Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's MY Body & I'll Feed It What I Want To.

Where to start?

I am a HUGE believer in plant based eating & the ability of plant foods to heal people. I greatly look up to veg wellness warriors like Kris CarrJess Ainscough & T. Colin Campbell. I love ALL animals (Okay, excluding snakes/spiders.. Just, eww.) & think "traditional" methods of farming animals, pumping them chock full of chemicals & the violent way they are treated & slaughtered, is inhumane.

I've had issues stabilizing my hormone levels since I can remember (Think back 8+ years ago to when I was a wee little 9th grader).. When I found the veg diet, I thrived. I was lean, happy, running faster times, feeling all around great. Honestly, I flourished on this lifestyle & advocated it (STILL WOULD/DO!!) for just under 4 years before beginning to experience some negative symptoms from those darn cray cray hormones..

I noticed small things over the 2013 winter months thru to now.. Rapid/unexplained weight gain & holding onto fat in places I normally do not. Sporadic bloated stomach- I'm talking 7 months pregnant belly, by no exaggeration! Roller coaster energy levels/drive to do things. My skin is broken out to no end. Sharp tummy pains & stomach aches all day, erryday. All the injuries running.. Seriously, ALL of them. Back, knee, feet, etc. Need I go on?

Did I ever intend upon eating animal based protein again? Nope.

Do I think factory farming is nasty? Sure do.

Do I intend to eat animal protein for the rest of my life? Just depends.

It seems silly that I am here feeling like I need to explain/justify why I am beginning to add animal protein back into my diet.. Some people seem to think I'm jumping straight from being a bunny food munching vegan into a meat stacking Paleo gal. It's not nearly that simple though..

This decision has been on my mind for months now. First it was eggs. I felt like my body was telling me to eat them since May. Now before you think I've lost my marbles.. I am a firm believer that in the same way the body can heal itself, when you are in tune with your body's natural hunger signals it can tell you what and how much to be eating. Let's talk eggs for example. In my pre-vegan days, I was not a huge egg gal. Actually, I was highly sensitive to them & could only eat them in cooked/baked items without getting stomach aches, gas, etc. So when I felt that my body was telling me to start eating them again, I too was all kinds of skeptical.. I added them back into my diet slowly in mid-September 2013 & have had no stomach issues to date.

Now why would my body be urging me to eat eggs, you ask? Obviously I can't be sure of this.. But in order to produce hormones our bodies need adequate cholesterol. Our bodies are fully capable of producing sufficient amounts of cholesterol on their own. While on a vegan diet, you're not taking in outside sources of cholesterol, but instead relying on your body to produce its own necessary amount. Like I said, normally this is perfectly okay & an extremely healthy way of living, but for a girl who has had troubles stabilizing her hormone levels on and off for 8 years, maybe that is a sign my body hasn't been producing appropriate levels of cholesterol on its own all along.

When there is not enough cholesterol, an alarm goes off in the body, strobe lights flashing & the body falls into crisis mode. Stress response releases corticoid hormones that help to redistribute cholesterol, causing a triage effect to then occur, rationing cholesterol to areas of the body that need it & in consequence the body is working under undesirable conditions. Cholesterol is needed for the body's repair system in order to uptake serotonin, for proper initiation of Vitamin D & hormone production, as well as regulation of blood sugar, inflammation, etc. Simply said, without adequate cholesterol, ain't nothing working right!

So it only makes sense that my body would be leading me back to taking in outside sources of cholesterol to fix that imbalance.

So why not stop at just adding back in eggs?

