Do vegan kids get enough nutrition?

Happy Monday everyone! I have been itching to write another post all week but have found it difficult to find the time. Hubby is out-of-town on his annual boys golf trip (much-needed, he works so hard!)  so it’s pretty much been me and kiddo for the last 5 days. We’ve had a blast hanging out but I’ll be thankful to have my hunny home for sure. Kiddo is finishing up his last week of preschool and I’m planted across the street at a coffee shop finally getting some writing time in!

I have been wanting to write on the subject of whether or not a plant-based diet is safe for children since before starting the blog. Of course when we started on this journey 3 years ago the first time, we were met with a lot of questions and skepticism from our families and friends. At the time kiddo was only 6 months old and was just starting to experiment outside of formula. We started our journey as vegetarians (me a pescatarian) and slowly started eliminating dairy for ourselves, but not kiddo. After 3 years of research and talking to naturopaths, other vegan parents, watching several films, and speaking to handful of pediatricians I am now confident in our decision to raise our son on a whole foods plant based diet.

Recently we had a very good (omnivore) friend of ours send us an article written on the subject of vegan kids being able to get enough nutrition. I’ll be honest, at first I was PISSED. Unsolicited parenting advice is never welcomed warmly by me. That’s just my own shit. I do a bang up job (If I do say so myself) educating, researching, and finding answers to make sure that we are raising our son the best way possible (that satisfies our personal beliefs, because he is OUR son). I read the article, laughed hysterically (at the content, not the intention), and decided that when I had time I would blog about it and debunk the myths that are commonly surrounded by articles like this one.

So if you don’t have time to read it, the article kind of went like this…

There is a preschool serving vegan food to it’s 1-6 year olds…the author ponders, can this really be healthy?? 

She starts with…

“You have to be super knowledgable.” Nope. You sure don’t. Here is what you need to know…Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds and water. Seems pretty basic to me. If that is too hard to understand let me provide a picture. I would also like to mention all these foods are affordable, not specialty and can be purchased at any grocery store.

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“Vegan kids may not consume enough calories making them weigh less than their peers” Uh, yeah!…In a nation where the childhood obesity rate is 1 in 3, the American Heart Association website states that the number 1 health concern among parents in the United States is childhood obesity, topping drug abuse and smoking. So yeah, vegan kids tend to trend lower in weight and consume fewer calories than their omnivore friends, but let’s be honest…this might actually be good thing. The studies aren’t leading to the idea that vegan kids are malnourished, but that they eat less calories and weigh less AKA not being obese. Duh.

“Vegan kids may not consume enough protein” (here we go with the protein again!)
I don’t know why we are still so obsessed with protein. It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to be deficient in protein, on any diet. I have asked EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR I have come in contact with over the last 3 years…Ever taken your child to the doctor and heard that they need more protein? Unlikely. Maybe you have heard of Kwashiorkor or Marasmus? I’m guessing not, I hadn’t until I started looking into this whole protein obsession.Those are protein deficiencies found typically in under developed, third world countries. But for some reason Americans are obsessed with making sure they are getting “enough”. The recommended daily grams of protein for a child aged 4-9 is 19 grams, and 34 grams for age 9-13. Broccoli has more protein per 100 calories than beef. So if you are a parent that has a protein deficient kid, feed them broccoli over beef. Just sayin’

Broccoli vs. Beef

“Kids have food neophobia,” or a fear of trying unfamiliar foods”
Kids are products of their environment. If you start them out on the right path by setting an example yourself, exposing them to different foods/flavors they are more likely to accept new foods into the mix. Some kids are picky, whether it be texture, flavor, spiciness, it doesn’t matter. Continue to offer them the things they do enjoy (the healthiest version possible) but throw in something different too. Keep exposing them and eventually they will catch on. Just don’t EVER get into a power struggle over food. That has the potential to create far worse issues down the road, like overeating and eating disorders.

“B12 deficiencies are more prevalent in vegans and vegetarians”
Okay. They are also common in omnivores as well. So if you start your child’s life as a veggie kid like we have then there may be a need to supplement B12. So you do that. Do you give your kids a multivitamin? Problem solved.

“When kids get their hands on food they’ve been banned from eating, they eat more of it.”  Does this same logic apply to drugs and alcohol? Should we not forbid our children to drink until they are 21? Does that make them want to binge? How about teaching limitations, guidelines and moderation. How about education? As a family we indulge from time to time. What is more important, is to teach self-control. If you want to enjoy a cookie then enjoy it. If we never indulged in anything then yeah, we’d see a package of cookies and want to eat the entire thing. Does this mean that it’s okay to give an underage kid beer? No, it’s not. That is the education piece.

If the author is suggesting that a vegan kid is more likely to binge on a bunch of cheese burgers because he can’t have beef at home than it’s absurd. Our son eats burgers, made from plant sources of course. He also eats “nuggets” and other substitutes for traditional animal based foods. It’s not as though he is being deprived of the traditional “American” cuisine. He is being deprived of saturated fat, cholesterol, growth hormones, steroids and all the other crap found in your typical beef burger.

“Vegans may struggle to consume enough iron and fat”
Another one that I just love…allow me to explain this simply with an infograph… and the fats…avocados, flax seeds, nut butters, coconut oil. BAM!!!

Aug_Info_FINAL
“Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies”
You must consume dairy to have strong bones…you will not get enough calcium without dairy….Got MILK?….Uggghhhhh!!! All paid for by the dairy farmers of where ever….Look at the facts. Vegetables contain more calcium than dairy. Provide your kids with veggies and they will have plenty of calcium. As for the Vitamin D, unless you are lucky enough to live in the land of the sun you will probably need to consume a fortified source of Vitamin D, but it doesn’t need to be from a cow. You can easy purchase fortified orange juice, and almond milk (which does not come from lactating almonds, FYI) or just give you kiddos a Vitamin D supplement like this one (you could even put the drops into that fortified OJ) Problem easily solved. BTW…mushrooms provide Vitamin D2, they make a great meat substitute in spaghetti sauce, “meat” loafs, and as burgers.

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“Yes, you can raise kids vegan that are healthy, but it’s REALLY HARD”
Last time I checked raising any kid was really hard. When your TV is inundated with commercials promoting food that is slowing killing us, our public schools are serving food that is completely void of any nutritional value (did you know that pizza is considered a vegetable) and the Golden Arches are glorified as being a Happy Place for kids to eat “balanced” meals, no wonder our kids are fatter, sicker and as unhealthy as they have ever been. But as this article states, “It’s really hard” to raise healthy vegan kids. So lets just keep doing what we have been, because that is just working so well. “If it’s hard it isn’t worth it” said no one ever (that has really done something hard lol!)

I say lets start educating ourselves. I’m not saying everyone should be vegan. That is our personal choice. Did you know that the USDA is in charge of the standard Food Pyramid? Did you read that….The UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE. When did they become experts on nutrition? It’s NOT doctors, nutritionists or health experts advising what you “should” be eating.

One other little tidbit I loved was this:

“As the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics puts it, “nutritional balance is very difficult to achieve if dairy products and eggs are completely eliminated.”

I bet you didn’t know that the dairy industry is one of the biggest financial contributors to the AAP. Weird.

So there you have it…I obviously cannot spend my existence going thru the internet and dissecting every one-sided article that confuses people into thinking that we vegans live “really hard” lives trying to be nutritionally balanced. Or that we are struggling to have “healthy” kids because of the degree of difficulty compared to the Standard American Diet (also known as S.A.D., for real though!).

So, while I was a little pissy about getting this article sent to me in the first place, something positive did come from it. I was able to get some truth out there. And friend, if you are reading this, I love you and know that you were coming from a good place. I guess I’m just a sensitive vegan.

