Why Food Revolution Day Matters

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I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes life gets in the way of eating healthy. For the past four years, I’ve been working full-time and taking classes for my MBA part-time, and two years ago I also found myself starting to write for and edit StartSomeGood’s blog part-time. Convenience became the name of the game and, while I was a physically healthy weight throughout this entire period of time, I doubt that I could call myself healthy from the inside, out. Lean cuisines, Skippy peanut butter, and Morningstar veggie-everything ruled my life. At the time, health to me was all about counting calories and limiting my cravings. And I was unhappy.

While I do acknowledge that I could’ve been in a worse situation—I was thin and at no risk for any diet or weight-related diseases—I didn’t feel great and I could see my relationship with real food slipping away. For goodness sake, I had only Ikea kitchen knives up until a couple of years ago! I attribute my healthy weight during that time period to my portion control abilities and the naturally constricting limitations of a vegetarian diet—I could eat that sodium-laced Lean Cuisine, but I couldn’t eat a package of over processed Tyson chicken nuggets so, I suppose I was a bit better off than some people (again, I suppose). But, again, I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t healthy on the inside. I was hungry and lacking energy and I wasn’t active.

Anyway, I digress. I can’t exactly pinpoint what changed and when, but REAL food came back into my life and has literally become my obsession. I find myself scrolling through recipes on Sprouted Kitchen and Oh She Glows for hours on end. Real food is beautiful and, when cooked right, brings out the most amazing natural flavors. Real food is FILLING and I can eat more of it because I know it’s helping to make me healthy. I’m no saint—I can’t say I don’t have a couple of bags of tortilla chips in my pantry at any given time or that I don’t have a few Trader Joe’s frozen meals as back-up for lazy days—but in general I find myself craving real food more and more. I even recently discovered a hidden love for brussels sprouts—go figure!

And the results are really noticeable! I may have actually gained a few pounds from my skinniest Lean Cuisine eating days, but I’m still the same size I was a few years ago. I’m just healthier. I have more energy. I’m super active. I attribute this mostly to all the long hours training to run half marathons and eating whole foods rich in healthy fats (i.e. avocados, coconut oil, cashews, etc.) that have allowed me to replace my fat with muscle. In fact, I’m positive my body fat percentage is lower now even though I don’t have the measurements to prove it. I couldn’t power through 13.1 miles on a frozen meal, but I can with a healthy helping of whole grains and a side of delicious green veggies (I must admit, I looooove carbo loading before a big race).

Now I eat a mostly vegan diet (when I cook, that is—meals out are another story…goat cheese and good burrata are my weaknesses). Vegetarianism and veganism, however are not the answer to health. I know plenty of “junk food” veg friends. The key is a diet rich in real, whole, fresh foods. I recently got the results back from a blood test that I had as part of my annual physical and I was pleased to find I am not deficient in any vitamins even though I choose a mostly plant-based diet. That and my cholesterol was lowered significantly from my last blood test two years ago. Guys—I’m telling you this works! I am happy because I no longer feel limited. And now when I do satisfy a craving for some takeout pizza every now and again, I literally don’t like the way it makes me feel after and I don’t crave it again for a long time.

All that AND my relationship with the kitchen grown drastically over the last few years. I find my cooking skills are evolving and I’m learning how to adapt recipes and make them my own. I am starting to love cooking. Discovering this passion has given me some serious direction in life and for that I am seriously grateful.

So, my point is, Food Revolution Day is May 17th. Check out foodrevolutionday.com to see what you can do to get involved. Go cook something! Host a dinner party. Cook a meal with your kids. Spread the news around your friends’ news feeds. Go ahead; annoy the crap out of them. They’ll appreciate it in the end. Help yourself and others discover a love for REAL FOOD!

What will I be doing? Loading up on some complex carbs to prep for my run in the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon the next morning! But don’t worry; I’ll cook up a nice side of kale too. 🙂

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my rooftop herb garden

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Making Time For Our Health

Busy, busy, busy….everyone is just so busy! 

I genuinely believe in the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. But, lately, I’ve been seriously letting myself slip. On any given day, I have several projects to work on, errands, work, school, exercise, friends–the list seriously never ends. I’ll be the first to admit–when life gets in the way, it genuinely becomes difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. After all, eating healthy requires planning meals ahead of time, shopping every few days, prepping ingredients, cooking, cleaning up after yourself. These tasks start to become arduous when they get in the way of your productivity. When you are tired and hungry it becomes SO tempting to pop a processed meal into the oven or microwave and in five minutes, voila, dinner!

