Wednesday, 12 December 2012

My journey to digestive health

Look, I know it may sound weird to some people talking about digestive health publicly. But to me, it is not only normal, but very important! Crappy digestive health sucks - it causes fatigue, affects your sleep, it even affects my ability to exercise! I have been experiencing stomach pain like you can't imagine for months. Something is out of wack.

So, I have decided to keep a journal. My journal will help me to look back and maybe pinpoint when and why my problems occur the most. It is also an awesome idea for when I finally go find a naturopathic doctor to help me deal with these issues (I know, I know, I need to get on that).

I originally thought I'd just write down when and what I ate, but I have now decided to take a different approach. Here is my most recent entry. I wanted to share it with you.

Wednesday, December-12-12

I feel great today. I realized that when I listen to my (gut) instincts, I really do know what is best for me. As long as I’m reasonable, of course, with keeping up with my low sugars, more greens and gluten-free grains. I’ve decided that writing a journal of exactly when and what I eat is not realistic, because let’s face it – I have a crazy life. I’m not always home, and when I do come home after a day or two, the last thing I want to do is write all the crap I ate down. Realistic meets optimistic – the best way to reach goals.

I have decided that instead of listening to other schools of thought word for word, I am going to create my own. I know that macrobiotics is an awesome diet, but I love my fruit way too much to limit it to one piece a day. And I’m not down with wheat. Or fish… But, I can draw tons of inspiration from this diet. Veggies and rice for breakfast? I’m down. Sea veggies, ume vinegar, and tamari are my BFFs since I read about this diet. But I’m not gonna follow it to a tee, I’m not aiming for an A in macro class. I’m aiming for awesome digestive AND mental health. I also love the raw food diet concept – but my climate and lifestyle don’t permit a 100% raw food diet. I would miss my steamed sweet potato way too much anyway! And finally, I do love my drinks and nights out, but I always feel like crap after. Do I know I shouldn’t go out and get wasted? Obviously. Will it happen again? Yes! But all I can do is look into the future and do my best, love myself regardless of my foolishness, and detox the hell out of my body as best and realistically as I can after I screw up. This, my friends, is my realism meeting my optimism.

Most importantly, I’m not gonna listen to the haters. The biggest one being my own mind. I always, always put myself down for doing something “wrong”. Well, from NOW ON, wrong is non-existant. As soon as I put it that way, there is only feeling good and feeling bad. I aim to feel good, and won’t let the bad days or judgements define who I am. If people are scrutinizing what I eat or do, I don’t see how their opinion is helping me with my mental or digestive health. So like I said, I’m not a macro follower, raw foodist, or anything that can be defined. I am me, the girl who is still learning about her own needs and who doesn’t need to worry about what they should or shouldn’t be…they just exist as they are, and I gotta learn to deal with them as they come at me.

I know for a fact that there are a ton of people who suffer from similar digestive issues. I've read a crapload of books and articles on the subject, and I have made progress since beginning this research. Gluten = bad. Poor food combining = very bad. Eating too quickly = pain for hours. I know everyone is different, so what upsets me to no end for days (yes, sometimes days!) may literally be digested in hours by some people. All I can do is experiment with my diet and see what works for me. 

I have decided that my next step, in addition to avoiding my triggers, is to purchase intestinal flora which will help restore my gut's natural bacteria. Do these words sound wacky? Well, they're not much less wacky to me at this point, so I will keep you updated as soon as I try them and learn more.

After that, naturopath it is. Yes, it is not covered by OHIP, which is a pain in the broke student's ass. But health is the greatest wealth, so I would be a giant hypocrite if I didn't go get myself to one ASAP.

Happy digestion all, post soon on updates!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Raw Protein Squares

Okay, folks - by popular demand, I have written out a simple raw protein bar recipe. I always do variations of this, sometimes I add more of one thing, sometimes I add whole new ingredients or take some out, sometimes I make rolls, balls, etc.... but the point is, I still end up with 100% raw, plant-based protein. The kind your body loves and needs after a workout!

These contain chlorella, one of the most highly concentrated protein substances you can get. That's why they're green. Oh, and I have a confession to make... I used roasted organic peanut butter in mine, so it technically isn't raw. BUT feel free to switch it up, cashew butter or almond butter works wonderfully as well.

-1/2 cup nuts, soaked overnight or for at least 2 hours, drained and rinsed
-6 chopped and pitted medium size dates (if using Medjool dates, use only 4)
-1/3 cup raw nut butter
-1 tsp maca powder
-2 tsp chlorella or spirulina
-1 tbsp raw honey
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 tbsp melted coconut oil

Use a food processor to combine nuts and chopped dates for about one minute, until no large chunks remain and mixture is uniform. Add remaining ingredients, process until mixture clings together like dough. Firmly press into a small pan and refrigerate at least two hours. Cut into six squares. Carefully use a knife to remove squares from pan, store in fridge in an airtight container.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Three Delicious & Healthy Fall Pumpkin Recipes

Fall is upon us. That means pretty colours and even prettier fruity friends gracing supermarkets everywhere. You know what I speak of, my friends - the pumpkin! If you're like me and you love to get your pump on, enjoy these beta carotine rich savoury dishes.

A good tip I found was to steam a bunch of pumpkin and puree it in a blender or processor. I keep it in the fridge and use as needed. A couple of these recipes call for puree. You can use organic canned, but who are you kidding, non canned puree is much healthier for your precious bod!

