Peanut Butter Dates

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This recipe is a great option if you are looking for something decadent but minimally processed. It also is a good option when you are on a hike, long bike ride or on-the-go. You can also use this as an easy-to-prepare snack for work or packing in school lunches.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Medjool Dates
  • 1 tbsp of Peanut Butter

*Makes 1 serving

Directions:

  1. Cut a slit in the dates and remove the pit.
  2. Stuff each date with half a tablespoon of peanut butter.
  3. Enjoyūüôā

Healthy Living for People Who Are Too Busy for It.

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Healthy living can be time consuming. It requires time purchasing food, time preparing meals and time spent exercising. Many healthy meals can even be more time consuming to eat due to the higher fiber and water content (and resulting lower caloric density). For many of us, this can be a challenge when our time is already occupied with other commitments.

Personally, this is something I have struggled with over the past few months as I have been working well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis in addition to other commitments that I have. This has resulted in having to strike a balance between maintaining my overpacked schedule, my health and my sanity.

This has led me to develop a few guidelines that I follow to make healthy choices while working within the parameters of my current day-to-day life.

Diet:

  1. Always hit my essential checklist: Beans, Greens and Omega-3s.
  2. Have¬†at least 1 “real meal” per day:¬†The meal¬†is often as¬†simple as a veggie, grain and bean stir-fry or pasta based dish.
  3. Start the day off strong with a healthy and filling breakfast: For me I usually go with either oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal with fruit, flax seeds and either nuts or peanut butter powder.
  4. Eat enough calories of healthy food earlier in the day¬†to avoid bingeing on junk food at night:¬†I eat around 2300 calories/day. I¬†aim for about 500 calories in both breakfast and lunch in addition to about 400 calories in snacks. This will leave me with another 900 calories when I get home (usually a meal and snack). When I don’t do this I end up bingeing on unhealthier calorie-dense foods like potato chips.
  5. Mentally¬†categorize foods based on the amount of time or effort it takes to make it. I divide my meals into¬†5 min., 30 min. and 1 hour.¬†I then choose a meal based on how much time I have. This helps when I tell myself I don’t have time to pack lunch and decide to resort to less than ideal choices when it is inevitably time to eat.

Exercise:

The exercise component is a bit harder to manage. I find the best option is to look at my schedule at the start of the week. I figure out which days I will realistically be able to workout and commit to exercising whenever I have the chance. I utilize my days off for longer workouts where I push myself to my limits.

Sometimes this may only end up being 2 workouts per week, sometimes I can get 5 in. But if I have the time I make sure I do something, even if it is just a quick 30 minute workout.

I also follow the rule that if I have time to watch TV, I have time to workout.

The Lesson Learned:

What this all comes down to is doing the best I can with the time and resources I have available. Sometimes this means accepting good enough rather than over stressing myself¬†¬†to meet my ideals. It is about remembering that the purpose of healthy living isn’t about health in itself, but making healthier choices to improve my quality of life overall.

 

 

Quick and Easy Vegan Parmesan

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One of the great uses of cheese is how easily you can make it a topping for almost any savory dish and it almost always will make it more delicious. This is part of what makes giving up cheese one of the hardest parts about going vegan. While this recipe isn’t made to¬†taste like parmesan, it works as a healthy and tasty alternative that has a similar use and effect.

Sprinkle it on top of pasta, a salad or anything else you can think of.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup of Roasted, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1/3 cup of Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 tbsp of Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbsp of Lemon Pepper
  • 1 tbsp of dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp of dried Parsley
  • Add salt and pepper as preferred.

*Makes 6 servings

Directions:

  1. Add cashews into high speed blender (e.g. Vitamix) or food processor until it forms a powdery texture. Stop once a powdery texture is reached, otherwise it will turn into a nut butter.
  2. Mix nutritional yeast and seasonings with cashew powder in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle onto pasta, salad or any other recipe to your liking.

 

 

Dieters aren’t doomed to a lifetime of obesity.

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Over the past week I have seen a media frenzy of a study of the season 8 contestants of the Biggest Loser. While sharing this study, it has portrayed long term weight loss as a nearly impossible feat and people seeking to do so as doomed from the start.

The study found that in the six years since the show, 13 of the 14 contestants had regained some weight since the show; 4 of whom weighed more than they did on the show. Nearly all of the contestants also had slower metabolisms than they did at their starting weight, even slower than would be expected for their size. Their metabolisms were normal relative to their size at the start of the show.