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Green Juice

I love green juice. Like, for real. Green juice is life…. 

This has not always been the case for me.

 A few years ago I had accidentally purchased a bottled green juice from Starbucks. I chose it not realizing that it was void of any kind of fruit juice…I was quite surprised, not because it tasted bad, but because it was completely unexpected and I had not prepared myself for what I was about to drink. Fast forward to now and I drink a homemade version of that same juice daily. It’s what I look forward to, almost as much as my coffee, and honestly sometimes I skip my coffee altogether and go straight to the juice.  

I love the way I feel, even after just one sip. It’s refreshing, energizing, tasty and rehydrating. I’m telling you, it’s something you need in your life daily. 

Most of don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Green juices are a great way to get in your daily dose of fresh produce, especially if you have a hard time fitting in loads of spinach, kale, greens, or cucumbers in your everyday diet. Most store-bought green juices pack two servings of fruits and veggies into each bottle, so they’re a healthy way to sneak in nutrition if you’ve been slacking on your veggies, or if you just have a hard time eating salads all the time.  However, purchasing them can get VERY expensive, like $6-9 a bottle. Multiply that by 7 days a week and you are spending a fortune on something that you can make for a fraction of the cost and in my opinion tastes better than pre-bottled versions.  

So what benefit are we truly getting from all this green stuff? Here is what I put into my green juice and why…

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Kale 

  • Calcium – Not only does kale pack as much calcium per cup as milk, it is a source that is better absorbed so you get to keep more of that calcium. 
  • Antioxidants – Keeps oxidation to cells in check (oxidation can cause cancer).  Antioxidants also help in the repair process of free radical damage to our cells. Kale is a powerhouse full of antioxidants. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory  – 100 calories of kale provides over 350 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acid. Kale is also a spectacular source of vitamin K. Research shows that vitamin K is a key nutrient for helping regulate our body’s inflammatory process. 
  • Anti-Cancer – Kale contains at least 4 glucosinolates. When kale is eaten these glucosinolates are converted into cancer preventing compounds. Cancer-related research shows that colon, breast, bladder, prostate, and ovarian cancer have all been found to decrease with routine consumption of kale. Kale Yeah!

Celery

  • Low in calories but full of fiber helping you stay fuller longer. Celery is also a great source of folic acid, Vitamin A, C, K, and Riboflavin. Aids in digestion and lowers cholesterol. Has anti-inflammatory properties and aids detoxification of the body. Contains phytochemicals known as phthalides, which research has shown can help reduce the levels of hormones that cause stress. These chemicals also help to relax the muscle walls in arteries and stimulate circulation. In Chinese medicine celery has been used to help combat high cholesterol. 

Cucumber

  • Keeps you hydrated, aids in digestion, packed full of vitamins and minerals, keeps uric acids levels low which is great for keeping your kidneys happy, makes skin, hair and nails look fabulous, and some studies are even suggesting cucumbers have cancer fighting properties.

Lemons

  • Purification from the inside out, full of vitamins and minerals, aids in keeping blood pressure low, detoxifying properties, and they taste amazing!

Bananas

  • Potassium! Did you know that potassium keeps electricity flowing throughout your body, which is required to keep your heart beating? Bananas’ high potassium and low sodium content may also help protect your cardiovascular system against high blood pressure. They add just the right amount of sweetness, and lets not forget that bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan, which your body makes into serotonin (they happy stuff) Plus, the vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles making it a great addition to your post workout smoothie. 

Frozen Pineapple

-Pineapple contains a wealth of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, beta carotene,  thiamin, B6, and folate, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber, and bromelain. Studies have shown pineapple can benefit everything from arthritis to the common cold. I like to purchase it frozen because it helps chill the juice and frozen pineapple is always in season 🙂

Ginger & Turmeric

  • Ginger is known to suppress inflammation, reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, and protect the brain from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger may also have anti-cancer properties, possibly suppressing growth of cancer cells by stopping them from dividing. It’s also know to help aid in keeping your immune system strong and helping to keep colds at bay. 
  • Turmeric benefits your digestive system by stimulating your gall bladder to make bile, speeding the breakdown of dietary fats. Studies also show that the curcumin in turmeric might also interfere with the growth of several types of cancer cells, including those of the prostate, breast, skin and colon. 

E3Live (Blue Algae)

  • E3Live is a wild-harvested, organic afa blue-green algae from Klamath Lake in Oregon. It contains more than 65 vitamins, minerals, amino acids and is a complete source of essential fatty acids. It’s literally one of the healthiest things you can put into your body. It comes frozen and I just thaw it in the sink for a few minutes and add a tablespoon into my juice. This stuff is legit. I won’t go without it now. 

So if you have arthritis, inflammation, predisposition to certain cancers, digestive issues, GI issues, want clearer skin or simply need more energy or an overall health boost drink a green juice daily! 

When I refer to my green juice it’s actually more like a green smoothie. I have a really nice juicer that we purchased last year from a friend. I loved having fresh juice, for about a month. It’s a ton of work to juice, and really expensive. You have to have a boatload of fresh produce to put thru that thing and honestly cleaning it afterward sucks. It ended up on my kitchen counter collecting dust after just a few weeks. 

Then, in December we bought a Vitamix from Costco. You wouldn’t think that a blender could change your life…I’m here to tell you it can. I started adding all the stuff that I would normally juice right into my Vitamax, but only about 1/4 of the amount. The result is a fiber rich smoothie that tastes amazing and has awesome texture. I like mine super cold. I couldn’t get that result with my juicer unless I put ice into my juice (which just watered it down). I’m literally in LOVE with my blender. I use it at least twice a day. 

There are a lot of differing opinions on whether juicing is healthier than smoothies. Here is my take on it…

Juicing requires an enormous amount of produce to yield a substantial serving. You lose all the fiber when you juice, all that pulp that you are throwing out is what is going to keep you full because that is where the fiber is! Not to mention many of the nutrients are contained within the skins of the fruits and veggies you are using. 

Smoothies allow you to blend the fruits and veggies with the skin, you get to keep all the fiber and nutrients. It’s all about eating whole foods. You get all of the good stuff! Plus you can add things like wheat grass shots (I buy mine pre-frozen at Whole Foods), E3Live, and other superfood powders that get blended in nicely. 

So for me, green juice smoothies are where it’s at. If you try making it and don’t love it, that’s ok. Try it again. It’s not something you are probably going to fall in love with right away, but if you drink it a few days in row you will start to notice how you feel, then it’s east to drink and you start to crave it! Here is my recipe for my favorite Green “Juice”. Enjoy!!

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Green “Juice” Smoothie

Serves 2-4

Appx 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of de-stemmed kale

1/2 english cucumber

1 lemon (peeled)

2 celery stalks

2 bananas

1 cup frozen pineapple

1 thumb size knob ginger/tumeric

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup water

handful of ice

*optional items – E3Live, wheatgrass, flax, chia seeds, unflavored pea protein

Directions

Combine all items into high speed blender and blend until desired consistency is reached. pour into mason jars of desired size. Can be stored up to 3 days in refrigerator.

 

 

NOTE: IF YOU DON’T LIKE GINGER, LEAVE IT OUT. OR IF YOU DESPISE BANANAS USE MAPLE SYRUP TO SWEETEN IT OR TRY A COUPLE OF FUJI APPLES INSTEAD. MAKE IT YOUR OWN WITH WHAT YOU LIKE!

ALSO BECAUSE YOU ARE CONSUMING THE WHOLE FRUITS AND VEGGIES I WOULD RECOMMEND PURCHASING ORGANIC IF YOU CAN. IF THAT IS NOT AN OPTION USE A PRODUCE WASH LIKE THIS ONE BEFORE MAKING YOUR JUICE.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or find me on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM for more smoothie and juice inspiration!

