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Friday, June 29, 2012

The Great Local Food Tour

We try to shop locally when possible. We go to the farmers' markets on the weekend, I try to buy food that is in season, when I see that something is grown or made locally I am more likely to buy that than other options. But we still get a lot of our food from Wegmans- let's face it, it is convenient to have everything you need to buy under one (large) roof. But this summer, we are making more of an effort than ever. So I am excited to announce The Great Local Food Tour!

Every weekend, I will be going to farms, small retail shops, farm stands, etc. I am starting with my county (Chester) but I have big plans to also tour Montgomery County, Philadelphia, and whatever else I can get to as time permits. I will be asking questions about organic vs non-organic methods, what's in season, different varieties of specific fruit or vegetables (what makes an heirloom an heirloom), each farm's history and their reach.

We will still be shopping at Wegmans a great deal- for now, it's the easiest way to get things like almond milk  (although I plan on making my own eventually), coconut oil, beans, grains, and nuts in bulk, and certain warmer climate or exotic fruits (avocado, papaya, mango, citrus, etc.)

But ingredients for salad, in-season fruit and veggies, mushrooms, honey, eggs, dairy and even peanut butter? I already know I can access them easily at our farmers market in Phoenxville. Now I just plan on expanding our options, supporting other local farmers and businesses, and creating blog content along the way. ;)

If you are local, want to follow along on this adventure? And if you are not local, I hope what I learn and share inspires you to seek out your own local food!

P.S. The finds I share will largely be plant-based, but there will sometimes be meat and animal products. Chris eats meat (rarely) if it is organic, pastured, etc. We also occasionally eat eggs, cheese, ice cream (him and Aurelia more so than me.)

A Vegan Snack! Plantains (or Platanos) with Avocado

Chris loves plantains and wants to know how to make them well. I think they are ok, but only when fried crispy, and when we have tried to make them, they didn't come out right. Until last night!

We got home late from some errands, and the kids needed to go to bed ASAP. But we hadn't had a proper dinner, we weren't hungry enough for a big meal, and we didn't want to cook all that much anyway. Chris exclaimed, "Plantains!" I groaned and said I might not eat more than a bite.

He found directions on frying plantains on Youtube, and in a few minutes we had a quick snack.

Chris sliced the two plantains into 1/2 inch thick slices and heated coconut oil on medium. When the oil was hot, he placed the slices in, fried for a few minutes until golden, flipped them, and fried the other side. Once this step was done, he let them cool and drain on paper towel. Once slightly cooled, he gently mashed them to about half the thickness (but didn't let the pieces break apart), and placed them back in the hot oil to fry a bit more on each side until they were a golden brown. The darker they got, the stronger the caramel flavor.

We didn't make an accompanying sauce though- one we found called for sour cream, which we don't typically eat or keep in the house. I have a recipe for raw vegan sour cream, but I didn't feel like dirtying the food processor. So Chris topped them with sliced avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice. (We would have used lime but didn't have any on hand.)

They were so good, I was wishing we had more plantains! They were salty, sweet and caramel-like.Very atypical of me. They probably weren't the healthiest snack, but it isn't something we would make often and we don't normally fry food. Aside from the fat and oil from frying, they also have fiber and healthy fats from the avocado. I think they would make easy and very different party food- how often do you go to a party and it's all boring crudite, chips, and dips? These would jazz things up! Next time we might top off the little stacks with a homemade sweet salsa.

Do you like plantains? How do you prepare them? Any recipes to share?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Vegan Meal- Fettucini Alfredo (with Sauteed Mushrooms, of course)

I try not to make pasta too often- it's just that there are more nutritious grains out there, and pasta can make one feel heavy, tired and sluggish. Sometimes I make zucchini noodles by running a zucchini through a spiralizer and top them off with raw marinara or pesto. But I do love real pasta every once in a while, in all its gluten glory. So, lately when I feel the need to indulge, I balance it out.  I only make enough for one serving each for Chris, Aurelia and me, I mix in beans or some other source of protein, and also some vegetables.

When Juli used this recipe and said it was a hit, I knew I would have to try it, but I made some changes.

1/2 pound pasta
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms sliced
1 portabello sliced
coconut oil
garlic powder
1 cup cannellini beans
1 1/2 - 2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup basil leaves
garlic clove
drizzle of good olive oil

If beans are dry, boil until they are cooked through and soft. Drain them and toss them in a blender along with the milk, basil leaves, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, adding more milk if necessary for desired consistency, and adding more salt as necessary for desired taste. Note, this made about double the sauce I need for 1/2 pound of pasta- I just refrigerated the extra for another meal.

Boil fettucini, and while it cooks saute the mushrooms in coconut oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until browned.

When pasta is cooked al dente, drain it off, toss with about half the sauce (if using a whole pound of pasta, use all the sauce) in a bowl and top it off with the browned mushrooms.

I used cremini and portabello but any mushroom would do, I think. Next time I make this, I plan on mixing in some baby spinach leaves and/or peas. The beans do a nice job of thickening the sauce without adding dairy or fat, and if blended well, they go undetected.

Do you like pasta? How do you eat it? Do you consider it a treat, or is it in regular rotation? Mmm pasta.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Vegan Meal- Roasted Root Vegetables

This is the first summer I have ever gotten into beets or turnips. It all began when I saw "baby beet greens" advertised at one of the stands at the farmers' market. I hadn't known then that one could eat beet greens, and I had never eaten beets except for a few times. The baby beets were tiny, and the farmer told me the greens at this stage were very tender and could be eaten raw or cooked. So I bought the greens and the beets came along for the ride. Since then I have been a beet eating machine.

There is a similar story for my discovery of turnips. I bought some for the greens, and found I actually like turnips when they are small. They taste good sliced raw onto salad, same with the beets.

This dish came about when I needed to make dinner, FAST. I started chopping various vegetables, and tossing them in olive oil in a large oven safe dish. When I had chopped everything I came across, I looked at the pan and marveled at the rainbow of colors, and realized everything was a root! I didn't measure anything, so this is a rough recipe.

red onion
Several beets (depending on their size)- I used yellow beets here
Several turnips (again, depending on size)
fresh herbs- parsley and rosemary both work very well.
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop everything but the garlic to roughly the same size. Mince the garlic well. Roughly chop the herbs. Toss the vegetables in a good amount of olive oil with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs and lay in a large roasting pan. Roast in the oven for about 1/2 hour, maybe more, or until everything is fork tender. Cook a bit longer if you like some crispy bits!

