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Eating Clean (Part 1)

9 Jun

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to eat healthier and what is clean eating, so it seems like it might be time to blog about it.

In my opinion “Eating Clean” is the simplest and most effective change you can make to your diet.

Now when I say diet I don’t mean that tedious way of eating and tracking that requires you to give up delicious tasting food, to replace your meals with bland dishes, and that you can only stick with for a short period of time before throwing in the towel, bingeing on junk food, and putting on more weight than you were able to loose in the first place.

We’ve all been there, right? The problem with those diets is that they can’t be maintained over a lifetime.

When I say diet, what I mean is simply “the food that you eat.” For example, I eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet. I’m not eating this way until I achieve something, rather, this is a part of my lifestyle.  Think of it this way – I eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet in the same way that my friend Jeremy is Kosher.

See the difference?

It’s limiting and discouraging to think “I’m on the _____ diet” and frankly, it is ineffective over the long-term.

But, if you change your lifestyle then  you will be able to change your life!

So let’s get back to what it means to “Eat Clean.” For me, it’s very simple

EAT REAL FOOD!

For those of you who need more guidance than that, I am happy to oblige 🙂

Eat foods that are as close to their original source as possible. 

Choose an apple over apple juice.

Why?

Because an apple is full of fiber, loaded with vitamin C, contains antioxidants and cancer-fighting polyphenols.

Take a look at a bottle of apple juice; you’ll probably see vitamin C in the ingredient list.  

Now ask yourself, if apples are loaded with vitamin C why does it need to be added to the juice? Because apple juice is a manufactured product – the process for extracting juice from the apple and making it suitable to sit on a shelf in the grocery store for months leaves the juice void of all of the great things that the apple had to offer in the first place – so the manufacturer needs to add it back in.

Crazy right?!

In this photo you can really see what manufacturing does.  

The freshly squeezed apple juice if dark and opaque whereas the supermarket apple juice is light and clear.

So what’s really going on here?

Well as we discussed earlier, the supermarket AJ is manufactured. The goal is to produce a clear, golden, shelf-stable liquid. In order to achieve this result the juice is “extracted” from the apple which leaves behind the skins, seeds, stems, and pulp. Of course we don’t want to eat or drink stems and seeds but the juicing process also “extracts” the nutrients contained in the skins and the fiber contained in the pulp.  In order to create a shelf-stable liquid (meaning it won’t go bad quickly) it must be pasteurized which ensures that any remaining nutrients are boiled out.

You didn’t actually think the 100 % All Natural Apple Juice was nutritious all on it’s own, did you? 😉

If you think I am crazy, please watch this video  and see for yourself. You won’t hear them mention anything about adding in vitamin C, but if you check out Mott’s website you’ll see that they admit to adding it in because their process stripped it out.

Once the juice has been bottled, all you are really left with is apple flavored sugar (glucose) water with vitamin C added back in.

In contrast, the fresh AJ is made up of the entire apple. Can you believe it? It actually is as nutritious as nature intended… without the help of food scientists.

AMAZING!

This is just one illustration of why it’s important to eat food close to the source. 

  • An apple is an apple is an apple, there are different varieties and methods of growing, but at the end of the day it will always be an apple
  • Apple juice on the other hand can be anything
    • It can be fibrous and nutritious
    • It can be stripped of all its naturally occurring nutrients and loaded with ascorbic acid (vitamin C supplement)
    • It could even be a beverage that is loaded with artificial colors, flavors, and sugar

Rather than overwhelming you with a lot of rules and explanations about clean eating I have decided to end here. I will cover additional information in future posts and encourage you to take this first step to improve your diet until you hear from me again.

If you are interested in debating the topic of apple juice with your friends, might I suggest that you consider reading up on the topics of arsenic in apple juice (or organic versus conventional produce), the dangers of drinking unpasteurized apple juice, or why you should stop drinking juices and smoothies.

Who would have thought that apple juice could be such a heavy object?

It’s comical!

