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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

This has pretty much been me for the past week:

Only I wish I looked this good while sick.  I got some cold/flu/upper respiratory bug that pretty much knocked me on my behind for a good solid 6 days or so.  I’m still not feeling 100%.  I was really bummed too because I had some delicious food in my fridge to prepare but I just didn’t have the energy.

I do have some exciting news though!  I’m going on a little vacation to Colorado in about a week.  I’m going to be going with my Dad, Stepmom, and Grandma, to visit my Uncle and his family who live there.  I’m excited for several reasons: 1)  I haven’t been on an actual vacation since I went to visit Andrea last summer, 2)  I haven’t been to Colorado since…..2002? and 3)  I’m interested to see how difficult it will be finding healthy vegan food while traveling with my very non-vegan family.  I’ve been making preparations – I’ve already come up with some things I’ll be taking and some backup ideas, and I plan to document my experience for this very blog.  For the next few days, though, I’ll probably just be laying on my couch popping Vitamins B, C, and D and eating more of this stuff:

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In my quest to make the ultimate green monster nutritional smoothie, I have come up with the following deliciousness. This smoothie is amazing and really tides me over most of the morning at work. It’s basically my breakfast, but occasionally I’ll have it for my snack. And I know Brendan Brazier is a big advocate of smoothies. He advocates that we drink good sound nutrition to help with digestion so our body doesn’t have to work as hard to convert our food to energy, so bonus. Here’s what I have so far. Please feel free to suggest changes.

2 handfuls of spinach
6 to 7 frozen cherries
3/4 banana (I always end up eating 1/4 of it, don’t ask)
2 teaspoons organic chia seeds
2 teaspoons organic ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons L-Glutamine (love this stuff and really helps with my Crossfit training)
1 tablespoon dark chocolate peanut butter (nectar of the gods, I swear)
2 tablespoons rice protein powder
1 scoop Amazing Grass chocolate green superfood (love love love)

Here it is. Taken with my cell phone at work, so not the best quality. Yummy in my tummy.

What do you put in your smoothies?

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I filmed this video last night, which is why I say it’s the beginning of Week Three.  I tried to keep it short but failed, sorry!

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Week One is almost over!  Here is an update on this week’s experience so far.  I’ll be back later with some vegan product reviews.

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My favorite thing about Fridays?  A plain bagel with peanut butter!

There is a story behind Bagel F’in* Friday (*hey, my parents read this blog). 

Before I lost weight, I used to get a bagel from our cafe here at work almost every day (the bagels come from Breuggers).  My favorite combinations were: asiago cheese bagel with plain cream cheese, sesame seed bagel with veggie cream cheese, or plain bagel with peanut butter and jelly (or banana slices).  When I started trying to lose weight, I cut out the bagels for the most part, only having one once or twice a week.  Then I got to a point where I started to think I could never eat a bagel again if I really wanted to be healthy.  Those bagels + cream cheese were around 500 calories and rarely kept me going until lunch time.  They were also costing me about $10/week!  So I had a long bagel-less stretch there for a while.  It was a dark time.  When I became vegan, in my research I discovered that Breuggers actually has several bagels that are vegan (Baked Apple, Cinnamon Raisin, Cinnamon Sugar, Cranberry Orange, Everything, Garlic, Jalapeno, Onion, Plain, Poppy, Pumpernickel, Pumpkin, Rosemary Olive Oil, Salt, and Sesame!)  Most commercial bagels have non-vegan preservatives, Panera’s bagels have L-cysteine, etc.  And honestly, I missed my bagels!  I decided I would have a bagel 1 day per week – it seemed like a good compromise (for my waistline and my wallet) and Friday just happened to be the day I usually got one, therefore Friday became Bagel F’in Friday.  I bring my own peanut butter and sometimes jam or a banana, other times I save my fruit for a snack before lunch.  During breaks our cafe is closed, and I don’t always have a bagel every week or necessarily on Friday, but it’s still a fun way to think of an occasional treat.  You don’t have to give up foods you enjoy to be healthy!

On to yoga.  The last term of yoga classes just finished up and a new one started this week.  I took one class per week last term, on Wednesdays, and this time I signed up for two.  I’m going now on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I also hope to hit up Free Yoga at Gray’s Lake as many times as I can this summer.  My favorite pose is still Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana):

but I’m also getting a lot better at balances, like Tree Pose (Vrksasana):

and twists like Marichi’s Pose:

In other health-related news, I woke up this morning feeling a little stuffy.  I don’t know if it is a cold or allergies.  I often credit veganism with keeping me illness-free for over a year.  Except for one or two bouts with seasonal allergies,  I haven’t been sick since the end of December 2008, which was also the last time I took a sick day from work!  I’m off to visit my family this weekend so let’s just hope it was a fluke.