Considering how this was a random mix of food, I was pleasantly surprised. It was slightly sweet from the beets and carrots, while the garlic, onion and potatoes gave it a very savory comfort food feel. Plus it was nutritious and filling. Win!

I don't think it would hurt to stray from the root theme and throw other veggies in- maybe some peppers, mushrooms, squash, whatever.

I really need to get better at having my good camera charged and at the ready when it comes to meal times....
What do you cook on the fly when finding a recipe isn't an option?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Vegan Meal- Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms

I have a slight obsession with mushrooms. Maybe it is because they are a whole natural food that easily takes the place of meat in my book. They have a meaty texture, a very savory flavor, they are cheap and easy to find. I buy them every. single. week. Sometimes I get them  from the farmers market, sometimes the grocery store. My favorites are shitake and oyster mushrooms, but I am not all that picky, as long as they are fresh (canned mushrooms- why? gross.) This week we bought cremini at the farmers market (all they had left- to be used in a future recipe) and portabellos at the grocery store. Tonight I used the portabellos and topped them with a stuffing of sorts. Yum. (As you might have noticed, I am on a stuffed food kick.)

I found various recipes for stuffed portabellos- great for inspiration, but none was super healthy-sounding. I was looking for veggies, no butter or cheese, a whole grain (no bread crumbs), and quick. So this is what I came up with!

Portabello mushrooms (we used 3)
barley- 2 cups dry
2 zucchini chopped
red onion chopped
coconut  oil
olive oil
2 garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a lasagna pan, clean the portabellos and remove stems, and place the caps bottom side up in the pan.

Saute red onion, garlic, mushroom stems and zucchini, seasoned with salt, pepper, and parsley, in coconut oil over medium heat.

Boil the barley until tender but still chewy. When cooked, drain and mix in sauteed vegetables. Stir in olive oil  to moisten.

Spoon the mixture on the caps, heaping them high. Put the mushrooms in the top one third of oven for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are fork tender.

Since this was a first for me (making stuffed mushrooms) I wanted to keep it super simple. I think some variations I might try next time include replacing the barley with quinoa or coucous (the barley doesn't clump together) and increasing the vegetables (maybe some carrots, chopped squash, chopped spinach or other greens.) I might also add lentils.

Still- we were practically licking the plates, and my toddler Aurelia kept saying, "NOM!" (Her way of saying, "more please!" No idea where she learned that.)

PS the picture is terrible, I know, but all I had available was the phone.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Importance of Leafy Greens

When making changes to one's diet, whether it is a major overhaul or a bit of tweaking, there is one thing I consider imperative above anything else you could do. One could exercise, meditate, eat more fruit, go organic, etc. But the benefits of all those things and more are multiplied a thousand fold (in my opinion) by the introduction of leafy greens.

Dark leafy greens are especially important to one's diet partly because they have so much chlorophyll (some people call it "plant blood." I have read it literally helps your body build blood.) Leafy greens are also incredibly alkalizing, which thereby makes your gut a better home for the good bacteria. 

It would be nearly impossible to overdose on leafy greens, they are so fibrous and filling. Many raw vegans juice greens so they can get a large amount of the nutrients available in them without filling up too quickly. I personally juice occasionally, but I stick mostly to smoothies and salads. I aim to have greens at every meal, or at least breakfast and lunch. 

For example, I might have a smoothie of roughly 4 cups spinach, a banana, 2 big spoons of peanut butter, and 2 cups almond milk for breakfast. If I am hungry but not starving for a real lunch yet, I have a second smoothie of maybe half a bunch swiss chard, pineapple, mango, strawberries, apple or whatever fruit I have to use up quickly (fresh or frozen). For lunch I might have a big salad of kale with other vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Sometimes (depending on whether Chris feels like having salad for dinner) I have a second salad at night of romaine and various mix-ins. Between all those meals I snack on fruit, nuts, seeds, almond yogurt, etc. 

Greens are my foundation- everything else I eat, while important, is secondary. Different greens provide different nutrients, so I try to mix it up. Kale, swiss chard, romaine and spinach are in frequent rotation because I like them most. But I also try to regularly eat collard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, butter lettuce, beet greens, turnip greens, and carrot greens for all the numerous benefits they provide. 

My suggestion to successfully eat a large amount of greens is to split it up among your meals throughout the day. Also, vary the delivery method. If you have a good juicer, juicing a bunch of greens first thing in the morning is a great way to start your day, and you can still eat a filling breakfast. With juicing, you can mask the strong bitterness of many greens by combining them with fruits (like apples or citrus) and/or other vegetables that happen to be on the sweet side (like beets or carrots.) Smoothies are another alternative and are great breakfasts for people in a rush and on the go. You can blend up a smoothie in just a few minutes, pour it into a travel cup, and take it on the road. Plus, you keep all that fiber when you opt for smoothies over juicing. 

I save the greens I like the most- kale, romaine, butter lettuce- for salads. That way I can take my time eating them and really enjoy. 

With greens (as with many fruits and vegetables), the nutrients and benefits are at their peak when they are eaten raw. However, there's nothing wrong with gently cooking them up sometimes. For example, I love broccoli rabe, or rappini, but only quickly sauteed in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and they must not be mushy or lose their vibrant green color. Some people may abhor the flavor of raw collard greens, and can detect it even disguised in a smoothie or juice. Wilting them slightly by sauteing is better than not eating them at all.
What greens are you partial to? How do you eat your greens?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Skincare Review: Neal's Yard Remedies

I was recently offered skincare samples from the previously unknown to me company, Neal's Yard Remedies on twitter, and I gladly accepted. I was sent a slew of sample size products to try, along with a catalog. What a great line of offerings! They are certified organic in the UK, and they are made in England where every single bottle, pot and tube is checked by hand. They have won numerous awards in the beauty world, one of which is Champion status by the The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. They grow some of their own ingredients, and what they don't grow they source fairly through sustainable farming. Oh, and they use eco-friendly packaging to boot. Wow!

Most of the products I was sent are for dry skin, so I was a bit nervous. My skin is sometimes dry, sometimes oily- combination skin really, depending on the weather. Since going almost all vegan and raw, my skin has cleared up dramatically, though- there is rarely a blemish to speak of and some of the vegetables and fruit I eat have caused me to tan a bit (without much sun exposure. It's the carotenes in carrots, etc.) So I figured, if my skin does react to the samples, it would clear up quickly. 

