Wednesday, November 20, 2013

4 Ways to Veg Out

For some people, eating straight vegetables is tough. You might be one of these people. Perhaps you find yourself bored of the same old vegetables, verging on becoming a vegetable yourself. Then again, the taste may not be to your liking, or maybe it's the texture. I personally have never had any of these problems aside from the being bored out of my mind part, but several members of my family certainly have. In fact, my youngest brother claims that he can still taste the tomato on a sandwich even after it's been removed. Future husband (haha.) beware, because if you're picky or a proud carnivore, I've got some tricks up my sleeve ;)

Blend 'em up and hide 'em in things
Whether they're carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, or any other vegetable, blend them up and use them as a thickener or flavoring for sauces and stews. You still get all of the benefits of the whole vegetable, you just can't see them. Put the pulp of carrots or other "pulpy" vegetables (shoot, you can even use apple pulp) into ground meat for burgers or meatloaf. This is perfect for picky eaters and kids.

Use them as replacements for grains
My mom's digestive system is really messed up, so she has to eat gluten free. Over the years, I've come up with ways to "recreate" some of our favorite meals without using products with gluten (or any other flour products for that matter). Making quiche using thinly-sliced potatoes as the crust is great, and sort of reminiscent of scalloped potatoes, without all of the fat. You can also use spaghetti squash as a replacement for spaghetti. Go Italian and use thinly sliced eggplant or zucchini in the place of lasagna noodles.

Replace "traditional" fats with them
I'm sure you've heard of the whole banana ice cream with one ingredient (spoiler alert: it's bananas) and applesauce in cake. But you can also blend up avocados with a little lime juice and use them to replace mayonnaise in chicken or tuna salad, or on sandwiches as a spread. I also love making chocolate frosting and mousse out of avocados.

Marinate them
This is less "hiding" them and more transforming them. A little vinegar and some spices (try to avoid salt, as pickling brines can make vegetables super high in sodium very easily) go a long way. I've just recently gotten in to using this type of technique in my food, inspired by Asian fusion cuisine. I just love the little sides of spicy, freshly-pickled cucumber slices or tangy-sweet slaws that come with barbecue and soups. Some rice wine vinegar, chili flakes, and a twist of lime are all you need to make a simple, tasty marinade.

What do you do to transform fruits and vegetables to include more of them in your diet? Let me know, because I always love new ideas!

Also, follow me on Twitter for more recipes and health tips at @EmRSullivan, #foodfromthought!

Friday, November 8, 2013

National Diabetes Awareness Month

No recipes today! It's National Diabetes Awareness Month, and with that, I'd like to put the focus on a part of diabetes that people aren't quite so aware of.
As a dietetics student, I have only heard of this eating disorder (currently categorized as an eating disorder not otherwise specified - EDNOS) twice. It was on a British TV show I was interested in for a while, and in another video we watched in a nutrition therapy class at school. No one else in the class had heard of it before then.
Diabulimia is exactly what it sounds like: diabetes and bulimia combined. People affected by diabulimia are those suffering from Type 1 diabetes.
Here's a basic rundown of what type 1 diabetes is: the body does not produce insulin, or it may not produce enough. Insulin is a hormone which picks up the sugars in your blood after you eat, delivering it to your liver and muscles to be processed or stored. That's why on TV, when you see a character with diabetes, they talk about "insulin shots". Since the body can't make its' own, it must be put there through a shot or a monitor. You can find more information on Type 1 as well as Type 2 diabetes here.
So where does the bulimia come in? Why is it called 'diabulimia'? Isn't bulimia the same for everybody?
In general Bulimia nervosa, the sufferer binges and purges - they eat a lot, then get rid of it by throwing up, taking laxatives, or exercising more than is considered healthy (in some cases, 8 or more hours per day). With diabulimics, it is the same basic concept: they still eat, but they also still lose weight. Diabulimics typically only eat foods containing carbohydrates, the body's source of sugars. With no insulin to pick up that sugar and store in the body's tissues, it just gets peed out. No storage = no weight gain.
The dangers of skipping insulin include thirst, fainting, blurred vision which eventually progresses into permanent blindness, coma, and even death among numerous other harmful outcomes.
This is the video I watched that first informed me of this little-known disorder:

It's tragic, but a very real problem. Fortunately, it has been being recognized much more in recent media.

On the topic of eating disorders, I've decided that from here on out, I will no longer be posting the calorie content of my recipes. I had begun to cater to what I call "pinterest trends" in the way of blog content (basically: weightlossweightlossweightloss) to try to get more exposure to my blog, but I've begun to realize that in doing so, I've counteracted the ideas of health that I've been trying to convey in my posts. Though there aren't many people who read this blog, I don't want my blog to contain unnecessary triggers for those with or recovering from eating disorders. My blog is a health blog. I believe that there is more to health than weight, and that the nutrient content of a food is far more important than the calorie content. I want my emphasis to be on physical activity, lots of nutrients, and living a satisfactory, physically AND mentally well lifestyle. I will still be posting recipes, as well as nutritional information such as vitamins and minerals, as well as exercise tips and general fun health stuff.
If anyone would like to know the amount of calories in my recipes, there are plenty of websites and apps that you can plug recipes into to find out those numbers.
Also, my birthday is tomorrow!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

National Pumpkin Day Smoothie

Today is National Pumpkin Day! In honor of this beloved Jack-O-Lantern of all trades (sorry, I couldn't resist...), I present you with:

Fist-Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
(So good your brain will scramble and reduce you to a state of uncontrollable fist-pumping)

Makes 4 - 12 oz. servings

1 - 16 oz. can of pumpkin puree (just plain old puree!)
2-3 medium (5-6" long) bananas, frozen
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk (substitute with almond milk for vegan option)
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey (optional, but I like things sweet)
1 cup ice

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy! I used Trader Joe's cinnamon sugar grinder to add a little topping to mine :)

This delicious smoothie packs in about 250% of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin A. Your eyes will thank you, as will your waistline, since each serving (WITH sweetener) has only about 190 calories. Leaving out the sweetener, since ripe bananas are sweet enough to pass as ice cream all on their own, makes this treat only 144 calories.

