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Month: March 2017

Whole Food Plant-Based

Whole Food Plant-Based

Why I Eat Primarily Whole Food Plant-Based

The main reason I started eating whole food plant-based (WFPB) was initially selfish. I continue to choose it for the best health possible, to feel energized and alive! People eat this way for other reasons too but I do it for mainly for health.

What does WFPB mean? Whole foods means eating little to no processed foods. Plant-based means just what it says: food that comes from plants and not animals. Some like to label it as “vegan”. Vegan means eating mostly plants and no animal product like meat or dairy. But you could actually be an unhealthy vegan by eating more processed foods, fat and sugar. So combining whole foods and plant based is the best of both worlds.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman coined the term “nutritarian”, which refers to nutrient-dense and plant-rich. He allows small amounts of fish or meat and says it should be the “condiment” to a meal rather than the focus. I would say I’m not strictly vegan so I’ve used the term “veganish”. I don’t want to worry too much about eating one wrong thing and feel stressed about it. In fact I’d rather not put a label on the way I eat. The term vegan also emphasizes what I don’t eat and I don’t think of my eating style as a negative thing. I strive for WFPB.

Everyone has their own eating style and I have no judgement over anyone else’s choices but I do feel we have a responsibility to be the healthiest we can be within the resources we have. We each make our own decisions based on what we know at that time. I prefer to base my own health and eating decisions on science and what works best for me.

Eating more plants and less meat is becoming more popular thanks to recent media coverage including the documentary Forks Over Knives and the new documentary Eating You Alive. This eating philosophy is based primarily as a result of scientific studies including The China Study by Dr. Colin T. Campbell and his son M.D. Dr. Thomas Campbell. This 20-year study began in 1980 and the findings were first published in 2005. You can find additional supporting evidence in the book How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. It means eating more veggies, fruits, beans peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds instead of animal products, dairy and processed foods.

Further research by Dr. Dean Ornish showed that eating a low-fat, plant-based diet could in fact reverse heart disease. Additionally, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn was able to stop and reverse heart disease in patients who were gravely ill. Eating red meat is associated with increased rates of cancer and heart disease. In 2015, the World Health Organization announced that red meat and processed meats are known to be carcinogenic. They can lead to diseases like colon cancer, which is on the rise in North America. Other advocates with evidence to support a WFPB eating style are:

Eating whole foods means eating foods in their natural state. Processing food removes the nutrients and fibre and leaves little nutritional value. Eating whole foods also means less added sugar or fat. Most plant-based food is higher in fibre, lower in sugar and full of valuable phytochemicals and other nutrients. Eating WFPB not only gives you the right nutritional balance, it also leaves you feeling satisfied.

When you eat food that is highly processed, your body doesn’t get what it needs nutritionally and it constantly craves more and you feel hungry. Even if you just ate something, if it’s not nutritionally good, your body may send you signs of hunger because it is looking for the right nutrients. If you keep eating the wrong foods you fill up on empty calories and end up gaining weight. I have discovered that when I eat WFPB, I feel more satisfied and less likely to graze.

Many plant-based foods like fruit and veggies are much less calorie dense and require more volume to increase the total caloric value. You usually can fill up on more and not over eat. It is possible to eat vegan and not eat healthily by eating processed foods high in sugar and/or fat. That’s why the emphasis is on whole foods.

I eat plants mostly for my own health but there are some good side effects:

  • I feel better, have more energy, am less lethargic & have good performance
  • It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight
  • It’s good for the environment
  • It saves me money
  • It doesn’t support animal cruelty

While it’s true that vegans eat a lot of salads, we’d have to eat a huge amount of leafy vegetables to sustain the correct amount of energy. It’s best to eat a wide variety of foods in as many colours and textures as possible. We need fruits, vegetables, tubers and starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes. I try to eat many different colours of food. If you are thinking of trying this lifestyle of eating, start small: start with meatless Monday. Make simple changes that will last and that you feel good about. Do what feels right to you!

What’s on your dinner plate?