Kauai Week 2 & 3

Alohhhhaaaaa!!! Well, I’m back home finally, after 3 dreamy weeks of Kauai. I had every intention of writing weekly but a couple of things happened. Twice I started and lost my drafts because of the shotty internet connection at the resort and after the last time I couldn’t risk putting in that amount of time to only start again. So here I am re-writing for the third time and trying to piece back together my last two weeks of vacation.

I want to start with talking about the farmers markets on Kauai. We spent a good amount of time shopping and being entertained at them, and they really make the island interesting. Six days a week you can find a farmers market on the island. Many of the same vendors participate in all of them, traveling around the island to sell their produce, baked goods, unique grocery items, and crafts. I’ve been to a farmers market before on Maui, and also here in Tacoma but until this trip to Kauai I didn’t truly learn to appreciate them…more on that in a minute.

We started our second week with a trip to the FM in Koloa Town, about a 5 min drive from Poipu, where we were staying. This particular market is every Monday and hosts mostly fruits and veggies, some flowers and a few baked goods. Grandma and Grandpa were familiar with this market and made it clear that I needed to have a shopping list in hand and that we needed to arrive early. In all of my previous FM experiences I had never gone with a list, or been concerned about my arrival time, but they had been there before and seemed pretty certain that these things were important. So the night before I made my list for the week and we planned on arriving at 11:30, a half hour before it started.

The market itself was in the parking lot of a small baseball field. When we arrived the parking lot just had a few cars and a barricade made from yellow no crossing tape and two buckets. By 11:45 the parking lot was completely full, the crossing tape was down and people had started wandering thru the market “window” shopping. We went ahead and followed and I quickly entered into Produce Paradise…

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Promptly at 12:00 a very loud horn sounded and it was like seeing pirañas attacking in bloody water…seriously…people were in a frenzy pushing their way into the tables, grabbing their items, waving their money and collecting their goods. I caught on quickly and knew exactly what vendors I was going to buy from because I had been scoping it out along with everyone else beforehand. This is where the shopping list came in very handy. The whole experience of actually shopping only took 7 minutes. That is the fastest I have ever shopped for anything! By 12:10 we were back in the car and heading out for lunch.

After we got back to the resort I was looking at the exquisite color and noticing the fragrant aroma of everything as I was putting it away. I could literally smell my radishes thru the bag. At that moment it hit me what a farmers market is really about. It’s the connect between you and the farmer. I started thinking about how the very people that I was purchasing from were the people who planted, harvested, transported and sold the bunch of cilantro in my hand. As I started looking at everything else I became appreciative of the labor and love that went into the growth of those very items. I planted my first garden with kiddo last summer. We spent every night outside watering, weeding, and nurturing our little plants. It was time very well spent together and the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when harvesting those babies and biting into our first little tomatoes was like none other. By supporting the farmers market earlier that day I was supporting a family, not a big name grocery store. I could make eye contact with the very person ( and some of their children) who nurtured the food that I was going to be eating that would nurture me. It really was something, and I made the commitment right then to shop at my farmers markets at home more often.

Here is some info on the farmers market schedule all over the island. We went to the Monday Koloa Market (above) the Wednesday Kukuiula Market and the Saturday Kauai Community College Market. They were all wonderful and slightly different. I would absolutely recommend checking them out if you visit the island.

Now the food….

So instead of boring you with all the things we ate over a two week period I’ll highlight a few of my favorite meals instead….

  • The Vegan Pizza at Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza and Burgers
    • Brick oven, Macadamia Nut “Cheese”, red sauce, wild mushrooms, greens = WINNER!! We actually ate this twice. They also subbed the macnut cheese on the Margherita Pizza for the mozzarella for us too!wp-1461727209552.jpeg
  • Veggie Sandwich from Kauai Food Truck
    • Not on the menu, but I asked for a veggie option. Full of fresh and tasty veggies like sprouts, tomato, avocado and onions. Top if off with a smoothie from the Loco Coco Shaved Ice truck next door and you are set!
  • Veggie Hotdogs from the world famous Puka Dogs
    • Anthony Bourdain and other “foodies” have experienced a Puka Dog and loved it. With add on’s like coconut relish and lilikoi mustard you know you are in for an experience. Bonus…Non GMO veggie dogs and you can order fresh (like you can watch them squeeze the lemons) lemonade with 1/2 or full sugar. 20160416_114154.jpg20160416_114520.jpg
  • Veggie Burrito from Mariachi’s in Kaapa
    • Claimed to be the best Mexican food in Kauai…it was pretty darn good and the tomatillo sauce took it to a whole new level. 20160415_131014.jpg
  • Bob’s Redmill Instant Oats (seriously though!)
    • Bought this on a whim, added some fresh fruit and BAM! A hearty and delicious breakfast made in 2 minutes that kept me full thru my first paddle boarding experience.20160411_082821.jpg
  • Macnut Crusted Coconut Milk Tofu from Caffe Coco in Kapaa
    • A menu that can make anything on it veganized…yes please!! Bonus was that it was incredibly delicious and our service was some of the best that we experienced.img_20160422_193458.jpg
  • Taro Burger and GIGANTIC pickle from Bubba’s Burgers
    • I love pickles, kiddo loves pickles…it was crispy and tasted just right! The Taro burger had a nice texture, made with a lot of pinto beans and seasoned very well.
  • Acai Bowl from our hotel
    • Glad I didn’t find this until literally the day before we left…20160423_095936.jpg
  • Curried Tofu Wrap from Olympic Cafe
    • This place scored big again for us! It comes with chicken on the menu but they were happy to sub Tofu for me. We could have literally eaten every meal there. So many choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all vegan friendly.20160416_185614.jpg

We did our usual dinners in as well throughout the last two weeks. Mostly stir fry with rice and veggies, pasta with red sauce, tacos, grilled pineapple and veggie burgers and sandwiches and leftovers for lunch. I made tofu scramble a couple times for breakfast but mostly stuck with smoothies.

I did make some delicious homemade Pina Coladas with a can of coconut milk, fresh pineapple, coconut rum, ice and little agave syrup. We had those a few nights while cooking dinner and man were they tasty! I can’t wait to make them at home for our next shindig. img_20160407_181622.jpg

What I learned eating a whole foods plant based diet on this trip is that everywhere I went I had options, and not just a boring salad. I ate some of the best food I have had in a long time. Everything tasted super fresh, was full of vibrant color and looked so appetizing. We introduced the grandparents to some new dishes as well and while they are not vegan, they did enjoy a lot of the same foods we were eating and I think were pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. And let me be clear…I did indulge quite a bit. More so the second and third week. I had Bloody Mary’s a few mornings, french fries and onion rings a couple of times, chips and guacamole way too may times, beer and Mai Tai’s too. The great thing is, because I eat balanced, whole foods the majority of the time I only gained a few pounds over 3 weeks that I will easily shed over the next week of being home. I never felt sick or bloated and I stayed relatively active for most of the trip.

Besides the food….

I did want to mention a few of the things that we did while we were on the island that were pretty cool to experience with kiddo.