Compare that with 350 calories in a slice of pumpkin pie, without whipped cream! Not to mention that 350 calorie slice is only a little bit more than 1" wide.

Compare THAT with Jamba Juice's (which, I'll be honest, inspired me to make my own home-made pumpkin smoothie) Pumpkin Smash: 390 calories, and only 40% vitamin A!

So, yeah. Make this instead.
Or you can fist-pump away all of the holiday weight you put on eating all manner of pumpkin-spice-latte-soup-accino-smoothie pies.
Or, you know, just enjoy all those things moderation!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Butternuts! About Fall

As I sit here, relieved that at least I've finished my chemistry prelab, with butternut squash boiling away on the stove in a concoction of cinnamon, chicken stock, and milk, and slightly cooler weather than usual outside, it's obvious that my favorite season, fall, is here at last. And, as you're probably aware, with fall comes warm, toasty, aromatic foods like soup, roasts, pies, and crumbles. Squash, root vegetables, apples, plums, and more are abundant at farmers markets as well as the grocery store, and I love it.
Of course, there are things I definitely dislike about Autumn. School starts, and 40 hours of work and 17 credits at school are not a happy mix, unlike pumpkin pie spice and lattes. I'm trying to save money this year by packing more lunches and dinners from home, but I can only live on PB&Js and salads for so long. My friends think I'm weird for it, but I literally get bored of food if I eat a certain type too often. So, using one of the butternut squashes my dear, sweet southern grandmother gave us a few weeks ago, I'm sharing three recipes that incorporate the hallmark squash of fall.

Butternut Squash Soup
Delicious all on its' own, or with a grilled slice of sourdough bread and a fresh salad on the side.

2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup organic milk
1 cup organic chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup onions, sauteed
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 leaves fresh sage (optional)
1/2 tsp. olive oil

Place squash, milk, stock, water, and spices into a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, chop up about half of a small onion and saute it in a little olive oil until slightly browned. Once squash is fork-tender, remove pot from heat and add onions. Allow to cool slightly before blending with an immersion blender or food processor. Garnish with fresh chopped sage. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Chili with Butternut Squash 
Perfect for days when you're short on time. Full of fresh vegetables and plant-based proteins to keep you full, warm, and energized.

1 cup butternut squash, roasted and diced
1 small red onion
3 small sweet peppers
2 roma tomatoes
1 ear corn (about 1/2 cup kernels)
1/4 cup black beans
1/4 cup lentils
1/4 cup wheat berries or brown rice
2 tbsp chickpeas
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder (or to taste)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
shredded cheese (optional)

Soak beans, lentils, and chikpeas overnight. Drain, and add to crock pot with wheat berries or rice. Dice all vegetables and place in crock pot, excluding squash. Add seasonings and cover with 1/2 vegetable stock 1/2 water. Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 3-4. If liquid becomes too low, add just enough to cover ingredients. Enjoy with shredded cheese or diced green onion.

Butternut Squash Waffles

My personal favorite, a delicious way to add some vegetables to breakfast :) Recipe adapted from the Amish Country Cookbook, Volume 2.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup butternut squash, roasted or boiled and mashed
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 eggs, separated

Beat egg yolks, add milk, and beat for 1 minute. Sift together dry ingredients and add to the yolk/milk mixture. Mix in squash. Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into batter. Dollop batter onto hot waffle iron for about 5 minutes, or until steam stops and waffles are golden brown and crispy.

Serve with warm (real) maple syrup and toasted pecans. Fresh plum or pear also goes well with these.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Anxie-Tea and Smoothie

I'm going to be a little bit serious today.
At the risk of sounding like a hypochondriac, I've decided that I have a problem with anxiety. I don't know if it's GAD, or chronic anxiety, or just a tendency towards being anxious about things, but I do know that ever since I was very young, I would go through periods where I literally couldn't sleep all night because I couldn't stop thinking and worrying, and I still do from time to time. It isn't so much the thoughts as it is just the physical reactions I experience that make it hard to sleep. Prayer and reading my Bible are two things I've always gone to first when I feel anxious about anything, and I have a peace of mind in that even if my body is still spazzing out.

I try to use as few drugs as possible, so rather than trying out over-the-counter sleeping pills or anxiety medications, or recreational drugs for that matter, I started drinking chamomile tea before bed. It actually did help, whether the effects were real or just placebo. Who cares? It helped. I also noticed that once I started taking hemp or flax seed oil to get more Omega-3 and -6 fats I had an easier time sleeping and less days where I felt too jittery to eat and less nights in which I was too hot or my heart was racing to sleep.
So I got a really cool book from a tiny used bookstore downtown several months ago, and it's huge and full of nutritional prescriptions. It's basically a big reference guide to what vitamins, minerals, herbs, and foods have been scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of certain conditions. The symptoms of anxiety, while possibly just genetic, have also been seen popping up with certain deficiencies...namely omega 3 and 6's and several vitamins and minerals. Among the recommendations were chamomile tea, as well.
So I mixed up my own concoction of foods and herbs that supplements some of the nutrients that could play a role in anxiety. If you're curious, they include:
vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, B vitamins, and essential fatty acids, among others.

 I don't recommend drinking this in the morning or before you go to work or driving anywhere, as chamomile tea can make some people drowsy.


Basically, this is a simple tea blend made up of two parts chamomile tea to one part dried lavender flowers. To make one cup (8 oz.) of tea:

1 tbsp. loose-leaf chamomile tea
1/2 tbsp. dried lavender flowers

Steep in steaming hot water for 3 minutes. Add honey if you want.

