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.
Advertisements

On the road to health: tough choices

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve begun my adjustment from vegetarian to my new eating habits, which includes giving up eggs, dairy, and processed foods in addition to already having given up meat over a year ago.

Patience is the key in this situation, but it’s been a challenge so far.

First, I’m surprised to report that what I thought would be hard has been easy and what I thought would be easy is much harder than I thought.

What do I mean?

Giving up eggs was, in my mind, a huge sacrifice. But over the past week, not only have I done without them, I have not craved fried eggs or omelettes. What I realized is I was using eggs as a “crutch food” (I made that up) because I’d convinced myself I needed some animal protein in my diet.

However, giving up dairy products has been extremely hard for me, and I’m starting to understand why.

Mouth feel.

When you eat food that turns your brain “on” it has “stuff” in it that let’s your body know it’s higher in calories and is more satisfying to eat.

Butter is an example of a food that creates an experience that you cannot get from olive oil or avocado. (I have not eaten nut butters yet, like cashew butter, but I can see I will be compelled to try them.)

It’s the same for me with cheese. Cheese is calorically dense, and creates a reaction in the brain and body when it’s consumed that increases satiety and is just … satisfying… to eat.

Which leads me to…

I’m freakin’ hungry.

I’m willing to concede that if I’m hungry, it’s my own fault because I could just “eat something else” but what’s happened to me over this past week is strange.

I have to THINK much, much more about whatever it is I want to eat and how I’m going to prepare it and do I have everything I need to prepare what I want, etc.

I’m not saying thinking more about what I’m putting into my body is a bad thing, but I am saying it is taking up mental energy and I will need to get to a place, reasonably soon, where I am not spending this much time thinking about what I’m going to eat and struggling with the available choices.

And I have struggled with my choices.

There are two items I had put on my “give up” list that I’m not currently prepared to give up.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a processed food, and adds a LOT of calories to meals (120 calories for ONE tablespoon, ouch!)

In cooking, you can give up olive oil by using a non-stick pan on a high heat burner, to brown onions and to cook veggies.

BUT, when you add olive oil sparingly, it makes it easier to cook the food more rapidly and to achieve browning, plus it adds mouth feel because it is a fat.

So for right now, I’ve mostly done without it, but in cooking I do use a little. While I am continuing my transition into this new eating lifestyle, I’m going to have it on my list of available ingredients.

Salad Dressing

Same principle as olive oil.

I’m not prepared to use lemon/lime juice, or vinegar by themselves as my salad dressing, along with other herbs and spices. I know I could, but with everything else I’m giving up I just don’t want to give up all salad dressing.

My compromise?

I found a low calorie salad dressing (35 calories per tablespoon) and I measure it out so I don’t over-use.

In case you are wondering it’s: Briannas Special Request “Lively Lemon Tarragon Dressing.” And while “canola oil” is an ingredient, it is number 8 on the list. Without oil, the number one ingredient is water and the number two is honey, so…

But there is an up-side item I have added to my diet that is a great find.

Chia Seeds

When you add Chia seeds to foods they get a great crunch, and while they look similar to poppy seeds, Chia seeds are a superfood. They have TONS of Omega 3’s in them, which make them an extremely healthy addition to salads, and yes, even a bowl of oatmeal.

Results, so far

Results so far have been good!

Sleep patterns are normal. I wake up in the morning, refreshed, without an alarm clock. (Reminder: I do not use caffiene.)

My digestive system loves me. My body is running like clockwork. With all the water I drink, and Vitamin C along with the higher amounts of fiber in my food, everything works properly.

Energy! I have more of it, which I especially notice when I go out for my daily walk, which has turned into a daily walk/jog because I have THAT much excess energy to burn. I’m doing 4-6 miles a day.

And yes, the scale loves me too. I’ve lost a few pounds, and while I’ve been attempting to get to my goal weight for a while now, with my new eating regimen, it’s becoming easier to get rid of the unwanted weight.

That’s it for now, but after only one week in, I think it’s good progress!

Is it possible to be an unhealthy Vegan or Vegetarian?

As my regular readers know, I’ve begun the process of transitioning my ‘eating preferences’ from vegetarian to something that I would have called vegan a few days ago but I’m now realizing is not vegan.