I also use garama masala in a couple recipes - it's a delicious Indian spice blend usually containing cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves. A true taste of fall!

Maple Roasted Root Veggies with Red Rice

- 3-4 cups chopped pumpkin and yams
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tbsp red miso
- 2 tbsp avocado (or olive) oil
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
-3/4 cup red rice
-1 organic vegetable bouillon cube
- 1" piece of kombu

Preheat oven to 375. Combine syrup, miso, oil and garam masala in a bowl, whisking well until combined. Toss chopped veggies in the glaze. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, turning halfway.

Meanwhile, combine the rice with about 1 and a half cups of water. Bring to a boil, add bouillon cube and simmer on low heat. Add kombu (it helps with the digestibility of grains and gives them a nice earthy taste, I find). Cover, and cook for about 30-35 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

Serve veggies over rice.
Serves 3-4.

Pumpkin Porridge

This is a great alternative to standard porridge toppings, like banana. Not too sweet but packs great flavour! You can add a little maple syrup if you like it sweeter, but I think adding dates makes it perfect.

- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 3-4 pitted dates, chopped (optional)
- Non-dairy milk, to taste

Boil about 1/2 cup of water. Put oats and pumpkin in a bowl, and cover with boiling water just so the oats are covered, not too soggy. Stir, and let sit for about a minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Serves 1.

Beet Pumpkin Soup

So. Freaking. Good. And very low cal!

- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3-4 large beets, chopped
- 1 tbsp avocado (or olive) oil
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
-1/2 - 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
- Sea salt, to taste

Combine beets with oil and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until tender, turning halfway. Process in a food processor until no large chunks remain. Heat in a pot with milk and pumpkin. Add spices, continue stirring until heated through.

Serves 2 as a main or 3-4 as a side.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Nomming Healthy Noms for Back to School

I am so excited to announce that I am BACK TO SCHOOL! Yay! Hence the long delay since my last post. I've been super busy, but I have decided to try to commit to posting more, because my foodie adventures are everexpanding, my friends. However, my iPhone's camera is broken, greatly decreasing my ability to photograph food masterpieces daily. Anyway, here is a whole post dedicated for us students who are hungry for healthy food!

We get up early, go to school and think til we sweat (hopefully...), and then we go home and think some more while we study. And if you're like a lot of us, you work part time as well. On TOP of that, you also may have some time to add physical activity into that tight schedule...and you think there is no way all that leaves you any time whatsoever to plan your healthy noms, right? Wrong! First of all, having more on your plate and requiring more energy for your mind and body give you all the more reason to eat smart. Cheap, quick, processed "food" (I use that term very loosely here) keeps you full for a little while...then you're hungry again, craving more junk. Why? Because your body is deprived of nutrients, and the more you keep eating crap, the more it wonders "Hmm, I keep eating and eating, but I'm not getting much outta this stuff...I guess I need to eat more". So, my friends, do your body and mind a favour and feed them some nutrient dense power food, and I guarantee it will give so much more back to you than downing pizza pockets and drinking Red Bull ever will. 

But I'm busy!
I know you are. So am I. You think I'm slaving away for hours in the kitchen making gourmet masterpieces? I wish I had the time! During the week, quick food is my go to. Here's how I plan my food for on the go:

1. Do a quick brekkie: Smoothies with filling ingredients - either 1/2 an avocado, a scoop of protein powder or some coconut milk for example - will keep you satisfied well into the lunch hour. I did this cute little number the other day - I cut a gala apple in half vertically, cut out the seedy middle, and spread PB on one half and raw manuka honey on the other and topped them with raisins. YUMM!!! Accompany with a hot cup of tea or maybe an organic coffee and it's just splendid. (Yea, the pic was taken after I took a few bites...guilty as charged lol.)

2. Lunchtime is the best. As someone who is active, I am just always hungry, and it feels like right after my first class my stomach is just aching for some brain food! Some great lunch ideas to pack on the go are, of course, diverse salads (add beans, nuts or seeds for extra protein!), nori rolls (either sushi or rolled into cones), gazpacho (doesn't need to be heated :)), or a grilled veggie wrap with tempeh. Notice how I try and pack cold stuff...I can't stress enough how bad microwaves are. The radiation is taking nutrients away from your food, guys. Steer clear at all costs!

3. Spend an evening cooking a lovely and QUICK dinner. Here is some lovely mashed cauliflower I made by steaming 1/2 a bunch of cauliflower, mashing it in a processer with approximately 1/4 cup of soy milk and 1-2 tbsp of Daiya cheese, and adding about 1/4 cup sauteed leeks and 3 cloves garlic, and maybe a pinch of sea salt. This serves 2 as a main, and takes about 20 minutes or less!. If you're gonna bring this out with you for lunch the next day, keep it in a Thermos. Don't use a microwave, it will denature all those beautiful nutrients in your food, and make it taste like crap!

The art of smart snacking - fuel your brain and bod all day!
Like I mentioned before, we are constantly using energy to fuel our brain and our bodies during the school year. Consistently eating small amounts will keep your blood sugar regular and keep your tummy happy and your mind sharp. Here is a list of QUICK and healthy snack options:

1. Lavash crackers with PB - OMG, my fave. Light and simple ingredients - and I'm not a huge fan of wheat or crackers, but if you're not gluten sensitive, try em.

2. Chopped veggies. Dip? Perhaps. But I like 'em just as they are! Carrots, broccoli, cucumber and sweet peppers are your munchy friends.

