Get the Goodness In

I love avocado. REALLY love it!

It seems to be pretty popular, whether sliced on a sandwich, mashed and spread onto toast or mixed into a fine guacamole. It’s tasty, especially with a touch of lime juice and sea salt, but its most prevalent feature is its creamy, dreamy texture.

The high fat content gives us what we crave, that creamy feel in our mouth.

When you’re watching your weight or monitoring your fat intake, sometimes we feel guilty eating the almighty avocado….until now!

One of the tricks I’ve learned over the years is to add healthy greens or vegetables to dishes where I normally wouldn’t. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get in that extra nutrition once you know this trick.

For instance, like many people, I could LIVE on mashed avocado (with some lime juice and sea salt) on toast. When I crave the big, green fatty-but-awesome fruit, I mash in some extra nutrition by finely chopping whatever greens I have on hand. I use kale, spinach or arugula usually. Greens like romaine would probably be a bit too moist, but they might work.

The trick is to finely chop the greens so they blend in smoothly with the avocado. I just use the old-fashioned knife and cutting board to chop the greens, but I suppose the greens and the avocado together could be put in a food processor? Haven’t tried that.

If not on toast, I might spread my green goodness on some healthy corn chips (made with no oil!). Sometimes I’ll have both (toast and chips). Like I said, I just LOVE avocado.

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If I’m in a hurry, and I just don’t have time to chop up my greens, I might throw those greens right on top of my avocado spread. Works on the run.

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When making my fave toast, I sometimes don’t stop at the extra greens; I might throw on a few tomato or cucumber slices or some onion.

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There are tons of other ways to add in greens or veggies to your snacks or meals. When you do this for yourself, you’re adding oodles of extra phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. I say, “Why not get those nutrients in my body while I’m getting this other stuff in?”

Here are some tried and true ways to get more nutrients into your body:

Guacamole or Dips: add those greens! Finely chop greens into guac or hummus or your own unique bean spread.

Mashed potatoes: can add in finely chopped greens, green onions, or mashed cauliflower. Try one of these and play around with how much you add to the potatoes until you find the right balance that works for your taste buds.

Pasta: add your favourite veggies to your pasta to get in some more of the good stuff. I buy frozen, chopped kale, which is perfect for a last-minute add-in to any pasta dish. Any veggie will do. Sometimes, I just chop up whatever leftovers are hanging around in the fridge and throw them into the pasta. Have little nuggets of goodness around to add, such as capers or sun-dried tomatoes. Add them in. If you get good at this, you can start trying to make your meals more veggie-heavy and less pasta-heavy.

Soups: add almost anything goes here: fresh or frozen veggies, rice or other whole grains, greens etc. If you’re making a nice squash soup, add in some chopped red peppers or even some greens. If you’re making a broth-based soup, try adding barely; it really makes a soup hearty (and healthy too!).

Smoothies: it’s really easy to sneak in goodness in a smoothie. Many people focus on the fruit part of a smoothie. Some parents worry their kids won’t eat a healthier green smoothie. Give it a try, you sneaky cook. Add greens into your smoothies; chances are no one will even notice. You can start with a few spinach leaves, for example, and build up over time. Other things I slip into smoothies that don’t change the taste: turmeric, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds.

Oatmeal: don’t just have plain old oatmeal; load it up with fresh or thawed, frozen fruit, nuts, seeds, cinnamon, ginger etc.

So, before you serve or chow down on your next snack or meal, look around and ask yourself, “What healthy bits can I add to this?”

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Let’s have a Look Inside…

We know more about a myriad of topics that we do about how our own bodies work. Sure, we know some basics, but there is so much we just take for granted and don’t really KNOW, you know?

It’s absolutely amazing to think about how our bodies function because the parts seem to run in the background without us even noticing. Heart beating, lungs expanding, blood flowing, nerves connecting etc.

One of the coolest body systems, to me, is the digestion of food. I think it’s the most interesting system. It nourishes us and gives us energy.

