Sunday, February 28, 2010

Starting a Revolution

Some very exciting developments are going to get national attention in the area of nutrition education and advocacy.

Michelle Obama recently launched a campaign to address childhood obesity, which will include a focus on school food reform, education on better food choices in general, and promotion of physical activity!

Jamie Oliver has a new show, Food Revolution, which airs in late March on ABC. He will be challenging people to rethink everything they know about food, particularly in schools. I cannot wait to see this program! Check out the preview below and visit Jamie's website for his ongoing campaign with school lunch programs in the UK.

Last month, Oprah shed a spotlight on the current food industry/system and featured clips from the Food, Inc. documentary as well as interviews with Alicia Silverstone, vegan and author of The Kind Diet and Michael Pollan, who has written extensively on food issues and has a new book out called Food Rules. My favorite Pollan rule is "Eat only foods that will eventually rot." See other food rules in his interview here. You can catch my review of Food, Inc. here.

Health and consumer advocates have worked tirelessly for years to make inroads and progress on the issue of food safety and nutrition. It is my hope that with the recent national attention their efforts will pay off big time.

Changes are coming to the table! Yum!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In Living Color

I played with my food today, experimenting with colors and flavors and came up with a yummy concoction.

Curried Veggie Stew

1/2 onion
1 organic red pepper*
3/4 cup broccoli
3/4 cup potatoes
1 cup aduki beans
1 tbsp muchi curry
1/4 tbsp powdered ginger
14 oz of light coconut milk

*Conventional peppers are on the Dirty Dozen list and are one of 12 of the most contaminated produce items. Buying them organic is best (look for peppers with stickers that start with a #9).

Heat the coconut milk, ginger and curry. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the broccoli, onions, and peppers until tender. Toss in and warm up the beans. Serve over brown rice. Say "oh" and "ah." Ask for seconds.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Green Day

With the company of two fellow holistic health junkies I have been sans meat for almost 10 days, with 36 days to go. Giving up meat hasn't been too difficult because I wasn't eating much of it before the challenge. BUT it was hard not having it as a back-up when restaurant menus or the food line at our work cafeteria lacked a dairy-free option. I've noticed that most vegetarian cuisine comes with cheese. Technically I always have salad as a "go to" but that can get old quickly and a lot of the green leaf fixins at work include meat, shellfish, or cheese.


At first glance it seemed that forgoing all animal products would be limiting. This has only been the case when picking from a list of pre-prepared food as mentioned above. I knew this meatless challenge would require a different approach to food, calling for creativity, time, attention, and preparedness in my own kitchen.

The first week's food plan has included nut butters, hemp seed smoothies, nut milks, beans with rice, and a homemade kick-ass lentil soup (I've never enjoyed leftovers so much!). While I have been eating more greens as of late I felt I could do better. So I threw on my apron and got jiggy with them.

Kale + Celery + Pear + Cucumber

Pesto + Brown Rice Pasta + Cucumber + Hemp Seed

Greens with homemade dressing: Sauteed red peppers, onion, olive oil, basil, black pepper.

Got to go and work on meal #3!

The broccoli will be joining the onions, potatoes, and aduki beans in coconut milk and curry for dinner!

What are your favorite greens?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Livin' on the Edge

What is more fun than finishing a 3.6 (hilly) mile run in Valley Forge Park? Completing an hour-long ice skating session after it! It was probably the olympics ice dancing (minus the hokey costumes) that put me in the mood. And my running guru thought his birthday celebration would best be spent competing with me on one of my more familiar turfs. He's got the running. I've still got the skating. Phew!

Now if I can get 1/4 as good as this I'll be really thrilled....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Special Announcement

Today and for the next 46 days, three holistic health junkies are going meatless! The challenge was inspired by one HHJ who is giving it up for Lent. Another junkie is doing it for moral support and health, while a third is doing it in moral support of the supporter (and her health too). :)

If you're interested in joining the challenge, let us know! Or if it strikes your fancy to go meatless on a weekly but not daily basis, consider doing Meatless Mondays, a project of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Their website has lots of great resources!

Stay tuned for rants and jumps for joy as we accomplish this goal!

And if you have any tips or recipes please pass them on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let Her Eat Cake

Valentine's Day 2010. Two fabulous ladies. One awesome city. One mission: vegan sweets.

