Be the Happiest, Healthiest You!

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My top 10 Foods for Weight Loss

It seems that as Americans, we are obsessed with weight loss. And is it really any wonder? Our population is growing and growing. In some demographics the rate is as high as 49% (CDC). I too have been one of those people who has tried every fad diet, every pill, every strange concoction. But nothing ever seemed to work or at least work for very long. Over the last 18 months, I have lost 36 pounds, and I continue to loose weight.

But how can I possibly do that with no fad diet? I do it through abundance and because I am a vegan. I don’t eat processed foods. That is so hard for many of us because processed foods are inexpensive. Next week, I am going to talk about how to get more fruits and veggies out of a smaller budget. But for now, I want to talk about the top 10 foods for weight loss.

1. No sodium seasoning (I use Spike or the Costco Brand)

Don’t add salt to your food. Plain and simple. Salt makes you retain water. It makes your blood pressure raise. High salt intake has nosaltbeen linked with osteoporosis and with stomach cancer. It is really not great to take a salt shaker and pour it on your food. Many of our foods already have salt in them, so it isn’t necessary to pour salt on them as well. For more information about salt, visit http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/salt/

What can you do instead? Use a no salt added seasoning. These are really tasty and there are many varieties available at every grocery store. Find the one that you like or make your own. If you think you can live without that salty taste, remember your taste buds replace themselves every 1o days. In no time you will be amazed at how good your food tastes without the salt and how much you don’t need it any more.

Personal story about salt intake: Recently, I put my husband on a no salt added diet for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days, I told him he could eat anything he wanted with as much salt as he wanted. He immediately picked up a bag of chips. He ate one chip and said, “I can’t eat this, it is too salty.” He said he felt sad that he no longer wanted to eat his favorite chips, but he was glad he realized how much salt is in processed foods.

2. Oranges

Oranges are my personal favorite food. They taste so good. They can satisfy a sweet tooth or a sour tooth. The sweet and tangy orange, tangerine, or clementine can make you feel satisfied. Plus they are usually pretty inexpensive. Oranges are also a good orangessource of vitamin C. So not only are you satisfying your craving for something sweet and sour, you are also getting a punch of this awesome vitamin. One large orange has nearly 100 mcg of vitamin C. And studies have shown that 500 mcg daily can have a huge impact on your health from helping your immune system to reducing wrinkles. Check out what WebMD has to say about oranges.

 

 

3. Kale

kale

Kale has recently become a superstar recipe. And no wonder… it is chalked full of good nutrients. And we all know you should be eating more leafy greens. CLICK HERE for hundreds of videos on why you should choose kale. Among them are boosting your immune system, reducing your risk for lung cancer, decreasing the visibility of wrinkles, the list goes on.

But I’ve also heard a lot of people say they don’t like the taste or texture of kale.  For me and my family, we eat it on the regular and we really enjoy it. You can steam it, saute it, or put it in a smoothie. My family enjoys massaged kale salad. Simply put your favorite salad dressing on a bunch of destemmed kale and massage it for about 5 minutes. Yummy!

4. Vegetable Broth

veggiebrothVegetable broth may seem like a strange addition to the list. But it is really awesome because it can help you stop using oil. You have to be careful to get a low sodium brand or you can just make your own, but broth can be an excellent weight loss tool.

First, vegetable broth adds lots of flavor to food. If you want to mash a potato but don’t want to add all the fat from milks and margarine, then you can mash it with some vegetable broth, and it will be lovely and creamy.

Don’t want to use oil to saute? Then you can saute your onions and other goodies in a just a little bit of vegetable broth. It is great to add to soups and other dishes. But it is low in calories. You can just sip on some broth if you need something warm in the afternoon. It adds a lot of flavor for minimal calories.

5. Tomatoes

tomatoTomatoes are delicious. That is why you should eat them. No, I kid. Tomatoes are great because they can keep you on track. Eat tomato sauce on top of potatoes or pasta; eat salsa with veggies or potato sticks; make your own ketchup or barbecue sauce.  If you are trying to reduce your fat and salt intake, then tomatoes are your best friend. Not only are the low in fat, but they taste salty so they don’t need a lot of extra salt and they can help add that salty punch in foods.

