The Year Without A Resolution

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I’ve decided to skip the resolution stage of 2017.  It seems to me that this bizarre ritual where we set out unrealistic goals that we inevitably fail to achieve is counterproductive. Instead, I’m just going to keep living my life to its fullest. Yes, I’ll be tweaking my eating habits a bit, refining my exercise routine and doing my best to develop my education and career, but that’s something I need to resolve to do every day, not just one week a year.  I’m in a transitional phase of my life – I don’t have a job right now, instead I’m working on prerequisite courses and applying to MS in Nutrition Grad School programs. My goals aren’t simply a year away – it will be 2-3 years before I can graduate school and restart my career, so the annual resolution format just isn’t working for me.

I realized I can take this one step further and assert that it isn’t working for the majority of people either. It’s the attitude that you can make big, grand goals and achieve them magically in one year that ultimately defeats us. It’s the idea that if you follow the newest trend diet, join a fancy gym, start doing crossfit or find the perfect fitness gear, you’ll suddenly transform into the fit, perfect version of yourself you want to be, that sets us up for failure.

Instead, I propose that we just live each day the best we can – make better food choices each day, make exercise an everyday part of our lives (finding a routine that works for us and brings us joy). This can mean deciding to go to the farmers market regularly or joining a CSA or cooking with your family more often. It can mean taking that hip hop class you’ve been meaning to try or rock climbing for the first time or picking up a running habit, but that’s just it – it’s the forming of habits that’s important here.

The truth about health and fitness is that there is no magic bullet to get you to a fabulous new you before the end of the year, and anyone who tells you there is, is lying. Extreme diets and exercise routines may help you lose weight temporarily, but only true lifestyle changes can help you live a longer, healthier, leaner life. We now know that overweight and obesity is caused by many factors like your diet, your physical activity, your genetics and your microbiome – and these cannot be permanently changed by an extreme diet or exercise routine that is impossible to maintain. So perhaps, this year, we can all resolve to be in it for the long haul – to live healthier, longer, happier lives through everyday changes.

The Top 5 Veggie Lush Ways to Stick to a Fitness Routine

  1. Find an activity you love – This is the easiest way to motivate yourself to get up and go to your workout every day. Do you like to shake your booty? Try a dance class. Do you enjoy being outdoors and getting a little rush from the view from the top? Try rock climbing. If you like precise movements that target core strength and toning, try Pilates. I truly believe there is a workout for everyone. For me, an epiphany came two years ago when I started aerial arts. Since then, not only have I consistently been doing aerial, but I’ve picked up the pace on yoga, ballet and strength training to condition for it.
  2. Don’t let your current level of fitness discourage you – Are you starting from square one? Well, guess what, so are a ton of other people. There is a class or a gym or a personal trainer just waiting to get you started. I’ve seen absolute beginner ballet classes, surf lessons for newbies, jogging clubs for those who have never jogged a day in their lives and the list goes on. Don’t assumed that being new to a sport or activity excludes you from giving it a try.
  3. Don’t take your own excuses – It’s so easy to make a million excuses as to why you can’t possibly work out – I’m too busy, Work is too intense, I’m too out of shape, I don’t like gyms, I don’t like getting sweaty, I don’t mind being overweight, I’d rather spend time with my friends or play video games. Yet, the facts are, you’ll live longer and reduce your risks of dozens of major diseases by exercising. Plus, you’ll increase the quality of your free time by feeling better and getting sick less. 
  4. Set a weekly routine  – Consistency is key when it comes to working out. It may help to set up a variable weekly schedule ahead of time. I use an old fashioned paper date book for this, but you can use an online calendar or app to plan which days you’ll do what activities. Just make sure you vary your routine to continue to challenge your body and keep your interest up.
  5. Celebrate yourself – Take the time to acknowledge every milestone whether big or small. Did you learn to do pull-ups? Give yourself a pat on the back. Did you run a little father, learn a new move or feel your ab muscles for the first time? All worthy of a little happy dance, particularly since these are steps on the way to long-term health and longevity!

