Lightening Up in 2013: Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Last week, I was fired-up about ditching some of the hibernation habits I've developed this winter, and as a new day--a new week! is on us, I have already found several recipes -- a breakfast and a few snacks -- that I'm so excited to share with you! 

Snacks are always something I'm on the hunt for, especially little power treats to eat before or after a workout, or perhaps a little somethin, somethin to satisfy that forever thirsty sweet tooth, so we'll dive into one of those here and now.

First up: balls.

Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter, I'm talking about protein balls! Protein balls have become pretty popular anymore, as they're little bites of energy that are the perfect fuel before or after a workout, for a snack on the go, or just a satiating taste of sweetness without any of the guilt. These little guys are a blank canvas in terms of making them your own -- you can keep them simple few ingredients, or go hog wild and roll the final product in finely chopped nuts, unsweetened coconut, seeds, oats, cocoa---whatever you like. Truly the sky is the limit! And don't feel tied to peanut butter, if you face an allergy, try a seed butter. Or, if you're looking to lighten their fat content. I've seen these made with almond flour, apricots, dates, lentils and even grains like oats and quinoa. I even managed to cut down the fat in mine by using some applesauce. If you don't want to go sweet, then try the savory approach like these quinoa-walnut protein bites. And while I'd imagine you need some fat in there to hold them together and give them that rich flavor, feel free to experiment with these to make them your own. I certainly will be!

Another great thing about these is that you can make them as needed, or store them in the freezer and grab then when you need fuel. I almost prefer them frozen, as they take longer to eat, therefore are less likely to be eaten by the handful. And with the fat content in these, trust me, you don't want to eat these by the handful.

It feels silly to tell vegans that these can readily be made using any liquid sweetener (agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, molasses to name a few) instead of the honey. And examine protein powder ingredients closely, as obviously ones like whey have dairy in them.

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Lightening Up in 2013

Winter lesson of 2013: you're not a bear, so stop hibernatating.

Winter and I are going through a rough patch in our relationship. I blame Australia. You see, this native Pacific Northwesterner didn't know that 5/7 days didn't have to be gray and wet, albeit winter, spring, summer or fall. I couldn't wrap my mind around going into the Pacific Ocean...daily! without a death wish and one heck of a wetsuit. Not packing around 87 layers in my purse to protect from bipolar weather. Popping vitamin-D supplements like Altoids. Let alone the food---mangoes from markets; strawberries in September; passion fruit; paw paws, and tomatoes...tomatoes! all . year . long!  I didn't know such a magical place existed until moving there two or so years ago. And now that I do, I'm all the worse for it.

My best buddy has a personal goal: to avoid winter at all costs. She hates being cold, therefore travels to warmer climates once the temperatures start to drop. And after a brief stint of living in Idaho this winter, faring against a three-week saga of sub-zero temperatures, I get it. My inner-romantic coos at the idea of winter. Sweet ideas of woolen blankets, crackling fires and a constant scent of freshly baked bread tangled with roasted roots make me long for a wooden cabin tucked away in perfectly snow-capped mountains. These cool weather permeations are readily forgotten when blue toes, frozen pipes and black ice loom.

 

Suddenly my favorite things become out of reach -- running outside, eating lots of fresh, raw foods, and I settle for nesting. I bake more, exercise less and pass the time eating and napping. A few extra hundred calories here and there become more regular, leaving my pants tighter and tighter. While I can blame the 6-inch-thick ice that paraded the streets in Idaho for not allowing me to get out and jog, or the holidays for it's heavy, rich foods, we all know that the blame game gets us nowhere (especially back into our favorite pair of pants), so I'll instead take the advice from some of my favorite nutritionists' (who just started a neato podcast: Nutritionistas Talk) and forgive myself for turning into Yogi The Bear this winter, and get back on track.


Getting back on track will mean ditching my hibernating ways and whipping my diet back into shape through returning to foods that leave me feeling lighter, healthier and kicking my glow back on. So, expect to see a series of posts from me that will highlight some waistline-friendly meals and snacks that I'm loving.

Until then,
Yogi

Milk vs orange juice: which has more calcium?

We've all been told that dairy is the best way to get calcium. However, since I've been actively trying to clear up my skin, and living with someone who has a lactose intolerance, I've eliminated dairy from my diet, and household, almost completely.

Milk vs orange juice graphic

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Dr. Oz talks Forks Over Knives: the benefits of a plant-based diet

 

Dr. Oz

 

Dr. Oz isn't a vegan, nor is he a vegetarian.