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I had some firm tofu to use up, so I made this delicious Broccoli and Black Olive Frittata last week.

The recipe is from Vegan With a Vengeance and I followed it almost exactly so I don’t feel comfortable re-posting it here on the blog.  Fortunately, if you don’t own this book, the recipe is available via GoogleBooks, here.  The recipe is on pages 14-15.  I left out the thyme because I don’t care for it and used some oregano instead.  The topping is Daiya shredded vegan cheese – this is a fairly new product and I just recently tried it.  It’s probably the closest to real cheese I’ve tried yet and it even melts!  I’ve tried the cheddar and mozzarella flavors and I enjoyed them both.

Another new (to me) thing I recently tried is Kombucha.  Kombucha is a fermented drink that contains active cultures, probiotics, and healthy “balancing” enzymes.  It is naturally fizzy from the fermentation and a lot of people think it tastes like vinegar.  As someone who loves vinegar, I didn’t expect this to bother me.  This is the kombucha I tried for my first taste:

Most people say they don’t like it at first and then the flavor grows on them. My experience was kind of the opposite: I thought it tasted pretty good at first, kind of like a fizzy yogurt soda. As I drank more, it started tasting more fermented (it can even have a small alcohol content from the fermentation process!) and I could only drink about 1/4 of the bottle at once. It took me about three days to drink the whole thing, but it didn’t lose any of its fizz and tasted the same. It’s not cheap – this bottle was $3.49 at my co-op – but I can see myself trying some of the different flavors once in a while.

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Some of you (or one or two of you?) may be wondering why I don’t really post about exercise on this blog…

To be honest, since I started the blog, I haven’t been exercising much!  I know it was one of my Resolution things, but I do have a legitimate excuse.  Since about the middle of January, I have been having pain in the ball of my right foot.  Right under the joint of the big toe (though it seems like it started out being in the second and possibly third toe joints as well.)  The pain was usually manageable with shoes on, and only really bothered me during and after high-impact activities like running, spinning, ellipticizing, etc. and in the evenings when I walk around barefoot on my hardwood floors at home.  I let it go for a few weeks, kind of taking it easy once in a while but then getting restless and getting back into the gym, which would just aggravate the problem more.  Finally I made an appointment with my GP, who ordered xrays (which turned out to be normal) and gave me a referral to a podiatrist.  Well I had my podiatrist appointment yesterday, and his diagnosis is capsulitis of the big toe.

What is capsulitis?  Basically it is an inflammation in the joint – it can occur anywhere in the body.  In the toe, it is also sometimes called “Turf Toe” which is what they call it when serious athletes like football players get it.  His treatment plan?  Basically I’m supposed to wear hideously ugly shoes so that I can use orthotics.  He also said I need to really keep on top of the callouses I get on the outsides of my feet (where I tend to walk).  Do you think flex benefits pays for weekly pedicures??  He prescribed a heavy duty anti-inflammatory and said that I can try ice or heat, if either of them seem to help.  He said I do not have an underlying deformity, so hopefully the inflammation will go down and the problem will subsist.

Anyway, I’m willing to compromise on the shoes – I will wear the inserts with my athletic and tennis shoes, but I’m not wearing clunky Old Lady shoes to work and stuff.  Also, I am willing to do these things until the pain stops, at which point I fully intend to try barefoot running.  What can I say – I just finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, and am currently reading What is the What by Dave Eggars.  Though the books have little in common, they both contain a lot of running.  If you are skeptical about barefoot running I highly recommend Born To Run.  Think about it – humans evolved to run and walk without shoes!  It’s very interesting stuff to me.  I’ve always known I have a problematic gait for running, like I mentioned before I tend to walk (and run) on the outsides of my feet – which has caused me to develop exostoses on the tops of both of my feet (bone spurs basically) – and I severely underpronate.  I also have a very high hip-to-waist ratio which some contend puts extra strain on the knees.  Maybe I really just wasn’t born to run.  But I also am curious whether the modifications in stride, gait, and shock absorption that barefoot running offers would help.  I don’t plan to go totally barefoot.  I’m way too paranoid about stepping on gross or pointy things to try that.  I’ll probably try some of the barefoot shoes, or Nike Frees.  Do you think people will look at me funny if I run barefoot on the treadmill at the gym?

