Eat Clean – It’s Salad Time!

One thing I’ve learned about eating well is that it is WAY EASIER if you are organized. The only way I get through a week with balanced meals is if my house is stocked with the basics, I hit up the grocery store for all that I need and I plan out the week. 

Lunches can be tricky. I’ve always been a big fan of salads — easy to throw in your bag and a quick, delicious mid-day meal. With that said, salads can be mega-boring. Unlike some, I’m not someone who can eat the same thing, day in and day out. My go to basic salad is arugula, mixed greens, roasted chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts and raw caesar dressing {see below!}. When I’m wanting to switch it up though, I scour the internet for the best of the best.

My Evernote recipe vortex is super full these days, but in order to save YOU a pile of time, I’ve pulled out my favourites:

And a few fabulous dressings:

Happy salad-making! Happy Sunday!

PS – Shout out to Joanne at The Healing Cuisine for passing on the best caesar dressing of all time!  Combine 4 tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon or lime, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp dijon, 3 cloves garlic (pressed), pinch salt… and blend!

Trading Baguettes for Buckwheat

Just over a month ago, I was chatting with my friend about our careers, life, boyfriends {or lack of ;)} — and we got on the topic of her Naturopath. She raved about how Dr. Alea Gill at Vancouver Naturopathic Clinic is the bees knees of Naturopaths.

About 5 years ago, I dabbled in the naturopathic world — nothing really came of it and I honestly put in zero effort. Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with my blood counts {generally run on empty — white blood cells, neutrophils and ferritin}… and have yet to receive a diagnosis from a GP. Some have told that my low blood counts are now my normal, others have said I need to get blood transfusions and others think I have an auto-immune disease. My last Hematologist in Calgary was convinced I had celiac disease — and that my consumption of gluten was preventing iron absorption {and the like}. Celiac screen — negative. Celiac scope — negative.

So anyways, add in the Scoliosis and I’ve been around the block when it comes to doctors. :) The good news is that I know my health history off the top of my head and I’m totally up for exploring any type of alternative health practitioner.

I booked an appointment with Alea and thought if she can figure me out, I’ll heart her forever. I filled out the application form in advance {tough questions on there!} and patiently waited for October 22nd! Something I love about the field of naturopathic medicine is that it’s a holistic approach to the body — Alea wanted to know everything from physical health history to major life stresses to health habits to expectations.

Mind – body – soul treatment is totally up my alley.

I made it to my first appointment and we had quite the heart to heart. I’m convinced that Alea is going to be able to get to the root of the low blood counts… we both agreed that something internal is preventing absorption. I’m thinking it may be trial and error for the next few months, but my goal is to get everything sorted by late Spring. Alea challenged me to do a few things — and asked me if I’d be willing to take a food allergy and sensitivity test… To date, I’ve never been told I have an allergy, but I’ve always been curious about the test and thought why not!

A week later I went in for the Vega testing. I was already on a mission to cut dairy out of my diet — see 2012 goals… but I didn’t want to be told that I was allergic to bananas, tomatoes, avocados or any of my favourite things.

The results surprised me… officially allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, chocolate, sugar, MSG, cats and dogs. Oh man, eh.

This is how the results were processed in my brain: I love bread. LOVE BREAD. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT BREAD? I’m already planning on cutting out dairy. No biggie. Never really liked eggs — talk myself into eating them usually. Sigh, peanut butter, sigh. :| Chocolate? Meh, not a fan anyways. Sugar… ok. MSG… don’t like Chinese food. Not a cat person. Dogs? … ok.

I met with Alea after the test was done and she walked through next steps. The plan would be to cut all of the sensitivities out for the next 3 months and determine how my body reacted. Apparently sometimes you are able to reintroduce sensitivities back into your diet once your body has sorted itself out.