Please leave your comments below…

Find some WFPB recipes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

  • 8 small sweet potatoes
  • homemade guacamole or 1 avocado
  • 1-15oz can black beans or pinto beans
  • ½ cup frozen sweet green peas
  • ½ cup frozen corn niblets
  • 1 medium tomato, diced, juice squeezed out
  • 1/4 cup mango salsa
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • non-dairy shredded cheese

Scrub and wash the sweet potatoes, pat dry. Prick each sweet potato several times with a fork. Wrap inside a tea towel and microwave on high for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are tender. While potatoes cook, prepare toppings. Heat frozen peas and corn in microwave. Dice tomatoes. Once sweet potatoes are soft, slice in half and place on serving plates. Gently rough up the flesh of the potatoes. Top with non-dairy cheese, beans, peas, corn, guacamole and salsa. The cheese should begin to melt over the hot sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and top with fresh tomatoes if desired. Use whatever toppings you have on hand. From beginning to end, this only takes 15-20 minutes to prepare – perfect for a weeknight!

Great for meatless Monday!

Share your thoughts below…

Have you tried some of my other meatless recipes?

 

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands (aka TCI) are a series of low-lying coral islands owned by Great Britain. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cuba and north of Haiti and Dominican Republic. Cruise ships dock in Cockburn Town on Grand Turk and the international airport is located on Providenciales. This is the gateway island known as “Provo” with luxury resorts, shops and restaurants. This is a common winter vacation spot (with short flights) for many Canadians and Americans.

The expansive 14-mile barrier reef is a draw for snorkelers and scuba divers with a dramatic 2,000m underwater wall. The islands have a total population of about 34,000 with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually. Locals are mostly descendants of Africans who were brought in to work on the salt pans and cotton plantations. Expats are from all over the world including British, Canadians, Americans, French, Bahamians, etc. There are many private luxury homes on Provo. Some famous owners of private homes on Parrot Cay (between Provo and North Caicos) include Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Donna Karan, a New York fashion designer, Christie Brinkley, an American model and Bruce Willis, an American actor.

The Government is a British Crown Colony with a Governor being appointed by the Queen. The economy relies on tourism, real estate development and exportation of seafood. The currency is the US$ and while you will find both left and right-handed cars, they drive on the left like in Britain. There are no traffic lights on Provo, only traffic circles – remember to look right! Gasoline (in 2017) costs $5 per gallon but since the island is quite small, you don’t end up using much fuel. Most places accept credit cards but gas stations only accept cash. There is no public transportation so you’d need to rent a car to get around. Atlantic Standard Time is observed all year in TCI. Electricity is 100 volts, which is suitable for U.S. appliances. Water is produced by desalination and most people prefer to buy bottled water to drink mostly for its taste. Most items are quite dear in price but you can get almost all the usual foods in the grocery stores. The main places to shop on Provo are Quality Foods, Graceway IGA and Graceway Gourmet Foods.

Providenciales satellite image

The climate is generally warm and consistent all year. There is a “hot” season and a “cool” season. May to October are considered hot and November to April cool ranging from 75F to 95C. The cool season is the best time to travel to TCI, otherwise it is too hot during the day to get outside. In February/March when we travelled here it was 83F (28C) every day and 72F (23C) at night. There is a nice leeward wind on the north side of the island. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to September 30. Floods and heavy rains can occur during hurricane season. After it rains mosquitoes and sand fleas can be a problem, so take bug spray. The water temperature hovers around 80F.

Crime is quite low however visitors should not let down their guard. Theft is the most common crime committed against visitors. Rental cars are marked so they suggest leaving doors unlocked so windows don’t get smashed. Also don’t go to remote areas. For healthcare, there is a modern hospital on Provo run by InterHealth Canada as well as Cheshire Hall Medical Centre. On Grand Turks there is Cockburn Town Medical Centre. There are also several medical clinics and pharmacies.

To travel to other islands you can take a guided tour or take a self-guided tour. You can also fly to the other islands. The ferry to North Caicos costs $50pp round trip and takes about 30 minutes each way. To get around on your own on North Caicos, you need to rent a vehicle. I’d suggest renting a Jeep since only the main road is paved and all the side roads are quite rough. Be aware that signage is quite small and sometimes hard to find. North Caicos, the “green island” is home to the Government Farm at Kew Village, Wade’s Plantation, town of Whitby, Cottage Pond, Flamingo Pond and Bottle Creek. There is a causeway to Middle Caicos, the biggest island. Here you can see the Indian Caves (N/C) and Conch Bar Caves National Park ($20pp) only accessible with a tour guide. There is also the famous Mudjin Harbour where you can walk out to the rocks depending if the tide is out, or walk the path along the cliff for some spectacular views.

