New Year’s Resolutions Check-In

It is 22 days now into the new year and they say it only takes 21 days to form a habit, right? So let’s see how I’ve done so far sticking to these resolutions.

1. Lose body fat by consistently working out with no longer than 4 days between a workout.

checkmarkI have been working out consistently which I am proud of! I think the longest I’ve gone between a workout has only been 3 days. Score!
2. Follow the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study diet

red-xI have been successful adding additional nutrients to my diet like mushrooms and turmeric but I still have processed foods at work. Mostly it’s a handful of wheat thins or peanut butter pretzel bites. However, we are making hummus today and I bought some carrots to go with it as a snack to take to work. I’m also trying to figure out how to get all of my oatmeal fixin’s to work so I can make it there. Most mornings I just grab a banana and then snack at work because I’m always rushing out the door.  The issue is my work only has a mini fridge and it’s usually full of red bull and la croix that my coworkers drink so there’s not much room for storage. I can make it with water instead of almond milk but I love maple syrup in it and that has to be refrigerated. I’m looking in to trying agave syrup. If that doesn’t need refrigeration, I’ll use that. And then I can bring a baggie of fresh fruit with me to top the oatmeal with. Problem solved!

3. Stretch daily for at least 1 minutes.

red-xI have been doing really well to stretch every day. There have only been maybe 2 days that I stretched maybe only 5 minutes, but I still stretched! I can already tell I’ve gained some flexibility. I better be able to the splits by the end of this year!

4. Run 6 consecutive miles

red-xI actually haven’t been running as much as I would like. I think I’m only at 1.5 miles when I should be at 2 based on my gradual increase trajectory. The problem is I’ve only been running once a week instead of 2-3 times like I committed to. After Body Pump I tend to just stretch and head home when I should stick around to go running. This is the week it’s going to happen!

5. Minimize 10 items a month

checkmarkI did it! Check out this post for how I eliminated more than 10 items from my medicine cabinet. My next victim is the bathroom vanity. It feels so good to let go of items that I don’t need/use that clutter up my surroundings.

Wow, not as well as I thought. But I have a game plan for how I’m going to achieve the goals I haven’t been succeeding at.

every new day is a chance to change your life

How are you doing on your new year’s resolutions?

xoxoRachel

Three-Bean Chili

This chili is the best chili I have ever had, and I’m not lying. Ground up shredded animal bits deserve no place in the amazingly, flavorful dish. We’re talking REAL FOOD here–> e.g. beans, tomatoes, carrots, and jalapeños for you spicy folks. We make this dish all the time and the plant-based doctors praise us for such good eating (okay, they don’t know me, but if they did–they’d be commending me for this dish!).

Three Bean Vegan Chili

Three-Bean Vegan Chili

You can make this on the stovetop or in a crockpot. Today I’ll explain the crockpot steps. This recipe fills a 6-quart crockpot and makes enough meals to last for the week. Feel free to cut this recipe in half or freeze the extra for later if needed.

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired), diced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 large carrots, chopped
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1 6oz can (6 Tbsp) tomato paste
5 cans of beans, drained and rinsed–our preference is:

2 cans (15 oz) Red Kidney beans
1 can (15 oz) Pinto Beans
2 cans (15 oz) Black Beans

1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Turmeric
1/2 Tbsp Oregano
1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Cardamon (optional)
1 Tsp Garam Masala (optional)
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions

Turn your crockpot on to high heat. Place onions and garlic in the crockpot with a Tbsp or two of water to keep them from sticking. Stir until soft and translucent for few minutes. Add the jalapeños, celery, bell pepper, and carrots and stir for another few minutes, adding water as necessary to reduce sticking. Add the tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste and stir well. Next, add the beans, cumin, turmeric, oregano, chili powder, garam masala and cardamon (for an added sweetness), salt, and pepper. Stir everything together, cover, and leave on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-8 hours or until heated through and the liquid has reduced.

What is great about this recipe is that it is so versatile. You can really add whatever vegetables or beans you prefer, add more or less spice depending on your preference, and even the cooking time is variable to your needs–Going to be at work all day? Put it on low in the morning and leave it until you get home. Need to run a few errands before dinner? Leave it on high for 1-2 hours.

Serving Suggestions

In a bread bowl!

Vegan Soup in Bread Bowl

We like splurging on a bread bowl or two to serve our chili in.

Add sweet potatoes, corn, or even lentils! Get creative with your fave ingredients!

Three Bean Vegan Chili

Or add some delicious vegan cheese on top like this guy–>

vegan cheese model

Be like him. He knows what’s up.

Or maybe you’re a sour cream kind of pal.

Dairy free sour cream

Vegans have your covered.

So don’t fret that you can’t enjoy your chili the way you like it! Hope you give this recipe a try! xoxo

New Year, Better You

2017 new year, better you

I can’t believe it’s almost 2017! What are you doing to ring in the new year? We have some wonderful friends coming in to town to help us celebrate! We plan to go to a local Bar & Grill that has a great elevated patio that looks down upon downtown Denver so we can enjoy the fireworks without all the frenzy (we’re old like that, okay?).

Among the celebrations I have been thinking of my new year’s resolutions. Do you make yearly resolutions? In that past I have, but they end up being vague and not very structured. They are usually something along the lines of “lose weight” or “get organize” without any solid plan of the how to accomplish them. And you might guess how that fared for me—yeah, it didn’t.

So this year I’m taking action and getting specific with the goal and how to achieve it. Yeah, 2017, I ain’t messin’ around this time!

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

Instead of “lose weight” here are my specific health goals for the new year:

1. Reduce my body fat by 3%

I plan to achieve this by consistently working out–never having more than 4 consecutive days between a workout. 3% seemed like a reasonable amount of fat to lose in one year (hopefully it’s more but I want it to be challenging and achievable). And I feel like body fat is a good way to measure my physical achievements rather than weight since muscle weighs more than fat and can be misleading on the scale.

2. Follow the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study diet

I plan to assess my diet and make the improvements where needed to reduce my intake of processed foods and replace them with a whole food alternative. If you haven’t signed up for the study yet, want more information on it, or want a free book click this link! I will be posting how I am making these changes and what I am doing to make them sustainable for long term success.

3. Stretch daily for AT LEAST 10 minutes

stretching

Everyone can find the time to do 10 minutes of something and this goal has been something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I want to regain my flexibility and strength. I hope to get in my 10+ minutes of stretching after my workouts but on rest days I will most likely stretch right before bed–it’s a nice nighttime relaxer!

4. Run six consecutive miles

running

I haven’t ran this far in…like ever. I’ve hiked/walked this far before but never ran. Now that I have joined a gym (woot woot) I plan to run on the treadmill 2-3 times a week and up my mileage slowly. Yesterday I ran one mile at a 6MPH pace or a 10-minute mile and it was challenging. (Can I still use the “altitude” excuse after living here 1.5 years?) Each time I run I want to add on an additional 0.25-0.5 mile. That puts me on track to running 6 miles at the very latest in 20 weeks or mid-May. Challenge accepted!

My health goals are much more extensive than the rest of my goals. I am very passionate about my health and want to be an example for others on this lifestyle. Plus, if you don’t take care of yourself it is harder to achieve in other areas of life.

So the rest of my resolutions are actually very simple.

5. Minimize

Less is More

Yep, that’s it! I feel bogged down by all of the extra things and objects taking up space in my home. I am a borderline hoarder. Okay, not that extreme, but I struggle with letting things go. I make excuses for keeping things I don’t need and don’t use anymore but *might* in the future. But that future rarely comes and all of this clutter raises my stress levels. To start minimizing I have committed to getting rid of 10 things every month! I plan to take you all on the ride with me with monthly updates to keep me accountable and to show you what sort of things have been cluttering up my life that could be cluttering up yours as well.

So that’s it for my resolutions! Hopefully these inspire you to make your own new year resolutions BUT I do have a recommendation for those of you who are wanting to “eat better” but need a bit of motivation or accountability.

My Challenge to You

Every year, a non-profit organization sponsors an online event called Veganuary. It’s all about challenging people to go vegan for the month of January. They provide a free cookbook, plus a bunch of recipes directly on their website and a guide for eating out. They’ve thought of everything to help you be successful and if that’s not enough feel free to email me at healthmylifestyle@gmail.com with any questions. “Vegan do it!” (Their quote, not mine. But I love a good pun.)

And for additional convincing–> 12 Reasons Why Going Vegan Should Be Your New Year’s Resolution

Hope you all have a Happy New Year! xoxo

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

As promised, the recipe for Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts that I mentioned in my Thanksgiving Menu post. This has been adapted a bit from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.

I grew up HATING Brussels sprouts as I did most vegetables. I am one of the pickiest eaters you will ever come across. And yet, somehow, these babies are soooo good, even I can’t pass them up. Now, I really did want this up before Thanksgiving so you all could share this treat with your families (my bad), but they are amazing any time of the year!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
1/4 finely minced shallots
1/4 coup maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos or tamari
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Cut the stems of the Brussels sprouts and discard, then cut the sprouts in half. Cook the sprouts in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a nonstick saucepan, sauté the shallots in a small amount of water or vegetable broth for 2-3 minutes. Add the boiled sprouts and sauté for 4 more minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and cornstarch together. Pour the mixture over the Brussels sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Garnish with nuts as desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The first step of cooking the Brussels sprouts can be done in advance. That is what we did the day before Thanksgiving to cut down on some work the day of. You can also mix the sauce together ahead of time and keep it in the fridge overnight but we actually ran out of time Wednesday due to the arrival of family that day. But the sprouts came out AMAZING! We made a little extra sauce for some extra flavor. The only thing I’d do differently next time is quarter the sprouts instead of halve them, especially for the bigger sprouts.

Apologies for not having a better photo of this amazing dish. It was too delicious to not dig into right away! This is an old photo that really doesn’t do it justice.

maple glazed brussels sprouts

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Stayed tuned for some exciting news I am sharing next week! xoxo

What’s On My Thanksgiving Menu

With just over a week away from Thanksgiving, it is time to start planning the menu for the big day. This is my first Thanksgiving on a whole foods plant-based diet. It’s about to get interesting. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is centered around processed meats, lots of fat and butter, and sugar-laden desserts. Any vegetable on the table is typically baked into a casserole with cheese or butter. The only semi-healthy item is the salad (which wasn’t a common option on Thanksgiving in my family for what I can remember) but any health aspect was negated by the cheese and fatty dressing poured on top.

And then the stomach ache and drowsiness would set in.

Ever wonder why you get so tired after a big meal? On Thanksgiving, many blame the turkey because it contains tryptophan. However, this myth was dispelled over a decade ago by a study done at MIT. Turkey only contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid, in small quantities. What happens is that tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Since it is found in animal proteins in a smaller ratio, it is typically last in line for transport. So if anything, consuming turkey actually lowers tryptophan levels. When tryptophan is consumed as part of an animal protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise while brain tryptophan levels decline.

Lower tryptophan levels are associated with depression so being able to have it cross the blood-brain barrier is key. On Thanksgiving day, what’s more likely happening is the refined carbohydrates and fat are increasing the release of insulin, which causes the muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel and allows the tryptophan to be first in line for brain access. Once in the brain, this leads to an increased production of serotonin–the “happy hormone” and some of it gets converted to melatonin, a chemical associated with helping sleep.

The reason you feel so much sleepier than usual on Thanksgiving is because of the sheer amount of calories you’re consuming–>not only does that surge of serotonin production lead to melatonin, but your body has to use so much energy just to digest all of that food. Also, being dehydrated can exacerbate your lethargy, so make sure to drink plenty of water!

An alternative is to eat a plant-based meal that will not cause the sugar high and subsequent crash. Whole plant foods are nutrient dense and fill you up sooner with less calories. It is REALLY HARD to over eat on a whole foods plant-based diet. And those complex carbs break down slower which means a more gradual release of insulin rather than a spike.

calories

And when consuming foods with a high tryptophan-to-total protein ratio such as pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or roasted soy beans, tryptophan levels in the brain increase. This may be why studies show that those eating plant-based diets have superior mood states. You heard that right–I’m happier than you omnivores!

veganbaking

This is what they meant by better mood, right?

This year Daniel and I are hosting my family for Thanksgiving so I have been getting pumped up to plan the menu. There will be a total of 6 people. Although I am trying to stay as close to whole foods as possible, it is a holiday which calls for some rules to be broken. Don’t worry, I’m not eating animal products. But I’m okay with adding some processed foods to mix against what I just blabbed on about. You’re welcome. (Dr. Michael Gregor said what you eat on holidays and special occasions won’t affect your long term health sooo…..)

pumpkin_pie2

The Menu:

And here’s a teaser photo of those sprouts:

maple glazed brussels sprouts

You haven’t lived until you’ve had maple glazed Brussels sprouts. Even a picky eater would gobble these up.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving meal from my menu. The turkeys will thank you! xoxo

turkeys

How Your Diet Is Slowly Killing You (And All of Us) Part 4

After the first few installments of this series you probably realize by now (I would hope) how your diet is slowly killing you–but how is it killing all of us? Many people don’t realize this, but their every day food choices actually impact us all. How, you may ask? Because we only have one planet. Because at our current rate, we will need 4.1 Earths to support us. Because if we really wanted to make a difference, the biggest difference to save the earth we have, it’s not using LED light bulbs, it’s not unplugging appliances when they’re not in use, it’s not remembering to shut off the lights when you leave the room, or recycling, or choosing to walk or bike rather than drive–the biggest impact we can make is to STOP supporting animal agriculture.