Tomatoes also reduce inflammation and  have anti inflammatory properties. Tomatoes are also inexpensive, easy to grow, and can add so many different flavors to any meal.

6.  Chia Seeds

chia seedOmega 3’s are important. Many Americans and people around the world get their Omega 3’s from … fish oil. Don’t do that. Fish are increasingly becoming contaminated by radiation from Fukishima in Japan. Not only that but many are harvested or raised inhumanely. They are high levels of toxins and antibiotics. They are just overall not the health food people have been led to think they are.  (CLICK HERE for more information on fish).

So if you aren’t getting Omegas from fish, where should you get them? Why not give Chia seeds a a try? Yes, they used to be grown on the top of weird shapes to produce funny little plant statues. Those same Chias are a superfood. Not only are they high in Omega 3’s but they also are super filling. They make you feel full longer. They can be used to thicken anything and make a delicious pudding. Here is one of my favorite puddings by Dreena Burton. (CLICK HERE).

7. Water

waterDrink WATER. Just Drink IT. “Oh but water doesn’t taste good,” you say. Ok, fine. Then add a few drops of flavored stevia or dilute some juice. Squeeze in a lemon. Or just chug it. But no matter what you do, drink water. If your pee isn’t clear every time you pee (which should be at least 8 times a day), then you are dehydrated. Water helps you flush toxins. It nourishes your cells. Some studies have even shown that it makes school children smarter!

How much water do you need? At a minimum, you should halve your weight, and drink that in ounces. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking 80 ounces of water. But do it even better and everyone try to drink 2 liters a day or more. Your body will thank you.

8. Bananas

bananaB-A-N-A-N-A-S. Bananas are the best. No, you aren’t going to overdose on potassium (unless you eat like 10,000 in 30 minutes). Bananas are a great source of vitamins including magnesium which many Americans are deficient in. It has cancer fighting properties, they are yummy, they are cheap. Bananas are really the food of the gods. Some days, I eat as many as 10 bananas in one day! (To be honest, I’ve eaten as many as 20). They are portable since they have their own container (their skin). You can eat them on the go. They aren’t a weird food since most people eat bananas, so you can eat them pretty much anywhere without fear of judgement.

Need more reasons? They have been shown to reduce the effects of hangovers and morning sickness. They even have been shown to help in fever reduction. CLICK HERE for 25 more reasons to eat bananas.

Side Note: Bananas should be spotted in order to be ripe and for you to get the full health benefits.

9.  Maple syrup

mapleMaple syrup is my favorite thing. Make sure you get real maple syrup. The real deal. It is more expensive, but it is worth it. Maple syrup is for more than topping pancakes. It is a great sweet replacement for sugar. You can use it in desserts instead of sugar. You can put it on oatmeal or over other grains like quinoa. You can use it with inexpensive things like bananas as a dip. I add it whenever I need something sweet. I put it in salad dressings and have even used it in marinara sauce.

Now if you are looking for something healthy as well as yummy, choose date sugar or just plain ol’ dates. But for me, I find that maple syrup is good. It is natural. It helps you get rid of that sweet tooth need for refined sugars. And so I love it.

10. Nutritional Yeast

nutyeastWeird ingredient alert! I bet some of you have never heard of nutritional yeast. Even if you have, you probably have never used it. But have no fear, nutritional yeast is awesome. It is not like bakers yeast used in bread products. It is not like brewer’s yeast used in alcohol products. It is just a non active yeast (always labeled nutritional yeast). The first reason you should add it in to your diet is that most nutritional yeasts are fortified with vitamin B12. Yeah, we get to eat our B12.

Ok, but more importantly, nutritional yeast can help you get off the cheese. Cheese is bad. It is yucky. It is addictive and full of hormones, antibiotics, disease, calories, and fat. Cheese is the number one source of saturated fat in the American Diet. But Nutritional Yeast can give food a lovely cheeseyish flavor. Does it taste like cheese? No. But you can make some really tasty sauces (CLICK HERE) for my favorite. These sauces can help you remember the yummy creamy flavor of cheese without cheese.

Remember it only takes 10 days to change your taste buds, so give it 10 days, and feel better and be skinnier.