  • Paddle Boarding- We rented two and Hunny Bunny took Kiddo out on his while I had my own. Poipu Beach is on a relatively protected cove so we payed attention to the surf and talked to the rental place before taking them out to make sure conditions were good for first timers and a toddler riding. We put kiddo in a life jacket and he sat happily on the board as my husband paddled around with him. It was incredibly fun and very easy. I was standing up by the second day and having a ball. Check out Kauai Beach Boys if you are staying near Poipu. wp-1461731575502.jpegwp-1461731594683.jpeg
  • Waimea Canyon– This was a totally unplanned trip. Hunny Bunny and I went on our honeymoon 5 years ago and loved it, but we were’t thinking that kiddo would get much enjoyment out of it. He declared that he wanted to see the big canyon when he heard the grandparents talking about going so we decided to drive up and check it out again. Our last trip there was in late September so it was pretty dry and barren, this time it was painted with luscious greens and a huge waterfall was visible to the northwest of the lookout that we were at. Kiddo did great, and while he wasn’t blown away by any stretch, he had fun and it was cool to get pictures up there with him. wp-1461731653395.jpegwp-1461731624660.jpeg
  • Kauai Coffee– Another place I didn’t think kiddo would really care for, but he actually really enjoyed. There is a really nice covered tasting area that has a concession stand selling ice cream, sandwiches, coffee drinks and other snacks. It’s situated on patio that overlooks acres and acres of coffee trees and beyond those you can see all the way to the ocean. It really is beautiful. After getting our fill of coffee we went to check out the self guided tour of the plantation. Kiddo loved seeing the scarecrows and harvesting equipment along the path. We got to check it out and he got to blow off some energy. wp-1461731843547.jpegwp-1461731863953.jpegwp-1461731797705.jpeg
  • Kilohana Plantation Estate– I mentioned this in the week 1 post, but it is definitely worth mentioning again…the train ride was super fun, especially for kiddo, but the best part is feeding the animals along the way. Here’s a bonus! If you are traveling with grandparents or without kids, there is a tasting room for Koloa Rum right on sight that does rum tasting every hour. You can get off the train and enjoy some really fantastic rum! The train ride had several people riding without kids, it really is fun for all ages.
  • Anahola Beach– This beach now has a special place in my heart. The story of the beach is really beautiful and has some pretty significant meaning to the grandparents. They invited us to come along with them (it’s a bit of a drive up the east side of the island, just pasted Kapaa) and I’m so glad we did. It a half moon shaped bay of crystal clear blue water, white sandy beach and lush greenery. To the north you can see gorgeous mountains covered in green and it looks straight out of a movie set. I found some really unique coral pieces and kiddo found a bunch of coconuts that had washed up on the beach. There are lifeguards on duty, picnic tables and bathrooms. It appeared to have some great snorkeling too. 20160415_112254.jpg20160415_112109.jpg20160415_112241.jpg20160415_111842.jpg

We had an amazing trip. Honestly, most of our time was spent at the pool and the beach. We did a little snorkeling, kiddo mastered the boogie board, hunny bunny got to play golf, I had a massage, and we celebrated our 10 year anniversary. There were lasting memories made with the grandparents and we are looking forward to coming back again in a few years. Being able to eat most of our meals in our room was great. It allowed time for us to connect a lot more, spend more time playing and less time trying to “get ready” to go out. Most nights we ate in our PJ’s actually 🙂 This was our first major vacation on a whole foods plant based diet and I would call it a major success. We ate healthy, delicious food and had no trouble eating out. This lifestyle is easy to maintain at home and while on vacation.

I hope to leave you inspired to try something new…maybe next time you eat out at your favorite restaurant look for something plant based or order something you really love without the meat. Or maybe you might consider picking up a book on how eating a whole foods plant based diet can literally change your life and health within a week, or possibly checking out Netflix and the abundance of documentaries on this lifestyle. Now that you have seen our family do it for 3 weeks on vacation you might consider trying it in the comfort of your home for a few days or even a week…I’m a resource if you have questions! Feel free to email me or leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!!

I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite pics from our trip…wp-1461731719639.jpegwp-1461731765527.jpeg20160418_144822.jpg20160416_183843.jpgwp-1461733683629.jpegwp-1461733734994.jpegwp-1461733818318.jpeg

Kauai Week 1

Kauai Vacation – Week 1

Aloha everyone! Wow! It’s been a laid back, seamless vacation so far. We have been here on the island since late Monday night and we have been having a great time so far. Kiddo did an amazing job at the airport and on the flight. He’s always been a great traveler, but we are finally at a place where it’s becoming easy to travel with him. All it takes is a little prep work and patience. Two things I’m also getting better at 🙂

So I wanted to share with you how we are doing this whole 3 week vacation on a plant based whole foods diet. A lot of people get worried that when they travel (especially with friends and family) they won’t have options, or that they will end up eating boring salads. I was one of those people for a long time! I didn’t give up fish until just recently because I didn’t know what I would eat on our yearly trip to the islands, or anywhere else for that matter. Every restaurant has Fish N Chips, or a grilled “healthy” seafood option. That was always my safety net, plus I was terrified of eating too many carbs so pasta (often the other veggie option) was off the table completely.

We are staying in a beautiful 2 bedroom 2 bath condo with who we refer to as our adopted parents. They are amazing and have taken on the role of Grandma and Grandpa seamlessly. They are owners of the timeshare we are staying in at the Marriott Waiohai. Included in our room is a fully stocked kitchen with everything we need to be able to prepare food here (pots, pans, utensils, serving dishes, etc). The morning after we arrived Hunny Bunny and I woke up, left kiddo with Grandma and Grandpa and headed to Costco. I was trying to remember to get a picture of everything we bought to give you an idea, but of course….I forgot. Here is a basic rundown

  • Frozen Organic fruit (strawberries, blueberries)
  • Salad greens, spinach, cucumbers, red peppers, celery sticks, bananas, apples, limes, lemons, pineapple (duh!)
  •  Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk, bottled water, Mama Chia bottled juice (Kale Mint flavor)
  • Frozen roasted sweet potatoes, frozen cooked quinoa, frozen Organic veggie mix
  • Organic Bread
  • Hummus, Guacamole, Salsa
  • Organic Tortilla chips, crackers
  • Tofu, Portobello’s, Aduki Beans, Black Beans
  • Wine, Vodka, Organic Lemonade, Soda Water
  • Portable beach umbrella ($23 to purchase or $20 a week to rent)
  • 2 pack of 40oz water canteens
  • A package of Gladware disposable tupperware

All told, we spent about $350. Hawaii is expensive, even at Costco. Considering that we are here for as long as we are, and eating out costs waaaaaay more, this is definitely the way to go. After Costco we stopped at Living Foods which is this awesome natural foods/deli/grocery store about a mile from our room. There I picked up:

  • Canned coconut milk, agave syrup (for coffee creamer)
  • Peanut butter
  • Braggs liquid amino (like soy sauce)
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Fresh Ginger
  • Tomatos
  • Another Pineapple

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Now we have more than enough to make our breakfast, lunch and a few dinners for at least a week and a half.

I absolutely loved this little store. They had locally made island soaps, produce right off the farm, island made kombucha on tap, and wood fired pizza that looked incredible (and easily made vegan without the cheese). If you ever come to Kauai and find yourself down on the south part of the island check it out. They are located in The Shops at Kukui’ula.

When we got back and unloaded everything I started some prep work. I realize that the last thing you want to do on vacation is grocery shop and prep food. Seriously though, it is such a cost saver and really a time saver in the long run. I washed and prepped the fruits and veggies. Now we have snacks and things ready to grab right out of the fridge for taking the pool or beach. I used an empty water bottle to store my homemade batch of coffee creamer, and washed the rest of the tupperware. I really took less than an hour. Now I can actually relax!