Anxie-tea Smoothie

8 oz. Anxie-tea, cooled.
1/2 cup ice
1 1/2 cups strawberries (vitamin C)
1 whole, frozen banana (potassium, B vitamins)
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (calcium)
3 tbsp ground flaxseed (magnesium, EFA's)
3 tbsp hulled, unsalted, raw sunflower seeds (magnesium, selenium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and zinc)
2 tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Now, the taste is pretty much strawberry and banana with a slight herbal-iness from the tea. I think it tastes sort of like you blended up a parfait with the granola. This recipe makes about 28 oz., so you can share it with someone or drink it all as a meal replacement.

Please note: This is not a cure or 100% treatment for anxiety or panic-related disorders. If you're on any type of prescription medication, check your labels and with your doctor before using herbal supplements to avoid negative side effects. If the symptoms you're experiencing are effecting your quality of life at all, please talk to someone or see a professional! The recipes provided have helped me with my own physical anxiety symptoms (lack of appetite, mild insomnia, and racing heart), so I wanted others to be able to benefit from them, as well. Enjoy! :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Delicious Deception

Lying is wrong. I learned that when I was a little girl, mostly because I lied all the time about everything, and my mom told me that if I kept it up, she would never believe anything I said when I was older. So I wisened up, and decided to earn my parents' trust so that I could have priveledges that my younger brothers would lose their minds over when I was in high school.
I'm not sure if I'll be able to do the same with my kids with a straight face, because lately, I've been lying again...

Mmm...look at those cute little hollowed-out, frozen banana pieces generously stuffed with silky smooth, indulgent, dark chocolate mousse. Aren't those sprinkles just adorable?

I made these for my swim team's end-of-the-year potluck. I figured I'm a coach, so maybe instead of bringing more cookies for the kids I've been trying to teach to live active lifestyles, I should bring them something healthier...

Oh, yeah. These are totally healthy. And I'm not just saying that because the mousse is inside of bananas. 
Because the mousse isn't regular mousse.

It's made out of avocados.

I adapted this idea from this via Pinterest, and a recipe I found for an avocado-based chocolate mousse. Having experimented with chocolate avocado frosting in the past, and using it as a dip, I was all for trying it in mousse. And it worked, with delightful results.

First of all, they looked cute. Who can resist a cute thing?
Second of all, they taste just like a banana filled with chocolate creamy goodness.
Childrens' eyes widened with wonder when I walked past holding these. My coworkers begged for some before I set them out to be ravened by the wolves that are swim team families at a potluck. And I withheld my secret from them all...until they tried them and loved them, of course.
Oh, I didn't mention that they only have 70 calories per banana bite?
 If only I could think of a clever name for them the way I do for my smoothies.

Chocolate Mousse-Filled Banana Bites
 Makes approximately 30

6 bananas, cut into 5ths (about 1.5")

2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup 60% dark cocoa chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tbsp unsweetened chocolate almond milk

Peel and slice your bananas into 1.5" pieces. I left mine unpeeled, but the peels turned brown-black and gross looking in the fridge. With the small end of a melon baller or a paring knife, scoop out about half of the center of the banana. Try your best to keep the edges intact to hold your mousse. If you leave your bananas unpeeled, the peel helps to hold to mousse in until it sets even if you mess up, so there's a plus.

Pop the bananas into the freezer while you prepare the mousse.

Peel and dice the avocados and place them into a blender or food processor. Pulse until creamy and no longer chunky. In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate chips for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave in 10-second intervals until smooth. You could also use a double boiler. Add the chocolate, cocoa, milk, and syrup to the blender and mix until smooth. The mousse should be a creamy consistency, slightly thinner than a frosting.

Scoop mousse into a ziplock bag that has a cute icing tip inside of it (mine apparently got eaten by the garbage disposal), and pipe into the bananas. Add nuts, sprinkles, or raspberries on top for decoration, and place into the freezer or refrigerator for 20-30 minutes, until the mousse is set up.

Serve cold, and enjoy!

Also, I'm super-duper excited, because I just got some new raw honey at Sprouts today. It's new at their store, and I hope they keep it, because so far, I love it! It still has bits of pollen in it, and the honey is slightly crystallized, so there are little specks that kind of work as gentle exfoliators! It also tastes great and comes in an adorable mason jar (how many times have I described something as cute or adorable today?)!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Super Delicious Smoothies - Part 2

I'm still on my conquest to make delicious and healthy frozen drinks, and this week we had so many organic peaches from our co-op that we had to freeze most of them. So naturally, I made smoothies.
Sorry, no grainy, washed-out-color photos today! I'm sure your feelings are all hurt ;)
This smoothie is very basic, with just four ingredients. I call it

The Beaches 'n Cream
(Because it'll help you get that beach body ;) )

1 cup chopped peaches, frozen
1 container (6 oz.) low-fat or fat-free vanilla bean yogurt (I used Brown Cow brand, which uses only real fruit and ingredients for flavoring and sweetening. I really like their vanilla yogurt because they have actual vanilla bean in it, which I love).
3 medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup ice

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Makes two 12 oz. smoothies. In case you're curious, here is the nutrition information:
Nutrition Label made on
This smoothie is a great 'energy drink', as its sugar all comes from real food and no processed sugars are added. The protein from the yogurt also helps to slow down the absorption of sugar, which helps stabilize blood sugar rather than giving you an immediate sugar rush and its ensuing sugar crash. It's also a great way to get a serving of fruit and lots of calcium. To give yourself an additional boost, you can replace the almond milk with green tea for some extra antioxidants and, yes, caffeine. Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Super Delicious and Also Nutritious Smoothie - Part 1