Cheshire Hall Plantation ruins
Indian Caves on Middle Caicos

On Provo itself, the main attractions are: 12-mile Grace Bay Beach, Grace Bay area shopping and restaurants, snorkelling at the Bight Reef or Smiths Reef, Turtle Cove Marina, Conch Farm, Long Bay Beach, the hole at Long Bay, Sapodilla Bay Beach, Sapodilla Hill stone engravings, Cheshire Hall Plantation. Water sports include snorkelling, diving, free diving, kite boarding, parasailing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, glass-bottom boating.

TCI Sapodilla Bay – view from Sapodilla Hill

One of the most enjoyable activities for me was snorkelling. We made sure to get out almost every day to explore a new part of the reef. Our villa had direct beach access to Smith’s Reef, which is one (if not THE best) reef on Provo. Get directions and maps at VisitTCI.com. There was beautiful untouched coral, including (purple) sea fan coral and (yellow) brain coral. We saw many different fish like Rainbow Parrot Fish, Yellow Tail Snapper, Sargeant Major, Queen Trigger Fish, Trumpet Fish, Barracuda, Common Brown Rays, and Spotted Eagle Ray and many more!

Queen Trigger Fish

This is not a cheap location to visit. We rented a villa at Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas, which we loved. We normally prefer this type of accommodation over a hotel. But for this we get peace and quiet and the ability to prepare our own meals. This saves money and gives us more flexibility. The Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas have 2 properties (each with 4 villas), one located right on the beach and the other just across a quiet road that also has the same private access to the beach. These villas were significantly cheaper but in my opinion better since we didn’t have people walking past our units. Ours actually backed onto a canal that lead to Turtle Cove. There were no people trying to sell us trinkets on the beach at all. The beaches were immaculate, natural and unspoiled with only a few people there at a time. With Smith’s Reef directly off the beach, we were lucky to go snorkelling nearly every day. We saw the most amazing coral and fish! All in all, this was a very successful holiday and a great way to spend a winter vacation.

Atlantic Ocean Beach Villas on “Provo”
Sunrise at Providenciales “Provo”

Have you been to Turks & Caicos?

Please leave your comments below… I’d love to hear from you!

 

Useful links about TCI:  Visit TCI and Turks & Caicos Tourism

Read also Travel Safety Checklist and How to Travel Light

 

Banana Loaf

Banana Loaf

Banana Loaf

  • 2 Tbsp ground flax
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar or brown sugar
  • 8 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup canola oil

Optional additions:

  • ¾ c             dried cranberries or raisins
  • ½ c             walnuts

 

Mix flax with water in small bowl and set aside. In large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Add preferred additions to dry ingredients and mix. In medium large bowl, mash bananas. Add vanilla, oil and flax mixture. Divide batter evenly into 2 parchment-lined loaf pans and bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes. Or divide into 24 paper-lined muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes. Test for doneness with toothpick inserted in the centre.

In my house, banana muffins are a staple for breakfast along with homemade strawberry jam and peanut butter! We also like it with honey (which is not technically vegan but still delicious!) I also like them plain.

What do you have on your banana loaf?

Leave your comment below…

See more recipes.

 

Understanding Nutrients

Understanding Nutrients

Understanding Nutrients

I have learned that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself, given the right conditions. The North American lifestyle often works counter to what our bodies need to be healthy and strong. Our bodies are meant to move, not sit at a desk for hours on end. Given the correct nutrients, our bodies have the ability to heal and prevent disease. Our society has been accustomed to high fat, high sugar foods and even “fast food”. Much of these foods are devoid of the essential nutrients we need to function well. They have calories but not much food value. Instead we need whole foods, mostly plant-based that are fresh, lower in calories and nutrient rich. To begin to understand food nutrients we can begin with macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients and micronutrients are both required for us to survive. What is the difference? Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre and water, which are structural and energy giving and make up the bulk of our food. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants that are essential for maintaining good health and preventing disease which are consumed in smaller quantities. Macronutrients and micronutrients work in conjunction to help our bodies function and grow properly.

