Monday, December 3, 2012

Decadent Chocolate Berry Superfood Smoothie- Start Your Day RIGHT!

Inspired by David Wolfe, Superfoods expert, I made a delicious superfood smoothie for myself this morning. It was quick, tasty, and packed with more nutrients than the average American gets in a week! 

What are "superfoods," you ask? refers says, "Though there is no legal or medical definition, superfoods are nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them may reduce the risk of chronic disease, and prolong life, and people who eat more of them are healthier and thinner than those who don't. "

Superfoods include:
goji berries
sweet potatoes
red wine
sprouts (esp. broccoli sprouts)
acai berries

And now, the delectable decadent ...

Chocolate Berry Superfood Smoothie!

1 cup non-dairy milk. I like almond milk.
1/2 banana
1/2 cup organic blueberries *Superfood!
1/2 cup organic strawberries *Superfood!
1/4 cup organic raw cacao nibs *Superfood! (I used Navitas Naturals brand found at local Sprouts market)
1-2 TBS peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter
Optional: If not sweet enough for you, you may add 1-2 tsp. raw organic honey *Superfood!, maple syrup, or other sweetener

Directions: blend all ingredients and try not to have your mind blown by the fact that you just had 3 servings of fruit, about 13 grams of protein, about 15 grams of fiber, and packed with flavonoids and antioxidants from the cacao and fruit. What's that? It tasted better than the best milkshake or smoothie you ever had? I know. Hard to believe.

People always think eating healthy means tasteless and bland. I've been trying to get the word out!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to Live to 95 (Advice From a 95-Year-Old)

The other day as I was running errands I had the opportunity to chit chat with an older gentleman. We had the usual discourse about the weather and how cute my kids are. As he got up to leave he said, "You wanna know something? Tomorrow's my birthday- I'm going to be 95!"

I was immediately impressed as it's not every day you get the chance to talk with someone that has been on this planet for so long. I'm always interested in learning so I asked him, "What is your secret?" His answer was gold:

"I don't eat hamburgers or red meat. I eat some fish and poultry. I eat lots of vegetables."

Then he smiled, we said our good-bye and he left.

Based on all the nutrition research I have looked at, his diet did indeed offer him the best odds for a long life...lots of vegetables, no red meat, little fish and poultry.

Future 95 year olds!

So, there you have it! If you want to live to 95 you know what to do!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Amazing Plant-Strong Appetizer Recipes (and some dinner ones, too)

Last night I gave a lecture at Baby Vie called, "What to Eat to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Without Exercise." It went really well, and I truly enjoyed talking with everyone that came. And now I present you with...lecture night appetizer recipes!! These are all high nutrient, and low calorie density (except the vegan spanakopita which has a bit too much vegan margarine for daily use, but is so tasty!) These recipes are all pretty easy and foolproof...and don't require much prep time. Best of all? Tasty!

In case you want more recipes, check out this and this post I did a while ago to get you started with some quick, easy, delicious meal ideas.

And now, here are the appetizer recipes from the lecture:

Quinoa, kale, walnut, cranberry salad

A fabulous potluck dish and great Thanksgiving dish. High in protein and fiber, quinoa is a nutrient powerhouse! And kale ranks among the healthiest green vegetables out there. This is a superfood dish!

2 cups quinoa
2 cups kale, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup cranberries, dried
2 scallions, chopped
2 lemons, juiced,
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cook quinoa as directed, cool. Add the rest of the ingredients to a bowl and mix with the cooled quinoa. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve cold or at room temperature.

Lentil Bruschetta Dip (Recipe from Trader Joe's)

It doesn't get more easy or more healthy than this dish! This is also great on sandwiches or wraps. It is a 3 minute recipe so its great to have the 3 ingredients on hand for last minute holiday get-togethers. Everyone loves this!

1 package steamed lentils (in the refrigerated produce section)
1 carton bruschetta
2 cups spinach, chopped

Directions: Mix all ingredients together and serve with whole wheat pita chips to dip.

This is a more decadent recipes but great for people wanting to experiment with more plant-based foods. It has a lot of protein from the tofu and spinach so it is still very healthy. This is also pretty easy and kids love it, too!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Change Starts HERE!

What if I told you that by simply swapping out one thing you eat everyday for a healthier choice that you could lose weight and feel better, have better sex, feel more confident, and basically conquer the world? Sound too good to be true? Luckily for you, it's absolutely possible (ok, maybe not the conquering part) and I am going to tell you how to do it. Changing your whole life starts with one step.

Think about it...with any goal you have in life you have to start somewhere...when you want a new job you have to take the first step of imagining what you would like to do. Then you have to do a job search. Then apply for jobs, etc. Other changes such as lifestyle and diet changes work the same way. First you have to imagine where you would like to be, then take that first step.

For some people the first step might be talking with someone that has knowledge that can help them. Health Coaches are great for this. After you talk with someone you being to contemplate what change you would like to start with. Can you add 10 minutes of walking to your day? Can you change something in your diet?

While I love exercise I know how powerful dietary change can be in helping people lose weight and reduce risk factors for obesity and related diseases. So my advice is to think about what one thing you can change in your daily diet. Can you replace your morning eggs and bacon with oatmeal and fresh berries? Can you replace the afternoon candy bar with a couple pieces of fruit? Can you have a large salad with salmon instead of the cheeseburger for lunch? Water instead of soda? The key is that it should be something you routinely consume so that each day you are making this substitution. If you don't already eat oatmeal in the morning I would like to recommend that as a great starting point and here's why: oatmeal is SO good for you and keeps you full for hours. If you don't think you like it then try it with fresh berries and some brown sugar. Listen: oatmeal is so good for you, even with a sprinkle of brown sugar it beats out most, if not all breakfast options.

But the key is to take that first step. Find that one thing in your life that you can add to it to begin you on your way to a happier and healthier life. Change happens when you take that first step! What can you add in or change in your life today to take that first step?

Monday, July 30, 2012


If you can't get your kids to eat their veggies I say get them to drink 'em! Spinach, blueberry, banana, and almond milk smoothie.