A word of caution: Be wary of what you read. Do your own reasearch and be sure to examine all sides of a topic. There is a lot of information out there that is inaccurate, incomplete, and/or promotes others’ agendas. Don’t forget to apply this advice to what you see on TV or the internet and even what I share with you. It is really important for you to educate yourself so that you can make thoughtful and healthful decisions for you and your family.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating 

Just Like Thanksgiving

12 Mar

Several months ago I purchased Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier. It is a companion cookbook in the Thrive series.  Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet because it was hiding in my husband’s bag for the last five months but I have perused the recipes. Originally I didn’t think I would actually make any of the recipes because they didn’t really appeal to me (Young Coconut Soup, Sacha Inchi Milk, Superfood Gomashio) but I have been drooling over photos on Thrive Foods Direct   so I decided it was time to pony up and start cooking.

Last week I made the Roasted Garlic Quinoa. My husband (who doesn’t really care for quinoa) says it is his favorite quinoa dish! It  was very yummy… but, not worth photographing 😉

Roasted Garlic Quinoa (adapted from Thrive Foods)
1 whole head garlic
2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups cooked quinoa
½ tsp sea salt, or to taste
Pinch dried thyme leaves, for garnish

Slice off the top of the head of garlic and place in foil. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until softened. Allow garlic to cool.
Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel and into a small bowl along with coconut oil and lemon juice, mix well. Heat sauce over low heat.
Add the cooked quinoa and salt, stirring to combine. Heat through thoroughly and garnish with thyme before serving.

If you’ve never roasted garlic before YOU MUST! It is so delicious and versatile. You can eat the cloves whole, spread it on bread, blend into salad dressing, create a garlic hummus dip, or even  add it to soup. Roasting the garlic mellows the flavor and creates a creamy richness that is irresistible.

This week I made the Wild Rice with Kabocha Squash and Sage Butter. It was to die for! The combination of hardy wild rice, sweet squash, and savory sage butter reminded me of thanksgiving. In fact, I think I will serve it with home-made cranberry sauce and green bean casserole next time I make it.

While this recipe calls for Kabocha Squash

I used Acorn Squash because that is what I found at the grocery store.

I think you could probably  substitute any firm winter squash and have great success

Rice Pilaf with Acorn Squash and Sage Butter (adapted from Thrive Foods)

1lb acorn squash
1 cup rice pilaf
2 cups water
3 Tbsp melted coconut oil
½ Tbsp chopped fresh sage, packed
1 Tbsp mined onion or shallot
½ tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400ᵒF
  2. Cut squash in half, discard seeds, and place face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool then cut into chunks.
  3. While squash is roasting prepare rice by combining it with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for approximately 45 minutes.
  4. In a food processor (or coffee grinder) blend coconut oil, sage, onion, and salt until smooth.
  5. Heat sage butter over low heat then combine with rice.
  6. Fold in squash and serve warm.

Note: I used a whole grain rice pilaf blend that I found in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, if you cannot find a suitable rice pilaf combine ½ cup wild rice and ½ cup brown rice and cook as directed above.

According to Vegetarian Times winter squash is nutrient-packed full of beta-carotene, vitamin C and potassium. Winter squash is also known to be low in calories, and according to Thrive Food, squash is the most nutrient-dense form of starch-based food, making it ideal for those looking to build muscles.

So there you have it, one meal to  comfort you like Thanksgiving, satisfy even the pickiest eaters, and help build your muscles. What more could you want from a recipe? I suggest you make this one right away.

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

I QUIT!

6 Mar

Just over a year ago I started working out and eating right in an effort to lose weight.  Now most people will tell me that I don’t need to lose weight and that is probably true, but my  reality is this.

I think I look like this naked…

 

I’d rather look like this naked

 

See the difference?

So how can I look more like Fitness Model Amanda Adams and less like the Stay Puff Marshmallow?

I need to commit to my goals… seriously commit.

 

I know this and I try to eat very healthy but I am still not getting the results that I want. So what is the problem?

Sugar! Can you believe it? Wheatgrass & Sassafras is a blog  about eating healthy, but here I am admitting I am addicted to sugar.

How embarrassing 😦

But seriously, I found it easier to quit smoking than to quit sugar… can you believe it?! 

It’s time to take control and stop succumbing to this addiction.  My primary goal is to create a leaner figure but I know from experience that by eliminating sugar from my diet I will feel more energized, in good spirits, and my skin will clear up quickly – BONUS!

So here is my game plan for my personalized

NO SUGAR CHALLENGE!!!