3. Make your own trail mix with organic, sulphite-free dried fruit and raw mixed nuts. This is an amazing study snack! Your brain loves nuts.

4. Pop your own popcorn! I have just joined this bandwagon. Buy some organic kernels (conventional corn is notoriously high in pesticides), get a big pot and heat on medium approximately 1 tbsp of oil appropriate for high-heat cooking (avocado, coconut = great choices) and add 1/2 cup of with the lid, leaving a bit of room to vent, and pop for about five minutes, shaking the pot every once in a while. Then, add some more oil, maybe some nutritional yeast, or some crushed up roasted nori...whatever sounds good to you! Or just eat it plain. Yum. 

There you have it, kiddies. Please go out there and enjoy some healthy food for the school season. :) Cheers!

Friday, 10 August 2012

What's for Dinner?

How many times do you come home after a long day and grumble at the thought of having to come up with something quick and healthy to make in as little time as possible? If you're like me, every day of the week! I work part-time, am physically active and always try to have a social life in between...I'm going back to school soon and I'm really anticipating having to make my quick go-to recipes most times I need to cook.

So, you have a bunch of things at home, but they're all kind of random and you have no idea what to do with them to make a proper meal. Here are some rules I live by.

1. Ask yourself what you are craving
For example, some days I'll be craving some nice, healthy, complex carbs to really satiate my hunger. I have urges for noodles a lot. So I may start my base as a noodle dish and then decide what kind of flavours I'm craving: Sweet or savory? Creamy or light? Do I want to add some protein or just some steamed veggies today? Let your tummy be your guide and then you can decide what spices and sauces to add to your dish from there.

2. But I don't have any scallions...
So, let's say you're craving one of your faaaave dishes you make all the time. Let's say it's a leek and potato soup. But you have no leeks. Well, just go for something in the same fam and you will surely still get a pleasant (maybe better?!) result! Try using green onion, add some more veggies in there and throw in whatever else tickles your fancy. If you're usually not experimental, I would say stick with similar flavours and quantities of what you're making. But if you're bold and don't mind experimenting, throw new stuff into your recipe as you please!

3. Find new uses for old faves
I love coconut. It's my Frank's - I put that sh*t on everything! So let me try weird and experimental stuff with it...maybe throw it shredded on a sweet potato, coconut water in my fruit juice, or marinating my tofu with coconut milk and some other spices. Stepping outside your box with something you already love can be a lot less intimidating and a lot more're more likely to like the result.

4. Cut corners wherever you can, sista
Like I said, you're busy, you're tired, you just wanna EAT...And this damn recipe is saying "boil for 15-20 minutes"? Oh, hell no. Just look at your recipe and see what you can do to speed it up - No time to cook the lentils for your soup? Cut twenty minutes by buying them from a can (and rinsing them to take off all that icky extra salt). If a recipe calls for something to be boiled for a while just to soften it, such as sweet potatoes, you can just steam it - healthier and faster.

5. Repeat after me: do NOT be afraid!
So let's say you make something and it honestly tastes worse than cardboard...then so what? Do you have a pet? They would probably gladly eat your mistake! (Assuming it's a healthy and unprocessed vegan mistake. :)) If not, they do have composts here which will recycle it. And you learned something. Maybe adding shredded carrots to your Cheerios isn't a great idea.

Happy cooking! Remember - ask not what you can do for your food, but what your food can do for you. ;)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Buddy System

Support feeds motivation and really makes you more inclined to follow through with your goals. It couldn't be more true when it comes to your lifestyle choices. You could have every intention of sticking to your diet plan, but once your best bud is eating chicken wings in front of you every day, you are much more likely to cave.

If you are trying to make healthier food choices or easing into working out more, try and hang with friends who share similar goals and attitudes. You'll feel even better about what you're doing for yourself when someone else shares that enthusiasm. Tell your fitness junkie friend to ring you up whenever they're running next, or invite your health conscious coworker for a dinner at a nice veg restaurant in your area.

That being said, we obviously have friends who are not so like-minded who we can't turn our back on. It's unrealistic to think you can make everyone see the world through your vision. I find the best way to motivate friends to be healthier is to show them how much good it does for you. Pushing beliefs down people's throats is not going to make them appreciate or respect what you have to say, no matter how true it is! Just do your thing, and next time your beer gut bud is trying to get you to order another pitcher just casually say you're doing OK, and maybe he'll decide he wants to cut back on the brews too.

I recently had a lot of eye-opening discussions with people I used to hang out with, realizing they are stuck in their alcohol-fueled, smoke filled lifestyles and are absolutely not contributing positivity to my life. It sucked to think I don't want them in my life anymore, but at the end of the day you're number one. And real friends support each others goals. Above is a photo of myself and a vegan gal pal at a potluck she threw. It felt great talking and eating with like-minded individuals. So inspiring!

So get out there and motivate a buddy to be the best they can be or be motivated by someone in your own life! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Debunking Vegan Protein Myths

As someone who is an active vegan, I do get asked (or judged!) for the type of protein I eat. People ask me where I even get protein. Well, the deal is, animal protein sources may have a high number on the paper but that doesn't mean your body is using the whole amount. Animal protein takes an enormous amount of energy to digest, and your body is not able to use all of the nutrients once it has expended so much energy on digesting it. Meat is already dead when you eat it, and it continues to decompose in your body. So, if my steak says "24 grams of protein" on the package, by the time my body is done digesting it, the final number absorbed will only be a fraction of that.