Have you ever seen up-close footage of food digesting? Well, it’s super cool.

Check out this video (5 min.) that shows actual food being digested inside the body. Warning for the squeamish: some ooey, gooey moments in this video, but worth watching to really see what is happening.

I think most people are severely disconnected from what they eat and from what happens to the food in their bodies. We almost forget about what we do to ourselves when we eat. Let’s think about this for a minute.

Imagine, you’re eating a salad with spinach, tomato, onions, black beans and a light dressing, preferably with no oil. You know your body is designed to eat that. You know your body knows what to do with it and that it will pull out all the nutrients, help the body function well and discard the parts it doesn’t need.

You feel good right? You feel light and energized after.

Let’s imagine a different meal. This one is deep fried mozzarella sticks with French fries.

Whoa! I think your body has its work cut out for it.

Even if you don’t think that kind of food is really bad for the body, you instinctively know the first meal is designed for our bodies and the second meal isn’t.

The cheese and fries meal does eventually get digested, but our poor bodies have to work very hard to do so. The high fat content, along with the lack of nutrients, makes it less likely we’ll be nourished or that our bodies will function optimally. Never mind the fact that there are all kinds of negative effects from eating that food (bloating, gas, etc.).

And the reward, after? We feel sluggish, tired and have little energy.

So, if we instinctively know certain foods aren’t good for us, why do we keep assaulting our bodies with them?

Taste, texture, pleasure, addiction, and a food high for some of us. It’s these things, I believe, that create a struggle for me and for many other people. We want to do the right thing, but…

Lately, I’ve really been trying to think of my gorgeous, made-by-nature insides, and how much they will appreciate a good whole foods meal, preferably consisting of mostly plants.

I picture that food going down my esophagus, into my stomach and then, later, moving through my intestines and colon. I think what the colon leaves us is also highly important, in terms of our health, but that’s for another post. 🙂

I want to treat my body with respect and nourish it, so the days I have on this earth are healthy ones. I continue to work towards this goal each day.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Back to Reality

I’m back from Mexico, sunned and relaxed.

We stayed in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle; it was my first time in Mexico not at an all inclusive. Our condo was about 5 min. from the beach and the marina in this quaint fishing village.

Although we prepared a few meals in the condo, most of our meals were from restaurants or markets. My daughter is vegetarian, and I am mostlyplant-based, so we focused on meals without meat or seafood.

For breakfasts, our favorite place was Don Simon Café, a small café with delicious food and friendly service.

There’s no better way to start the day than with a nice hot cappuccino. They provide a nice large serving in a comforting cup, and is topped with cinnamon.

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Sitting outside, watching the locals going about their day is a treat.

In the picture below, my daughter and hubby walked across the street while we waited for our breakfast. The man who owned the white truck and dogs used to have nine dogs. He had five in the truck. It turns out that the other four were killed at some point during one or more burglaries of the pharmacy next to his home. So sad.

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In addition to our cappuccino infatuation, we also looked forward to the fresh juice. The café had three different choices, but our favorite was the green juice. I can’t recall all the ingredients, but the focus was spinach, pineapple and parsley. So fresh and tasty.

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For breakfasts we had egg dishes such as omelettes. Often, breakfasts were served with fruit or potato as well as toast.  Sometimes they were served with refried beans, but I wasn’t a big fan (usually made with lard). We also found fresh fruit with yogurt and granola as a tasty breakfast item. Overall, I was satisfied with the choices. If I’d been eating 100% plant-based, I would have asked for sautéed or grilled veggies instead of eggs and had them with fruit and toast.

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Other meals in Mexico were veggie tacos, burritos and fajitas. Corn tortillas were abundant, so with some fresh guacamole, I was in heaven.

I came back from our trip the sameweight, which is a bonus. We walked a lot most days, and I didn’t have much alcohol. Some wine here and there and a few margaritas.