I love drinks. Juice, lemonade, tea, coffee, even soda sometimes provided it's not full of junk. But my favorite drinks of all - especially during summer time - are the frozen kinds. Blended coffees, tea blends, shakes, and smoothies. I could probably survive on an entirely liquid diet, and I pretty much do during the summer. However, for normal people who actually have time to eat real food, drinks are also one of the most devastating ways to add totally unnecessary calories to your daily diet. Liquid calories are way less filling than solid calories, so it makes sense that you would be able drink over half of a day's worth of calories in one milkshake alone.
But I have a solution to this problem. And it doesn't involve drinking straight black coffee, bitter tea, or slightly lemony water. Hallelujah. It's pretty trendy right now to do juicing and all that, so it should come as no surprise that I'm talking about smoothies (also the title of this post might have given it away, too).
But let me be honest. I have a pinterest. I see all of those juice and smoothie recipes. And they all look and sound like they'd taste like my garbage disposal. Seriously. Kale, celery, and green apples? Sure, it's full of no calories, vitamin K, and some other good vitamins and minerals. But can't anything healthy actually taste good anymore? Let's be real. You aren't going to pass up on your Starbucks (or Coffee Bean, or Dutch Bros., or whatever...) for that. You're going to take one look at that bubbling witches brew and think, "great now I have to clean my blender". Plus, you could've made a salad out of that kale or even some delicious soup that would've been way more filling.
Disclaimer: I have a juicer, and I totally love drinking juice, but it's expensive to blend up five pounds of fresh produce for a quart of juice that'll last about 20 minutes and then make you pee rainbows.

So if I'm going to go for a healthy drink, I go for smoothies. This smoothie has no added sugar (if you leave out the chocolate chips, but let's be real...), and is also full of things that are a) raw, b) nutrient-dense, and c) delicious. So it's just like juice, only a little more filling, and smooth and creamy. And it has a super cute name.

Not-So-Chunky-Monkey Smoothie
Yield: 1 - 16 oz. smoothie and 5 kilowatts of immense joy

1 small banana (about 6")
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (it MUST be almond milk!)
1/4 cup or a couple handfuls of blueberries
1/2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp dark chocolate chips (optional!)

See nutrition information here. You can save 70 calories by leaving out the chocolate chips!

Place all ingredients into a blender and smash it up! It tastes like an almond joy, with all the joy and none of the heart-wrenching guilt ;) The coconut and chocolate chips will still be chunky in it unless you have a super blender, unlike me. But it is delicious, and I like some texture. I would even suggest throwing in a handful of almonds if you want. Enjoy!

More smoothies to come!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

5 Workout Tips for Lazy People

I'm one of those weirdos who actually enjoys going to the gym and working out. Part of it stems from my years of competitive swimming, when I would work out intensely 2-3 times a day. Part of it is from my admittedly-vain desire to stay in the same shape I was my junior-senior year of high school. A good part of it is from the 'work out high' triggered by the release of all of those endorphins. And sometimes, the entire thing is one massive outlet of frustration and stress caused by school, work, and, of course, other people. If I have to be completely honest, if it wasn't for verses like Ephesians 4:26 and the accessibility of going for a swim, doing a quickie-yoga session, or running, I would have probably punched quite a few walls and people by now, and maybe thrown a computer or two.

But sometimes, particularly on weekends, in the middle of summer when everywhere is too hot for anything, and during the school year (so, pretty much all the time), I just don't feel it. I prefer swimming and using weird weight machines to doing body weight exercises in my dim, gross carpeted room. Once I actually do it, I feel great, but the mental wall of actually getting up from watching Hulu on my day bed to do a few dissatisfying squats and maybe a crunch or twelve, totally gets in the way. So here I present to you, tactics I use to motivate me to workout at home.

1. Do some wall sits while surfing the web.
This is kind of like that 'do crunches during commercial breaks' tip you see everywhere, only in this day and age, nobody watches TV with commercials anymore. So you're sitting down anyways, right? So why not unplug your fully-charged laptop and bring it on over to the wall with you? I'm literally doing it right. now. I can guarantee that the distraction of cute cats will override the burning sensation you feel in your hammies. You can even do intervals: one cute cat video of wall sitting, one cute bunny video of rest. Repeat 3-5 times.

2. Do it right before you're going to shower.
One thing that usually stops me from working out at home is that "ughh, now I have to shower after". If I'm swimming, it only feels natural to shower after, but for some reason showering at home is just really demotivating to me. So plan a little workout for right before your morning/afternoon/nighttime shower. Then you can feel fit and clean. Then you can go eat some nice wholesome food and feel super good about yourself.

3. Wear workout clothes as pajamas/house wear.
I'm pretty sure most people do this anyways, but if I happen to pull on a pair of jeans first thing in the morning, I'm not going to work out that day unless I schedule a trip to the gym in somewhere. I'm really the world's biggest walking oxymoron, because I am generally a hard worker, and love working out, but I am so lazy, I won't work out if it means I have to do the remedial task of changing into a pair of shorts. It's mostly because when I feel like I need to work out, I really just want to do it and get it done. Which leads me to my next tip.

4. Just freakin do it.
At the risk of sounding like a Nike commercial, seriously, just do it. If you feel the urge to get down and do some push-ups, do it. It'll take all of two minutes, and it's better than just sitting there. I often fit body-weight exercises into random times during the day. Particularly slow day at the aquatics center while I'm at the top of the slide? Lunge time. Waiting for my homework assignment to upload? Squat it out. Shoot, I'm doing elbow planks as I type.

5. Have something to work towards.
This is the single most motivating thing I do for myself. I don't use pictures of dehydrated, haven't-eaten-anything-but-brown-rice-and-lettuce-three-days-before-the-photoshoot athletic wear models to motivate myself, and neither should you. Just read that description of said model, and realize that it is not a reasonable or realistic image to attain. Even athletes make the mistake of believing that 'fitness' equates to 'low-to-no body fat', but your body needs at least a little bit to function.I believe that fitness is the ability to perform activities at an above-average level. You can run 3 miles without dying. You can lift 50 pound plus objects when moving out of your apartment. Definition is just a nice bonus to treating your body with respect and taking care of yourself. So rather than lusting after that picture on Pinterest, sign up for a sports club (my city has a free running club), where you'll be held accountable, and have goals to work towards. Sign up for races, that way you have to train. Shoot, if you absolutely feel you have to improve the way your body looks, set a realistic, attainable goal that won't leave you disappointed and discouraged. Just give yourself a reason to do something, and you probably will.



Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Salad a Day: A Week's Worth of Yummy Salads

Last month, I really started to inspect what I was eating. I eat healthy food a majority of the time, but my biggest problem is simply not eating enough. Especially during the school year, I know all too well how difficult it gets to eat healthily, and eat enough. I also know that if you are a college student like me, working one or more jobs, it becomes easier and easier to slip down a slope of 'convenience eating'. Snacks, store-bought food, and processed foods are what you're practically forced to consist on. But not anymore!

I've decided that each month, I'm going to try to conquer a new diet goal. Keep in mind that when I used the word 'diet' in this entry, I'm not talking about the short-term, quick-fix, deliberately deprecating 'diet' that everyone in the western world has come to know and hate, I'm talking about the nourishing, eating-real-food, what you do for a lifetime 'diet'. This entry is (very, very) late in the making, but I still wanted to do it, because I had a lot of fun with it, feel like I legitimately improved my health, and think that others will benefit from it too.

My goal for the month of March was to eat more vegetables and fruit. Now, if you know me, you know that I really have no problem eating fruits and vegetables. I love them! However, what I find most challenging is not getting bored with what I'm eating (Costco's Normandy vegetable mix can only keep you entertained for so many weeknight dinners), and having the time to eat. Lately, I've been either eating a little snack for lunch, or skipping it altogether and having a pastry or something before work. Not good. So, to solve this problem, I decided I would pack or make myself a lunch salad a day for one week.

I made each of these salads with the same spring greens mix you can get at pretty much any grocery store, and I still had some left over at the end of the week. Definitely feel free to use any kind of lettuce, greens, or salad mix you like. I prefer the spring mixes because the greens used go well with everything, and they also contain a lot more nutrients than, say, ice berg lettuce. I already had all of the ingredients in each of these at home, making this even easier (and cheaper!) to make! Do know that these are not necessarily 'low-calorie' salads, since the point of this was to increase my consumption of something good for me rather than decreasing something bad. Nevertheless, all of the dressings and ingredients are generally lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, and I have added no additional salt.

Easter Salad with Lemon Pepper Vinaigrette

2 cups spring greens mix
1 boiled egg, chopped
1 oz (about the size of two fingers) ham, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tsp shredded parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
Dash of cracked black pepper
Pinch of sugar

Whisk dressing together until opaque and creamy looking. Drizzle over salad and toss to distribute ingredients. Enjoy with a piece of fresh fruit or whole-wheat bread.

Southwest Strawberry Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

2 cups spring green mix
1/2 cup cooked and drained black beans, homemade or canned, but get low-sodium or sodium-free!
1/4 cup cooked and cooled corn kernels
3 or 4 strawberries, diced
2 corn tortillas, cut into strips
1 Tbsp shredded Mexican cheese blend

2 Tbsp plain, fat free yogurt
1 tsp chipotle flakes, or 1/2 tsp. jarred chipotle
Pinch of dried garlic powder
Pinch of ground cumin
1 tsp lemon juice
Dash of hot sauce

Spray or drizzle 1/4 tsp olive oil into a small frying pan. Cut tortillas into 1/4-inch wide strips, then cut into thirds. Saute strips until lightly browned. If you have more time, you can also bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.
Whisk together dressing, adding water until desired consistency is reached (mine was like ranch dressing) and let stand for two minutes to allow the flavor of the chipotle flakes to leach into the yogurt. Stir once more before drizzling over salad and tossing together. Add tortilla strips and toss once more just before eating or serving. Enjoy!

Thai-Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Peanut Ginger Dressing

2 cups spring green mix
3 oz. (about the size of four fingers) grilled chicken, diced
1 large carrot, shredded or diced small
2 cutie oranges
1/4 cup purple cabbage, shredded 
2 green onions, sliced
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp candied ginger, chopped
2 fresh mint leaves and 2 fresh basil leaves, minced (optional)

1 Tbsp unsweetened peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp coconut milk
2 tsp sesame oil (if you don't have sesame oil, olive oil is fine, as well)
1/2 tsp. chili flakes
1/8 tsp. candied ginger

Mix together dressing, and add water until desired consistency. It will be pretty thick if you don't add water. Drizzle over salad and toss to distribute ingredients. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of tossed salad.

Orchard Fruit Salad with Creamy Lemon Lavender Dressing

2 cups spring greens mix
1 small apple, 1/2 diced, and 1/2 cut into slices (or you can just dice them all)
2 Tbsp raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
2 Tbsp raisins

2 Tbsp plain, fat free yogurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp dried lavender flowers (you can usually find these with bulk spices. If you can't find them, this salad would still be great with just the sweet lemon dressing.)

Whisk together dressing to muddle the lavender flowers and let stand 2 minutes before stirring once more to distribute the flavor. Pour over salad and toss. Top with the remaining slices of the apple.

Grazing Goat Salad with Simple Vinaigrette

2 cups spring green mix
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/2 avocado, cubed
2 Tbsp sliced black olives
2 Tbsp goat cheese

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
Pinch of garlic powder

Whisk together oil and vinegar until emulsified (it should no longer be clear, and there shouldn't be any separation of oil). Add pepper and garlic and whisk once more before drizzling over salad. Toss, then sprinkle goat cheese over top.  

Black Bean and Avocado Salsa with Goat Cheese

1 avocado, cubed
1 roma tomato, chopped
1/2 cup rinsed and drained black beans
1 tsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp goat cheese
Dash of cracked black pepper

No dressing for this one! Simply combine ingredients, sprinkle with goat cheese, and enjoy. Also makes a great vegetarian taco filling.