I started out with the night time products. First I cleansed with the Wild Rose Beauty Balm. I massaged it into wet skin, then soaked a washcloth in hot water, held it on my face a few minutes to open pores and then wiped the cleanser away. I rinsed with warm water for good measure. While the balm was VERY emollient- almost greasy-feeling- my skin did not have any residue. It felt clean and soft. Next, I used Beauty Sleep Concentrate (for all skin types) and Nourishing Orange Flower Night Cream (dry skin) over the serum. Together they made my skin feel soft, hydrated and firm. I hoped they would continue their work over night. I also used the Frankincense and Mandarin Body Lotion- absorbed quickly, was not greasy, and it smells heavenly, if you like the scent of Frankincense.  

In the morning, I was still soft and hydrated, but not greasy- yay! I rinsed with very warm water and a washcloth, and applied a White Tea Enriching Facial Mask to still damp skin. The mask contains kaolin, a clay. I use other facial masks that contain clay, and while they are effective at clearing out the pores and tightening skin, the mask can be thick and dry and tough to work with, and as it dries on the skin, it can be uncomfortable and tight. This mask was creamy coming out of the tube, easy to apply, and easy to wash off. It did not leave my skin feeling dry or tight, only soft and clear and my pores were minimized (always a plus in hot humid summer weather.) I followed up with the Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Serum and Wild Rose Daily Moisture. The Frankincense scent is quite strong in the serum as well- hours later I could still smell it. If one is sensitive to scents (I am not) a different serum might be better. While I always use a daytime moisturizer, I typically keep it minimal and avoid layering products so that a. my skin doesn't get clogged or greasy, b. I don't have a reaction by being out in the heat or sun, and c. I don't attract bees or other bugs with strong scents. This seems to have left my skin hydrated, however. It does not feel as though it is sitting ON TOP of my skin- it absorbed well. 

If you are in the market for new skincare, and want to try something more natural, sustainable, fair trade, and organic, give Neal's Yard Remedies a try. According to the catalog they sent me they offer MANY more products, for every skin type. 

Do you have a company that offers natural, organic, and/or fair trade products? What is different about them?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Food as Medicine: White Blood Cells

A friend asked me on Facebook what she could do to boost her white blood cells (her count was low.) I was happy to make a few suggestions of foods that would support an increase in a healthy way.

The thing about white blood cells is that they fight infection- the cells literally attack intruders to the body (or what they perceive as intruders.) But they are not the only component of a healthy immune system. Boosting white blood cells will help you fight disease, but if you contract an illness (whether big or small) while you are in the process of building those numbers, you might have a setback (your body might not be able to quickly replace them at the rate the cells are being lost in "battle.") So keeping the other parts of the immune system in top shape and preventing an illness in the first place is critical while you work to raise the count.

  • First, exercise, drinking lots of water, sleeping adequately, keeping stress to a minimum, and avoiding processed sugar (except from whole fruit) are all essential for general health. The reason they are important, especially when it comes to the immune system and white blood cells is acidity. Often our bodies are too acidic from poor food choices (sugar and refined carbs, meat, and dairy are the biggest culprits.) But other factors increasing acidity are stress and poor sleep. This environment is less than hospitable to probiotics, or good bacteria, in our gut. Taking care of the basics is imperative to raising alkalinity.
  • There are foods that help- kale, spinach, carrots, garlic, almonds- all raw if possible to protect the vitamin A. Vitamin A, more specifically carotenes, strengthen white blood cell count and also protect the immune system in general. (source)
  • Garlic, coconut oil and honey are really important for the immune system- all are naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal. If one is opposed to honey for ethical reasons, the garlic and coconut oil are still both beneficial.
  • Dark leafy greens are especially important- partly because they have so much chlorophyll (some people call it "plant blood." I have read it literally helps your body build blood.) Leafy greens are also incredibly alkalizing, which thereby makes your gut a better home for the good bacteria. It would be nearly impossible to overdose on leafy greens, they are so fibrous and filling. Many raw vegans juice greens so they can get a large amount of the nutrients available in them without filling up too quickly.
  • Coconut water is great for repair, hydration, replacing electrolytes, etc. I have read it was used in IVs in past wars because the pH and electrolytes match human blood.
  • Probiotics are essential for the immune system- you can get them in yogurt and raw sauerkraut. If your gut really needs a big boost it comes in a powder form that you can mix with milk, smoothies, etc. It has no flavor and should be refrigerated and kept dry to keep it dormant but not kill it off.
  • Sprouts are excellent for health in general, but especially for fighting off various diseases. They have super-concentrated doses of the nutrients their full grown versions would have (ie broccoli sprouts have much higher nutritional value than regular broccoli would.) They would help a great deal in keeping you healthy while also building the cell count.
  • Protein and iron are important too, but not as important as if the problem were with RED blood cells. Not to mention, there is plenty of protein and iron to be had in the foods noted above and other plant sources.

Have a health concern you would like to address nutritionally in addition to- or before- conventional methods? See my website for contact information! We can customize the approach we take according to specific issues, or if you would like to overhaul your whole diet I can help with that too. Thanks for reading and for taking an interest in your health!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Food Loves

I always hated kale- it was too bitter and fibrous- and I love me some crunchy, fibrous vegetables. I could tolerate it slightly cooked in olive oil and garlic (both of which make everything better in my opinion.) And once I made kale chips which were good. But raw, forget about it. I will stick with romaine, thank you very much.

But lately, since trying massaged kale salad, I can't get enough. Seriously, I wax poetic about it to the husband, who thinks I have lost it. I buy at least 2 bunches a week now, and each bunch makes 1-2 salads for me, depending on whether I feel nice enough to share. ;)

I haven't been posting all my salads for the June Salad a Day Challenge, but you can be sure I have been eating at least one, often two every single day. Today, I used a different dressing on it- one that is not all that innovative, but kind of new to me as I don't normally use mustard much. (I also left out the anchovy, so I can't attest to whether that would improve it. I did add capers though, and they gave it a nice zing.)