It’s something else.

There is no convenient label for what I’m trying to do, but I’ve also realized something kind of terrible in the last few days also… it’s possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian or vegan.

That’s blasphemy to many, I’m sure!

But please, before I start getting annoyed comments from the folks that have adopted vegetarian and vegan eating habits, let me explain what I mean. You may even agree with me.

First, let’s start with the basics. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you’re not eating meat and that helps dramatically reduce unhealthy saturated fats from your diet. That’s for sure. It’s an excellent start on a road to better health.

Next, if you are vegan, you are further reducing saturated fats by eliminating both eggs and dairy products. Kudos to vegans who are off both eggs and dairy and consuming much less saturated fat. Yay!

HOWEVER.

What I’ve noticed in many of the vegetarian and vegan recipes online is that there is a new boogie man hanging out and readily made available to veg-peoples: processed “veg” alternative foods.

Would you like some fake veg-meat? Or how about some fake veg-cheese? Sure, you can have that… and along with it, tons of oil, sugar and chemicals to preserve it on the shelf.

Want some fake sour cream? Non-dairy ice cream made out of tofu? Oh yeah, that’s our best seller.

See, the thing is… I don’t want to eat that fake chemically laden, oil enriched, sugar coated stuff.

I don’t want to eat food that will stay on a shelf for a month and not go bad. The food we eat should be alive, and if you don’t eat it, it dies and can’t be eaten if you want to stay healthy.

The food industry is SO damn sneaky. They want to make consumers feel really good about their food choices (while charging them a whole lot more than the “regular” products because it’s “healthier”) and so they provide them with plenty of opportunities to buy stuff that, frankly, I don’t see how it’s better for you over not eating it.

THAT is the key.

If you compare eating MEAT, vs. eating fake processed veg. food on the supermarket shelf, I’m sure the argument would be … HEY, this is HEALTHIER than MEAT!

Okay. So what?

Is it healthier than NOT eating the fake veg thing you have in your hand and eating… I don’t know, a carrot? An apple? A carrot and an apple?

And the answer to that is NO, eating fake veg thing is NOT healthier than eating an apple. (Okay, okay, an organic apple.)

Also, and I’m sorry people, I have to point this out… eating baked goods with dark chocolate, raw sugar, wheat flour and oil is not “health food” either.

Imagine… a vegan nightmare…

Breakfast: eat a bowl of sugar coated shredded wheat, with some sugar laden rice milk for a “healthy” vegan breakfast.

Lunch: I can have a baked potato with fake veg cheese, fake sour cream, and fake bacon bits. (I cannot make this stuff up, I’ve seen the recipes and it looks gross.) As my desert, I’ll have chocolate chip cookies with soy milk.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now, if I’m not doing that and not eating the way some veg peoples do, what am I doing?

WHAT I AM DOING:

WHAT I AM NOT DOING:

  • I’m avoiding as much processed food as I can, which is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding using processed oils in my food (yep, even olive oil), although again, this is freaking HARD TO DO.
  • I’m avoiding high fructose corn syrup, and avoiding as much sugar as I can (yes, including things like raw/organic honey. It’s still sugar.)

In case you are wondering what the hell am I eating… here is today’s sample:

Breakfast: oatmeal with slivered almonds and two tablespoons of chia seeds (omega 3’s)

Lunch: Half of the following:

Can of Amy’s Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup (minimal oil) with this other stuff I added:

half can of whole kernel corn (no oil, salt or sugar); half can of diced tomato (no oil, salt or sugar); and half of one sweet potato cut into cubes, and one half cup of cooked Reinzi “i bambini” Fusillini with spinach and zucchini (ingredients: duram wheat semolina and 25% vegetable puree.)

Dinner: Finish soup from lunch. Handful of fresh raspberries. One fresh persimmon.

(Cheat item: Pomegranate Blueberry Mash sparkling water drink with fruit juice concentrates and crystalline fructose… sigh. 40 calories per serving, but that’s just my justification.)

.

I don’t mind telling you…this transition is very freaking hard… so far.

But the fresh raspberries tasted AMAZING tonight, and I think I can expect to start tasting food differently now … if I’m serious about getting off the other stuff I’d been putting in my body.