Oh, it's good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Aviva Health Coaching ... Accepting Clients Soon!

I know it has been a while since my last post and I really have a good excuse: see those 3 little people in the above picture? They have been keeping me very busy! (Just when I sit down to relax at the park the two little ones try to pull the blanket out from under me. This is my life, both literally and metaphorically!)

Things have been very exciting with my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I chose my business name: Aviva Health Coaching. Aviva reminds me of the latin word for life (vita) and to live (vivere), which speaks to what I hope to accomplish with my business-helping people change their lives for the better! I have my website up at so check it out if you have time and feel free to give me some feedback at

Here is a great new recipe that I am loving right now. It is quick, easy, SO healthy, and filling. This is great served alongside a nice Pineapple Fried Rice or Noodles with Stir-Fried Tofu. Make a double recipe to bring some to work for the week!

Asian Cole Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, chopped
1/4 head purple cabbage, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
edamame, 1/2 cup *optional
sesame seeds, 1 TB *optional

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1-2 TBS agave syrup or honey
1-2 TBS soy sauce, liquid aminos, or tamari
1 tsp. Sesame or olive oil *optional

Servings: about 6 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheap, Easy, Quick, Delicious...Why Aren't You Eating Beans for Dinner Tonight?!

Beans are awesome, They are definitely one of the superheros of the food world. Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls them, "a powerhouse of superior nutrition, and the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate source."

Are you eating beans yet? Full of fiber, protein, and good carbs for your body they can fill you up without breaking the bank. Also, most kids love beans making them a great meatless monday option for the whole family. Lately I have come to appreciate the ease, versatility, and economic advantages of beans as well.

image via           

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I will no longer under-utilize this miraculous nutrient-dense food and I have decided to stop with the complicated recipes and just make beans. The great thing about them is that you can make a whole batch once every week or two and get countless meals. I mean, you can actually just have a bowl of beans and you have a very nutritious meal. Add rice, quinoa, or another grain for an added dimension. Got veggies? Fabulous! Add them in. Got tortillas? Now you can make pretty much any mexican dish you like. Chili? Pretty easy when the beans are already cooked! Try different condiments with your beans. For example, beans, rice and veggies with
salsa and sour cream=mexican. The same combo with a teriyaki sauce=asian food. Add some curry and turmeric with a little chutney=indian food. Whip up a quick green curry or buy an already-made thai simmer sauce=thai food. Easy, right?

Here are my easy directions for making beans...

First of all, make a huge batch. That way you can use it over and over for the next few weeks (oh, and they freeze well). If you have cooked beans in your fridge, you have a quick and easy meal anytime! Here are the steps I use to cook my beans. I make a batch once a week now. I usually use pinto or black beans but these steps should work for most beans (except soybeans-those are a whole separate issue).

Step 1: Rinse beans and pick through removing any stones. Cover them with a couple inches of water and let them soak for at least 4-6 hours. This will release gas-causing enzymes into the water and help prevent flatulence for you later!

Step 2: Rinse those enzymes and debris off your beans.

Step 3: Put beans in slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours. Do not add salt yet! It is best to season after they have absorbed water. **You can also cook on the stovetop. Cover with a few inches of water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 60-90 minutes until they are tender. Check periodically to see if you need to add more water.

Step 4: When beans are done cooking, you can either season the whole batch one way or put them in the fridge/freezer and heat them up and season them as you need them.

Step 5: Enjoy your delicious, tasty beans!

Simple, Tasty, Affordable, Incredible, Fast Meal Ideas:

What's your favorite way to enjoy beans?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Vegan Week of Dinners (And One Dessert)...Links to Recipes!

Important! Forks Over Knives is free on Hulu right now! If you haven't watched it, you need to. Just please trust me on this. This movie is based on the books The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and holds the answer for how diet and nutrition can prevent and cure so many chronic diseases. My 10-year-old son has watched it. As he sat in awe he said to me, "Mom, why don't they show this on the news?!" Indeed.

Next, I was so inspired by my meal plan this week (thanks to my friend Julie for the meal plan template that makes meal planning ridiculously fun) that I thought I would share. Since I always appreciate ideas of just what the heck to make for dinner I thought perhaps others might find some kernel of inspiration below. I know some of the recipes are a bit labor-intensive (Monday, Thursday), but others are totally quick and painless (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

Monday: Chicken-fried seitan with sweet potato biscuits and gravy. Total comfort food!
Wednesday: Taco salad with black bean and corn quinoa
Saturday: Sushi night! (just get large sheets of nori, spread 1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice in the bottom portion, add veggies like julienned carrots, cucumber, sprouts, avocado, left-over seitan, and roll up! Dip in soy sauce mixed with wasabi.)
Sunday: Spaghetti with Meatless Balls (I use the premade frozen meatless balls and like them pretty well. I have been also wanting to try out a meatball sub using them with marinara sauce and vegan mozzerella (Daiya, fo' sho'). Mmmmm, meatball sub. that I think about it, Sunday night may be meatless ball sub night!

Dessert: Chloe Coscarelli's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles. Oh yeah, baby. Make this on Monday and enjoy one each night after dinner. Or eat them all in one sitting like I do. Either way, this recipe may change your life.

Additional note: I didn't include any salads on the menu besides Wednesday. This is because the taco salad is a main dish. On the other days I would make a nice large green salad to accompany the other dishes. Some favorite salads include this raw kale-avocado salad, a spinach and arugala salad with a balsamic dressing, or simply romaine and raw veggies with vegan ranch dressing.

Let me know if you have any must-try recipes!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vegetarians Have Lower Risk of Cancer

Even after controlling for many variables such as BMI, smoking, vegetable intake, and other variables researchers were able to determine that being a vegetarian and avoiding meat leads to a lower risk of cancer. They compared vegetarians and meat eaters who were as similar as possible except for the fact that the vegetarians don't eat meat. For example, they found meat eaters and veggies that had similar BMI's, activity levels, smoking frequencies, vegetable intake, etc. so that they could control for all variables besides the experimental variable of either meat-eater or vegetarian.

