Sunday, February 15, 2015

What is a Plant-Based Diet Anyway?

I've had some questions lately about what it means to be on a plant-based diet. For ease, I just tell people I'm eating a Vegan diet, but that's not entirely true.

While it's true that I'm not eating any animal products, I'm also not eating processed foods. I really have made a huge change in my diet: absolutely no animal products, no refined sugar (really, no sugar... I've cut it all out), and no processed food.

What does that mean? It means that if I want pizza, I will be having cheeseless pizza. I know, I know, you're thinking, "But they make vegan cheese, you can eat that! It's vegan!" Yes, you're right, it is vegan... but how much processing did they have to go through to make that cheese?  Personally, even when I've given up meat for lent (its a religious thing...) in the passed, I never ate foods that tasted like meat products: No fakon, no tofurkey, no fake cold cuts... It's just not something I've ever been interested in because it might make me want the real thing, plus if I'm giving it up, why would I want to taste it.

In the past I've considered going Vegetarian and Vegan, but never thought I could or would. I've said that I've watched the movie Forks Over Knives before, but for whatever reason I wasn't ready... this time I was ready. I like what it says about the human diet; I like the results the couple of people on the documentary had; I like the studies they quoted; I liked the doctors they spoke with. It all made sense to me.

So, what else is different between being Vegan or being Plant-Based? Well, besides the food, vegans are vegans because of ethics and tend to be very passionate about animals and animal rights. They won't wear anything animal related or tested on animals: clothing or cosmetics. There's nothing wrong with that and, unless they're a crazy PETA advocate, I respect vegans for their decisions. While I've chosen to stop eating all animal products for purely health reason, I don't begrudge animal eaters.

A lot of people have told me, "I could never do that, I love chicken," "Life without cheese, I don't think so!" "Wait, you don't eat bacon anymore?" Will this be easy? No. My mother and I were invited to her neighbors for dinner last night and Mom was making a fruit plate, to which she added a stick of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharpe Cheese. I took it in my hands and looked at her, "This used to be my favorite brand and cheese!" to which she flatly responded, "Well, now you can't eat it." I know I can't eat it, but a SMALL part of me was jealous of them at dinner. Which, by the way was duck, the salad had cheese in it... but she made a side of beans and didn't put cream in the soup that was for me, and even her baked potatoes, she saved two halves with no butter for me. I had some beautiful fruit for dessert, and I was happy!

I didn't feel deprived. If you're going to do something like this, or really whatever you do that is new and different, you have to have your heart in it. It has to be a decision you make consciously and then you can do it. Kasia said to me last night, "Well you can have cheese once a week, there's nothing wrong with that." But I told her I don't feel deprived, I don't actually want it (She's so cute, she gave me a big hug and said she's so proud of me). I'm in this whole heartedly and I can't currently imagine going back to eating meat and dairy. That being said, its not even been a month just yet, so its still early, but I'm happy!  So if you're thinking This is too hard, maybe you're not ready! Or even better, Dr. Esselstyn said it best, "Some people thing the 'plant based whole foods diet' is extreme. Half a million a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn into their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme." 

Have you ever made a big change in your life where people have thought you're crazy or that you're being extreme? What was it?

Till next time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mexican Inspired Salad

I have a quick and easy dish I’ll likely be making on the regular for lunch and anytime I need a quick and easy meal.  It’s a Mexican inspired quinoa salad. I took two recipes and mashed them together to create my own, which means you can make changes to it as well, add what you like, and omit what you don’t!

I used a can of beans this time, but in the future I’d likely use dry beans, they’re fresher and have less “crap” in them! I also use frozen edamame and corn, you can use fresh. I don’t particularly like canned vegetables if I can help it.


Half a green bell pepper, chopped
Half a red bell pepper, chopped
Half a small onion, chopped
Can of beans, I used kidney
1 cup corn, I used frozen
1 cup edamame, frozen
About 1 ½ cups Quinoa or some other grain you’d rather use

Mix all the ingredients except the avocado, kale and salsa together. You can now put it in the fridge and it will last several days. When you’re going to serve, put a bed of kale in your dish, or in my case, container for work, put the salad over the kale, top with some avocado and a spoonful of salsa (I used whole foods brand bean and corn salsa. I don’t mix it together in case of anything getting soggy.