Imagine getting stomach aches from basically everything you eat. You're supposedly eating all of this food that is so good for you, the best/most healthy possible diet you can eat, but you are dealing with tummy aches the majority of the day. How fun does that sound? Exactly, not very. I'm experimenting with my diet to:

1.) cure my sensitive tummy issues 
2.) stabilize dem crazy hormones naturally & for good! 
3.) get rid of the PCOS-like "symptoms" I've been dealing with

It is hilarious though.. I didn't realize it would be such a big deal to other people that I've made some changes to my diet. Yes, yes.. I've come to be known as "the vegan" amongst my friends & acquaintances alike, but the mixed response I've gotten from people has been quite entertaining. Most people have been supportive, but just taken off guard or curious as to why I've decided to make some changes. There have been plenty of people who say, "What?! You can't do that!", whether they are vegan or not themselves. & many many people who act like I've suddenly "seen the light" & are excited to hear how I'm doing, what I've tried eating, etc. Love it, hate it, couldn't care less what I'm eating, I'm making changes for myself to be the healthiest & happiest I can be. The vegan diet is amazing, I've loved it & plan to eat that way most of the time still (& may go back to it completely depending how I feel/results of my "experiment"). I don't want this to become a vegan vs. carnivore issue. I believe each person has their own specific "best" way of eating for them if they key in intuitively to their body's individual needs.

What I've learned is it is best to not label my diet. I will continue to have my food blog with a goal of advocating natural wellness & healthy nourishing recipes like I always have, but my recipes and perspective will be more broadened. I'm using all the research specific to me & my needs to formulate a diet I think will help with what I've been dealing with. Bye-bye sugar, bye-bye gluten, hello to a little responsibly sourced and raised animal protein.

So..

Here's to a few positive weeks of detoxing followed by some, hopefully, successful months of experimenting & tweaking of my diet! =)


Thursday, October 3, 2013

A post for the breakfast challenged..

We are all creatures of habit.

I wake up at 6:15-6:30am daily,
grab my Greens+ bar,
a huge glass of water,
turn on some Christian tunes
& enjoy breakfast while catching up on my social media

This is my routine..
every
single
day

So here is to a new month & a new routine.

1st change on the list:
Breakfast, obvi..

Rule #1:
2 bars/week on long run days, only

So where to start?
Overnight Oats

They're super versatile, easy peasy, low fuss & the fact that they're already prepared for you when you get up in the morning will keep you from falling back into your old patterns in a pinch!



Better ingredients.
Better breakfast.
Overnight Oats.


**One of my favorite times to prepare Overnight Oats is when I get to the bottom of one of my nut butter containers.. The oats absorb those last little bits left in the container overnight**

Exodus 20:
Thou shalt not waste nut butter. Ever.

PB Pumpkin Oats
(Almost empty PB container)
1/2 cup oats
1/2 banana, mashed
1 heaping tsp ground flax (or chia) seeds
3-4 tbsp pumpkin
Dashes of cinnamon and pumpkin spice
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Drizzle of pure maple syrup

Toppings of choice!

I stirred in some PB Puffins, but you could also add raisins, chopped nuts, seeds, tbsp PB, unsweetened desiccated coconut etc. :)
I usually add my toppings in the morning so they don't get soggy overnight.

*mix, taste, & adjust portions according to your preference*
Pop these bad boys in the fridge overnight & they'll be ready to go when you rise in the morning. I always add a splash of almond milk in the morning to loosen the oats up a bit, but that's up to you and your personal preference.


Berry Nutty Overnight Oats
(Almost empty PB container)
1/2 cup oats
1/2 banana, mashed
1-2 tbsp EXTRA peanut butter
Mixed berries (fresh or frozen, as they unthaw overnight)
Drizzle pure maple syrup, to taste
1 tbsp chia seeds (or ground flax seed)

Additional toppings of choice!
*mix, taste, & adjust portions according to your preference*



Berry Tart Protein Oats
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 scoop Vega protein powder (could also use 1 tbsp flaxmeal)
1 mashed banana
1/2 cup blueberry +pineapple mix

Additional toppings of choice!
*mix, taste, & adjust portions according to your preference*


Choco-nutty Oats
 1/2 cup oats
1/2-1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1-2 tbsp PB
1 mashed banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp ground chia/flax seeds
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
Sweetener, if desired