So our first night for dinner we went to this great little Mexican cantina called Tortilla Republic also located in the same complex as Living Foods. They had a great menu with something for everyone. We tried the Deep Fried Brussel Sprouts which were Out. Of. This. World. Seriously! I usually steer clear of deep fried anything, but I also like to live a little. They were so delicious and had this surprisingly sweet and smoky jalapeño salsa on top. Yum! They also had a vegetarian burrito. We ordered ours without cheese and smothered in salsa verde.The portion was perfect. It didn’t come with rice and beans which I loved because it’s always too much. The burrito had fajita veggies, rice and black beans with guacamole…OMG…I ate the whole thing.

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The next day I woke up early and decided to go for a run. It was about 7 am so the sun had just come up and was still rising. The temperature was around 71 with a light mist. As I was making my way around Poipu Beach I looked out over the little bay and was delighted to see spinner dolphins playing out in the surf. AMAZING. I love to start my day with some kind of sweat. It clears my mind, makes me feel energized, focused and ready to take on whatever the day is going to bring.

When I got back from my run everyone was awake. Our room has a blender so I made everyone a smoothie from all the Costco frozen fruit, spinach and almond milk. We drank those on the lanai before gearing up for our day that the pool. Kiddo is a great swimmer and LOVES to be in the water. We got a great spot right by the pool. They got in immediately and I spent the next two hours immersed in Food Over Medicine. This book is a MUST READ for anyone who cares about their health or the health of their loved ones. I included the link to Amazon for it so that you can check out the reviews.  It’s an easy read, not technically written and is extremely eye opening. I finished it that day and now the Grandparents are reading it while on this vacation. I checked mine out from the library but am going to purchase it when we get back. I can’t say enough about it…READ IT 🙂

After getting half way thru the book I went up to the room to make lunch. I heated up the frozen quinoa, frozen sweet potatoes, 1/2 a can of aduki beans and added it on top of a bed of baby spinach and cucumbers that I had in tupperware bowls. Then I added about 1/2 cup of hummus into a glass measuring cup with the juice of 1 lemon and some water. I mixed that together to make a nice little dressing. I made kiddo a veggie wrap with hummus, spinach and cucumbers. We ate that by the pool and it was great!

We decided to cook dinner in that night as well. I marinated the portobellos in liquid aminos (like soy sauce) with fresh grated ginger, lime juice, a little agave syrup and some water. They sat in the fridge for about 45 min while I sliced pineapple, cut up red peppers, made some homemade pina coladas, sliced onions, and made rice. The boys took the veggies down and grilled them while Grandma and I enjoyed our pina coladas on the lanai. We had a wonderful, fresh and healthy dinner that was easy to make and very affordable.

The next couple of days we continued to drink smoothies in the morning. It’s always my go to breakfast. The blender here is okay. I’ve been really spoiled with my Vitamix. My husband played golf on Thursday morning so after we dropped him off kiddo, myself and the grandparents headed to Lydgate Park just south of Kapaa on the east side of the island.  The beach park was a little rough that day, but the playground…OMG! It was out of this world. We were the only ones there (thankfully it was a weekday, the locals frequent the park on the weekends). The playground was built in 1994 by 7,000 local volunteers. It consists of beautiful stone mosaic benches and murals, a 2 story slide that looks like a volcano, draw bridges, towers, swings, monkey bars…I could go on and on…if you visit the island with little kids I would say it is a must do. Just remember to go on a weekday. The Kamalani Playground website has more information.

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Just a small section of the playground

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Two story volcano slide

We headed back toward Poipu for lunch so that we could pick hubby up after golf. We ended up at the Olympic Cafe in the Poipu Village Shopping mall. It’s right across the street from the golf course and our hotel. I had glanced at the menu online before we left and remembered that it had some great options for vegans and omnivores alike. I ended up with the Tropical Salad. I had them swap tofu for the chicken, no cheese and no croutons. What I received was a bowl full of exquisite local greens, fresh papaya, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, a few slices of tofu, macadamia nuts and a slightly sweet but mostly tangy papaya poppyseed dressing. Talk about vegan food porn….It was as delicious as it looked. I don’t know if I spoke to anyone while I was eating it. They had some really great options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would highly recommend it for all of the above. The prices weren’t bad, the service was good and the restaurant was nice. Highly recommend for everyone!

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The Tropical Salad at the Olympic Cafe…Literally a tropical party in your mouth!

Dinners the first couple of nights were about the same. We really try hard to eat what we buy. Lots of fresh veggies roasted, rice and beans. If that sounds boring just remember that adding one simple spice that you love like ginger, or cilantro can change the dish completely. Sometimes I add salsa or guacamole, hummus or whatever else sounds good. I haven’t found a combo that I didn’t like.

Kiddo and I got up early mid week and did a little beach walk while hubby went for a run. We came across a beautiful monk seal sleeping on the beach. They are a protected species here and there is a team of volunteers who make sure that the public leaves these awesome creatures alone. They set up a temporary boundary around them so that they can sleep (up to 10 hours at a time) peacefully. We stopped and built some volcanos, played in the sand and enjoyed our little mama son time before heading to the pool for the rest of the day.

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A sleeping monk seal on our walk yesterday morning.
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We found a pineapple while walking the grounds of our resort!

Friday night we went to dinner at the Kauai Island Brewery in Port Allen. The draw to this place was that it had a game room and kiddo has been on the hunt for air hockey. It was about 25 minutes away, but not a big deal. The beer selection sounded good so I tried the Lilikoi Ale and although it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t anything too exciting. They did have a delicious sounding veggie burger consisting of black beans, corn, carrots and quinoa. It was customizable so I added BBQ Sauce and Guacamole, hubby added pineapple and teriyaki. All was going well until I spotted something in my beer. It was some kind of little brown bug. I took it out, didn’t say a word and thought to myself, you are sitting in an open air restaurant on a tropical island…these things can happen. Then I looked down and saw 3 more crawling on the table, then one crawling up hubby’s glass, then another crawling up grandpa’s glass. At this point our food had just arrived. Kiddo was getting squirrely and we all were starving. I pointed it out to everyone. The server brought new drinks and we ate our food. I know…we should have gotten up right then and left…in hindsight that would have happened. For all I know I ate a bug burger…no one got sick and all was well. We won’t be going back there, and no, they do not have air hockey.

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My veggie burger that may or may not have contained bugs!

I got up again Saturday morning and did another run, but this time in the opposite direction as the other day. I got my first 3 miles in and ended up walking back on along the beach. I regretted that I wasn’t running in shorts because I would have dove right into the ocean when I was done. It was 78 degrees at 8 am when I finished, blue skies, sun and hardly any breeze.

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The view this morning on my run.

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After getting cleaned up we headed to to the Kauai Plantation Railway in Lihue. We had taken kiddo there 2 years ago when we visited last and it was fun, but kind of rainy and he didn’t quite get the whole concept yet. Today was a much different experience. We arrived about 45 minutes early and walked around the grounds. On the 105 acres sits a gorgeous old plantation home turned restaurant and shopping, a tasting room for Koloa Rum Company and acres and acres of lush vegetation, fruit trees, goats, pigs, donkeys and chickens galore. The train runs along the perimeter of the property and includes a wonderful narrator who talks about all the different things we are seeing. Several of the animals have been rescued and rehabilitated, some just showed up and never left, but none of them will be slaughtered. The train stops about half way thru the trip and allows the guests to disembark to feed them. The pigs were absolutely hysterical and terrifying at the same time. There was a very kind and docile goat that I would have taken home with me had it even been remotely possible and a naughty little donkey that liked to pick on the other animals. Kiddo throughly enjoyed this part of the trip, as did I. When we finished up Daddy went with the grandparents to taste some rum while kiddo and I did a little more exploring. We ended up with a bottle of Coconut Rum (which I will be breaking open to make more homemade pina coladas shortly) and a frisbee for kiddo.

