Diet and nutrition, Florence, plant based diet, Uncategorized

Road to getting fit and healthy…

IMG_2035As I get older my weight has spiraled, I have never had weight issues before and I do not like the loss of control over my size, so before I get any older I need to get a grip and get fit and healthy.

Over the past few years I have played around with exercise, the odd phase of Yoga with youtube, a little bit of low impact cardio, damn it I have even considered a few laps in our friends pool or on vacation enough exercise for a week or two… in reality I have never really stuck to any program of exercise since I was in my thirties.

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Diet is exactly the same, I have fluctuated from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, I have tried the paleo approach, I have counted calories and I have even tried to starve myself, nothing works and I have not stuck to anything with success.

So what is a girl to do… suddenly it hit me, I really need to get real, whilst on vacation a few weeks ago I decided to try out the treadmill in the hotel gym, I had no sneakers with me so I went barefooted, gross I know, but I promise I cleaned everything down after I used it.  I actually enjoyed using the treadmill each day and it was surprising how I improved even after only a few days, I followed it with a few laps in the pool and then of course some fun time with my children, I felt so much better in myself.

Which brings me to today… we now own our own personal treadmill, a bargain purchase on Black Friday, I have found a low impact cardio video on Youtube and a quick morning Yoga morning session to add to my morning routine.

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It is time to get real people and kick this middle aged body into shape… I started a loose exercise routine on Saturday and as the week has progressed it has developed and shaped its way into something I can do everyday, I can adapt it if I need to.  I have even purchased scales, something I swore I would never do as I was anorexic in my teens and obsessed with my weight… but now I am armed with a lot of research on health and nutrition I am determined to lose weight the sensible healthy way.

Today after completing 6 continuous days of exercise, 99% gluten free and plant based diet I have lost 7lbs, now I know this may not continue at this rate, but I am very happy to have it as a starting point… so how have I done it?

Every morning, I am definitely a morning exerciser, some people prefer afternoon or evenings, I like to have my routine done before I sit down to breakfast… anyway every morning I start my day with a very quick 5 minute wake up yoga session, stretching out my body, then I set an Interval training 30 minutes session on the treadmill, my usual distance is about 1.4 miles going from a slow walking pace to a slow run, believe me I couldn’t even do this when I first started, after I have recovered from my walk/run, I move onto a 20 minute low impact cardio workout to tone my muscles then finish with a 5 to 10 minute, depending on how bored my children are, mediation to focus for my day.

I have been very careful with my diet this week, I think 90% of my shopping cart this week was fresh organic produce, when my kids look in the refrigerator all they see is fruit and vegetables… and you know what this week nearly everything has been used in my nutritious buddha bowls for dinner every night.  I have been 99% plant based and gluten free, I have felt so much better, no bloating, sorry TMI, more energy and I feel much calmer.  Breakfast usually consists of vegan gf whole grain toast and something like avocado or vegan cream cheese with lots of veggies, like tomatoes, arugula or baby kale.  Lunch has been a butternut squash gf based pizza with organic tomato sauce, no cheese but lots and lots of super healthy veggies and for dinner we have eaten the rainbow, both cooked and raw in our variations of buddha bowls, if you have not tried them take a look at all the different recipes out there or create your own bowls of perfectly balanced nutrition… It is a great way to get your children eating healthier too, let them create their own bowls, F and T would fill theirs with cucumber, avocado, apples and pasta, but hey its healthy so I will be happy.

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Now I am not saying I have been perfect, I have drunk a glass or two of wine each night, I even had two pieces of a Terry’s chocolate orange and I am still having sugar in my coffee, but I have improved at one stage I could have drunk the liquor store empty of wine… well not really but you get the idea, I was also having half a bag of mini Kit Kats a night with Paul and I was drinking 3 sugars, 4 if I had a coffee from Dunkin Donuts… everyone has their vice and mine is a little sugar in my coffee each day, and of course that much needed glass of wine to end my busy hectic days.

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Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes

Vegan or plant based diet?

DSC_4900-EditI recently read a post on Facebook about Steve Jobs, one thing that stuck in my mind was something he said, and something I whole heartedly believe in more and more recently… ‘we need to look at food as our medicine, or one day our food will be our medicine’.