Top Veggie Lush Kitchen Staples

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Some meals from the Veggie Lush Pantry

Now you know some of the basics, so how do you start eating healthy every day? Most importantly, you need to set yourself up for success! That means stocking your fridge and pantry with all the foods you need to make healthy and tasty meals. Here are my top 10 fridge and pantry staples to have in your house:

  1. Seasonal Veggies – the #1 most important food to have in your home is the unassuming veggie. Maybe this comes as no surprise, but it’s shocking how often I peek at other people’s carts at the grocery store (don’t judge) and nary a green or red or yellow vegetable is to be seen! Whether you roast them, stir fry them, steam them or throw them in soup or salad, it’s absolutely essential you make veggies a big part of your life if you want to be fit and healthy.
  1. Fruit – Just after veggies comes fruit. They satisfy your sweet tooth, they provide important phytonutrients, they make great snacks, and they help you celebrate the bounty of any season. Be sure you have some seasonal fruit ready to put on your oatmeal, grab as a snack or dip in nut butter.
  1. Beans! See my last post- a mixture of dry and canned beans for convenience is important to have on hand. When you have more time, soak them and make them into tacos, stews, chili, salads and more! Pressed for time? The canned varieties are great in a pinch – I like to rinse them before cooking to get off any can flavor or excess salt. Then, have at it!
  1. Whole Grains – I like to have both quick and long cooking grains on hand. For an easy weeknight meal, quinoa is always great, because it’s high in protein, and it cooks quickly. Need it even faster? Find whole grain couscous, which takes just a couple minutes. When you have a little more time on your hands, heartier whole grains like barley, farro and brown rice make a toothsome accompaniment. I also keep whole grain pasta, whole grain noodles and a loaf of whole grain bread.
  1. Lean Proteins – For me this is one big category that includes tofu, tempeh, seitan, low-fat dairy, fish and lean meats (if you eat them), veggie meats (like gardein or tofurkey, but skip the stuff with a ton of additives), eggs and other sources of protein that aren’t beans.
  1. Polyunsaturated Fats – Despite the hype around coconut oil, it’s still a very high saturated-fat food, and this does raise your LDL (bad cholesterol), so while I keep it around for flavor, my day to day oils are olive oil, canola oil and sunflower oil. There are a variety of others that you can use both hot and cold, and it’s nice to have a few choices on hand. I do also keep some organic butter and/or Earth Balance vegan butter around for recipes that just can’t do without it.
  1. Condiments – A good condiment can liven up any meal. I keep Dijon mustard for salad dressings, sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, citrus (for salad dressings and sauces), Just Mayo, a good salsa (try Papalote), maple syrup, some good hot sauce (one asian and one latino), tahini (sauces and hummus), low-sodium tamari and nut butter (which I use on pretty much everything – just kidding, sorta).
  1. Spices – A good spice rack is important for making flavorful food without using a ton of fat. I try to have spices to make Indian (curry, turmeric, garam masala, coriander), Mexican (chili powder, cumin), American/European (paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, sage, rosemary, thyme), Asian (Chinese 5 spice, ginger), Italian (oregano, basil, chili flakes), Middle Eastern (cardamom, ras al hanout, allspice)  and a variety of other cuisines. I also count shallots, onions, garlic, ginger and jalapenos in this category, as they’re the flavor-starters in most meals in my kitchen.
  1. Healthy Snacks – Hummus or other bean dips, roasted nuts, whole grain crackers, cut up veggies, olives and pickles make nice, low-cal snacks.
  1. Carefully chosen frozen foods – I keep a few frozen veggies around for quick meals when i don’t have enough fresh stuff around and some convenience foods like Sweet Earth frozen burritos and a couple Amy’s meals in case of emergency. This is good if you get home late and need a quick bite.

Lastly, I try to pretty much avoid keeping sweets around, but if a craving comes over me, I do keep unsweetened cocoa powder that I can throw in a banana smoothie, a bit of low-sugar dark chocolate and medjool dates for when I’m craving something decadent.

5 Reasons Beans are the Best

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I once said my motto should be More Beans, Less Sugar.  Now, while I realize this isn’t the most catchy or even appealing of mottos, it is at the core of the Veggie Lush way of eating. In a way, there is no more magical food than the unassuming bean! Here are five reason beans are the best and should be incorporated into your daily routine.

  1. They contribute to longevity. Folks who live in Blue Zones (the areas with the most centenarians in the world) eat largely plant based diets with legumes at the center of it all. Want to live to be 100? Cut down on meat and replace it with veggies and beans!
  1. Beans have a good amount of plant protein, (from 10 to upwards of 30-40 grams per serving in adzukis), great for keeping you full, helping you build muscle and powering your day.
  1. Fiber Fiber Fiber! Most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber in their diets. Beans have a ton of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps ya regular, makes you feel full and can even clear away LDL (bad cholesterol). Worried about the “musical fruit” aspect of beans? If you eat beans on a regular basis, your body will adapt, and you won’t get the toots! People who get gas after eating beans are usually just not used to eating them.
  1. Beans have Calcium, Iron, Potassium and B-6 – these vitamins and minerals are extremely important in your diet and have many major health benefits across your systems.  
  1. They’re cheap! Beans, particularly dried beans bought in bulk, are super inexpensive, so you can go crazy trying new varieties in soups, casseroles, tacos, dips and more!