 A complete protein contains all 22 amino acids. One plant-based example of a complete protein is quinoa. However, proteins containing different amino acids can be eaten separately, even over a few days, and your body will still assimilate them as a whole source. Pretty neat stuff.

My protein sources include spirulina, nuts/nut butters, grains or beans. I tend to gravitate toward raw sources because they contain enzymes which aid in digestion, and the protein hasn't been denatured by heat. Processed food products such as tofu are actually not a part of my diet most of the time. Don't get me wrong, it's fine to have these types of foods in moderation, but the more processed a food is the harder your body works to digest it. You want a clean, plant-based, easily absorbable protein source that your body is instantly going to use to repair muscle tissue.

Spirulina, a type of algae, is instantly absorbable and raw, and contains over 50% protein! I throw it in my post-workout shake with coconut water (electrolytes) and some frozen or fresh fruit (carbs, and to mask the taste of algae).

So get out there and work it out...and refuel the clean, plant-based way!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Factors Besides Diet that Affect your Weight

I know I usually write about just food, but there are so many other important factors which affect your weight and general well-being. I've had my share of slumps and plateaus with my weight, and it's made me consider what else could contribute to this. After some research, I've come to discover what you put into your mouth is only a part of the equation.

Food Combining
The time you eat something is almost as important as what it is. As I've mentioned, I suffer from digestive problems quite frequently. Because of this, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to help my body digest food so that it is able to absorb its nutrients most effectively.

Animal protein takes the most energy for your body to digest, so it's gonna take the longest. Combining protein (from any source) with starchy foods interferes with the digestion process because they both need different types of digestive enzymes. If your body is spending all its energy digesting your food, the nutrients the food contains may not be properly absorbed. Another couple rules to follow are: drink liquids before or at least a half hour after a meal, eat fruit half an hour before your meal or wait a while after, and try not to pair fruits and veggies in the same meal. Some fruits do not pair well together because of their level of acidity (some need a different pH to digest). This seems like a lot of info, so I'd recommend reading Food Combining and Digestion by Steve Meyerowitz.

I'm a pretty happy person, so most people are surprised I've struggled with anxiety for years. I would love to say my life is stress-free, but despite trying my best to be an optimist, sometimes things really get to you and wreck havoc on your health.

So, my point - how can stress make you fat? Well, number one, some people turn to eating when they're stressed. I am, unfortunately, one of those people who craves food when stressed. There are a few ways to deal with this: have healthy snacks ready to eat, practice deep breathing to center your mind, drink lots of water or quickly redirect your mind by calling a friend or reading a book. I find I just need to be out of the house when I'm stressed and fear emotional eating will take its toll.

In addition, stress produces the hormone cortisol, which contributes to your body's storage of fat, especially near your abdomen. Stress hormones also have an affect on digestion, which prevents your body's elimination of toxins, which can make you really bloated and suck your energy.

To try and relieve unnecessary stress, try practicing yoga, associate yourself with other optimists and stay active.

How many of us sleep 8 hours a night? I try to, but in reality, a number is a just a number. When it comes to healthy sleep, quality trumps quantity.

When you're well rested, your mind functions in a state of clarity. You can make better decisions, like avoiding junk food. Your body won't crave quick crash-and-burn stimulants like caffeine and sugar to get you through your day. Your body has had restorative sleep, so it can focus on carrying out other functions now. Since it's done "cleaning house", it can provide you with energy through the nutrients in your food, give you a healthy blood supply to your brain so you can be fresh and bright, and you will look much more lively to all your peers!

Some ways to ensure a restful sleep: Avoid eating protein so close to bed time. Any food should be avoided about three hours before bed, but I always say if you're starving, something quickly digestible like fruit is okay in small quantities. If you're stressed before bed, do some deep breaths and try not to focus on stressful thoughts. Avoid liquids an hour or so before bed.

Body Image
Yes, this is an important one! Why? Because how you perceive yourself physically affects how you perceive food, which affects how you eat and live, which affects how you look. For example, if I think I look fat and gross, I may think food is all to blame. I eat salads all the time and loathe eating in general. Inevitably, I will go for a round of cheeseburgers one day because my body has had enough of this judgement and ill feelings towards eating.

If I feel proud of who I am, knowing I'm never going to be a size nothing who's ribs are showing, then I will feel great about eating. I care about my body, so I want to put great stuff into it to nourish it, but I also know it needs a little treat once in a while. In turn, I make my body happy, and it makes me happy!

Do I always feel amazing about myself? God, no. These realizations came from long periods of self loathing and desperately wanting to be pin thin. Now, I try to relate to the latter person mentioned, who has a love-love relationship with their body. We may not be able to be that person 100% of the time, but having that in your mind will help a ton!

Happy living, my fellow veggies. I hope you are all inspired to do some great stuff for yourself to help relieve stress, sleep better and improve your digestion.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Raw Cleanse...Just in Time for Why I'm Veg Week

Attention, fellow veggies and enthusiasts! Why I'm Veg Week is kicking off in T Dot on Saturday. I will be attending Veg Fest in Niagara that day, but the Veggie Pride Parade is going on in our very own city as well.

Coincidentally, I am also starting a raw food cleanse on June 1st for 15 days. This is actually perfect timing, since I'm sure my raw taste buds will be tickled plenty during my first week!

