies ever since. I still can’t wait to be back on American soil so I can see what this machine can do at full power, but this is working great for now.

Because systems and routines and simplifications make it infinitely more likely for me to stick to healthy habits, I’ve stashed all my smoothie making goodies together in the fridge:

And in the freezer:

A typical smoothie starts with a heaping scoop of UltraInflamX, a special enzyme and protein powder prescribed by my naturopath. Apparently I’m missing an enzyme that helps me process fruits and veggies (I don’t remember what enzyme it is). Although this powder carries a hefty price tag, I haven’t found anything else that works anywhere near as well. Right now I don’t take the full dose, largely because of the difficulty and expense of having it shipped to me in Korea. Thankfully I have a generous and loving mother who helps with the logistics. And sticker shock.

I add ground flax seed and bee pollen, and I’ve recently added Flax Oil to the mix as well. It is rumored to help with seasonal depression, and I do feel brighter since adding it to my regimen, which is great. I top it off with a big scoop of SuperGreens. I buy all of these through iHerb*, which has stellar international shipping rates and policies. At the suggestion of another friend/health junkie, Eve, I also ordered Maca powder, which I’m eager to try.

Once all the superfoods and extra boosts are in there, I cut up some super sweet baby kale leaves, though I am going to start rotating my greens, per Kristen Suzanne. This week: spinach. I top it off with frozen fruit. Here, I’m using strawberries, blueberries, and mango:

Cover with water, crank on the VitaMix, and a minute or two later, you’ve got some super delish, health packed smoothie to start your day. I’m in the process of trying to wean myself off sugar – again – and have found that starting with a green smoothie makes all the difference in the world.

Trying to get and stay healthy thousands of miles away from the world you’re used to – especially when you don’t speak the local language – certainly has its challenges, but with some persevering and planning, it’s possible. You don’t need the Cadillac of blenders to make it happen, though it’s certainly nice. And fun. Seek out what the locals eat, and you might discover a whole new set of health benefits. I’ve fallen absolutely in love with kimchi, which is chock full of stuff to make you feel good. (That's what I'm about to sip on in that photo up top.)

To read more about my adventures in Seoul, complete with reflections on my health and travel photos, visit my website at The View from There, or follow me on twitter at OliviaLindquist.

Cheers to your health!

*If you’re new to iHerb, use the code XIM000 at checkout to receive $5.00 off your first order.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Babes that Blog

Olivia and I first met while serving on the Philadelphia board of the Younger Women's Task Force, a national networking/advocacy group for women (and nice man friends) with chapters across the country. One of my favorite projects that we collaborated on was a holistic health event, which included contributions from a nutrition counselor, an acupuncturist, and a reiki/massage therapist and skincare specialist. It was one of the most rewarding programs we produced.

The event was born from conversations about our personal health issues, which we continue to explore together. A year ago we joined a group that experimented with an elimination diet to identify suspected food sensitivties. If you ever conduct such an experiment it makes a world of difference to do it with a friend. Olivia and I commiserated with each other about missing the bad foods and celebrated our accomplishments as we plugged along through our new food plans.

We were recently emailing about enzyme suppliments, our love of blenders, and the challenges of sticking to food plans when traveling. We certainly talk about other things, topics that most people would deem "saucy," but I think Olivia would agree with me when I say we also get off on health talk.

Did I mention that Olivia moved and is working in Korea?! I was interested in learning more about her experiences with health and food abroad and asked that she share it here. You'll undoubtedly find her stories intriguing and inspiring.

Drum roll please...

Welcome, Olivia, contributor extraordinaire on holistic-health-junkie! Stay tuned for news from Korea!