Just one more reason why I *love* being a plant-eater!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Go Veg? Science-Based Arguments for Changing Your Eating Habits...

I am not interested in giving you my opinion on whether or not a plant-based diet is optimal for humans. I want to look at the scientific evidence for or against eating meat. Humans have the capability to eat meat, sure. We also eat lots of things that don't resemble anything found in nature (Twinkie, anyone?). The fact that we can eat it doesn't mean we should. When scientists are studying a new species or an extinct one they will often look to anatomical clues to tell them what the animal ate. For example, they examine the skull shape and teeth. Scientists can learn a lot about an animal's diet from these clues alone. Apart from that, if we wanted to learn what an optimal diet for a human primate is we could also look at our closest non-human primate ancestors, the chimpanzees.

In the wild, chimpanzees feed primarily on vegetation, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, and occasionally meat. Can you imagine what would happen if we replaced the chimps diet with the standard american diet? Sodas, hamburgers, chips, long before the animal developed some sort of disease? In fact, can you even imagine a zoo feeding any animal the crap that so many of us routinely put in our bodies? I am not even talking about meat and dairy products least those count as food. Think "foods" loaded with sugar, fat, preservatives. Ugh.

Take a look at the diet the Houston zoo feeds their primates: lots of leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and some insects for protein. They take pride in giving their animals an optimal diet full of all the vitamins and nutrients the monkey could possibly need. No meat included at all! Isn't that interesting...If only we took the job of feeding ourselves and our families as seriously as the zookeepers there do. In fact, I consider myself a zookeeper of a quite adorable family of one incredibly large primate and 3 cute little ones!

Michael Bluejay does a great job of looking at the scientific evidence that supports eating a vegetarian diet for human primates, especially analyzing our body structures and comparing them to other herbivores and carnivores. You really cannot argue with that evidence.

Then there is the copious evidence that eating meat is harmful to your health...check the resources and websites listed on this website for starters. And if you haven't seen the movie Forks Over Knives yet, then that would be the first thing I would suggest. Plants are nature's perfect food for herbivores. And that is what human were clearly designed to eat. That is why when you start eating a plant-based diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and low in meat, dairy, processed and refined foods that you will see weight just melt off your body, your energy levels will increase, you can reverse certain diseases and health conditions...actually the list of benefits is too long to name everything. But you know what's longer? The list of reasons not to eat animal products...

heart disease
auto-immune diseases
high cholesterol
Type 2 Diabetes
...and many more..,

...there are no benefits to eating animal products that are not found in better supply in plants. If you want to look better, feel better, and be better, than give a plant-based diet a try. Even just reducing the amount of meat, eggs, and dairy you eat per week is a good start. Try out a few recipes (I have many on this blog) and start building your repertoire of delicious plant-based food.

You know what I say: "Once you go plant, if someone gives you meat you say I can't!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

William Li: Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? Dr. Gerson: Been There, Done That!


I watched a riveting TED talk today by a medical doctor and researcher named WIlliam Li. He is studying the effects of angiogenesis on cancer growth. Angiogenesis is blood vessel growth. It seems that cancer cannot grow big (big=harmful) until it gets a blood supply. What this means is that you may have a small harmless cancer growth right now in your body that could become dangerous at any time if angiogenesis begins. They have had some success in creating pharmaceutical drugs that can inhibit angiogenesis but William Li asks, can you eat to starve cancer? (I am betting the drug companies would rather you take their drugs and keep eating the cancer-causing foods...what do you think?)

So far they have successfully cancers in animals with anti-angiogenesis drugs. The next step was testing the effects of certain foods on cancerous blood vessel growth. It is no surprise to me that they found that a number of foods have effects comparable to the anti-angiogenesis drugs! And they have an extensive list of foods to try as well. Some foods that have shown remarkable anti-angio effects are: red grapes (resveratrol), strawberries, garlic, turmeric, and more. These foods all do very well inhibiting the growth of errant blood vessels without any side effects AND with all the other synergistic benefits of the plant food.

This is another reason to eat healthy, right? But Li doesn't stop there...they went past cancer blood vessel growth to something even more widespread in this country-obesity. Li wondered if they could achieve the same anti-angiogenesis effects on adipose (fat) tissue growth with the drugs they were treating the cancers with. He reasoned that fat tissue has the same need for blood vessels in order to grow as cancer does. They tested rats that were bred to be obese. What they found was that when they gave them the drugs they actually lost weight! Take them off the drugs and they gain it back. Put them back on and they get skinny. The same effect was observed in the adipose tissue blood vessels as the cancer tissue!

My next thought was, so if the drugs work equally as well as certain foods in inhibiting angiogenesis in cancer, then shouldn't these same foods work equally as well in inhibiting angiogenesis in fat tissue? Doesn't it make sense that if you are eating these natural foods such as berries, kale, turmeric, grapes, etc. that you will be skinny? Part of it could be from the inherent anti-angiogenesis components of these foods. I can speak from experience with myself that the more healthy foods I put into my body the skinnier I get. In fact, look at anyone that eats a large amount of natural plants: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, and most likely they are slender. Does this mean that the properties of anti-angiogenesis are at work via the foods they eat? Yes. Can this also mean that via their diet people can effectively, "nip cancer in the bud?" I would say so. This is why I eat and feed my kids a diet high in plant-based foods and low to nil in animal based foods.

But is this a new idea? Dr. Max Gerson developed a therapy back in the 1930s to treat cancer patients (and other diseases) that included fresh raw juices and organic vegetables and fruits. His success rate with this therapy is amazing. There are many other doctors out there right now promoting the disease preventing properties of a whole foods, plant-based diet including T.Colin Campbell, M.D., Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Neal Barnard, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D...

In conclusion, plants have many properties that are beneficial to our bodies. Adding anti-angiogenesis to the list of reasons to eat them is great. And by the way, meat and dairy were not on the list of anti-angiogenesis foods.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Healthy School Lunches...Mission Impossible? 5 Rules to Guide You

Kaylee, age 15 months eating a routine lunch including steamed broccoli.

