Monday, June 20, 2011

What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?

Last Friday we went out to dinner to celebrate some good news which I am not telling you about yet to build suspense. Come on, I have to hold some things back so that I have something to write about don’t I? ;-) I promise that I will give up the information…just not yet.

Needless to say dinner out means Ian was cooking. Having Ian around the corner means we have no motivation to venture far from home. Seriously why would we want to go somewhere else? His food is delicious, creative and fits most of our dietary criteria. I only say most because of the oil and salt but he has been cutting back on both for us which we really appreciate.

This particular evening Will was working and when he is in the kitchen he takes care of our food. Sadly Will has now gone to work at Woodberry Kitchen which I thought those of you who are local would like to know. According to Will it is his understanding that there is always at least one vegan entree on the menu there. Once Will has been there a little longer I will let you know about the vegan options.

Given that we were celebrating we decided to start the evening with a nice bottle of vino. Alan suggested a Sicilian red and who was I to argue? Just so you know we did share the wine with Alan, Emily, Ian and Will so we didn’t drink the bottle ourselves though that would have been no problem in the past. Those of you that know how much wine we used to consume can keep your stories to yourselves LOL.  Actually I am kidding about this. I would be the first one to admit that we drank too much red Italian wine in the past.  We both loved it but it really isn't the best thing for your health even though people only seem to focus on the beneficial aspects there are many reasons to reduce your intake.

We started our meal with a nice clean salad of spinach, green apple, cucumber, and red bell peppers. This was dressed with tarragon vinegar and some fresh pepper. It was a great light salad. This was the perfect way to start a meal on a hot and humid evening.

The second course this evening was a spicy Thai mushroom pizza with cilantro. This was an excellent pizza and didn’t take notes on what he included. I will send him a note and see if he will give it up so that I can recreate the topping which was amazing. Nice job Will we really loved it!

The next course was a grilled pineapple and radish salsa stuffed avocado. Talk about delicious. A girl could get used to eating like this. Oh yeah, I already have gotten used it haven’t I? ;-)

For dessert we asked Will if he could make us a fruit plate and this is what came out. It included pineapples, strawberries, oranges and fresh mint.

Needless to say it was another lovely dinner. We chatted with everyone, like always and had a great evening. There are many perks associated with being a regular at a restaurant. If you haven’t found a favorite restaurant I strongly recommend that you do.

What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?:

This is a difficult question to answer and I think that a lot of it is individual. However I also think that there are many concepts which are universal and those are the ones I have outlined belo.

Here are the things I think we could/should all try to do:

• Make water or green/white tea your predominate beverage

• Eat 10+ servings of fruit and veg per day (this is the amount the experts say reduces the risk of disease particularly cancer)

• Eat some portion of your produce raw (preferably half on average) each day, fresh pressed vegetable juice is a easy way to increase your produce consumption

• Focus on whole unprocessed grains in lieu of refined or processed grains

• Concentrate on getting your protein from plant sources (beans, grains, nuts and seeds)

• Avoid alcohol or at least limit yourself to one glass per day if you are woman, two if you are man (as little as a 5 ounce glass of wine per day has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer)

• Reduce your daily sodium consumption to below 1500mg per day or less (we are closer to 500mg on average)

• Reduce/eliminate processed food including vegan items like faux dairy

• Reduce/eliminate added sugar including “healthy” sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, malt syrup etcetera

• Reduce/eliminate processed oils in your food

• Reduce/eliminate your consumption of animal products (meat and dairy)

There is a lot of science to back up everything that I have bulleted above. No single item is difficult to do but taken together they tend to be a little overwhelming for many people. Given that you know how I eat I am sure you have realized that the items which I listed as reduce or eliminate I have eliminated except the oil and salt that is only when we are out.

My theory is that most of us ate a standard American diet for many years and during that time we consumed an excessive about of items that weren’t good for us and that meant we need to seriously clean up our act to get back to ground zero. In essence what I am saying is that we had a lot of sins to make up for with our new lifestyle.

When we were new to eating a healthy vegan diet I didn’t expect it to become permanent. Not only didn’t we expect it to become permanent we didn’t want that to happen either. Both of us had a difficult time making the initial changes. Even though we did it there was a lot of complaining. However we both felt so good and the lab tests were excellent so we kept doing it. The next thing we knew we lost our taste for less healthy food. I am pointing this out so that you know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train.

If you want to make some changes to your diet I would encourage you to pick one item and work on changing that. When your first change becomes a habit move to the next item you want to change and so on until you cover them all. Eventually those little changes will add up and before you know it you will have a very healthy diet. When we changed our diet we made most of the changes all at one time that resulted in the diet you see now all at one time. I don’t recommend that anyone do that. Easing into things would definitely be less shock to your system and palate.