Veganism is some thing that has become hugely trendy recently, but realistically how many of the Vegans out in the world are truly vegan, do they still wear leather shoes, do they still sit on giant leather couches, I think that maybe a few still do, so truthfully I think the real term should be plant based diet, but with that being said a plant based diet is not always healthy, there are many flavored chips out there that claim to be vegan, a quick trip to five guys for fries cooked in peanut oil, is that considered vegan too?  Not in my mind, when I think vegan or plant based diet I think vegetables, healthy grains and legumes… and that is exactly the way we have been eating for quite some time now.

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In the last two weeks I have really cracked down on healthy eating vegan style… I am not going to say I have been totally a plant based diet eater as I have had a tiny amount of fish in some sushi, but I would say that 98% of my diet in 14 days has been healthy plant based gluten free foods, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What have I discovered from plant based eating and gluten free dieting?  Well I am preparing food for a long time each day, vegan recipes can be very complex but extremely tasty, but most of all my body feels so much healthier… I have no bloating, my skin looks healthier, I can feel I have started to lose a little of the weight I have been trying so desperately to offload for quite some time now, not much but I can feel it in myself and my clothes and my mind feels clearer and more focused.

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I have always been a menu planner, so cooking plant based meals has not changed this, the only change is that my cart is filled with much more fresh organic produce and unprocessed foods than ever before.  My shopping list always includes lentils, all varieties of beans, gluten free flours from garbanzo bean flour to tapioca flour, and all the flours in between, lots and lots of fresh veggies and fruits, frozen veggies and fruit and lots of herbs and spices, fresh and frozen… it’s never cheap to eat healthily but it is definitely rewarding.

I challenged my husband to a one week vegetarian diet a few months ago, he not only accepted my challenge, but he knocked it out of the park and became a full time Vegetarian, he doesn’t want to become a fully plant based diet eater as he says he would miss cheese and eggs, and I am good with that, but in all truthfulness because I plan all his meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner including when he is at work, I would say he is 90% a plant based eater… pretty good for someone who has eaten a lot of meat his whole life.

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How does he feel after a few months of his new diet… well he has started to lose weight, slowly but he is down two holes on his belt and shorts he couldn’t wear last year now fit him.  He had health issues, which prompted my challenge, and he says he feels much healthier.  Every day I make him breakfast, lunch and dinner and to be honest he eats it all, he does not like products that pretend to be meat so it can be a challenge for me at times, I’ve made black bean burgers, walnut and mushroom meatballs, and to be fair he has eaten them but they are not his favorite… BBQ’s are my biggest challenge with him, but he recently saw a recipe for beer can cabbage cooked on the grill on Facebook that he fancied, so that is on my list to make when we get back from vacation.

Talking about vacation, what happens when you become a plant based eater and you are out and about, especially on vacation staying in a hotel.   South Carolina is famous for fried chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, lots of seafood and meat dishes… this will be the challenge, to keep on the healthy eating plan, it will be hard but I am setting myself the challenge, let’s see if I can do it.

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So what have I been cooking… the list is long as I like to change it up all the time otherwise I would get bored with cooking day in day out… now remember I live in a house of 10 people most of the time, 12 right now as my parents are visiting, not everyone is vegetarian or plant based, so how do I manage to juggle meals for everyone?  That was my dilemma, but I came up with a solution that seems to be working, although it is a lot of work for the chef, namely me.  I always select a vegan meal then think how can I adapt it, what meat could I add in for the meat eaters, it quite often ends up being two big skillets of food, one with meat and one without.

Here are some of my favorite recipes so far…

Low fat vegan mac n cheese

Crunchy Thai noodle salad

Vegan lentil enchiladas

Indian Frankie’s

Mid week mash and beans

Quinoa and cannellini bean soup

Vegan skillet lasagne

Vegan buffalo cauliflower tacos

Socca

Chickpea scramble

Magic green sauce

Vegan one pot Asian style pasta

Unfortunately I haven’t taken any food photos recently, but I promise going forward I will include photos of our meals.

