The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

10 painless ways to put more veggies into your diet

Whatever diet you happen to subscribe to, they pretty much all say that non-starchy vegetables are healthy and we should all eat more of them.  (Especially leafy greens.)  Focusing on veggies can be a way to eat less and lose weight.  If you eat all of the veggies you're supposed to, there is not room for much else!  Here are some tips I have found helpful in increasing my consumption of these things:

1.  Green drinks for breakfast (or afternoon or late night snack) -  I know it sounds disgusting and they can look like swamp water, but green drinks are delicious!  I have one of these everyday for breakfast.  Sometimes, I get my "5-a day" in before my day starts!  You can blend up green veggies with fruit and you only taste the fruit.  I start with 1/2 of a banana in my blender (I use a Vitamix), then I fill it up with spinach, kale, chard, or lettuce; and finally top it off with frozen berries, pineapple, mango; or whatever else strikes my fancy.  Be creative!  If you use frozen fruit and pre-washed greens, it's quick and easy to blend up on the go.  (Note:  If you drink these everyday like I do, you should rotate your greens to avoid getting an upset tummy.  Apparently, there are toxins in greens that can build up if you only eat the same kind every day.  Rotating prevents this.  If you want to know more, read Green for Life or check out the FAQ's on their website.)      

2.  The Big Salad - (I just love that Seinfeld episode, don't you?)  Yes, a big salad can be a great meal.  I like to have a variety of greens as a base then add drained, canned beans, whatever veggies I have around (even leftover cooked ones), and top with salsa and roasted edamame.  Yum!  According to Dr. Fuhrman in Eat to Live, "the salad IS the main course!"  You can use pre-made salad dressing, but I like to make my own.  This Green Goddess is my fav.

3.  Slaw - If you're not much of a salad person, then slaw may be a better idea.  You can use pre-cut broccoli slaw mix or coleslaw mix, add a handful each of raisins and walnuts, a dollop of veganaise (or mayo), a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and some curry powder to make a delicious slaw.  You can eat it as a side dish or use it in sandwiches or wraps.  My husband doesn't like salad but he loves slaw!   

4.  Steamed veg - Buy bags of frozen mixed vegetables and keep in your freezer.  Then, you can steam them whenever you want a quick side dish.  If you pack your lunch, all you have to do is put some in a tupperware with a sprinkle of oregano.  It'll keep the rest of your lunch cold as they slowly thaw.  Then, by lunchtime, you just have to microwave them for a minute and they're done!

5.  Roasted vegetables - Roast a bunch of veggies at once and keep in the fridge.  They are great on their own, in sandwiches, soups, or salads.  Some vegetables that work well are:  cauliflower, zucchini, butternut squash, eggplant, tomatoes, parsnips, and bell peppers.  Make an adventure of it and try some of those crazy vegetables you see but don't know what to do with like sunchokes, rutabagas, asian eggplant, celery root, etc.  What I do is chop up all the vegetables, add some canola oil, and whatever herbs and spices I feel like.  (garlic, curry, and/or rosemary work well.  You can even use taco seasoning.)  Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.

6.  Vegetables as a main dish - We normally think of vegetables as a side dish, but there are some amazingly delicious main vegetable dishes.  Check out Indian food.  The Indians have figured out how to make vegetables delicious and interesting.  I had a cauliflower curry once that was out of this world!  Also, consider adding some vegetarian and vegan meals to your week.  There is some awesome vegan food out there!  I love the recipes on  

7.  Sneak veggies into stuff - Add pureed and steamed carrots or squash to spaghetti sauce, pureed spinach to guacamole, and cauliflower to dips.  Pureed spinach also works well in brownies since the chocolate hides the color.  Just add 1/3 cup to your brownie recipe.  Don't have time to steam and puree?  Use babyfood if you're in a hurry!  Also, check out this recipe for spinach ice-cream.  I promise, you don't even taste the spinach. 
8.  Veggie trays - Surprisingly, kids love 'em!  Cut up raw vegetables and keep in a tupperware in the fridge.  (Even lettuce leaves can be good to roll up and dip.)  I like to have hummous on hand for dipping.  Alternatively, you can make bean dip with a can of beans, the juice of a lemon, and whatever spices and herbs you like.  (I like garlic, cilantro, and curry.)   If you set out a plate of chopped veggies and dip, they disappear surprisingly fast!