I’m still trying to come up with some things I can do in the meantime.  Yoga is fine, and I’ve been doing that, and when it’s nice I will definitely walk my dog often.  Even if the painkillers help, I’m afraid of risking further injury (some of the material I read said that if capsulitis goes untreated, the joint capsule can rupture!)  I’ve considered swimming, but it’s inconvenient because the location of my gym that has a pool is pretty far from my house and work.  I may give it a try this weekend when I’ll have extra time – I’ll let you know how it goes!

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If you’ve been following the news about the Health Care Bill, you’ve probably already heard about this.  Tucked away inside the bill is a regulation (added by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin!) forcing food service establishments with more than 20 locations to post calorie count information on the menu and/or menu board, and on drive-thru menus.  It also adds this requirement for vending machines.

Many restaurants already have nutrition information available – if you know where to look.  But this will make the information more obvious, and I definitely think that’s a good thing.  Some of the massive calorie counts of restaurant foods are obvious.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t realize that a Double Whopper with Cheese and a Supersized order of fries packs a massive caloric (and fat, and sodium) punch, but how many people realize that a Chicken Ceasar Salad could have 1500 calories?  I also think the calorie counts will help people make better conscious choices.  If you see on a menu that Ranch dressing is 200 calories, and a vinaigrette dressing is 100 calories, that’s a small change that can make a big difference in the long run.

As I mentioned before in this post, I always take restaurant calorie counts with a grain of salt for a couple of reasons.  First, portion sizes are notoriously inconsistent, even with “standardized” things like food service scoops.  Secondly, a while ago I read this post, written by a woman (her blog is riotously funny and candid, and you should read it) who discovered a gross inaccuracy in the posted calorie count of a Starbucks pastry.  If you’ve read Fast Food Nation (if you haven’t, you should), you will surely remember the portion of the book where Schlosser sends various samples of fast food items away for lab testing and the resulting nutritional content comes out differently than their declared values.  So my advice is this:  Once those calorie counts start appearing on menus, use them as a rough guideline and as a tool to help you make better choices.

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Ode to Oatmeal

The other day I was talking to my dad on the phone and he told me he had been eating oatmeal for breakfast lately.  I was excited because I love oatmeal and I hate that it gets such a bad rap!  I have a theory that most people who think they hate oatmeal actually hate instant oatmeal.  That stuff’s nasty, but there are other (better) kinds!

Oats have been around for centuries.  They were a staple in Scotland because of the short, wet growing season which suits the grain.  Today you can buy oats in many forms:  Scottish (or Irish, or Steel-cut) oats, rolled oats (come in varying thicknesses depending on machine settings), quick-cooking oats, instant oats, and even oat flour, whole groats, and oat sprouts.

Scottish oats are made by removing the outer husk of the whole oat grain (groat), then toasting it and cutting it into two or three smaller pieces.  They have a longer cooking time, but are less processed than rolled oats and some people prefer the texture over rolled oats.  Rolled oats are just whole groats that have been steamed and flattened by a roller.  By cutting the groat into smaller pieces, then rolling, the cooking time can be reduced (such as with quick-cooking oats).  Instant oats are cut even smaller yet, and are often packaged with added sugar and other ingredients.  I recommend staying away from instant!  Most people who say they hate oatmeal are thinking of this type!

Oatmeal is a healthy whole grain food and is considered by The Mayo Clinic to be one of the Top 5 foods for lowering cholesterol.

Health benefits of whole grain oats:

  • Contain 7 B Vitamins
  • Contain Vitamin E
  • Contain 9 minerals including iron and calcium
  • Contain soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol
  • all that fiber also helps fill you up!
  • Contain healthy unsaturated fats
  • Contain Gamma Linolenic Acid, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and potential to supress tumor growth and metastasis [research into these claims is ongoing].

Other benefits:

  • Cheap!
  • Versatile!
  • Delicious!

You can use oats to make oatmeal, or you can use them in recipes ranging from smoothies to savory pilafs to muffins and pancakes.  I like to make my oatmeal with old fashioned rolled oats, using about half water and half soymilk, with a splash of vanilla and cinnamon.  I usually add fruit like banana, apple, or pumpkin, and sometimes nuts or granola or a little crunch.

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