Vegan cookbooks I recommend…

The new vegan by Aine Carlin

Mindful vegan meals by Maria Koutsogiannis

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A while ago a friend of mine suggested that I create a blog of what we eat… I am hugely into nutrition and I try my hardest to cook a balanced meal plan each week, so that got me thinking, especially as we have just started this healthy plant based diet… I thought maybe I could share our journey with you, I’ll give you ideas for meal planning for your healthy week ahead, shopping lists of foods I like to include in my refrigerator and pantry, also I can let you know what is happening and how we are feeling as the weeks go on with our diet based mainly around plants… I really hope you will all join me on this adventure and come along for the ride… but first let’s see how I handle the hurdle of a vacation in the south staying in a hotel… Happy Summer everyone.

 

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Updated… almost Vegan, but not quite.

I’ve made a lot of vegan meals and experimented with vegan ingredients in old favorite recipes since I’ve been back from vacation… I have to say without a doubt they have all been delicious, using egg substitutes in waffles and baking was easy, and cutting down on oil in cakes using apple sauce has worked well, although I have been doing that for quite a while… I can even say the vegan, soy free provolone cheese is ok as long as it’s melted, but it’s good for that odd craving of something melty over your pasta or in a sandwich.

I plan nutritional breakfasts for Paul to take to work with him every day, this is one of my favorites gluten free, now vegan waffles, of course if you add dairy chocolate it makes it not vegan but as Paul is in no way vegan I treated him to a few chocolate nibbles to go with the unsweetened coconut on top of his waffles. I have made him vegan, dairy and gluten free breakfast every morning for the past two weeks including a vegan omelette and he has not complained once. I try to make my breakfast for the day with enough for two then Paul has it the next day… it’s worked well so far.

I have been almost dairy free for many years now, using nut or plant based milks in everything, but I had never thought to make it myself… until I started researching this Vegan trend, it was a complete surprise just how easy it was, you take your nuts or seeds and soak them for a few hours then you blend them in a blender with water, the amount of water depends on the consistency you require, I was making a cashew nut cream so obviously the liquid was less, but the outcome was delicious and I have used it in all my recipes instead of cream or yogurt. I also made a broccoli cream soup using the same technique, as you cooked your broccoli in broth you had sunflower seeds cooking with it soaking in the broth, once the broccoli was cooked you blended everything together including the sunflower seeds giving a nice creamy soup consistency… just delicious.

Now as any Vegetarian/Vegan knows a plant based diet includes a lot of chopping and prepping and when you have a super large family you need a little helping hand… I was on Facebook one day and this super fast chopping machine was being advertised, well I’m not usually one to watch the shopping channel or get hooked into buying something on screen, but this had me hooked, Paul was trying to tell me he found chopping therapeutic, but I guess when you do it once in a while it could be, but day after day, it really is not so much fun, or indeed therapeutic, so I took the plunge and ordered it… Paul was worried I would slice my finger on the blades and his worries were not unfounded as within the first 24 hours of owning my Veggie Bullet I have sliced my thumb twice, but you learn very quickly from your mistakes. After a shaky start, slicing my thumb, using the wrong lids for slicing and spiralizing, I have finally mastered my veggie bullet and I love it, there is quite a bit to wash up but my plan is to prep my veggies once a week looking at all my recipes… onions sliced thinly in seconds, eggplant sliced in less seconds than it took me to wash it, sweet potatoes spiralized before I could even heat the oil… it’s crazy and I will use it for a weeks worth of chopping preparation each week, with only one wash up required for the whole week.

So far each recipe I have made has been very tasty and nutritious, we have had Vietnamese noodle bowls, roasted veggie bowls, green lentil and spinach curry, roasted tomato soup with roasted rosemary potatoes, creamy broccoli soup, super easy green pasta and tonight we are having black bean taquitos with an enchilada sauce… each meal I make has to be planned with precision, gluten free, dairy free and a meat protein to accompany the dish, as I cannot make everyone give up meat, even though I would secretly love that and my food budget would sigh with relief if I didn’t have to include meat. Even when I made a creamy broccoli pasta no one guessed it did not contain milk or cheese, the roasted tomato soup was full of flavor and the broccoli soup was creamy just by using sunflower seeds, so even the veggie haters in my house have enjoyed the vegan dishes plus a little meat on the side for good measure.

On a final note… I came across this Pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe when baking with my children the other day, I’ve never used arrowroot in my baking before and I wasn’t sure about it, but these gluten free, dairy free, vegan cookies were so delicious not one person guessed quite how healthy they actually were.