This salad has:
 the leaves ripped off from stems from a half bunch of kale, torn into small pieces
1 tomato
broccoli sprouts
1 avocado

juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons horseradish, hemp and honey mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
clove garlic, minced
couple spoons capers

I whisked the dressing together, poured it on the kale, massaged it in, tossed in everything else and dug in. I think the mustard (a local brand, I think) and the capers really made it.

Another thing we have been eating a lot of lately is pineapple. Fresh is the best-tasting, but sometimes I just want convenience. Cutting up a pineapple after waiting for it to ripen is not convenient. So we often just eat the frozen stuff, often still frozen. I buy Trader Joes Tidbits, which we use in smoothies, straight out of the freezer (refreshing), and below, on a salad.

I have never loved bell peppers, cooked or raw. My mom always did a great job with them, sauteing them with onions and mushrooms.  I just didn't like peppers. Now they often make appearances in salads and yesterday we made stuffed ones. This salad had baby spinach, tomato, yellow pepper, red onion, pineapple, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. The pineapple was a nice surprise.

So those are my new food loves lately- pineapple, bell peppers, mustard, capers, and kale. Are there any foods you never particularly loved, and now you can't get enough?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Cooked Vegan Meal

This was a vegan dinner we cooked up tonight. It was filling, nutritious, low-fat, and high fiber. Plus it is quick and easy to make, and everyone loved it. Even our toddler, which is always nice. (It's nice to avoid persuading when it comes to dinner time.) 

Bell Peppers (we used 3)
Rice or another whole grain (I used about 1 1/2 cups dry)
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
chopped parsley
1 can crushed tomatoes (I used a 28 oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed- this stuff has the BEST flavor)
coconut oil
olive oil
2 tablespoons capers

Boil up some rice (we used Basmati rice- Chris thought the flavor would be nice. We also had wild rice, quinoa, farro, and barley, and any of those would have worked, too. Experiment with your whole grains!)

While it boils, cut the tops off some red peppers and cleaned out the seeds, and then put the peppers aside. 

Saute chopped garlic and onion in coconut oil on medium. When it is golden and a bit translucent, add the tomatoes, parsley and capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once it bubbles a bit, turn it down to low. At this point the rice is cooked tender, so drain it off and put it back in its pot. Spoon half the tomato sauce into the rice, and leave the rest of the sauce in its pot. Place the hollowed out peppers (without tops) into the pot, nestled in the sauce. Spoon the rice mix into the peppers, filling to the brim, and cap them off with the pepper tops. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover the pot and cook on medium until the peppers are fork tender. (This took a half hour for us, but it might depend on your pot, stove, etc. 

Stuffed peppers are often stuffed with ground beef, which we don't eat. But even if you do eat meat and you want to have a meatless meal, I doubt you would miss it with this dish. It is super filling, and since it has little fat and lots of fiber you can feel guilt free about having seconds! And it is a CHEAP meal!

I kept the stuffing VERY simple here, but I think next time I will bulk it up with some more veggies and play around with spices. I think mushrooms and/or zucchini would be great. I also think spices like coriander or cumin would work well. 

Does anyone out there make stuffed peppers? What's your recipe? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Kind of Vegan Are You?

I created a twitter (@StefaniaLaBarre) account when I started this business, and I try to follow raw foodies and vegans- I get a lot of inspiration, recipes, and ideas from these people. However, I have noticed a recurring theme among the vegans in particular. Some vegans appear to think you aren't a true vegan unless you are doing it for the right reason- that "right" reason being animal welfare. My immediate reaction to this line of thinking is, what does the reason matter if the outcome is the same? If you become a vegan for health reasons or to lose weight, and NOT necessarily because you care about the welfare of animals, does it affect whether or not you avoid eating animals?

Another purist argument I hear is that one is not a "real" vegan (said derogatorily) unless one ALWAYS avoids ANYTHING from animals as well as anything processed with animal byproducts and/or tested on animals. This would include beauty products, clothes, shoes, purses, etc. I understand the truest definition of a vegan would dictate this, but I don't believe excluding people from veganism if they "cheat" accomplishes anything. For example, if a vegan buys a box of pasta that is made with eggs without checking the box first, goes home and eats that pasta, is he no longer vegan? Have they committed a sin? Would the vegan (and the chicken laying the egg that went into the making of that pasta) be better off had he not bought the pasta? Maybe, but in my opinion he is still a vegan- his intentions are good. Slip-ups are only human, and allowing some forgiveness for them makes the journey easier.

It seems as though there are types of vegan. There is the animal advocate type, the health reasons type, and the environment type. The benefits to animal welfare go without saying- no one wants animals to suffer; even most omnivores would concede the animal suffering that occurs by way of our food system is awful. But many omnivores accept that suffering as a necessary evil, that if they want to keep eating the foods they love, animals have to be used and abused. Some omnivores make a compromise- they vow to eat less meat and dairy; or they vow to only eat free-range, pastured, sustainable, and/or organic meat and animal products.

I don't think there is anything wrong with these compromises. Small improvement is still improvement. Every little bit helps. And if that's as far as a person is willing to go, they should still be commended for making a change, whatever their reason.

This is not to say that all vegans are so easily categorized- some would say they are vegan for all those reasons listed above. For some vegans, the additional benefits to the environment and/or their health are what push them to make that final step.

I wonder- does the type of vegan you are affect how vigilant you are about being a vegan? And back to my first question, are you less of a vegan if animal advocacy is/was not your first and foremost reason?

PS- I invite you to find and follow me on twitter! And like my Facebook page!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Raw Vegan Food Makeover Challenge

Since I have gone almost all vegan/raw and since starting this business, I have asked the worlds of Twitter and Facebook to challenge me to makeover a food to be raw and vegan, but still delicious. So far, I have received two challenges. One was on twitter, and the challenger wanted me to make a dessert with watercress. I accepted that challenge, and I would say the outcome was successful- I made a mango watercress sorbet with a coconut butter drizzle, garnished with coconut flakes. It was all raw and vegan, and no processed ingredients were used, not even sweetener. I had Chris sample some and it passed his approval.

The second challenge was from a friend on Facebook, Jessica- to makeover a Mexican dish. This time around I went with tacos, but so many other ideas have popped into my head since then! I might never need regular Mexican food again, it was that good.

These raw vegan tacos are complete (in my book anyway) with homemade sweet-n-spicy salsa, corn, avocado, cheezy nacho sauce, taco "meat," and sour "cream." No tofu was used, only a bit of miso and tamari were used for flavoring, but each component could easily be made soy free. I had Chris try these, not expecting too much approval from him (he does love soft tacos...) and he even had seconds! I made more "meat" to have on hand for future meals- they really hit the spot.