Cue The Price Is Right music! Why? Because that’s what is in my head when I say NO SUGAR CHALLENGE

  1. Eliminate refined sugar from my diet.
  2. Replace ordinary sugar with maple syrup, SUCANAT, turbinado sugar, brown rice syrup, blackstrap molasses, unrefined dark  brown sugar, mashed bananas, or applesauce IN MODERATION.
  3. Replace my favorite breakfast cereal with whole grains.  
  4. I’ve asked my husband not to bring any sugary sweets into the house 🙂 He’s agreed!
  5. When a sugar craving comes eat fresh or dried fruit. I read somewhere that it can be helpful to eat a handful of almonds with the fruit to help fill yourself up and avoid overeating, so I’ll give that a try too.
  6. Because this helped me in the past… enjoy a small square of dark chocolate in the evening if absolutely necessary and don’t stress about it.
  7. Take measurements before starting and progress pictures each week.
  8. Keep track of everything I’m eating in a food journal. This will include one cheat item per week ONLY if it’s necessary and only one cup of coffee per week with non-dairy milk and one teaspoon of SUCANAT or turbinado sugar.

And just for good measure – I have a few rules that I need to get in writing so I can hold myself accountable

  1. NO DAIRY – no cheese, no milk, no sour cream, etc.
  2. Drink more water, 2 – 3 Liters per day

I realize that this may sound extreme but I have had short-term success when I’ve created my own rules  in the past and I believe my long-term struggle has been due to not holding myself accountable and not speaking with the man about keeping sweets out of the house.

So who’s with me?  I’d love to have some company on this journey and will open up the Wheatgrass & Sassafras Facebook page to discussions about everyone’s achievements and challenges, this will help us stay honest and get some much needed support on days when we just don’t feel like we can stay strong.

If you want to be a quitter with me follow these easy steps

  1. Comment on this blog thread that you are going to be participating.
  2. Create realistic rules that will help you achieve your goals.
  3. Pick a quit date and set yourself up for success by planning to remove sugar from your home and loading up your fridge and cupboards with lots of healthy snack. My quit date is Sunday, March 11th.
  4. Read every label, if there is sugar in the product put it back on the shelf.
  5. Prepare yourself mentally for feeling some unpleasant effects as your body detoxes from sugar, you may experience headaches or irritability but I promise it will only be temporary and the benefits far outweigh the unpleasant feelings. You can help the detox process by drinking lots and lots of water.

If anyone has successfully giving up sugar I’d love to hear from you. What has you journey been like? How do you feel when you are not consuming refined sugar? What tips would you give someone trying to get off the white stuff?

Best of luck to all to those of you who are going to be quitters with me 🙂

And as always…

~ Happy & Healthy Eating

Eat More Kale

21 Feb

Did you see all of they hype about the Eat More Kale t-shirts and Chick-Fil-A? Long story short, Chick-Fil-A thought that Eat More Kale was a bit too similar to their Eat Mor Chikin campaign.

Well Chik-Fil-A, we are officially broken up. We had a good run for a while but I’m a different person now… and you haven’t changed a bit.

I no longer eat any of the items that you have on your menu and I am still resentful that you are closed on Sundays.

Eventually you’ll see that this is for the best.

I want you to know…

there will always be a special place in my heart for a Chicken Biscuit & Sweet Tea

BUT ONLY KALE CAN SAVE YOU NOW! HAHA!

I bet you are thinking that you don’t like kale

Well guess what, neither do I… with one exception

                        KALE SALAD

This is one of the best things I’ve ever made and I insist that you try it, it’s so delicious!

Kale Salad (adapted from Oh She Glows)

  • 4 – 6 cups of kale
  • 1/2 – 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, seeded & chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mixed raisins
  • 1/4 cup hemp seed
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds/walnuts (optional)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2-4 tbsp broth
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Chop all vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl. Reserve the seeds and nuts.
  2. Place all dressing ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Combine vegetables with dressing and toss to combine. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve topped with hemp seeds and nuts.

It may look ordinary and sound unusual but it is nothing short of magnificent.

I’ve eaten it three days in a row… in fact, I’m eating some right now!