I love this dish! If you try it, let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

Drinking my favorite: Carrot, Apple, Ginger
I’m really enjoying this journey so far. I feel like I’m learning about myself besides learning about food.  This last week started off bumpily. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve had some snow days up here and being stuck home all day is really tough when you’re not able to eat food. 

I spoke with Kasia, my nutritionist, and she basically told me to stop being crazy: I didn’t have to completely abstain from solids to be detoxing. I knew this already, I just wanted to try, and I wanted to see if I could challenge myself in that way. I made it a week but on day 8, I had about a cup or two of watermelon with dinner.  Kasia informed me that watermelon is excellent for detoxing and I shouldn’t feel bad about it.

An important part of a new diet is planning. I spent sometime this last week planning my meals for the upcoming week. One of my favorite mantras is:

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

I say it to myself when I do fail to plan, or if I get lazy about it. It reminds me that if I want to eat well, I need to plan for it. Since I’m only just starting a plant-based diet for the first time, I really need to make sure I plan if I want to be successful and stay within my desired dietary restrictions.

I have a great planner I bought at the beginning of the school ear, but soon realized I don’t need to put any notes in the “daily” section so when I need I needed to plan meals out for the week… what better place!

I set aside some time and opened my laptop to find some recipes I want to create!  It is important to know your limitations, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses and to know what you can handle before starting something new.  These are all things I’ve thought about before I started meal planning.

I’m Armenian and very proud and involved in my heritage and food and everything. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot of Armenian dairy foods that I love!  That being said, since Armenia was the first Christian nation, a lot of what we are about centers around our religion… Why am I telling you this? During Lent it is customary to “give up” something, but traditionally, Armenians gave up all animal products, essentially becoming vegans. There are so many Vegan friendly dishes that there’s actually a cookbook dedicated to it which we own, see where I’m going with this?

When you’re starting something new, make sure you incorporate things you know and things you will learn so you don’t get bored. I love all the vegan favorites so I know I can happily stay vegan and while I may miss cheese boreg, I can still eat vospov kuta!  I know that I will eventually get bored with just the Armenian recipes so I have researched and found (pinned!) a lot of recipes I would like to try.  I have planned a “salad” dish for my lunches and three to four dishes for dinners over the week depending on if we finish the leftovers sooner or later.

I’ve loved the way I feel drinking juice, so I’m planning on continuing with that, for breakfast, and maybe juices too.

Breakfast: Juice, piece of fruit

Lunch: Mexican themed Quinoa Salad (I’ll post my ‘recipe’ tomorrow)

Dinner: Mujadara, Leek stew, FOK Shepherds Pie, and maybe Cassoulet or Eetch

Snacks: Fruit, veggies, Juice, FOK Banana Blueberry Bars

The “FOK” recipes are recipes I found on the Forks Over Knives website or books.

I then went through to see what ingredients I needed for each recipe and made a shopping list.

From there I’ll be preparing some of the pieces to these meals tonight for the week. So far I feel great and I don’t feel deprived! I know why I’m doing this and I’m in it to win it!

Have you made any changes for your healthy recently? What are they?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Day 7 - FAQ

It’s been a week of juicing. So, how is it going? Depends on the day!

The most common questions I get asked are:

Aren’t you hungry? I’d be hungry, I couldn’t do it! Well, duuuuh! I’m not eating… I’m only drinking. So yes, I am hungry! Well, sometimes more than others. I’ve gotten used to that hungry feeling. It’s opened my eyes a little bit: It’s okay to be hungry; I don’t have to eat every 5 minutes. It’s not easy to go from someone who feeds her feelings to someone who doesn’t eat. At. All.

Is it unbearable? No. It’s teaching me that I am stronger than I think I am. Being at home for long periods of time (snow days) is harder.

