This blog isn’t about weight loss, but I want to finish up the Meal Mentor program review with some personal insights I had. A lot of these were directly from the community and Lindsay herself.
For those unwilling to dive into veganism or vegetarianism, one positive step they can take is to eat LESS meat, LESS dairy, LESS eggs. Those are really easy ways to reduce overall consumption and drive up the demand for plant-based alternatives for everyone. If more people could do that, it actually makes a greater impact than just a few strict vegans. If you aren’t familiar with Tobias Leenaert. He has a blog called The Vegan Strategist which is very interesting. He promotes a more strategic and pragmatic approach to creating change than just telling people “Go Vegan”. The forceful, all-or-nothing method has been tried and tested over decades, and has resulted in a steady very small percentage of people embracing this way of life. I think we all look at our own experiences and think about what motivated us. We are all so diverse, it is ridiculous to expect that one message will be appealing to all. Some people will think about changing how they view animal products because of the animals themselves, others will care about health and others may do it for environmental reasons. Ideally, all three.
As people, we want to conform to the norms of society, our community, our friends. It is hard to take a different path in that effect, unless you choose to only surround yourself with vegans, the world is very much a non-vegan place. Being willing to be different in this way probably attracts a lot of non-conformists which gives vegans the “weird” stereotype a lot of people think about. Obviously, in real life there are all sorts of people who see the benefits and science of the issues our world faces if we continue down the path of consumption we are on. Some of us are not even radical, it just makes a lot of sense.
Personally, when I stopped eating meat I felt much more aligned with my inner values. It is not a hardship besides some difficulties navigating social events. I would recommend everyone give it a try, just for 3-4 weeks to see how you feel. But, do it thoughtfully with a plan (this is the one I used) so that you can be healthy.
Anyway, back to the weight loss part of the Meal Mentor program. I needed to lose at least 20 pounds, probably 25 to get to a healthier weight. This is not an exaggeration. I am 5 foot 7, so losing 5 pounds has literally no effect on me. I could see the weight gain in my face, bust and waist particularly. I know I eat healthy foods, so why is this happening?
After showing my Meal Mentor Buddies my instagram feed, and getting input, I made some changes. I am only eating within an 8 hour window, allowing 16 hours for my body to work on it’s reserves and concentrate on repairing body functions, other than always needing to deal with digestion from incoming food. This is really easy for me. I am not hungry in the morning, so listening to my body, I eat breakfast around 9:30 or 10:30 am. Then I don’t eat after 5:30 or 6:30pm. This is a form of intermittent fasting, although far from being extreme.
I have found that I am not constantly hungry any more. I am drinking more water. I am careful about, and am enjoying my meals much more. The meals feel more like “fueling my body”. As a country, we are in an obesity epidemic. I believe that this is part of the over-consumption that is happening in these periods of abundance. Fast food, processed foods and many restaurants have oversized servings and calories that far exceed what we require. My smaller portions and eating less are not dieting. They are my lifestyle, and is giving my body what it needs, just not more than it needs. In my sedentary job, I do not require massive amounts of calories. I feel more like I am treating my body better, by giving it premium food and less of it. It’s really more a form of mindful eating.
Lindsay S. Nixon from Meal Mentor (and Happy Herbivore) had a great analogy of why the intermittent fasting concept works. If you have a pantry full of cans of chickpeas, and every time you eat a can of chickpeas you replace it, you will never create a deficit. My pantry is pretty overflowing with chickpeas, so I am chipping away at it, letting those run out by giving space in the evening where I am not restocking constantly. I am not sure I explained that perfectly, but it is working for me. You can read about her background and research here.
I’m going to go back to non-diet blog posts for the most part. This actually does tie into my whole concept of Eat 4 the Future in that there are environmental benefits of simply reducing how much food we buy and eat to reduce food waste. Lightening your carbon footprint literally. Let me know your thoughts and experience, or any questions.
As I posted earlier this year, I signed up for Meal Mentor to help with meal planning, healthier meals and weight loss. After consistently using it for dinners (and mostly eating the leftovers for lunches) since January 1st, I can write a review about my experience.
At first, I wasn’t sure this was going to work for us. I am glad I gave it a chance and kept trying it. The meals are so healthy, it was a bit of an adjustment for me to stop using oil and processed food. The kids are picky and won’t always eat what I make- but that happens anyway unless we have pizza and enchiladas all the time, so I don’t factor their preferences in completely.
What I really like about the plan:
Variety of recipes: Every week there is a new set of meals emailed over. The items are very creative and keep everything interesting. There is flexibility in deciding what meal works best each evening since I already have all the ingredients for the week.
Healthy meals: I would describe these meals as “relentlessly healthy”. Instead of sautéing in oil, broth or water is recommended. I’m almost to my 6th year veganniversary, and while my reasons have never been about diet, I needed to be much more thoughtful about my food choices. I know if I am following the Meal Plan, that these have had nutritional oversight and are balanced and low calorie. They can be made gluten free and soy free.
