Vegan Massage, or Taming Your Kale

If you are vegan, or in my case “mostly vegan,” at some point you will venture into the world of greens. There are many kinds of greens, from low calorie iceberg lettuce to the more flavorful, but delicate spring mix until we get to robust and substantial leafy kale.

 

I’ll admit I had never tried kale until I became vegan. Then again, there are many foods that my vegan journey has introduced into my kitchen, like chia seeds, quinoa, nutritional yeast and many other interesting ingredients that I have come to enjoy and which are nutritionally dense.

Kale is also nutritionally dense. One cup has 2 grams of protein (yes, greens have protein!) and kale is also a blockbuster delivery system for Vitamin A and C.

Raw kale nutrition panel

Raw kale nutrition panel

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And as great as kale is, if you want to eat it raw in a salad, you’ll find that you must do something to prepare the leaves because they are very firm and overly crunchy.

But, there’s a great way to tame your kale and make it softer and more “lettuce like” in your salad.

First, if you have whole kale leaves, go ahead and wash and dry. Then, remove the center stem portion which is rather woody. Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Put the bite sized pieces into an over-sized bowl. Take some olive oil, you don’t need much! and drizzle it over the kale. For 2 cups of chopped kale, you probably need 1-2 teaspoons. Experiment with the amount of oil, trying to use the least amount possible. After you’ve drizzled the olive oil, sprinkle some salt on too. Use an amount of salt that you’d normally use for flavoring, but in this case the salt will also help break down the leaves.

Now… get your (washed and clean) hands into the bowl and massage the kale with your hands. I gently squeeze the leaves in my fingers, breaking them down with the moistening from the oil and salt, and circulate the leaves from top to bottom to rotate each leaf and make sure I’m compressing all of the salad.

You’ll be able to tell when you are finished when every single kale leaf is moistened with the olive oil, and the leaves feel soft to the touch.

At this point, add the remainder of your salad ingredients and mix with the kale.

Although olive oil and salt is it’s own kind of dressing, I usually add a very light drizzle (again, no more than another teaspoon) of a flavored dressing of my choice. I’m also a big fan of freshly ground black pepper for flavor.

You don’t need any additional dressing, and you could use other types of flavoring like a flavored vinegar or fresh lemon / lime juice if you feel like it.

Hopefully, this kale massage technique will help you enjoy this dark leafy green more often as a part of a high nutrition salad.

I like to add carrots, tomatoes, avocado, slivered almonds, olives and chia seeds to round out the meal!

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I Slipped (Off My High Horse)

I guess it was inevitable that after months of forward progress, that I’d experience a set-back in my plan. And I guess it was inevitable that a set-back would occur while I was traveling…

Last week I was on the road for work. For days last week I was in a conference center, and the food choices for a vegan were not good. (And by not good I mean horrible.)

In the mornings, I had the choice of muffins, bagels, or stuff I couldn’t eat (scrambled whole eggs in tortillas with cheese and ham). Yes, there was fresh fruit, but when you’re going to be locked in a conference room for half a day until lunch, eating a few bites of melon is not optional unless you want to start gnawing on the chairs soon thereafter.

For lunch, I was offered hamburger sliders, mac and cheese, a ham carving station… (I wound up eating white rice and pinto beans with guacamole one day.)

The worst was an evening social and of course the event was catered. There was a sushi station, a roast beef carving station, an empenada station (pork, goat cheese and other gross stuff), and on the main buffet even the salad had big chunks of cheese in it.

The only thing I could eat that night was cooked carrots and mashed potatoes. I’m convinced the mashed potatoes were laced with butter and cream.

And while I suppose I could have made a fuss and said “Hey, I’m vegan, I can’t eat any of this…” It’s just not the thing to do at a company event when the catering menu has already been set. I just sucked it up and suffered.

All of this lead to a series of frustrating choices. Yes to muffins in the morning with melon. Yes to a plateful of mashed potatoes. Yes to rice and beans. Yes to a “vegan sandwich” with potato chips (one of the most disgusting things I ate last week.)

Carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs.

I was terribly protein deficient, which leads to being much more hungry. Eating carbs leads to wanting to eat more carbs.

I was so frustrated by the disastrous eating last week that on the plane ride home, when faced with the choice of a paltry hummus and chips for a six hour flight or a roast beef and cheese sandwich, I broke down and ate the sandwich. I was completely disgusted with myself, my choice, and my hunger.

The scale showed me just how horrific a week like that can be to my waist line. I gained three pounds in one week! THREE POUNDS!!!

With the plan I’m on, I’ve been lucky to lose about a half a pound per week. Gaining three pounds in one week is devastating. It will take me over a month (potentially) to lose it again just to get back to where I started before I hit the road.

I can’t let this happen again, but I’m not sure what to do. Maybe I need to “go vegetarian” the weeks I’m traveling so that I can at least find foods that are “okay” and not “horrible.”

Maybe I need to do something else… but what??

 

 

Mark Bittman on Gluttony in the NY Times

My friend Jess sent me a link to a Mark Bittman Op-Ed in the NY Times entitled Dietary Advice for the Gluttony Season, which is an excellent read. (Thanks Jess!)

Bittman espouses plain common sense: “eat more vegetables and fruits” and eat a variety of foods in moderation. When we have good variety, we’re ensuring our daily nutritional needs are being met. It all makes perfect sense.

