Friday, May 31, 2013

Healthy Kitchen Makeover

Time to make over your kitchen...Uh-Oh, here come's the plant based food police! 

Is it really hard to make your food plant strong and junk free? Nope! It really isn't and it also isn't hard to go plant based. I know that people think it would be SO hard, but in today's era, there are TONS of great whole food plant based recipes that you really won't miss the animal products, fat and sugar. 

So why do I think everyone should be eating a low fat, plant based diet? 

A low-fat whole foods plant based diet can help prevent and reverse many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disease, etc. It keeps your body healthy and you feel better. You'll lose weight. Your taste buds will change, I guarantee it. But you do have to make a commitment to do it. Don't you owe it to yourself and those who love you to be the healthiest you can be? I sure think so. 

Why is fat an issue? Specifically the bad kinds of fat which are animal based fats? 

Taken from Physician's Committe for Responsible Medicine

Consider that immediately after eating fatty foods…
  • Your triglyceride levels rise
  • Your cholesterol levels rise, contributing to plaque formation
  • Clotting factors in your blood are activated
Two hours later….
  • Your triglycerides have increased by 60 percent
  • Your blood flow has decreased by half
Three hours later…
  • The lining of your arteries has lost elasticity impeding blood flow
  • Blood vessel function has become abnormal
Four and five hours later…
  • Your blood has gotten thicker, flowing even slower than it was two hours ago
  • Your triglyceride levels have now increased by 150 percent
What is the biggest source of fat? Animal products (meat, eggs, cheese, milk, etc.)

So I'm going to list things that I am pretty sure you have in your possession and then will suggest a healthy plant based alternative, if there is one or suggestion for something that works better and is much healthier. 

Let's start with the refrigerator. 

