Free Your Mind

I’m hosting a 5-day plant based cleanse from Jan 4th-Jan 8th.  (Let me know if you want to participate.) One of the participants asked me if she would be restricted with coffee and caffeine.  This simple question got me thinking.  What if a healthy diet and lifestyle was perceived differently?

Is a healthy lifestyle a sacrifice or a desired journey?                                                     Is a healthy lifestyle restrictive or liberating?                                                                    Does a cleaner diet mean missing out on delicious foods or is it about discovering all the great foods that taste good and will make you feel amazing?

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Think about it.  It’s hard for me to fully describe the benefits.  It’s difficult to explain to people that I really don’t feel deprived.  If I did, I would not have stuck with this for so many years.  I feel fortunate that I honesty enjoy my lifestyle.  It’s not forced.  It’s certainly not something someone else is convincing me to do.  The hardest thing for people to believe is that I don’t miss junk food, meat and dairy!  I actually enjoy salads, veggies, brown rice and fruit.  To me that’s freedom from the addictive grip of foods that are harmful.  It’s freedom from worrying about being the ‘odd ball’ that doesn’t eat chatty everyone else is having.  It’s freedom from being stuck in a routine that doesn’t serve me and continuing to consume toxins.  Changing your mind is the first step.

It’s really something you have to experience for yourself.  I can tell you all about my experiences and some general benefits such as having more energy, feeling lighter and less bloated and being in a better mood.  Everyone’s experience will be different and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.  Thinking of it in a positive light is very powerful.

What if you could find satisfaction in a wholesome unprocessed diet made up of mainly plant based foods?  We all know about the long-term health benefits.  The major obstacle is our attachment to the instant gratification of the foods we have come to love, foods that are pumped with artificial flavor enhancers, sugar, oil, salt and oil.

I’ll end with this.  I recently watched a story on CNN where a former heroin addict who was also a gymnast was discussing how he relapsed after 1 1/2 years of being clean.  It happened after a shoulder surgery when he was given a strong painkiller that made him feel as good as heroin did and he became re-addicted.  This happened a few more times ( as he had more surgeries for injuries) and he decided that whenever he had surgery he would have to resort to other methods of numbing the pain and break free from the euphoric feeling of prescription pain meds and heroin.  He found his freedom.

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Guilt-free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This recipe has been modified from an earlier post.  These cookies are nut-free and oil free and are sweetened with dates, figs and raisins (optional).   I have given some as as Christmas cookies and they are a huge hit!  I promise these will satisfy your sweet tooth without the lethargic and heavy after effects.  The ones in the photo do not have raisins.

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Oatmeal Date Cookies

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

5 figs

8-10 medjool dates

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

sea salt to taste

Soak dates and figs in 2/3 cup water for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper.

Grind 1 cup of the  rolled oats in a food processor or coffee grinder then mix in with remaining rolled oats, salt, cinnamon and flax seeds and raisins.  You an also grind all the oats.

Puree dates and figs in a food processor with 1/4 cup water and then add vanilla.

Mix dry and wet ingredients.  Add some of remaining soaking water if needed.

Use a small ice cream scoop to transfer cookies to baking sheet or use your hands to form into balls.   (Wet hands to forms balls so the batter does not stick to your fingers.)  Press each ball gently to flatten to about 1/2 inch height.  (Makes 24-26 small cookies or 12-16 large ones)

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Five ways to keep your digestion working during the holidays

digestionA healthy digestion is at the core of a healthy and disease-free body.  At the very least, when your digestion is functioning well you will avoid the uncomfortable and some times embarrassing feelings of gas and bloating. This is not one of my posts where I recommend eating perfectly during the holidays or making vegan versions of traditional foods.  We can work on that later.  Further more one can still have poor digestion when communing a plant based diet.  These tips are for everyone.

At a time when we eat more than we typically do and are surrounded by rich high-calorie foods, I thought it would be helpful to share some simple tips for achieve a healthy digestion.