Three Days of the Happy Herbivore Reboot

My family has been in a state of transition. We have moved three times in six months. Needless to say it has been a rough six months. Those months were filled with lots and lots of (vegan) junk food. In an attempt to get our family back on track, when we moved into our new home, I decided that we needed to reboot. I had read a bunch of stuff about the Happy Herbivore reboot (www.rebootcleanse911.com). So I decided to give it a go. I met Lindsay at the Get Healthy Marshall New Year, New You event in 2013, and I thought maybe her reboot would help us refocus. We are doing a total of 13 days. I thought I would give a post of how it went. The first three days was the really big part, and Happy Herbivore offers a three day reboot, so I thought it would be the most helpful. I’m going to show you the food and give you my daily reflection so it is going to be a pretty long post:) Scroll to the section RESULTS if you just want to see how it turned out.

First things first: The daily detox drink. She says you should drink this every morning. I couldn’t choke it down. I tried twice. I just gave up. I couldn’t do it, and I decided not to torture myself to try.

Day One:

Opulent Oatmeal

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This was pretty good. It wasn’t very sweet, so when you are used to sweeter oatmeal, it took a little adjustment. However, I have since had this again, and it was amazing. So, I guess the point is to understand that if you are coming from a really sugary breakfast sorta place, this is going to be a jolt. But it is really yummy. (Kid approved)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Chili

P1060342 This chili is the bomb diggity. I ate it several times. An omnivore friend of mine who eats a SAD (Standard American Diet) came over, and she thought this chili was the bomb. It is so yummy. The pumpkin makes it the right consistency for chili, but you don’t really taste the pumpkin. It is so good. (Kid approved)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pineapple Stirfry

P1060343P1060344 Ok, so this was ok. But it isn’t anything I would cook again. The rice wasn’t included on the plan, but we had to have something or else it would have been like pineapple soup. I think this recipe could be good, but it definitely needs some refining. (Kids said eh).

 

 

 

Day Two

Red radiance Quinoa

P1060346 If you have never had quinoa for breakfast, and I never had, do it. Do it today. That is so yummy. My husband said it tasted like dessert for breakfast. It was the most amazing thing I think we ate on the reboot. (Kid approved).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear Lentil Salad

P1060347 Ok, obviously this wasn’t the recipe. I just didn’t like the idea of mixing lentils, pears, and salad dressing. So instead, I made a huge salad. Put some lentils on the side and ate the Pear for dessert. It worked better for me.  My husband won’t eat lentils. He says it brings up traumatic memories of his past relationships. So, I gave him garbanzo beans instead of lentils. (Kid approved, surprisingly).

 

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Barley

P1060348 This was ok. It was really salty tasting even though there wasn’t any salt. It was also really mushroomish. (Not kid approved). I won’t make it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Three

Peanbutter Cup Shake

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Ok, I know the photo is sideways, but this is the most delicious breakfast shake I have ever had. I would eat it every single day of my life. (Kid approved)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Tacos

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These were also so yummy that if this all I ever ate again, I would be cool. (Kid approved).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moroccan Stew


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Ok so this was also super good. It had all these yummy cinnamony flavors that I just adored. (Kid approved).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Pears

P1060353Dessert was included every night (which I didn’t picture), but holy heck. This was so good I had to show it to you. Roasted pears with yogurt (soy of course) on top. Just wonderful. (Kid approved).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results

After 7 days of rebooting, I got sick. My friend’s son came over and he was sick. My daughter got sick, and I just hugged her for like an entire day, so I got sick. It was a disaster. We basically ate soup for like four days. So prior to the illness our results were fantastic. I lost almost 5 pounds. But better than that I felt happier and just better. My husband even pointed out how great he felt. I think part of the reason was that we were cooking and eating together. Part of the reason was that every meal was made with love and tasted great. Part of the reason was that I lost weight. I mean, it was a fantastic experience. It did just what I wanted it to do. It brought my family together and it refocused us as whole food vegans.

Would I recommend it? I can’t say yes fast enough. If you are omni, try it. The worst thing that will happen is you will find out you are a vegan deep down in your heart. But really, you will have a few days of lovely food that will taste great and help you get off processed junk. If you are vegan . . . well basically the same thing. So rush over and visit rebootcleanse911.com and get started today.

 

 

Obsessed with what my kids eat: Maybe more parents should

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Yesterday I went on a field trip with my six year old (holy cow she is six!), and I found myself obsessing over what she was eating. I was counting up grams of protein and amounts of calcium in my head. I found myself looking up values of different nutrients in one type of bread versus another type of bread and so on.