I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss why I'm doing a cleanse and how being veggie is a crucial part of my life overall. After my vacation, I have had a hard time getting back into my former healthy routine. I've had nights where I could have had way better quality sleep, and I've been so preoccupied with other things that I've slacked on preparing food. So I've been buying food while I'm out or eating my parents' food, which is not unhealthy exactly, but it ain't what my body's used to. I've also been drinking more than usual. All of these factors combined have made me notice an overall difference in my energy level and general feeling of well-being.

I figured with the warmer weather coming in it'd be a great time to give my body a break. I've always had digestion issues, and eating less raw food, poor combining choices and even poorer timing choices have wrecked havoc on my digestive system. I am going to aim to start my cleanse with as much veggie juice as possible to give my body a break from having to extract nutrients from solid food. For more info on the benefits of juicing, check out my previous post.

I am going to stock up on tons of organic veggies to always have on hand during these 15 days. I actually love the feeling when I discover how veggies I'd been cooking all along taste amazing raw! For example, my usually steamed okra ended up in a salad I had the other day in it's natural raw form, and it was delish.

I am a little sad to say bye to my coffee and gum. But very glad to be free of those little vices. Raw cleanses are not only good for your body, but the mind benefits from some discipline once in a while too.

I'll keep y'all updated. Happy veggin'!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Importance of Organics

When you get so absorbed in a way of living, it just sort of becomes your way without any effort. I automatically go for the organic option if it is available to me with the conventional. Most people see "Oh, conventional carrots are 1.99 and organic is 2.49" and just reach for the lower price. I am not criticizing these people, because this is how their mind is trained to think. A lot of the time we don't actually know why organic is so much healthier for you. I hope to clear some things up and inspire more organic choices with this post.

Why organic? I can't afford it!
One thing I hear all the time is "Wow, I'd love to eat organic, but I can't afford it." Is that a new pair of shoes you're wearing? And you spent how much at the bar last weekend? Health should NOT be put at the bottom of your budgeting. It is not an expense, it is an investment.

Eating food which contains chemicals can interfere with nutrient absorption. All those chemicals that are concentrated in your lovely fruits and veggies end up in your body, which is constantly working to eliminate toxins. When so many additional toxins are being ingested, our bodies can't always keep up, and not enough energy is left to absorb nutrients from the food. These conventional foods are also subject to being genetically altered, since non-organic food need not be labelled if it contains GMO in Canada. Your only safe bet to avoiding genetically engineered food is purchasing organic food with a legitimate certification. Besides health effects for humans who consume the food, our poor Earth is being abused with all the junk we're spraying over our over-farmed land. The environmental health of the soil is compromised with conventional, pesticide-ridden produce. Yuck.

Believe you me, I am not made of money. I'm sort of a broke part time worker who's in between school transitions. Do I buy all organic? No. But I do prioritize which produce I absolutely buy organic. Anything where I'll be eating the skin is a must: apples, berries, carrots, etc. Anything I'm juicing is absolutely gotta be organic, because if it were conventional produce, all those pesticides would just be concentrated in my "healthy" drink. The EWG made a list called "The Clean 15" and "The Dirty Dozen" to help shoppers prioritize which produce is lower in pesticides and can be purchased conventionally.

Give the organics a try for a week and see how amazing you feel. I guarantee it!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Preparing for and recovering after a vacation

I recently had the pleasure of going on an all inclusive week long vacation to Cuba. It was truly paradise. However, it was far from my typical day to day life in Toronto!

Preparing for the trip, of course my big concern was the food. As a vegan, I hoped there would be vegan options served for each of the meals. Obviously I knew they wouldn't be the health food I was used to eating, meaning they're definitely not organic or made without added salt, sugar, etc. I decided that I will pack a few staple items to keep me somewhat feeling normal and lay off being too picky on the food served, as long as it's vegan of course.

I packed raw organic pumpkin seeds, almond milk, raisins, some maca, bee pollen, spirulina, chia seeds, oatmeal and a few delicious Larabars.

My main concern was the breakfast. I knew that there may be a big selection, but breakfast is usually cereal (with dairy milk), eggs or meat. I did anticipate delicious fruit though, and I was right! Honestly, I usually started my day with fresh guava, pineapple, papaya, watermelon or banana. The fruit was incredible. I did pack a few organic instant oatmeal packages, which I ate for breakfast a few times with my almond milk and some bee pollen and fruit. 

Lunch and dinner were actually a pleasant surprise. Tons of selection that actually tasted so good. Obviously eating overcooked, canned or fried food would not be something I'd do at home, but I'm not going to complain. I ate a lot of boiled potato, rice, black beans, peas and carrots, pasta with veggies and new foods I loved trying, such as yucca and plantains. They did have a raw salad area, which I was thrilled to see! I would have been a lot more careful in asking for what is 100% vegan at home (is that cooked with oil or margarine, etc), but the last thing a vacation needs is stress. I used common sense and my own judgement and also enjoyed a few indulgences.

In addition to the food I ate, I was also enjoying cocktails. A lot. I know I'm a health nut, but I'm also 21 years old and haven't been on vacation in 6 years. I tried to enjoy minimal fruity and high calorie drinks, and mainly stuck to gin with soda water. The calories do add up, my friends. I gained 4 lbs., 2 which have been lost in a few days just from abstaining from alcohol!

I'm not usually a coffee drinker, either. Again, my indulgences got the best of me. I was having one or two Cuban coffees a day, and I don't regret it one bit. However, I am treating this as an indulgence, and now I'm cutting back to my regular few times a week java. 

