Saturday, January 14, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 14

I snapped this photo on the way home.  Yes it is a photo of a purple moment. To be specific it the Washington Monument (in Baltimore specifically Mt. Vernon) flooded in purple for the Ravens.  Since I love purple I had to take this picture on my from between Hopkins and home.

Are you thrilled that it is the weekend?  This week I thought the weekend was never going to arrive.  A little dramatic I realize but it has been a very long week for me.  While the weekend didn’t start off where I wanted it to which was at home, it is still good that it is the weekend!

No surprise, my Friday was spent again at Hopkins.  Have I said recently I thought my long days and nights in hospitals were in my rearview mirror?  How did I ever hang out in these places 12 hours a day? Don’t get me wrong hospitals definitely have a place in the world. But wouldn’t life be infinitely better for all us if they weren’t needed by as many people in our society?

What do you think are you enjoying the posts so far this month?  Do you find my ideas to be valuable?  Are my holistic posts something that you would like me to add to the blog on a routine basis? I can’t add them every day because I don’t have that much time, but I could add them weekly or possibly twice a week if you are getting value from them.  Just let me know what you want to see and I will try to make it happen. As you know my life is a little out of control at the moment but it should be slowing down soon.  *fingers crossed*

Here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how far we have come during the first 13 days of January:

Day 1 – Defined Success and What is/was Holding Us Back

Day 2 – Determined our Purpose and Looked at Passion

Day 3 – Listed Our Goals for January

Day 4 – Listed the Things We Have Needed to Work on for a While

Day 5 – Looked at Optimism vs. Pessimism and Fear vs. Intuition

Day 6 – Practiced Conscious Eating

Day 7 – Hara Hachi Bu

Day 8 – Taking the Stress Out of Meal Time

Day 9 – Acknowledgments

Day 10 – No Excuses, Do it Anyway

Day 11 – Is it True?

Day 12 – Have You Really Connected With Someone Today?

Day 13 – Motivation is a Decision

What did you think of the post about motivation being a decision? Did it make sense to you?  I hope so because it took me many years to figure that one out.  I used to do so most things well but then there were a few areas in life where I was stuck until I realized it was because I was literally sabotaging myself with poor decisions.  *duh*  It seems so simple to me now but it didn’t years ago when I was struggling. 

If you have any questions about this or any of the other topics that I have written about this month please don’t be shy. Feel free to ask questions. It may take me a few days to get back to you until my life returns to normal but I will do my best to respond in a reasonable timeframe.

Successfully Navigating Dinner at an Unfamiliar Restaurant:

Those of you who have been reading a long time know all about our very beloved chef friend Ian. Yes having Ian nearby definitely makes is much easier for us to eat out and stick close to our plan (Ian always uses a little oil and salt we can’t break him of that no matter how hard we try). ;-)

However Dan travels for work and entertains clients in restaurants where Ian isn’t the chef so we have figured out how to navigate the dining out minefield.  Since many of you are trying to make dietary changes I thought it would be useful to know what we do when we are in a restaurant where we don’t have Ian or know the menu.

1.       Always start by looking at the salad section.  Frequently there are salads that have fruit, cheese and nuts and you simply ask them to leave off the cheese, add more nuts and put the dressing on the side. This is a simple way to go that works in many restaurants.  If you see any dish on the menu with balsamic glaze you can ask them to drizzle that over you salad in place of dressing. It is delicious and doesn’t add any fat.

2.       Entrees are where we usually run into trouble in restaurants.  Even if they have vegetarian options those are frequently piled high with cheese and that is as bad if not worse than meat from a saturated fat perceptive so we tend to skip those quickly.

3.       I scan the menu for items that include beans or hummus. If you find either of those you can build a meal around them.  Here are some examples:

a.       Hummus with raw vegetables and whole grain pita make a meal along with the salad you ordered you are good to do.

b.      You can have them spread the hummus on a tortilla fill that with veggies and bake or grill it.  Delicious!  Ian does this for me all the time. It is one of my favorite sandwiches.

c.       Hummus and roasted veggies make a terrific pizza topping. Add a little tuff of lemon dressed arugula and you are good to go.

d.      If you are lucky enough to find whole beans you can have them add that to marina sauce and serve that over brown rice, pasta or quinoa if you are really lucky.