My friend Susan and I made a pilgrimage to NYC to give homage to some out-of-this-world vegan establishments.

Stop #1: Babycakes Vegan Bakery

Is there anything more welcoming than a cupcake stoop?

Or cute pink walls and cute people in cute pink uniforms?

Or creamy berry spelt cake?

Stop #2: One Lucky Duck

After loading up on killer berry cream spelt cake, scrumptious mediterranean bread with olives, tomatoes, onions and zucchini, and some take-away cupcakes, Susan and I headed over to One Lucky Duck for smoothies. Sitting next to a Jake Gyllenhall look-a-like (hello, gorgeous!) we engaged our tastebuds in some seriously savory slirp action. The banana nut smoothie was, as always, divine. The Spanking (a drink, not the action) I got was a little strange. Like an actual spanking, it was kinda enjoyable but weird at the same time. It lacked a distinctive flavoring, reminding me of chicklets gum after all the flavors have combined to make a new ambiguous taste. It was still worth drinking to get all the nutrients from the fresh coconut, blueberry, banana, almond milk, and cinnamon.

After the cakes, after the smoothies, and well after dinner, Susan and I retreated to the hotel for some olympics-watching and Babycakes cupcake festivities.

Red velvet romp! My tastebuds were frolicking.

When part of my cupcake with all the icing fell on the floor, I decided to rescue it...well beyond the 5-second rule. It was totally worth it. Actually, it was necessary.

I recommend checking out these sites the next time you're in NYC. You'll fall madly in love!

If you know of any other yummy vegan or raw spots, please post in the comments section!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Balancing Act

My dear friend Olivia, health junkie extraordinaire, invited me to blog about ways to stay motivated with exercise. Check out her site, A View from There, here!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowed In

Sometimes there's nothing more fun than being snowed in...for a day. But after that I get ancy. I managed to get a 3 mile run in last night before our latest wintery mix. But today was just too darn cold and windy for any outdoor activity. It was, however, the perfect time to resort to the DVD collection:

Crazy Sexy Cancer ~ comes with a 25 minute yoga routine with Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee. Also features a 12 -minute guided relaxation.

Ballet Body ~ includes 5 workouts combining pilates, yoga, and ballet moves. Play separately or all together!

Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred ~ will kick your you-know-what! Who doesn't have 20 minutes a day to work out?

Shiva Rea: Daily Energy - Vinyasa Flow Yoga ~ offers a variety of short yoga routines that you can mix and match. Some of the moves seem very advanced but it's fun to have something to aspire to, right?

10 Minute Solution: Dance and Tone Kit ~ gets your heart pumping quickly with three ten-minute dance sequences and two 10-minute segments for legs and arms. Resistance band included. If you don't have 20 minutes for Jillian, surely you have 10 minutes for Jennifer.

What workouts do you pop into the DVD player?

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Almost Vegan

This is a snapshot of a day in my food journal focusing on my elimination diet. I cheat a little bit with some processed snacks but they are healthier options when it comes to a case of the munchies. Note #1: I'm including exercise/movement on this list because it nourishes the body. Note #2: I'm classifying my day as "almost vegan" even when there's no sign of meat on today's list because each week I do eat a little meat. I am considering cutting it out altogether. Although when I've had to give up alcohol, caffeine, dairy, eggs, chocolate, and most processed foods, I feel a girl's got to have at least one vice. For me, it's bacon.

* 7:00 am - Yoga!

* 7:30 am - Smoothie - almond milk, hemp seeds, peaches, flax, maca, vanilla, and cinnamon.

*7:40 am - Dry brushing before the shower

* Morning, Noon, and Night - Orange herbal tea with a little bit of honey

* Lunch - Salad w/ veggies & beans; dressing: olive oil, lemon, black pepper or tahini; Lentil soup.

* Snacks - Bear Naked granola, hemp/flax oatmeal, or Go Raw products.

* Pre-workout punch - peanut or almond butter and crackers

* Running

* Dinner - Leftover panang curry (coconut milk, veggies, and rice) from Chabba Thai.

* Yoga/Stretching


Note to self: get more H2O and veggies on this list.
Response to self: OK

Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Ode to Allentown

Aside from the Billy Joel song and the fact that my beloved Buja lives there, I had had little affection for Allentown (sorry). But my friend, a steadfast ambassador to her city, recently discovered the perfect marketing tool for her little holistic health junkie. Vegan treats.