Shopping lists: The list is super well organized and makes it easy to hand off to Jonathan my personal shopper. The ingredients are inexpensive, whole food, plant-based and easy to find. No pomegranate balsamic vinegars. These are simple items like lentils, rice, vegetables, hummus, salsa, beans and spices, etc.
Support group: Their is a special Facebook community for annual members that is wonderful. Lindsay S. Nixon (the founder/creator) pops in personally and answers questions. We post photos (or illustrations) of our meals, share tips, success stories and help keep each other motivated. I have not seen any snark, judgment or negativity that is common online. I feel like I have a new group of friends.
I have not used the meal prepping concept yet, but it is set up so that you can batch prep or cook the meals in advance.
Eating healthy food, all made from scratch seems time-consuming. This has helped me enormously. My taste buds have really adapted to loving these recipes, and I actually don’t want to stray away from them. The recipes list the amount of time each one is to make, so I can decide if I want to take 5 minutes or 20.
Personally, I had a weight loss goal with this. I had a slow start to this, and have only lost 5 pounds so far, which is not anything exceptional. However, I had a breakthrough recently thanks to Lindsay and this group and it feels as if things are going to be a lot easier for me now. I’ve been tracking what I eat by drawing it (I also enjoy doing food illustrations). You can see a lot of the Meal Mentor plan recipes on my instagram feed. I made it a goal to post every single day in February.
If you want to give it a try, there is one free sample week available on the website, and you can get a glimpse of the menu items for each week. Let me know if you join!
Two weeks ago our family had a scare. My 70 year old dad went to the hospital with chest pains. Luckily he listened to his body, or he very likely would not be here today since he had suffered a heart attack. He had the injection dye test to show that two of his arteries were almost completely blocked, with a third artery 67% blocked.
The hospital put in stents for the arteries that were over 90% blocked. It wasn’t a very invasive surgery as they go through the wrist and avoided needing to do a double bypass once they checked everything out closer. He will need to go back within a few weeks and have the third artery done with another 3 day stay in the hospital. He will need to be on blood thinners and medications for at least a year. The cost for his first month was almost $500.
I went to spend time with him and my family during this scary time. It was a very special visit. I felt like my dad was more present than he had been in years. We had really good conversations. He wants to have a healthier life style going forward since he did get a second chance. I sincerely hope that will continue. It was very depressing to be in the ICU and see all the very ill people lying in the beds surrounded by machines.
Did you know that heart disease, the number one killer, is preventable or reversible with a plant-based diet? It would be a much cheaper and easier way to avoid costly surgeries and pharmaceuticals. YET, when I visited my dad in the hospital his menu choices for cardiac care had only one plant-based entrée, and for breakfast they had given him an egg, cheese and ham breakfast sandwich! I looked around the hospital cafeteria myself at Overlake Bellevue Hospital and there were very few plant-based options for anyone. Even the quinoa salad I chose from the salad bar had mayo in it to my surprise. You might think this menu looks healthy, but what this tells the heart patient is: you can have steak, pork, meatloaf and more. He tried to order the side of roasted vegetable with mushroom gravy. The cafeteria advised him to have beef gravy instead (I assume this is because of sodium content). The super food vegetable stir fry is the best option but who will want to order that for lunch and dinner for several days?
In general, this experience really made me think about the way our society and medical treatment functions. Is it easier for the doctors to “fix” people rather than encourage patients to be more proactive about their health? Just eat what you want, get a stent, and carry on? It’s a big gamble since the first heart attack could kill you. The solution is so simple yet there are large industries who do not want us to reject their main commodities. I’ll include processed food and sugar in with dairy and factory farm meat.
I started my 30 day challenge almost 6 years ago after watching Forks over Knives. Even if you don’t think you care about animals or the environment, think about the health aspects and what you can have control over in your life. NutritionFacts.org is a great source of scientific, peer-reviewed nutrition and health info. Dr. Michael Greger, the doctor who created the Nutrition Facts website and wrote the best selling book “How Not to Die” offers compelling facts. I’ve ordered the cookbook for my dad and will be reviewing that shortly!
As for my dad, he is feeling so much better now that his blood flow to his heart had improved. We feel extremely lucky that he was able to celebrate his 71st birthday and continue to be there for his family and to enjoy his retirement life!
That was pretty much a rhetorical question. Especially if you are feeding a family and can’t just resort to eating some cereal or going out whenever you don’t feel in the mood. Those darn kids are always wanting to eat!