I went home that day excited about the change. I thought this is not big deal, as long as I start to feel better. My biggest complaint on a day to day basis is that I’m freaking tired — all the time. Yes, many of you are reading these words right now thinking — slow the eff down. I know, I know. But to my core, I know that there is more to my constant state of tired. Something is going on in the le body.

Over the next few days I planned how the wheat-free, dairy-free life would look… I wanted to be prepared and organized for November 1st {diet change day}. Yes I sure did have a baguette in my final days with wheat haha. Regardless of my good intentions, the first few days of November were TERRIBLE. I was not organized — and VERY hungry. On around day 4, I realized that this diet change was going to mean a lot more cooking at home, packed lunches and weekly grocery shopping. I took this lifestyle change as an opportunity to get back in the kitchen and enjoy cooking again. I’m a big ‘everything happens for a reason’ person — so I do think this is probably the kick in the pants I needed to find a bit of routine in my life.

“What is always speaking silently is the body.”

– Norman Brown

On a wheat-free diet, you can still have kamut, spelt, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut flour and nut flours. Surprisingly, lots of options — I can still have bread! Dairy-free has been no big deal, as I’d already made the switch to almond milk, coconut milk yogurt and soy-free Earth Balance! I picked up some Daiya cheese and I was good to go. No need to bring up the brie that will arrive at my Mom’s house over the holidays next month please and thank you. I tossed the peanut butter and bought almond butter — which I find nasty by the way {apparently it’s best if you make it yourself} and I’ve just become aware of my sugar intake. I am a brown sugar in black tea kinda girl — but that’s an easy habit to switch.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting — and totally loving it! Not ever dish I’ve tried has been a success, but these ones sure have:

The easiest way to be successful with diet changes is discipline and routine. I created a recipe vortex in Evernote — and it’s been a lifesaver for ideas and last minute meal planning on the way home from work.

I updated my pantry with some new staples: buckwheat flour, coconut flour, oats, chickpeas, red quinoa, chia seeds, nutritional yeast and all sorts of nuts. One of my favourite food blogs is Oh She Glows — and Angela has a great post on the vegan pantry {for the most part I would consider myself to be a wheat-free pescatarian who dabbles in the raw and vegan world}. A few people have said to me — ‘instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can eat.‘ BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BRIE AND BAGUETTE? ;) I’ve taken away bread, couscous, milk and cheese — but I’ve added way more foods! Way more!

For the most part I have followed the diet to a tee — yes, I did have a mini chocolate bar a few days after Halloween and I did go to La Taqueria one day for lunch {flour tortillas… boo}. I have been craving all sorts of things that I’ve never craved before — and I think it’s just psychologically because I can’t have it. I’m not going to get all psycho on myself when I slip up {it’s bound to happen}, but I do know that I feel ass-tastic when I eat wheat or dairy. That’s what has stopped me from going to Finch’s for a baguette these past few weeks– so good, yet so bad now…

The hardest part of this whole adventure is leaving the house — ha ha. Yes, you read that correctly! All is well when you’re whipping up delicious meals under your own roof. As soon as you leave the house though? You’re not in control and it’s stressful. I now know that I need to find the restaurants in the city that cater to my lifestyle and stick with them. Vancouver is actually a really easy city to be vegetarian and/or gluten free — lots of options {Acorn, Heirloom, Naam, Nuba, East is East and the list goes on}. Last weekend I had a brunch date at Harvest Union and devoured gluten free waffles. So legit — better than the real deal.

Quinoa Cakes

I have no idea where this new lifestyle will head in the coming months — but what I do know is that I feel the best I’ve felt in months — maybe even years. Crazy, eh? Perhaps it’s the paying attention to my body… perhaps it’s the new diet… perhaps it’s a combination of a whole lot of other things going on in my life… I’ve got no idea.

Feeling good is a great thing though.

Regardless if you’re a carnivore, vegetable addict or baguette and brie lover… do what you gotta do to live your best life.

