Thursday, January 26, 2012

Aging...Something to Look Forward To!

I saw this book was recommended by one of my favorite bloggers: Debbie over at If she recommends it you can bet it is worth reading-she does her homework!

(When Chris saw what I was reading he had to tell me, "But Aly, you're not 100...yet!" Uh, yeah thanks Chris. I realize that! The plan is to get to 100- in good health!)

Before I started reading this book I hadn't really thought that much about how we age in this society. The answer seems to be "not well." John Robbins talks about how in this culture older people are devalued and the end of life often doesn't hold the joy that it does in other cultures where the older generation is respected and people look forward to being old because of their increased status! He profiles 3 different cultures that are world-renowned not only for the longevity of their people but for the amazing quality of life these older people have. I am talking about 90-100 year olds here!! These people are still walking, exercising, working, gardening, participating in society...

The most amazing thing these 3 cultures have to teach us is how to live a joyful and DISEASE-FREE life. Yes, these populations of people have no cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and alzheimers. They need no reading glasses. They don't get osteoporosis. The list goes on!

I haven't finished reading the book yet (I just got it yesterday!) but the commonality between the 3 cultures and the key to their longevity seems to be linked to a few things:

1. Diet
2. Exercise
3. Social connections


Each of these 3 cultures eats a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Like, pick it off the tree before eating fresh. They also eat very little animal products, if at all. They eat very little salt and no sugar. Fresh fruit is their main source of sweetness. Processed food is never eaten.


Many of the people from these cultures were exercising quite a bit in their natural everyday routines. Such exercise included traversing steep terrains, swimming in ice cold mountain streams, and mountain climbing. There was no water-aerobics for these old people- they were just as active and fit as their younger counterparts!


In each society getting older was seen as something to look forward to. With age came increased respect. Relatives loved the opportunity to have an elder live in their house-it was an honor. In fact, in these societies people often lie about their age just as we do here- except they add years to their age instead of subtracting them!

Older people dance, laugh , sing, participate in their cultures celebrations. They are an integral part of the society and enjoy a special and revered place in it. How different from things in America!


In this society it is easy to see why people don't look forward to getting older. For us it usually means facing heart disease, cancer, alzheimers, diabetes, and a host of other health problems. Not only that but older people tend to be devalued by this culture that is focused on youth and beauty. I think the first step towards change would be to take a lesson from the 3 cultures in the book and to change your diet, exercise more, and make sure you have some strong familial and friends bonds to see you into your old age.

This crappy American diet is killing us! Our sedentary lifestyle is killing us! Our addiction to technology at the expense of real relationships with family and friends is killing us! Being focused on earning money instead of spending our valuable time with precious friends and family is killing us!

I, for one, intend to look forward to getting older by treating my body with respect and eating healthy, exercising, and maintaining my ideals about the importance of family and friends. Thank you for this book, John Robbins. This is a great read for people of any age. After all, we are all getting older every day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meals for a Week Plus a Grocery List and Recipe Links! (You're Welcome, Mom!)

Since my mom is probably the only one who really reads this blog and I am sure she does so just to make me happy (hi, Mom!) I decided to post a few of my favorite and easy recipes that are super-delicious, nutritious, and you can make them all on Sunday in a few hours and be set for the rest of the week! Think of all the free time! I even made a corresponding grocery list! Mom, I hope you like these!

Asian Noodle Stir Fry with Whole Wheat Linguini or Japanese Buckwheat Noodles (make extra noodles for spaghetti and meatless balls later in the week)
Pizza/Flatbread Dough (to use for veggie pizzas, flatbreads for spaghetti, etc.) Note: I have used whole wheat flour with this recipe and it works fine.

The beauty of these meals is that they all taste good hot or cold so you can easily bring them to work or eat hot for dinner.

Also, chop some veggies like cucumbers, carrots, celery for easy snacking and salads. Have canned beans or prepare some beans to use in veggies (and in the quinoa recipe).

There, a week of delicious and nutritious vegan food to last you all week for both lunches and dinners! What about breakfast, you ask? Start with fruit and oatmeal and you can't go wrong! In fact, I swear by oatmeal especially for people watching their weight (and cholesterol). Add some chia seeds or flaxmeal for important Omega-3's and you are golden! Don't forget your multivitamin, B-12, and D3 supplements!

Grocery List:

Veggies: **buy as much organic as possible.
Tomatoes AND grape tomatoes

any other fruit you like!