  1. Do not stuff yourself stuff yourselfor eat like Cookie Monster.  Obvious right?  But it’s easier said that done.  Slow down and chew your food.  This simple practice provides a two-fold benefit.  Digestion begins before you even take the first bite.  When your mind knows you you are about to eat because you see or smell food, the digestive juices in your saliva are activated.  When you thoroughly chew your food, the enzymes in your saliva break it down properly and make it easier on your gut.  By eating more slowly you will know when you are full sooner instead of being ‘stuffed all of a sudden.’  You may think that temporarily fasting in anticipation of a large meal will result in consuming less overall calories.  When you arrive at a feast in a  famished state  you are much more likely to over indulge.  At this point your survival instincts kick in and that urge to eat hastily is very hard to control.  The mind is a powerful thing.
  2. Do not eat too many different types of food at the same time. too much food Certain food combinations cause bloating, poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients. For example, carbohydrates and protein do not digest well together.  It’s best to eat starch with veggies or protein with veggies.  You may think having fruit for dessert is healthy.  DON’T DO IT.  Fruits digest faster than any other foods (in about 15-30 minutes.)  When they are eaten too soon after other foods their digestion is hindered and they ferment in the stomach.  This will lead to gas, bloating and cramping.  They are fine eaten with raw veggies such as in a salad or smoothie.  Fruits are best eaten on an empty stomach or as a snack in the morning or in between larger meals.
  3. Do not drink large amounts of liquid with meals too much waterincluding water.  When a lot of liquid is consumed with emails the body’s digestive juices become diluted.  Even if your beverage of choice is water, drink it 20-30 minutes before a meal and 30 minutes of more after.  Drinking water in between meals also lends to making you feel fuller which can lead to eating less.  Consume no more than 4-6 ounces with food.
  4. Take a digestive enzyme.   I take a chewable one when I eat cooked foods since naturally -occurring enzymes in food are denatured at high temperatures.  If you do all the above tips perfectly and you eat a whole foods plant based diet you may not need an enzyme.  Everyone’s different.  Chances are you consume some amount of processed food that makes digestion more difficult.  The enzymes will also help the body handle this better.  Raw foods ( which also includes foods not heated above 118 degrees) still contain their natural enzymes.
  5. Continue to exercise.  
    young african american woman eating apple
    young african american woman eating apple after exercise

    We get very busy over the holidays and if you are entertaining family or traveling it’s even harder to maintain  a steady routine.  Exercise improves digestion and elimination.  Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the muscles of the abdomen and stimulates the intestinal muscles to move contents through the digestive system.  There are quite a few yoga postures that aid in relieving, bloating, gas and intestinal discomfort.  I have family visiting with me for the holidays and they know to bring workout clothes as doing spin and yoga with me will be on the itinerary.

With some mindfulness and simple planning, anyone can execute these tips for improving digestion and overall health.  You can also carry them over into the New Year. digestion

The healthiest(and delicious) chocolate chip cookies

Just in time for the holidays, here is a super easy and super healthy cookie recipe.  Do you ever feel that around the holidays you have to give up being healthy for a month in order to enjoy yourself or at the very least be sociable and not scolded, ridiculed or bothered by your loved ones who just do n;t get it?  I firmly believe you can have tasty food without derailing your journey of health and happiness.  These cookies are oil free and are sweetened with dates and figs!  They contain vegan chocolate chips which contain sugar and have some fat.  Apart from that the only other fat is 3 g from the flaxseed (for the entire batch.)meal  I promise even your non-health focused family and friends will gobble these up.  I tested these on my husband who has ‘regular’ taste buds.  In bis words: “They have a soft and pleasantly thick texture without that heavy feeling in your stomach afterwards.” In other words, THEY DON’T TASTE LIKE CARDBOARD AND SAND PAPER. They are way healthier than a traditional chocolate chip cookie but the gluten free all-purpose flour and the chocolate chips are processed foods so I don’t make them all the time.

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1 1/2 cups of gluten free flour ( I used a combo of Trader Joe’s all purpose and brown rice flour.)

3/4 cups vegan chocolate chips

1 tbsp flaxseed meal

2 tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

1 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp sea salt

10-12 medjool dates (depending on how large they are)

5 Turkish figs

2 tsbp vanilla extract

water as needed

  1. Pre-soak dates and figs in 2/3 cup of water for 30-60 minutes and remove pits and tips.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Combine dry ingredients and chocolate chips
  4. Blend softened dates and figs  with 1/4 cup of the soaking water in food processor and then add vanilla.
  5. Add to the dry ingredients and gradually add water as needed to get all dry ingredients moist.  Depending on the type of flour used you will need to add anywhere from 1/2-1 cup water.
  6. Use a spoon to scoop batter onto baking sheets.
  7. With wet hans press batter down gently to shape.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  9. Makes about 36 2 1/2 inch cookies.

They have about 60 calories each.  They are best eaten on the same day.  If they will sit longer than 2 days, freeze the extras.  They are low fat, contain no added sugar, vegan, gluten free and free of common allergens like nuts and soy.