Well, Happy New Year (a few weeks late...)! Nevertheless, it is 2020 and who made a resolution this year? Most often this time of year is filled with television ads for diets, gyms, supplements, and more. It is a time of year to "get back on track" or "kick an old habit". Well, research shows it takes 21 days to create and/or break a new habit and research ALSO shows about 50% of people abandon their resolution before January closes out. So, these are not good odds or are they telling us something else?
Towards the end of 2019 I created a presentation that focused on "getting back to the basics" of eating healthy, sort of a reset. The presentations were well-attended and I ended up doing them through January and have a few planned for the end of February. It was really encouraging to see so many people curious about not only Plant-Based eating, but a general change in their food choices - moving away from processed foods and understanding more of what our bodies need.
The most common question I hear at these presentations is about time and money - which I totally get (as a mom of two little kids...). So, I put together some tips for everyone on how to keep healthy, Plant-Based eating easy peasy:
I cracked open Rich Roll's Finding Ultra on New Year's Eve and shut it late New Year's Day. So much of his story spoke to me, reached into my soul and shook it awake, I felt full of energy and clarity. First, if you have not yet read this book, please do so. I purchased mine on Amazon and it is also available at most public libraries (you know the place with FREE BOOKS!).
Before I go any further with my new found energy and excitement a little backstory. I have worked in the field of Death and Dying, Grief and Loss for over ten years. While in undergraduate I did an internship with a local hospice and when I graduated I worked with ALS patients, their caregivers, and colleagues in the field of neuromuscular disease clinical trials. From there I completed graduate school and began working in the field of organ, eye, and tissue donation. I was the person who sat down across from a person who had just experienced one of the worst, if not the worst, moments in their life: their loved one had died. I would present the option of organ, eye, and tissue donation and support that person and their family through that process. Along with this I would provide grief support to staff, family, colleagues, etc. etc. etc. It was never ending and I loved it...at the time. Fast forward and I was quickly fading. I could feel the weight on my shoulders as I would drive to and from a case, almost like an invisible coat draped over me. It was truly becoming unbearable. I was feeling it follow me home, looming over dinner, anxiety at bedtime, I realized my time in this field was slowly ending.
My outside of work interests also began to expand and include healthy eating, healthy living, coaching, education, and beyond. I would find myself spending all my free time researching and learning about Plant-Based Eating, downtime at work would be spent looking up the next recipe to try or new restaurant to check out. It brought me such joy and an added bonus of being super healthy for me and my family (by this time I was married and had two little boys).
Okay, I knew I needed to create an exit plan from my current job but what now? In comes the cleanse part of 2019. A very good friend of mine had done a juice cleanse a few months back and I was always curious about this and did some research - of course there was lots of New Year's promotions and I recruited my very good friend to do the cleanse along with me. I signed up for a 5-day juice cleanse through ChefV. It was really easy to do because they literally mail you the juices all ready to go, a shaker cup, protein powder, and all the instructions you need to succeed. I started the juice cleanse on a Wednesday and by the end of the day I had left my job and felt ready for the next chapter (so cliche but so true) of my life. It was good timing and I ended the cleanse on Sunday night by flying out with my youngest to visit my family who live out of state. It was a much needed step in this new year, new me, new cleanse, new mission of 2019. I spent a week playing with my nieces and nephew, making food, and just absorbing all the changes I had made and was going to make. It was a perfect week.
After my week I came home, bought this domain, uploaded tons of information, and began creating a new plan. Here's to 2019!
When I enrolled my son in day-care I was panicked about the food situation. What would they think of the meals I was sending him, would he notice other kids’ lunches looked different, would there be food trading on the down low, all of these thoughts filled my already worried-mom brain. So, in typical fashion, I started writing a list. I wrote down a list of meals my son enjoys, snacks he prefers, and any special treats we can swap a last minute birthday treat for so he won’t go without a dessert. Once I put all this down on paper, I was much more relaxed. I also arranged a meeting with the daycare, just to touch base, put a face to my list, and assure them I wasn’t sending my son to daycare with only weeds to eat. The meeting went really well and all expressed support for following my son’s food list. Luckily, his daycare puts out a monthly snack calendar so I can easily plan in advance and provide an alternate. For example, on days the school provides yogurt, I bring a non-dairy yogurt - this way he is eating yogurt along with the other kids.
