Going Plant-Based?

According to an article in the Huffington Post about 50 of the world’s healthiest foods, 43 of them are vegan. The other good-for-you goodies include salmon, tuna, sardines, skim milk, greek yogurt, kefir and eggs. Not surprisingly, the list was filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fiber-rich beans – all staples of a nutritious vegan diet. I am not there yet – I love dairy ice cream and cheese – but articles like this are constant encouragement for me and others to improve our diets. I don’t think it makes sense, nor do I think it’s realistic that everyone will stop eating animal products, but I think we can all take a lesson from this list. What if we strive to eat such nutrient dense, plant-based foods 86% of the time? That’s how prevalent these whole foods are on the 50 Healthiest Foods list…it’s a good model to follow.

Healthy Foods

In a similar vein, I was fascinated by a recent article called “The Vibrant Vegan Life of an Obesity Survivor.” Not that long ago I was considered obese by BMI standards (being short is not an asset in this equation!), so I was pleased to read about this writer’s transformation and how a vegan lifestyle helped her shed the “diet” mentality. Her words really resonated with me:

“I grew up and became a health writer, interviewing the experts for magazine articles, under the assumption that getting their knowledge firsthand would seep in and change everything. It didn’t.

The turnaround came the day I realized that, as for any addict, the drug- – in this case, food, and manufactured products pretending to be food — had me. I knew there was no escaping, that my situation was beyond the reach of my nutritionist and the library of diet and self-help books I’d collected…”

As someone who eats food (duh), thinks about it, studies it, and wants to improve the food system, I can appreciate its addictive qualities. I’ve always said that I don’t like to drink, I don’t smoke or do drugs…food is my vice. But as I get older (and approach the age at which writer Victoria Moran “became free”), I also strive to improve my relationship with food. For me, I hope it will be through a mostly vegan diet, and I hope with the kind of resources available, others will understand why.

For excellent vegan-ish resources, check out:
Forks Over Knives
Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine
Blogs: Happy Herbivore, Oh She GlowsChoosing Raw, The Kind LifePeas and Thank You (and so much more!) 

Reading Materials

You’ve probably heard of Meatless Mondays, the nationwide (and arguably, worldwide) effort to not eat meat one day of the week and to eat less meat overall. I applaud this effort and think it’s a step in the right direction to become more aware of our food choices and how they affect our bodies, our environment, and our animal friends. In honor of MM, here are a few great articles circulating in the media these days, with some differing viewpoints. (I’m not all about being veggie!):

Why Eating some Meat may be better for the Environment than going Vegetarian

We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?

Meat Eater’s Guide

Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival

And just for the hell of it…a succinct article (by the great Marion Nestle) defining organic, sustainable, seasonal and local. And why ethanol isn’t good:

Defining Organic: The Difference Between Sustainable and Local

Happy Reading! And Happy Meatless Monday!

Pyramids and Plates and Healthy Plates

We all know about MyPlate, the government’s newer initiative to replace the dated and sometimes confusing healthy eating pyramid. I talked about this unveiling back in June. Now, those smarty pants at Harvard have further updated upon the plate model and tweaked it to their liking to better define things like whole grains, healthy proteins and healthy oils.

Here’s the current MyPlate picture:


It’s very simple, focusing on four major food groups and encourages the user to check out their website for more detailed information about adequate and appropriate fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and grains.

If you remember, I liked the emphasis on half the plate full of produce and the circular visual as it actually looks like something we would eat off of, rather than that pesky pyramid that went backwards in my mind. Aren’t we trying to reach the top of the pyramid? No? That’s bad? OK…

Here is the new Healthy Eating Plate from Harvard:

Healthy Eating Plate (healthy-eating-plate-700.jpg)


As you can tell, this graphic is much more detailed and doesn’t rely on the user to visit a government website to find out what it means to eat healthfully. Straightforward. This I like.

I like that this plate emphasizes whole grains, rather than just white bread and white rice, as well as healthy, lean proteins…none of the artery-clogging beef and pork on this plate, please. Of course I like the inclusion of beans and nuts as protein sources, too. 🙂

I also think it was a good idea to include healthy oils, because, realistically, we eat a lot of oil and it should be a part of our diet in moderation. I also like the emphasis on water and limitation of dairy.

P.S. That “stay active” guy is cool, too! I think that’s a nice addition to round out the healthy lifestyle.

Here’s my main concern: While the plate paints a pretty clear picture of the proportion of foods to eat on a regular basis, there is no definition of what makes up a proper portion. How much oil constitutes one serving? We surely eat too much oil, and too much of many other things (i.e. sugar, which didn’t make it to the plate), so I think people need better definitions of serving sizes in general. That’s the only thing I miss about that food pyramid. I think it did a better job of defining how much of each food to eat per meal and per day.