As I receive and complete challenges I will be putting the recipes into an ebook- be on the lookout for that!

 Are there any favored dishes or foods you would like to see made over?

Vegan Kids and Aurelia's Diet

Chris and I get asked a lot about how our daughter Aurelia eats. She does not fit the stereotype of a vegetarian or vegan kid, first of all. Some people think vegetarian or vegan kids are thin, waif-like, and pasty pale. Aurelia is quite chunky, albeit on the short side, and has a great skin tone, shiny hair, and nearly brute force for an almost two-year-old girl. She has had turkey once or twice (Thanksgiving), but for the most part she has never had meat. She has never had cow's milk either- she went from breast milk primarily to coconut milk and now has almond milk, with a bit of breast milk daily. She rarely has cheese- and it is becoming even less frequent as I eat less of it. She rarely eats eggs- maybe she'll share with Chris if he makes eggs for himself. She used to have dairy yogurt daily, but I recently found a great almond yogurt for about the same price we were paying for the dairy variety. (Yay!) So now she is 99% vegan, as close as I am anyway.

Some people have the idea that feeding a vegan diet to children can't be done healthily- they would miss out on vital calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc. Because of this line of thinking, I have always paid close attention to Aurelia's levels of these nutrients. Since I was still learning a great deal and wasn't quite prepared to exclude dairy and eggs quite yet, I relied on these foods for the past year to make sure her diet was adequate. Or, some people have the misconception that to feed them a vegan diet, one must include a lot of soy. Knowing that so many soy foods are highly processed and GMO, I was reluctant to giver her much soy, if any. Now that I know of other sources of certain nutrients, her consumption of dairy and eggs is minimal, and I feel ok about that.

So what DOES Aurelia eat nowadays? Here is a typical day of food for her.

4 oz breastmilk
4-8 oz almond milk
4-5 strawberries
some of my green monster smoothie (typically 3-4 handfuls spinach, peanut butter, chia seeds and/or hemp seeds and/or flax, banana, almond milk)
I encourage her drinking my smoothie mostly for the spinach- it's the easiest way to get some leafy greens, omega fatty acids and protein into her!

1 adult serving yogurt (used to be Stonyfield Organic cow's milk yogurt, I have switched her to almond milk yogurt)
1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I buy Crofters organic fruit spread- it has little if any added sugar and Aurelia loves it!)
1 cup sliced fruit (mango, pineapple, melon, etc)
4 oz almond milk

If Aurelia is hungry and we are trying to get dinner made, we give her a small snack to hold her over. This might be a handful of raisins or 5-6 little shredded wheat biscuits (I only buy the unfrosted kind)

While Aurelia's breakfast and lunch are pretty structured, dinner is the wild card. It always depends on when Chris is getting home, whether I wait for him to feed her, whether I will be eating the same food as him, etc. Lately Aurelia is (finally) interested in trying crunchy vegetables and leafy salad greens. Until recently, I think her lack of teeth made these foods unappealing to her. Other foods she might eat include:
1/2-1 cup wild rice or pasta with
1/2-1 cup sauteed vegetables and/or mushrooms and/or
1/2 or whole avocado, sprinkled with salt and pepper and slightly smashed OR
If Chris eats eggs and toast for dinner, he will share with Aurelia
4 oz almond milk
Once she finishes her milk for the day she is given water. (We aim for 16-20 oz of milk total, between the 4 oz breast milk and the almond milk.)

Like a lot of kids, Aurelia likes bread and pasta, and she would never say no to cookies or candy, and we don't deny her those things altogether. But I am happy to report that she loves whole food fruits and vegetables, and when it comes to feeding her, I make sure she fills up on vegetation first, BEFORE she is allowed to eat anything else. It is my opinion that fruits and vegetable consumption should be the primary focus for all children's diets, whether those kids eat meat/dairy or not. Filling kids up on vegetation first ensures a lot of nutrients are taken care of.

Somehow, it seems that as a country we have accepted the notion that kids have a simple palate and that all they like- all they will eat, even- is pizza, burgers, hotdogs, fries, grilled cheese, and mac and cheese. Those are the foods typically on the kids' menu at most restaurants. Many parents to avoid an argument in the restaurant, to ensure they don't waste money on an uneaten meal, and to ensure the child eats, order off this kids' menu. I think restaurants would do better to offer kids the same menu adults are given, but with portions a fraction of the size of the adult portion.

Aurelia is only now getting to the point where she warrants a separate meal- we have always just fed her off of our plates. For one, this encouraged us to eat healthily, because it created the best odds she would too. Also, she was being exposed to lots of different flavors, textures, and nutrients. Now, she is more open to eating a wide variety of vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes, and fruits. The most challenging thing to get her to eat has always been vegetables, but it seems that as long as she has a variety of food on her plate, she is happy.

By relegating children to the kids' menu, we are not giving them enough credit, we are limiting their palates, and we are denying them vital nutrients needed for proper growth, development, and for fighting off illness. Also, this will only make the feeding situation more difficult as the child grows, in my opinion. It is important to get them while they are as young as possible for the highest rate of success. If we don't give them the chance to be picky eaters, they will be less likely to arbitrarily decide they don't like specific foods without even trying them.

What are your thoughts on vegan or vegetarian kids, kids' menus, and pickiness in kids? How do you ensure your child eats fruits and vegetables? I, for one, could always use tips for improvement!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Reasons to Go Vegan

In my post The Vegan Journey, I showed that getting to the point I am at now has taken a lot of time, effort and self education. Sometimes I needed reasons or reminders for why I was doing this. Sometimes I still do. Whether you are completely vegan, just cutting back on meat and/or dairy, or maybe being more selective of the meat/dairy you do eat, tips like this might be helpful to you too. 

