Friday, April 30, 2010

Health Hiatus

For the past three weeks, life has been pretty busy. My regular 9-5, which is actually more like 9-7 most days, has been kicking my butt. I've also been very fortunate to find a freelance gig that is a part-part-time version of my dream job. I get to write, review others' articles on health issues, and work for an organization and its founders who are as passionate about holistic health as I am. So it was strange that my health routine started to veer a bit off course in the midst of this new health-centered adventure.

First, my training for the Broad Street run went to the back burner for a few weeks. Food preparation was also lacking. I didn't prioritize trips to Whole Foods and, as a result, I started eating a lot of burritos. Chipotle had become my default destination when I needed vegan food (ie beans, rice, peppers/onions, guacamole burrito) because I hadn't cooked my own food. It's not that these burritos were "bad" but my food plan had started to lack the variety and fruits/veggies and juices I used to consume regularly.

Aside from the break from exercise I've felt guilty about my return to regular coffee-drinking with as many as two cups per day. I even debated this with myself in my head on the way to work one morning. It went something like this:

I'm planning to have coffee today.
You really should not drink coffee today.
I like the taste.
But it's not good for you.
It's one little vice. Can't I have one vice?
First, you've got more than one vice right now. One vice my a#%.
Second, this vice is acidic
And it will negatively effect your immune system right now.
And what about your kidneys?
You are having it every day these days.
I thought we negotiated having it once per week.
Yeah, but I need it to get through the long work days.
Ok but it's got the potential to make you jittery.
Do you want to gamble with that?
Can't I just have some gd coffee today?
Everyone is drinking it and I want to too.

Seriously? The "Everyone is doing it" excuse?
Ok, ok. I'm out of excuses...
But I'm still having the gd coffee.

While I've been beating myself up over what I consider to be a divergence from my health plan, I have remained committed to several important things.

* I have not entertained any soda urges. I find it odd that I crave soda at all, seeing as I never really drank it in the past.

* I have not touched meat since the start of the Lenten challenge.

Ed and I are engaged in a pseudo "sudden death" match to see who will go the longest without meat. We are in this challenge for the long haul and for serious reasons (health, animal well-being, health). But the competition aspect has reinforced the commitment during those rare occurrences of temptation.

This challenge has subsequently made for several hilarious dreams. I've had two so far involving me accidently eating meat, which felt similar to the real-life slip-ups I'd had regularly on Fridays during Lent when I was a kid. I was eating chicken salad in one of the dreams and my mom quietly reminded me, in her New York accent, "Um you are a vey-gan [vegan]." Shocked that I had forgotten the challenge, I proceeded to spit out the meat.

In the second dream, Ed and I were lunching at a picnic table and I was eating a McDonald's chicken nugget (this would never happen in real life). As I ate it, Ed elately shouted at me, "Ah ha! I win the challenge, sucka!" I screamed a stereotypical slow motion "Nooooooooooooooooo!" and woke up.

I recently shared the dreams, the coffee dialogue between me and me, and my frustrations with my fellow holistic junkie. Interestingly enough, she had been experiencing a hiatus from health around the same time! We both agreed that it's completely fine to take breaks so long as the health plan gets back on track eventually and doesn't do any major harm (ie eating a food that's really non-negotiable). So how long will our hiatuses last? My friend believes that getting back into a routine will be somewhat easy; she's attuned to how great her body responds to better health practices and how cranky it gets on vacations from them. She shared some talk back she got from her body as a result of recent indulgences. It asked, "Where did the smoothies and yoga go?" It also mentioned a preference not to play with sugar and dairy in the future because "They are mean bit*%es." :P

So far my body has been ok with the hiatus ~ the coffee, the many scrumptious burritos, and the short break from working out. She says she is happy I started running again, although I always get this feedback when the run is over. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Geekin' Out

During her visit to Philadelphia, Olivia and I vowed to exchange booklists on health topics - partly out of curiosity and for recommendations and for future reference so that we would know which books not to give to each other in our care packages. Here's what you'll find sitting on my shelf.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Great cookbook with 75 dairy-free recipes (uses soy as an alternative). Favorites include smores and chai latte. By the above opening paragraph, I'm not meaning to imply these are healthy. It's a great resource to people with intolerances to dairy who still want their sweet something somethings.

