Project Think Positive Guest Post: Susan at The Great Balancing Act

You may have read my blog post about supporting The Great Fundraising Act awhile back for my blog friend Susan. If you haven’t clicked over to her blog yet, you totally should. You may not think that a blog about cancer would be interesting. You may think it could be sad. But not only is her blog totally interesting, what I’ve noticed is that it’s not sad at all. While Susan doesn’t sugar-coat her posts about her cancer treatments and updates, she has this knack for looking at and finding even the smallest positives out of every situation. When I read her post about how, after losing her uncle to cancer and finding out about Susan’s diagnosis, she and her family  celebrated (yes celebrated!) with the most beautiful cake, I knew I wanted to ask her about doing a guest post to share her wisdom with you for Project Think Positive. Please welcome Susan to The Chic Life

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Hi. My name is Susan. And I have cancer.

I will admit, this is my second go around at writing this guest post for Diana. She asked me to contribute to Project Think Positive because of my naturally sunny disposition. Isn’t that right Diana?

Truth of the matter is, when I laid it all out for you, suddenly my story didn’t sound very positive, despite my positive outlook. It’s hard to make cancer sound like a good thing. And that’s because it’s not. But we’ll get to that.

First, here is what you need to know:

1. I am a personal trainer and certified Nutrition & Wellness Specialist. I blog about these things and my love of cooking, baking, and restaurant-ing at The Great Balancing Act.

2. In February 2011, I fell skating and shattered my left elbow. After a 5-hour reconstructive surgery, I found myself unable to work as a personal trainer and moved back home to be closer to my family.

3. In June 2011, after months of getting headaches and feeling weaker than normal, I get a bad pain in my neck. It’s swollen and the veins in my chest become visible. My mom gets worried and makes a doctor’s appointment against my will.

4. The doctor orders a CT scan on June 22, 2011. It finds a blood clot in my jugular vein. Another scan then reveals a large mass in my chest, along with increased lymph nodes under my arms and base of throat.

5. I spend a month in the hospital waiting for a diagnosis and to start treatment. After one needle biopsy and two surgeries, I learn it’s Hodgkins Lymphoma.

6. As of today, I am four weeks into treatment, having received chemotherapy two times.

7. My hair started falling out this week.

That my friends, is a very shitty situation. There is no denying that. I am not one of those people who will sit here and tell you that cancer is a blessing. Cancer has indeed changed my perspective on life for the better, but I am certainly not thankful for it. I would never wish it upon my worst enemy, let alone myself.

The night I was admitted to hospital and told that I had cancer, I wrote the following:

“Through all of this, I know I need to keep my wits, optimism, and sense of humour.”

That’s not an empty statement. Those are words I have come to live by. From the beginning, I was given a good diagnosis. Hodgkins is one of the cancers that can be cured with chemo and radiation. Yes, it takes a year or two of hell. Yes, it can return. Yes, I may need a stem cell or bone marrow transplant someday. But what is the point of fighting for my life, when I don’t allow myself to enjoy life in the first place?

From the beginning, there has never been any doubt in my mind that I would get through this. That the treatment would work, and that this would all someday be behind me. For me, positivity is survival.

It would be really easy for my to stay in my pyjamas all day and mope around pulling clumps of hair out of my head. But if I were to get even sicker tomorrow due to complications, would I be happy with how I lived my last few days?

Positivity to me isn’t about being annoyingly cheery and optimistic all the time. It’s about seeing the silver lining. About finding small things over the course of the day that put a smile on my face.

And when we’re faced with the big things, like The Big C, it’s about knowing without a doubt that we will get through it in one piece. Okay, maybe two pieces if you now count my prosthetic hair piece.

In the end, what I’ve really learned, is that life is difficult. It’s harsh and brutal, don’t ignore that. But that’s why we need to make it easier on ourselves. In my experience, the best way to do that is to stay positive. Why make life harder than it has to be?

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Thank you so much Susan for your wonderfully written guest post! I hope we can hang out again soon! :)

And for the readers, be sure to check out Project Think Positive – it’s never too late to start utilizing some of these positive thinking tools and challenges. Here are links for Week 1 {counter a negative thought with a positive thought} , Week 2 {counter a negative thought with a positive act}, and Week 3 {daily positive affirmation/thought}.