Note: Some people don’t believe in naturopathic medicine, some do. Some people don’t support food allergy and sensitivity testing, some do. Some people don’t support a ‘vegan’ diet, some do. Figure out where you stand and just do what’s right for you. :)

Nourish Your Body

Today has been hell-ish.

Started with a guy telling me I’m a selfish bitch and finished with me locking myself out of my office building … and condo. Ordeal. Bah.

Hammering out a heated post right now is a waste of the minimal energy I left. :) Instead I’ve been meaning to write a post on healthy eating and all that I’ve learned about food since my trip to Costa Rica earlier this year.

So deep breath, here we go…

In Costa Rica I met Joanne Gerrard Young, an amazing raw food chef — and personal chef to Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady! I enrolled in a 2 day raw food cooking class while in Santa Teresa and soaked up so much knowledge. Joanne is all about incorporating healthy living / eating / being into your life. There is no need to hold yourself to crazy {and hard to achieve diets}, instead focus on living {By the way she is absolutely stunning. Stunning. Beautiful person inside and out}.

Treat your body like a temple and fill it full of the goodness it deserves. She gave us lots of examples of easy switches.

For example:

  • Choose butter over margarine
  • Choose sea salt over table salt
  • Choose extra virgin olive oil over olive oil
  • Choose almond milk over milk
  • Choose MAPLE SYRUP {corrected by Joanne!} or raw honey over sugar

Easy! Make those switches now!

A few things I have added to my diet since attending Joanne’s class: kale, dates, nutritional yeast, spirulina, agave syrup, tumeric and lots and lots of nuts {macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews}. You need to know about the benefits of germinating nuts, read up.

What I love about Joanne’s style of teaching is that she made it easy. She was a real life normal person and knew how to take the stress out of the kitchen so that you can just focus on the food!! I definitely think this has been most healthy year of eating in my life. I didn’t eat terrible before, but I now make every effort to cook at home and I’m very aware of what I put in my body.

I’ve learned the power of a substitute. Who needs a Twix bar when you can make chocolate-avocado pudding? Who needs a creamy caesar dressing from a bottle when you can make an absolutely ‘to die for’ raw caesar dressing at home? Who needs a power bar when you can make energy balls? I’ve learned how eating the right food can turn around how you’re feeling {and vice versa}. Joanne told us about the uses of ‘Grapefruit Seed Extract’ — add it to a smoothie or glass of water when you’re feeling blech — and you’ll have a magical recovery. I’ve become grocery store smart. I head straight for the outer edges of the store, moving from the fresh flowers to the health food section to the nuts and then to fruits & veggies — yes, sometimes I creep into the aisles for almond milk, balsamic vinegar or chickpeas. :) I’ve learned to read labels! No not for calories {gawd, no}… instead to see what kind of nasty is in a product. Almond butter? That better be damn almonds. Pineapple? That better be damn pineapple. Greek yogurt is the toughest one in my opinion. So many yogurt companies have gone ‘greek’ and they’re just loaded with sugar. I’m committed to knowing what I’m putting in my body {even if it’s a Kit Kat}.

I’ve always just assumed people are looking out for me — yes, restaurants, grocery stores, my family, friends… I’ve assumed that everyone is thinking about what they are providing and consuming. Seems a little naive saying that out loud! I’ve learned that the only one can control what you put in your mouth is YOU. I don’t believe the focus should be on creating a pure body temple, only filled with best of the best healthy eats, instead I think it’s about being aware. No different than learning a new hobby, sport or stress relief technique — your body plays into your day, week and life. You’ve gotta pay attention to it and continually learn on how you can keep it nourished.

The goal isn’t to turn psycho and live by your diet. :) Just know that if you have down some poutine, you’ll probably feel like a sluggish beast in 2 hours.