 9.  Green wraps! - I recently discovered that you can wrap up sandwich fillings in nori (the stuff they use to wrap up sushi) to make a delicious wrap.  The one I had contained roasted eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, banana peppers, bell pepper, tempeh, avocado, red onion, and lemon vinaigrette.  Yum!  Also, cabbage or bibb lettuce leaves can make great low-carb wraps while adding another vegetable to your diet.

10.  Soup for you! - You know how you buy all those veggies with the best of intentions, then you never use them and they're about to go bad?  Well, take them all and put them in a soup!  I like to put dried beans along with whatever vegetables I have and some veggie broth (or just use water and spices) in the slow cooker.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

OMG, I am so in love with this Green Goddess Dressing!

This is the yummiest salad dressing ever!  I've also been using it as dip for raw veggies.  Zingy, zangy and tangy, it makes all the taste buds tingle.  I think it's tastier than ranch!  (...and is much healthier.)

I aways thought Green Goddess dressing got its color from avocados.  Wrong!  It gets it from parsley and green onion.  Here is the recipe (from Forks over Knives.)

Green Goddess Garlic Dressing:

2-3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh chives (I used green onion)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (for an even yummier dressing, use cilantro)
2 T tahini
2 T nutritional yeast (I know!  I'd never had it either.  Apparently, it's a good source of B-12 for vegans)
1 T miso
1/3 cup water
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (or do what I do and just use the juice of one lemon. Who wants to measure?)
1/2 t salt (I left this out and it was still delicious.)

I used my Vitamix (love it!) to blend it up, but the recipe says to use a food processor.  It's worth buying the miso and nutritional yeast because you WILL want to make it again.

Just put into a blender like so.....
....and it comes out this beautiful green color!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learn to Love Your Crockpot! (Fast and healthy food in your slow cooker!)

I have to say, I LOVE my slow-cooker lately!  As a new mom, I just don't have the time (or energy) to cook like I used to.  ....but considering how important it is, I've learned some shortcuts.  Using a slow-cooker will allow you to easily create healthy, tasty, easy, meals with in-season vegetables (something we can all eat more of), whole grains, and tender meats for PENNIES per serving!  Why not dig out that crockpot today?

I don't even use a recipe these days.  Who has time to plan, make a shopping list, and such?  Here's what I do:

1.  When at the grocery store or market, buy whatever fresh vegetables that are on sale and in season.  You get lots of strange vegetables you've  never tried before this way.  (Variety is good!  Each vegetable has its own unique combo of vitamins and minerals, some of which have not even been discovered yet.)  I've gotten jicama, celery root, butternut squash, and sunchokes to name a few.

2.  Buy whatever meat is on sale.  Get a different type each time.  (buffalo, pork, beef, lamb, etc.)  Rotating your food prevents you from developing food sensitivities.  Even the cheap, grissly cuts of meat turn out tender and delicious in the slow cooker!

3.  If you wish, you can add grains too.  (Optional)  I've used brown rice, quinoa, and pearled barley.  (I saw some Israeli purple wild rice the last time I was at the grocery.  I'm going to try that next!)

  • When you get up to go to work, or when the baby wakes you up at 6am (if you're lucky.  --or 5 or 4 or 3 if you're not),  throw everything into the crockpot.  (You can chop veggies the night before, or just do it right then like I do.)
  • Cut slits into the meat and shove cloves of garlic into them.  (I use about 4 or 5.)
  • Add a glass of liquid like broth or just water.
  • Set it to cook on low for 8 hours.
In the evening, when you are too tired to even think about cooking, guess what......dinner's ready!  This makes a delicious stew that you can have for supper, with enough leftovers for several lunches throughout the week.  Easy peasy and yum!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You will not believe how good this "milk"shake is!