Whole Wheat Flour
Whole Wheat Orzo
Whole Oats
Pine Nuts
Dates (pieces)
chia seeds or flax meal

Organic Corn

Refrigerated Section:
Extra Firm Non GMO Tofu

Healthy Teriyaki Sauce (or make your own sauce!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lecture: How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

I watched an amazing video called "How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind," which effectively blew my mind (in a good way). Dr. Doug Lisle (PhD) gave an amazing talk regarding the weight epidemic in this country and what we can do to combat it and his advice was startlingly simple. I will share more later. First, some background .

There are many "causes" of obesity, according to many experts. For example, some people think that childhood trauma can contribute to that. Dr. Lisle argues, then there must be some great parents over in Asia- they have few weight problems! Kidding aside, what he is saying is that Americans face the same stressors as people in other countries but we are clearly heavier.

There are only 3 species that are found to be overweight on Earth: dogs, cats, and humans. What do those 3 species have in common? They are all fed "human food." The funny thing is that most people in the USA eat about the same amount of food regardless of whether they are fat or slender (excluding vegans and raw foodists who are clearly slender because they eat better than the rest of us). So, why are some people (the majority of the population, sadly) overweight while others are slim? Is it because they exercise more? Actually, no! This is one of the greatest myths out there! Slim people exercise and eat about as much as the rest of us. Slim people have no reason to feel superior just because they look good in a pair of jeans...just like obese people shouldn't feel bad or feel like they just don't exercise enough.

It turns out that the difference between the skinny person and the fat person is in the normal variation between human individuals: slim people have more fat receptors and fat people have less. Fat people don't get the "message" that they are full as fast as slim people do. We are talking about a difference here of maybe 100 calories per meal, for example. Not a lot but over time it adds up.

So, does this mean you are destined to be overweight because it is in your genes? No! Lisle says the answer is simply to change how and what you eat.

1) Eat lots of low calorie-concentrated foods (plants, beans, legumes, whole grains, etc.)
2) Eat none or few high calorie foods (fats, oils, meats, dairy, etc.)
3) Eat salad first, then veggies, then carbs

If you eat this way you will fill up your stomach with high fiber, high nutrient foods that are low in calorie and activate your receptors to signal your brain that you are full. Sounds simple but change can be hard.

Lisle says to try starting with one simple change for 30-60 days. His example was a woman he was counseling that had initially wanted stomach bypass surgery. He talked her into eating oatmeal for 60 days for breakfast. He told her she could put anything on the oatmeal she wanted but just eat the oatmeal every day. No other changed were encouraged. She lost 78 lbs., if memory serves (I have to go back and watch this movie again. Priceless stuff).

I for one think the oatmeal challenge is a great place to start. I am at my lowest weight in ...ever?? And I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day. Usually, I add walnuts, berries, dried cranberries, chia seeds, banana and almond milk. You can see that I eat a lot of volume of food but the key is that it is all low calorie dense and high fiber. Perfect. Try this change for 60 days and see how much weight you can drop!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazing Salad for Lunch and Movie Review: Dying to Have Known

I had such an amazing salad for lunch to day that I had to share...I simply mixed some leftover orzo pasta salad (orzo pasta with corn, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and cilantro) with some chopped spinach, baby carrots, tomatoes, and chickpeas. The dressing from the orzo salad was made with a good balsamic vinegar, about 1 TBS agave syrup, and salt and pepper (no oil!!). I didn't need to add any extra dressing! This was without a doubt one of the best salads I have ever eaten.

And don't even get me started on the nutrient load in this baby. It is loaded with healthy veggies chocked full of antioxidants and the chickpeas add fiber and protein. This is definitely a "superlunch!" I believe that when what you are eating is in line with the vitamins, nutrients that your body needs without all the additives, chemicals, etc. that processed foodmakers use then weight loss as well as disease-recovery is easy!

It goes like this: when you eat high-nutrient foods your body gets satisfied as far as its nutrient and vitamin needs so doesn't it make sense that the hunger signal would get turned off? Needs are met=no hunger signal.

On the other side if all you are eating is nutrient-poor foods that lack the necessary vitamins, minerals, then wouldn't it make sense that your body would keep that hunger signal active in order to keep trying to get these needs met? Needs are not met(even if "food" has been consumed)=hunger signal stays on.