Additional toppings of choice!
*mix, taste, & adjust portions according to your preference*


PB Bumper Crunch Oats
(Almost empty PB container)
1/2 cup oats
1/2-1 banana, mashed
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 tbsp PB
1 tbsp chia seeds/flaxmeal
1-2 tbsp unsweetened coconut
Morning add in: PB Bumpers cereal
Sweetener, if desired

Additional toppings of choice!
*mix, taste, & adjust portions according to your preference*


Banana Berry Quinoa Porridge
**One of the easiest tricks with quinoa is to make a big batch and then store it in a glass container in the fridge for the week. Then you can portion it out and reheat it quickly when desired**

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 heaping cup frozen mixed berries
Reheated on the stovetop

1/2 banana + couple Tbsp almond milk + cinnamon, to taste + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Blend & pour mixture over warm quinoa & berry mix.
Noms.

All of these are simple recipes that can be made the night before, so you now have no excuse to say you didn't have time for breakfast in the morning!


Oh & shout out to my lovelies (Cailin, Danny & Katlyn) for stopping by Starbucks this morning & chatting me up. ;) Mwah!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

(Healthier) Homemade Snickers Bars

Hey Kiddos..
You miss me?
Okay, okay..
Before you get angry with me for falling off the hot bliggity blog bandwagon, again..
I have a gift for ya'll.
Candy bars.
HEALTHY candy bars.
These little gems will satisfy your sweet tooth without going straight to your booty.
Cause let's be real..
Nobody wants that.
So, without further adieu, I present to you..
"Healthier" Snickers Bars
Adapted from: The Detoxinista
--- Makes 6 full-size candy bars or 12 “fun size” bars ---
Ingredients:
Nougat Layer:
1/2 cup crunchy organic unsalted peanut butter
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 heaping Tablespoon coconut flour 
Creamy Caramel Layer:
12 soft Medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup water (quick tip: to soften the dates more & create a more smooth texture, you can let them soak in the water for awhile beforehand. But it's not necessary!)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unrefined organic coconut oil (doesn't need to be melted, as the processing warms it enough where it takes care of itself. But you can melt it beforehand, if you so choose)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (I used raw, unsalted organic peanuts)
Cloaked in Chocolate (totally different process):
1 heaping cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon unrefined organic coconut oil

Now, here's what to do:
Prep your nougat layer by combining all 3 ingredients in a bowl. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, use a spoon or hands to flatten out the "batter" into a rectangle. I left mine at around 1/2 inch thick.

Pop this layer in the freezer to harden up while you prep the date caramel.

While the nougat sits in the freezer becoming frigid like your ex-girlfriend, you can process together all of the caramel ingredients.

Note: You'll only need half to 3/4 of the date caramel for the 2nd layer! Save the rest for raw caramel apples or to use as a dip. Trust me, it won't last long in your fridge. Nom.

Retrieve your nougaty layer from the freezer and slather on dat caramel.

Sprinkle on your chopped nuts & lightly press them into the caramel so they won't jump ship later when you cloak the bars in chocolate.

Place the bars back in the freezer to continue chilling for 30 minutes, minimum. This will help the caramel layer harden a little before you add the final touches.

When your 30 minutes is up, melt your chocolate & coconut oil. Take the bars from the fridge and chop them up into 6-12 bars depending on if you want full sized or fun sized bars.

I found it easiest to place the bars back in the fridge and take them out one by one to cover in chocolate so they didn't get too warm & become hard to work with.

Use a spatula or spoon to put a thin coat of chocolate on the bottom of each bar, place back on parchment paper and spoon them over with chocolate.

It's the final countdown!

Place the chocolate coated candies back in the freezer for a final 15+ minutes before devouring!