1. You’ll live longer. Studies show that on average, vegans live 6 years longer than meat eaters.
2. Avoid toxins. (Non-organic) meat contains antibiotics, hormones & toxins produced by stress & pesticide residues that become concentrated from all the crops they have eaten. Plus, 80% of food poisoning is due to infected meat. AND, eating animals that have been given hormones to speed growth (a widely accepted practice in the meat industry) means those hormones go into your body. Not only can this disrupt the natural balance of your hormones, but some of the hormones given to animals have shown to cause tumor growth in humans. Since 1950, girls are hitting puberty on average 4-7 years earlier and boy’s sperm counts have decreased by 25-50% due to the hormones present in non-organic meat and dairy products. Antibiotics are almost always given to (non-organic) feed animals, which can lead to bacterial resistance in humans. Many of the antibiotics used to treat human infections are also used in feed animals. This means by consuming this, we are causing ourselves to be less resistant to antibiotics. 
3. Less land consumption. An astounding 20 vegans can live off the same amount of land required by one meat eater.
4. Less water consumption. It only takes 25 gallons of water to produce 1lb of wheat whereas it takes 2500 gallons to produce 1lb of meat.
5. Support heathy ecosystems. Nitrates & pesticides used on crops grown to feed livestock end up in our rivers and vastly affect the health of micro environments and ecosystems. 
6. Reduce global warming. The 1,300,000,000 cattle in the world emit 60,000,000 tons of methane per year (methane is a greenhouse gas which leads to global warming).
7. Reduced risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimers,  cancer, and bad cholesterol. Eliminate any food that comes from an animal and you will eliminate all of the ‘bad’ dietary cholesterol from your diet. Vegans have a 40% reduced level of cancer than the general population, thought to be because they have a higher intake of vitamins A,C & E. Vegans have a 57% reduced risk of getting heart disease (the #1 killer in America today!).  Bone health depends on a balance of neither too much nor too little protein, adequate calcium intake, high potassium, and low sodium. With a healthy vegan diet, all four of these points set a perfect scenario for preventing osteoporosis.  Meat eaters have double the rate of Alzheimers disease as vegans.
8. Increased weight loss, increase in energy. When following a healthy vegan diet, you will find your energy is much higher. A healthy weight loss is a typical result of a smart vegan diet. Eating vegan eliminates most of the unhealthy foods that tend to cause weight issues. 33% percent of Americans are obese, while only 2% of vegans are. On a personal note, I have effortlessly gotten back to the weight I was in college. That is AFTER having 2 kids, and I have little to no time for exercise, whereas I exercised a lot in college. Plus I have more energy and my skin is clear. 
9. Reduce animal cruelty. The animals involved in mass industry farming are exposed to the most cruel, unsanitary and horrific conditions. If you can handle watching it,  "Meet Your Meat", "Supersize Me," and "Food, Inc" (to name a few) will give you a glance into the common practices of present day industry farming and meat processing.

10. Save rain forests. If they continue to clear forests to raise cattle at the present rate, in 50 years there will be none left.


Veggie Revolution: Smart Choices for a Healthy Body and a Healthy Planet by Sara Kneidel

Friday, June 8, 2012

Veganaise and the June Salad a Day Challenge

I never liked mayo, except in egg and chicken salad back when I ate those foods, and even then it had to be minimal. So I have never wanted to try Vegenaise. But then I saw this recipe, and I figured I should give it a go. I think I will be tweaking it a bit, it was kind of thick for dressing, and a little too sweet. Next time I am going to leave out the honey and add a bit of water or maybe more lemon juice. If you like mayo as a spread on sandwiches though, I have to say Vegenaise is pretty spot-on. ('Course, now I have a whole jar to figure out how to use...)

I used the dressing on this salad. The salad itself was delicious, a perfect mix of crunchy (the cucumber, mung bean sprouts, and sugar snap peas) and chewy (wild rice) and sightly sweet. I think I liked it better without the dressing, but it would lend moisture if you prefer that. Or you could try this other dressing (which I use anytime I am craving Asian flavors) from Averie Cooks. It would be a great addition to a salad that already has Asian inspired flavors.

1/2-1 cup wild rice, cooked and drained
handful or two sugar snap peas
1 English cucumber, sliced
mung bean sprouts
alfalfa sprouts
avocado, sliced
this dressing or this dressing (optional)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Vegan Journey

When people see how I eat (and how my daughter and husband also eat most of the time) they have varying reactions. Some people poke fun that all we eat is "rabbit food." Some people argue that we must not be getting all the protein/calcium/whathaveyou that we need. And some people express admiration, quickly following that they just couldn't "give up meat." They just "love it too much."

I try to remind myself that it is hard to change old habits overnight. I didn't become vegetarian that quickly- this has been a slow journey over about 5 years, and I "slipped up" and ate meat quite a few times. I used to think it tasted good- I was able to separate what it actually is (a carcass of what was once a sentient being, possibly ridden with disease, and likely to cause illness) from the ingrained idea that it is food. (Note: I don't judge people for eating meat- I used to myself. I focus on the benefits of getting more whole and natural plant matter instead of avoiding entire food groups. If this leads to vegetarian or vegan eating, so be it- but it does not have to be all or nothing.)

My journey began with college- I rarely ate beef, chicken, pork, or fish while away at school. I just couldn't afford it! I would eat it when I went home on holidays or for summer, since that was what my mom would cook. Since I was living so frugally, eating it at those times felt indulgent. To be honest, I enjoyed it. While at school, I may have been vegetarian by default, but I wasn't eating all that healthfully by any means. There was a lot of Ramen soup, mac and cheese, pasta and jarred tomato sauce, tuna fish, eggs, and some frozen vegetables here and there. We also ate out a lot- Cheesecake Factory, diners, and Chinese food mostly. As a result, I wasn't experiencing excellent health.

Once out of college and in our first apartment, I took a real interest in mindful eating. I had a real job, more money, and most importantly a refrigerator in which to put the food. We bought a really good set of pans, started cooking more complex dishes, and made less and less mac and cheese. At that point we still made and ate chicken about once a week, beef once every two weeks on average. Meat was still expensive, it was cheaper to eat pierogies and pasta. We did start buying more fruit and vegetables, albeit still frozen. We also learned to cook fish, mostly tilapia. We switched from cow's milk to soy milk- I believed it must be healthier for some reason. (Since then, we have switched to almond milk.)

Then, about five years ago we bought a house, had more kitchen space, and also a bit more money. I would toy with the idea of never eating animal flesh again, but it seemed too limited. Chris would tell me there was no way he would do it. Then we both started doing some research as to how meat gets to our plate- we learned about factory farming, antibiotics, the impact of meat consumption on the environment, etc. We saw films like Supersize Me and Food, Inc. That's when I decided it wasn't going to be that hard after all to just stop eating meat, especially when I considered the huge impact it can have on so many things.  Chris decided he wouldn't eschew meat completely, but he would be more mindful in the meat he did choose- it would have to be organic and grassfed/pastured. (Although, organic, grassfed meat is VERY expensive, so he still rarely eats meat.) He also eats a lot of seafood, except for crustaceans because of an allergy.