Reader question: Do you look for the silver lining?

PVU Guest Post: A Veg-full Meal (Foodie Fresh)

Hey guys!

I’ve asked my friends to write some fabulous, fruit-and-vegetable related posts and recipes to help you out with Project Veg-Up (PVU) – my challenge for you to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day – click for details. First up is Kelly with some personal tips and not one but two recipes!

Take it away, Kelly!

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Hi! I’m Kelly and I write all about my adventures in food, fitness, and sometime even fashion over at my blog Foodie Fresh. Diana isn’t just my friend in “real-life”; I also consider her a great role model in the journey to live a healthy life. She comes up with some pretty creative and delicious recipes, so it’s a real honor to be asked to guest post here on The Chic Life.

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When she announced that she was going to challenge her readers to eat at least three servings of vegetables and two serving of fruit every day, I knew Project Veg-Up Challenge was something I could do and something I should do. You see, even though I consider most of my diet to be pretty healthy, I admit that I struggle sometimes to get in an adequate amount of veggies. What better way to ensure I’m eating enough, than to accept the Project Veg-Up Challenge and actually track my veggie intake.

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And also, what better way to use up the massive amount of leafy green veggies that have been showing up weekly in my CSA box!

Often I find it difficult to eat a lot of veggies during breakfast and lunch: 1. Because I often want something sweet for breakfast (like oatmeal and fruit) and 2. Sometimes I don’t feel like eating a salad for lunch (the easiest veggie option) or a salad just isn’t accessible. So when dinner time rolls around and I think back on my previous two meals, it often becomes a necessity to incorporate at least two servings of vegetables in my dinner if I want to get in full three servings.

Here’s an example of two servings of veggies at dinner and proof that a veg-full dinner can be easy and delicious!

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Chard and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast (serves 3-4*)

  • 16 oz. chicken breast
  • 4 Tbsp. feta cheese
  • 5 cups rainbow or Swiss chard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut chicken into serving sizes.* Use a meat mallet to pound chicken until double in surface area. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper on both sides and seer in 1 tsp. olive oil until chicken is starting to brown on medium high heat.

Meanwhile sauté chard in 1 tsp. of olive oil on medium high in a large pot. Once chard has almost completely wilted, add honey, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and sea salt.

Remove chicken from pan and place on a plate. Add about 1/2 cup of chard to the chicken and about 1 Tbsp. of feta to the chicken. Fold chicken over and secure with toothpicks. Place chicken in a baking dish and cook for 15 additional minutes.

*Serving size often depends on who is eating. For my husband, I typically serve him a 6-8 oz. portion, while 4-5 oz. is plenty for me. If you make a 6-8 oz. serving of chicken, you can obviously stuff more chard and feta inside it.

For a vegetarian option, stuff the chard and feta in between two pieces of thinly sliced and baked tofu. Or mix the chard and feta with cubed tofu, like my salt and pepper tofu.

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Kale & Cranberry Couscous (serves 4)

  • 2/3 cup of whole wheat couscous
  • 1 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. nutritional yeast*
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Cook couscous in vegetable broth according to package direction. Meanwhile, sauté onion and kale in olive oil until kale has completely wilted.

Add herbs, salt, and nutritional yeast to couscous. Stir in kale, dried cranberries, and walnuts. Taste and add more salt if needed.

*You can substitute three tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast for a similar cheesy flavor.

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Serve and enjoy!

Still need one more serving of fruit? Well, that’s easy! Frozen whipped banana (or banana soft-serve) will fix that!

For more veggie and fruit inspiration, check out my recipe page for all kinds of creative ways to incorporate delicious and healthy ingredients into your everyday meals.

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Thank you so much Kelly !

I hope everyone enjoyed the first of this series of Project Veg-Up guest posts. There are many more on the way, and I’ll be posting them all month as we work our way through this month’s challenge! :)

How’s everyone doing with the challenge so far?

Any questions on vegetables or fruits or requests for recipes for certain ingredients (fruits/vegs)?