Nom. Nom. Nom.
These super simple little treats deliver salty sweet perfection without giving those nasty sugar highs & lows (10g LESS sugar in the full sized bars compared to the real deal! Plus 8g protein & 4g fiber)


Happy snacking. :)


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Never-Get-Sick Chocolate Cake!

 Healthy cake.

Need I say more?



Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Immunity Never-Get-Sick Chocolate Cake! 

(aka.. The most moist, wonderful, not-gonna-weigh-you-down cake everrr) 

{Serves 12}


Cake
1 2/3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups pitted dates, divided
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 cup pineapple chunks in own juice, drained
1 banana
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup raw beets, shredded
3/4 cup raw carrots, shredded
1/2 cup raw zucchini, shredded
3 tbsp natural, nonalkalized cocoa powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Nut Icing
1 cup raw macademia nuts and/or raw cashews
1 cup vanilla soy, hemp or almond milk
2/3 cup dates, pitted
1/3 cup cashews
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

**We did make a few slight changes from the original recipe!
  1. The original recipe called for 3 1/2 cups dates in the actual cake, instead we used 3/4 cup dates, 1 cup brown rice syrup & 1/4 cup agave nectar.
  2. In the "Icing" we used 1/3 cup cashews when the original recipe called for hazelnuts or brazil nuts.

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together the flour, baking powder & baking soda in a small bowl & set aside

In blender or food processor, purée dates, syrups, pineapple, banana and applesauce until smooth.

In large bowl, mix together your beets, carrots, zucchini, cocoa powder, walnuts, water, vanilla and flour mixture. Add the blended mixture and mix until well combined.

Spread in a 9 x 13-inch nonstick baking pan or 2 round cake pans.

Bake for 1 hour or until you are able to insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and have it come out clean.

 Icing:

For the "icing", use a high-powered blender and combine all icing ingredients until smooth and creamy. Spread on cooled cake(s).

 


This cake reminded me of the perfect moist & fudgy brownie. You can have a huge slice of cake with no guilt & the best part, you don't get that crumby foodcoma from all the sugar and calories!

Can I get an amen!?


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Veggie Detox Soup


Veggie Detox Soup {4 servings}
Inspired by: Tara's Veggie Detox Soup
What ingredients you'll want to wrastle up:
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2-1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing onions
  • 1/2 onion
  • huge handful kale
  • huge handful spinach
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Salt & Pepper
  • I also used a little garam masala, but not necessary. I was just feeling it. ;)
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups light coconut milk (the kind in a can)

Fill a large pot approx. 1/2 way full of water & place on the stove to boil.

In a medium-large sauce pan, drizzle with olive oil. Add in chopped onion & saute on medium heat until onions begin to turn translucent.

While onions are cooking, add chopped sweet potatoes to the boiling water & cook them until tender.

Add garlic to the pan with the onion & saute for a few more minutes. Turn to low until potatoes are tender.

Drain the sweet potatoes & add back into the large stock pot. Add veggie stock, spices, onion mixture, whole ginger, as well as all the other vegetables of your choosing. Cover with a lid and simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Making sure to stir a few times throughout.

When your 15 minutes are up, stir in the coconut milk. Continue to simmer with the lid back on for 5-10 more minutes.

You could eat the soup nice & chunky as it is, but to bring out the most flavor (& my recommendation..) would be to puree 2/3-3/4 of the soup in a blender.

Usually I am all about chunky/hearty soups, but this one is simple, wholesome & extremely satisfying. Feel free to add or exchange any of the vegetables! This recipe is highly versatile, so go crazy or whip it out on one of those days where you have a lot of veggies in the fridge that you are dying to use up.


Monday, March 11, 2013

I love Mondays.













Today I will.. choose to love my life. Focus on the blessings & the beauty of it, while expelling all anxieties, worries & tension. Today is my day & I choose to make the best of it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Do These Chemicals Make Me Look Fat? Obesogens: what they are and why you should care!