It's hard to pack a healthy lunch for your school-age kids. Scratch that. It's easy to pack it. You just never know if they will eat it. What to do? Pack them healthy food they will throw away or pack them unhealthy food they will eat...

I have a 10-year-old son that gets the standard American Diet at his dad's house and then eats a plant-based diet with me. This means that some days his lunches are composed of chips, juice boxes, and "fruit" snacks. *shudder* Surprisingly I have been able to find things he likes that are actually nutritive to his body. If I can do that, anyone can! Here are some rules I have learned to live by when making his lunches.

Rule #1: Do not give them unhealthy options. They will throw everything else away and eat the junk. Don't think you are being a good parent by giving them junk. You are doing them a disservice. Growing bodies need vitamins and nutrients which means they need vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Most processed food that is marketed to kids is devoid of these vital nutrients and full of fat, salt and sugar.

Rule #2: Find things they like that are healthy and use them regularly. For example, my son loves nuts and seeds. He gets a custom trail mix in his lunch almost every day full of healthy protein and fats that his body needs. He also loves good old pb&j and cut up apples and oranges will always get eaten. He also likes soybeans or edamame. I make sure to buy organic, non-GMO.

Rule #3: Find healthy "treats" to replace the usual junk fillers. Instead of chips, try seaweed crisps. Instead of goldfish crackers try whole wheat or nut thins. Instead of fruit snacks use dried unsweetened fruit. Instead of cookies or granola bars make homemade granola bars or at least opt for a lesser processed and more nutritious variety.

Rule #4: Kids like dip. Apples and peanut butter. Hummus and carrots. Organic corn tortilla chips and bean dip.

Rule #5: Involve your kids in their lunch. Ask them what they would like (but only offer healthy choices.) For example, sometimes I am thinking of giving my son a bean burrito or some other non-pb&j option but when I ask him if he will eat it or throw it away he tells me the truth. Most days he prefers to have his pb&j. That's fine! It's much healthier than many other options and beats the heck out of cafeteria food by far.

Have any tips for getting kids to eat healthy? Please share!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

10 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Be Healthier

Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. A movie I highly recommend!

Big changes can happen in small increments. Here are some easy things you can do today (and tomorrow) to increase your health and well-being. You can pick one or five to start with. Next week, add one more. You will feel better for it, I promise!

1. Drink more water! Try to drink 2 cups upon rising and then increase your total intake for the day.
2. Take a good twice a day multivitamin...DAILY!
3. Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol if those impair your quality of sleep.
4. Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Add any toppings you want such as fruit, nuts, seeds, agave syrup, maple syrup...even better with ground flax meal or chia seeds.
5. Exercise! Any kind: cardio, yoga, high intensity interval training, walking...
6. Eat a large salad with dark greens. Add any beans, seeds, chopped veggies or fruit you like. Make it huge! Be sure to use a low fat dressing...
7. Have 2-3 pieces of fruit. All at once or spread throughout the day. (Juice doesn't count!)
8. Eat some raw veggies. I like broccoli, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery, and jicama. No-oil hummus is nice for a dip...
9. Write down a list of everything you have to be grateful for in life.
10. Do something nice for yourself (that doesn't involve food). Examples: watch a funny movie. Like oh, say, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. ;0P

Sunday, March 25, 2012

6 High Calcium Foods That Kick Milk's Butt!

**These are my opinions based on my research. I am not a doctor nor do I claim to try to give any health advice beyond telling people to, "eat more plants!" I have a personal interest in determining the nutrient content of my plant-based lifestyle and thought it may possibly interest others on a similar path. I also have an interest in debunking popular dietary myths propagated by big business and through our own government policies. To your health!

There are a few things to consider when moving towards a plant-based how to get that adorable milk mustache without the milk, for starters! Ok, that one's easy. There are so many different types of high quality non-dairy milk out there. You can easily get a very nice soymilk mustache, almond milk mustache, or rice milk mustache, for starters. Or my family's favorite: vanilla almond milk. MMmmmmmmmmmm!
The real question here is, will you get a comparable intake of dietary calcium without dairy?

The short answer is yes, as long as you are eating a healthy plant-based diet including green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, etc., it should be easy to meet the 1000mg/day requirement for an average adult. There are fabulous plant sources of calcium out there and they are more bio-available to our bodies than dairy. High bioavailability just means that our bodies can use the calcium from plant sources easier. Not only that, but there is evidence that animal protein causes calcium to be leached out of bones due to its causing an acidic environment in the body. With that being said, it doesn't seem to make sense to have your primary source of calcium be from an animal! Dairy is a good source of calcium, but it is not the best source for optimum health.

When you derive calcium from plant foods you also get all the other phytonutrients, fiber, and vitamins from that plant with it. What you don't get is important, too: no cholesterol or saturated fat from the dairy. While 1 cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium, there are foods that have more calcium per calorie in addition to a host of other benefits.

Without further ado, here are 6 high calcium (not to mention low calorie) foods that will make you re-think your morning glass of milk...

1) Collard Greens, 2 cups = 600 mg!!
2) Spinach, 2 cups = 500mg
3) Tofu, 1 cup = 150mg
4) Kale, 2 cups= 350mg
5) 1 cup of enriched non dairy milk, such as soy, rice, or almond milk = 300mg
6) Soybeans, 1 cup = 175mg

As you can see, leafy green vegetables are amazing sources of calcium (not to mention a jillion other nutrients). Other great sources can include foods that are fortified with calcium, such as the non-dairy milks and cereals.

Here is what an imaginary day might look like: 1 cup of fortified breakfast cereal (~300mg) with 1 cup fortified non-dairy milk (300mg), a couple oranges (100mg) and some raisins mixed into your cereal already put you at over 700mg for breakfast alone. Maybe you snack on almonds (~50mg) and have a mixed vegetable stir fry with tofu and bok choy (~400mg)...if this is a portion of the plant based menu you enjoy then you will have no trouble meeting the *RDA for calcium. Not to mention, if you eat this way you will most likely feel better, look better, and be in better physical health than if you derived your calcium from dairy sources.