I'm not kidding!  I made this for dessert tonight and my husband agrees.  No milk, no sugar, and delicious! 

Chocolate Banana "Milkshake"

1 handful of raw almonds
1 banana
2 T cocoa powder
1 handful of dried, pitted dates
1 1/2 cups of water
ice, as desired

Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into 2 glasses.  Enjoy!
(Serves 2)

It actually tastes like a real milkshake! 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Getting Back on Track with this Quinoa Salad!

So pretty!  It looks like confetti! It's a party in your bowl!

I've been trying to get back on track with my healthy eating.  I came across Dr. Amen's work.  (If you don't know who he is, he's a doc who has been doing brain imaging and has been helping people with brain problems for over 20 years.)  I am intrigued by his premise that if you eat brain-healthy foods, then your brain will make better food choices, thus making you healthier.  Makes sense, right?  Anyway, I saw his "Quick Wit Quinoa Salad" recipe in his latest book and I thought I'd try it.  I ended up changing some things, so here's my version:

Modified "Quick Wit" Quinoa Salad

cook 1/2 cup of quinoa according to package directions.  (Basically, you add double the water and boil for 15 minutes.)
1 can of black beans
2 stalk celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
A mixture of grape tomatoes (he says to use cherry tomatoes)
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup of olive mix (the kind you put on muffalettas.  This is my addition.  He doesn't have olives in his recipe.)
the juice of one lime
pine nuts (as desired)

Mix together and enjoy! 

Note:  Don't forget the pine nuts!  I totally forgot to put them in which was a shame since I had bought them especially.  Oh well, it was still delicious without them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sometimes, you just gotta

I have a confession:  I have not blogged in over 3 months because I had a baby on June 4th and I just haven't had time to even look at the blogosphere!  (Sorry, dear reader.)  Anyway, I have a hankerin' to write again so here goes.

My birth experience did NOT go as planned!  I wanted a natural birth.  I read countless books, and went to no less than 6 courses.  I hired a doula as well and did "labor exercises" every day for the entire last trimester.  (These consisted of mostly squats and leg lifts.)  As I found out, however, some things you just do not have any control over no matter how much you prepare.

I had gone to my OB the day before, and he told me there was no dialation at all and it looked like it could be another week or two.  Well, so much for that!  My water broke the very next morning.  My contractions did not start on their own.  I used a breast pump for 12 hours to try and get them started naturally, but they just didn't.  Finally, the doctor gave me pitocin since 12 hours after your water breaks, there is risk of infection.  My doula said, "well, all is not lost.  You can still give  birth naturally even with the pitocin".   I decided to try it.

Can I just say that enduring pitocin contractions totally sucks?  Apparently, they feel worse than natural ones.  I can't believe how much it hurt.  It literally took my breath away.  Anyway, I labored for 20 hours with no pain meds.  (I kinda feel like a rock star for lasting that long!)  I then gave up and did something I said I'd never do.  I let them give me an epidural.

It was such a relief to get the epidural!  I was enhausted and I was able to sleep a bit.  The labor progressed for 7 hours with the epidural.  The baby's hearbeat was dropping with every contraction and it was getting worse.  Plus, there was a lot of molding of the baby's head and I had was only dialated 3 cm after all that!  I then did the other thing I said I'd never do:  I had to have an emergency C-section. 

SO - 27 hours of labor only to end up having an emergency C-section?  Boooo!  I was glad the doula was there the whole time.  She made me feel better about it all.  Even she said it was neccessary in my case and she told me as I was being prepped, "sometimes, you have to do things you don't want to do but it is in the best interest of your child.  This is the first thing in a long list of things you'll have to do like that as a mother."  40 minutes later, my sweet baby girl was born!

Went they cut into me, the doctor saw a "uterine band".  I had never heard of this.  Apparently, it's an extra ring of muscle (sometimes called a Bendel ring) that goes around the uterus.  It's very rare and it's not even genetic.  It's just a freak of nature.  Mine was at the bottom and it trapped the baby in and prevented it from ever dropping.  So - a vaginal birth would have been impossible.  I'm so grateful for modern medicine because in the olden times, I would've been one of those women who labored for days and then died and no one would know why.  I still like natural remedies when possible, but I have no qualms about using modern medicine when I have to.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is a doula anyway?

