Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yes, I get enough protein!

My trainer at crossfit yesterday asked me something that I hear all the time: "Do you get enough protein?" The answer is YES! You can get plenty of protein in your diet with out eating meat, even if you're an athlete. I used to believe that vegetarians/vegans did not get enough protein until I tried it myself. I'm actually kind of surprised that this myth exists since we grew up with cartoons of Popeye eating cans of spinach to get strong.

So, to prove to everyone that there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein, I decided to track my protein intake in a typical day of me eating vegan.

Breakfast: smoothie with Vega One, banana, and almond milk - 16 g

Lunch: spinach salad with red pepper, avocado, chickpeas, and edemame - 14 g

Afternoon snack: apple and peanut butter - 6 g

Dinner: Mexican-style pizza with sprouted grain tortilla, Daiya cheese, pico de gallo, and black beans - 14 g (recipe on this coming soon!)

Evening snack: popcorn with nutritional yeast - 8 g

That's a total of 58 grams of protein, which is over my recommended daily value! If I didn't want to use a meal supplement like Vega One, then I would eat something like chia seeds, quinoa, or oats with nuts for the same amount of protein. Therefore, crossfitters can be vegan :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reasons to go organic

I keep going back and forth between buying organic fruits and vegetables, mainly because of the cost. Many of the natural foods that I buy are already organic but its easy to not buy organic fruits and veggies because they are so much more expensive than their pesticide-covered counterparts. We've all heard the rumors of pesticides being linked to cancer and such but what are the actual reasons that you should buy organic food? Here's a summary of a list from Organic Gardening:

1. Genetically altered crops like soy and corn use so much weedkiller that researchers are finding it in rain, the air, and streams. The chemical glyphosate is in the weedkiller and linked to potentially irreversible metabolic damage, infertility, obesity, learning disabilities, and birth defects.

2. Hormone-disrupting phthalates, common fragrance chemicals used in soaps and shampoos, are winding up inside produce. The potential source is human sewage sludge that is applied as a fertilizer to farm fields.

3. Some chemicals in pesticides tamper with our body’s natural weight-loss chemistry thus increasing the risk of becoming overweight and obese.

4.  Pesticides are also linked to diabetes. Though obesity and genetics remain the two biggest risk factors for the disease, certain pesticides may interfere with the way our bodies produce the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

5.  Pesticides could interfering with your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D wards off cancer, diabetes, infections, heart disease, and broken bones and boosts your immune system.

6. Factory farming has become so filthy that farmers not only inject low levels of antibiotics into animals, breeding antibiotic resistance in humans, but they’ve also had to resort to other questionable techniques to prevent e. coli and other bacteria from getting into the food supply.

7. Thanks to an increased reliance on pesticides and machinery, farms have been able to grow in size while cutting back on labor. Organic farms create more jobs, which is good for the community but also one of the reasons that organic food is more expensive.
It is a fact that genetically-engineered crops paired with pesticides have drastically increased the yield of farms, especially in the U.S. But, is this system sustainable? Are pesticides leading to more problems, like increased risk of disease? I think that this ongoing debate is very important and until the government tackles this, then you have to make your own personal choice. You may be paying more for organic food now, but you could also save on health care costs in the future.

My personal debate about buying organic fruits and vegetables is ongoing but I'm thinking about switching over 100% until I can grow my own produce (hopefully I'll have a backyard one day). Going back to reason #3 above, some chemicals in pesticides lead to excess estrogen in your body which leads to excess fat in your midsection. I have actually noticed that I have less fat in this area during phases of eating organic produce. So if you already have a healthy diet and exercise regularly, eating organic can be that last step to reach your health goals. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Need a snack? Make some kale chips!

I know I just wrote about snacks a couple days ago but if you need another healthy munching idea...try making some kale chips! They are super easy to make, and much better for you than other chips, obviously. Kale is a type of cabbage and high in many vitamins, including calcium. It also has anti-cancer properties.

To make your kale chips, just buy a bunch of kale in the produce isle, wash, and rip into bit size pieces. The easiest way is to lay them out on a cookie sheet and spray lightly with olive oil. The you can add some flavor with salt and pepper and other seasonings, including vinegar. Preheat the oven to 350 F and bake the kale until it starts turning brown on the edges, 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easy quinoa salad lunch

Everyone knows that bringing your lunch to work is way cheaper and healthier than eating out. But waking up early or taking time at night to make your lunch is a hassle. I try to make a larger batch of something on Sunday that I can bring to work all week. One of the easiest (and healthiest) things to make is quinoa salad. Quinoa is more popular in South America and was once considered the "gold of the Incas." Quinoa looks and tastes like a grain but is actually related to spinach. It is not only high in protein but also a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is also a good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, and phosphorus, making it valuable for people with migraines, diabetes, and atherosclerosis (

Because it is high in protein, quinoa is great for a light but filling lunch. I use about 1/3 cup of dry quinoa for a serving. To cook it, just take 1 part quinoa, 2 parts water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Then, add your favorite vegetables to make the salad. I don't have a particular recipe, but for today's lunch (pictured below) I used steamed broccoli, red pepper, kelp granules, and calamata olives. I also added some salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil, and juice of a lemon wedge for extra taste. You can eat this salad cold or heat it up if you used cooked vegetables. My "warm" quinoa salad has more of an italian twist with tomatoes, basil, green pepper, garlic, onions, and olives.