Just sayin'.

*Currently the RDA for calcium is set at 1000mg/day for adults 19-50. Although based on what I have seen this high limit is to help offset the deleterious effects of the SAD (Standard American Diet) which is high in animal protein and low in ..well, everything of nutritive value. So, if you are eating a plant-based diet that includes many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds then you are most likely meeting all your calcium needs as well as keeping yourself in amazing shape, inside and out. Go, plant-based eaters!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dinner Party Menu...

I need to practice my dinner party hosting skills. What better time than St. Patrick's Day? Actually, I picked the day randomly and the only tribute to Saint Patty will be a lone bottle of Jameson Whiskey. Practically a meal in itself, eh?!

Also, we will be eating lots of greens in honor of the holiday (not really, we do this all the time!)

Here is the menu:

pita chips with 2 different kinds of hummus (store bought)
Kalamata olive tapenade with rustic bread
Spinach salad with red onion, pomegranate seeds, and Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette (I know it has gorgonzola cheese but overall it is pretty low calorie and sooooo tasty!)
Quinoa Tabouli (I omitted the olive oil from this recipe. It seemed quite tasty without.)
Barley with cranberries and hazelnuts (I couldn't find the farro! Barley is close but the farro is much better. Farro!)
Main Dishes:
Sweet Potato and Kale Enchiladas (I added 1 can of pinto and 1 can of black beans for more protein and fiber)
Cookie Dough Truffles (Full disclosure: I couldn't find the vegan chocolate chips and was too tired to go to another store so I used regular semi sweet chocolate.) These are way too good...use with caution!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Is Sugar Really That Bad For You? ...

We all know the saying about Coca Cola reportedly containing cocaine in its original formulation, don't we? Of course, they took it out a long time ago but it may be full of something even more harmful, and addictive: sugar! Or more commonly nowdays, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).

On Saturday I got the chance to hear Julia Ross (author of the Diet Cure and the Mood Cure) at a conference and her speech was titled, "Sugar Addiction: Confronting the Greatest Nutritional Crisis of All Time." Wow. Julia Ross brought it! I took notes until my hand almost fell off...I thought I knew how bad sugar was but I had no idea HOW BAD! I will try and summarize what I learned and then offer some tips for reducing sugar in your diet and dealing with sugar cravings

Sugar and Heart Disease were virtually nonexistent in the United States until the 1930s, when it was just beginning to be refined and sold here. Ever since then the rates of heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases have been rising along with our sugar consumption (see graph above). Sugar is not just found in obvious foods, like candies and sodas. It also comes from highly processed grains such as refined flours. Processed foods are usually full of refined flours and added sugars and usually devoid of nutrients. Unfortunately, they are usually affordable. This has helped contribute to the obesity epidemic in this country with families that are struggling to put food on the table having little choice but to purchase and consume processed, sugar-filled foods that are not only completely worthless nutrition-wise, they are harmful!

In 2006 the World Health Organization made an important nutritional pronouncement that was on the front page of every newspaper in the world....except in the United States. It said, "Our only recommendation for ending the worldwide physical and mental health crisis is to cut all sweetened foods to below 10% of calories." That would be around 250 calories for an average adult.

Why wasn't this put into our newspapers here in the good old U. S. of A? Ever hear of the Sugar Council? See, they weren't too hot on the idea if it meant people would buy and consume less sugar...

The fact is that sugar is as toxic as alcohol and 4 times as addictive as cocaine. In fact, if you give a cocaine addicted laboratory rat the choice between a hit of cocaine or a hit of saccharine, which do you think he chooses? Every time: sugar. Sugar kills 35 million people per year, worldwide.

Don't think of switching to non-sugar sweeteners either. HFCS is twice as sweet and addictive as sucrose (table sugar), equal in liver damage to alcohol, and suppresses natural appetite regulators. That's right: if you consume HFCS your brain won't get the "I'm Full" signal. Just what we need in a country in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

For even more on sugar see the LIFE-CHANGING video featuring Robert Lustig, a pediatric oncologist, as he exposes just how devastating to our health sugar is. Not many people are willing to stand up to the mighty business conglomerates in this country. People like him are heroes. By the way, he wrote a jounral article entitled, "Is Sugar Toxic?" (hint:yes) that had to be published in a journal outside of the United States (Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science). Big Business is in bed with the Government and it is unacceptable that the consequences are our health and the health of our children!

So, we all could stand to reduce the amount of this toxic chemical in our bodies. But how? Many people deal with cravings for sugar. Actually, it takes time but it is possible to break free from the vicious cycle of sugar craving.

Tips to reduce Sugar in Your Diet

  1. Eliminate Sodas and Fruit Juices

  2. Use fruit or sweet vegetables frequently so your body gets sweet satisfaction the healthy way.

  3. Limit sweet treats to a few times per week (or less!)

  4. Use whole wheat bread instead of white, brown rice instead of white rice, whole grains instead of processed ones.

  5. Don't add sugar to coffee or tea! Even 1 tsp. can add up if you drink multiple cups

  6. Avoid HCFS like the plague! Remember that it causes your brain to miss the "I'm Full" signal!

Tips to Deal With Sugar Cravings

  1. Eat fruits and sweet veggies throughout the day to front-load your diet with healthy sweet foods

  2. (sweet potatoes, yams, red peppers)

  3. Use agave nectar/syrup instead of sugar to sweeten things- the sweet taste comes from natural fructose which is absorbed slowly by the body. I like this on whole wheat pancakes and waffles, oatmeal, even in cooking.

  4. Make sure you are eating lots of healthy foods (see tip #1) and taking a multivitamin as well. Sometimes deficiencies can make cravings worse! Your body might be trying to tell you that it needs more healthy food.