I try a lot of new recipes every week and only post a small fraction of them on the blog. I feel like every other day (and sometimes every day) we are running to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. While we are there we purchase a few other items that we don’t really need. In addition to the extra cost and time, I didn’t feel like we always ate the healthiest meals. So, this year we are going to make a commitment to meal planning. I have tried them off and on in the past but not consistently. I’ll be reporting here on the results. I’ve been following Lindsey at Happy Herbivore for years and appreciate her overall approach and the focus on the health/weight loss component to her meals. She doesn’t use oil, which is something we tend to do. A lot of people think that eating plant-based will naturally result in weight loss, but that hasn’t been the case for me.
For this week, we are starting a bit late, but since we work from home and have teenagers, we can probably go through a week’s worth of food in 5 days! We spent about $70 for the week (we had some ingredients on hand).
I can’t post her recipes here, but you can check it out yourself, and even download a sample plan here. Also, she has a special discount right now if you join which saves 22% and has a 30 day guarantee. This is not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share this information with you all. Please let me know if you will be joining me in a more organized, money saving, healthy 2018!
I’m sharing this recipe from the Conscientious Eater because my kids devoured it immediately, and my daughter requested it for her birthday cake.
I think what I liked about it was the balance of sweet and salty. I did not have coconut sugar, but subbed brown sugar in the batter, white sugar for the topping. When I make this again, which will be soon, I will try the reverse so the top doesn’t appear so white.
Super good, and I always have coconut oil on hand, and ground flax seed.
Here is the recipe, image from Conscientious Eater.
VEGAN BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE
Made with fragrant coconut oil, juicy blueberries and covered with a sweet, crumbly streusel topping, this Vegan Blueberry Coffee Cake is the perfect recipe for a special breakfast or afternoon coffee break!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 inch cake pan (preferably springform) with cooking spray.
In a small bowl prepare your flax egg by whisking together 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water. Set aside to thicken.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, cream together the softened coconut oil and coconut sugar until combined. Add in the thickened flax egg and vanilla and cream again until a wet mixture forms.
Alternately add in the flour mixture and the 1 cup of non-dairy milk to the oil/sugar mixture, being careful not to over mix.
Once combined fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and set aside.
In a bowl prepare the streusel topping by combining the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, flour, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and using a fork to cut the coconut oil into the dry ingredients until a crumby mixture forms.
Evenly sprinkle the streusel mixture over the batter.
Bake the cake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 10 more minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
We’ve been hearing about this plant-based burger for a long time, and were excited when it finally made it’s way to our local grocery store.
Although I like to makes meals based mostly around vegetables, our family also really likes vegan meats- we have tried pretty much all of them on the market.
Some people think it is odd for vegetarians to want to eat food that simulates meat but most people didn’t stop eating animals because they didn’t like the taste. Veggie meats offer a way to get protein without the cholesterol, less environmental impact and without killing animals. Also, they are a familiar-looking food which makes them easy to use as replacements or transition to a plant-based diet.
Some critics would say that they are processed food as they contain oils and other ingredients. While this has some truth, meat from animals contains antibiotics, preservatives, and often harmful bacteria. I feel that they are fine in moderation.
In our search for the perfect vegan meats, the kids fell in love with Tofurky slices and roast, Field Roast sausages, Morningstar crumbles (vegetarian not vegan), Morningstar Sausages, any Gardein product, Trader Joe’s Turkeyless Roast and Beyond Meat chicken strips. Boca burgers can be dressed up pretty well, but they don’t really resemble meat or taste like it.
The Beyond Burger is the closest product we have found so far. At this time it is only sold in Whole Foods, and is usually located in the meat department. It comes in a package of 2 quarter-pound patties for $5.99, although you can normally find a coupon for $1 off. This is actually pretty comparable with other premium meats in that section- like free range. Also, at $3/patty, it is still cheaper than going out to eat. I’m hoping the price will come down even more as it gains in popularity.
We fried up the burgers the same day. They looked very realistic as they change from red to brown and release oils/juices. They even smell like meat, which was off-putting to me personally. The texture was definitely like meat, and it even “bleeds” a little beet-colored juice.
The kids and my husband LOVED them. I was less excited about them. They tasted good, it was just that I have an aversion to meat, and they were just too realistic. I guess that would be a positive endorsement to most.
Their main ingredient is pea protein, with no soy, GMOs or gluten! 20 g of protein for each patty, zero cholesterol. Also, kids love them.
It’s exciting to see the market expand for these new products. Looking forward to trying more in the future, especially the seafood substitutes. Like this shrimp which is made of natural ingredients and can also appeal to those with allergies.
Yet another recipe post since I make this soup almost every single week. Basically, I start wanting something really healthy and need to use up extra vegetables.
I don’t really have a recipe for this, every time it is a little different, and that is the beauty of it.
Vegetables: Onion, garlic, leafy green like kale, potatoes, carrots, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, etc. (Just don’t add anything overpowering like beets or anything that doesn’t go together). I use roughly one onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 carrots, 2 celery, 3 potatoes as a base. I don’t like any one ingredient to overpower the others.