~ Healthy & Happy Eating

 

You can buy your very own kale t-shirt by visiting one of these websites Eat More Kale and Herbivore Clothing Company.

When You Eat Right You Feel Right

19 Feb

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I’ve been staying away from eggs and cheese like a champ! Since February 1st I have only slipped once – at breakfast today, actually, with some great friends. Let me tell you, the blueberry pancakes were to die for!

The bad news is that I’ve been indulging in Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (with skim & splenda) and sweets way to much. My body is angry with me and I am feeling run down.

All is not lost though, I have utilized today to get back on track. While doing laundry I decided to prep a ton of food to get me through the week.

It is also time to break out the food journal again, to help hold me accountable and continue moving towards my goals.

Breakfast

Problem: I’ve been relying on cold cereal way too often which is never a good idea for me, I am always left feeling hungry, and there is unnecessary sugar in it which negatively impacts my weight loss goals.

Solution: I’ve prepped some brown rice to make Breakfast Rice Pudding. It may sound weird to eat brown rice for breakfast but it is so yummy. I may also prep some overnight steel-cut oats if I have extra time, I’ve never tried it before but they are super easy and hopefully tasty.

Note: this is not my photograph or the recipe I use for my breakfast rice pudding

Morning Snack

Problem: I haven’t been prepared and therefore walk out the door empty-handed. This poses a bigger problem on days when I’ve eaten cold cereal because I am ravenous by 9am.

Solution: By eating a whole grain rich breakfast my need for a big snack diminishes, I will rely on bananas or small servings of homemade energy bar to get me through until lunch time, but only if I am hungry.

Tonight I hope to replicate my favorite of all energy bars! Wish me luck 🙂

Lunch

This is one area that is never a problem, there are always leftovers in the fridge from the previous nights dinner  – of course I plan it that way.

But just to spice things up a bit this week I made four layered salads from a great blog Oh She Glows.

Afternoon Snack

Problem: Lack of preparation has caused issues in the afternoon too, lately I’ve been coming home to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and snacking while I prepare dinner. Don’t get me wrong, a PB&J once in a while is delicious, but eating one everyday can sabotage weight loss plans and leave you as hungry as if you ate cold cereal.

Solution: This will depend on if I’ve had a morning snack – a banana or energy bar will work for me in the afternoon if I didn’t have it earlier or I can take some sweet potato chips or cut up veggies and  hummus.

Dinner

You know this isn’t a problem 🙂 I make dinner from scratch almost every night and am able to stick to my weekly menus by planning simple dishes, stocking up on ingredients, and using my time wisely when I get home from work.

But because I had some extra time today I prepared some side dishes that I know will keep in the fridge a few days (provided I can keep Jordan away… very unlikely).

Kale Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

So for the rest of the evening I think I’ll make sloppy joes and while they are cooking I’ll throw some sweet potatoes in the oven to cook off and toss together that energy bar I mentioned.

You’d be surprised how much food you can prepare while you are preparing dinner… especially if you don’t have kids running around!

~Happy & Healthy Eating

Living In A Protein Obsessed World

16 Feb

If you work out regularly or are friends with those that do you probably hear people talking about protein all of the time. Between Eating Clean, Paleo, and Atkins it’s a wonder anyone is eating anything other than meat.

And if you are vegan I’m sure all of the omnivores you know have expressed concerned over your protein (and calcium) intake.

Does he look protein deficient?

Vegan Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke

Now I know what you are thinking – he is getting his protein from powders and supplements.  Maybe, but if you are consuming an average number of calories a day you are likely consuming all of the protein you need from a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Take an elephant for example, they don’t eat meat, drink protein shakes, or take supplements. They only eat leaves, bark, fruits, and grasses and look at how large and muscular they are.

So how much protein do you need?

  • According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) only 10-15% of your total calories need to come from protein. 
  • The World Health Organization suggests that only 4.5% of your total calories need to be protein.
  • Many strength training/weight loss sources would recommend 35-40% of your calories come from protein.

Confused? Well why wouldn’t you be. All of these numbers are crazy! Not only that, but if you go back five or ten years you would never see a 40% protein recommendation for the average person, you’d see around 10%.

After doing research on the topic I believe that as long as you are consuming a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods you will get all of the protein you’ll need. 