  • Got margarine? 
    • Get rid of it. It's 100% pure fat, even if it's vegan, it's not good for you. It's not good for the environment either since most of it uses palm oil, but I'll leave that story for another post! For example, one little TBS of Earth Balance margarine (which is one of the few vegan margarine brands) is pure fat, yep 80 calories and those 80 calories come entirely from fat. So why would you want to use it? Well, if you think about it you really shouldn't! 
    • Alternative to margarine? Depends on what you want to use it for, is it for toast or a bagel? Try a good nut butter, just make sure that the ingredients are nuts and nothing else. Don't buy the oil laden, sugar riddled types. 
    • Is it for baking? Go low fat and use unsweetened applesauce, pureed ripe banana, pureed pumpkin, plain non-dairy yogurt, silken soft tofu. 
  • Got butter? 
    • Yeah, throw out that 100% fat, you don't need it! 
    • For baking see above. 
    • For bread? Make different types of hummus. 
  • Got yogurt? 
    • Have you taken a look at the fat content and the sugar content? Most flavored yogurts are full of added sugar, added sugar that you really don't need. Even vegan yogurts made from soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk are full of sugar if they are flavored. 
    • Plain plant based yogurt (soy or almond) are a good replacement. Add your own fruit instead of buying the flavored one's which add not only fruit but added sugar. 
  • Got milk? 
    • Seriously, it's time to get off milk. Milk is for calves, not humans. I know your mom made you drink it because you'd grow strong bones, but that's really not the case.  It's not good for you, but marketing and dairy subsidies have led all of the US (and other countries) to think that milk does a body good. Sorry, but it doesn't. Even 2% milk is full of saturated fat. Non-fat milk really isn't any better. Yeah, it's almost fat free, but it still has a bunch of inflammatory animal protein in it, not to mention all the gross stuff that it contains. I won't go into major details here, but if you really want to know, watch the "got the facts on milk?" documentary. What can dairy consumption cause? Ear infections, heartburn, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, acne, hives, asthma gall bladder issues, body aches, colic, “seasonal allergies,” rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and more.
    • There are so many plant based choices now, you can try a new one every day for 2 weeks and decide which you like best. Choices abound in plant milks: almond, soy, hemp, hazelnut, coconut, flaxseed, rice, hazelnut and lots of blends of these exist. Always choose the unsweetened kind since you don't need all that extra sugar. It's also easy to make your own. Check out my past post about making homemade almond milk
  • Got meat? 
    • Time to ditch meat. I know, I know, you only eat chicken and turkey and fish. Well, I hate to tell you but no matter what meat you eat, they all contain about the same amount of cholesterol no matter what meat it is. And some fish is more fatty than red meat. But it's good fat, right? Yeah, not really! I'm not going to get into the cruelty issues or the fact that factory farming is worse on then environment than anything else, or that our oceans will be depleted of many species of fish in a very short time frame; this post isn't about that and I'll address that later. 
    • Oh my god, where will you get your protein? PLANTS, Beans, legumes, seitan, tofu, tempeh, etc. etc. etc. No one has a protein deficiency in the US unless they are starving to death. It simply doesn't happen to people eating plant based diets so just get that out of your head as a reason to keep meat on your plate. Seriously, there are ultra marathoners, triathletes and professional athletes who are plant based...nuf said! You are NOT going to become protein deficient, in fact you are probably getting way too much protein than you need if you are eating meat and ingesting dairy products. 
  • Got sliced deli meats/hot dogs/sausages/bacon? 
    • Honestly, even worse than meat. All the crap they add to this stuff makes it even worse than regular meat. Multiple studies have shown that people who eat processed meats have a much higher risk of heart disease, cancer, etc. Why eat something that can make you sick? Time to ditch the processed junk! 
    • There are alternatives and while they are plant based, some of them aren't the greatest. You can make your own seitan based sausages and hot dogs, sliced seitan roasts and seitan or coconut bacon. Yep, it's not that hard and they are really good! 
  • Got soda and diet soda? 
    • Regular soda is empty calories, a can of coke has 39gm of sugar in it. That's almost 10 teaspoons of sugar. Do you really want all that sugar? I think not. Is diet soda the answer then? We used to think so, but it's not. Fake sweeteners made from chemicals are horrible for you. And don't even get me started on how acidic soda is. You know it is when you can use coke or pepsi to get oil off your driveway. Seriously, pour some on, use a stiff wire brush and watch the oil stain go away! Think about what that is doing to your body when you drink it. Yikes. 
    • Water - yep way better for you than soda. You find it boring, well try putting a pitcher of filtered water in the fridge and let a few lemon wedges, cucumber slices or berries float in it to flavor it. It's very refreshing and so hydrating. Fresh vegetable juice, if you have a juicer or blender (and can strain it). Just don't add tons of fruit since juicing removes the fiber and without it that fruit sugar rush will put your body into a sugar frenzy. 
  • Got eggs? 
    • During my lifetime, eggs have been bad for you, then good for you and goes on and on. Are they good for you? Nope. Sorry, I know you want to believe the marketing and the claims that they are the perfect protein, but they aren't. As soon as you eat one egg, you expose your body to several hours worth of oxidative stress, inflammation of the arteries, endothelium impairment, and increased susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidize - none of this is good for your body! Want some more information on eggs, here you go.
    • For breakfast you can do a tofu scramble. I'm not a huge tofu lover, but tofu scrambles with sauteed onions, black beans, salsa really rock. You can also add a tiny bit of kala namak (black himalayan salt), it's a sulfur containing salt and adding just a tiny amount can give that tofu an "eggy" taste since eggs have that sulfur taste to them. Amazing how it really does give it an egg like taste. 
    • For a baking substitute, they are all over the web. Ground flax seed and water, chia seeds and water, etc. 
  • Got Cheese? 
    • I'm going to say that almost 100% of you do. The greatest source of saturated fat in the American diet is from cheese, not meat, but cheese. It's slathered on pizza, sandwiches, pasta, vegetables, etc. It's like crack! And it's always the one thing that everyone says they can never give up. It might be the morphine baby! Fat, fat and more fat. Cheese is SO fatty. And yep, that's why you like it, well that and the morphine! Even vegan cheese is not good because usually the second or third ingredient is oil and a bunch of stuff you probably can't pronounce!
    • Nutritional yeast is the secret to cheesy taste for a plant based life sytle. You'll find it in the bulk item aisle in the grocery store. Or you can find it in a shaker bottle. Red Star is one brand. It's a good source of B12 and helps add that cheesy flavor to food. I buy it in bulk and shake it on lots of things. It's great on air popped popcorn, sprinkled on salads or used for a nacho cheezy sauce. It is NOT brewer's yeast so don't get that by mistake. And NO it won't give you a yeast infection! 
    • Stay away from most of the processed plant based cheeses in the store. Most are full of oil and fat. Also many of them still contain casein or whey which are milk proteins. Some of the newer cheese are nut based and while they are higher in fat, if you have a real need for them, it's much better to use one of those on occasion versus a fatty oil filled version. 
  • Got Sour Cream/cream cheese? Or vegan sour cream/cream cheese? 
    • Fat, oil and yuck! Both are full of fat, either from milk/cream or oils. And really, most vegan sour cream uses partially hydrogenated oils. We all know trans fats are bad so why would you use them? Don't! 
    • You can make a really tasty plant based sour cream from soaked raw cashews. For cream cheese, I tend to use a nut butter if I'm having a whole grain bagel or hummus if using it as a spread. 
  • Got Mayo or Miracle Whip? 
    • I'm not even really sure what miracle whip is, I mean is it mayo or? Hmm...anyway, ditch it and ditch the egg filled mayo. It's fatty and full of chemicals. There are commercial vegan versions, but they too are full of oil and other junk your body doesn't need. 
    • Hummus to the rescue. On a sandwich, hummus works overtime to replace mayo and makes it so much tastier! 
    • Looking for a different type of mayo substitute? Try making a homemade tofu based or cashew based homemade mayo. Recipes abound on the internet. 
Let's check out the it's cold in here! 

  • Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. 
    • I mean really, who doesn't love ice cream? Dairy or vegan, we all love our ice cream. It's a decadent treat. It's so creamy and it melts in our mouth. Yum. However, it's loaded with fat and sugar. If it's dairy based ice cream it's frozen milk with added fat and sugar. So you know where I stand on that one. Vegan ice cream, so many delicious types, almond milk based, coconut milk based, hemp milk based, soy based, etc. Yep, yummy...but full of sugar and some are really fatty. I understand you want a treat now and again, but honestly, can you contain yourself to just one little serving? A serving that is actually what they put on the packaging? I mean a little pint is 4 servings! Yep, and when was that last time anyone got 4 servings out of that little pint? More like 2-3 if you ask me. So up goes the calories, fat and sugar content in the amount you eat. A treat is nice, but only if you have the willpower to withstand it calling your name from the freezer. My general rule is...just don't buy it! 
    • So what do I do for a cool tasty treat? Banana ice cream. Freeze chunks of banana for a few hours, and then blend them up in the blender with a little vanilla extract or add some unsweetened raw cacao. You don't need to add extra sugar because the bananas are sweet! Yummy and good! And no worries about a bunch of fat and added sugar. 
  • Got frozen dinners or a big ole tin of Stouffer's meat lasagna? 
    • Ditch it! Have you read the label? Usually full of sodium and fat and a whole bunch of ingredients you have never heard of.
    • Instead of buying a lasagna that's been frozen for who knows how long since it was made, why don't you make a plant based lasagna and freeze part of it. So much better for you and I can guarantee it is much tastier! You can do the same with plant based enchiladas, soups, etc. And it's gonna save you money in the long run. 

Time to check out the pantry! Let's get started. 
  • Got oil and canned oil sprays? 
    • Really, you don't need it. Oil is 100% pure fat. Ounce for ounce it is 100% fat. And it's very inflammatory to your arteries. Even if you don't have heart disease, it's time to give oil the boot. It may seem hard, it may seem weird, but it's actually not that hard to do. I cook without oil. 
    • Have you ever looked at the side of PAM or any other canned oil that you use to spray your pans with. Did you know that any manufacturer of ANY food product can call their product fat free if it has less than 1/2 gram of fat per serving? Now go look at the serving size on that can. Does it say something like 0 calories, 0 fat, 0 everything? How can that be? Well, take a look at the serving size, it's probably says "about 1/3rd of a second" and how many servings are in that can? I'm guessing it's over 350 servings. Do you EVER just do 1/3rd of a second spray? I know I never did. I did a long spray to coat the pan and I know I never got a couple hundred uses out of the can. Tricky, aren't they? It's crap if you ask me! Stay away from them, they aren't good. 
    • I can saute onions, garlic, etc. with out using oil. If I need a little liquid I use veg broth or water, but a lot of times even that isn't necessary because many veggies release water as you saute them. Everyone thinks you'll never have a good salad again if you don't use oil...alas that is simply not true. There are many amazingly tasty salad dressings that you can whip up with just a few ingredients and NO oil. 
    • As a thickener for salad dressing? You have lots of choices: you can use ground flax seeds added to water and let it become gelatinous or the same thing with chia seeds. You can use avocado to give you that rich thickness or you can use ground nuts, mustard, etc. There are lots of alternatives. 
  • Got cereal and instant oatmeal? 
    • Well, there are some that are okay, but most breakfast cereals and instant flavored oatmeal are loaded with sugar and most cereals are made from processed grains. Remember if it has 20 grams of sugar per serving, that's about 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving. And serving sizes are NOT generous so you are probably getting more than that! Grains are good for you, but they need to be WHOLE grains. If it doesn't say "whole" you shouldn't eat it. It's so overly processed, you won't get anything good out of it. 
    • Make your own cereal, I personally love Rip's Big Bowl from Engine 2. Love adding blueberries, raspberries, bananas to it. Other great options are oatmeal (better if you are doing it from rolled oats or steel cut oats, but instant in a pinch is fine as long as it isn't the flavored one's full of sugar. Throw in ground flaxseed or chia seeds and thawed or fresh berries. Yummy! 
  • Got Potato Chips, Tortilla Chips? 
    • Yeah, doesn't everyone. Now c'mon you don't really need me to tell you they aren't good for you right? Do I need to, don't make me. Fried and full of fat, salt and nasty preservatives. 
    • It's hard to find oil free tortilla chips, but they do exist. But a healthier way is to just make your own. You can find recipes online, just google it. It also lets you get creative because you can add your own spices, etc and make your own flavors. 
    • Kale chips! Yummy. If you haven't had them you have no idea what you are missing. Ideally, it's best to make them in a dehydrator so they retain the nutrition, but most people don't have dehydrators so use a low temp in the oven. Much cheaper to make your own versus buying them. 
  • Got Bread? 
    • What kind, and please don't say wonder bread. If you are still eating wonder bread, we need to have a serious talk! Bread is a tough one. Everyone loves bread. But what kind of bread you eat makes a big difference. If it doesn't say WHOLE grains then ditch it. If it says wheat bread, but the ingredients don't say WHOLE wheat, ditch it because it isn't doing you any favors. 
    • Bread should be WHOLE grain, animal product free and preferably oil free. That doesn't mean taste free. There are some very good breads that fit this bill, you just have to read labels. Sprouted whole grain bread without added oils and animal products is the best. 
All right, now let's go grocery shopping. Can I get a Woo Hoo? 