  5. Eat throughout the day! When you are starving it is hard to make healthy food choices and your sugar cracings can really kick in. Start the day off on the right foot with a healthy breakfast (which could even be 2 pieces of fruit) and make sure you have a healthy snack every 2-3 hours between meals. Follow your WiMS: Wake-Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack or WiMS for short!

Got any great tips for reducing sugar intake or dealing with cravings? Share them here!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Ate at Outback Steakhouse Last Night!

...I know. Not what you would expect from a plant-based eater. But just listen to this story and read on to find out what I ordered...

I had a great opportunity to visit a fabulous conference put on by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition on Saturday. I took my mom, a Nurse Practitioner, and we sat in awe for 4 hours listening to some amazing speakers talking about things such as why sugar is so bad for you, and why the old concept of energy in/energy out doesn't work for weight loss. Then there was David Wolfe-the raw food/superfood/superherb/living water guru. He is fantastic! His talk was titled, "Add-ing In" which I loved.

Wolfe's whole premise is that the more healthy foods (and he really likes the superfoods. I will do a post on those soon) you eat, or "add-in", the more it pushes out the unhealthy food. This is fabulous! Listen: you don't have to completely eliminate anything from your diet (unless you have a medical condition and your doctor advises it) as long as most of your diet includes wonderfully nourishing, nutritious foods. Add in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Add in a piece of fruit, a salad, a handful of nuts, steamed veggies, a smoothie, fresh juice. Add in fresh soups before a meal. Add in a multivitamin to your daily regime. Add in exercise! When you shift your focus away from what you need to cut-out of your life and focus on what you can add-in, you realize that this isn't about deprivation. It is about abundance!

After hearing these amazing talks we left feeling energized...but hungry. Driving around Long Beach for 30 minutes just trying to find the freeway, only to get off near a shopping mall where the only restaurant nearby was an Outback Steakhouse. I said, "Mom, we can't. On principle alone, we can't."

I mean, we had just left a health conference and here we were at Outback Steakhouse. Steaks are not healthy! Animal protein is not healthy. Now, I am not going to tell you never to eat steak again. After all, there are lots of things we eat that are not healthy, such as Birthday Cake. But a birthday celebration with it's rare treat of cake and ice cream are one thing. Eating a steak dinner occasionally *should* be fine. We get into trouble when we make eating steak or other animal protein a large portion of our diet (read The China Study for further, extensively researched, information). However, using Wolfe's "add-in" principle, perhaps you could add in a salad, steamed broccoli, some wheat bread (hold the butter), and a plain baked potato TO your steak dinner and actually come out ahead. Here's how: limit the amount of steak and increase the amount of healthy foods (salad, veggies, baked potato, even bread).

So, what did we end up ordering? I was STARVING and we did eat 2 of the wheat bread loaves. I had no butter but it was good bread and I enjoyed it. We ordered a flatbread with veggies (asked for extra veggies and they were more than happy to do that for us) and cheese and kept the chicken on mom's side. We both ordered a spinach salad-mine without chicken. And you know what? It was good. Success! We reached the end of the meal full and happy. I didn't feel deprived one bit and completely enjoyed my Outback Steakhouse dinner! It's not my first choice for a restaurant but when you know a few tricks (add-ins!), it's easy.

Remember the concept of add-ins is an everyday thing. Add in the good stuff and the bad stuff naturally becomes less and less a part of your diet. The best part is that you can add in LOTS of beautiful healthy food! Plant-based eating makes it possible for you to eat a diet that is abundant, fresh, nutritious, varied, and healthy. You don't have to worry about obsessive and addictive behaviors around this food. You will feel energized, happier, and excited about life!

Some ideas for Add-Ins:
Have a piece of fruit (or 2!) before you have breakfast
Add a handful of spinach to your morning potato, tofu, or even egg scramble.
Add a small handful of nuts (walnuts are great for Omega-3) or seeds to your oatmeal or soy yogurt
Add a snack to your day (fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds)
Have a vegetable based soup before lunch or dinner
Add a salad to your lunch and dinner
Add steamed vegetables to your lunch or dinner
Add a vegggie wrap as a snack (whole wheat tortilla, hummus, spinach, sprouts, etc.)
Munch on carrot sticks, apple slices, etc. in the evening if you have the "snackies"

Please let me know if you have any other ideas of great things to "Add-In" to your diet or life! I love this concept because it keeps the focus on positive changes you can make, not what you need to take away.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight While Eating Lots of Food and Enjoying Life

Notice how I said "healthy" weight. I did not use the word "thin". You can be healthy as a thin person or as an average person or as a larger person. If you are active and eating healthy then most likely your weight will settle to a healthy weight which can look different for different people. One thing is for sure-we need to let go of the idea that we should compare ourselves to the pictures we see in the media. Those are models and they are actually usually very unhealthy!

Your body needs to eat, every day and all day long. Not only that but life is meant to be enjoyed. That is hard to do when you are addicted to food and constantly dealing with cravings or shame when you have eaten too much of the bad stuff. Scientific research has shown us that foods filled with salt, fat, and sugar actually affect our brains in the same way that drugs do, creating a vicious cycle of craving and tolerance to the foods we are addicted to so that we need more and more to get that pleasurable feeling.

Is there a way that we can learn to eat food and not obsess about it every minute? Can we live without cravings, shame, and guilt over the fact that we eat food we know isn't good for us?

Yes! Here are a few simple rules for eating a plant-based diet that will keep you full and minimize food cravings:

1) Eat lots of high-fiber, high nutrient, and high-water content foods. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds will keep you feeling full quicker and longer because they fill you up. Also, they will supply the nutrients your body needs.

2) If you crave sugar, front-load your day with naturally sweet food like fruit or oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit (dates are great in oatmeal and muesli!). Additionally, have fruit as a snack when you crave sweets.

3) Follow Dr. Fuhrman's advice and eat salad first, then veggies, then starches! This might look like: salad, then soup, then brown rice tofu bowl. You are guaranteed to be full...of the good stuff.