Modern-Day Macrobiotics
by Simon Brown

Just picked this book up as I'm experimenting with macrobiotics. Very informative and includes recipes and charts for explaining different principles behind the theory. It also includes charts on adequate foods for protein, iron, calcium and vitamins/minerals.

Vegetarian and Vegetable Cooking
by Christine Ingram

My dear friend Debbie found this one for me and it's got an encyclopedia of all vegetables and lots of great recipes (with pictures!).

Living Foods for Optimum Health
by Brian Clement

I bought this after watching Kris Carr's documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer. Clement is the director of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida.

Kristen Suzanne's EASY Raw Vegan Smoothies, Juices, Elixirs & Drinks
I bought this to put in a care package to Olivia and liked it so much that I picked up another copy.

Check out this sample recipe ~ My Mocha Latte Fix.

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health
by Marion Nestle

Scary, scary, scary. But reading it will make you feel empowered as a consumer!

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan

Pollan traces four meals back to their origins. Great reporting on all that goes into our food.

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips
by Kris Carr

Informative guide for young women dealing with cancer. I bought it for the section on nutrition. Her next book will be devoted entirely to that topic!

Becoming Vegetarian
by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis

BEST BOOK on the topic of nutrition and vegetarianism. They also have a book for vegans.

Raw Food Made Easy For 1 or 2 People
by Jennifer Cornbleet

This was one of many lovely gifts from my fellow health junkie Olivia. I really like this book for its simplicity and small portions (ie no leftovers).

Everyday Raw
by Matthew Kenney
Another gift from Olivia, this book is packed with great recipes! There are many mouth-watering juices, smoothies, snacks, ice creams, desserts, spreads and dressings, and main meals. Yum. Yum. Yum.

The China Study
by T. Colin Campbell
The most important book I've read all year (or maybe ever). It's the most comprehensive study assessing how nutrition plays a key role in health and disease. Olivia picked this one out for me too. She has great taste, don't you think?

This Crazy Vegan Life: A Prescription for an Endangered Species
by Christina Pirello
If you want to know how to take control of your health, read Christina's book. She has an inspirational story of recovery from cancer. She's been practicing a vegan macrobiotic diet for over 26 years and hosts the healthiest cooking show on TV! She has lots of other books that will also strike your fancy. Check her out!

Ani's Raw Food Desserts
by Ani Phyo

Tasty treats that are oh-so-easy to make! I recommend the cashew ice cream bars. mmmmmm.

You Are What You Eat
by Gillian McKeith
Gillian's book encourages a back-to-basics approach and a return to eating whole foods. She is host of the English TV show, You Are What You Eat, and has a thriving practice that empowers her clients to live a healthier life. The only thing I'm weary of with this book are the recommendations for supplements to treat various ailments. The food tips are great!

Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life
by Brendan Brazier

Brendan proves that you can be a vegan, an athlete, and be a high energy performer all at the same time. I haven't tried his recipes but like the chapters covering preps for and recovery from workouts and races. I drink the lemon/lime water after every run and it's helped a lot!

What to Eat
by Marion Nestle

Good read for anyone confused by what we should be eating (um, that's everyone, I think!)

Here is Olivia's list!

What are your favorite books on this subject?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Whisk and the Spoon

The past two weeks have been uber busy and the reason for absence from the blogosphere as of late. Work, preparations for a weekend work event, more work, and some health-related projects that have me on cloud 9 have gotten all my attention. I haven't even attempted running/exercising, food preparation, or adequate sleep this week; it's in busy times that my body needs these things most. I've even been drinking coffee on a daily basis! Yowza. But I know that by the end of the week I'll get back on track and return to my health routines.

Despite the hectic schedule this week I did manage to carve out some quality time with me, myself, and I. On Tuesday I left work promptly at 5:00 (ok, 5:20) to check out a vegan cooking course at the Whole Foods in Princeton, NJ. You can do a search right now for classes at a Whole Foods near you! I felt so relaxed in their cozy kitchen and amongst a small group of women, all of whom were interested in picking up some new healthy cooking tips for their respective kitchens.