Macronutrients

Micronutrients

require large amounts

require small amounts

provide energy needed for metabolic system, muscle and cell growth

help various systems of the body, growth and disease prevention

carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, water

vitamins, minerals,   phytochemicals, antioxidants

Foods rich in macronutrients:

cereal, bread, legumes, potatoes, nuts, seeds

Foods rich in micronutrients:

fresh fruit & vegetables, green leafy vegetables

To get the most value out of your food, focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables with lots of dark green leafy vegetables along with whole grains. Make sure that vegetables make up at least half of your plate or more! If you eat meat or fish, then think of it as the condiment – only eat a small amount. Choosing locally grown produce means it is fresh. Also choose organic where possible to minimize chemical pesticides. If you can’t get fresh food, a good alternative is frozen food, which is frozen after harvested so retains most, if not all, of its nutrients.

Processed foods tend to have more macronutrients than micronutrients because processing foods strips away the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to give the food a longer shelf life.

If your body is getting the wrong foods, it still craves the correct nutrients. So even if you’ve just eaten a big meal, you may feel hungry shortly afterwards because your body is craving the nutrients it needs. This can become a vicious cycle if you never get the correct nutrients because you keep eating the wrong foods. You end up overeating, gaining weight and encouraging unhealthy eating patterns. Eating foods you don’t need can make you feel sluggish and even lead to disease.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent more time exploring food and its nutrient value. It led me to eating mostly whole foods plant based. My journey to a plant-based diet began with reading The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and his son Dr. Thomas Campbell, M.D. It is the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. I strongly recommend you read it yourself. He also founded the Center for Nutrition Studies. Other professionals who have furthered or expanded upon the China Study are: Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. John McDougall to name only a few. If you don’t have a great deal of time to read work by all these people, a great documentary available on Netflix is Forks Over Knives, which sums up the work nicely. I prefer to follow the plant-based way but I’m not strict and it’s what works for me. You should do your own research and choose what is best for you.

Once you start delving into the nutrients and value of your food, you may discover a whole new world! It really is true that we are what we eat. And who cares about your welfare more than you? Nobody. You owe it to yourself and to your family to look after yourself to the best of your ability, not only for long life but also for quality of life.

What food fuels your body?

Please let me know below. I’d love to hear from you!

See some of my plant-based recipes.

Veggie Cheesy Soup

Veggie Cheesy Soup

Veggie Cheesy Soup

This comforting creamy soup is a great way to use up some veggies and things in your fridge. Use whatever veggies you have on hand – but make sure there are some orange coloured ones for colour! I’ve used potatoes, squash and have even added some soaked cashews to make it creamier.

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery chopped (~1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (1+ cup)
  • 1 large broccoli head, chopped (~6 cups)
  • 2 cups sweet potato, peeled & chopped
  • 5-6 cups veggie broth (low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Optional toppings:

  • dried chives
  • pumpkin seeds
  • croutons

In large pot, heat oil, then sauté onion and garlic until onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, broccoli and sweet potato; sauté another 5 minutes. Add broth and stir. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on medium-low heat until veggies are tender. Once softened, add nutritional yeast, optional soaked cashews and seasonings. Blend right in the pot, using an immersion blender until smooth, or carefully scoop in batches into blender. Serve with your choice of toppings or a hunk of bread for dipping. Store any leftovers for up to 7 days.

Based on an original recipe from Oh She Glows.

What’s your favourite soup?

Please leave your comment below…

See recipes for Vegan Herb Cheese and Scones.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Those that know me would say I worry about little things too much. What does that say about me? Are you one of those people?

When I’m at work, doing my job well requires not only seeing the big picture but also attention to detail. I think I carry that over to my personal life too closely! I’m reminded of this when I re-read a book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson. He first published this book in 1961. It has been reprinted numerous times and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. It isn’t rocket science but still very important for reminding us of “the big picture” and in the author’s words giving us “simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life”. If it applied back in 1961, it still applies today – if not more so. I find that technology has demanded that we work harder and at a faster pace. We sometimes forget to quiet the mind and stop and smell the roses…

Here are a few quotes from his book that resonate with me:

  1. Make peace with imperfection
  2. Don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences
  3. Remind yourself that when you die, your in-basket won’t be empty
  4. Learn to live in the present moment
  5. Do one thing at a time
  6. Practice random acts of kindness
  7. Get comfortable not knowing
  8. Realize the power of your own thoughts
  9. Keep asking yourself “What’s really important?”
  10. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary

I am far from perfect, but I will try to be less of a perfectionist! This year I’m learning to meditate and practise mindfulness. Also for me, exercising is an important way to invest in my health and for those few precious moments, clear my head and simply concentrate on just me.