Why are you doing this? Are you losing a lot of weight? Well, I have a few reasons. I’m trying to reboot and cleanse my body of any toxins and crap I’ve been ingesting the last month or two. I also figured I can reboot my brain from what it thinks it wants and the foods I’m addicted to.  I thought this would be a nice transition to going fully plant-based. And no, I’m not doing this to lose weight, while people do use a reboot like this to jumpstart a weight loss it’s not my goal. If you do it for 30 days or more you will likely lose enough weight that it may not come back when you start eating normal again. I am, however, realistic. I know that there is a good chance I will gain everything I lose when I eat normal again. To date, I’ve lost about 10 pounds in the last 7 days.

I mentioned in previous posts about the documentary Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead and I heard a lot in there that I liked. If you read the John Cross’ blog (the creator of the documentary) on why you should reboot, he says,

The goal is to help you break a cycle of an unhealthy lifestyle and simply enhance the quality of your diet by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables.

He also says you’ll lose weight, flatten your belly, your skin glows, you think clearer, you start to naturally release disease, and you become all around happier. (check out this link for more bonuses with explainations from another source.)

My take on the above: Yes, I’ve lost quite a bit of weight, about a pound a day. Other than the occasional zit (at my age??) I have good skin. I have ADHD, so I can’t imagine ever thinking clearly. I have no diseases. I’m always happy… but I will say that every morning I go to work with a juice I am more chipper than usual. I’m bubbly, bouncy; I just want to bounce off the walls! It’s great. Unless you’re around me and not a morning person… then you just think I’m too much!

How long are you doing this for, you crazy person?! 10 Days! Before I started, I thought to myself I will do 10, but I’d like to do 21 days if I can, but I’ve decided 10 days is just fine. After 10 days (Wednesday) I will add some vegetables into my diet, possibly in the form of a salad, for two or three days at dinner time. My reasoning to this is two fold: 1) Whenever you do a cleanse, you have to slowly reintroduce food back into your diet in order to not get sick, 2) I won’t have time during the week to plan meals and I need to make sure I have time to plan in order to be successful.

If you’re planning a cleanse/detox/reboot, you have to make sure you do your research and think realistically about what you can and will do. You can do a reboot and still eat some fruits and vegetables. I know myself, I don’t like to do things half way and when I put something in my mind, I do it.  That being said, while making my juices last night I cut a small, nickel sized piece of cucumber and slowly savored it. I didn’t feel guilty about it either.

I don’t mind when people have questions, my juices have started a lot of conversations at work, which is fun. My students’ most common question: “Are you drinking peanut butter?” No guys… its just carrots! Orange and green makes peanut buttery colors!

I had some obstacles this week. I went to a girls night at my friend Lisas’ and there was a great spread of food including dips, cheese, man n cheese, cheese, cannoli’s and cheese. Did I mention there was cheese? I brought with me my juice and seltzer so I wouldn’t go hungry! I smelled the foods, which does make me sort of want it but I love food, so smelling was enough - but I didn’t eat anything! It felt like a triumph!

I have one little trick that has helped me throughout this last week: drinking seltzer water. I’ve become obsessed with the Polar Ruby Red Grapefruit seltzer, it is so refreshing and delicious! I’m not sure if it’s all in my head or not, but I think the bubbles fill me in some way. I do drink a lot of tap water, but I supplement with seltzer when I’m feeling hungry sooner than I’m ready for a “meal.”

Are you considering juicing? Have you been a juicer for years? What advice do you have? Leave a comment below!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Juicing Day 1

Other than a few people I see daily, I haven’t really told people that: 1. I’m juicing and for how long I’m juicing and 2. I’m going to be following a plant-based diet afterwards.  First of all, it’s not really anyone’s business (not that I have issue with sharing any part of my life with anyone), but more importantly, I don’t feel like hearing why THEY think I’m wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting advice, but I’m a grown woman, I’ve done research, and while I appreciate peoples care for me, I don’t appreciate people trying to talk me out of things.

Just last night, I told my uncle (well, it kinda came out) that I’d be juicing. My mother had told him about the vegan thing, and he proceeded to tell me why I’m wrong. Thankfully, I was able to speak with him about it and he didn’t push. That conversation didn’t go as well with my father.

Its tough telling people close to you about big changes you’re going to make in your life, but if you do research before hand and are well informed, it likely won’t phase you. You’ll know how to respond to every point they think they’re making. Also, you won’t be thrown any curve balls you hadn’t thought about if you do the research first – before you go around telling people about whatever changes you are planning to make. I feel good about the changes I’m making and I’m not worried about anybody’s’ opinion! Okay, enough about that!