To recover from my week of naughty behavior, I am just getting my whole foods back in my diet. I'm ditching the canned and processed food and eating my veggies and grains that I'm used to. Oh, and I missed my juicer A LOT!

I did work out while I was away, but not the high intensity workouts I'm used to here. Upon returning, I had a sore throat and cold, so the first few workouts weren't as productive. I think my body is finally reaching it's equilibrium! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Super Quick & Delicious Dinner - Millet with Roasted Veggies

Today I was pondering what to make after an intense workout, and I realized I had all the ingredients needed to make my super easy and delicious favourite meal - millet with roasted veggies! Millet is an ancient grain that's full of protein, and can be used in a variety of recipes. Here is my go-to recipe, guaranteed to satisfy anyone's pallet.


-1 small sweet potato
-1 large or a few small beet(s)
-2 sunchokes
-2 medium carrots
-2 tbsp olive oil
-2 tbsp tamari
-1 clove minced garlic
-cayenne pepper flakes to taste
-1 cup millet
-1 3" piece of kombu
-1 tbsp sesame seeds, cashews or nut/seed of choice (optional)

*Note: Any of the above veggies can be substituted for other root veggies. Good alternatives are turnip, parsnips or squash!


Preheat oven to 350. Thoroughly wash veggies (especially if not organic) and chop in large chunks, leaving skin on. Combine olive oil, tamari (adding more as desired, keeping a 1:1 ratio) and garlic. Dump the chopped veggies in a large tupperware container, adding dressing. Close the lid and shake until coated. Spread them evenly in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with cayenne, if using. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until desired tenderness is reached. Flip them halfway through.

While the veggies are roasting, combine the millet with 3 cups of water and strip of kombu in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer, and cover. Cook until water is absorbed, approximately 20 minutes.

Serve the veggies on top of the millet, adding more tamari as desired. Sprinkle with nuts, if using. (Seeds or nuts can be dry roasted before adding, as well.)

Makes 4-5 servings.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Food Day in the Life of Me

Recently, someone made a comment that because I'm vegan, food must be a very small part of my life. Couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a busy girl, but eating well is my number one priority. I'm always adapting how I live and what I make, but I've really gotten some staples going in my day-to-day life. Here are some things I eat on days when...

...I'm working out first thing in the morning
First thing in the morning, no matter what I'm doing that day, I wake up and chug a huge glass of water. This really gets your digestive system going, and an added lemon slice can be a nice touch.

Breakfast - A power smoothie to give me liquid energy that my body can quickly absorb for my workout. I will put any combination of the following in my smoothie: frozen banana or mango, fresh avocado, some almond butter, cacao, carob, raw honey, maca, cinnamon, ground flax, spirulina, coconut water, or chia gel. I usually make a big smoothie and save half for after my workout.

Post-workout - I make my own raw protein bars. If I don't have any, I do half my smoothie and maybe a handful of nuts.

Lunch - A steamed sweet potato with tahini and sprouts.

Snack - Chopped veggies.

Dinner: Steamed greens with umeboshi vinegar and olive oil, served with a yummy grain.

...I'm out and about all day
Some days I go to work and then school directly after, meaning I'm out of my house for over half the hours in the day. I need something I can make quick that will fill me up all day!

Breakfast - Green juice with a handful of nuts.

Snack - Small fruit salad.

Lunch - Steel cut oats soaked in cashew or almond milk, with cinnamon, cacao nibs and mashed banana.

Snack - Chopped veggies.

Dinner - Big salad with homemade dressing.

...I have a bit of extra time
Ah, weekends. Love 'em.

Breakfast - Grilled tofu with cornmeal and fresh black pepper and a hint of olive oil, served on a small bagel with vegan cheese, ketchup and chopped veggies. Note: I eat this delicious treat maybe once a month if that. But oh man, what a good indulgence!

Snack - Apple slices with almond butter.

Lunch - Roasted veggies and millet, topped with cashews.

Dinner - Shredded cabbage, carrots or beets with sea salt, vinegar and olive oil.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Healthy Eating on the Go

A lot of people tell me they would eat better if they just had the time to do it. First of all, I always reply that if we need to manage time accordingly anywhere in life, it should be on how to better our health. Nothing is worth your time (or money!) more than treating your body and mind with quality nourishment.

I work, go to school four nights a week, and hit the gym almost every day. I very seldom buy lunch. I always pack all of my day's food...even if I have to go to the gym, and work and then school after. Yes, it can be tedious, but with the right planning tools it's pretty simple to get into a routine of packing a healthy lunch and snacks every day. You may be wondering what the heck to do when you do get home and you're too exhausted to make dinner. Well, that can also be resolved with a little planning. Here are some tips I've picked up.

Have healthy munchies on hand
Picture this scenario: You're starving after being swamped with errands and work all day, craving any piece of greasy food you see or smell. We've all been there. I don't even need to tell you you gotta eat more of your calories earlier in the day...meaning a hearty breakfast, people! Nevertheless, we all get these moments and they can be unavoidable in this crazy world. For those times you just wanna snack, make sure you have something healthy and ready to snack on in your fridge. What I do every few days is buy some cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cucumber and bell peppers and wash and cut them as soon as I get home. I leave them in a container in my fridge so they're good to go for munchie attacks, to throw in a salad or to pack a quick snack for your lunch. Eating a whole bag of carrots sure beats a bag of Lay's.