One of my favorite bloggers & cookbook authors Lindsay Nixon recently posted about this topic. Rather than recreating the wheel I’d rather just reference her wonderful information 🙂

According to The Happy Herbivore  many plant foods have more protein than meat, per calorie. For example, a cheeseburger contains .05 grams of protein per calorie compared to spinach which has .12 grams of protein per calorie…soy beans are one of the best sources of protein, having more protein per calorie than all dairy products, eggs and most meats…Other protein-rich plant foods include quinoa, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, whole wheat foods, seitan,  bulgar, broccoli and potatoes.

If you are still skeptical check out Thrive by Brendan Brazier or this awesome table  that shows you just how easy it is to get all of the protein you need from a vegan diet.

Personally, I rely on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains to satisfy my protein needs. Occasionally I will eat seitan, tofu, and tempeh. And I do my best to stay away from processed foods (including fake meats), protein powders, artificial/ overly processed sweeteners, and supplements.  

The reality is that back in the day no one counted calories or worried about pairing foods, so maybe we all need to stop obsessing about the numbers and rely on eating  food as close to the source as possible.

My decision to rely on plant-based foods has given me wonderful results – while I am not always perfect (sometimes I have an egg or some cheese)  I would never consider adding meat back into my diet and I am working really hard to be done with eggs and cheese permanently.

Feel free to share your experience with protein consumption or ask any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer them or point you in the right direction. 

~Happy & Healthy Eating

28 Days

30 Jan

My boyfriend is coming to Rhode Island!

Please meet Rip Esselstyn – firefighter, triathlete, and author of The Engine 2 Diet.

Handsome, right?

As it turns out Rip and Whole Foods are BFFs – as a result, the Rhode Island Whole Foods are sponsoring an Engine 2 Challenge where individuals will commit to the Engine 2 Diet for 28 days. The Engine 2 Diet book encourages individuals to transition to a whole foods, plant-based diet (based on scientific evidence) in order to reduce/reverse common medical conditions such as high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.

Individuals who take the challenge will get to meet Rip at the end of  28 days!

If you have perused my blog you know that The Engine 2 Diet book is what helped me commit to transitioning to a diet free of animal products. I was able to transition into vegetarianism very easily with no slip ups, however, veganism has been more difficult for three reasons

Dunkin Donuts - Egg & Cheese Sandwich

 

Pizza Hut - Stuffed Crust Pizza

BREAKFAST!

 My hope is that by participating in this challenge I can ditch the cheese and eggs for good…. and get Rip to autograph my Engine 2 book 😉

Last week Whole Foods held an introductory session which answered the questions WHAT IN THE WORLD IS E2? and WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?                                                         

* the answers to these questions below comes courtesy of Whole Foods

 
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS E2?
 
Engine 2 is a plan of action for following – and sticking to – a heart-healthy, mind-healthy, body-healthy and taste-bud tempting PlantStrong lifestyle, created by (my boyfriend) Rip Esselstyn.
 
Individuals following Engine 2 adopt a whole food, nutrient-dense, PlantStrong way of eating and experience a vast variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, Engine 2 can control glucose levels, reduce cholesterol, help maintain normal weight, and increase overall energy and well-being. 
 
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?
 
FIRE CADET
  • Week One: No dairy, refined sugar or processed foods
  • Week Two: no meat, chicken, eggs, or fish while you continue no dairy, refined sugar or processed foods
  • Week Three: no extracted oils. You’re now a firefighter!
  • Week Four: keep up another week of this PlantStrong Diet!

FIREFIGHTER

  • Week One: Jump right in to the 100% plant-based way of life and enjoy healthy whole grains, fruits, legumes, vegetables and beans.

    E2 Mealtoaf & Mashed Potatoes

Doesn’t that look good? I found this picture on the Engine 2 facebook page.

Clearly this diet/challenge is not about deprivation, it’s about eating to live rather than living to eat, it’s about living with the healthiest body possible, and for me it’s about breaking up with cheese and eggs.

Throughout the 28 days (which begins February 1st) I will be sure to share updates about my experience and will post some interesting tidbits contained in The Engine 2 Diet.

I hope that you’ll consider joining me in this challenge. In the meantime…

~ Healthy & Happy Eating