How about you?

And Another Thing!

Like the good, on-my-way-to-healthier-living doobie that I am I got up this morning and worked out at the hotel fitness center referred to in my post yesterday. I skipped the donut-or-bagel hotel breakfast, and although it is not ideal to work out on an empty stomach, I went right to my workout with the intention of treating myself to a “green” lunch.

Now, I haven’t said this on the blog before, but in the last few months I have been migrating towards vegetarianism, like an animal migrating to its winter den to hibernate there, sleepy and undernourished for a while until it comes out, and attacks the nearest moose it can get its big, sharp claws on.  But I digress.

I coyly alluded to my intentions by posting something about tofu awhile ago, and I’ve posted about cucumber salads, but this is a whole other level of commitment.

The thing is, eating healthy shouldn’t be hard. Greens, veggies and fruits should be readily available in restaurants and take-out shops and generally speaking it shouldn’t be too much to ask for these foods to be tasty.

I’m sorry to report the obvious but as a nation we would much rather eat meat. Meat on our salads, meat with our potatoes, meat with our meat and if possible, more meat please. But I wasn’t born somewhere else so I too have this meat fixation. I confess my love of fried chicken. Okay, and bacon. And BBQ. Maybe a nice char-broiled steak. (My mouth is salivating as I write this.) But these days, those foods are not sullying my body, although I do sometimes wish to be sullied, I hunker down instead and spoon an extra helping of sunflower seeds onto my rabbit food.

So I did a work out this morning and I was pretty hungry afterwards so I headed over to the Whole Foods with the intention of enjoying their salad bar. In Manhattan there is a Whole Foods in Tribeca with a phenomenal salad bar. You can get soups, salads, pizza, hot Indian food, hot Chinese food, cold Greek food, regular salads, roasted vegetables… basically a vegetarian’s dream come true. I was surprised to find the Whole Foods I went to here in California had one paltry “organic” salad greens area and that’s it.

Okay, when in Rome, I thought.

I piled my take-out box full of all-organic goodness: greens, cucumbers, cute cherry tomatoes, seeds and nuts, radishes, celery… you get the idea. When I took my salad outside and settled in at one of the tables I was prepared to enjoy my fresh food. I took the first bite and I swear the salad tasted like feet. It tasted like organically grown hippy feet, to be more precise. I’ve never had salad taste quite like that, and I’ll be very pleased if I never eat something like that again.

I picked around the salad and ate the parts I knew were okay: green peas, the cute tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and cucumbers. The rest of it was highly suspect, especially the organic celery and radishes which I believe were the foot source.

Afterward I went to the vitamin shop because I had run out of Vitamin C, but more importantly I read online that people who do not eat meat, eggs, cheese, milk for long-ish periods of time can suffer from Vitamin B12 deficiency. It turns out that our bodies don’t produce B12, and it’s not found in plant foods unless it is fortified (through some industrial process.) Normally we can get the B12 we need from meat, dairy, or eggs.

I haven’t given up eating eggs, cheese, butter, or ice cream. I have to draw the line somewhere, and I’ve drawn the line between being a vegan (someone who avoids all animal products – something I am not prepared to do) and being a “mostly” vegetarian, someone who eats eggs, cheese, butter, ice cream, yogurt, and when I’m having a particularly insane craving, possibly fried chicken. I said “mostly” vegetarian so please don’t write in the comments that I’m not a “real vegetarian” or a “true vegetarian” because I’ll just agree with you. But I’ve cut out meat 99.99% of the time.

I bought the Vitamin C and a B-complex vitamin which includes B12 along with the other B vitamins and their absorption support systems (folic acid, for example) and I took that today. As I reported, I also ate the big salad for lunch, worked out, and have thusfar spent the day being a health nut.

How am I feeling, you might ask? Eh. Okay, but virtuous.

It’s unclear to me if I’ll be able to sustain this level of commitment to a vegetarian “lifestyle” (did I just say that? Oy.) but I’m willing to continue to see if it helps me maintain energy, be healthier, potentially lose weight and stave off the impending crush of old age for another day or two.

I’ll let you know how it goes.