I have a Jack La Lanne juicer, it works well and I love it!
Notice my Tang glass pitcher! 
Today was the first day I was full-time on my juice cleanse. I was a little hungry early in the day, but I was busy with students and tried to fill up on water so I was able to ignore it. Then I came home and I couldn’t look passed my hunger. I’ve spent a large portion of the afternoon/evening hungry, thinking about the apple I saw on the counter… maybe I can just smell that strawberry… I’ll just eat one grape… cucumbers are so full of water- I can eat that, right?  Everyone I talked with told me that the first three days are the worst, and now with Snowpocalypse 2015, I’ll be home and around food more. Although the nice thing is that I can hide out in my bedroom away from food. As difficult as this feels right now, I’m still planning on doing 10 days! A colleague told me he does a 30 days reboot every summer and mentioned Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, telling me I should watch it, but I told him I had! We talked about juicing recipes and juicing it was a good conversation.

Which brings me to a big point in juicing: Recipes. If you Google juicing, I bet half the sites, if not more, are websites with recipes. Does the recipe matter? No, well, not really. But people seem to make a big deal about it. The important thing is that you make a mix of veggies you like and you’re picking vegetables that will give you some benefit. Personally, I’m juicing for overall health, so for me, it doesn’t matter. If I had diabetes or high blood pressure, it might matter more. I’d want to make sure more of my juices had the elements that would help my ailment.  If you’re looking for overall health, just find what veggies you have in the fridge and go! I’ve been reading about which vegetables help what ailment, and a stand out piece of information: potatoes juiced with the skin are great for arthritis! Who would have thought?
Today's breakfast, snack and lunch,
juiced and ready for my belly!

Do you have a juice recipe you love? What do you normally put in your juicer? What about big changes in your life? Have you had pushback from friends or family? I’d love to hear how you dealt with it!

Until next time!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Before I begin...

Before I begin my, what some would say is a crazy new diet, I have to admit something... As the days roll on, I find myself more and more excited about the change I’m about to make. I have less desire for meat now. Sometimes the thought actually makes my stomach turn. It’s strange because I never would have even thought that I could feel that way about meat. I love meat. Always have. At least I did…

I talked with my neighbor/nutritionist (KL) because my mother was worried about what I’m about to do. I told her about my plan, what I want to do and what I’m looking to accomplish and she was very excited for me! She said I have a good plan but did talk about what foods I’ll have to look to adding to my diet to make sure I’m healthy. She gave me some pointers in which fruits and vegetables are good for which types of ailments, I’ll go more into that in my next blog post, and she lent me a book she had with recipes.

KL said that a juice detox is great for the body because it gives your body a chance to reboot, exactly what I was looking for.  When you’re just drinking your fruits and veggies, you’re not getting the fiber, which is more difficult for your body to digest. While fiber is normally a good thing because it keeps you full longer, when it comes to a detox or cleanse, you want to flush your system so you want juices are easy to digest, in other words – no fiber is best.

If you’re not juicing fulltime but just adding juice into your diet you can add some of the pulp (or “waste”) back into your juice so you’re getting fiber.  I’ve also seen a lot of recipes that use the pulp from juicing. This is not something I will be doing while on my detox, but I will likely continue juicing so I’ll try it at a later point (have you ever made something with the pulp?). KL talked about how the pulp is full of nutrients too and great to use in dishes.

She also mentioned if you want to start a cleanse or detox with fulltime juicing, you’ll want to ease into it just as you would ease out of it. I hadn’t thought of that before. You’ll want to have a little less protein daily until you start, and add juice more and more into your diet as well. Last night I made a pitcher of juice, which was not nearly enough. It was basically three servings. I shared so I only had one, but it made me see just how much I’ll have to be making daily. The juice was delicious: a lot of carrots, 2 apples, one clove of garlic, a piece of ginger (about 2 inches), a cucumber, a beet, a bunch of parsley, and a lot of celery… and I think that was it.

Do you have a juicer? Or do you go out and buy juice? What’s your favorite kind?

Until next time my friends!