Then it occurred to me: Before I put my kids on a mostly vegan diet, I never really thought about what they ate. I tried to make sure that they ate healthy meals, but really, I never gave it much thought. So, why am I obsessing now?
If you go online and search out information about being a vegan parent, there is so much information about how it can be bad for kids from information about B12 to vitamin D and protein. People tend to fall into one of two camps: vehemently against vegan kids or absolutely for it. I am the kinda gal who has to do the research, so I just had to keep reading. The truth is that B12 is a food additive because it comes from bacteria, but most people get it from dairy and eggs. Vitamin D is added to dairy as well. Most Americans eat too much protein. If you spend 10-15 minutes outside without sunscreen, your body makes plenty of Vitamin D, by the way.
And, many of the products we eat in our house have B12 as an additive. There are plenty of ways you can get B12–from supplements, nutritional yeast, other foods.
So, because of my new found obsession, I decided to do a side by side comparison of what my kids eat now and what they ate before the new diet (I put the values into Livestrong’s my plate calorie counter). What I found out is that they eat about the same amount of protein. They eat more calcium and get more essential nutrients such as vitamin A and K and Manganese. The most important finding is that they eat less calories and less fat (with virtually no trans fats) while getting this valuable punch of nutrition.
I could only think to myself, I wish I had spent more time thinking about what we were all eating before! I don’t think parents like me are the problem. I do think about it. I make sure they have access to a wide variety of foods. And I am positive they have changed their taste buds. They eat everything from turnips to Swiss chard. I rarely hear complaints. We don’t have a cookie in the house, and not a single child has complained.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have cookies. If you have read my other posts, then you know we love a good Oreo. But it isn’t something that we must eat in our house everyday now. On many of the blogs, the Vegan parents say something like, “if I said I was going to feed my kids pink slime nuggets and chemicals pressed with sugar disguised as cookies, no one would say anything.” That really resonated with me. We don’t question if someone feeds their kids junk food diets. We rail if someone says having obese children is akin to child abuse, but then when we want to do something like go Vegan for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, then people say you might be doing something wrong. We have internalized this message so much that I have become obsessed with what my children are eating.

Here is the basic fact of the matter, my kids are healthy, they are energetic, lovely children. I am concerned about them, and I make sure that they get what they need. I may make mistakes in terms of what I feed them, but you know what, it can’t be worse than a steady diet of McDonald’s. So, back to the field trip that sparked this obsession. I was surrounded by five, six, and some seven-year-old children. Many of these children were already displaying the signs of an unhealthy life style (such as obesity and type II diabetes). I was sitting with my field trip group at the park, eating lunch, and I was looking at their lunches.

Let me start by telling you what Medea was eating:
Peanut butter and Vegan marshmallow fluff sandwich on whole wheat, whole grain bread.
Fruit salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries.
Mishmash (applesauce with cinnamon).

Normally I pack a “dessert” item in her lunch like a bar or a cookie or something, but we were out. She recently told me she doesn’t have enough time to eat her entire lunch so she would rather have the mishmash than the cookie. She at the fruit salad first and then the sandwich. She saved her mishmash for after she played a while. (Preview: We are going to make oatmeal energy bars so the recipe will be coming soon!)

The other children were eating one of two meals. They had either brought their meal from home or they had a school provided lunch. Let’s start with the school provided lunch. The school lunch was a ham and cheese single sandwich. A bag of baked chips and an apple. Every child (three in my group) who brought a lunch from home brought a lunchable. The lunchables were ham and cheese with crackers, a Capri Sun, and a chocolate bar. Each child with a brought lunch also had it supplemented–one child had chips, one had more candy, one had a granola bar. The lunches were gross. Not a single child ate all of their sandwich, but they did eat the candy. Most of them ate at least part of the apple as well.

I noticed that some of the parents who had also chaperoned the field trip brought their kids fast food lunches. It was everywhere. I felt so overwhelmed by the fast food, processed nation that my kids live in. My 13-year-old is still giving me a hassle about how we eat, but I know in my heart that at least she gets good, whole foods at home. I hope that some of that wears off on her. Maybe the compassion component will come later.
For now, I am going to try to obsess just a little less and just to make sure that I continue to plan well rounded, yummy meals for us to eat.