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After all that we were starving and found ourselves back at the Olympic Cafe. I ordered the Tostada Salad without chicken, cheese or sour cream, but added rice. I’ll allow the picture to speak for itself. Hubby ordered the veggie burger and kiddo ordered a green salad. Yes, my 3 1/2 year old son orders a salad all on his own. Proud mom moment.

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The Tostada Salad from Olympic Cafe in Poipu. Under all those gorgeous veggies are black beans and rice. I skipped the tortilla and did a job on the rest of it. The cilantro lime dressing was insanely good.
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We asked kiddo how his salad was…2 enthusiastic thumbs up!!

So as we are wrapping up this week I’m pretty satisfied with the choices we have made. I feel great and don’t have the usual vacation paunch starting that I normally do by this point. I have had a few little indulgences like fries, beer and cocktails, some gelato and more tortilla chips than normal, but balancing that with eating a lot of greens, brown rice and healthy carbs has made all the difference. It also doesn’t hurt getting up and getting that sweat happening. Even if it’s just a walk on the beach, joining in on one of the water aerobics classes offered at the pool or just heading out to the lanai for some light yoga. Do it for you and be proud that you made the effort, even on vacation. We have spent a ton of time playing the pool and kiddo is getting pretty good at his boogie boarding skills. Next week we are going to hit some of the local farmers markets, venture up to the north part of the island and spend some more time relaxing at the beach.

Until next week….Aloha!!!

Weekly Shopping & Meal Planning

 

Hope everyone had a great weekend! We are on the countdown to our annual trip to Hawaii. This year we get to spend 3 weeks on the island of Kauai with our wonderful parents of the heart. They have a beautiful timeshare and they are so generous in letting us stay with them. I’m actually really excited to post from Kauai. All the fresh fruits and veggies available are going to make some pretty delicious meals. Stay tuned for that…

Anyway, I wanted to do a post about shopping and meal planning. Meal planning is the key when you are trying to eat healthier, keep a reasonable food budget and to make your life a lot easier during the week. When you know ahead of time what you will be making it takes the work out of guessing, stopping at the store on the way home, or giving in and just ordering take out because you don’t have the ingredients or energy to cook something. It really is a lifesaver. If you have never meal planned before it can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, but thankfully there are no shortage of meal planning templates available online, or perhaps even pre-programmed on your computer. I use one in Numbers on my Mac.

If you are really busy and have no time for meal planning you can check out www.getmealplans.com It’s a wonderful website that will give you a weekly meal plan that is WFPB, gluten free, soy free and delicious. You have the option of choosing a plan for an individual or family (you get both) a shopping list, and instructions on how to cook all your meals for the week with 1-3 hours. It’s $18.99 a month, but think about the cost of 1 take out meal. Totally worth it! ( I have no affiliation with this meal planning website, I just really love it and have used it! )

I choose Friday’s (usually when kiddo is at school) to make my meal plan. The first thing I do is clean out my refrigerator and freezer. Get rid of the left overs that you know are not going to get eaten, go thru and discard any questionable produce, check expiration dates on condiments, and make sure you have staples. For me that would be:

-Maple Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce) and pickles. Kiddo loves baby dills…Yes, I consider these a staple. I don’t buy these items weekly, but use them almost daily, so I always check to make sure I have enough.

I get all my dirty storage containers in the dishwasher. This is so helpful! Having clean storage containers allows you to prep your produce and grains for the week. Do this and you will be thankful!

Next I check my pantry items/spices and do a quick organization. I do this weekly and it saves me a ton of time. It really sucks when you are hosting a dinner party and making lasagna but find out as you are starting to cook that the box of lasagna noodles only has 4 noodles left inside. Getting into the habit of going thru the pantry weekly eliminates these minor, first world emergencies.

The whole process of getting organized should only take you 15 minutes once you get into the habit. Next I start the actual meal plan. Throughout the week I may come across a recipe on Pinterest or something new from a cookbook that I want to try. I get that out so it’s handy. Most of my recipes are from Pinterest, other blogs and cookbooks. Here’s a helpful hint…check out cookbooks from the library first. That way if you don’t like the food, or you’re just not feeling the recipes you haven’t wasted $20. If you love it then go on Amazon and pick it up!

So once I have all my recipes in front of me I start my meal plan. It looks like this…Meal plan I keep this on my fridge so that I can glance and know the night before if I need to prep anything and also because it tells me what workout I’ll be doing and what is going on that day. When I start filling it out I glance at my calendar. Are we having friends over? Going out to dinner? Is my husband working? Am I working? All these things come into play when I’m deciding what to cook. I’m not going to make lasagna from scratch on a night that it’s just kiddo and I. You get the drift…Also, I change my workouts often. I’m focusing on lower body (PiYo!) due to the bikini wearing vacation I’m about to take. Usually you will see more variety, and often on Sunday I will have a rest day or just do yoga depending on how I’m feeling. I just listen to what my body wants. Back to planning….

After all the important stuff is filled out then I start plugging in dinner. Base this on what you have going on and how you usually feel during the week. I rarely make anything that takes longer than 30-45 mins from start to finish. These meals are saved for a night when Hubby is home to hang out with kiddo or if we are entertaining.

Next I figure out lunch. It’s always salad with lots of greens, a grain/starch, protein and a ton of veggies. I change it up every week, but stick to about 3 for variety. Sometimes I will warm up the starch before I add it depending on my mood. This could be brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, etc. Proteins would be beans, legumes, tempeh, etc.

Breakfast for me is always a smoothie. I just love the way I feel after drinking them. Completely nourished, energized, light and satisfied. Again, I focus on about 3 varieties for the week. If I’m loving a certain smoothie then I might drink if for 3 weeks…just do what you like. Occasionally kiddo might ask for pancakes, or I might be craving something warm and comforting like a tofu scramble or sweet potato hash. I usually have the ingredients on hand to whip up something like that on a whim.  This is usually saved for weekends or non school days.

Snacks are always fresh veggies and hummus. I might have and apple and almonds instead or a KIND Bar, just depends on the day, but I ALWAYS have veggies prepped and ready to snack on. Kiddo can help himself to as many as he wants and they travel well in my purse.

As I am inputing my meals I make my grocery list. The program I use has a shopping list attached so it’s really easy. After filling in all the meals I do another check of the list to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I also try to keep a magnetic pad of paper on the side of my fridge to write down things that I run out of or maybe getting low on. I make sure to check this and add any of those items to my list as well.

Once it’s all complete I print my meal plan and shopping list.

I try to do my shopping Saturday morning. The stores are pretty quiet if you get there early, and usually I have kiddo with me. We go to Costco first, then usually to Trader Joe’s or Fred Meyer for the rest. I make a stop at Whole Foods once a week or every other week for the specialty items that the other 2 stores may not carry. I LOVE Whole Foods and find that many times they have produce that is priced very closely to Fred Meyers or sometimes less if it’s on sale. Also, shopping the bulk bins for grains is much less expensive than buying it pre-packaged, but I tend to purchase most of my grains from Costco. It’s the most cost effective if you have a membership.

Once everything is home I start prepping. I immediately turn on my oven to preheat for roasting sweet potatoes, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, or whatever is needing some roasty time. Roasted veggies are where it’s at! I eat them cold right of out the fridge, top salads with them, add them to rice bowls, they go with everything. Having them cooked ahead of time ensures that I will eat them and they won’t get wasted.

Next I get out my rice cooker and start a batch of brown rice. I usually add 1/2 water and 1/2 veggie broth for a little added flavor.