And what would we do without a dessert salad...?

Fresh Berry Mojito Salad

1 1/4 cup quartered strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 tsp. fresh minced mint leaves

1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp. honey

Toss together dressing, fruit, and mint leaves until combined. Let stand 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld, or if you really can't wait, enjoy right away! :) This goes great all on its own, with a slice of angel food or pound cake, or with a dollop of whipped cream.

So there you go, a week's worth of deliciously fresh, simple, and healthy salads to give you that extra one or two servings of fruit or vegetables every day. Prepare to feel more energized, happy, and brighter! But don't stop with these, experiment on your own with different oils, spices, juices and vinegars, proteins, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits. I would love to see what other people come up with!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Say "Nah" to Na!

Over the last few weeks in my nutrition class, we've been learning about therapies for weight loss and cardiovascular disease. As we discussed hypertension, my professor pointed out that most Americans are consuming over 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day. The daily recommended intake is set at 2,300-2,500 milligrams, and ideally the American Heart Association recommends keeping it at 1,500 milligrams per day, so we're getting almost two and a half times the amount that is recommended.
But Emily...what is a milligram? I don't own a chemistry lab, you know.

2,500 milligrams is about 1 1/4 teaspoons. I've made this handy, dandy poor-qualit-andy chart to exemplify just how ridiculous the amount of salt some people are taking in is.

The 'Average American Consumption' pile may not look that much bigger than the recommended amount here, but you can tell that it peaks higher than the Recommended Amount, which is just a little less than half of it.
The little pinch at the bottom there is the very least amount of salt you can take in without running into health problems. Luckily for Americans (and the general "Western Diet" world), hyponatremia, or 'too little salt', isn't a very common problem unless you're a marathon runner or severely restrict your over all diet.
You can actually get plenty of sodium from your foods alone, no salt added. My professor posed a challenge for my class, proposing that we stop adding table salt to our foods for two weeks and see what happens.
I challenge you to try this, as well.
We have this mindset in America that if food isn't salty, it's bland. That is so untrue. We've just become accustomed to relating 'saltiness' to 'flavor', but there are more than just one kind of tastebud, and the different flavors available to us in a developed country are immense.
Start tasting your food as it is, add seasonings like pepper, paprika, garlic, cayenne, chipotle, lemon, lime, onion...the list goes on and on! You will find that as your palate gets used to 'bland' foods, the food will become more flavorful in its own way: you'll experience the flavor of the natural sodium that plants get from the soil, and that animals retain in their bodies, and that roasted chicken breast that you would've thought tasteless before will be a new food to you.

The physical benefits of reducing your sodium intake are also great. Not only will you be experiencing a broader range of flavors, but reducing your sodium intake will lower your blood pressure, increase your energy and cardiac efficiency, and decrease water retention and bloating.

So let's lay down the rules for the "Say Nah to Na" Challenge!

1. Limit your processed foods. I know that life gets busy, but that's where planning ahead comes in. Cooking your food fresh at home means that you know exactly what's going into your meal (with the exception of any pesticides/hormones/etc. in non-organic foods).
  • Chop up vegetables ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Don't use condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, or barbecue sauce unless you make them yourself. Condiments are a gigantic perpetrator when it comes to excessive consumption of sodium, fat, and sugar.
  • Marinate meats (and vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, beets, zucchini...) in fruit juices like lemon, lime, or orange, with honey, fresh chiles, and vinegars.
    • Sour or astringent flavors can easily replace the salty flavors we all crave.
  • Use fresh salsas and slaws to dress up tacos, meats, and even salads!
    • This squeezes in an extra serving of fruits!
    • One of my favorite flavor combinations are meat and fruit...
    • Pork + apples
    • Fish + mango and pineapple
    • Chicken + strawberries
  • Make your own salad dressings: my personal favorite is olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and oregano.
    • Be creative and mix raw, unsalted nuts (find them in the baking aisle!), fresh or dried fruits, and low-sodium cheeses into salads.
  • Buy a new spice or seasoning every time you go grocery shopping.
    • Cumin is delicious in Mexican foods.
    • Bayleaf adds depth to soups and stews
    • Try salt-free meat rubs and spice mixes.

2. Hide your salt shaker!
  • Over the next two weeks, you will not add any salt to the food you prepare before, during, or after cooking it!
3.  Increase your intake of fish and other foods rich in iodine.
  • Iodized salt is a major source of iodine in the Western diet. Insufficient iodine can cause goiters, which are very unattractive and uncomfortable. Google it.
  • Foods high in iodine include salt-water fish and seafood (cod, tuna, shrimp), unpeeled potatoes, milk, and if you're feeling adventurous (or really like sushi), seaweed.
4. Don't become orthorexic.
  • Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by the obsession with eating only healthy foods. 
  • This obsession is so great that it hinders normal daily life.
  • Going out with friends while trying the sodium challenge? Don't let your diet control you, but choose menu items that are on the healthier side: don't order deep-fried foods, foods with a lot of sauces, or breaded foods. And don't add any salt to your dish at the table, there's more than enough there already!
5. You are not completely eliminating salt from your diet.
  • This goes a bit hand-in-hand with the whole 'orthorexia' thing.
  • Don't get caught up on the "no sodium" thing. You need sodium to survive, just not as much as you may be taking in.
  • Don't go out to the store and buy 'low-sodium' bread, pasta, etc. Eat as your normally might, but get rid of the overly-processed stuff like take-and-bakes, pre-prepared meals, etc.
  • If you feel nauseous, confused, sluggish, experience headaches or dizziness, muscle cramps, spasms, weakness, or fainting, I advise that you start getting more sodium, as these can all be signs of hyponatremia.
  • If you are an athlete (particularly an endurance athlete, or are training for several hours a day), you need more sodium than the average person, and this plan is not for you! You may also need more sodium if you live in a particularly hot climate and sweat more than usual.
 In conclusion...
It is unlikely that you will become deficient in sodium, as the very basic needs of your body are between 250-500 mg per day. I have been doing this for a week and feel absolutely fine, am enjoying the flavors of my foods much more, and actually have felt more energized and better hydrated since trying this. However, as with anything, if you have any kind of health problems, you should check with a physician before changing your diet or exercise program, especially if you're taking any type of medication.