M4L Guest Post: Eating Rd’s Vegetarian Tips

Continuing our Meatless for Lent guest post series is Kristen of Eating RD with a fabulous and informative article on tips for vegetarians.

Take it away Kristen!

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Vegetarian Tips

Hello TCL readers! I was excited when Diana asked me to do a guest post on becoming vegetarian. I myself am what you could call ‘flexitarian’, and really enjoy including plant-based meals in our family’s weekly menu. I hope you enjoy the information!

Becoming vegetarian has been shown to offer many health benefits and even many popular athletes, like six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott and NFL’s Tony Gonzalez power through their intense training with a vegetarian-based diet.

There are many reasons one may wish to become vegetarian, including ethical and environmental concerns, health concerns, or religious beliefs, which are all justifiable in their own right. There are also many beneficial reasons to become vegetarian. In 2009, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) approved vegetarian diets for sports performance in their position statement (http://www.scandpg.org/files/2010/PP_NutritionAthleticPerformance.pdf). Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber and moderate in fat and protein. They are also full of colorful plant-based phytochemicals and antioxidants which have shown numerous health benefits.

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In general vegetarian diets can provide:

Weight control: Veggies, whole grains and beans are high in fiber and generally lower in calories, which can keep us fuller and satisfied while eating less.
Antioxidants: Plant-based foods are packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, which can help boost the immune system, enhance athletic recovery, and provide anti-aging properties.
Lower disease risk: Increasing veggies can help reduce one’s risk for type 2 diabetes and provide digestive advantages to prevent colon cancer and keep those bowels functioning properly.

There are several different types of vegetarians, based on the preference and beliefs of the individual:

Vegans exclude all meat-based products like dairy, eggs, honey and gelatin. These individuals are at a higher risk for deficiencies if the diet isn’t well-planned.
Lacto-vegetarians include eggs and dairy into the diet.
Pesco-vegetarians eat fish and other seafood, but no meat and may or may not include dairy and eggs.
Flexitarians typically eat meat on occasion, usually excluding red meat.

Even though there are a great amount of advantages to a vegetarian-based diet, there can be some concerns with certain nutrients if one is not careful to get a variety of plant-based foods in the diet over time. Vegetarian athletes have to be particularly concerned with adequate energy intake. It’s also not a bad idea to have a blood test done to make sure one has adequate levels, especially if you are very athletic and active. MicroNutrient Testing (http://www.spectracell.com/mnt/) is one example of a comprehensive, in-depth test to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need.

Below is a table of common nutrients to watch out for:

Nutrient Function Veggie Sources
Zinc Immune system, protein synthesis, CHO met, blood formation Legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, soy, dairy, fortified foods
Iron Hemoglobin synthesis, transporting Oxygen (athletes are at particular risk) Fortified cereals, legumes, beans, soy nuts, tofu, dried fruit, green leafy veggies *combine w/ Vit C for better absorption*
Vitamin B12 Met of nerve tissue, protein, CHO and fats Diary, eggs, fortified soy milk, sports bars, supplements
Vitamin D Bone growth, absorption of calcium, nervous system/heart fxn, regulation of inflammatory responses Dairy, eggs, fortified soy products
Riboflavin (B2) Energy production and storage in muscles Dairy, soy milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified cereals, grains, textured vegetable protein
Calcium Nerve transmission, contraction, Vit D metabolism, bone growth Dairy, fortified soy milk & OJ, tofu, yogurt, broccoli, kale, tahini, almonds
Essential Fatty Acids Energy, hormone production, absorption of fat-soluble Vitamins (A,D,E,K) Soy, walnuts, flax, nuts, canola oil, algae-based omega supplements

What about protein? Getting enough protein in the diet is completely doable with plant-based protein like beans, tofu, nuts, and dairy substitutes like soy milk. There are even brown rice, hemp and pea protein supplements that can be used for convenience. It is advisable for vegetarians to eat 10% more than the standard recommendation because plant-based sources of protein aren’t quite as bioavailable as animal-based. Variety is key and it’s important to include an assortment of essential amino acids. I’m a huge fan of quinoa because it is a ‘complete protein’, meaning it contains all the essentials, plus it’s pretty quick to cook and very versatile.