Overall, I feel like I had not only a relaxing time away, but I feel revived from the sun and from the healthy and fresh food options.

Now that I’m back to reality in cold Canada, I am ready to  focus on the next part of myhealth journey-continuing with my goal of eating mostly plant-based, with little alcohol and moving my body regularly. Stay tuned.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

Screw it! 6 Days till Mexico

In my last post on Feb. 26, things were going well. My hubby and I started our Healthy Liquids After 5 plan…to trim down a bit before Mexico. A short-term, pre-vacation plan.

The rest of that week went well, and we stuck to our plan. It was awesome! I had energy and felt great.

Then Friday of that week hit me….with a chest cold. Damn! I was sick all through the weekend and for most of that following week. Can you sense what’s coming?

That’s right…I went OFF my healthy eating. When I’m sick like that (and still have my appetite), all I want is comfort food. I just give in to the easy convenient foods like restaurants and takeout.  Or I buy the ingredients to make crappy comfort food like macaroni and cheese. And…I don’t even do a great job at it! I haven’t sunk into the depths of junk food like chips etc., thank goodness.

So, I didn’t really veer off course; I did a 180 degree turn.

A few days ago, I started to feel normal, and then on a Friday, again, I was hit with another issue…massive headache and an overall lethargic level of energy all through the weekend. My husband’s cold has now taken different twists and turns and he’s back in bed today, sick, as well.

It’s frustrating because I allow being sick to be an excuse to put my goals on hold.

While I’m eating unhealthy food and lying on the couch coughing etc., I know what I’m doing, and I don’t care. What the heck is that anyway? Where’s my enthusiasm, my commitment, my pride in myself? How can I be so NOT like me? I guess I just don’t have the oomph I need to kick myself in the butt.

I think what I do is just give myself permission to stop thinking so much about what I’m doing and how I’m doing. I give myself permission to just say “F*&# it”. And it feels good because I think A LOT.

Until it doesn’t feel good.

I’ve been feeling low for most of the weekend. So, I guess I truly didn’t give myself permission, like I thought, or I wouldn’t be feeling guilty. I’m responsible for my own actions and for my own thinking. I deeply believe this.

I KNOW how powerful my mind is and how I can turn my thinking around. I just haven’t been able to do it today or yesterday.

I think the struggle continues to be: It’s OK to not be perfect. Somehow, I still beat myself up now and again even though my mind knows I’m human and it’s ok to screw up.

I’ve decided to just ride it out.

There is one thing I KNOW to be TRUE…every time I get low or when it seems I can’t get out of a mental slump.

I T    A L W A Y S    P A S S E S !

What a relief and how awesome is that? I’m feeling better already!

I’m proud to say that my husband and I have still stuck to our no alcohol at home plan, since mid-January. Woo hoo! It feels good to stick to a commitment.

We leave for Mexico this coming Saturday, and I’m really looking forward to the warm weather. Hopefully we can kick aside the germs that have been hovering around us. Hopefully, I can focus on the present and enjoy the time with my husband, my daughter and the friends we’ll be staying with.

Living life is about sharing life with others.

I WILL get back in the saddle wholeheartedly when I return. I WILL continue to blaze a trail on my health journey because I have that power…so cool.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli

 

My Vegucation

On my health journey, I’ve learned a lot. A LOT! I’ve read books, magazine articles, watched videos and listened to speakers and podcasts. I know plants are where it’s at for good health.

I’ve been convinced by information from scientific research as well as from the experiences of varied people. The most influential people who’ve shown me and convinced me about why and how to eat mostly whole, plant-based foods are:

  1. T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study and Whole
  2. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
  3. Dr. John McDougall, author of The Starch Solution and The Healthiest Diet on the Planet
  4. Dr. Michael Greger, founder of Nutritionfacts.org and author of How Not to Die

These amazing doctors figured out that what they learned in medical school taught them how to treat people with medication or surgery, once a chronic disease was present. It didn’t teach them anything about how their patients could prevent or reverse their illnesses (the top chronic diseases are: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure). What did these doctors discover? Eating plants, and excluding animal products, is the answer to good health.