You feel like you're at the end of the road. You've tried every diet. You've counted as many calories as you can stand. Let's not even delve into the stories of those days when you acted like you were experiencing perpetual PMS because you were skipping meals. Don't succumb to the idea that you are forever stuck rocking that muffin top.

Yes. Diet is a huge component of achieving a healthy weight, but have you ever wondered if you were missing a part of the puzzle? & I'm not talking exercise. (That comes tomorrow.) ;)

Let's talk toxins, y'all.

Numerous studies have shown that there is a direct link between the increased usage of chemicals in the U.S. and the increase in obesity in adults. A landmark 2002 study, from the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, found just that. Increased industrial chemicals in our environments are in parallel with the ever present obesity epidemic.

So what do you call these nasty obesity contributing chemicals? Obesogens. Clever name, huh?

Obesogens act as endocrine disruptors. Basically meaning, they are chemicals that mimic hormones & mess up the physiologic function of these particular hormones,  reprogramming your metabolism & causing it to build and store fat.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

So what falls under the category of being an obesogen?
  • Pesticides
  • Preservatives in food & cosmetics- think BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) & BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Parabens
  • HRT- Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Birth control pills
  • BPA- Bisphenol A
  • Phthalates- a plastic softener found in many brands of nail polish, shampoo & soap
These are toxins that you are exposed to on a daily basis, so it may not matter how many hours you have racked up at the gym or how diligently you have been watching your diet, you may never achieve the health goals you are seeking because these dang obesogens are getting stored in your fatty tissues! So when you finally make some progress and do lose some weight, these chemicals that have built up in your fat cells are released into the bloodstream, reeking havoc on your thyroid. They cause a decreased metabolism, possibly accompanied by fatigue, nervousness, depression, insomnia, damage to the reproductive system & possibly cancer!

This decrease in metabolic activity causes the body to hoard calories instead of burning them off, making your desired slim down even more difficult to achieve. But don't throw in the towel! Reducing your exposure to these nasty toxins is easy if you're willing to make a few little changes.

Baby steps, people.
  1. Buy organic fruits & veggies! Conventional fruits & vegetables are sprayed with all sorts of pesticides & insecticides to get them looking nice, plump & able to travel 1,500 miles to local grocery stores.. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), you could cut your pesticide exposure by a whopping 80% if you avoid the most contaminated produce options in favor of eating the cleanest options. Read up on the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen here.
  2. Choose glass instead of plastic for food storage.  BPA is a lining that is often found covering plastics, the inside of canned soups & sauces (Except Eden Organics! Yummm.), etc. Items like reusable containers & Tupperware are also lined with harmful softening agents called phthalates. These obesogens can leach from plastics into your food & eventually wreak havoc on the body. Phthalates can also be found in items such as raincoats, vinyl flooring, backpacks & PVC shower curtains.
  3. Reach for toxic-free cleaning & personal care products. This one is a doozy. Toxic-free makeup can cost a bit more than your typical department store buys. You can check out how your cleaning products stack up here & how your makeup products rank here.
  4. Step away from the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Try to cut back on your sugar intake all together & when you do use sugar go for more natural options like pure maple syrup, medjool dates, sucanat, coconut sugar, palm sugar or evaporated can juice crystals. HFCS has been linked to increased abdominal fat storage and triglycerides. Do yourself a favor and toss the stuff for good!
  5. Say no to fragrance. Items listed as containing "fragrance" are basically telling you that they are loaded with synthetic chemicals, of which can be hidden & undisclosed under the name fragrance. Don't let them fool you, choose fragrance options that are derived from essential oils or go for unscented household/beauty products. My current favorite is
Now, you don't have to go crazy trying to eliminate all of these things at once. Maybe decide to cut out a couple small things or even just one of the toxins you know you've let creep into your daily life. But don't wait.

What is one toxin you will commit to eliminating this week/month? I'd love to hear your thoughts, successes, trials, whatever! Good luck, sweet potatoes! ;)