Have cooked grains ready to go
A great way to plan ahead for the week's meals is to cook up a big pot of your favourite grain and use it in various meals throughout the week. For example, you can make 4 cups of plain brown rice and leave it in your fridge. This can be used to:
  • Make a porridge: Heat it in a small saucepan with soy milk, mashed banana, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
  • Make nori rolls: Just buy nori (seaweed) sheets and make a cone stuffed with rice and chopped veggies. Sushi is not that far off and it's pretty simple to make, too.
  • Make into a one-pot dish: Add some tomato paste, beans and veggies with a few herbs and spices.

Don't underestimate the power of a great salad
If you think salad is all rabbit food, you got it all wrong. Having a great salad for dinner is healthy, delicious, inexpensive, quick and very satisfying. I would say I do a big salad almost every other day for at least one of my weekday meals...and I don't get sick of it because it's always different! Just start with some baby greens, throw on your pre-chopped veggies and go from there...nuts, seeds, dried fruit, gomashio, nori, leftover grains, tofu, tempeh bacon...whatever looks good, add it! A delicious and easy vinaigrette I do is equal parts olive oil and umeboshi vinegar with some fresh minced garlic. I will include another one of my favourite dip/dressing recipes below that will also be a great topper to your super salad.

Super quick recipe ideas:

Tij's Overnight Oatmeal
Put 1/4 cup steel cut oats, 1/2 cup nut milk, cinnamon to taste, one mashed banana (or avocado), 1 tbsp carob or cacao nibs and 1 tbsp nuts (optional) in a glass jar. Stir, close jar lid and refrigerate. Enjoy warm or cold the following morning.

Avocado Garlic Dip
Blend 1 ripe avocado, 1 tbsp miso, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/4 cup lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, 1 diced hot pepper, 2 cloves garlic, and sea salt (to taste) in a food processor. Serve with chopped veggies for dipping. NOTE: This recipe is from the book The Idiot's Guide to the Raw Food Detox.

Typical Tij Salad
Salad with baby spinach, shredded cabbage, carrots, peppers, cucumber, broccoli, sesame seeds and chick peas, topped with umeboshi-olive oil-garlic vinaigrette.

Quick n' Easy Steamed Root Veggies
Chop up either (or a combo) of the following: sweet potato, squash, parsnips, carrots, beets or turnip. Lightly steam until desired tenderness is reached. Top with tamari and olive oil with a few toasted pumpkin seeds (heat in a dry skillet until lightly brown and start to "pop"). DELICIOUS!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

An Ode to Juicing

Recently, my dad got me the gift of a juicer for my 21st birthday. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m a bonafide juice junkie!

Let me tell you why fresh vegetable or fruit juice is one of the most amazing things to put into your body. First of all, your body doesn’t need to put the effort into breaking down food for digestion. Within about fifteen minutes of drinking the juice, the nutrients can be absorbed and used to nourish your body in all kinds of beautiful ways. This is a big reason drinking a green juice in the morning is the best wake-up. The surge of nutrients invigorates you and gives you a nice energy kick to start your day. You get the nutrients without the bulky fiber, which is also healthy, but juicing helps give your digestive system a little break.

This brings me to another popular “trend”: juice fasting. When my mom heard about this, she thought you starve yourself on juice until you’re skinny. This may be the stigma, but fasting with just juice can (when done at the correct time and in the correct way) help your body with its natural detoxifying processes. All your body wants to do is cleanse. It does it through your skin and through your excrements all the time. Juicing gives the digestive system a break and lets the natural cleansing processes your body undergoes have a little bit of an easier time. I personally feel great doing a day of juice cleansing after a naughty night of overindulgence. I’ve read a lot of info on how frequently is safe, but I’d personally say it’s totally fine once a week, as long as you don’t overexert yourself on the fast day (light activity is okay). In a film I just watched called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, a man did it for 60 days! Check it out, it’s a must-see.

Juicing can take a little trial and error until you get some yummy creations going. I like to include some sort of sweet fruit or vegetable in all my juices. I usually add lemon and ginger to any kind of juice I make, because they’re great cleansing helpers. Here are some of my fave combos:

-          The Sweetie
             1 apple, 2-3 carrots, 2-3 beets, ½ a lemon and a ½ inch piece of ginger
This one is probably my fave ever, so sweet and powerfully detoxifying. If you’re worried about the glycemic index, dilute with water and enjoy slowly (not too slowly, ‘cause enzymes lose their magic the longer you wait to drink your fresh juice).

-         Green, Lean Cleansing Machine
3    4 leaves of kale,  ¼ cucumber, handful of spinach, 1 sweet fruit, ½ inch piece of ginger
Green juice is honestly not the most delicious thing in the world, at least for me. But a little sweetness and ginger go a long way.  It is honestly one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. If your juicer can juice sprouts (mine can’t), add those guys too.
           Frothy Fruit & Veggies
       1 small sweet potato, 1 small orange, 1-2 beets, 3 leaves of kale, ¾ to 1 cup chopped pineapple
-          I just tried this baby, and man, it is delicious. It’s so frothy and sweet, yet still contains healthy greens rich in chlorophyll.  

I encourage you all to try adding a fresh green juice to your morning routine. Swap it for your coffee for a few days and see how amazing you feel. Cheers!

Friday, 30 March 2012

10 things you'll always find in my kitchen

Although I hold many foods near and dear to my heart, these ten take the cake. Here's why I love 'em and how I use 'em in everyday life.