This has added to the idea that all dieters are doomed to fail and those that do succeed will gain it all back anyways or will only be able to maintain on a miserably low amount of calories. As someone who has gone from being obese to maintaining a healthy weight for 3 years, while eating as much as I want (of healthy foods), I obviously don’t buy that this is an inevitability.

In fact, the National Weight Control Registry has studied over 10,000 individuals who have lost weight and kept it off in a variety of ways. They have people that lost it eating low-fat, others eating low-carb. Some followed diet books, others followed¬†their own path. Almost all modified their diet and increased their physical activity… and continue to do so. Most follow a low-calorie diet and exercise regularly (on average 1 hr. per day).

Personally, I share some factors in common with successful maintainers. I do eat a very healthy diet and I exercise for around an hour about 5 times per week. However, the amount of calories that I eat is a lot more than the average person studied by the NWCR. I eat about 2,300 calories/day. This is the amount the would be predicted for my height, age and activity level by medical organizations. The average woman reported eating about 1,300 calories a day and the average male reported eating about 1,700 calories a day. While this is self-reported and not measured, for people who are so active, this is surprisingly low. Although there are so many factors in play that it is hard to know how much metabolic adaptation comes into play for maintainers, and what exactly leads to people like me managing to lose weight and walk away with a normal metabolism.

When it comes down to it, successful maintainers don’t have some radical secret to weight loss. They just follow the advice health organizations have been saying for years. Long term weight loss is possible. You can lose the weight, keep it off and enjoy life!

 

Read More:

After ‘The Biggest Loser’, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

National Weight Control Registry: Research Findings

Skinny Ever After: The Reality of Weight Maintenance 

Review: Lulu Lemon Rack Pack Sports Bra

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Lulu Lemon Rack Pack Sports Bra

Sports bras are one of the few fitness items that I think are worth spending a little extra money on to get a quality item that lasts. I think this is especially the case for women with larger chests.

There are two aspects of this bra that I really like and that set it apart from your everyday sports bra.

  1. One sports bra is enough. Anyone with a larger chest likely knows the frustration of finding a sports bra that works. I typically have to wear two sports bras to keep everything together, especially during higher intensity workouts. With this bra; I can run, jump and lift all I want and everything stays in place.
  2. It has pockets to store items. This is something that I’ve been hoping to find in a sports bra for a while. I had thought of the idea of a sports bra with pockets when I couldn’t find an armband that I liked, but I hadn’t come across one until I found this bra. It has enough space to fit an iPhone and a few other essential items. And it was secure enough to stay in place while running and even doing box jumps.

The only downside is the sizing isn’t done in regular bra sizes. The size that fit my band size was a bit tight for my chest, although it fit well enough to do the job better than any sports bra I’ve used before.

You can find the item here.

Chickpeas Are the New Chicken Breast: Why I Love Pulses

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Since I started eating a plant based diet, pulses have become one of my main staples. I usually have at least 3 servings a day (~ 1 can of beans). When it comes to making new recipes, I often use chickpeas where I would have previously used chicken breast. I use them so often because they are nutritious, satisfying, versatile and one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store.

2016 was declared the International Year of the Pulse by at the 68th UN General Assembly. The reason they decided to promote this food group is because they are healthy, sustainable and affordable.

So what are pulses?

Pulses are a part of the legume family. Legumes are any plant whose fruit is enclosed in a pod (Pulse Canada). Examples are soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, lentils and green beans. A pulse is a type of legume that includes the dried seed. Dried beans, chickpeas and lentils are just a few examples. Pulses are high in protein, high in fiber and low in fat.

The health benefits of pulses:

  • Low glycemic index – They provide you with the carbs you need to stay energized, but don’t provide the blood sugar spike that white pasta or white rice would. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
  • High in protein¬†– Pulses range from containing about 20-27% of calories from protein. This makes them a good option for people following plant based diets or people who are reducing their¬†meat consumption for various reasons.
  • High in fiber – ¬†Fiber helps keep you fuller longer. It helps stabilize blood sugar. Fiber also helps¬†lower LDL cholesterol, one of the key contributors to heart disease.
  • High in iron – Pulses are high in iron. Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron will result in anemia, characterized by not producing enough red blood cells.