With the same excitement I once had for school field trips, Nirali and I visited Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem for a sampling of mouth-watering confections: Spice, Mocha, and Brownie Fudge cakes. To a girl with a sweet tooth who cannot have dairy, this place is Mecca.

My friend and I nibbled on the spice and mocha delights and saved the brownie cake for her co-workers. The verdict: We loved loved loved the spice cake but thought the mocha was missing something. It also seemed too sugary. But then again, my co-worker raved about the piece of it I saved for her. To each her own. One palate does not fit all :)

While we are on the subject of non-dairy food in Allentown, I want to mention another vegan gem: Cali Burrito's Nepenthe Burrito. I get a bit frustrated with burrito joints these days because I am always tempted to add sour cream or cheese, two things over which I still easily salivate but cannot have. As a result I never feel quite satisfied and my burritos seem half-assed. When Nirali and Ambrish wanted to grab some dinner at Cali's this past weekend I was hesitant. I even picked up some tomato pie slices beforehand to avoid it altogether. But, to my surprise, there was one vegan item on the menu and it happened to be very tasty in it's own right.

If you're going dairy-free and happen to be visiting or passing through Allentown, grab yourself a Nepenthe burrito with falafels, rice, black beans, pickles, and tahini dressing. We recommend getting extra pickles. Yum. Yum. Yum. We all liked it so much we went back for seconds on Sunday.

And when you do make your way to Allentown, tell Ms. Ambassador that I sent ya! ;)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Fun Continues...

I never thought I would say that running is fun. I just figured the headaches, coughing and knee pain were part of the deal; I wanted no part of this. The side stitches were not appealing either. They would come about almost instantly at the start of a run and last pretty much throughout the routine. But last night there were no negatives!

Ed and I met up for weekly run #2. I did some solo running in between our meet-ups but was looking forward to keeping up with the speed a snow storm! Aside from all the snow on my eyelashes, the run was seemless. Ed was naturally many paces ahead but made some stops to write encouraging messages in the snow. "Go Jen, go!" "You're 1/2 way there!" "Come on already!"

The run back after Starbucks also felt great and I even picked up my pace! I've never finished this strong before. The core strength I'm getting from yoga and pilates is making all the difference; it was my first run without flank pain. I'm hoping my pace and endurance will gradually improve in the coming weeks. Ten miles (my goal) seems far off in the distance; I'm worried that running it will feel like an eternity. And my guru is making run #3 a straight shot without breaks. But, he tells me, there will be a surprise at the end. It appears he is willing to bribe me to my ten mile goal. I'm totally ok with this :)

I wish for every runner a friend like Ed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kicking Asphalt

All the yoga I've been doing lately has had my energy levels soaring. I have never felt better physically. On my way into work on Monday morning, after a scrumptious yoga practice and an uber delish smoothie, I felt the run. Without missing a beat, I texted Ed, my running guru.

Ed tried to get me to like running a couple months back but it didn't stick. I didn't give it a chance. After one attempt I threw in the towel. I had dabbled in running for a season about three years ago, completing a 5k and a 4 mile race along Kelly Drive. That was it. I was afraid of knee injuries. I had trouble breathing after runs. Yada. Yada. I also didn't get much excitement from it, aside from the tunes blaring through my iPod. During my first race I considered running off course, jumping in my car, and going back to bed. This is something that Ed, zenmaster, will help me with.

As for the physical concerns I'm thinking and hoping they will fade away this time around. The yoga, ballet, and pilates I'm doing are strengthening the muscles around my knees and helping me breathe easier. All of these activities were not part of my routine when I originally took up running. In my second go at it, the exercise routines have made a noticeable difference.

Ed and I did meet up this week and hit the ground running. The thing about running with Ed is that it's super fun. He jokes around a lot and runs really really fast (see picture below), which is always interesting to watch. We have also taken to running at night. This makes me feel like a kid again, especially because it seems out of the ordinary to run so late on a week night. Aside from playfulness, did I mention that he is all about breaks? He mapped out a stop along the way for juice and mint tea.

While I did experience tightness in the lungs and a throbbing head, the mint tea alleviated most of the pain. I think Ed also tried to distract me from my hacking cough with talk of how great running is...the history of humans can outrun dogs and horses and bears (although, he says, it depends on the type of bear).