Am I going to declare myself a Vegan? Not quite, my love of sushi and a good cheeseboard occasionally are something I just don’t want to give up… but on the whole, day to day it feels good to eat like this, healthy, nutrition that is plant based, it is definitely much easier than I thought to leave out the dairy, including cheese and eggs, the recipes are delicious and flavorful… so almost a Vegan is just good enough for me.

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Do we really need a label for the way choose our diet?

Food and nutrition are a very important part of my life… I was a vegetarian in my teens, but then slipped into eating meat again as I had a family to cook for… in all honesty though I really don’t love meat and it is so easy for me to not eat it at all, being a vegetarian is easy for me but I can’t fully commit as I love fish, I don’t eat a lot but I totally still have it sometimes… I guess if we have to label it, I am a pescatarian, but as I hate labels I’m not going to go there with that one.

We have just returned from a trip back to England to visit family and friends, my husbands family seem to have all become Vegans, well not all of them but two of his siblings and their families… the thing I observed about Vegans is that it really is a trend at the moment, and new Vegans, not saying all new Vegans of course, seem to have to announce to everyone that they are Vegan and talk constantly about being a Vegan, I was wondering why that is, but it also had me intrigued, I have issues with dairy myself, I’ve replaced most dairy products in my diet and have found more comfort in my digestive system, but I do eat cheese occasionally and eggs most days… so being the researcher I am I decided to see if I could replace these things from my diet completely without missing them too much.

What I have found is very interesting… it seems on first glance that most vegan recipes are nutritionally balanced, the seasoning and flavors are enhanced to give delicious flavors and my favorite beans and lentils feature heavily. Eggs are replaced with a garbanzo bean flour batter and tofu scramble, cheese flavor is replaced with nutritional yeast, totally a healthy additive to use in your cooking. Egg replacements, like flax or chia seed egg are used in baking… so I’m set to change the way I cook and bake… no label for me though as this healthy eating Mama still loves her fish occasionally.

My first day back with jet lag still looming I made two vegan soups, one for lunch and one in the evening to go with grilled sandwiches… my lunch soup was delicious, Sweet potato and rice noodle soup with broccoli and white beans success, it was delicious and my husband had no idea it was Vegan, in the afternoon I set the broccoli, 2 cups of vegan broth, 2 cups of water and raw sunflower seeds in my slow cooker, I set it to cook for 3 hours on high, the Easiest cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup recipe really was, I finished the soup by blending the ingredients for 3 minutes in my blender, replacing it into the slow cooker and adding the remaining ingredients to warm through again… it was the best broccoli soup I’ve ever made, minus the cauliflower as I couldn’t get any organic cauliflower from the grocery store. For grilled sandwiches everyone except me had warm chicken and cheese, I decided to try vegan provolone cheese slices with my gluten free bread… after I melted the cheese and toasted the bread I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference with the cheese… again another success and I have leftovers for my lunch today, another win for me.

Today we started our day with waffles, gluten free, dairy free, egg free and Vegan, I took my favorite basic waffle mix and changed it slighly…

Serves 4 people

Each serving 2 waffles 188 calories

1/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup cashew nut milk (use whatever dairy free milk you have in)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of agave

2 teaspoons of GF baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of vegan egg substitute and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together

1 tablespoon of milled flax seed

Blend all ingredients together until your batter is smooth… place 1/4 cup into your heated and oiled waffle make, close the lid and wait… when they are risen and golden serve with whatever you desire… as we just got back from vacation we had very little in our house, so I served ours with almond butter, cinnamon sunflower seeds and coconut toasted flakes… delicious and super nutritious.

I am now totally converted after making a vegan omelette with garbanzo bean flour, the chickpea and onion omelette is now a firm replacement for using eggs, I added nutritional yeast for a little cheese flavor and served it with toasted gluten free bread, a healthy protein packed breakfast all under 200 calories… the options are endless on this one!

It will be an interesting experiment, let’s see if anyone notices a change in the menus… I will still cook a meat protein to go with the meals, but I will be curious to see if anyone notices the very slight change… of course sushi days will still happen for me and I will still eat some gorgeous fish too, but I’m looking forward to eliminating dairy completely just for a while 🤞