1. Sprouts

Why I love it: I am obsessed with sprouting! I just went on a raw food detox, and since then I've really experimented with it. These guys on the left are mung beans, one of the quickest and easiest things to sprout. Basically, sprouts are living foods that are full of enzymes to help you with digestion. If you want to watch a great video to help you start off, I suggest checking this out:

How I use it: Salad toppers, in smoothies, or thrown on cooked dishes. (Eating them by the spoonful never hurts, either.)

2. Nutritional yeast

Why I love it: As any vegan surely knows, this baby is full of cheese-like flavour that adds a protein kick without calories.

How I use it: On popcorn, on steamed veggies, or in dips/sauces.

3. Spirulina

Why I love it: OK, this algae may smell funky, but it is one of the healthiest things you can put into your body. It's over 50 percent instantly absorbable protein, perfect for athletes.

How I use it: In smoothies (masked with sweetness from fruit is best) or in salad dressing.

4. Lemons

Why I love it: They're versatile, cleansing and really help to take bitterness out of some green juices. I always have some cut up slices ready to go in the fridge.

How I use it: In my juicing, in baking, in tea, thrown into a glass of water or on steamed veggies.

5. Cacao nibs

Why I love it: Yum, yum, yum. Who doesn't love chocolate? Cacao nibs are raw and not sweet like chocolate, but I actually love their bitter taste. Raw cacao is a great iron source for vegans and is full of antioxidants, as well as countless other nutritional benefits.

How I use it: In smoothies/shakes, or in baking. I even grind some up coarsely with my coffee beans for java made in my French Press.

6. Coconut oil

Why I love it: Many oils are carcinogenic (cancer-causing!) used at high heat, but coconut oil retains its chemical structure even at high temperatures. However, I would like to note that I don't recommend cooking on high heat because it denatures your food's nutritional value. This baby is amazing in its raw form.

How I use it: For cooking or baking, in spreads, in pre and post workout shakes and as a lip moisturizer!

7. Raw honey

Why I love it: Love is an understatement. It's so tough for me not to overindulge on raw honey. I've kicked refined sugar to the curb and used powerfully healing unpasteurized honey in my daily life. Conventional honey is pasteurized and's crap. Raw honey is a living food that can be very beneficial used in moderation as a sweetener.

How I use it: In baking, in tea, as a spread...or truthfully, right out of the jar. A sweetener staple and great substitute for refined sugar.

8. Carob powder

Why I love it: There's something about this sweet root that I just love. It's often used as a caffeine-free alternative to cacao powder in recipes.

How I use it: Made into a hot drink with boiling water and a splash of almond milk and cinnamon, in baking or in smoothies.

9. Almond butter

Why I love it: I've always loved nut butters, and as a regular consumer of peanut butter I used to buy almond butter just to switch things up sometimes. I just read a book talking about how peanuts are naturally difficult to digest for a lot of people, so that made me love the almond alternative even more! Always buy raw - more flavour and nutrition, less ingredients.

How I use it: In shakes, as a spread, as a dip for apple splices, or in breakfast porridge.

10. Ginger

Why I love it: Fresh ginger is very good for your digestion. It adds a great zing to countless dishes, sweet and savoury. I always put it in my green juice to mask the bitterness. I like to take a small piece, peel it, run it through my food processor and throw it in a little container in the fridge for easy access daily.

How I use it: In tea, in Asian-inspired dressings/sauces, on porridge, in my juicing or in baking.
Hello, fellow foodies. It’s been a long while since I’ve flexed my blogging muscles, but at last I have decided to take my love and passion for healthy nourishment and turn it into an online blog. Here’s some background information on myself:

I’m a 21-year-old vegan chick whose philosophy is based strongly on how lifestyle choices shape the quality of the lives we live. A former smoker and McDonalds junkie, I am now proudly smoke-free, very active and thrive on a delicious and nutritious plant-based diet.

Through my blog, I hope to share some yummy recipes, discuss health food issues and/or currently trending fads, and talk about some products that I’ve been digging.

Now, I believe it’s important to talk a little bit about my reasons for being a vegan as a starting point for my blog. A lot of non-vegans who have zero background info make assumptions and judgements, and truthfully they can’t be blamed for not knowing information they’ve never learned.

To make a long story short, I started off being vegan purely for health reasons. About last summer, I was doing one of my month-long toxins cleanses in which I abstained from caffeine, alcohol, dairy and meat. I felt amazing after every time I’d do these. I then had the thought, Well if I feel amazing when I don’t eat this stuff for a month, why do I ever put it into my body the rest of the time? This really got me thinking. I also read Skinny Bitch at this time, which was my first peek at how animal products are truly doing a number on my health. Without sounding preachy, this stuff is poison. I quickly got out some literature to compare with that I’d initially read. My researches lead me to conclude that the food industry and media are not reliable sources we can always trust our health with. Animal protein was taking my body a ton of energy to digest, which was taking away from nutrient absorption of the good stuff. The hormones and whatever other awful feed the animals I was eating had in their diet ended up right in my gut, where the dead meat would literally rot. Yuck. And I was shocked to read that dairy was actually, very contrary to popular belief, depleting the calcium from bones. I did already know this, but shockingly humans are the only animals who drink milk past infancy, not to mention another animal’s milk. Ain’t nothing natural about that to me. Some of this information may shock a lot of you, so please feel free to do your own research. You’ll be surprised what you find through looking through medical studies done in recent years.

So, now that I’ve acquainted myself with the readers, please stay tuned and keep diggin’ the Veggie Vibes.