4) Drink lots of water (or tea or coffee). Eliminate juice, soda, etc. which is just extra calories that your body will store as fat. Fruit juice without the fiber can cause a spike in blood sugar. It is better to eat the fruit and get the fiber with the juice. And soda...well that is just bad. Diet soda- don't even get me started! That stuff should be illegal. Chemical cocktail, anyone? The more you eliminate sugary things (besides fruit) from your diet, the less you will crave over time.

5) Eat every 2-3 hours. Wake, Meal, Snack, Meal, Snack, Meal, Snack, Bed. Do not restrict yourself as you set yourself up to binge on unhealthy foods. This requires planning: chopping fruits and veggies, making a batch of soup on a Sunday, etc. It's not easy but it's worth it!

Here is a sample day based on the 5 principles:

Eat breakfast (1 cup oatmeal with banana, walnuts, blueberries* and flax meal or chia seeds. 1/2 cup almond milk on oatmeal)
Snack: apple* and 2 TBS sunflower or peanut butter
Lunch: Giant "taco" salad with salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and bowl of lentil soup
snack: chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, celery) with 2 TBS hummus
Dinner: Salad, pasta marinara, and sauteed kale.
Snack: soy yogurt with 1/4 cup granola**

*don't forget that blueberries and apples are part of the "dirty dozen" of fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic due to pesticides. See here.
**vegan granola, of course! I use agave syrup and Earth Balance to make mine or buy at the store.

Yeesh that's a lot of food. Good nutritious food! It makes me hungry just looking at it. That reminds me: it's time for my afternoon snack. Banana with sunflower seed butter, here I come!

For more information on eating a healthy plant-based diet please see the list of websites on this blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dinner Last Night-the Wins and the Fails...

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I had the urge to cook yesterday. And when that happens, I go with it. I had my recipes all picked out: a Thanksgiving-worthy meatless loaf with mushroom gravy, kale slaw, and split pea soup (I had a craving).

As happens with new recipes, some work and some don't. Well...I had such high hopes for the meatless loaf. It was good but WAY too herby. Like, I would make it again because the overall recipe was good but cut down the herbs by 75% or more. It was just overpowered by an herby taste. I was pretty disappointed because it took a while to make...we still happily ate it, though. And I should add: it is a nutrition powerhouse! Protein for DAYS, and veggies in the loaf...and it is virtually *fat-free!

The split pea soup was amazing and completely satisfied my craving! Considering it is virtually *fat free, it was so flavorful and delicious and the spices were exactly right. (*I sauteed the veggies in veggie broth instead of oil.) See here for some great information on the amazing health benefits of green peas!

The kale slaw was great as always although I need to play around with the dressing a bit- I think it needed a bit more sweetener. I used carrots, regular cabbage, and lacinato kale. Really, you could use any cabbages or kales you have on hand- even broccoli slaw.

The best part is that we now have tons of leftovers for lunches and dinners. I plan to add some beans and other veggies to the kale slaw for lunch today with a bowl of pea soup. I am not sure if it is possible to eat a more healthy or nutritious meal! And believe me: this is good. It satisfies on so many levels.

Overall, my time investment to cook these dishes was about an hour and a half. Not bad, considering that for a smaller family these meals could take you through a couple days easily (my husband is 6'8", and with the 3 kids we tend to go through food fast!) I was able to make all this food while my girls napped and even squeezed in a quick workout.

Cooking food on a Sunday makes for a very happy Monday! Have a great week, everyone (hi, Mom!)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I *Heart* Annie Chun's Seaweed Snacks!

I am so sick of all the candy, salt, and dessert-laden parties that are going on at my kids school! Just this week he brought home information for the cleverly named, "Chips and Donuts" party they are having (or as I call it, the Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes Party). I was randomly assigned to bring juice boxes. Of course, I will be buying organic apple juice but does it really matter when I will be competing with the likes of capri sun, gatorade, and other artificially sweetened, chemically-laden products?! Not to mention the rest of the signup list included the likes of cheetohs, donuts, potato chips, etc.

Ugh. Just last week was that darned Valentine's Day party where he came home with a bag of candy! Don't people give Valentine's anymore? We want to give each other tasty food, it's part of our culture to enjoy food with friends. I get that! But the food we traditionally eat is killing us. Currently, your chances of getting cancer in this country is you eat the typical Standard American Diet (SAD) are 1 out of 2!!

We don't have to stop enjoying food together. There are a million healthy foods we could share at a party. For example: fruit salad, hummus and veggie sticks, veggie pizza, whole grain blueberry muffins...

So, what is a parent to do? I for one am not giving in. I am determined to keep all the crap out of my house. If he gets some at school or at a party, fine. But he is here 85% of the time so hopefully what he eats here and the example and teachings I give him at home will be enough. For now I am determined to find and stock up on snacks that are cheap, quick, and nutritious (not necessarily in that order). Here is what we do as far as snacks for the kids:

  • lots of fruit, bowls of it! Apples, pears, bananas at eye level on the kitchen table...
  • dried fruit: raisins, prunes, cranberries, banana chips, dates..
  • seaweed snacks! Annie Chun's are on sale at my local grocery for .99/package. My 10 year old LOVES these with a passion. And they couldn't be more healthier! I happily give him these whenever he asks. Seaweeds are one of the most beneficial vegetables on the planet! These are actually really yummy and satisfy that crunchy, salty, fat craving of chips.
  • organic wheat crackers or pretzels (try to use sparingly)
  • granola bars (check ingredient list. I like Barbara's fruit bars and Zkids by Cliff)
So, back to my dilemma regarding the Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes party...I think I am going to go ahead and bring the juice boxes I planned and a little something extra: a few packages of Annie Chun's Seaweed Snacks! I would bet anything that all the kids will love them as much as my picky 10 year old. In fact, I am going to use reverse psychology to make sure they do. Here is my plan: I will bring a few packages of the seaweed. Not enough for everyone. With chips and donuts being ubiquitous, the seaweed will be a novelty...and hopefully the center of attention. Peer pressure can be a good thing: watch!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What to Eat For Dinner...