No doubt, one can seek out this information very easily, but if the Harvard smarties want this picture to be all-encompassing, they need just a couple tweaks here and there, and I’ll be sold.

What do you think? What about that mention of french fries not counting as a vegetable?
We had a fun discussion about that in class…

I Heart School

Grad school is tough. No joke. In my program, there is A LOT of reading…something like 800 pages a week! But as intense as it might be, I’m really interested in the materials so far, and there’s always those perks of being a student…

1. Free/discounted admissions – museums, group outings, bus passes!
2. Access to awesome facilities – athletic center, NEW Eden Hall Farm Campus (complete with pool, bowling alley and 50s decor):

A bowling alley in the basement of my school!

 3. And so far, my favorite part of going to a small, liberal arts school is their focus on and efforts toward more sustainable practices. I just got an e-mail that the entire school is going water bottle-less! No more plastic bottles will be sold at Chatham University, and instead, they will have water filtration units set up around campus. Excellent! Here’s why they did it:

 ·         Tapwater is regulated for health and quality by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires regular testing and reporting.  Bottled water is under supervision of the Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA does not require water to be tested or reported.

 ·         Some 25% of bottled water for sale in the U.S. is just tap water in a bottle.  It isn’t boiled or treated any other way before going into the bottles.  The two most popular bottled water brands, Aquafina and Dasani, are just municipal water run through a carbon filter before bottling.

 ·         Pthalates, a chemical plasticizer used to make the plastic see-through, can leach into the water from the bottle in as little as 10 months.  Pthalates are endocrine-disruptors, suspected of causing kidney and liver problems, birth defects in young children (especially boys) and are also implicated in reproductive health issues and damaged DNA in adults.

 ·         Making  the bottles used each year uses about 17 million barrels of oil, and that releases 2.5 million TONS of carbon into the atmosphere.

Interesting stuff, right?! I love that this school is teaching me how to be a better person and not just a smart student 🙂

Becoming A Runner

Yesterday I jogged 15 minutes straight. That’s well over 1 mile. I NEVER thought I would be able to move these stubby legs for a full 5,280 feet. I didn’t even run the mandatory mile in elementary or middle school…I did that whole jog/walk/whine thing!

I’m becoming a runner. I AM BECOMING A RUNNER. Woah. It’s still sinking in.

"Glistening" after a run

Here are the reasons I shouldn’t be a runner:
1. Childhood asthma that I never properly took care of.
2. Flat, wide feet that have always bugged me.
3. My short attention span and getting bored very easily.
4. Did I mention those stubby legs? At 5′ 2″, I’m mostly head, boobs and torso 🙂

Here’s what changing:
1. Following the Couch to 5K Plan. It’s amazing!
2. I’m not giving up.
3. I’m learning how my body reacts to different environments…so I don’t run when it’s super humid so as not to aggravate my minor asthma (duh, I know).
4. I’m not giving up.
5. I buy real runner shoes at a real running store.
6. I’m not giving up.
7. I’m finding amusing distractions….good music, nice scenery, running partners.
8. Oh yeah, I’m NOT giving up!

I’m going to run a full 5k. That’s 3.1 miles. I don’t know quite when. But I will run a 5k when I’m ready. And right now, I feel much closer to ready than I ever have before.

As long as I remember to put my socks on the correct feet. Oops 🙂

stop sniffin' my feet, kitty!

An American (Veg) Diet

I am pinching myself for not going to the Museum of Science while in Boston to see the book turned exhibit “What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.” The idea of the photographer and writer showcasing this project was to travel around the world taking pictures of what people eat in a day and including estimated calorie counts. Their goals weren’t necessarily to highlight problems, but rather to open peoples’ eyes.


Now, I take lots of pictures of my food and upload tidbits here and there to the blog, but can you imagine fitting your day’s eats into one frame? I’ve always wondered what that might look like, and if it shows that I eat like a heifer or just a “normal” American.

Here’s what I came up with on a random day:

Breakfast (bottom middle): Leftover chickpea & tofu hash from Square Cafe with a homemade Clif bar (in plastic wrap)
Snack (left): Carrots and a few yellow peppers with sun dried tomato hummus
Lunch (right): Spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and a few pieces of bbq baked tofu. Whole wheat couscous stuffed pepper (top right)
Snack (left): 2 small plums and 1 orange
Dinner (top middle): Two large pieces of leftover pizza with mushrooms and tomatoes
Glasses representing about 10 cups of water I drink daily, plus 2 cups of coffee.