You are tired and still have 5 hours left of work to do before you can go to sleep, so you grab a soda or a latte or an energy drink to keep yourself awake. You’re up until 2 am so snacking starts to seem genuinely innocent. You don’t have anything in the fridge so all of a sudden you start letting yourself eat foods with ingredients like yellow #5, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin. You don’t know what these are, but you know they aren’t found in nature and you don’t have the time or energy to care. You start to feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and your skin is dull and your nails are flaky and weak. You are too lethargic to exercise. Your weight slowly starts creeping up on you…so slowly that you don’t even realize it. All of a sudden, even your “fat” pants are starting to feel tight. Sound familiar?

Well, it sure does to me. I’ve been eating j-u-n-k lately and I’m not okay with it. Even that seemingly harmless can of lentil soup has 600 mg of sodium (per serving!!) in it. For someone who advocates health, for someone who aspires to bring healthy fresh foods to families living in food deserts, for someone who believes so strongly in the benefits of a plant-based diet, I’ve been seriously slacking.  

My first back on track meal comes courtesy of Kid Tested Firefighter Approved–cute name, amazing plant-based recipes! Tonight, I made Portobello Mushroom Pizzas and boy were they delicious. The only thing I changed was that I used artichokes instead of olives because olives have a lot of sodium and fat. Also, I didn’t have time to soak cashews overnight so I boiled water, turned off the heat, and let the cashews sit in the hot water for 45 minutes while I prepped the ingredients (when time is of the essence–get a little creative!) Also, the recipe is for 3 servings so I only used 1/3 of each ingredient. 

MmmMmmm good!

All in all, the meal took me about 1 1/2 hours to make. Yes, that’s a bit long on a normal day for me, but I think the important thing is to plan meals out ahead of time. Make use of that Google Calendar and start planning out your meals a week ahead of time. Then, when you have a less hectic day, you can prep a few things for the week! Since I had some time tonight, I made a delicious Chickpea Ratatouille that will be my lunch tomorrow and worked on a few blog related things while I let it bake. 

So let’s get back on track! Planning is key–set out your meal plan at least a few days ahead of time and soon you’ll find yourself able to better prioritize your health. Let’s give it a shot!

October Challenge: The Weekday Vegan

I’m sure some of you know the concept of being a weekday vegetarian–Mr. Hill’s TED Talk is a much more eloquent explanation than I could possibly give about its benefits, personally and environmentally. Anyway, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 15 years now, and the concept of weekday vegetarianism is great for some, but at this point I’m well beyond meat cravings. We all have different reasons for not eating meat. For me, what started off as simply advocating for the rights of animals evolved into a desire to be healthy while fostering a healthy environment by my early twenties. And, let me tell you, when I was a 15-year-old vegetarian, I was nowhere near eating healthy. Pizza, fries, Ralph’s cream ices, and Cheez-its were all staples of my vegetarian diet. But, hey, I was 15 and played softball every single day of my life–who could blame me? Anyway, I digress.

Lately I’ve been feeling pretty extreme fatigue even though I get about 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night. Some of it may have to do with not getting into a deep enough sleep, but I try to fix that with melatonin when I know I’m sleeping enough hours to justify taking it. Anyway, the point is–I can’t afford for this to be happening. I’m a busy girl–a day job, a blogger, a runner, and a grad student, among other things–like, you know, being a friend and daughter and sister. I need to have energy and I need to be healthy. I place a great emphasis on health and am actually mostly vegan, but I have an unhealthy relationship with goat cheese that just won’t allow me to take the full plunge. So, what’s a girl to do?

I’ve been obsessing over Oh She Glows all weekend (please check that site out, it’s amazing…Ah-mah-zing) and it gave me an idea–for the month of October, I’m going to experiment with a weekday vegan and gluten free diet–basically a plant-based non-processed food diet. Why no dairy, eggs, or gluten? I’m trying to figure out if any of these are the culprits behind my fatigue. Also, I just think any little bit helps and if I’m plant-based 5 out of 7 days of the week, I’m doing a pretty darn good job of staying healthy and doing what I can to beat my fatigue. I’m not the most amazing cook in the world, but I’m also not the worst. My latest concoction (mother tested and approved btw–so you KNOW it’s good) was roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions and baby portobello mushrooms, all stir fried with tofu shirataki noodles (better-known as miracle noodles, they are low carb and gluten free)  So, starting this week, I’m giving it a shot. Let’s see how this goes–feel free to try along with me, or just be a weekday vegetarian, or just try Meatless Mondays 🙂

MMmMmm-Mother Approved