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to get started. You don’t need to do everything at once and that probably isn’t the best idea for most people. But by making changes a little at a time you will end up with a very healthy diet eventually. Since I get so many questions about this particular topic I am going to try to write something about this every week if not more often. If you have any specific questions about dietary changes that you want me to address please let me know so that I can write about what you are interested in reading.

Happy Thoughts:

We have had a great weekend and have many things to be thankful for. I love having my husband at home on the weekends. :-)

• Both Saturday and Sunday we spent the evening at Tide Point watching the sunset on the water. The weather was perfect both evenings and it was a relaxing way to spend the evening. As much as we both enjoy the water I don’t know why we didn’t start doing this sooner. I hope you enjoyed the photos from Saturday and Sunday that I posted. I loved taking the pictures.

• The meals I made for my parents were well received both days which was unusual. Given all my mother’s requirements it is difficult for me to cook for my parents. I decided to relax and include whole wheat pasta and that seems to work well. It isn’t the healthiest thing we could be eating but it keeps peace at family gatherings which is a positive.

• Our trip to the farmers’ market on Sunday was a resounding success. We came home with 8 bags of organic produce and a box of broccoli leaves for juice. *happy dance* I did spend almost an hour juicing the broccoli leaves but it resulted in a lot of juice which was great. Given the quantity of broccoli juice I made a snack that included: broccoli leaves, apple, carrot and lemon in the afternoon.

• In addition to produce I also bought a hula hoop at the farmers’ market. Have I used one since I was a kid? Of course not but it seems like a fun way to add a little extra activity into my life so it seemed like a good idea and was only $20. Dan wants to take video of me trying to relearn how to hoop but I am unlikely to allow that to happen. ;-) Let’s just say using a hula hoop is not like riding a bike. If you know of any DVDs on how-to please share.

• Monday I spent with my sweetie which made me very happy. Dan had a meeting in Richmond and since he was driving I went with him. We stopped at the Ipanema Café for veggie sandwiches before heading home. Dan ordered the “chorizo” wrap and I got a tofu and hummus sandwich. If you ever get to Richmond be sure to check out Ipanema Café. The food is very good, it is prepared promptly and the service is very friendly.

• We took a different route home from Richmond through the burbs. Okay so maybe it was more like the country but it was a nice drive with farms, cows and horses. We don’t tend to see much of that where we live so I enjoyed the scenery. I haven’t mentioned this in ages but I grew up in Indiana in a little town called Portage. We weren’t a farming community but there were farmers and fields around. The drive on Monday reminded me of my childhood with rolling terrain.

• Monday was a long day because we were out of the house from 7:00am until after 10pm but overall I would say it was a great day. We ended our day with a quick dinner out at our usual place. Ian was off tonight but we still had a great meal and the weather cooperated so that we could eat on the patio. Nothing like a relaxing dinner al fresco to end the day.

Signing Out:

We need to be up early tomorrow which means that I need to log out and get some rest. Overall it was a great weekend and Monday. I hope yours was equally good. Talk to you again tomorrow *fingers crossed* once we get home. I have more errands that will have me out of the house again. I am planning to take my laptop with me tomorrow (Tuesday) which should allow me to write the post while I am out.


  1. All the foods look so delicious. We had some pizza over the weekend, which was somewhat similar to the one you have posted.

    I love the way you have presented the avocado with the dressing. Now, that not only looks delicious, but it is so good looking too :)

    Peace :)

  2. Hi Chandra!

    I hope all is going well for you and Teresa. I am sure Teresa's pizza was delicious. :-) Anything with mushrooms gets me vote.

    The avocado was prepared by Will but I agree with you they are prettier when stuffed. He filled it with a grilled pineapple salsa that also contained raw radish, red onion, jalapenos and cilantro. There was probably more in it than that but those were the dominant flavors.

    Enjoy the rest of your evening,

  3. To my the most important thing is variety. I am healthy only if I have a full spectrum of colours, taste, experiences.

    The dishes you have photographed look pretty amazing!


  4. Alessandra,

    I agree with you 100% on variety and color and we try to do the same thing. Most Americans, both vegan and omni, tend to eat the same foods all the time. Without variety it is difficult to get all the micronutrients we need for good health.

    Glad you liked the pics,

  5. I love the food pictures...yum!

    I love your nutrition posts too - one topic I would love to see you cover is inflammation - causes, dietary sources.

    Keep up the good stuff :)

  6. Oh, the Thai mushroom pizza is so beautiful is hurts. Gorgeous!


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