Yesterday, I attended a class about having a doula assist with childbirth.  I had heard of doulas before, but I wasn't clear on what they actually did. Basically, they are professional childbirth coaches.  They are different from midwives because they don't do medical interventions and the don't replace the doctor.  They work with doctors and nurses.  Their main concern is helping the mother during the birth by calming her and keeping her as comfortable as possible. ("Mothering the mother")

Natural Childbirth:
Yes, I am one of those people who thinks natural childbirth is probably the best.  I mean, our bodies are designed to do this, right?  Sure, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world but the pain isn't life threatening and the recovery is so much better if you don't have an epidural or a c-section.  HOWEVER,  I have never had a baby before so I have  no idea of what the pain will be like.  I may get in there and decide I can't deal with the pain and demand an epidural ASAP.  A doula can help by suggesting comfort measures like breathing exercises, various positions, heat, massage, acupressure, and a variety of other techniques.  I think my best chance of actually having a natural childbirth is if I have a doula cheering me on.   

Doulas Offer:
  • assistance with preparation of a birth plan
  • information, encouragement, and support during the last weeks of pregnancy
  • emotional and physical support for mom and partner during labor and birth
  • explanation of medical procedures and choices
  • techniques and hands-on help with comfort measures
  • support for the father/partner
  • continuous one-on-one support during the entire birth
  • support during the early postpartum period
Why I want one:

The doula who was teaching the class I attended did a demonstration with a model of a pelvis and a baby doll.  She showed how the "flat on your back" position (that the hospitals normally force you to be in) can actually prevent the baby from getting into the correct position.  Gravity works against you.  She then showed various positions that can use gravity on your side to assist the body in getting that baby into the best possible position for delivery.  Once she was done with that demo I thought, "I want a doula and I want her!"

Things I did not know:
  • The early labor contractions are not supposed to get the baby out.  They are supposed to get it into the correct position.  If the baby can't get there, the labor is long and drawn out and doesn't progress.
  • Most problems resulting in neccessary c-sections happen because the baby can't get into the correct position in the pelvis.
  • A chiropractor can help make the labor go faster by adjusting the pelvis and making sure it's in alignment.  (BEFORE labor starts, of course!) The doula recommended that I go see a specific chiropractor and have one pelvis adjustment now, then another one a few weeks before the due date.  Having the pelvis in alignment will help that baby go through more quickly and smoothly. 
  • Many hospitals have birthing tubs these days.  The hospital where I'm going to deliver does not do water births, but they do have birthing tubs for use during labor.  (They are not automatically offered and you have to specifically ask for them.)  Apparently, getting into a tub of hot water can reduce labor pains by as much as 50%!  The doula can act as an agent and will call the hospital in advance to have the room set up with the tub, birthing ball, pull-up bar, and "all the toys".
  • A doula can act as a "bouncer" if there are people in the room that start to stress you out.  That way, the doula is the "bad guy" and not you!   
  • A doula can help calm the husband.  This is great especially if this is the first baby, and he has no idea what's going on.  She can also suggest techniques for him to help in the process.
  • The doula is hired by you.  She works for YOU and not the hospital.  Unlike a nurse, who may have 2 or 3 other patients at a time, you are the only patient for a doula at one time.  She stays with you during the whole birth process.  This alone comforts me a lot.
  • The doula will NOT get in the way if you do decide to have an epidural or if you have to have a c-section. 
The cost isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  (I'm sure it varies depending on where you live.)  Just to give you a ballpark figure though, my doula is going to cost a $600 flat rate.  It includes a meeting prior to the birth and the entire birth.  If  it lasts 2 hours, it's $600.  If it's 38 hours, it's $600.  I think this is a good deal.

I'm convinced that having a doula is the right choice for me.  Anyone out there ever work with one?  I'd be curious to hear about your experiences.

Intrigued?  For more info, check out the International Doula site: