Thursday, 28 June 2012

My current breakfast

I've blogged about a similar breakfast before, but since then I've tried other breakfasts and I think this is still my favorite:

It's rice, fruit and soy milk.  The rice is half brown, half forbidden rice.  I cook up a large batch every few days.  The fruit I buy fresh and freeze in a big bag:

I buy whatever looks good.  Lately it's been strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas.  The soy milk is organic unsweetened non-GMO, e.g.,
A serving for me is about 1/2 cup rice, 1 cup fruit, 1/2 cup soy milk.  It's more on days when I think I need more, and less on days when I think I need less (depends on what follows breakfast).   

I tried oatmeal with fruit and didn't like it as much as this.  This is my version of cereal and milk I guess.   I like the chewy of the rice and the moisture of the milk and all the flavors.  Maybe I'm Chinese and just never knew it until now. :)

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Farms 2 Forks immersion

I find it funny that I'm going to this:

I planned this long before I started drinking these guys' kool-aide, though, maybe I was and didn't know it.  I just thought this would be a fun way to get some healthy food and hang out with my best friend from college.   I'll get to meet, or at least, see and listen to, Jeff Novick, Doug Lisle, Dr. Esselstyn and his son Rip.  I'm sort of in love with Dr. Lisle.  But I'll get over it.

My friend arrives tomorrow and the immersion is this weekend.  I'm trying not to anticipate it so I don't jinx it, but I am really looking forward to a fun weekend.

my enviable life

I feel guilty about posting this.  I know life is going to throw me a curve ball, as it always does.  I know pain and suffering are inevitable.  But, right now, at this moment, life is really good.   And I have to give credit to the (diet induced?) malaise I suffered the past 3 years.  All those books on positive psychology, meditation, motivation, I even hired a good friend of mine as a career coach--which was awesome by the way--all those things actually paid off.  I think if I wouldn't have developed my malaise, I might not have got unhappy with my job and started trying to figure out a solution.  The solution was simple in the end (but I needed the journey to get there):  going half-time at work, and potatoes.  haha.  Going half-time solved my work and lifestyle issues.  And potatoes solved my malaise.  haha.  Now again, I feel guilty because I know many people would love such a luxury to be able to work half-time.  Sorry about this.  Ironically, this is a benefit of having an insecure job.  I am responsible for funding my salary through federal grants I obtain, and a typical grant has a lifetime of 1-3 years.  My funding horizon was typically that long throughout my career.  As a result, I avoided debts, and I budgeted for a half-time salary.  I always expected to have to go to half-time eventually or change jobs, and it never happened, so I finally got impatient and just did it.  ha.  That was a big step because my career is somewhat demanding and turns people into workaholics whether they want it or not; half-time is not exactly part of the culture.  But I'm old now and I figure i can afford to be eccentric.

So now that I'm half-time, what am I doing?  Well, Wednesday morning is kayaking with Ed:
Today the lily pads were in bloom which I've never seen before:

Friday is "Camrock Friday."  Housemate and I go to Camrock park and first take a walk, and then I take a mountain bike ride. Here I am decked out.  I might look goofy with the elbow and kneepads, but I've broken both a kneecap and an elbow in the last 6 years (not mountain biking), and I never want that to happen again.

Other days include swimming (great training for kayaking), road biking (great training for mountain biking), running, hiking, biking to work (great training for mountain biking), oh, and mountain biking.

Then there is my church.  I'm an active member and I enjoy the community but also the excellent opportunities for community service.

I started playing my flute again.  I'm hoping to read more.  I only started working part-time about a month ago so I'm still learning how to do it.  and I actually work 5 hours a day to make sure I get my 4 in (I'm so dedicated!).  and of course, there is food prep for a healthy diet.  But that is much lower now and will free up more time for living my life.

today's lunch

Today I got back from kayaking a little later than I'd planned, and didn't know what I was going to do for lunch besides some onions and kale and a sweet potato I'd baked earlier this morning.  So I started up the onions and kale, and took a shower.  Then I thought about my work snack:  rice, edamame and corn.  So I mixed that up (I usually have cooked rice in the fridge, and edamame and corn in the freezer).  Then I thought, ooh, throw that into the kale and onions and I'll have it for both lunch and snack.  and here it is:
Easy and yummy!   Housemate wanted some too.  Here it is with my baked sweet potato, to which I added some cinnamon and soy yogurt.  
A very yummy lunch and a yummy snack later on.  Great for building muscles after my intense kayak ride--we went out in a tailwind and curiosity always makes it hard to turn around at a sensible time.  The return trip was quite an endurance test.

Nuts and Seeds

Here is my understanding of what our cadre of mostly plant-based, whole foods diet doctors (BarnardCampbellEsselstynFuhrmanMcDougall, and Ornish) recommend (note, Campbell is a Ph.D., not an M.D., for what it's worth).

  • They all consider oils to be harmful.  I've heard two reasons quoted for this:  1), they are empty calories, at about 120 calories per tablespoon.  2), perhaps more significantly, most are very high in omega-6 fatty acids (more on this below).
  • Whole foods fat sources are good for you, in limited quantities.  These include nuts and seeds, avocado and relatively unprocessed soy products (soy milk, tofu, edamame, tempeh).  (NOT isolated soy products used to make tofu hotdogs and sausages and protein supplements).
As far as I know, the only differences in their recommendations are
  • Fuhrman has a lower limit to the amount of nuts and seeds that should be consumed by everyone, which is 1 oz.  I think the other doctors do not. 
  • Fuhrman recommends an omega-3 supplement (DHA), and none of the others do as far as I know.  In fact, some are adamant in their opposition to this.
These differences may be minor, but this became an important question for me lately as I considered transitioning to a lower-fat diet.  Some people have very low calorie needs (e.g., older women) and 1 oz of nuts and seeds, along with modest quantities of avocado and soy products, can easily put the fat percentage above 25%.  

I highly recommend Jeff Novick's DVDs on nuts and oils.  (I also recommend his DVDs on calorie density and lightening up).  This is the best summary that I know of on the topic.  Here I learned about the important of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in your diet.  The standard American diet has a very high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.  We all need a very small amount of omega-3 fats.  Most of us ingest a sufficient amount if we eat a whole foods, mostly plant-based diet with lots of vegetables.  However, we only have so many enzymes available to digest these fatty acids.  If our intake is dominated by omega-6 fatty acids, the enzymes will get used up digesting those.  I hadn't appreciated that fine point until I watched Novick's DVDs.  It might explain something I've been curious about.  I've noticed that some people on the Standard American Diet, who are obviously ingesting large amounts of fat, sometimes appear to have dry, scaly skin and brittle hair.  I suspect they have an omega-3 deficiency--or are unable to digest what they ingest of omega-3, because of the omega-6 imbalance.  I'm just speculating.  Anyway, back to Novick.  He says, as long as we avoid the oils, and excessive consumption of healthy fats, which also mostly have high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fats, then we will ingest a sufficient amount of both in proper ratios.  McDougall says the body gets very good at converting the ALAs in foods to omega-3s when it needs them.   The foods with high ALAs, or alpha-linolenic Acids, are flaxseeds and walnuts (hemp too I think).   Novick says if you really want the assurance you are getting enough omega-3s, eat a tablespoon of flaxseed per day.  

Campbell is adamantly opposed to omega-3 supplements.  This surprised me.  I heard him speak about this at the food revolution summit.  He cited studies that show the supplements did not behave as we thought they would.  Here is a quote from the transcript:

"I have in mind particularly a review which was done of a total of 59 different kinds of studies of omega three fats that was published in 2006. This is 6 years ago. It came to the conclusion they simply don't work for reducing heart disease, cancer and diabetes." 
Another study showed that it can increase the incidence of type II diabetes.  what?   He also argues that it's the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that matters.

I'm still digesting some other articles sent to me by Kristi (thanks!).  

I decided to follow Novick's advice for now.  I'm not setting a lower limit to my nuts and seed intake (eek!).  I am not taking DHA (Dr. Fuhrman's omega-3 supplement) anymore (eek!), I'm eating 1 T of flaxseed most days.  This is a big change for me as I have been following the Fuhrman advice for about 5 years.  eek!

I have to say, due to the lower fat content in my diet, the extra pounds I've gained the last few years are melting off effortlessly.   Now I have to see where my weight levels off.  I think I don't want to lose more than 1 lb from where I am now.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Coming out the Closet (eek!)

It’s probably time to come out of the closet and tell you that I’m no longer drinking the Fuhrman carrot juice.   I think a lot of his advice is good, and I will eat more healthy than ever before thanks to that.  But I have found that his diet doesn’t work for me.   I have suffered from malaise and low-energy levels for the past 3 years.  I thought, how can I be so tired if I’m eating the greatest diet on earth?

Before I discovered Dr. Fuhrman. I ate a healthy low-fat vegan diet essentially the same as Dr. McDougall’s plan; and in fact, that is when I lost all of my excess weight.  On the Fuhrman plan, I lost a bit more, then maintained, then gained as the malaise set in.  I think this corresponded to the time when my metabolism dropped.  Dr. Fuhrman says this is a good thing and leads to longevity.  This led me to be cold and tired all the time.  I was wearing a wetsuit in the pool! I gradually gained 10 lbs, probably due in part to the lower metabolism.  At least I didn’t have to wear the wetsuit anymore after that.

Interestingly, while on my previous diet, my cholesterol was 131.  Three years later on the Furhmam diet, my cholesterol was 151.  Is this just statistical noise?  Or was it the nuts?  Some nuts are high in saturated fat, which is correlated with cholesterol levels.  I think the nuts combined with the large amounts of fruits I was eating is another reason I started gaining weight.  I was eating a high-fat, high-sweet diet and my metabolism was low.

In the past couple of years, I got more strict with the diet, limiting my nuts and seeds to 1 oz a day, and consuming almost no grains and starches.   I was eating a lot of vegetables and fruit, and my grocery bills were quite high.   I ate much of my food raw, except for soups cooked on weekends, mainly due to food prep issues (I didn’t feel like cooking late at night when I did most of my food prep for the next day). This halted my weight gain, but it was quite an effort, and I was still tired all the time!  Maybe my body was putting too much energy into digesting all that raw food.  I started wondering if I need animal products in my diet.

About 6 months ago, my friend Holly and I were wondering together if there is something wrong with our diets, and we began this journey of exploration together.   She suggested the low metabolism was our problem and we explored diets that boost your metabolism—not trying them out, just reading about them.  More recently we considered the possibility that a high-fat diet is probably not the ideal way to lose weight.  Since I wish to remain vegan, the obvious option for me to explore was adding starches back in to replace the calories from nuts and seeds and fruit.

In the last 2 months, I have been including more starches and intact grains (not flour products yet) in my diet, first tentatively and then more aggressively, and my energy levels have skyrocketed.  I feel like I used to.  I’m shattering my records in swimming, biking, and running.  I’m happy again.  I have been astounded by this.  And Holly is experiencing the same thing!   After more research, she came up with the answer:  the serotonin boost from starches.  This enhances your mood and raises your metabolism.  Wow, it sure does!  Interestingly, we are both experiencing some insomnia from these high energy levels--sleeping soundly but waking up much earlier than usual.  I suspect these effects will subside but I’m hopeful that my “set-point” energy levels will remain higher than previously.

Other beneficial features about including the starches and grains is that my food prep time is much lower, the quantities of food I need to eat are smaller, the time it takes to eat is shorter, I feel more satisfied and energetic eating these foods, and the recipes are fun.  I’m looking forward to trying my old favorites again:  mashed potatoes, red beans and rice, tofu jambalaya to name a few.  I’ll post more about my new menus soon.  I logged my grocery bills several months ago and I’m doing it again now--I’ll report on the results when they are in. 

I used to think Drs. Fuhrman and McDougall agreed on most things, only differing in minimum amounts of nuts and seeds required, and typical amounts of grains and starches. Now I think there is a fundamental difference, and I think they would agree, from what I’ve seen of their posts on their forums.  Dr. Fuhrman says “the salad is the main dish”.  Dr. McDougall says starches are the main dish.  This is actually a big difference.   On Fuhrman’s diet, you plan entrees centered on salad and greens and veggies; nuts and fruit provide a large portion of the calories.  On McDougall, even if you a lot of salads and vegetables, they are side dishes as far as calories go; the main source of calories is from grains and starches.  The result is that Fuhrman’s plan is usually a high-fat, high-fruit diet and McDougall’s is low-fat and less-fruit.  I think it’s easier to lose weight and maintain on a low-fat, low-sweet diet.   A light bulb went off in my head when I was discussing restaurant options with Holly a few weeks ago.  Out of habit, she suggested having one of the entrees over greens instead of brown rice.  I noted that if we had them over brown rice, the total fat content would go down, the total calorie content would go up, we would be satiated for longer, so would be able to eat less later on, and eat lower fat overall.  

I have been watching all of Jeff Novick’s DVDs.  I find them very informative, sensible and convincing.  I think following his approach is the easiest way to lose weight,  maintain weight, enjoy familiar (though modified from the Standard American Diet) comfort foods, and live a healthy life.  It is basically a low-fat, whole foods, mostly vegan diet.   This is the diet recommended by Drs. McDougall, Esselstyn, Barnard, Ornish, and Campbell.  I will discuss the controversial nuts and seeds issue in another post.

Here is a funny aside about our new discovery:  I attend a weekly meditation class. When we start the class we reflect on our motivation for doing this, which is to be happy.  Then we wish to extend our own desire for happiness to all others.  As I was reflecting on these things, I thought how in the last 3 years I have read or listened to over 10 books on happiness, motivation, and meditation to try to help me recover from my malaise.  And what finally worked for me?   Potatoes?!  What would my teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, think of that?!   

I hope my Fuhrman friends will still be friends with me.  I have just found a need to try something else.  I would love to hear your comments and critiques.  I am definitely open to challenge on this.  I do not claim to know the answers; I’m just trying finding out what works for me.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

seriously, summer?!

Alrighty, friends. It is straight up 97 degrees in the city. Craziness, and I'm craving breezy summers by the lakeshore. What the heck does a girl do when the temps climb...and there's no air conditioning? Eat popsicles? Take showers (hourly)? Run around in minimal clothing? Create a person windstorm with fans? 

I'm seriously considering wimping out and just buying a window air conditioning unit. 

In the meantime, it's smoothies and showers and fans for me.

And cold food. Only cold food is allowed this week. Lately, the simple Mediterranean combo has been appealing. Cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado, and a splash of red wine vinaigrette. It's great by itself but even better on top of a giant pile of lettuce. 

Beverages in ball jars: classy summer. This is how I'm drinking everything from now on. I think this recipe or this one would be pretty amazing. And I'm still drinking gazpacho...

Another fantastic use for ball jars...soap containers. Use a hammer and screwdriver to punch a hole through the lid of a jar until wide enough to fit an old pump from a soap container or lotion bottle. It makes washing your hands so much more exciting; I promise. 

In case you still need chocolate, here's a no-bake recipe for you (based on this recipe). This is probably the easiest recipe ever. Beware that they will not set if your apartment is 86 degrees; that's what freezers are for. Not the prettiest cookies ever, but they make great pre-run fuel. 

no-bake {vegan} cookies
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or mixture of PB and tahini
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  1. In a small sauce pan combine the first four ingredients and heat over medium-low heat until the peanut butter/coconut oil is melted and the mixture is hot (4-5 minutes.) Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  1. In a separate bowl combine the rolled oats, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Pour the hot peanut butter mixture over the oats and stir until every piece of oat is covered and chocolate is well incorporated. Use a spoon and drop cookies onto a surface covered in parchment paper and flatten them out slightly. Let cool.

p.s. I'll be here this weekend, among other activities. What are you doing this weekend? 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

June 19

today's lunch:
sorry, I'm not the greatest at taking pictures.  This was mushroom stroganoff.  It was really good.  I updated the recipe a bit.  I added more spices, more yogurt, and kale (unnecessary but I was in the mood for some kale).  We ate it over buckwheat.