Vegan mania

Often people ask me if I’m vegan. Why? Likely because I talk about raw food, gluten free and vegetarian food quite a bit. Truth be told, I was raised without red meat or pork in my diet. I remember having a McDonalds burger when I was drunk in early university years {btw I vomited everywhere}, but otherwise don’t remember having an ounce of red meat in my lifetime. As for pork, I find it disgusting… but I’ve been known to have a piece of crispy bacon every now and again. {I obviously pretend that it’s not pork.} I’ve grown up on a chicken and fish/seafood diet, but I’ve always enjoyed veggies the most. I used to eat quite a bit of chicken, but in 2010, I went to a Tony Robbins talk in Chicago — and I was forever changed. He showed horrific videos of how chickens are raised and the disgusting hormones that are put in them — and I’ve never looked at chicken the same way since. Fun fact: Chicken shouldn’t have a taste. If it has a taste, it’s nasty crap in it. Disgusting. {Note: I will likely have Butter Chicken — and enjoy it — at our team lunch at work tomorrow}. I’ve tried to keep up the chicken intake for the last few years, as I’ve been heavily iron-deficient since the beginning of time and I figured I need to up my protein. Now I’ve learned that you really shouldn’t force yourself to consume things you don’t like. Try new foods sure… but focus on enjoying and experiencing food. Should be a good process, not a bad one! If you don’t want to eat chicken, then don’t!

Am I vegan? No. I think I could be, but I really like cheese a lot.

Am I vegetarian? No. I definitely could be, but I sure do love halibut, crab cakes and fish tacos.

I don’t fit into a category. I eat vegan a few days a week, vegetarian most of the time, a raw diet every so often and sometimes I just eat pancakes smothered in butter with crispy bacon. That’s life and I’m ok with it.

Small changes and slow changes can have a huge impact on your diet {no need to start drinking cayenne pepper and lemon}.

Eat local food

The rage is organic. We know that, we’ve been hearing it for years. Instead of focusing on the $4.99 organic kale, start learning about where your food comes from. Where was it grown? How did it get to the store? In British Columbia, we have organizations like “Get Local BC” that make that learning even easier! Check out this chart that shows what fruits and vegetables are in season for our region — so handy. The Farmers Markets in Vancouver are amazing — and they run all winter long!

Make green smoothies 

Start your day with a smoothie. Fill your body with nutrients and I promise you’ll feel like a million bucks. Smoothies are an excellent way to get a whole lot of fruit & vegetable servings in you without doing a lot of work.

A few tips to make your smoothie-filled life easier!

  • Freeze ripe bananas. Peel and break into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Lay the chunks on a baking sheet and freeze for up to an hour. Store frozen bananas chunks in an airtight freezer bag.
  • Buy fresh berries in large quantities {from gems like Harvest Union} and freeze. Follow baking sheet method.
  • Freeze greens! Yes, you can do that. Buy a bag of spinach and just throw it in the freezer. It breaks off easy when it’s frozen.
  • Buy a Magic Bullet — such a time saver on weekdays.

My favourite smoothie go-to’s {not all at once of course}… greens {spinach, kale, parsley}, fruit {blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, avocado},  greek yogurt, almond milk, hemp protein and omega oils!

Drink loads of water

Something that I have learned via training / running / all that jazz is the importance of being hydrated. You know you’re hydrated when you pee clear. You know how much water you need to drink to be hydrated? A lot. Water is good for your heart, head, skin and digestion. Drink it.

I could go on and on… oh and by the way, nutritional yeast on popcorn… amazing.

If you’re ever in Costa Rica, check out The Healing Cuisine for cleanses and workshops {absolutely fantastic}. Joanne also posts great healthy eating tidbits on her Facebook page. For example, these dynamo juice recipes {pink beauty, snow white, green monster}, a how to for ginger champagne and the benefits of mangoes!

Pinterest has tons of great recipes — who knew eh? A few food blogs I love are Post Punk Kitchen, My Darling Lemon Thyme and Smitten Kitchen.

It’s now 2:30am. Debating a slice of apple pie from the farmers market before bed. Best decision, right?

Take care of your body. It will thank you. Promise.