Bittman got me thinking about “how I’m doing” with the big changes I’ve made to my eating habits over the past few months.

I’ve got excellent news: I’ve continued to live without caffeine, meat/chicken/fish, and dairy for several months now. The changes I hoped to make, I’ve made. My one compromise food is egg whites. For me eating egg whites makes a huge difference on meeting daily protein intakes.

I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s worth repeating. I’ve got higher energy levels, regulated sleep cycles, regulated digestion and a slow but steady weight loss (because I want to lose weight).

I’m on track.

And when I had to fly to California recently for work, I stayed true to my eating plan about 95% of the time. When I was served cream of mushroom soup at a company luncheon, I didn’t say no. What’s funny is that I used to love cream of mushroom soup – but this time it tasted fatty so I didn’t finish it. My tastes have changed.

Other than that, I noticed I ran a protein deficit while I was traveling because the stuff I eat at home for protein (quinoa, black beans, nutritional yeast) either isn’t always available, or isn’t being served. And no, I’m not going to travel around with nutritional yeast to sprinkle on my food!

Moderation is the key. I’m not going to go crazy about eating one bowl of cream of mushroom soup, or under-consuming protein for a few days on the road. When I got home I went back to my routine and adjusted accordingly.

Since we’re in the midst of holiday season, it may be tough to say no to cookies, sweets, cocktails and similar fare. Remember, eating one cookie at a social function is fine … balanced with the rest of what you’re having.

Carrots, right? 😉

 

 

Five Websites for Better Health Choices

I’ve been scouring the internet for useful websites as I continue on my journey to eat in the healthiest way possible and take good care of my body.

Below please find a list of five websites that may help you if you are on a similar journey.

Enjoy!

  1. VegWeb touts itself as the largest collection of vegetarian (and vegan) recipes on the web. I don’t know if it’s “the largest” but it does have tons of interesting recipes. If you can’t figure out what to make for dinner tonight, look here.
  2. Local Harvest – I just can’t say enough nice things about this website! It is an encyclopedic database of farms and co-ops and food producers and farmers markets across the United States. You can browse the products you want to source directly from the farm and place an order.
  3. Happy Cow – another good searchable database type website to help you find local providers of vegetarian and vegan offerings, including restaurants. This has links for cities globally. Sometimes it lists places that are “veg friendly” which means not strictly veg, but offering some stuff that is…
  4. What’s On My Food – This website is scary. It will tell you the kinds of pesticide residues you find on produce. If you eat non-organic food, and you take one look here, you’ll shocked at which toxins you’re ingesting. (One of the organic farmers I spoke to – after placing an order with him via Local Harvest – told me he would never eat a commercially raised blueberry again after he looked at this site.)
  5. FitDay – If you are interested in tracking what you’re eating, the FitDay site has a huge database of foods and the exact nutritional and caloric breakdown of each, by portion. FitDay also has journaling for any exercise you are doing, and then if you want to really go crazy, you can graph your progress of daily caloric intake vs. the amount of exercise you’re doing. I find the site most useful to know, let’s say, the number of calories in a cup of grapes, but that’s me.

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fats – NY Times Article

YES!!

It’s about time the Food and Drug Administration take steps to eliminate heart attack inducing trans-fats from the American diet. This is great news!

I have to strongly commend NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who started the trend by requiring NYC restaurants to stop using trans-fats in 2005. It was an important catalyst to help get things where they are today with the FDA. Good job mayor Bloomberg!

You will need to click on the link to read the entire NY Times article, I have posted two excerpts here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/08/health/fda-trans-fats.html?_r=0

EXCERPT 1

The Food and Drug Administration proposed measures on Thursday that would all but eliminate artery-clogging, artificial trans fats from the food supply, the culmination of three decades of effort by public health advocates to get the government to take action against them.

Artificial trans fats — a major contributor to heart disease in the United States — have already been substantially reduced in foods. But they still lurk in many popular products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers. Banning them completely could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year, the F.D.A. said.

“This is the final slam dunk on the trans fat issue,” said Barry Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The proposal is a rare political victory in an era when many regulations to protect public health have stalled. A landmark food safety bill took years to carry out, in part because it collided with the 2012 election season. And rules to regulate the tobacco industry are still stuck, four years after the law calling for them was passed. But just last month, the F.D.A. toughened restrictions on narcotic painkillers over industry objections. Thursday’s announcement got the attention of food experts.

“The F.D.A. is back,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

The agency has proposed that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, no longer be “generally recognized as safe.”

EXCERPT 2

Partially hydrogenated oils are cheaper than saturated animal fats like butter, and for years were thought to be healthier. They are formed when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid. They became popular in fried and baked goods and in margarine. Crisco, originally marketed in the beginning of the 20th century, was the archetype, although it now contains no trans fat.

But over the years, scientific evidence has shown they are dangerous because they raise the levels of so-called bad cholesterol and can lower the levels of good cholesterol. In 2003, the F.D.A. required that artificial trans fats be listed on food labels, a shift that prompted many large producers to eliminate them. Two years later, New York City under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told restaurants to stop using artificial trans fats in cooking; other places, including California, Cleveland and Philadelphia, followed suit. Many major chains, like McDonald’s, found substitutes and eliminated trans fats.

Those actions led to a stunning reduction in consumption: Americans ate about one gram a day last year, down from 4.6 grams in 2006. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that blood levels of trans fatty acids among white adults in the United States declined by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009.