This isn't the most exciting lunch but its easy to make in a batch and extremely healthy. Because quinoa doesn't have a strong taste and is similar to rice, you can experiment with adding anything to it. Let me know if you come up with any fantastic recipes!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Healthy snacks delivered to your door

I came across this website called Healthy Surprise and decided to give it a try. For a monthly payment of $38 or more for a bigger package, you can get healthy snacks delivered to you monthly. The snacks are natural, vegan, and gluten-free. When I got my package (pictured below) I was actually quite disappointed because I thought that there would be more snacks for $38! It turns out that some of the snacks are considered way more than one serving and the snack box has actually lasted me longer than I thought. I keep the snacks at work to munch on between meals.

So I thought about discontinuing the service because I thought it was expensive but I've since changed my mind. The snacks are delicious and I love that they are also healthy! They are truly made with natural products. For example, the Mrs. May's fruit chips only contain the fruit as the ingredient. The fruits are freeze dried and made into chips and they taste like candy! I also like the "Coco-Roons" which are coconut-maple snacks that are very filling. The other snacks are sesame or nut based. I'm already looking forward to next month's batch to try some new things. I also like the convenience of this service because I don't have to comb through the isles of Whole Foods and read every ingredient to find healthy snacks. So if you're looking for some great snacks to keep you away from the vending machine, I recommend trying Healthy Surprise!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

5 Metabolism Boosters

I cam across a great post today by Vega and Peggy K that I wanted to share with you. Here are some of the best holostic metabolism boosters (copied straight from the source). I drink Yerba Maté tea sometimes and think that I'm going to start drinking it more often. It pretty much tastes like green tea and has a good amount of caffeine. I also try to regularly add kelp and cayenne pepper into my diet. You can buy kelp granules (pictured below) at a health food store and add to your salad/soup or other food just like salt. They are pretty salty so don't add extra salt. I especially like kelp on my salad with an olive-oil based dressing, I think the tastes go really well together. You can add cayenne pepper to just about anything you want to add some heat to. But be careful! It's really hot and I've made the mistake of adding too much into recipes before. Go for just a pinch or 1/8 teaspoon. I haven't tried SaviSeeds or Yacon syrup yet.

1. Yerba Maté

Yerba maté is a South American herb that researchers have indicated could be beneficial as a weight loss aid, possibly due to its caffeine or saponin content, or its reported effect of creating a sense of satiety. Swap out your daily coffee for a fresh brew of yerba maté tea for an energy kick and metabolism boost before a workout.

2. SaviSeeds

SaviSeeds (also called Sacha Inchi seeds), are found in the plush, star-shaped green fruit of the sacha inchi vine, grown in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. These tiny seeds contain the winning weight-loss trio of protein, omega-3 and fiber. Savi Seeds are the highest known plant-based source of Omega-3 fatty acids on the planet—and they’re a great source of plant-based protein. Omega-3s help mobilize stored fats aiding in weight-loss, while protein increases caloric burn rate. Plus, protein coupled with high fiber content will help satiate hunger keeping you feeling full for hours.

3. Yacon syrup

Who would have thought a sweetener could help you lose weight? It can! In fact, this sweetener can help lower your body mass index, control blood sugar levels and shrink your waist circumference. How is that possible? Yacon syrup has a high concentration of fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which act as a pre-biotic fibre that gives the full feeling without any calories. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that yacon syrup had a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference, body mass index and serum insulin levels in pre-menopausal women. In addition, the fiber in yacon helps to increase satiety, helping you to feel fuller, longer.

4. Kelp

Your thyroid gland is directly responsible for your metabolism, so an underactive thyroid can make it nearly impossible to lose weight. Normal, healthy thyroid function relies heavily on dietary iodine. Kelp is a rich source of iodine, so including kelp in your diet can support thyroid function by helping overcome iodine deficiencies; a healthy thyroid regulates metabolism, and a healthy metabolism can help shed some unwanted pounds.