How to you deal with all the small stuff?

Please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

This is a really great recipe from Minimalist Baker. It uses a minimum of ingredients and is an impressive dish to serve along with a fruit smoothie.

  • 1 packet of instant yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
  • 1 cup plain almond milk
  • ½ cup vegan butter (Earth Balance), divided
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp organic sugar, divided
  • ¼ to ½ cup raisins

Heat the milk and 3 Tbsp vegan butter in microwave until warm and melted – never reaching boiling. Allow to cool to 110 degrees (bath water temperature). It should be warm to activate the yeast but not too hot to kill the yeast.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on yeast. Do not mix. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 Tbsp sugar, salt and stir.

Next add in flour ½ cup at a time, stirring as you go. You may not need all the flour. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Do not over mix. Rinse your bowl and wipe with canola oil and add your dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour. It should double in size.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle (12 to 18 inches wide). Brush with 3 Tbsp melted vegan butter. Mix ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over dough. Next sprinkle raisins evenly over dough.

Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough ending with seam side down, tucking in ends. With a serrated knife, cut evenly into 9 larger rolls and position evenly into a buttered 8×8 square dish and brush with butter. For smaller rolls cut into 18 and place into 2- 8×8 dishes. Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp vegan butter and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350F.

Once oven is hot, bake rolls for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving. For a decadent version, top with diary-free cream cheese frosting.

Diary-free Cream Cheese Frosting:

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a hand mixer, then drizzle over cooled cinnamon rolls.

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 2 oz. dairy-free cream cheese (Daiya plain)
  • 1-1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract

What’s your favourite way to enjoy cinnamon rolls?

Please leave me your comments below…

I love these as a treat for breakfast or even for dessert. Original recipe from Minimalist Baker.

Volunteer

Volunteer

Be A Volunteer

Volunteering is about giving your time to a good cause. Volunteers do important work and are not compensated with money but the rewards of service go far beyond monetary payment. Individuals not only get personal satisfaction, but also a deeper understanding of community as well as a network of contacts that can become useful when looking for a job. It gives you the chance to use your talents and develop new skills and make a difference in someone’s life. Volunteering can be done at any stage of life from the teenage years right through to senior years.

Steps to becoming a volunteer:

  1. Consider why you want to be a volunteer
  2. Consider your values, skills and interests
  3. Choose an organization that is meaningful to you.
  4. Look for an organization or activity in your community.
  5. Start small.

 

Here are some sectors with volunteer opportunities:

  1. Social & Legal Services – residential care, pro bono legal, housing (ex. toy drives, administrative help, senior centres, community projects)
  2. Civic & Environmental Advocacy – human rights environmental & wildlife conservation (ex. trail or river clean-up, administrative support)
  3. Arts & Culture – performing arts, non-profit radio/TV, museums, orchestras (ex. volunteer behind the scenes at theatres, weed gardens, clerical support, teach children, elderly or disabled)
  4. Education – schools (pre-school, elementary, high-school, college), libraries, research (ex. tutoring, after-school programs, participate in educational research, school council)
  5. Health Services – hospitals, clinics, other health care facilities (ex. clerical skills, visit patients, drive patients to appointments)
  6. International Relations & Development – international relief, human rights, peace & security (ex. administrative roles, prepare care packages for international disaster aid, organize campaigns)

 

The best way to start volunteering is to start small. Consider what you have to offer and what the needs are in your local community. Ask around and talk to as many people as you can. Don’t commit in a big way right away – just test the waters and see how it goes. Try more than one type of volunteering. Then once you are comfortable and feel good about the work, consider a regular schedule of volunteering. It feels good to give back to the community!

How do you volunteer?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about Retirement Activities.