He is, however, fairly sensible and did a a pretty cool, but unfortunately short segment on his show yesterday highlighting plant-based eating and how that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Instead of focusing on the word diet, or vegan, Oz talked about a lot of good, commonsensical approaches to a healthier lifestyle.

Inspired from just having seen Forks Over Knives -- a film that examines whether most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict mankind can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting both animal-based and processed foods -- the famous doctor hosted a few of the film's stars, in addition to the authors of The China Study.

Since the show airs in the middle of the day, here are the takeaway points in case you missed it:

3 food groups everyone avoid:

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Common nutrients lacking in most American diets

Most people pester vegetarians and vegans with questions if they're getting various nutrients--albeit protein, essential fatty acids, or whatever trending nutrient of the moment is. Yet, it's rare that a meat eater is asked if they are getting enough B12, fiber or their share of nutrients in return.

Fact is that there will always be unhealthy people who don't have balanced diets, who aren't getting enough nutrients--some are carnivores, others vegetarians.

 

contemplative fruit face

 

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian has a really neat table that lists the most common elements missing in the average American diet. What's particularly helpful is how the list includes both vegetarian and herbal sources of all the nutrients, particularly B12 and iron, which tend to be a concern for those on strict vegetarian or vegan diets.

So regardless of what your diet includes (or excludes), here are the most common elements lacking in American diets:

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Risks and replacements of red meat

A fork-full of steakOne of the most often repeated reasons people tell me they could never go vegetarian is because they love the taste of meat too much.

After growing up on the Oregon coast - consuming seafood like it was growing out of style - and eating venison year round, I salute this argument, but no longer find it valid. Once you stop eating meat, you stop craving it and instead start craving vegetarian food.

There's something about red meat that raises hair on the back of our necks. It could be because every other minute the argument changes on whether or not it's good for us (pro and con); it could be the frequent E. coli outbreaks that would sooner have me craving starvation than ground beef. Some resources go as far as stating those who eat red meat are likely to have other unhealthy habits. Whether you choose to eliminate red meat entirely, or to simply scale back, it's important to recap why.


Health

In Jane Brody's New York Times article, "Paying a Price for Loving Red Meat," she discusses an extensive decade-long study by the National Cancer Institute, which reported the following health risks come into play for those who eat red meat:

  • Increased mortality risk

The increase in mortality risk tied to the higher levels of meat consumption was described as “modest,” ranging from about 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. But the number of excess deaths that could be attributed to high meat consumption is quite large given the size of the American population.

...the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats, according to estimates prepared by Dr. Barry Popkin, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report.

  • Cholesterol / High Blood Pressure / Heart Disease
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My one year anniversary as a vegetarian

Marilyn Monroe blowing out one birthday candle atop her cake

Four hundred days and forty pounds ago, I became a vegetarian.

After a full year of not eating animal meat, I must say that I've never felt better. I recently got a full check-up, including extensive blood tests and learned that I was in top shape. My protein, iron, b-vitamins and the rest were all happily in check. Well, everything minus a vitamin-d deficiency, that's only natural when you live in a place like Seattle.

Thinking back, becoming a vegetarian wasn't as hard as I originally thought it would be. I would go through phases where I would try out vegetarianism, but it never stuck longer than a week or so because I had no clue on how to sustain a healthy vegetarian diet and couldn't imagine a life without unagi sushi rolls or hot dogs at a baseball game. Then one Sunday afternoon, after lamenting to a vegetarian friend about feeling unhealthy, he suggested I consider vegetarianism. My roommate at the time had Peter Singer's The Ethics of What We Eat in his bookshelf, which complimented this suggestion, so I picked it up and read it cover-to-cover that same afternoon. That was one of many books/videos I devoured in a few weeks time--ranging in topic from Indian cookbooks to basic nutrients that every diet needs.

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Peanuts aren't nuts, but are paleo dieters better off cutting peanuts out?

Today I learned that peanuts aren't in fact nuts, but legumes. Despite avid research to prove this wrong, the Mayo Clinic kicked my last straw of disbelief, by noting, "Even peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be relatively healthy."

I originally heard about this from a colleague that is all about the CrossFit craze. A common dietary trend that couples well with this method of exercise is the "Paleolithic Diet," which is also known as the "Stone Age Diet," or, "Cave Man Diet."

After picking her brain on what this caveman-inspired diet is all about, she said the protein-driven diet would be challenging for vegetarians because grains, diary and beans are forbidden. No whole wheat? More importantly, NO PEANUT BUTTER? Founder of the diet, Dr. Ben Balzer notes,
 

Close-up of a handful of peanuts

 

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