Monday, 18 June 2012

June 18

I think I will take a a little break from posting my food logs--though I will share one more day's worth of yummy meals.

At breakfast I had forbidden rice topped with blueberries, bananas and soy milk.   I really enjoyed this:

For lunch I had onions, (dry-fried), potato, cabbage, cauliflower, and corn.  After cooking and turning off the heat, I added soy yogurt and fresh dill.  This was very very yummy.  I also had a salad.

Dinner was forbidden rice and beans, and a salad.

snacks at various times were carrots, sugar snap peas, jicama, and orange remainders.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

June 17

Here are my food log, weight, exercise, and thoughts for today.

Breakfast, 7:30 am:  0.1 housemate's smoothiegrains  topped with blueberries, banana and soy milk.  This was very satisfying (probably nostalgic because I spend the first 45 years of my life eating cereal with milk).  It was more enjoyable than yesterday's granola so I don't think I'll be needing that anymore.

lunch, 1:30 pm:  tacos!   again, the nostalgia factor probably dominated our enjoyment.  and it's nice to be sharing food with housemate again.  my previous food choices were not appealing to her.  Here's a picture of the meal on the table (outside on the deck) before eating:
The ingredients were chili beans, tomatoes, avocado, soy yogurt, lettuce, fresh herbs (cilantro and dill), and sprouted corn tortillas in the foil (heated in the oven).  I also had a small salad made from spinach and lettuce greens.  I also made a "taco sauce" for housemate who likes that commercial taco sauce.  this isn't healthy so I don't recommend it, but it's western dressing, ketchup and juice from the chili beans.  Good to serve your friends who aren't into all this healthy stuff.  She liked it.

Here's an assembled taco:

We enjoyed it a lot.  I was going to make some greens to go with it but we were both really hungry and I didn't want to take the time.  So we ate 3 tacos each.  I think that was too many tortillas for me because I did feel the glycemic surge from that, followed by some brief tiredness.  But it was still fun.  Next time I'll aim for 2 tacos.

Snack, 5:30 pm.  At mile 22 of my bike ride, I stopped at a shade tree with a nice view, laid on the ground, looked up to the sky through the leaves, and ate half a baked sweet potato.  Needless to say that was enjoyable.  and felt good on my back.

Dinner, 8 pm:  sugar snap peas, orange remainders, big salad and the other half of the baked sweet potato.   The salad was lettuces, tomatoes, and mushrooms briefly soaked in date vinegar and fresh herbs (cilantro, dill).  yummy:

Dessert was a small portion of jicama.  I love jicama. That reminds me that kohlrabi season should be upon us soon.  That is similar texture but not as sweet.  But I love those too.

Weight:  125.2

Exercise:  biked 31 miles.

  • wonderful day.  not much to report besides that.

chili beans

These are good in tacos, or just about anything.

1/2 lb dry beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano

If you want, you can dry-fry the onions first.  then add the beans and everything else, cover with water, and start cooking.  Or if you don't want to dry-fry the onions, just combine everything and start cooking.   cook for 3 hours.  Add water as necessary but not too much (to keep the flavors more concentrated).   If you like a sweet flavor, you can add a little sweetener of your choice (e.g., maple syrup, brown sugar).  I've also seen mustard included in some recipes.  

Saturday, 16 June 2012

June 16

Day 34 of my "diet."    Here are my food log, weight, exercise, and thoughts.

Today I was focussed on writing an essay so didn't want to concern myself much with food prep.  

Breakfast, 7:30 am:  0.15 housemate's smoothie;  smallish bowl of grains and blueberries topped with a few spoonfuls of soy yogurt.  

second breakfast?  10:30 am:  a treat!  a bowl of oil-free granola with soy milk.  see below for a discussion on this.

snack:  ate some of the fruit while prepping housemate's smoothie fruit for the week (freezing into 7 portions).  less than a cup.

lunch, 1 pm:  I grabbed some stuff from the fridge.  small baked sweet potato (baked last night);  few handfuls of sugar snap peas, 1 raw carrot, some beans on a sprouted corn tortilla.

dinner, 7:30 pm:  some orange remainders while making housemate's OJ.  a salad from lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, apple balsamic vinegar.  steamed veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower), added some beans, topped with a salt-free seasoning (penzey's mural of flavor).  