Have you ever heard the saying that a vegan driving a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than an omnivore driving a Prius? I heard that saying many years ago and it never really sunk in until recently.

Late September marked the dreaded tipping point for atmospheric carbon levels. It reached 400 parts per million. This should be concerning because it is considered permanent. Although the forests and oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, at this rate we need an extra half a planet just for that.

And here’s why you should be ALARMED by this if you’re not already:

Extinction—The Nature Conservancy suggests that one fourth of Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050.

Rising sea levels—Coastlines will become flooded and communities will be displaced. In May of 2016, the residents of Isle de Jean Charles were given $48 million to move (the first U.S.-based climate refugees)

Ocean acidification and coral bleaching—delicate marine ecosystems such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are bleaching and dying from climate change. This is considered irreversible.

Bleaching of Great Barrier Reef

The leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture. Take a look at the chart below from this study based on the effects of diet and our carbon footprints.

Carbon Footprint by Diet

This is our responsibility and we have to take action now.

Below is a nicely condensed video on the topic by Dr. Oppenlander. He has done extensive research on how our choices impact the environment. It is only 14 minutes long and you can speed up the video by using the little cog in the bottom right-hand corner (my preferred way to watch YouTube).

Another big resource of information is the documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix. The facts it presents are just astounding. You can also access them at their fact page here.

I know it’s a lot to take in so here are some key facts I’ve gathered from these videos and around the web:

  • Animal agriculture is the leading contributor to the amount of methane gas being released into our atmosphere. Methane gas traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5 year period, and 72 times more within a 20 year period. However, it leaves the atmosphere within a decade. Therefore, reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately according to a U.N. press release in 2014.
  • Growing feed for livestock consumes 56% of the water in the U.S.
  • Livestock and livestock feed occupies one third of the earth’s ice-free land
  • Animal agriculture is responsbile for up to 91% of the Amazon destruction
  • It is predicted that we will have fishless oceans by 2048
  • We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 Billion people but more than 50% of this grain is fed to livestock

I know some may not find this information interesting—I’m a nerd like that—but I felt it was necessary to present all of this first to get the cogs turning so that you will hopefully do more research and make that connection with this lifestyle. I truly want us all to be happy, healthy, and to have a planet we can share for generations to come, and the only way we can make that happen is to educate ourselves on these issues. Vote with your dollar by not supporting these industries anymore and let’s make a difference!

So now that the nitty-gritty is out of the way, stay tuned for some upcoming posts involving my favorite recipes (including bonus holiday ones!) and what my journey has been like so far with this lifestyle.

Thanks for all of the support! xoxo

P.S. In case you missed it, click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

How Your Diet is Slowly Killing You (And All of Us) Part 3

Hello!

So today is Sunday–I don’t know about you but growing up in my family that meant a big breakfast full of the typical staples like toast, pancakes or waffles, maybe some processed meat like sausage or bacon, and eggs. Now obviously everyone knows that pancakes or waffles can’t be considered a health food (although I make mean vegan pancake to boot)–they are full of processed flour and sugars. And bacon and sausage are full of fat and cholesterol that you can SEE oozing out of it as you cook it. Arguable, the only nutritious item at the table in this scenario is the toast. Make it whole wheat, throw some peanut butter or low-sugar jam on that and you’ve got a decent meal. But wait a minute—what about the eggs? Aren’t they a lean protein full of nutrients? The fact of the matter is that they are nowhere near considered safe and healthy to eat.

Did you know that eggs cannot be legally referred to in ads as “healthy” or “nutritious”? This is because of the high amount of fat and cholesterol each egg contains. The American Egg Board, a promotional marketing board appointed by the U.S. government, has a mission to increase demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers. However, if an egg corporation wants to be able to use the funds provided by the American Egg Board, they are not allowed to lie. If an individual egg producer wants to advertise their product on their own with their own funds, they can say whatever they want. But the American Egg Board is so aggressive with their advertising that we don’t even notice these key words being left out. They have been successful at decreasing consumers’ concerns over eggs and heart health even without being able to call them healthy or nutritious. Check out the quick video below by NutritionFacts.org that explains why eggs are not healthy or safe.

The sheer amount of cholesterol in eggs is startling. They are the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the Standard American Diet (SAD). In fact, the Egg Nutrition Center (created by the American Egg Board in order to downplay the risks of the cholesterol found in eggs) has fought with the American Heart Association on whether one egg everyday can be included in the diet. The American Heart Association explains that 300mg of cholesterol is the daily limit. Yes, one egg does fit under that limit. HOWEVER, every other animal product must be eliminated for the day or you would exceed that limit. Even just having coffee with dairy creamer and a skinless turkey breast on the same day effectively doubles your cholesterol intake. Based on these guidelines, you also wouldn’t be able to have any baked goods with egg or dairy milk in it either because that would also increase your daily cholesterol above the limit.

The Harvard Nurses Health Study found that consuming one egg a day cut a woman’s life shorter equivalent to smoking 25,000 cigarettes (5 cigarettes a day for 15 years)! Even 3 eggs a week was associated with artery clogging plaque build up in the carotid arteries going to the brain according to this study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis. This plaque build up is a strong predictor of stroke, heart attack, and death.

And if that isn’t enough, who wants to smell like dead fish? Yes, eggs are high in Choline, a compound that can make bodily secretions (breath, saliva, sweat, urine, and non-mentionables) smell like rotting fish and may increase the risk of heart disease due to conversion in the gut to trimethylamine found in this study from the Cleveland Clinic.

Tiptoe to Health Tip #3

Alright, so what can you do for that big Sunday breakfast instead? Well, you could make my awesome vegan pancakes (recipe to come!) OR what about some hearty oatmeal topped with some fresh fruit, cinnamon, and maple syrup?
hearty oatmeal

Oatmeal is so versatile and can be tailored to your tastes. And you get that good soluble fiber that’s known to improve heart health by reducing the bad cholesterol. It’s also full of vitamins and minerals, and is antioxidant rich.

Here’s a list of what I add to mine:

  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 1 Tsp Maple Syrup
  • A hand-full of fresh fruit

For more ideas you can check out this previous post on All the Oatmeals of My Kitchen.

Enjoy! xoxo

P.S. You can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

How Your Diet is Slowly Killing You (And All of Us) Part 1

Have you watched Forks Over Knives yet? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Why hold yourself back from attaining the utmost health? Why not thrive instead of get by? Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I want to discuss why the Standard American Diet (SAD) is slowly killing you. But first, let’s define it. SAD is a diet high in meat, dairy, fat, sugar, and refined and processed junk food. Now, some of those are no-brainers in regards to being unhealthy for you. Most people know that processed meats are bad for us, but what about lean meats like poultry and fish? Both chicken and fish have high levels of cancer-causing chemicals like dioxin, arsenic, and mercury. Not only that, but meat is meat and all of it is full of artery clogging cholesterol and saturated fat. The body produces all of the cholesterol it needs, so you should not be consuming dietary cholesterol, which only comes from animal products. Dietary cholesterol plays a huge role in obesity, Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up), heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Basically, it’s the root of all evil. I’ll get more in depth on cholesterol in a later post, but for now, check out this lovely diagram below of your arteries clogging from consuming dietary cholesterol. My heart hurts just looking at it.

atherosclerosis

Next up, do you ever get achy joints and muscles? Consuming meat is linked to the inflammation. After only one meal of animal products one’s bloodstream becomes flooded with bacterial toxins known as endotoxins. The endotoxins come from the bacteria found in animal products. The bacteria can be cooked but the endotoxins will not be destroyed. Even our bodies enzyme digestion can’t destroy them. This predisposes you to the development of atherosclerosis and insulin resistance. And animal fat helps increase the absorption of endotoxins into the bloodstream.

This is why those on a plant-based diet can recover from a tough workout faster—no endotoxins causing excess inflammation! I’m still often surprised by this fact. After a tough workout I expect to be VERY sore the next day and even the following day, but I only feel a little soreness and it doesn’t inhibit me like it used to (you know, that feeling of sore quads after leg day and how stairs and the toilet are your enemy?!).

leg-day

Lastly, I want to introduce a easy recommendation to move towards this healthy lifestyle in every post which I’ll compile later in it’s own category for easy referral. Since sometimes it can be a slow progression, let’s call it tiptoeing to health. See my first tip below!

Tiptoe to Health #1

shiny-red-apples

My favorite saying is “no one ever became overweight from eating too much fruit.” I know it’s a lot to take in so if you can make one change, it would be to have fruit for breakfast. All fruit. Have a few bananas. Have apples, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, or oranges. Whichever fruit you fancy. And don’t be afraid to eat several pieces of fruit. Get full. Get energized. Did you know eating one apple gives you more energy in the morning than a cup of coffee? And no crash later! Why? Because when you consume whole fruit with all that fiber, it breaks down slowly and is absorbed over time so there’s no sugar high or crash.

If you’re interested in learning more about this diet, the science behind it, and the success stories of those who have switched to it, I recommend checking out the articles on www.ForksOverKnives.com. I’ve read all of them.

I’ll be following up with Part 2 of How Your Diet Is Slowly Killing You next week. xoxo