4.       If there are roasted veggies on the menu those are also very versatile.  Here are some things you can do with those:

a.       Roasted veggies are great tossed in a red sauce and then served over pasta, brown rice or quinoa.

b.      You can also put roasted veggies on a pizza with either red sauce or hummus.

c.       Roasted veggies with balsamic glaze over greens makes a fantastic salad. Add nuts or seeds and you have a meal.

5.       Another thing we do often is look at the veggies under the fish entrees. Since most restaurants don’t put cheese on fish the vegetable combination served with or under fish can be a source of inspiration.

a.       You can ask that they serve the veggies over rice or pasta.

b.      We like to have them included on pizza too.

6.       If the restaurant has any Asian dishes you can request a veggie stir fry (light on the oil since chefs as a rule can’t wrap their heads around no oil) and this is a meal served over pasta or rice, preferably whole grain pasta or brown rice.  If you add cashews (which is a Dan favorite) to the dish you have covered all your bases.

7.       Next look at the appetizer section of the menu because you can make a meal of appetizers if you look around. Often chefs will put together interesting little dishes that are vegan or nearly vegan if you ask them to leave off the cheese.

8.       Side dishes are a great place to look for dishes.  If you ask questions frequently you will find that the side dishes are vegan or will be without the cheese, and sometimes bacon that shows up on many plates.  If something has cheese you can ask for nuts or seeds (walnuts, almonds or pine nuts) as a substitution.  Olives and capers make a nice bacon substitute just be careful with those as they are high in salt.

9.       Sushi can always been made only with veggies if they do fish sushi the kitchen can always do veggie sushi.  You just have to ask.

10.   As counterintuitive as this sounds steak restaurants frequently have fantastic salad bars. The best one Dan has found while entertaining clients is Fogo de Chao.  He says their salad bar is excellent but pricey since it is included in the “meat meal” so you are paying for unlimited meat which you aren’t eating. 

11.   If you really want dessert ask the kitchen to make you a fruit platter.  We like ours with a balsamic drizzle and nuts but those are not necessary.

In the past I was not someone who would ask for special meals as that felt like such a bother. However this is my health and my body and I am not going to eat something that isn’t good for me when I have any other option. We have found that if you ask nicely 99% of the time the kitchen is willing to accommodate your requests.  We did find one restaurant which was willing to change a salad for us to eliminate the tuna steak, make no additions and wanted to charge too much for it. Since the salad wasn’t really going to be very interesting, or worth what they wanted to charge for it, we opted to leave and go elsewhere. However other than that one instance every time we have requested substitutions the kitchen has been very willing to work with us and charge accordingly.

What if you are in a different town or a different part of town and you can go anywhere ethnic restaurants are a wonderful option.  If you make careful selections, and ask lots of questions you can often get a very healthy ethnic meal.  There are a few ideas by cuisine type:

Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean):

Chinese restaurants have a wide variety of vegan options.  The biggest concern you need to have here is the amount of sodium in the sauces.  Soy sauce is very, very high in sodium.  For this reason I try to avoid dishes in brown sauce.  If we get brown sauce (which as certain husband adores) I try to get most of if off the food by shaking the bite gently once it is on the fork.  You could always get a different sauce and reduce you sodium intake that way. Also may Asian restaurants now carry brown rice you just need to remember to ask.  The Chinese carry out near Dan’s office has a diet section to their menu which means you can order steamed veggies which works extremely well. Get the sauce on the side and you all set. 

If you are in a Japanese restaurant veggie sushi is a great choice just be careful with the soy sauce.  Don’t forget to order the edamame appetizer which you can order either light on the salt or no salt.  Also ask your server how the miso soup is prepared. Some places have vegetarian miso soup, others just the traditional version made with dashi (which has bonito – dried fish).  