These are just my own opinions based on what I have been learning as well as my own experience. See, ever since I switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet and excluded (to a large extent) processed foods, meat, dairy, and eggs I have reached the lowest weight since high school! Without even trying. And I work out 3/days per week for approximately 12 minutes per day. That equates to less than 40 minutes/week. And I am stronger, healthier, have more energy, happier, my skin is clearer, etc.

I thank the Higher Powers every day that I happened across the book, The China Study, as it has truly changed my life and the lives of my family for the better in so many ways. Thank you to the people like T. Colin Campbell who speak out for what is right no matter who opposes you. Thank you to Dr. Gerson who published his phenomenal cure for cancer and for giving the world a 2nd chance at life. Thank you to everyone else who is a part of the solution to the problems facing our world today- people that are willing to dig and find out the truth and share it with other's at great personal cost. These people give me hope that we really will be able to work towards a sustainable future for the human race on planet Earth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Burger With As Much Protein As Meat But With No Cholesterol or Saturated Fat and Loads of Fiber and Other Nutrients

image via whatscookinggoodlooking

I had some leftover quinoa casserole and I always have black beans on hand, so I went looking for a recipe for a veggie burger incorporating those two elements and stumbled upon a fabulous new blog of a natural foods chef. Her recipe looks amazing and best of all it looks easy! Here it is direct from her site,

Prep Time / Cook Time
20 minutes / 25 minutes for the beans & quinoa to cook + 10 minutes to cook the patties

5-6 burgers


For the black bean and quinoa burgers:

2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 cups of black beans (Canned is fine as long as it is organic, no sodium. If you're using dried, rinse your beans and soak them overnight and drain when ready to use.)
1.5 cups of organic low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt & pepper
olive oil
*toasted whole grain buns or bread for serving

For the smoky avocado spread:

1 ripe avocado
1 plum tomato, seeds removed and diced.
1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional)
salt & pepper


  • While you are cooking your quinoa, combine the black beans, turmeric, cumin, and broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low, cover partially, and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Drain the beans.
  • In a large bowl combine the beans, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. When the ingredients are well combined (mashed), add in the quinoa and combine. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  • Form the mixture into patties. Depending on how big or small you make them, you should get around 5-7 patties. Transfer the patties to a plate, cover and refrigerate while you are preparing your avocado spread or until you are ready to use (they will keep for about 3-4 days).
  • For the avocado spread: In a bowl, mash the avocado until it is smooth. Add in the tomato, smoked paprika, red pepper (if using), season with salt and pepper and combine.
  • In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cakes (maybe 3-4 at a time depending on the size of your pan) turning over once it has browned (about 5-7 minutes per side).
  • Serve immediately on a toasted bun, or bread with the avocado spread.
I will be serving the burgers with the avocado spread, sweet potato french fries, and roasted brussel sprouts.
You wouldn't believe how good this house smells right now! I love spoiling my family with healthy and delicious plant-strong food.

To change the subject...while watching Nate Berkus today (total guilty pleasure-LOVE that show) they did a makeover for two sisters who were receiving an award for creating a healthy eating gift pack for their mom's friend who was going through cancer treatment. They had a red-carpet event to go to as their product was up for best new product of the year, or some such. They mentioned that their mom's friend would be "smiling down from above." Guess she didn't make it. So sad... I couldn't help but think and wonder if the healthy eating package included plant-strong, non-meat and dairy products with lots of fresh, organic produce as well as tons of vitamins and minerals. And then I thought, if the medical establishment at large fails to acknowledge the power of nutrition to heal then what chance do us laypeople have?

To me, it is criminal that the information that could save people's lives is often not given to them by the very people that are supposed to care the most: their doctors. Didn't Hppocrates himself say, "Let food be thy medicine?" It is time for a change of the status quo!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Homemade Vegan Granola...Spoiling My Family the Healthy Way

photo by Mark Thomas via

OK, I know that you could argue that granola isn't the healthiest breakfast food with all the butter, sugar, and nuts in most recipes but with a few simple substitutions it can be ultra healthy and pack more nutrients than any processed breakfast cereal. It can do you right when you don't have time to make a more involved breakfast. Healthy carbs, fiber, protein...what more could you want?!