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Here are some simple tips to becoming vegetarian:

Review your current diet. Make a list of foods that you regularly eat. Pay special attention to vegetarian foods that you already like.
Choose a variety of plant-based foods. Aim for an eating plan that includes many types of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Add vegetables to meals you already enjoy. For example, if you already eat pasta with tomato sauce, try adding more vegetables to this dish.
Try plant-based meat substitutes. Choices include textured vegetable proteins made from soybeans, wheat proteins, and other vegetable sources. Many look and taste like regular meat products. Check your grocer’s freezer department for vegetarian “hamburger,” “sau¬sage,” “chicken,” and “bacon.” These are good in dishes such as chili or casseroles.
Use dairy substitutes. Choices include plain and flavored soymilk, tofu, and soy cheese. You can use soymilk on cereal and in coffee. Nondairy cheese tastes good on pizza and sandwiches.
Look for vegetarian ethnic foods. Many ethnic food stores and restaurants offer tasty vegetarian foods full of flavor and aromatic spices.
Explore the supermarket. You may find new ingredients and ready-to-eat vegetarian foods from around the world. I always love going to the bin aisle and picking up several different grains or beans to take home and experiment with!
Read recipes. Hundreds of vegetarian cookbooks are available. Many have recipes from regional cuisines that can expand your options. Many recipes can also be easy switched to vegetarian with simple substitutions.
Become a label reader. Labels offer valuable information about ingredients and nutrients. Just because something is vegetarian and/or vegan doesn’t mean it is super healthy.
Avoid the fat trap. Many vegetarian-based dishes can be loaded with creamy sauces or fried. Plan your meals around whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, and beans. Plant foods that are high in fat (such as avocados, nuts, coconuts, olives, and oils from plants and seeds) are also high in calories. Enjoy them in moderation.

In the spirit of vegetarian cooking, I’d like to share a recipe that we really enjoy that is packed with nutrients called Lentil-Quinoa Stuffed Kabocha. (here is the link– http://eatingrd.com/recipes-3/lentil-quinoa-stuffed-kabocha/) you can just copy/save pictures or format how you like ☺

Be sure to check out my recipe page (http://eatingrd.com/recipes-3/) for other vegetarian meal ideas (* = vegetarian)

I’ve tried to cover the general bases, but let me know if you have any other questions!

Resources

American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org (Click Find a Registered Dietitian to locate a Registered Dietitian in your area.)
The Vegetarian Resource Group http://www.vrg.org
Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes and More for the Vegan Diet and Lifestyle http://www.vegweb.com
Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes, Articles, Health Resource http://www.vegsource.com
Vegetarianism and Vegetarian Nutrition http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info
Savvy Vegetarian http://www.savvyvegetarian.com
Vegetarian and Vegan Information http://www.goveg.com
Deva Nutrition has a variety of Vegan/Vegetarian supplements including algae-based omega-3s http://www.devanutrition.com/vegan_DHA.html
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Thank you so much Kristen for that detailed article! I need to re-read that one a couple times, myself! :)


If you’d like to check out the other Meatless 4 Lent guest posters, click here.

M4L Guest Post: Kath Eats – The Best Vegetable Lasagna

Our Meatless 4 Lent (M4L) Guest Post series continues with another wonderful meatless-Friday meal idea from the most-awesome Kath of Kath Eats Real Food.

Take it away Kath! :)

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Hey Veg Heads!

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I’m here to share a recipe for a fabulous whole wheat vegetarian lasagna. Full of flavor thanks to fresh veggies and chewy sun-dried tomatoes, this is the best lasagna I’ve ever had – meat and all included! Cottage cheese leaves the layers moist and vegetables stay crisp tender. Don’t leave out the sun-dried tomatoes – they are the key!! Serve with a green salad :)

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The Best Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 3 cups pasta sauce (like Classico Spicy Tomato and Pesto)
  • 16 ounces 2% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • Approximately 4 cups mixed vegetables (I used spinach, carrots, sundried tomatoes, and zucchini)

Preheat oven to 400*. Spray 11 X 8 glass casserole dish.