While my veggies roast and the rice cooks I start cutting up produce. I slice cucumbers, peppers and carrots for snacking, wash and rinse any salad greens, freeze bananas for smoothies, rinse grapes or cut up berries and wash any produce that sits on the counter. Kiddo is allowed to help himself to things like cherry tomatoes, apples, pears, etc. If I wash them ahead of time he can just walk by and pop a tomato in his mouth or grab and apple with worrying about it.

I also make a quick batch of homemade Vanilla Coffee Creamer. It literally takes 3 minutes in the Vitamix and tastes wonderful. That gets stored in a mason jar.

Once all of this is done I am set for the week. I can easily assemble any salad, bowl, wrap or sandwich within minutes. The only meal I actually “cook” is dinner.

Often the prep work happens on Sunday. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it when I get home from the store, I might have to go to work, or we may have something going on that day. Either way, as long as it’s done before I start the week on Monday I’m set up for success.

Investing less than 3 hours into my week by meal planning, shopping, and prepping allows me to have MORE time to spend doing other things like hanging out with my family, working on the blog, being outside, getting house work done, etc. It’s a great habit to get into and it really does make it easy to eat healthy and stay on top of your nutritional goals. It’s also cost effective. You don’t buy things you don’t need, or already have, plus you aren’t wasting food. It eliminates expensive daily trips to the store and the temptation to stop for take out.

There you have it! Leave a comment if you have any questions or tips on meal planning. I’d love to hear what others are doing for meal planning.

Weight loss

Hi guys! So being that the blog is so new, I am just bursting at the seams with things I want to share. I’m trying to pace myself a bit, but it’s hard! I was trying to think of the questions or comments that I get from most people regarding our lifestyle. One of the most common things that comes up is the question of weight loss.

People want to lose weight. Or, at least they say they do. Sadly, our society has been brainwashed into thinking that its all about calories in vs. calories out, eating less carbs and more lean protein, reducing fat and eating things that are sugar free. You see it everywhere you look in the grocery store…

– Sugar free
– Low fat
– Reduced fat
– Lower sodium
– Low carb
– Meatless (yep, those fake meats are mostly not good for you)

It gives us a sense that we can eat those foods, lose weight and be healthier. If you have ever taken the time to compare a box of regular Oreo Cookies to Reduced Fat Oreo Cookies (Oreos are vegan BTW) you will see that the lower fat version only has 3 less calories than the regular version. However, we will pick up the reduced fat version without even looking at the label thinking that we just made a smarter choice for our treat. When Nabisco came out with SnackWell’s, a line of no-fat and low-fat cookies and crackers, people went crazy and emptied the store shelves, people thought they could eat them until they magically whittled down into a supermodel. Six months later and several pounds heavier, the low-fat fanatics finally realized that these cookies had about only 30 percent fewer calories than regular cookies. See what happens…we trick ourselves into thinking that we can eat these diet versions of “food” and lose weight. What actually ends up happening is we lose a few pounds only to gain it back, plus some, or we ended up gaining weight and feeling depressed, hopeless and sick.

My weight has been high, where it is today, and several places in between. There has been a span of about 15 years from my heaviest at somewhere around 175 pounds (I’m not sure because I never cared and didn’t weigh myself) to the 128 pounds that I weighed this morning. Let me be clear…the number on the scale means NOTHING! This is just to give some examples. Those numbers also include when I was pregnant. I weighed less at 9 months than I did at my heaviest.

At my heaviest between 2002-2005, I was fat and “happy”. I drank a lot wine, ate a lot of meat, didn’t exercise, ate all the carbs I wanted (sourdough bread, bagels, baked potatoes) and was fine with how I looked. The relationship that I was in was comfortable and my partner didn’t care.

When I met my husband in 2006 I was on the Atkins diet, terrified of carbs, fruit, and anything that wasn’t sugar free. I lost a lot of initial weight on Atkins and thought it was the greatest thing in the world because I didn’t have to exercise and I lost 25 lbs in less than 3 months. It stopped there. I was ecstatic because I was no longer a size 14, but a size 8. That was it for me. I could avoid carbs forever, I thought that was my only choice.

After meeting my now husband, I slowly started eating carbs again. I had a bowl of cereal one night and thought it tasted better than any cereal I had ever had. Next it was potatoes, again, best thing ever. Before I knew it I was back to eating sandwiches, bananas, oranges, and all the things I had been avoiding for 2 years. Whats funny is I actually started losing weight again. I was shocked.

Then fast forward, my weight stayed pretty much around 140 or so pounds for awhile. I was working out regularly, mainly cardio, walks with my hunny, etc. I became pregnant with our son in 2011 and was around 137 lbs. During my pregnancy I ate meat, dairy and eggs, gained appx 25lbs . After  he was born it took me about 6 months to lose all of it and I was right around 137-141 depending on the day and the amount of indulging I was doing.

Changing to a vegetarian (dairy & eggs still included) lifestyle happened in March of 2013. I lost a few pounds, maybe 5 or so. That was pretty much it. I wasn’t doing it for weight loss, but instead to help my husband get his cholesterol down and adapt a more environmentally friendly and cruelty free life. I honestly didn’t think I would ever be under 135, and that was fine considering where I had started. I actually just accepted that I was at my “best” and that was good enough (again).

Today I feel better than I ever have! My energy is awesome, my health is incredible, my moods and ability to focus are consistently better and I am exercising approximately 30 minutes a day, at home, no more than 4-5 times a week. The body that I have today is more toned than ever and I’m not spending hours in the gym. Is it perfect? Far from it, but I have found balance and confidence. I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I was pre-pregnancy.

So what do we eat?? The million dollar question. It’s actually easier to say what we don’t eat.

-Any animal products. This includes meat of any kind, fish, eggs, dairy and gelatin. There is no exception for me on these foods, except cookies…sometimes I just have to eat the cookie.

-Packaged, processed foods. This includes fake meat (with a couple exceptions, because I’m not perfect, I will do a separate post of the brands that I find acceptable).

-Juice (even 100% juice, its all sugar and no fiber, the whole point of eating fruit), soda and sports drinks. I rarely use my juicer, all my veggies and fruits go into my Vitamix. I get to keep all the fiber and nutrients that way.

-Foods cooked in oil. Fat should come from avocados, nuts and seeds. Occasionally I will use organic flax oil to make a salad dressing but this is very rare. Again, don’t call me a hypocrite if you catch me eating a french fry occasionally. Sometimes its unavoidable 🙂

Other than that we eat everything else. You will always find cooked brown rice, quinoa, and beans of all varieties in my refrigerator. All fruits and veggies-Bananas, apples, grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries (I purchase berries frozen from Costco, buying fresh out of season is not tasty and super expensive) kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, corn, lots of lemons and limes for flavor, cilantro, parsley, lentils, beans, raw oats, unsweetened almond milk, maple syrup, etc. We eat tofu occasionally, mostly tempeh, some edamame (always organic on soy products) but we seriously get all of our nourishment from eating mostly plants and grains.

Maybe the list above seems a little daunting, trying to make meals. If you follow me on Instagram you will always see something bright, colorful, appetizing and down right tasty! From pizza to gyros, enchiladas to lasagna, it’s all good. Ask my husband. He would have never bought into this and stayed with it for 3 years if we were eating “rabbit food”.

Here is the another bonus…I EAT MORE CARBS THAN EVER!!! I love when people say that carbs make them fat. I can promise you that unless you have a thyroid or blood sugar issue carbs will not make you fat AS LONG AS YOU EAT THE RIGHT ONES. Carbs will actually help you lose weight if you do it correctly (it’s simple too).