Housemate had some salad and veggies too (hers had peas instead of beans).  and some leftover meatloaf.

Weight:  125.4

Exercise:  swim 1 mile, walked 1/2 mile.

  • The ingredients of the granola are:  Organic rolled oats, organic dates, organic barley flakes, maple syrup, barley malt syrup, water, walnuts & cinnamon. The nutritional info is here.  I was wondering, how much sugar am I getting (I haven't had sugar in a long time and don't want to go overboard).  I got the granola from a bulk bin so my receipt told me how much I got, which was 1.5 servings.  so I had 18 g of sugar.  That's a fair amount, equivalent to 1.5 T of maple syrup or 1.1 medjool date.  As a fraction of total calories the sugar was 20%.   So I'd have to say that wasn't that healthy.  As a fraction of total calories today, it was 5% (assuming 1400 calories, maybe I had more).  Interesting.  That's acceptable but it shows that this is definitely should be considered a treat.  Next time I could get a smaller amount, just 1 serving.  I've set 5% as a reasonable amount of play calories to have in my diet, to allow for restaurant foods and various treats.  Maybe I'll look into making my own version of this with less sweetener.
  • I ate a lot this morning and lunch, so wasn't hungry for dinner until after 7 pm.  But swimming built up my appetite.
  • I'm thinking I'm probably at or close to my ideal weight.  Maybe it's time to go into maintenance mode.  I'm not sure what will change except that I don't want to lose too much weight.  I'm very happy with what I'm eating.  I've enjoyed re-incorporating the starches and grains into my diet.  It makes food prep much easier, it tastes good, it's satisfying.  

    Friday, 15 June 2012

    June 15

    Day 33 of my "diet."    Here are my food log, weight, exercise, and thoughts.

    Today is pretty similar to yesterday.

    Breakfast, 7:30 am:  some spinach and greens while making housemate's smoothie; 0.15 housemate smoothie; bowl of grains and fresh local strawberries topped with a few spoonfuls of soy yogurt

    lunch, noon:  I dry-fried an onion, added a small diced potato, fried that for a bit, added water, then added chopped kale and bok choy, some no-salt seasoned, let this simmer while I showered, then added some frozen corn to thaw that and cool the dish a bit.  This was really good.  Both the onions and corn added a nice sweet taste.  The dry-frying of the onions gives it a great flavor.   Same salad as yesterday:  lettuce, flaxseed, strawberries, d'angou pear vinegar.

    snack, 3 pm:  sugar snap peas.
    snack, 5 pm:   small bowl of grains, beans and soy yogurt.
    snack, 7 pm:   2 carrots (on bike ride home)

    dinner, 7:30 pm:  some orange remainders; same salad as lunch;  sliced jicama.  Dessert was a small bowl of sweet corn and jicama with a dash of d'angou pear vinegar.  

    Weight:  125.6

    Exercise:  mountain biked 1 hour, walked 2 miles, bike commute 7 miles.

    • lunch food prep, shower, eating, and cleanup took only 50 minutes! 

    Thursday, 14 June 2012

    Dry-Frying onions

    I learned this from a chef at a Fuhrman immersion last fall.

    Heat a pan up.  I use a stainless steel pan, no need for non-stick coating.   I put the dial to medium, number 5, on the electric stove.  Chop up your onion.  Throw it in the pan.  It should sizzle and start browning.  Add the lid right away.  This will trap the moisture that's released and keep it from browning too quickly.  Stir a lot.  Then when it browns some but isn't burned yet, you can add some water and/or other veggies.  Mushrooms release a lot of liquid. Then you just cook everything up.

    It's easy and makes for very flavorful onions, without the oil!