  1. Combine cottage and parmesan cheeses.
  2. Place 3 uncooked noodles in pan.
  3. Cover with 1 cup pasta sauce, 1/3 cheese mixture, 1/3 vegetables, and 1/3 mozzarella.
  4. Repeat 2 more times.
  5. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake one hour.

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Makes about 8 servings, ~350 kcal per serving.

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NOTE: Photos courtesy Katheats.com

Yuuuuum! Looks tasty! Thank you so much Kath for sharing one of your recipes with us! I am definitely going to be trying this one out soon!

To find other fabulous meatless meal ideas, check out the other Meatless 4 Lent (M4L) Guest posts by clicking here or clicking on the “M4L Guest Post” tag (see right sidebar).

Is anyone else going meatless on Fridays? Maybe on another day of the week? How bout meatless for Lent like me? :)

M4L Guest Post: The Clean Eating Mama’s Vegan Lentil Loaf

Our Meatless for Lent Guest Post series continues with the fantastic Tasha of The Clean Eating Mama!! Tasha shares some tips and a great vegan recipe perfect for your next Meatless Friday meal. Take it away Tasha!
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Hey lovely Chic Life readers!

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My name is Tasha, aka The Clean Eating Mama. Diana contacted me a few days back asking me if I could write a guest post on her blog; I was so excited! I have been reading TheChicLife for a while now and absolutely love her, her blog, her healthy lifestyle, and of course Bailey. =) I can see why she has so many fans!

She wanted me to write about my experiences eating a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, as she and many others have given up meat for Lent. She thought it would be a perfect time for me to share some experiences and tips – thanks for this opportunity, Diana!

First, a little about me: I am a mama and a wife, living in the beautiful Seattle area, and also a lover of Mother Earth and all that she provides for us. Being a hippy at heart, I appreciate and celebrate my existence on Earth each and everyday. I recycle, compost, garden and tread as lightly as I can. I admit there are plenty of actions I can improve on but I know that even thought the small steps I am taking right now has a huge impact on Her.

So this post is not about Going Green - but I wanted to share those thoughts with you because they directly impact why I eat the way I do.

I want to start off by saying I am not here to preach that everyone NEEDS to be vegan or vegetarian. While I am very passionate about the way I live, everyone is different and leads lives to fit their personalities and beliefs; and you should never feel guilty about that. This is why I am not a fan of PETA, but I will save that for another day.

Let me just say for the record that I am very new at being vegan, and while I am learning to perfect this way of living, I am not perfect. An occasional slip of cheese here or there has made its way in my mouth, but I made that decision and I don’t feel too guilty. But I am 100% vegetarian, and have been for a while now. It has been a long road of transitioning but I feel wonderful about my decision and know that I am not only doing my own body good, I am also doing Mother Earth good, too.

I first started my blog last summer, and just like most, I once started reading healthy living blogs in my free time. l was learning to live a healthy lifestyle and was amazed by the support of others in this HUGE blog-o-sphere. I had my son in October of 2008 and wanted to lead a healthy lifestyle for not only myself but for him.

I had always perceived food as the enemy. I was an over weight child, due to the lack of nutrition and poor food choices that I was around. This led to teasing in school, low self esteem and a horrible self image problem. As I got older and was able to make my own decisions, I lost that weight and felt great! However, I wanted to keep losing and I was never good enough for myself. Spiraling out of control, I resorted to binging ad purging, diet pills and a mindset that ALL food was the enemy, except if it was sugar free, low fat or fat free. I hardly ate fresh food yet for some reason I thought I was eating healthy. I was so low that I avoided all social gatherings that involved food and would not eat in front of other people, other than family.

IMG_9227 What was my turning point? My son. I did not want him growing up in a house that had candy, junk food and soda. I wanted him to learn at an early age that eating healthy, nutritious food is important for our bodies and mind. So I started making small changes and educating myself.

I was a nutritionist at a local hospital here in Washington a few years back; long before I had Jordan. I learned so much while working with the Registered Dietitian, and seeing helpless adults infected with diseases and health problems made me realize that food has such a dramatic impact on our lives. I am a firm believer that our health is directly linked to what we eat. Over the past few years I have learned a vast amount of information, but believe me – you never stop learning and there is always something to research. I am a huge advocate on Childhood Obesity, too. As adults and parents, we need to be leading and teaching the youth, our ONLY hope for a good future, what is best for us as humans, our health and what is best for our environment.