Estimated Calorie Count: 1,950

Now, I won’t lie. This is a “good” day of eats for me. Usually included would be some form of sugary, chocolaty concoction 🙂

My thoughts on the day’s eats:
1. I like tomatoes in many forms (sun dried in the hummus, fresh in my salad, paste in my stuffed peppers, sauce and topping on my pizza!).
2. I could use more produce in my life (I was trying extra hard this day).
3. This follows my 80% vegan goal (dinner is the only meal with dairy in it).
4. Where’s my chocolate?!
5. I forgot to include myself in the picture! Eh, the food is more important…

What would your daily meals look like?

South Side Steps

Pittsburgh is a hilly city. That was a bit of a surprise for this mid-western gal used to the flat, wide roads and lands of Detroit. Biking and running may not be the easiest activities to partake in here, but the views are sure worth it if when you make it to the top.

So for fun, I decided to trek up the South Side Slope with a CommuniTeach group. Learning + a workout = a good time!
There were only 68 staircases to choose from, and there’s even an annual StepTrek to celebrate the landscape.

Going Up

Beauty along the way

Freshly manicured

400 and something steps later...

I had fun and I survived. Success!

Free as a Bird

I love roller coasters. I recently visited Cedar Point, the self proclaimed Roller Coaster Capitol of the World. I even got my brother to meet me their for his first ever coaster experience. He posed an interesting question while we hopped from ride to ride, sweating in the 100-degree heat. He asked “why are people so into roller coasters?” He never really understood the intrigue, after all he was a roller coaster virgin until the age of 21. It seems like there is an obvious, automatic response to that kind of question. Me: “I don’t know….it’s thrilling. And fun. And adventurous.” Yeah, that was the best I could come up with.

Then, a few days after that trip, I took a guided bike tour around Pittsburgh and it hit me. I love feeling free. On the bike tour, it was all about the world flying by me and the wind in my face. On the roller coasters, it was the combination of speed and complete lack of control that just set me free. As we climbed hundreds of feet on Millenium Force and Maverick, I just admired the world around us; the people, the rides, the beautiful Lake Erie. And on top of those roller coasters, I felt a sense of release. P.S. Raptor still rules! It’s the ride that always puts a freeing smile on my face 🙂

While I lived in Budapest, Hungary, I went to the best party of my life. All over town, there are these bath/thermal type spas and this Sparty (spa party, get it?!) was held in the fanciest of all- the Gellert Hotel. Large pools, young people, open drinking and smoking, and just a good time. I was a fish in water and nothing was holding me back. I danced in the pools, then jumped to the hot tubs, and was mesmerized by the laser lights and acrobatics hovering above me. I may have been moving a little too much, because the alcohol and dancing in water combination didn’t agree with me later, but in that moment I was free…water whipping around, music buzzing, and friends laughing. It was a great feeling!

I encourage you to seek out those freeing moments.


As I was sweating my balls butt off at the gym this morning, I decided to rethink this whole body cleanse/detox item on my “25 Before 25” list. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea when I wrote it down, but it was always something that intrigued me. There are so many cleanse options out there, so obviously “they” are on to something…There’s the classic Cabbage Soup Diet, colon cleansing options (enema, anyone?),  the Master Cleanse that one too many of my friends have tried, and even ridiculously expensive celebrity-approved options like the Clean Program.

Here’s my thing: the body is really good at detoxifying and cleansing itself. There are so many internal systems in place to take care of that stuff for us. I’m sure Hubs could get more into this if we want to be all scientific and use big words…

The reason I added a short cleanse to my list was because there are times when I, like many others, will have a crappy food week or just feel weighed down and want a refresher. That’s where the cleanse might come in handy. But I think I’m going to let my body do all the tough work.

In case you didn’t know, I am a sweater. Like, dripping down my spin bike and shirt drenched kind of sweater. Detox.
I am also good at getting rid of body waste. Let’s leave it at that :-). Again, my body knows how to detox.

‘Nuff said.

Have a great weekend. Sorry if I made you think about poop! No, wait, I’m not really sorry. I like talking about poop 😉

Out with the Old, In with the New

Have you seen the article about the Nutrition Plate replacing the Food Pyramid? It’s a Mrs. Obama initiative, and I think it’s pretty cool!

1. The Food Pyramid is sooo 1992. It’s always good to update.
2. I like the emphasis on filling more than half your plate with fruits and veggies.
3. It’s a much easier and appealing graphic to understand than the food pyramid.
4. Good and Bad – I like the vague headers because “protein” doesn’t necessarily have to come from an animal. BUT, without pictures or any descriptions, it doesn’t allow explanations of what it means to be a grain, protein, dairy, etc.
5. Fats/oils/sweets aren’t on the plate at all. Shabam! Positive, wishful thinking Mrs. Obama 🙂

Overall, I think this new nutrition plate is a step in the right direction and a good tool to use for the future of getting America to eat healthier. And I’m looking forward to how this will come into play in my new food studies!

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