5. Cayenne pepper

When taken regularly, studies suggest an association between capsaicin consumption—the active compound in cayenne pepper—and an increase in thermogenesis (the production of heat in your body). Diet-induced thermogenesis has been shown to help facilitate weight loss; however, it is necessary to clarify that a sprinkle of cayenne will not magically cause weight loss, but rather acts as a catalyst for weight loss to occur. Regular use of cayenne pepper can be a fantastic tool to help increase metabolism and facilitate weight loss alongside a healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reasons to Eat Vegetarian

When I tell people that I don't eat meat, they think I'm crazy (especially in the Midwest). Being vegetarian/vegan is gaining popularity in the U.S. and around the world for many other reasons than just wanting to "save animals." In fact, saving animals is not even in one of my top reasons for being vegetarian.

1. Meat is gross! I may be an anomaly in America but I actually don't like the taste of meat. Not only that, but when you're eating meat, you are eating the rotting carcass of an animal. Meat is often contaminated with feces, blood, and other bodily fluids, all of which make animal products the top source of food poisoning in the United States.

2. Save the planet! The amount of meat that Americans (and other developed countries) eat is completely unsustainable. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the meat industry is "one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems." Not eating meat or just eating less meat is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your climate change impact. More so than reducing your electricity and fossil fuel usage! All of the food that is grown to feed livestock could be feeding humans directly. One day, meat production will become so unsustainable that it will be extremely expensive, so you'll have to be a vegetarian unless you're rich.

3. Be healthy and have more energy! Vegetarians and vegans tend to be much healthier than meat-eaters. This is mainly because they pay attention to what they eat and eat many more fresh vegetables. Trying to lose weight? Substitute your meat with vegetables and beans and see what happens. Eating more vegetables and less meat will also reduce your risk of developing countless diseases. A very common myth is that vegetarians do not get enough protein. Actually, plants, beans, nuts, and seeds have protein! Read this post if you don't believe me: Do Vegans Get Enough Protein?

4. Save money! Vegetables are cheaper than meat. When I first stopped eating meat, I made the mistake of buying too many "meat substitutes," like veggie burgers, that tend to be expensive. I know try to make everything from scratch, which is not only cheaper, but also healthier.

You don't have to completely give up meat if you don't want to. I'm not perfect either, I eat fish and seafood occasionally. But, eating meat for both lunch and dinner everyday is completely unnecessary for your nutritional needs. Start with eating a vegetarian salad once a week and see how you might like it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring Cleanse Diet

I've recently started a new part time job in another city so I've been traveling a lot and getting lazy with the food I eat (eating out way to much) and not exercising. Plus, I got bronchitis from my roommate and I feel like crap! Therefore, its a perfect time for me to start a spring cleansing diet!

The major part of the "cleansing" will be to have a smoothie for breakfast instead of my usual cereal. The best protein and whole food supplement that I've found is made by Vega.This supplement not only has variety of plant-based protein (no soy) but also contains many other essential nutrients. It's a perfect substitution for a meal. I've been using for about a year now and it's great! They just came out with an even better supplement called Vega One that's supposedly tastes better and has event more nutrients! I just ordered from Amazon, so I'm excited to get it and try it.

To make my morning smoothie, I use my awesome 1-cup to-go blender, and add the following ingredients

3-4 ice cubes
1 banana
1 scoop chocolate-flavored Vega
2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
Dash of cinnamon
~30 drop of ginger extract (optional - but great for digestive health!)

Then, fill the rest of the cup with almond milk or water and blend! This smoothie is so packed with nutrients and b-vitamins that I don't even need coffee in the morning, no joke!

So, for the rest of my diet I will do what I usually do (but what I've been lazy about recently):

- No processed carbs (sugar, white flour, etc.)
- No dairy or meat
- Limited "healthier" carbs (whole grain bread, brown rice)
- Lots of broccoli (helps absorb excess estrogen, which causes fat storage in midsection)
- Salad or soup for lunch
- Start running again! (plus crossfit of course)

What are your goals for this spring?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No-bake Chocolate Brownies

Craving chocolate? No problem, chocolate is actually healthy and tastes great. It's the sugar, milk, and other additives put into chocolate that are bad for you. So, I got this no-bake brownie recipe from Dr. Oz's website. It uses raw cocoa powder, which you can get at a health food store or on Amazon. I know its not cheap but its the best way to satisfy your chocolate cravings. You can add the powder to smoothies or use in other dessert recipes. I'm actually going to try to make my own chocolate bars soon!

1 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
1 cup organic raisins
1 cup oats

In a food processor purée the cacao, cayenne, cinnamon, milk and raisins until a smooth paste forms. Add the oats to the food processor and quickly pulse to incorporate them. Transfer the mix into a square or rectangular container lined cross wise with wax paper. Press down to form the brownie base. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares before serving. Enjoy!