Bottom line: If you are seeking inspiration in the running department, call Ed!

I'm thankful to say our run back was pretty seemless (yay!) and pain-free (yum!). This alone was an improvement from runs past. And I felt more agile and flexible. Thank you, yoga.

As for more running, I'm planning to do the 10 mile Broad Street run in Philadelphia. It will be my version of a marathon. True to form, Ed has already signed me up for an earlier race to get my feet wet. And while he'll be light years ahead of me on the course, I know he'll have my back.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ladies Who Lotus

My relationship with yoga has recently transformed, morphing from something that was once a rare and casual encounter to a practice that is seriously steady. And this relationship offers an equal exchange. I show up to my mat and reap many benefits in return.

I wanted to connect with friends on the subject and asked them to send photos in their favorite poses and/or snipits of why they yoga.

Lotus Pose

Crane Pose

Despite my on-again-off-again love affair with the practice, yoga is one of the things I am most grateful for. This is because yoga:

* helps me practice patience, something I sorely need to work on.

* allows me to improve my flexibility - not only physically, but in how I interact with others and react to the world around me.

* makes me feel sexy. It's time to focus on how my body feels and how my breath moves through it, which makes me feel alive. And I think we can all agree that vitality is sexy.

* energizes me when I'm tuckered out.

* calms me when I'm wired, especially before bed.

* provides me with time to reconnect with myself and set intentions.

* improves how I feel about my body. This is partly because, let's face it, yoga does help tone the bod, and who doesn't want a yoga butt? But it also gives my body the opportunity to do some pretty cool stuff, and that helps me refocus my inner monologue. I can shift from concerns mostly about appearance to being proud of what my body is able to accomplish.

* is portable. I am a travel nut, and I don't have to worry about finding the right equipment or studio. Having a mat is ideal, but really all I need is myself.

Triangle Pose

I agree wholeheartedly with Olivia on the variety of benefits that yoga provides. I'll add that yoga helps me manage and prevent stress of the body and mind. It engages me to be mindful and present and to breathe deeply. It is my "me" time.

Tree Pose

I really enjoy meditating, preferably in the morning. It's hard for me to get into a deep meditative state while seated indian style on the floor at 6 in the morning though. I just end up falling back asleep! ;) With this pose I find that I'm able to concentrate. In the beginning its mostly so that I don't fall! Once I make it through that I can get into a deeper state of concentration. Physically I find that this pose helps me to elongate slowly and wake my body up in a thoughtful and gentle manner. I usually start on my right leg because I have better balance. By the end of it both my mind and body are awake and ready to face the day!

Why do you yoga? Add your favorite pose in the comments section!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Live and Learn

Just saw a great post on the Crazy Sexy Life forum. It's a fun and reflective exercise, focusing on lessons one woman learned over the past year. People are sometimes keen on making resolutions for the year ahead without looking back at the past actions that are worth repeating or forgoing in the future.

I completed a similar exercise last year, though it mostly centered on goals, when I felt that I hadn't done much in 2008. Only when I put pen to paper did I realize how much I had accomplished. Felt good! This week I'll be mindful to journal and look back on the lessons I learned in 2009.

For inspiration, check out Rory's 25 lessons!

D Minus

I recently had some routine bloodwork ordered and was shocked to learn how low my Vitamin D levels were. They were WAY out of range, almost as low as they can go. I went in thinking my test results, particularly my cholesterol, would be great and I'd get a lollipop or something :P. Over the course of three weeks I had been steadfast with diet and exercise and I was expecting an equally impressive blood test result. Turns out the doctor forgot to check for cholesterol but ordered a Vitamin D screening, unbeknownst to me. But I sure am glad she ordered it!

While vitamin D is normally associated with the role of building healthy bones, research shows that it is also a key factor in balancing hormones and maintaining a healthy immune system. A vitamin D deficiency situated within the context of my other health issues may just mean my doctor found the missing link.

So what's next? Supplements and sunshine! I won't post the daily doses I'm taking on HHJ. They are quite high and only to be ingested at such levels when under medical supervision. I'll be able to tell if it's working in about one month when I get more bloodwork. Fingers are crossed for a D+!

For more information about vitamin D, it's role in health, and whether or not testing might be right for you, check out this article from Women to Women.