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So, we just got back from Vegas!! last night. I can't say that I followed an entirely plant-strong diet-we did eat sushi and I definitely enjoyed some cheese (grilled cheese sammiches) as well as fried food. But, I did order a giant bowl of vegetarian noodle soup filled with fresh broccoli, bok choy, carrots, and a ton of mushrooms. Also, there was a tofu and veggie dish with rice, mushroom pizza, and veggie burger in there. I am craving mushrooms lately...hmmm..what is that about?! All in all, I tried to eat healthy when I could but wanted to enjoy myself so I relaxed and decided to eat what I felt like. I kind of went lacto-veg-o.

Oddly, I don't think I had one sugary thing the whole weekend (besides the cranberry juice in my cranberry-vodka cocktails). I even avoided chocolate! I attribute that to the fact that my cravings overall for sugary foods have gone way down over the past few months. And boy, there was lots of beautiful desserts! I enjoyed them with my eyes and that was enough.

Needless to say, I haven't gone grocery shopping yet so I am going to make something using what we already have on favorite asian noodle stir fry using Annie Chun's chinese noodles, extra firm tofu, kale, edamame, and mushrooms. I will also make a quick asian-style dressing for a chopped salad using some rice wine vinegar, agave syrup, soy sauce, and a touch of veganaise. Yum! One of the reasons I like the asian stir fry recipe so much is it's versatility. You can pretty much use any kind of noodle (of course, whole wheat or buckwheat would be a healthier option), any kinds of veggies (even a bag of frozen stir fry blend), and any asian sauce you have on hand.

Another option that I can't wait to try because of the easy quotient is the Healthy Librarian's "Crazy Good" lasagne. The ingredient list and prep are minimal and the recipe is a nutrition powerhouse! I will definitely be making this sometime this week- hoping I can find some Upton's Naturals Seitan Chorizo!

When changing your lifestyle (and eating style) I think it is helpful to remember that it is a takes time to build up a list of go-to recipes, time to try new recipes, and a willingness to try new things. You won't like everything you make. I made the most hideous dinner two weeks ago that I am still scarred. However, I have discovered so many wonderful new recipes and foods that my family loves. I love watching my kids eat food that gives their growing bodies what they need. Lunch today for the girls was sauteed mushrooms, edamame, tofu, and spinach with some leftover whole wheat elbow pasta. I used some leftover Portabello mushroom soup to sautee it all in. It was amazing! And done in 5 minutes. It sure beats that heck out of Kraft mac and cheese, nutritionally. Hungry kids will eat healthy (and tasty) food. Try it! And keep trying it...and get them involved with the shopping, selecting of food, prep of food...if they own part of the process they are more likely to eat it!

OK, this post went way off on a tangent. Sorry! Well, I have to go workout now- it's been way too long. Gotta burn off some of those onion rings!! (Yes, I ordered room service onion rings 2 nights in a row, so there.) If I had to do it again I wouldn't. I just read this article on the affects of high fat foods on your brain. Yikes! I mean, I like onion rings but not enough to give myself brain damage!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Menu for the Week, Including Recipes and Grocery List!

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Happy (Almost) Valentine's Day! I had to make a meal plan for the week because I will be so busy with my best friend's wedding (a real wedding, not the movie!), and rehearsal dinner, and then Vegas for the weekend! Fun times! But with a babysitter from Friday through Monday I needed to make sure we had enough food, meals, and healthy snacks on hand for everyone. I decided to post my meal plan and grocery list just in case anyone needed some inspiration.

At Sprouts market today I had to ask a stockboy to get more organic kale. He brought it out and mentioned wanting to try it. I told him to make kale chips! He was very excited to try them. I was so excited, I then told a woman buying kale about them as well after she asked me, "Is this kale?" Spread the kale love!

Meal Plan
Monday: "Beef" Stroganoff on Whole Wheat Linguini; Coconut, chickpea and kale soup; salad
Tuesday: Sweet Potato Pancakes, Hawaiian Fried Rice with Avocado Eggrolls a la Cheesecake Factory, garlic sauteed kale.
Wednesday: Enchiladas, salad. Coconut, chickpea and kale soup
Thursday: Bean and Rice Burritos, salad.
Friday: Stuffed Shells, salad.
Sunday: Leftovers!

Whole wheat crackers with peanut butter
fruit, nuts
homemade trail mix

Valentine's Day Sweet Potato Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

** I sub non-vegan ingredients on recipes. For example, I use Ener-G egg replacer instead of eggs.
Grocery List:


onions (6-7)
garlic, 1 bulb
Ginger Root
mushrooms (5 10 oz. containers, sliced)
kale (3-4 bunches)
yams/sweet potatoes (6 large)
green peppers (4)
celery, 1 bunch
apples (10ish)
oranges (10ish)
pears (6)
bananas (1-2 bunches)
avocados (5)
spring onions
red onion, 1
cilantro 1 bunch
sprouts, broccoli
lettuce (anything but iceberg)
broccoli (2 large heads)
broccoli slaw for egg rolls

blueberries/raspberries (for oatmeal or waffles)
Boca Burgers, vegan
whole wheat waffles

oatmeal (LARGE BAG of whole oats or steel cut.)
yellow split peas (3-4 cups)
dates, chopped
whole wheat spaghetti, linguini, and shells

garbanzo beans/chickpeas (3)
black (2)
light coconut milk
sun dried tomatoes
vegan french onion soup or mushroom soup
granola bars (whole wheat, organic)

whole wheat bread
whole wheat tortillas
whole wheat bagels

almond milk (for oatmeal, cereal, and drinking) (2-3)
toffuti (For bagels and cream cheese)
Vegan shred cheese, 1 cheddar and 1 mozzerella (for vegan quesadillas and burritos, enchiladas and flatbread topping. I like Daiya)
Extra Firm Tofu, 1

Total Cost: around $165
Feeds (Very generously): Me, Chris, Brandon (10), Kendall (2 1/2), and Kaylee (15 months) for 1 week