677 When I first started my blog I was neither vegan nor vegetarian, but my eating had cleaned up and I was enjoying eating fresh produce and thought I would be a great asset to the blogging community, and clean eaters alike. I am sure most of you have heard the term Clean Eating – it has become very popular. Clean Eating – to me – simply means “To eat from the Earth”. That’s it. I eat food with ingredients that I know what they are, AND ones that are the most nutritious for my body. Sure, we all know what sugar and white flour are BUT nutritionally they are pretty crappy for our bodies. I enjoy finding alternatives to the current staples that are so popular in our Western Diet, and making healthy, nutritious YET delicious meals.

I started to become aware of what I was putting in my body, seeing how I reacted to certain foods and how they changed my mood. The results were AMAZING! Less bloat, no headaches, digestion was great and I had an overall sense of well being that I had never experienced before. I looked at life and eating in a completely different light.

The more I researched, the more passionate I became. Then I watched a movie that forever changed me – Food Inc. It was then that I decided I wanted to make a difference for not only myself, but for Mother Earth AND innocent animals. I was never ignorant of the fact that animals were being violently executed for our own enjoyment and food cravings, but I never really KNEW how bad it was. Or how bad it was on our environment – water, air, soil and so on. And it does go beyond meat; dairy and all animal bi-products are treated the same way.

I feel GREAT about eating food that was not murdered, or treated inhumanly. True, there are morally conscious farms that do an AMAZING job by treating animals with dignity and respect. And I have respect for those farmers and farms. But I simply see no need for meat in my life, or animal products.

Transitioning my diet has been a a very smooth trail to follow. I don’t believe drastically changing the way you eat over night is healthy, and it only leads to frustration. This is why I DO NOT believe in diets. Eating healthy is a life style change, a change for life. I have finally mastered my brain into realizing that I need to eat this way for life and there are no “cheat days”, guilty eating or feelings of failure. I have chocolate and non-dairy ice cream on a daily basis and I love it! I enjoy eating now and I enjoy seeing the positive outcome it has made not only on my physically, but mentally.

Right now is the best time to be a vegetarian or vegan. There is pretty much an “alternative” to every kind of ingredient imaginable – faux meats, cheeses, spreads, desserts, milk… And with organic and sustained farming methods on the rise, it has never been easier to eat healthy, meat and dairy included. Because my diet revolves around mostly plants, buying the freshest is very important to me. Who wants to eat a salad with no taste, biting into a juiceless tomato or finding out your apple is mealy? Not me.

I continue to learn each and every day. I am far from perfect but strive to be the best person I can. There is a wealth of information out there right at your fingertips. I challenge each and every one of you to do a little research about food and nutrition. If nothing else, it will bring awareness and help you understand a little about why we should strive to eat healthy.

I hope that you are able to see just how passionate I am about eating as healthy as possible. You have one body, feed it well!

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I want to share some simple ways to start transitioning to eat less meat and animal products. Again, my goal is not to turn everyone into a vegan, but to bring awareness and show that it is quite simple to do. Even if it was simply one meal a week, that is a huge step! And these steps can be used to simply clean up your way of eating to a healthier one.

  • Start slow. Like I just mentioned, make small adjustments. It can be as simple as buying organic apples rather than regular. Or ordering a veggie burger instead of a bacon cheeseburger.
  • Get organized. You come home from work and your fridge is a mess, your pantry is out of sorts, your STARVING and all you want to do is grab the phone and order take out. Plan meals, prep ahead and make it easy on yourself! If you are starting slow with Tuesday nights dinner being vegetarian, plan it out. Have the ingredients in front of the fridge so it’s easy for you.
  • Let’s cook! Visit a vegan/vegetarian website and print off the best looking meal you can find, then START COOKING! People just do not understand how simple vegetarian cooking is, nor do they realize how scrumptious it can taste!
  • Educate yourself. Chances are if you have never looked into a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, you probably have a lot of questions, concerns and comments. Google is your friend! Start typing away and let the links take you to your answers. I did my fair share of research before taking the vegan pledge – years and years I had dreamed of being vegan but never knew how to start. I needed answers to my questions. Knowledge is a powerful thing!
  • Get veggie friends! I’m not saying to dump your old friends but make friends with someone that is a vegetarian or vegan. They will show you an entire world of eating and it will get you excited to try new things. Spend the evening together cooking a meal and enjoying each others company. Meetup.com is a great place to start. Search for groups that are focused on veggie diets and healthy living.