This particular course, titled Kitchen Pharmacy: Home Remedies, was led by Joyce Rosenblum, a Natural Kitchen chef/instructor and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She took us through a complete macrobiotic meal plan, explaining all ingredients and their nutritional benefits. The recipes were simple but full of color and texture. We learned how to make a Vitality Stew with millet, blanched vegetables with a pumpkin seed dressing, and kuzu tea. The tastebuds definitely had a grand ole time! And when the class was over there was still plenty of time to grab the ingredients in the store to replicate the recipes. Score!

The following recipe from class is being posted with permission from Natural Kitchen. The picture is from my first batch of Vitality Stew!

Vitality Stew

3 cups canned black soy or black beans (or 1 cup dried beans - see cooking directions below*)
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water to cover 30 minutes until mushrooms are soft
2 tsp grapeseed oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup corn (best to get organic; I used frozen corn)
White cooking wine or mirin rice wine
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tbsp kuzu, diluted in 1/4 cup cold water (kuzu is in the macrobiotic aisle at Whole Foods)
2 tbsp shoyu soy sauce, or to taste (*or sea salt to taste for soy-free)
1 bunch parsley, de-stemmed and minced

*To cook dried beans: (Skip this step if using canned). If cooking dried beans from scratch, put the kombu on bottom of a heavy pot. Drain beans. Add enough water to just cover the beans. Bring to a boil without a lid, skimming off any foam that appears. Allow to boil uncovered for 10 minutes, continuing to remove foam. Cover with pressure cooker lid. Bring the pressure up and cook for one hour. Turn off heat and allw the pressure to come down. Open pot and add sea salt. Cook and cover over low heat for 10 additional minutes.

Drain and reserve shiitake soaking water. Dice mushrooms.

In a fry pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook and stir the onion and mushrooms for five minutes. Add the carrots, celery and corn, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add splashes of wine or mirin to "deglaze" the pan and prevent the vegetables from sticking. Add the thyme and the cooked beans. Add vegetable broth and the reserved shiitake soaking water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer on medium or low heat for 20 minutes. Add diluted kuzu and shoyu or sea salt. Simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until thick and creamy. Serve hot, ladeled over a molded serving of millet and sweet vegetables, garnished with parsley.

Feel the energy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

To Market, To Market

A few weeks ago the running guru and I finished a challenging trail race. We always celebrate races with food and particularly food that's healthy! The latest post-race destination: Essene's Natural Foods Market for vegan macrobiotic dishes. Essene's provides a fabulous hot bar with plenty of choices and a colorful feast for the eyes. A juice bar makes this place extra special. They even have a Friday happy hour with 1/2 off prices of your favorite elixirs!

Below is a shot of what I sampled. It included a yummy bean stew that tasted kinda like a cacciatore (minus meat or meat substitute), a delicious coleslaw with eggless mayo, and earthy vegetables. Ed was super nice and bought me a stellar almond raspberry thumbprint cookie for dessert.

Did I mention you can find awesome products here too? Or that some of these products are more reasonably priced than Whole Foods? And that you can find actual honey comb here (pictured below)?! If that's not exciting enough, add the fact that Essene's also hosts cooking classes and workshops on a host of health topics.

I can't wait to move into the city and visit this place on a regular basis. Yum!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

We Did It!

Ed, Olivia and I have completed our 46 day meatless challenge!! Stay tuned for our wrap-up blog!

In the meantime check out recent posts discussing the challenge and the book that got us thinking and talking about the effects of animal proteins on health. Revisit our friend Lauren's post on the abundance of choices in a veggieful life!

Take a look at the recipes created during the meatless challenge:

Green day

Green Goddess smoothie

Tastebud Tango

Curried Veggie Stew

Cashew Coconut Pudding

If you're thinking about trying a meatless diet/food plan but not sure where to start, consider easing into it with Meatless Mondays.

Go veggies!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Olivia Visits Philly!

I was super psyched to get some quality time with Olivia, HHJ contributor and dear friend, during her visit to Philadelphia! As you may know Olivia and I met while working on the board of a young women's organization in the city and became friends over a shared passion for nutrition and wellness. We've guest-blogged on each other's sites (VitaMix Love/Balancing Act) and have experimented together with elimination diets and a no-meat challenge. After exchanging countless emails over the course of her year abroad, I was elated to catch up with her in person!