All four doctors discovered their knowledge through research and/or practical clinical experience. They dedicate themselves to finding the facts and to helping people learn HOW to be healthy. They base their beliefs on facts and evidence, which is highly reassuring.

If you’re trying to decide which books to read to help you on your journey to health, Campbell and Esselstyn’s books are the top two. MUST reads in my opinion. The next two books, which I highly recommend are McDougall and Greger’s books.

I’ve learned that an ideal diet for humans is whole plant-based foods. As much as possible, we want to choose to eat plants and leave animal products off our plate. We also want to try to choose foods in their raw state often. I’m not 100% plant-based, as I don’t know if I can ever be that perfect over the long term. I’m not vegan either. Being vegan is a commitment that goes beyond food. It involves the avoidance of animal products in all aspects of life: clothing, furniture etc. Although I’m making better choices by decreasing my use of products that harm the environment or animals, I have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

My primary focus now is my health.

Other amazing people who’ve contributed to my knowledge and understanding of good health through nutrition, as well as the need to eat to help our planet and the animals, are:

  1. Neal Barnard: author of many books, including The Cheese Trap
  2. John Robbins: Author of Diet for a New America (this was the first plant-based nutrition book I ever read, way back in 1990), The Food Revolution and Healthy at 100
  3. Brendan Brazier: athlete and author of The Thrive Diet
  4. Rich Roll: ultra marathoner; author of Finding Ultra; podcast host
  5. Julie Marie Christensen: founder of The Protective Diet Education Program
  6. Joel Fuhrman, author of many books, but in particular, Eat to Live and Fasting and Eating for Health
  7. Rip Esselstyn, author of Engine 2 Diet and Plant Strong
  8. Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defence of Food
  9. Kris Carr: cancer survivor and author of Crazy Sexy Diet
  10. Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, co-authors of Skinny Bitch
  11. Chef AJ: food addict turned nutrition advocate and author of Unprocessed
  12. Brenda Davis: author of Becoming Vegan
  13. Victoria Morgan, author of Main St. Vegan
  14. Victoria Boutenko, author of Green for Life
  15. Meghan Telpner, author of Undiet: Eat your Way to Vibrant Health
  16. Kathy Freston: author of many books, including The Lean
  17. Thomas Campbell, MD, author of The Campbell Plan (and co-author of The China Study)
  18. Morris Hicks, author of Healthy Eating, Healthy World
  19. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals
  20. Michael S. Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat
  21. Nancy Montuori from The Ordinary Vegan website and podcast

Specific documentaries that have helped me understand how food affects my health, the environment and the well-being of animals:

  • Forks over Knives
  • Hungry for Change
  • What the Health
  • Cowspiracy
  • Food Inc.
  • Food Matters
  • Super Size Me
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2
  • Fed Up
  • Plant Pure Nation
  • Vegucated
  • GMO OMG
  • Food Choices
  • A Place at the Table
  • Sugar Coated
  • That Sugar Film
  • Live and Let Live
  • What’s with Wheat?

All the documentaries listed have valuable information, but the top three on the list are the ones I’d recommend watching. Forks Over Knives (2011) was probably the first documentary about plant-based eating for health that really went mainstream. What the Health is more recent (2017). Either would be a good start.

Taking time to get vegucated helps to fuel my health journey. I continue to read, watch and listen so I can learn as much as possible. I’m grateful for all the plant-based pioneers who have provided me, and other newbies, with information and recipes.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out some of the resources listed above, definitely carve out some time to do so. You won’t regret it. Even if you aren’t ready to go 100% plant-based (I am somewhere between 90-100%), you can benefit by including more plant-based food in your diet and eating less animal-based products.

Wishing you health and success on your journey,

SignatureAli