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I wanted to share a recipe that is not only vegan but I guarantee the meat eater in your life will also love it – my husband really likes it and he is far from vegetarian!

Vegan Lentil Loaf

Ingredients

  • Ketchup or homemade tomato topping (see below)
  • 1 1/3 cup plain oatmeal
  • 1/2 block firm tofu
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms, button’s are fine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato mixture or ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons corn meal
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, or a combination of thyme, oregano and rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce Topping

  • 1 6oz can Tomato Paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of salt

Cook lentils – I always have leftover lentils, but I love lentils so I don’t mind! Be sure to rinse and sort lentils as they could have stones or debris in them. Add 2 cups water to one cup of lentils in a pot and turn burner on high. Once boiling, turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes. The lentils should still be whole yet mushy.

Make tomato topping while lentils are cooking. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with a spoon. Taste to see if it may need more salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. In a large skillet add one tablespoon olive oil and put on medium heat, then add chopped vegetables and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until onions are soft and transparent – about 5-8 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse oats for a few seconds until oats are small.

Drain tofu well and press between a towel or a few paper towels until all moister is gone. Place in a large mixing bowl and break up with a fork. You want to make sure they are in small crumbles.

In the same mixing bowl, add oats, lentils, vegetables, 2 tablespoons of tomato mixture and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until it is all combined – if it is too dry you can always add small amounts of water. You don’t want it too wet, but it should be able to stick together nicely.

A note about the spices – I know there are a lot of spices but I just took what I had in my cabinet and threw it in. You really do not need to add ALL of my suggested spices, but since there is no meat flavor you want to try to make is as flavorful as possible. I found that the poultry seasoning tasted great in it! Taste the mixture before you put it in the pan, making sure it tastes good and is seasoned to your liking.

Spray a loaf pan or small baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon mixture in dish, then spread the rest of the tomato topping on top evenly. If you are using ketchup, use enough to cover the top evenly.

Cook for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Let cool, slice and serve.

This loaf makes a great meal when pared with a green salad or sautéed kale, and a baked sweet potato.

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I have many more recipes that you can view here, and I seem to update my list more and more frequently now that I have been cooking and baking everything from scratch. I basically live in my kitchen!

I hope you all have enjoyed my (long) guest post and I hope it has inspired you to try going meatless more often. I love hearing feedback and answering questions so please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime!

And again, thank you so much Diana, for allowing me to open up to your readers! You are such an inspiration to so many people out there! xoxoxo

Healthy eating,

Tasha

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You are too kind! Thank you again Tasha for sharing your story, tips, and recipe with us! :)

Click here to view the other Meatless 4 Lent guest posts for more meatless meal ideas and tips!

M4L Guest Post: Janice’s 7 Tips for Making Salad Right

Continuing my Meatless 4 Lent Guest Post series is Janice Stanger, author of The Perfect Formula Diet, which is book about eating whole foods. Yay whole foods! :)

Check under the article for more details on Janice.

Anywho, if you’re not sure what to eat tonight for dinner and you’re thinking salad, check out these tips on making salad the right way.

Take it away Janice!

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Seven Tips for Making Salad Right

If you are observing Lent by giving up meat on Fridays, you may be eating more salad just for the next few weeks. Or perhaps this choice is always a diet staple for you. In either case, you’ll greatly benefit from learning to do your salad the right way.

Salads have a great image, so it’s easy to fall into the habit of assuming that anything on a bed of lettuce is healthy. Constructing a salad that is healthy, satisfying, and appetizing all at the same time requires some thought, though. Here are seven tips you can use now or any time of the year.