We met up on Friday for yoga in Rittenhouse. We had some giggles as we made our way through a 90-minute vinyasa class. Olivia and I had been practicing yoga regularly (check out her blog post on this incentive) but for 20-30 minutes per day at best. This particular yoga class was hard-core with many balancing acts and contortions. We exchanged several funny looks but in the end the practice was om so worth it.

Famished from the class, we quickly headed to an italian restaurant across the street for yummy veggie dishes and an outside dining experience. We were so lucky to have beautiful weather too!
We caught up on the usual topics (work, man friends - she just got engaged!!!) and then got into our latest news on our nutrition goals/experiences. We've both felt really good after excluding meat from our diets but we occasionally struggle with foods that don't like us (gluten allergy and sugar sensitivity for her; dairy sensitivity for me).

We commiserated over our efforts of spending months of time away from trigger foods and how our bodies have negatively responded with even the slightest bit of transgression or divergence from our food plans. Why can't we have a glass of wine or a bite from a boyfriend's chocolate bar from time to time without having a breakout? We both also noticed that, ironically, we allow ourselves these trigger foods when celebrating or eating for comfort when the wisest thing would be to do the exact oppositge: celebrate and comfort with foods that are not detrimental to our health! We still want to tell our bodies to cut us a freakin break but they've gotten so accustomed to good nutritious food that they don't really appreciate the alternatives. They get really sensitive about this issue. :P

So after dinner when we headed to Rum Bar to meet up with her friends, we grabbed some club sodas with lime (YUM!). A fresh juice (pineapple, carrot, cucumber, lemon, lime, and orange) in the morning got us jump-started and pumped for our day - a long run on Kelly Drive for me and travel and family time for her. I wish I could see her more often but she'll be back in no time for her Fall wedding. Yay!

Seeing Olivia, fellow wellness warrior, and celebrating good health was the highlight of my week!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Last Temptation

About a week ago my boss and I ended up talking about food, particularly meat. I can't remember how this discussion started. Maybe he saw The China Study on my desk or asked about the green smoothie I had been chugging throughout the day. I proceeded to tell him about the meatless challenge I was doing, which subsequently prompted the question, "why are you doing a meatless challenge?" My response? As diet directly effects one's health, I was forgoing meat for 46 days to see if there were any noticable changes in my own health (my friend who was also doing the challenge picked a goal of 46 days as related to the time frame of his Lenten practice). The challenge was also serving as a test-run towards my commitment to a whole-foods plant-based diet.

A die-hard omnivore, my boss debated with me on the subject and we exchanged our opinions in response to the following questions: Is it healthy to eat meat? Are our bodies naturally designed to consume and digest meat? Are there populations that fare well on a meat-eating diet (ie the Inuits)? Neither of us convinced the other. I planned to continue on without meat and he was going to bring on the bacon.

In an effort to challenge me further and see if I'd cave, my boss said he'd bring some bacon to work on my second-to-last day of the no-meat trial. It was one thing to face challenges in finding vegan dishes at restaurants or in making time on a daily basis to prepare homemade vegan cuisine but it was another thing to have someone put meat in front of me. I was nonetheless optimistic and said, "add some cheese to it too! Let's see what happens."

The temptation: bacon and gouda on grilled pita.

While I have blogged in the past about my love affair with bacon, it only took one look at its "nutritional" profile to conclude that it would have no place on my plate. I won't deny that I find it to be delicious but I personally feel that, other important reasons aside, the sodium content alone was worth steering clear of it. And while we're on the subject of flirting with old flames, I was confident I would reject the gouda too. Surprisingly, I don't crave cheese anymore! It took several months to get to the point. Do I still wish I could have it from time to time? Certainly. But my body's response to it reinforces the importance of keeping it out of my diet. Research in The China Study, which documents the relationship between milk proteins and cancer, further encourages me in keeping this goal.

So did I succumb to the last temptation? Did I wreck my 46 day goal?

Nope! I was a gouda girl.