  • Always go with a list and don't shop on an empty stomach! Don't free range shop when you are new to this.  You need to have a list and a plan. I always try to figure out what I'm going to be eating that week to know what I need so I don't end up buying things that go to waste. 
  • READ labels. You need to read labels at first to determine which products are healthy and which you should avoid. Labels are tricky, so always look at calories, calories from fat, serving size and ingredients. If you can't pronounce something in the ingredient list or have no idea what it is,  you probably shouldn't eat it! 
  • The majority of your time should be spent in the vegetable/fruit aisles. Branch out and try veggies you aren't used to such as other types of lettuce (stay away from the nutrient deficient iceberg), kale (lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale is the mildest and needs less "working" if eating it raw), swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, arugula, watercress, cabbages, bok choy, the list goes on and on. 
  • Stay out of the dairy milk, egg, cheese area. 
  • Learn to buy from the bulk bins. 
    • Beans, lentils, grains, etc. are SO much cheaper when you buy them this way. A tip on beans - We don't always have time to soak beans overnight and cook them the next day so having a few cans of beans on hand is good. But you will save money and get a much better bean if you prepare them in big batches and then freeze them. So soak dry beans overnight, rinse off the soaking water and then throw them in a slow cooker to cook all day. To help with the "gas issue" throw a strip of kombu seaweed in with the beans, it helps de-gas them. Scoop off the foam and then rinse the beans well and put them on a cookie sheet in one layer and freeze them for a bit, then once frozen, put them in smaller bags in amounts you'd normally use for a dish (1 - 2 cups). Then when you need beans you can just pull them out of the freezer. It's SO much cheaper and you unless you are buying an organic brand in a can with no BPA, you don't have to worry about that nasty can lining BPA chemical. You can do the same with lentils (no need to soak, obviously). 
    • Branch out from rice. Ditch the white rice and if you really have to have rice make it brown rice. 
    • Try quinoa (make sure you rinse it before you cook it because it has a saponin layer on it that make it bitter, which is why many people don't like it because it wasn't rinsed before cooking. You can buy Bob's Red Mill brand, it's already rinsed). 
    • Try other grains such as millet, amaranth, bulgur, barley, buckwheat, kasha, teff, wild rice, wheat berries, etc. There are tons of grains to choose from. Go wild! 
  • Fresh veggies, fresh fruit - load UP! 
  • Frozen veggies and frozen fruit are great to have on hand. Most veggies that are frozen are picked and flash frozen so you aren't sacrificing a huge amount of nutrient content. Frozen is WAY better than canned.
  • Canned veggies just aren't very nutritious and usually are loaded with sodium, so try to avoid them. 
  • Stay away from the processed foods. Processed foods, vegan or not are full of stuff you really don't need to ingest. 
  • Hummus. If you can find an oil free version that's best. But it's really easy to make your own. Recipes are all over the web and in plant based cookbooks. Don't limit yourself to just chickpeas for your base, you can use white beans, black beans, edamame, etc. Just don't add in extra oil, it's not necessary. 
  • Plant based milks are both in the refrigerator aisle and also come in tetrapaks which are room temperature and then once opened they have to be refrigerated. I refrigerate them when I buy them if I use them. 
So are you ready for a little makeover? I think you are! 

Eat your veggies, 


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