Remember, this is a journey. It takes time to put weight on. This is not going to make you lose 25 pounds in 3 months (unless it does, than GREAT!) but if you stick with it you will lose weight, be healthy and make a tremendous positive impact on the plant, animals and your overall well being. There are a ton of great books and resources on how to transition to eating Whole Foods Plant Based. It might take eliminating a couple of things at a time. The key is not to wake up and do this cold turkey (unless you are ready, then go for it!) most people need to make small changes so they don’t feel overwhelmed and give up. This is a lifestyle change not a diet. It takes time to get used to and feel comfortable.

We have been programmed our whole lives to think that we won’t be healthy without meat and dairy. Our own doctors aren’t even educated on this. I challenge you to ask your doctor how many hours of nutritional studies they had in medical school. I’m willing to bet it was pretty insignificant. They sure know how to write prescriptions though. Sadly, we haven’t gotten to the place where diet and exercise are prescribed as treatment for things like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. It’s all about medications, then medications to help balance the medications…vicious cycle. I doubt if you only end up getting prescribed just one. Don’t get me wrong, there are medications that have a place in this world, but diet change should be the first thing prescribed for the above alignments. Sadly, our country is so controlled by greed that we are basically lied to so that big industries can continue to profit, regardless of the countless studies and new information that is coming out…Take this excerpt:

“The pervasive, overriding influence of the meat and dairy lobby at the USDA is so powerful that it is understood that guidelines cannot talk negatively about specific foods,” says Walter Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department. “Thus, they cannot say that we should eat less red meat, cheese, or butter; instead the guidelines talk abstractly about eating less SOFAS, which only dietitians know means less solid fat and added sugar. (Only) deep in the text of the guidelines, in a footnote, does it say that solid fat is found in meat and dairy products.” 

There you have it, just one example. Please take the time to educate yourself, even if you still chose to eat meat and dairy. We are sheep, we do what they tell us to do, and it’s slowly killing us. There are several great Netflix documentaries on this subject, I would start with Plant Pure Nation, then I would watch Fed Up.

End Rant.

How do you start this journey to weight loss, health and feeling amazing? Here is what I would recommend:

-Go to the doctor and get your labs. Have a baseline, know your cholesterol and other markers so that you can measure your internal results.

-Watch Forks over Knives on Netflix or YouTube. There are several other great documentaries to watch, start with that, follow up with the Engine 2 Diet

-Check out http://www.engine2diet.com There are great resources on how to transition slowly or immediately to a whole foods plant based diet. It is also a great place for recipes, a meal plan, shopping guide and other really useful tools.

-Throw away all your “diet” foods. If it says reduced fat, sugar free or diet than get rid of it!

-Get ready to embark on a journey. This is for life, it will be hard at times, frustrating and annoying to people who aren’t on the journey with you. That’s okay. Anything worth having is not easy to obtain. Take one meal at a time. There will be set backs, but it gets easier and easier. I promise. In one week you will feel so different, think about a month or even a year…

Be on the journey to the best version of you, EVER.

Welcome!

I’m so glad you are here to experience starting this blog with me! My husband and I started our journey as vegetarians almost 3 years ago to the date. He had really high cholesterol but was in pretty good shape. He absolutely did not want to take medication for it, so he told his doc to give him a year.

Over one weekend we watched a few Netflix documentaries including Forks over Knives, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and Vegucated. Then we attended “VegFest” in Seattle, went to Whole Foods (spent waaaaayyyy too much money), I ordered a few cookbooks from Amazon, and we were on our way.

The first couple of months he lost 20lbs just by the change in our diets. I lost about 5lbs. We both excised pretty regularly already, on average 3-4 times a week of mainly cardio. It was easy for me to make the change, but harder for him. He works as a Professional Fire Fighter and when the guys at work found out he was a “Vegetarian” they definitely gave him a hard time. The culture of the F.D. is largely based around family style meals consisting of meat and comfort foods, and some of those guys really like to cook! There were several nights when he just ate what the guys were eating because he didn’t want to be difficult. I’d say it really took him a year to be comfortable saying “No” and passing on whatever meat was being served.

At home I was experimenting with lots of different “fake” meats. We had pretty much every Morningstar Farm product you could buy. I would just substitute fake meat in whatever dish I had made before. Technically I wasn’t really cooking differently, it was just figuring out how to not miss the meat.

About 6 months into our journey we decided to cut the dairy and become vegan. This was a lot more difficult. We both LOVE cheese and couldn’t believe we were doing this. I was a bagel with cream cheese, iced coffee with cream everyday kinda gal. That was quick and easy breakfast that I could get at Starbucks on my way to work every morning for less than $5 bucks! I had read a few articles on how dairy and arthritis had so much to do with one another and my husband had been experiencing some pretty uncomfortable pain in his hips. His doctor told him that it was definitely arthritis and to take ibuprofen as needed.

Within just a week of eliminating dairy from our diets he had such a significant amount of relief that he no longer needed to take any ibuprofen. He went from taking 8 per day to none at all. At this point we realized that this change in our diets was going to be for good.

Fast forward about 6 months. Being that no one is perfect, I had started eating dairy again. Our toddler son was never restricted dairy. His pediatrician at the time made it clear to me that being a vegetarian was fine, but he needed milk. I wish that I knew then what I know now. We would have found a new pediatrician immediately. I would eat his string cheese and yogurt, and started slowly using small amounts of cheese in recipes that I was making at home (lasagna, enchiladas, etc.) My husband didn’t really put it together until later on that even the smallest amount of dairy, less than ounce, would cause him excruciating inflammation within just a couple of hours of consumption. We went on like this for probably a year and within that year I had also started eating fish again.

What I found the most challenging was eating out, eating at other people’s homes, and finding ways to eat at home without so much processed fake meat. How do you tell someone that you’d like to come for dinner but you’ll bring your own food. Or traveling and finding nothing on the menu that suits your dietary needs and being afraid to “make a big deal” and get the waitstaff and chef annoyed with you. These challenges were real for me and prevented me from being able to really adapt to the lifestyle that I truly wanted to have.

Over the first 2 years my husband did have a significant decline in his overall cholesterol. The doctor was impressed and basically said to keep doing what he was doing and we’ll continue to monitor things and make sure they stay on track. We both were feeling pretty well and looking pretty good I’d say. Both of us were at healthy weights and still getting exercise a few times a week.

Then, just a couple of months ago he had his cholesterol checked again. Everything was great except for his triglycerides. They were off the chart. This was so confusing to both of us. I hadn’t had any blood work done in forever, since our son was born probably. I had no idea what my actual health looked like. I just knew I felt fine. I decided that I should go and get some labs to see what was going on with me as well.

This is what catapulted us to make the changes that we needed to for good. My blood work came back pretty darn good. Extremely low cholesterol, no deficiencies, average blood sugar, etc. My husband however, was really concerned. I made us both appointments with a Naturopath, re-watched Forks over Knives, dusted off some of my cookbooks and recommitted to doing this right.

The best way for me to recommit to this journey is have some accountability and a place for people who had the same struggles as me to come for some help and guidance. We have started eating a Whole Foods Plant Based diet (Not vegan! There is a ton of vegan food that is completely unhealthy!). Nothing processed, no added oils, no dairy or eggs, and no meat of any kind is what we are doing. People want to know what we do actually eat and that is where I hope this blog can really help. I started photographing my food on Instagram and posting it to Facebook. I created a Facebook page as well. I want people to know how easy it is to eat healthy and delicious food that is good for you, the environment and our wallets. There are so many myths wrapped around eating a diet not compromised of meat and dairy. Some are downright hilarious! I want to share with you my recipes, photos, other blogs that I follow and my journey as we recommit to getting healthy and back to the basics of eating real food, the way nature intended, not big corporations.

Please follow me on Instagram…PNWVEGGIEMAMA and Facebook too!

Check back for more to come!!

Stacy