On a funny note from the field trip: As one of the stations, you could be an artist. We all drew pigs and wrote “save the pigs!” I included a picture of Mae’s drawing. (I wrote the words).

Happy Easter: Loving My Mother Today

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I am not religious, but my parents are; and thus, we celebrate Easter with a huge family dinner every year. Our normal dinner menu includes items such as glazed ham, mashed potatoes (loaded with butter and sour cream), pies, etc.
As we approached this holiday, I was so nervous–how was I going to handle my first big holiday as a vegan? I wasn’t worried about me. I have a lot of will power, and I am totally committed to my cause (although I did have a major break down yesterday which will be the topic of tomorrow’s post). However, I normally do a lot of the cooking in concert with my mother, and I was really worried about how I was going to handle cooking for my family. Since Easter is what I consider one of the minor holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving being the major holidays), I saw it as a dry run.
Thankfully, my mother came up with a great idea: let’s do a lemon/Greek theme. Yes! We mostly call it Greek, but it was really a lemon theme since everything had lemon in it. Then my mother searched out Vegan margarine and vegan bread so I could have garlic bread (one of my favorites.) I freaking love you mom! So that was a great Easter treat.
So, we had a wonderful Easter dinner. We were all full and satisfied, and I think everyone was super happy with our Vegan supper.
Easter Menu:
Greek Lemon Rice Soup
Hummus with Pita Chips
Salad
Olive Bar
Quinoa Salad
Fresh Fruit Salad
Homemade Lemonade
Greek Lemon Soup (My Mom’s Recipe)
2 Carrots
2 Celery Stalk
1/2 Onion
3 Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
2 Garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
1 tbsp Smart Balance Margarine (optional)
8 cups Water
Saute carrots, celery, onion, garlic in olive oil until tender. Add bouillon, rice, lemon juice, and water. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer until rice is tender. Once rice is tender, add margarine.

I also wanted to give the recipe for my special Quinoa salad.
2 cups Quinoa
4 cups water
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
1 cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 small onion
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 25 minutes or until tender. (When quinoa is cooked it has a ring around the edge). Dice all the veggies.
In a mason jar, mix the lemon juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the quinoa, veggie, and the dressing.
So Yummy!
I have put up my hummus recipe up before but I will put it up again because it is so awesome.
2 cans of chickpeas
2 tbsp tahini
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of olive oil
salt
water
Put the ingredients in the cuisinart (except the water). Turn it on. Add a small amount of water in a thin stream until the hummus reaches the desired consistency.
Here are the pictures rounding out our meal (except the fruit because I didn’t take a photo of that).


The point being . . . this was one of the best Easter dinners we have ever had. It was VEGAN. It went wonderfully. I am so happy. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family. Everyone is still nervous about the major holidays, but we have a lot of time to adjust before then.

Being the ripe tomato

>When I first started on my journey to happiness, I read a book in which the author said you have to be the ripe tomato. She meant if you want people to follow your advice or purchase your services, you have to show how wonderful the product of that advice or services is going to be.
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the ripe tomato concept. Often before I give someone advice or start standing on my soapbox, I think, “am I already a ripe tomato for this concept.”
The truth of the matter is I am not always a ripe tomato, but don’t click away just yet. We are all works in progress. There are days when I am cranky, sad, lazy, or just plain stubborn. I have to admit my craft projects aren’t organized and I missed a doctor’s appointment in January (without canceling–YIKES!) The difference with me, is I am aware of my short comings, and I have the tools to fix them.
When I am cranky, I can say, “I recognize that I am cranky.” Then I know what to do to turn that crankiness around. My life’s journey has taken me down many down many bumpy and unpleasant roads. While I was traveling down these roads, I often thought of giving up or giving in, but in the end, I have learned something valuable about myself and about navigating life. Now, I am still working on my journey, but I am a lot better off.
I don’t just want to help you with your journey through meditation techniques to relive stress and increase focus and happiness or through goal setting techniques and follow through encouragement, I want to be your ripe tomato, so I want to share with you my experiences. I want to use this blog to share with you the ways that I use my techniques to help you improve your life.
I hope that you will take this journey with me, and that you will invite me to be part of yours. Check back often for updates!