Sweet Inspiration

Now that you know that your Veggie Lush journey starts with cutting sugar, what the heck are you going to eat instead? You don’t have to go cold turkey, and you don’t have to hate life as watch your co-workers chow down on donuts.  It turns out there are lots of yummy naturally sweet foods that won’t spike blood sugar as much as added sugar and pack in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Fruit for nutrition

  1. Whole Fruit – this is my top recommendation for folks looking for ways to satisfy a sweet tooth crying out for a little fix. If biting into a sweet orange just isn’t cutting it, try something deceptively decadent like a medjool date, maybe dipped in coconut or nut butter. Apples are also very naturally sweet and make great snacks dipped in nut butter. Whole fruits pack in fiber and nutrients missing from table sugar.
  2. Sweet potatoes and tubers – Sweet potatoes are one of those magical foods – not only are they sweet and tasty, but they are jam packed with beneficial nutrients. This infographic is a pretty nifty break down of the fiber (keeps you regular and may help clear away “bad” cholesterol), Vitamin C, A, B6 (helps regulate homocysteine, which may help prevent heart disease) Potassium and Calcium you can get from sweet potatoes. Don’t add sugar to these naturally sweet puppies, just boil or roast and enjoy!
  3. Nut Butters – But nut butters aren’t sweet, why are they on this list? Well, they are basically flavor ninjas, full of healthy fats and protein, and in my own personal book, they’re one of the most effective substitutes for added sugar. I add almond, peanut and other nut butters to smoothies, cereal, oatmeal or granola rather than adding extra sugars. This helps me feel full longer, adds a whole lotta flavor and helps dampen the sugar spikes some of these foods might have.
  4. Butternut SquashSquash & Beets – Why did I group these two together? I don’t have a great reason other than they’re both lightly sweet veggies that pack a ton of nutrients. Butternut Squash has a lightly sweet flavor and a ton of vitamins (Vitamin A, C, Folate, a bunch of B vitamins) and beets are similar, plus they have iron. Try roasting them to caramelize the natural sugars.
  5. Maple Syrup or Honey if you must – Generally sugar is sugar. Recent studies seem to show that there isn’t much difference between less refined sugars and regular table sugar or coconut sugar or the like. Maple and Honey bring vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to the game, but they are still sweeteners. They have less sucrose than pure table sugar ounce per ounce, though, so if you simply must sweeten something, reach for these guys. 

Veggie Lush Step #1: Break Up with Sugar

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Staring Longingly at my Little Mermaid Cake at my 7th Birthday

Like so many life changes, my journey to health and to a new career choice started with a tumultuous relationship. This relationship began when I was very young, naive and ignorant, and I didn’t know, how could I know, what I was giving up to be in it. Of course, I’m talking about my relationship with sugar. From the time I was a small child, and an ice cream cone or a cupcake or something far worse like Fun Dip (yup, a sugar stick dipped in colored sugar) was a reward, a special treat for being an precocious little girl. I drank capri suns by the dozen, sodas like water, lemonade by the gallon.

After many years of weight fluctuation, and replacing the juice boxes with sugary coffee, diet soda and juice I finally saw a nutritionist. Her main recommendation for me was to cut down on sugar. I was shocked. I thought I ate healthfully, and a little sugar in my coffee or in a protein bar or in my cereal wasn’t going to hurt, was it? Still, she convinced me to give it a shot, and guess what? The stubborn 20 lbs of weight I had gained came off in a matter of months. I felt better, stronger and healthier. I even replaced a lot of the flavor I got from sugar with fats and proteins like nut butters, so I felt fuller longer.

So, my point here is, cut the sugar! The more I’ve learned on this journey, the more I’ve realized that the number one most heinous little bugger in your diet is most likely sugar. I particularly recommend that you cut out any sugar you drink – this is processed by your body more quickly, spikes your blood sugar, causes a mass release of insulin and generally effs up your system. We’ll get into the details in another post. Step #1 of your Veggie Lush game plan: no more added sugars.

 

The Veggie Lush Way of Life

I’m transitioning into a career in health & wellness after 10 years in marketing and PR, and this blog is my way of celebrating that. I’ll give you tips on food, fitness, beauty and health, while maintaining that joie de vivre that makes life worth living. In the coming posts, I’ll tell you about my plant-centric, whole foods based, low-sugar philosophy on food, give you my recommendations for staying in shape and having a fabulous time, and I’ll share my thoughts on non-toxic beauty products and other lifestyle tips, tricks and advice for a healthful, long and truly enjoyable life.