Good Luck!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Food for your Face

I haven't washed my face in almost two years.

Well, technically. I haven't washed my face with soap in over two years.
In Summer of 2009, I went through this phase after finding the website No More Dirty Looks. I stopped using shampoo, conditioner, and soap, and switched it all out for baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and the natural oils on my head. It actually worked really well, and my hair always looked great without even being brushed. However, my hair is just too naturally wavy and curly to not use conditioner, so I went back to using natural hemp shampoo and conditioner instead of the baking soda.

But there was one thing I started doing at that time that I still do to this day, and that's using pure, raw honey to wash my face. I can't remember where on the internet I first saw it. I think it was some obscure blog that someone linked to in a comment on another more popular blog. As I read through the comments, the results that other people were getting really intrigued me: their skin felt soft, their skin tone evened out, and they rarely had breakouts, and when they did, they would be gone within a day.
I had to try it for myself.
The next day, I hit up the Sprouts to get myself some honey. I picked up a 6 oz. jar of Y.S. Eco Bee Farm. Let me emphasize that it was raw honey. Not the clear orange stuff you get in the bears and put in tea, but a light, somewhere-between-waxy-and-creamy stuff in a jar. I've used strained, purified honey before, and while it does work a little, it doesn't have as dramatic effects as the raw honey.
I won't lie and say that for years I suffered from horrible cystic acne and that raw honey was the miracle cure for me. My skin has always been pretty combination-y. Mostly dry, but sometimes oily. I usually got breakouts on my forehead, and sometimes a really obnoxious, single cyst right in the middle of my chin would appear. My nose would get the occasional pimple, but my cheeks were always pretty free of blemishes, except for some really mild rosacea around my jaw line.
From my experience, raw honey works amazingly for your average period/stress/typical life-induced breakouts, and does wonders for dry skin. My skin tone has definitely cleared up a lot, too, with a lot less redness than before.
Keep in mind that I very, very rarely wear any makeup besides eyeliner and some mascara, so that may also contribute to how well honey works for me.
Here's my daily regimine:

  • Before bed, I take about a 1/2 tablespoon of honey and spread it all around my face. I leave it on for as little as a minute to as long as an hour, depending on if I get distracted by the latest episode of New Girl or Cupcake Wars
  • At this point, I rinse with warm water, and pat dry. 
    • About once a week or so, I make a paste out of baking soda and water and use it as a scrub when I rinse my face. This is a nice, gentle exfoliant, and also helps circulation.
  • This is a more recent step, but over the years, I've experimented with different face lotions, and all of them just make my skin worse. After some research, I found that hemp oil is great for hair and skin. After I rinse and dry my face, I pop open a gel capsule of hemp oil and use about 1/4 of it for my entire face. 
  • In the morning, all I do is splash my face with warm water, dry, and apply another 1/4 of the capsule of hemp oil.
    •  Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly lazy, I'll just do this at night, too, instead of going through the whole honey fiasco.
Since I've been doing this regimen for so long, I believe that my skin has been "re-set" so that it doesn't produce as much oil, allowing me to be able to skip actually washing it with more than just water for a day or so. Seriously, the combination between raw honey and hemp oil is spectacular. My face has never felt softer. It's probably even softer than when I was a fresh little baby.

Here's how it works:
Face washes and soaps are full of man-made chemicals that strip your face of its natural oils, causing it to over-compensate and create more than it has to, only making problems worse. Honey is an all-natural antibiotic that has been reported to be more effective in treating certain conditions than many man-made antibiotics. In case you didn't already know, acne is caused by pores clogged up with dead cells and oil, which bacteria love. Honey not only kills off bacteria, lessening the risk of infection, but it also has healing, anti-inflammatory effects, as well.
From my own personal use, hemp oil is light and nutty, with the 'perfect' human ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. My face doesn't feel oily at all when I use it, even right after application. When rubbed in, it doesn't even appear oily. It's amazing, and for me, it works.

As a precaution, before using any kind of new skin care, always do a little "pre-test" somewhere inconspicuous to see how your skin reacts! You may be allergic to some substances, so it's best to stay safe. If hemp oil doesn't work for you, some other oils that I've tried and loved are coconut and olive oil. Coconut oil, like honey, has natural antibiotics in it, and thus works really well as an acne-preventive moisturizer, too.

The brands I use are:
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil Soft Gels
Y.S. Organic Raw Honey
Nature's Gate Hemp Oil Conditioner and Shampoo

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Breakfast for Whenever

So, you say you would love to eat healthy, but cooking at home takes so long? Well this is for you. It's fast to make, easy to make, healthy, and to top it all off, delicious and totally customizable. It is your very own, personal frittata.

What is a frittata? Well, it's basically a Spanish omelette-quiche crossbreed that went devastatingly right. The great thing about frittatas is that:

1. You don't have to flip them.
2. You don't have to let this one bake for an hour.

So it has all the delicious qualities of omelettes and quiches, but without the time consumption and IHOP line cook level cooking skills. It also doesn't have over half your day's worth of calories, much unlike an IHOP omelette.

The absolute greatest thing about this is that you can put literally anything you want into it! Spinach? Sure. Roasted potatoes? Definitely. Leftover spaghetti noodles from two nights ago? You bet your sweet bippy. Using leftovers in these is a great way to not only reduce the waste you'd be making if you just ended up throwing it away, but using pre-cooked meats and/or vegetables cuts way down on cooking time.
 Here's what went into mine:

You will need a 6" pan and it's lid. It'll probably be the smallest one you have if you have an entire set.