That is about the point we are at now, except that lately I personally have been taking it one step further. I have always had eggs, cheese, butter, and ice cream. But a lot of the dairy we were eating is fattening, organic dairy is limited in availability or expensive, and there is not all that much nutrition in dairy despite what the industry says. Chris loves eggs, but I have been eating them less and less- some days I am completely turned off to the taste and texture. I look back and remember how impossible it seemed to NOT eat meat, and only recently I thought the same of eggs and cheese.

Maybe this all means I am slowly becoming vegan. Instead of ice cream when sitting down to a movie I find myself craving homemade popcorn, sugar snap peas, or a piece of dark chocolate. My body literally does not want the ice cream, which I find bizarre, but it is a welcome change.

How have your eating habits changed over the years? What influences changes in your diet- money, ethics/morals, family/friends?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sprouts and the June Salad-a-Day Challenge

These two salads were phenomenal- filling, fiber and protein rich, crunchy and satisfying. The common theme between the two? Sprouts!

This salad contained:
English cucumbers
alfalfa sprouts
sprouted red lentils
sugar snap peas (Just recently got into these- omg are they good. Crunchy, sweet, perfect road trip food or for munching on during a movie.)
nutritional yeast
olive oil
lemon juice
freshly ground salt and pepper

This one was a small salad, but a mighty one! It was almost ALL sprouts, with the addition of tomato:
red lentil sprouts
alfalfa sprouts
broccoli sprouts
chickpea sprouts
sunflower seed sprouts
mung bean sprouts
fennugreek sprouts
lemon juice
olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper

Sprouts are nutritionally rich. As in, CRAZY good-for-you. They have so many vitamins, mineral, protein and fiber packed into such a tiny package. As with all vegetables, it is best to get a variety of them- different kinds contain different nutrients.

Do you eat sprouts? What kinds and how often? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

June Salad a Day Challenge

Here are the salads I .have been eating the last few days for the Oh She Glows challenge

Romaine, cucumbers, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, lentil/quinoa/almond slice mix, yellow pepper, salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast. (I WAS HANGRY. That's when you're so hungry you get angry.) ;)

 Spinach leaves, 3 kiwi, 1 apricot, all drizzled with pistachio oil. Yum.

Sauerkraut (raw, unpasteurized, homemade) tossed with julienned carrots and cucumber, salt, pepper. Tangy.

How is the challenge going for you, if you are participating? Not too late to start!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Vegans and Vegetarians get asked all. the. time. where they get protein. I would venture to guess it is the most common query as to their diet. Some would surprise the unknowing person by telling them how much protein some vegetables actually have. Others would cite the complete proteins in some "superfoods" like hemp, quinoa and chia. Those not strictly vegan might mention eggs and certain dairy products. Many would respond with the usual: beans, nuts, and legumes. And of course, there is the ubiquitous soy.
Many people have fallen prey to the notion that soy is the best place to obtain protein if you don't eat meat or animal products, or if you eat very little of them. But the truth is, there are plenty of protein sources that also provide other nutrients, WITHOUT the risks soy carries. Let's explore those risks. 

Phytic Acid
Soybeans and soy products contain high levels of phytic acid, which is called phytate in its salt form. Phytate inhibits assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc partly because it is indigestible by humans and partly because it chelates. And, methods used by humans to prepare/cook soy do not neutralize phytic acid. Diets high in phytic acid have been shown to cause growth problems in children. (I would think this is because so many crucial nutrients are not being made available to the child.) Phytate is not just of concern to human health- since so many livestock animals are fed soybeans (which would not be a part of their natural diet...) and so many of those animals cannot digest the phytate, it passes through unabsorbed and raises levels of phosphorus in the manure. (source and source) This can lead to eutrophication, which is an environment's response to the addition of artficial or natural substances to an aquatic system. (example: blooms of algae or phytoplankton which can lead to water oxygen depletion, which then leads to fish kills.) (source)
A lot of women going through menopause or who are pre-menopausal ingest soy (in various forms- soy milk, tofu, etc) specifically for the phytoestrogens. They have been told by the medical profession that it will balance their hormones, relieve hot flashes, and night sweats. But the truth is that they disrupt endocrine function. Endocrine function is the proper functioning of the glands that produce hormones! These estrogens also have the potential to cause infertility as well as to promote breast cancer in adult women. Haven't women been told soy will help prevent breast cancer??? At the very least there seems to be conflicting evidence. Avoiding soy and getting protein from other sources would seem to me to be the safest route. (source and source)
The thyroid and Soy
Soy contains Goitrogens, which are substances that block the synthesis of thyroid hormones and interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with your thyroid function. A diet low in iodine and high in soy will block the T4-T3 hormone conversion. Intefering with the thyroid like this may be the cause of hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer, as well as autoimmune thyroid disease (infant soy formula may be linked to this.) (source and source)
The "Soy is Consumed in Asian Cultures" argument
Many would argue that Asian cultures have always consumed soy and have been among the healthiest people in the world. There are several things wrong with this argument. 
1. The soy they historically consumed was fermented and used as a condiment, not the basis of a meal (So, that would include miso, nama shoyu, tamari, tempeh, NOT tofu or soy milk.) 
2. The soy they consumed was not genetically modified. (This is historically speaking- GMO soy is quite pervasive throughout the world now.) 91% of US soy is GMO- it has been made to be resistant to Roundup, the herbicide, so it can be grown quickly, pest-free, and cheaply, but then it contains high levels of the herbicide.
3. Asian cultures often consume large amounts of sea vegetables and fish. Sea vegetables (seaweed) and certain fish have naturally high levels of iodine, and iodine is very important for thyroid function. (source and source
Soy in Children
There is mounting concern over the amount of soy infants consume in ratio to their body size. There is almost no phytoestrogen in cow's milk (or cow's milk baby formula.) There is almost none in human breastmilk, even if the mother eats soy herself. And yet, babies fed soy formula have 13,000-22,000 times the estrogen of babies fed cow's milk formula or breastmilk. This may be causing delays in maturation (including sexual maturation) of boys, while it may be partially to blame for girls showing signs of puberty earlier and earlier. (To be fair, babies are being exposed to environmental elements that act like estrogens in the body as well. These would include BPA, PCBs, and DDE.) Also, the soy in infant formula (as well as most processed foods containing soy) is soy protein isolate. Because of how it is processed the isolate inhibits the body's absorption of many nutrients- even more so than with less processed soy, noted above. Aluminum is also leached during processing, and can affect the nervous system, kidneys and brain. (source and source)
There are many concerns when it comes to soy, not all covered here (it would take a whole book to cover them all.) While some concerns are well established, others are preliminary. However, there is enough evidence to be sure that soy consumption should be avoided, or at least kept to a minimum. 