During the month of January, I noticed on the snack calendar it was “dairy month”. I sighed and thought to myself, “okay better find out what this entails”. I emailed the daycare and met with the director to discuss. She was happy to meet and explained there would be a few “dairy-themed” books as well as activities, including pretending to milk a cow. So, I have to stop here, in my non-mom brain I wanted to recite a dissertation on dairy and the cruelty, abuse, negative health effects, I could go on. My mom-brain took a moment to gather thoughts and suggested an alternative activity for the kids to which the director was open. I asked and sort of implied the lack of education gained from pretending to milk a cow with rubber gloves and water and kindly suggested having the kids mash avocados and spread on toast, something to replace dairy and be fun and messy at the same time. With this activity there is an educational and nutritional component. I even offered in that moment to provide the kids with the avocados to which she graciously declined and let me know she would speak with the group and get back to me. A month later, I found out they did in fact squish avocados and smear them on bread for an activity. It literally made my year. And my son’s, because he came home a mess!
What does that mean, to match your plate with your heart? As you sit down to lunch or dinner do you ever stop to think about what is on your plate, who prepared it, or how it ended up as food? I think I can say with confidence, very few people have this reflection before diving into dinner. Take family dinner, for example, it is usually a busy time of the day as parents or caregivers are rushing to get the kids in their seats and mentally unload their day onto their spouse. Of course every family is unique and for some this time of day might only include siblings as their parent, parents, or caregiver are at work or school. At my house, this time of day is pure chaos. Almost like clockwork, my husband walks in the doors, taking his shoes off and dropping his briefcase, only to announce he has had a long day and needs to shower. Right now. He ushers our oldest into the kitchen and leaves me with the boiling pot of whatever on the stove, my one year old “organizing” my tupperware, and now my toddler who needs to use the potty. Right now.
So, you get the picture, chaos, kids, husband...oh yeah and food. The whole reason we are rushing around at this time, food. It is dinnertime and in an ideal world we would all be seated in front of a picturesque table with both kids sitting well with their hands in their laps while looking at the bowl of peas with glee. Family dinners are so important, however you manage to have them and whether they are at a table or standing at the kitchen counter, they are happening everywhere. Returning to that boiling pot of whatever, for so many families adding food prep to the list of chaos that happens around this time of day is one addition too much. But should it be at the top of the list?
Encouraging your family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, etc. to eat healthy foods is a way of saying I love you, but with food! As we sit around the dinner table or gather on the couch, the food we are eating and providing should nurture our bodies the way being around one another does, we should want to provide food that is healthy for us, not increasing our chances of heart disease or diabetes.
Making a Plant-Based pot pie is a great idea for a quick dinner and a dinner you can freeze for another day. The amount of filling you make is up to you, I typically double the filling so I can make two pies and put one away for another night. The ingredients are also pretty flexible - pick the vegetables you have on hand or like the most. A combination of frozen and fresh is fine - I usually try to have a variety of color so the pie looks really vibrant. For this pie I used:
1 potato peeled and diced
2 carrots diced
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag frozen corn
1 can cannelloni beans (any bean will do!), drained and rinsed
yellow onion, diced (amount is up to you)
garlic, 1 clove
1/4 cup flour, 2 cups vegetable broth, and 1 cup almond milk for filling
pepper, thyme, and nutritional yeast for seasoning
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Warm up your pan and add about 1 tbsp veg broth from your 2 cups. Add garlic and onions and cook on medium until broth begins to absorb. Add vegetables and beans, broth, almond milk, and flour - using a wooden spoon mix ingredients together. Bring ingredients to a boil and then return to medium low for 8 minutes. Add dried thyme, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste and continue mixing. (I use a dash of pepper, about 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 1 tsp thyme)
When ready, scoop your mixture into your pie crusts. For this recipe I used pre-made pie crusts that are vegan-friendly. They remain in the freezer until it is time to bake and cuts down on prep time on a busy weekday evening meal.
Bake pies for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving or placing in refrigerator/freezer.