Vietnamese restaurants are also a great place to dine. We love summer rolls and those are Vietnamese staple.  Our local Vietnamese restaurant also has a vegan pho which is very tasty.  Vietnamese food has a strong vegan tradition which is an influence of the many Buddhists in the culture.  They do use a lot of fish sauce in their recipes so just ask which of their dishes are made without it.  Overall Vietnamese food may be the most healthful of all the Asian cuisines. If you haven’t tried Vietnamese food please do, I think you will love it.

Korean restaurants are also a good option if you have any nearby.  Like other Asian dishes they do use a considerable amount of sodium this time in the form of fermented bean paste and soy sauce. However it can be a healthful cuisine in moderation.  Koreans have their own form of sushi called gimbap which you can get filled with veggies and rice.  Many of their dishes use meat more as a condiment so it I easy to have them leave it off which is what I do.

Middle Eastern:

There are so many delicious and naturally vegan Middle Eastern foods.  Hummus is one of my favorites.  If it is traditional hummus they will use mostly tahini (ground sesame seeds) and not much oil. However here in a America we seem to do the opposite.  If you are avoiding oil you can ask how it is made, or just have humus when you are as an occasional treat.  Another wonderful Middle Eastern dish is baba ganoush, which is like eggplant hummus if you haven’t had it.  There are also many bean, grain and green dishes that are an option. If you don’t know what to order ask your server for suggestions. They should be able to point you to the dishes without yogurt (labneh) and/or cheese.


What is not to love about Indian food?  I feel in love with Indian food over 3 decades ago when I was in college. My best friend was from Madras and she introduced to the food.  All I could think was wow is this stuff good.  For years I either made Indian or Italian food because I was that hooked on Indian.  I still make it now but I will admit that I miss the yogurt and ghee in these dishes.  However if I am out I do love to stop at Indian restaurants. They always have a nice selection of vegetable and bean dishes.  You just need to ask which ones contain yogurt or ghee.  Don’t assume everything creamy has dairy because they do rely on coconut milk a lot too. While coconut milk is high in saturated fat, I think it is fine for an occasional treat.


This is the cuisine of my culture which is why you see so many Italian spices in my cooking.  Southern Italian cooking is particularly healthful.  I will often opt for pasta with red sauce when we are out (hold the cheese).  Frequently Italian restaurants will have a whole wheat pasta option so I always ask.  Since Italians love vegetables there are always plenty of vegetable side dishes to choose from.  Often it is just a matter of asking them to hold the parmesan cheese which frequently is added at the last minute.  Minestrone soup is also another good choice.  I always ask if they added any pancetta to the dish, or tossed in a parmesan cheese rind because I grew up doing both.  At least half the time the minestrone soup is vegan.  Tuscans love beans and you will find a lot of bean dishes (soups, toppings for crostini, added to pasta).  If you find a Tuscan restaurant you will have many options.  The northern Italians use a good bit of butter and lard which means you need to ask.


Spaniards are like the Italians they love their veggies.   This is why you see us go to Jaleo so often in DC. It is a Spanish restaurant which only does tapas (small plates). We have not trouble eating vegan there.  A couple of the dishes we order we have them leave off the either the cheese of ham and the dishes are then vegan.

I realized when I was writing about ethnic restaurants that I could write a long and very detailed post about the cuisine of each culture with what to look out for as well as healthy items you should know about.  Since I think that would be helpful for many of you when you are dining out I have added that to my list of upcoming blog topics.  I will be writing this after the 31 days to better health series is over.

Today’s exercises are:

1.       Research local restaurants in your area that you haven’t been too.  Suggestions include:

a.       Ethnic restaurants

b.      Vegan or vegetarian restaurants

c.       Raw food restaurants

2.       Download their menus online and research the traditional preparation of the dishes (which you can also do online).

3.       Create a list of restaurants and specific dishes you would like to try the next time you go out.

This exercise will take a little time but the purpose is for you to learn new restaurants, become familiar with cuisines you have avoided and to make you more comfortable with dining out while staying healthy.  A little research goes a long way and soon you will feel like a pro who can find something to eat anywhere.  It is amazing how easy this becomes with practice. You really can find healthy food anyway, even in a hospital cafeteria. The secret is to know what to look for and the substitutions you can request.