   1. Greens are the basis of your salad, so have lots of choices to keep from getting bored. Generally, the darker green the leaf, the more dense the nutrients in each bite. For maximum vitamins, minerals, protein, and phytochemicals (beneficial plant substances), choose dark green lettuce, such as romaine. You don’t need to limit yourself to lettuce, through. Try spinach, kale, baby bok choy, collard greens, and other leafy wonders to mix and match.

   2. Strive for colorful salads with a variety of vegetables, either raw or cooked. Each color in the vegetable represents a different family of phytochemicals. Your health will benefit from the superstar team you gain when mixing the colors.

   3. Your salad must satisfy your appetite, or you will likely regard it as no more than a necessary evil to be avoided whenever French fries are also on the menu. Your body has sensors for both nutrients and energy in your food. Vegetables do great on the nutrient front, but don’t have enough calories to keep you going for long. Therefore, if you are very hungry or your salad is the center of your meal, you need more kinds of foods in it. The most satiating foods are beans, potatoes, and whole grains, all dense with fiber to fill your stomach and enough calories to turn off your appetite (without making you fat). Add these to your salad in abundance.

   4. Salad is most nutritious and satisfying when it is fresh. Assemble your salad close to the time you will eat it, and use ingredients that would still taste great if you ate it by itself. Wilted lettuce is out. On the other hand, salad is a great way to use up leftovers, as long as they are still in good shape. If you don’t have time to cook beans, open a can and rinse the beans in a strainer to get off most of the salt.

   5. Use a variety of herbs and spices – not all at the same time, of course. Herbs and spices are your best source of phytochemicals, and their fragrance and taste make every meal a treat. Try fresh parley, cilantro, chives, garlic, ginger, rosemary, basil, or whatever is available to you. Dried herbs and spices are also awesome. These flavors make food with little or no salt taste great, so cut back on your sodium as well.

   6. An oily or overly salty dressing is the downfall of most salads. Most of the stuff in a bottle or that you get in a restaurant is not made with your health in mind – or weight loss either. Your tastes take about three weeks to get reeducated once you change your eating choices. At first, a salad lightly dressed with vinegar and herbs, or a silken tofu or tahini-based dressing, may taste strange if you are used to olive oil and lots of salt. But if you make the healthier choice for three weeks, you will grow to love it

   7. Pair your salad with other healthy dietary choices. The healthiest salad in the world, if eaten with animal foods or junk foods, will do little good in the overall scheme of things to improve your health or weight. In other words, keep chicken, fish, and cheese off your carefully planned salad. Use dairy-free milks instead of estrogen-laden cow’s milk in your coffee or other cooking. Eat whole grain bread instead of white. Salad is not a magic bullet. You will benefit to the extent your eating choices as a whole support your vigorous health and lean weight.

Have fun with your salads. As these tips become second nature for you, healthy eating will become easier every day – with results to match.

http://perfectformuladiet.com

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About Janice Stanger, Ph.D.

Janice Stanger is an author, educator, and health industry expert. Her mission in writing The Perfect Formula Diet is to help people and the planet at the same time through a whole foods diet. Janice did not always eat this healthy. For much of her adult life she was overweight and suffered from conditions including daily headaches, frequent sinusitis and respiratory infections, depression, mysterious aches and pains, and crippling fatigue.

Janice was motivated to research plant-based nutrition by the examples of her two daughters, who stopped eating meat at ages 11 and 13. She spent 14 years critically analyzing scientific findings until perfecting the whole foods discoveries she wants to share with you now.

While working as a consultant to employers on their health benefits, Janice has observed one health insurance industry gimmick after another, including managed care, fail to control costs and keep people healthy. In her continuing work in the health insurance industry, she sees every day the devastation that obesity and illness brings to both individuals and companies struggling to stay in business and provide benefits.

Janice has a Ph.D. in Human Development and Aging from University of California, San Francisco – one of the country’s leading health sciences campuses. She also has an M.B.A from University of California, Berkeley.

Janice’s site is http://perfectformuladiet.com

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Thank you so much Janice so your informative salad article! Those are some great tips!

Check out other fabulous Meatless 4 Lent Guest posts by clicking here

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