2 eggs, beaten.
1 Tbsp milk
A literal pinch of salt
4 roasted fingerling potatoes, diced. (Two of them were purple.)
2 brussel sprouts, chopped
1 oz. turkey, diced
1 oz. cheese of your choice. Goat cheese would be pretty bomb. I used cheddar.
1 tsp. olive oil

First, get your pan heated. Set it to a low heat, about the 3rd notch on most burners. Oil the pan.

While the pan heats, beat your eggs, adding the tablespoon of milk and salt until it's all combined. Leave your eggs alone now.

Next, add the potatoes and chopped brussel sprouts to the pan, and sautée them until the brussel sprouts are just wilted and everything is warmed through.

 Toss the turkey in and stir everything for about 30 seconds. Now pour your eggs in.

DON'T stir anything now. Cover the pan, and let it all sit for about 5 minutes, or until the surface has no runny egg.

 Remove the pan from the heat, and sprinkle on your cheese. Put the lid back on and let sit for another minute to let the cheese melt.

Using a flexible rubber spatula, slide up under the frittata to lift it free from the pan. If you oiled it well enough, or if it's nice and non-stick, it should be very easy.

Once loosened, you should be able to gently slide the frittata onto a plate.

Serve hot with fresh fruit, and enjoy :) This recipe can serve one or two people, depending on how much you'll eat. You can substitute one of the whole eggs with just a white, or you can probably just use egg whites. Your options are pretty much limitless with this, so have fun with it!

Now let me apologize for the very unappetizing-looking cheese square that's all over my frittata. We were out of shredded cheese.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year...New You?

It's finally 2013. I no longer have to wade through pages of Facebook statuses proclaiming that it's "1/1/01, 2/2/02, 3/3/03..." and so on. In fact, if you make it your New Years' resolution to NOT make a post pointing out the date, then you will have finally actually gone through with one.

Maybe. There will always be May the 4th (be with you...)

But seriously, how many people really go through with their resolutions? According to this, only 8% of people who make resolutions come out successful. 25% don't even last a week! And only 46% last six months or longer. So at this point you're probably thinking, "ugh Emily, you're so negative. At least they're trying!"

Sure, they're trying. And in all seriousness, that's great. 54% of people in America don't even make a resolution. However, I've come to understand that people set their goals unrealistically. Television, movies, magazines, you name it. Inspiring stories of weight loss and self-improvement easily become muddled up with reality. For example, I think that The Biggest Loser, as much as I like to watch it, sets people up for unrealistic expectations. They see the contestants on the show losing 12+ pounds every week, but what they don't always remember to take into consideration that those people are extremely overweight, so losing that much weight every week is actually easier for them (and you can see later in the season that the weight they lose each week typically starts to decline more and more as they lose weight). This is because what has caused them to get so overweight: overeating, and not exercising enough, has been completely flipped upside down in a highly contained and inspiring environment. Those people are working out numerous hours every day with celebrity trainers, and have dietitians planning most of their meals. For the average person who hasn't been blessed enough to have such an awesome opportunity, this just isn't possible.

What is possible, however, is setting several short-term goals over the span of a year. Instead of having one big, vague resolution, like "eat healthier" or "lose weight", be specific. Here's an example:

  • For one month, I will replace my caramel frap with a home made peanut butter banana smoothie.
    • This will help you transition into a habit of eating foods that offer more nutrient density, that is, foods that are pretty low in calories compared to the benefits that have (fiber, vitamins, etc).
    • Just replace caramel frap and the smoothie with your own vice and alternative.
    • It would also save you some money ;)
  •  I will continue to replace [vice] with [alternative], and replace 3/4 of refined carbs with whole grains/"good" carbs for another month.
    • Again, you're replacing bad with good, but not totally cancelling it out. Restriction leads to temptation, which leads to succumbing and then failure.
    • You don't have to cut out carbs, either. has a handy little tool called Supertracker, which you can use to track your meals. Take an average of three days and see if you eat too little or too much of something. For example, if your results show (or maybe you just know) you eat too much meat and beans, but not enough fruit, replace some of the meat you eat with fruit at your meals.
  •  Continue to either add new goals and adjust as you reach each one, or lay them all out from the beginning. Just remember - allow yourself some flexibility. If you're in school and busy most of the year, don't worry about a gym membership, but do try to work out when you can. Use your time out of school, such as during Winter break or Summer, to get out and do more than your normally would. Go hiking, swim some laps, run on the beach while you're on vacation (it's pretty hard on the dry stuff)!
  •  A good workout for beginners, or people who are just short on time is this:
  1. Run (or walk) for 10 minutes a day. See how far you can go in the ten minutes. Every day, push yourself just a little bit more. You'll notice quickly that you'll be going further and further every time.
  2. Try to get to the point where you can comfortably run a mile within the ten minutes. If you can run more, great!
  3. Add 5-10 minutes as you get faster. Eventually, your speed will level off, but your endurance will continue climbing.
  4. Add as much time as your schedule allows. Getting out to run for 15-20 minutes a day is better than doing nothing at all! 
What's great about running is that you don't need to pay for anything, unless you don't have any kind of running shoes already. What's great about this plan is that it's easy to change to fit with a schedule that always changes.

Finish off your runs with various body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats, and core exercises like planks. One of my favorite core exercises is doing headstands. Throwing your body off it's normal balance challenges your muscles to relearn how to keep your body aligned.

Changing your habits isn't a matter of a single goal. It's a process and ultimately a complete change of lifestyle. You can't cut out carbs forever. You will literally die, or get very, very sick. You can't live your life constantly counting points or ordering pre-planned meals, either. However, you can take 10 minutes out of your day to challenge yourself to run as far as you can, or replace something in excess. A lifestyle overhaul is what will really give you "lasting results" because it's real, and it is for the rest of your life. So give it a try this year, if you have a resolution, to make it realistic, flexible, and life-long.