Salt, pepper, spices
Macaroni noodles (about 1/3 lb).
Vegetable broth (4 cups)
Can of chopped tomatoes- either small or large, tomato paste if you have it
Can of garbanzo or other beans
Put a small amount of olive oil in a large pot, maybe 1 T on medium heat. Cook your chopped onion, garlic and spices. You can stick with Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, whatever you like). I add a bay leaf.
You can add in 1-2 T of tomato paste now if you have it.
Pour in your vegetable broth. Add chopped carrots, potatoes, celery, etc. Turn up heat so it comes to a boil, then turn it back down to cook all the veg.
Once potatoes and carrots are cooked, add in beans and leafy greens near the end so they don’t get mushy. Add more water if it needs more liquid, I use the tomato can to add in the last bit of tomato.
Cook the noodles separately in salted water, drain and set aside until the end. I only make enough to be the right ratio that I like with amount of broth and veg. The reason to cook noodles separately and not add them in to soon, is they will absorb all your veg broth and soup liquid otherwise. They will still absorb some, so you can add them separately when you serve if that bothers you. Add more salt if needed. I sprinkle nutritional yeast in my individual serving bowl.
I posted about how to move towards a change last year too! Plant-based, healthy diets are on the rise. If you haven’t tried it, there are many options for support and resources.
If you aren’t ready to devote 3 weeks right now. Start with Meatless Mondays. Take animals off your plate one day/week and you are making almost a 15% reduction. I have a lot of my favorite recipes in the food section, and created a simple little meal plan and shopping list to use.
Here is a simple recipe to add into your meals. This delicious, filling stew has been great for the winter. It’s easy, I usually have the ingredients on hand, and everyone seems to love it and requests the recipe. It may not be completely authentic, but I served it to a former Peace Corps volunteer from West Africa and she also asked for the recipe.
I don’t post any recipes unless I have tried them successfully at least 2 times, and only post recipes for about 20% of what I make. Will add pic next time I make it.
West African Peanut Stew
2 T coconut or peanut oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped fresh ginger
1 T crushed red pepper to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
5 cups vegetable broth
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo)
3 small sweet potatoes, cut into chunks (unpeeled)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with liquid
1/4 pound chopped kale (or collard greens)
1 cup chunky peanut butter
Heat the oil in large pot on med-high heat, cook and stir in onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Cook until softened. Add in broth, chick peas, sweet potatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes, greens, and peanut butter. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally another 20 minutes. We like to serve it over rice.
Let’s face it, we all can use help deciding what to make every day. The more you choose healthy whole foods, the more you cook from scratch. I created this guide that our family loosely follows based on the food we eat every week. I’ve included the basic items from which I can usually create a meal (usually within about 30 minutes max).
I’ll continue to refine this, and make some instructions for the dishes that I just make without a specific recipe. For example, just roasting vegetables, and using those in a wrap.
Please let me know your “go-to” recipes that don’t require a big trip to the store or more than 30 minutes or so. One of my favorite sources for these types of meals is Minimalist Baker.
My daughter LOVES the Starbuck’s pumpkin scones. I decided to try to make my own veganized version. Starting with Cookie And Kate’s recipe as a starting point, I made this version which turned out amazing!
I tried it both ways, and liked it better made with coconut oil instead of vegan butter and adding the aquafaba. They were still quite good without. I’m sure the nuts would make it even better. I went a little heavy on the glaze in the photo below, they are also delicious with less glaze.
Clio’s Pumpkin scones with Maple glaze
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice
1/2 cup oatmeal
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup solid coconut oil or 5 tablespoons cold vegan butter
¾ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup almond or soy milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons aquafaba (optional, but adds fluffiness)
Note: You can make this with nuts and omit the oatmeal. Use 1 cup chopped raw pecans, toast them, add 3/4 into the batter, and save 1/4 to sprinkle on top of the glaze while wet. My kids don’t like nuts, and have a nut-free school.
1 cup powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil or vegan butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup real maple syrup, more if needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. *If you are using nuts, place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Chop the nuts into fine pieces.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, spices, oatmeal and salt in a bowl and whisk together. (Add *¾ of the chopped nuts if using).
Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut the coconut oil or butter into the dry ingredients.
Stir in pumpkin puree, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until you have thoroughly incorporated the wet and dry ingredients. If you must, use your hands to knead the last of the flour into the dough. Try not to over knead
Form dough on a floured surface into a circle that’s about an inch deep all around. Cut the circle into 8 even slices for large scones, or a rectangle with 12 triangles for small scones.
Separate slices and place on the baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
While scones are baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Drizzle the glaze generously over the scones, dipping the scones upside down into the glaze and letting it drip down sides. While the glaze is wet, sprinkle it with the remaining chopped nuts if using. Enjoy!