Do you eat soy? In what forms? Do you read labels of packaged foods in hopes of avoiding it? (We have eaten it in the past, and we used to use soymilk, but we have slowly switched to whole food sources of it- like edamame. I occasionally also use fermented soy like miso, tamari, and nama shoyu. We never really liked tofu to begin with.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The June Salad A Day Challenge

Angela Liddon over at Oh She Glows is hosting a challenge for the month of June. The challenge is simple really- just eat a salad every single day this month- but I love it! I ate this salad (again, what can I say, I liked it, haha) yesterday. Today I had this one:

It was really simple but it hit the spot. 

1/2 head Romaine, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
cooked lentils
cooked quinoa
almond slices
lemon juice
olive oil
parsley, chopped

I tossed the lettuce and avocado with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Next, I mixed well the quinoa, lentils, almonds, and parsley, with olive oil and a tiny bit more salt and pepper. Then, I scooped the quinoa lentil mixture over a bed of the romaine and avocado. So good!

I briefly talked about the nutrition behind the quinoa lentil mixture here. Full of protein and fiber!

Who wants to do this challenge with me?? :) Go over to Oh She Glows to participate, and let me know what fun salads you come up with! I love ideas to mix things up!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Food as Medicine- Muscle Pain

I woke up two mornings in a row this week (Tuesday and Wednesday) with a stiff, sore neck. As the day progressed Tuesday, it got better and bothered me less and less. But Wednesday was pretty rough. I could not move my neck much side to side, and could not look up without excruciating pain. The day went on (parents out there reading- we don't get days off, right?) but it was a lot of effort to even unload the dishwasher. 

I suspect the cause of the stiffness and pain is several things. First, I lift and carry a 25-30 pound toddler and a 14 pound infant all day. Second, I have been trying to exercise more regularly, including a bit of jogging, abdominal work, arm and butt exercises. None of it involves weights- I only use my own weight so far, and it isn't as regular as I would like, but I did start after a long stint of not working out (mostly while pregnant.) Maybe I don't stretch enough. Third, it has gotten really warm and humid all of a sudden, so we have had fans going throughout the house, including the bedroom close to my side of the bed. The fan blowing while I sleep may be the biggest culprit, I think. When we have used AC in past summers, I have had similar neck problems- so I always protest using them- Chris usually suffers heat and humidity as a result. 

I didn't want to jump straight to a conventional treatment- IcyHot, aspirin, etc- without first trying natural methods. I dry-brushed my whole body. Dry skin brushing helps to rid the body of toxins, aiding the lymphatic system, and there could be toxins stored in my muscles contributing to the soreness. (source) Then I took a hot bath to relax the muscles. I stretched afterward while my muscles were loosened up. I had Chris apply Arnica gel to my neck and back. Arnica gel is used for muscle soreness, reducing inflammation, and healing bruises. (source) It all helped, but the soreness was definitely still there. 

I wanted to eat specific foods to support muscle health and recovery, though. I figure I should treat the problem from the inside out as well as outside in. To do this, I needed to address four components: fluid and electrolytes, glycogen, muscle and immune stress, and muscle protein. (sourceMost of  the reading I did on this topic was geared towards muscle recovery after moderate to heavy exercise, but I think a lot of what I learned can be used to repair muscle pain in general. 

Fluid and electrolytes are lost through perspiration- whether that is from exercise or not. It's been pretty hot, so there has been sweating. One cannot just drink plenty of water and be done with this loss though- sodium, magnesium and potassium need to be replenished. The best way to hydrate  quickly and efficiently and to replenish electrolytes is (in my opinion) coconut water. It is better at doing so than Gatorade, it matches human blood's pH, it has more potasium than a whole banana, 11% RDV of sodium, and 15% RDV of magnesium. This is all for very few calories and it also has 11% RDV of fiber. So I loaded up on it. (source)

Glycogen is stored in muscles and the liver while glucose is carried to working muscles through the blood. Both glycogen and glucose come from the breakdown of carbohydrates. (source) So I needed carbohydrates, high glycemic ones to be exact, in order to affect the insulin in my blood to get glucose and glycogen to my muscles quickly. But I didn't want to eat JUST simple carbs (like bread). I wanted at least some of those carbs to have other nutrients as well. I did eat a few pieces of (crusty, small ingredient list) bread, but I also ate a few handfuls of raisins. They provide 44% RDV carbs, but also 35% potassium, 13% magnesium, and 24% fiber (per cup). (source)

Oxidative stress (free radical damage) is one cause of muscle and immune stress (another cause is inflammation from increased blood flow to muscle tissue tears.) Rest and time will help heal muscle tissue tears, but to address the oxidative stress I needed to get vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, and selenium. To get the vitamin A and beta-carotene (which is only one type of vitamin A) I had several handfuls of spinach and a bunch of carrots. To get the vitamin C, I ate 3-4 oranges. To get the vitamin E I had some sunflower seeds, almond milk, and peanut butter. To get the selenium, I had some mushrooms and brazil nuts. 

The nuts, seeds and peanut butter are also sources of protein. To get more, I made a salad of quinoa, lentils and almond slices, and tossed it in olive oil and lemon juice with salt, pepper and parsley. Quinoa has 8g protein, as well as 21% fiber. (source) Lentils have 18g protein and 63% fiber. (source) Almonds have 20g protein and 46% fiber (source) All RDV percentages are per cup. This salad was a powerhouse!

Time and sleep helped to heal my neck, shoulders and back, but I would like to think nutritious food better allowed the healing process to happen. 

What do you do to repair muscle damage, whether it be from exercise, overexertion in your daily life, or feeling sore while ill with the flu?