 

The Environmental Benefits of Pulses:

  • Water efficiency – 1 kg of lentils requires 50 liters of water, compared to 13,000 liters for 1 kg of beef. 1 kg of 85% lean ground beef contains about 2500 calories, 1 kg of dried lentils contains about 3500 calories. This means beef requires about 502 L/ 100 kcal, whereas lentils require about 1.42 L/ 100 kcal. (This was based on an infographic by the FAO. *They didn’t specify if that was the water used for 1kg dried or cooked lentils.).
  • Soil nitrogen ¬†– Pulses can fix their own nitrogen in their soil. This results in them needing less fertilizer than other crops.
  • Great replacement for meat – Animal agriculture¬†is one of the leading, if not the leading contributor to climate change. It has been cited as contributing anywhere from 18%51% of greenhouse gas emissions.¬†In addition, it is also a major contributor to deforestation,¬†overexploitation of marine life¬†and pollution.
  • Lower on the food chain – One of the reasons plant based foods are better for the environment¬†is because they are lower on the food chain. More plants go into feeding the animals for your food than just eating the plants directly.

Affordability:

Pulses have many health and environment benefits, but they are also one of the cheapest foods in the grocery store. 1 lb. of dried beans costs about $1.50, compared to about $4 for 1 lb. of beef (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). 85% lean ground beef contains about 1137 kcal/lb., whereas 1 lb. of dried lentils contains about  1584 kcal/lb. This comes out to $3.50/1000 kcal of beef and $0.95/1000 kcal of lentils.

Their high protein and micronutrient content combined with their low cost makes pulses a great food to promote to fight food insecurity in developing nations.

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Recipes that Include Pulses:

Chickpeas and Corn Salad

Pesto Hummus

Chickpeas with Mustard and Capers Sauce

Tempeh and Black Beans Fajitas

Buffalo Chickpeas

Chickpeas and sweet Potato with Basil and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Chickpeas Avocado Salad

Chickpea Tomato Curry

Southwestern Stir Fry

Black Bean Salad

 

 

Learn More:

What is a Pulse? – Pulse Canada

Nutritional Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Health Benefits of Pulses – FAO

Recipe for health: cheap, nutritious beans – Harvard Health Blog

Pulses and Climate Change – FAO

Pulses Contribute to Food Security – FAO

International Year of the Pulse

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

My 1 Year Veganniversary: My Experience So Far

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On March 16,2015,  I made the leap to go vegan. I went vegan mostly for ethical and environmental reasons. Although, I had been eating a predominantly plant-based diet for health reasons beforehand.

The Transition:

My transition to going vegan was surprisingly easy. I just made the decision to not eat animal products and didn’t look back. I think part of the reason transitioning was so easy for me was because I ate a predominantly plant based diet, so I already had a base of recipes to work with.

I still wear some leather shoes and use some leather hand bags. I had them before I went vegan, so I am just going to wear them out. I have stopped buying new leather products though. I also have started using beauty and hygiene products that have not been tested on animals.

How Veganism Has Affected My Health:

I was already very healthy to begin with, so going vegan hasn’t made a huge impact on my health. I have lost a few pounds and my skin has cleared up a bit, but nothing dramatic happened. I recently got a blood test for the first time and my total cholesterol was 125 mg/dL.

Social Settings and Holidays:

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The most difficult part of veganism has been the social aspect. It is nearly impossible to avoid making your veganism known. If everyone else is having cake or other treats that you always turn down, eventually you have to give an explanation. There also is navigating the balance between not being over-the-top and preachy, but also being open and talking about why you are vegan.

On holidays it can also been difficult, especially the first time around. Nearly every dish I had during the holidays¬†is something I hadn’t¬†cooked before and had no idea of how it would turn out. Then there is the issue of adding additional dishes to the menu and¬†trying to not be in the way of everyone else.

When it comes to eating out, there are plenty of restaurants with vegan options (this may vary based on where you live). Happy Cow is a great resource for finding places to eat out almost anywhere. A lot of ethnic restaurants are also vegan friendly, since they have a lot more dishes that are vegetable/legume based.

For all these challenges, thinking ahead is the method that has worked best for me. Plan out your quick explanation for why you are vegan. Check out menus ahead of time, and eat before you go out if you have to. When it comes to holidays, check out recipes and try to find dishes that everyone can enjoy.

My Experience Overall:

Overall, I think going vegan is one of the best lifestyle choices I have made. It is a lifestyle that not only is healthy, but reduces your ecological footprint and the amount of suffering you cause to non-human animals. It is a lifestyle I plan on maintaining long term. All the challenges of being vegan in a non-vegan society are very minor when compared to the benefits.

Read More:

I’m Going Vegan! (and Why)