Well, after Chris ate the entire bag of Bear Naked granola in one day (Hey- that stuff's expensive!) and since I had a craving for it I decided to try and make my own vegan granola. My requirements were: 1) Easy 2) Contains dates 3) Easy. I came across this recipe which I modified and used Earth Balance margarine and agave syrup and substituted walnuts for cashews. Although, cashews and walnuts I think would be sublime and I will be making many variations of this recipe in the future as it was very easy and lovely.

My 10 year old son and I had a little bowl tonight after it was fresh from the oven. It was awesome and so satisfying! He offered to take some to school for snack- how sweet of him! We talked about all the endless variations of granola we would love to try and make (chocolate, anyone?) and it was a nice experience.

It really made me think about how in most cultures one way to show people you love them is to cook for them. Many times the food we cook is tasty but not altogether nutritious for our loved one's body. It's the thought that counts, yes, but if the food you lovingly prepare for your friends and family is doing damage to their bodies then it seems almost counter-productive not to mention scary.

I love See's candy as much as the next person (maybe more), but I just wouldn't be too excited if someone gave me a box of it because of the effects of that candy on my body.

Now, if someone gave me, say, a jar of homemade, fresh, nutritious, vegan granola that tasted amazing and didn't include a sugar hangover I would be that much more appreciative of the gift. (Although I am not one to ever look a gift horse in the mouth!)

I used to make cookies, cakes, and brownies when I wanted to make a special treat for my family or friends. But if tonight is any example then a batch of fresh vegan granola is definitely a special treat that a mom can feel good about for many reasons.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's Easy To Get Overwhelmed When Making Lifestyle Changes

...So for now I have decided that I will work to incorporate 2 new dishes into our meal repertoire each week.

This week's will be Quinoa, Broccoli, and "Cheese" casserole (from the book, The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet, By Nava Atlas-thanks, Mom!), and Gingered Coconut Rice (throw it in with the rice while it cooks, looks SOOOOO good! perfect accompaniment to a lentil dahl and kale salad, no?)

I really like this book because it uses lots of simple and fresh ingredients and they are EASY. Perfect for me! There are so many recipes I want to the dips and pastas.

My Workout Plan, What We Eat On a Daily Basis and Why My Jeans Look Awful These Days...

photo via

My Workout Plan
Have I mentioned that I love Free home workouts that are short (12 minutes average), intense, and fun. Back when I was trying to lose the baby weight I was working out about 6 days per week. Now, since I am at a really low weight I am working out 3 times per week- enough to maintain strength but not so much to make me lose any more weight.

Wow. I never thought I would be in the position where I don't want to lose any more weight! In fact, Chris keeps telling me I need to put on a few pounds. I am convinced this is because all of my pants are lose and saggy in the butt making for a very attractive saggy-diaper-butt look. Even my "skinny pants" are falling off! Same with all of my's a good problem to have, right?

But how did I get to this point? (I haven't weighed this much since high school!) Before I changed my diet I was close to this weight, maybe 10 pounds heavier, but I certainly wasn't looking to lose any more weight. My only goal was to be as close to a plant-based, whole foods diet as possible. Thus, I am convinced I lost the "last 10 pounds" once I eliminated the meat, eggs, and dairy from my diet along with the processed food (chips, crackers, cereal, etc.) I (we) eat way more fruits and vegetables than I used to and also more whole grains: oatmeal, whole wheat tortillas and bread, brown rice, quinoa. Brandon snacks on almonds and homemade trail mix along with fresh fruit now instead of chips, crackers, etc. It's a beautiful thing!

Also, I loved the above cartoon! It is a myth that a plant-based diet doesn't offer adequate protein. In fact, vegetables, beans, grains, fruits, etc. all have protein! And they have it without saturated fat and cholesterol.

I thought I would post what we eat in a typical day because that is a frequent question I get when I start blathering on about my new diet change (which comes up quite a bit because of my obvious weight loss and fore-mentioned saggy-butt-jeans).

A Typical Day of Food
  • Oatmeal with chia seeds and banana. I may add berries, raisins, walnuts, etc. to this depending on what I am in the mood for.
  • Whole wheat bagels with tofutti "cream cheese"
  • fruit
  • whole wheat waffles with agave syrup

  • PB &J
  • assorted fruits and veggies
  • veggie sandwich (whole wheat bread or wrap with hummus, avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, sprouts, cucs, etc.)
  • bean burritos or quesadillas
  • leftover dinners (see below)

  • Asian veggie stir-fry with noodles and tofu
  • veggie enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tostadas with fresh salsa and avocado and tofutti "sour cream"
  • vegan stuffed shells (stuffed with tofu, spinach, nutritional yeast, and spices)
  • spaghetti marinara
  • homemade whole wheat pizza crust with veggies
  • orzo pasta salad
  • stir fried veggies over brown rice
  • vegan "beef stroganoff"
  • veggies (plain or with hummus or other dip)
  • fruit
  • nuts
  • trail mix
  • granola bars
Book and Movie Recommendations
I have to recommend a few books and movies to anyone looking to improve their diet and health. Some are more motivational and some are instructional. After reading the first 1/4 of The China Study I was already convinced that I needed to change our diet and eliminate meat and dairy! Powerful stuff...


Movies (all available on Netflix!):

Forks Over Knives (based on the first 2 books listed above)
The Beautiful Truth
Fat, Sick, And Nearly Dead

In the next post I will share some of my new favorite "health blogs." :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Amazing vegan enchilada recipe and thoughts on "Forks Over Knives" from my 10 year old son...

My 10 year old son has really been struggling with our lifestyle change to vegetarianism. Things he has said:

"But Mom, meat is good for you!"
"I hate vegetables!"
"Why don't we eat meat anymore?!"
"Do I have to eat this?!"

and so forth. I have been telling him that we are not eating meat because it isn't good for your body. That is such an abstract idea for a kid though...but he does have family that are no doubt deeply affected by our SAD (standard American diet) diet: his Nana has had a stroke and suffers from Type 2 diabetes. His paternal grandfather died of liver cancer in his late 40's. His own dad ( a huge meat eater) suffers from autoimmune disorders. So I try to reach him by telling him that people can get better or avoid disease by the food they eat!

He knows I read "The China Study" and I recently decided to show him "Forks Over Knives" and told him that it is based on the book and will help explain why we don't eat meat (or drink milk, eat eggs, cheese, etc.) We watched about half of the movie before he scampered away to play but he was already starting to put things together and said:

"Mom, this is scary."
"Why don't they tell us this in the news?" When I explained that McDonald's would not like the news saying that meat can allow cancer (and other diseases) to progress so they wouldn't pay for an ad on any station that would say that, he said: "So they only care about money!"

He is starting to get it. It is slowly sinking in. It makes me happy and gives me hope:we can teach our children to eat better and to do better and we have a responsibility to give them the tools to save the planet before it's too late. We need to do this before we have a population that is too sick and stupid from the non-nutritive disease causing food that we self destruct. Critical mass has been reached. Our children might not outlive us if they don't change the way they eat. If WE don't change the way they eat.

Here is a great talk on TED about school lunches and a great program in Berkeley that should be a model for the entire nation's school lunch program:

Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy cure"

Anywho, I made a really yummy dinner tonight and wanted to share:

Aly's Amazing Vegan Enchiladas!

2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 zuchini squash
1 onion
1 green pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 cans black beans
1-2 cups frozen organic corn (NON GMO!!)
10-12 whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup toffutti cream cheese
1 cup daiya (or other brand) vegan cheese (I used Daiya Mozzerella)
1 TBS cumin
1 tbs garlic salt (to taste)
2 packets organic enchilada sauce mix
2 8 oz. cans tomato paste

Preheat oven to 350.

Sautee garlic in 1 tbsp. oil for about 1 min then add onions. Stir and let cook until they get transluscent then add the rest of the veggies and 1/4 water. Cook for about 10 minutes until everything is mostly done.

Meanwhile, make enchilada sauce according to directions.

Add 1/2 cup sauce into the veggie mixture and take off heat.

Assemble enchiladas: put 1/2 cup or so of sauce into bottom of 9X13 pan. Take one whole wheat tortilla and spread 1 TBS tofutti on it and a sprinkle of cheese. Then add veggies and 2 TBS or so of sauce. Roll up and place seam side down in pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top all with left over sauce and sprinkle "cheese" on top. You can also add black olives at this point. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Serve with guacamole, salsa, cilantro, and vegan sour cream!

You can omit the tofutti and cheese for an even healthier enchilada. Additionally, you can sautee in just water instead of using oil for an ultimate healthy dish! Play around with whatever veggies and beans you have on hand- this is basically a no-fail recipe. The tofutti really adds a nice creaminess to the dish! Much healthier than traditional enchiladas and still yummy! :)