Progress on my goals:

1.       Newsletters – Guess who actually spent some time working on this project again today while she was at the hospital?  Wow, this is a becoming a trend!  No one is more shocked than I am about this one.  LOL  ;-)

2.       Body Bugg – Twelve days in a row wearing my bugg and going strong. I think this has become a habit again.  ;-)  It will be nice to get home so that I can get back to exercising and give the bugg something to measure.  My step count is still well over 10,000 but nowhere near the totals that I typically reach. I really need to pick up the pace once my life settles down.

3.       Date with Dan – We will be getting back to this very soon once this is over. We are both looking forward to spending some time together at home.

4.        Measuring calorie dense food – I have been nibbling on nuts and seeds at the hospital and adding them to salads.  I think I am consuming about ¼ cup a day which is where I want to be.

5.       Working on my business No webinars for me on Friday but I did a little brainstorming about things I need to look into.  Overall I spent maybe 45 minutes on this task on and off during the day. It is helpful to have a “business to-do list” on my laptop so I can jot down any ideas that come up during the day when I am doing other things.

Are you starting to see serious progress on your goals?  I have been surprised by how much I have gotten done in a reasonably short period of time.  You don’t have to set aside huge blocks of time to work on things. However consistent effort will pay off.  You just need to commit to doing a little something every day or at least every other day.


I asked you to continue to write daily acknowledgements so that you develop the habit.  If my life was clipping along at its usual pace my acknowledgements would be very different.  I hope to be sharing my more typical acknowledgements with you soon.  On the bright side at least I am show you that even when things are not going as you would like them too there are still things that you can find to congratulate yourself on making happen.

·         Somehow I managed to meditate at the hospital and it helped me to feel much more peaceful.  It really amazing how useful meditation can be.  If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend it.

·         The fur children and I were bonding again last night.  I have been giving each of them extra individual attention since they are so confused by the change in our habits. It feels good to take care of them since I know they are upset.  I like knowing that I am good cat mommy.

·         It felt good to be at the hospital with my husband.  I know that I am not doing much while I am there but I am moral support if nothing else.  On Saturday I bought Dan a quart of green juice (1 bunch of kale, 1 bunch of celery, 1 English cucumber, a handful of parsley, 1 lemon and I clove of garlic).  When his temperature starting going down you know it was all because of me and the green juice right?  ;-)  Joking….sort of!  I am know the Phytochemicals in the juice did him more good than harm that is for certain.

·         I made Dan a healthier version of tofu chocolate mousse and brought that into the hospital. He was so tired he didn’t even want it.  Poor dear, he really is not a happy camper right now.  I know that he needs to get some rest and then he will feel a lot better.  At least he knows how much I love him.  I also brought some healthy tofu mousse for Lauren to try and she also enjoyed it.  It is so much fun to share the vegan love isn’t it?

·         Lauren (our nearly vegan nurse) asked if I had a good recipe for lentil walnut pate on Friday. Dan told her about the blog and I said that I would try to make some pate either when I got home Friday night or Saturday morning before I came back.  I was at the hospital until 10:30pm Friday but I really wanted to bring the pate for her to try so I whipped up a batch in the morning.  She enjoyed both the pate and my idea to use cucumber rounds and carrot slices as crackers.  Can you tell Lauren and I have bonded LOL?  I scribbled the recipe down for her while I was the hospital which put a big smile on her face.  I love making people smile.  Since Lauren literally lives around the corner I think we may be seeing more of her after we are discharged.  *fingers crossed*  I wonder if Lauren sails?  I need to remember to ask her that. We will be getting together for lunch soon so I can introduce her to Ian.  BTW you all know Ian is going to kill me right?  Just what poor Ian needs, more vegans.  LOL

How are you doing writing acknowledgements every day?  Do you find this an easy and helpful task or is it more of chore? Honestly when I first started doing this it felt forced and I didn’t enjoy it right away.  But I told myself that I had to give it a proper try (7 days) before I gave up.  Once I got into the habit of writing acknowledgements then I started to look forward to it.  If you do it before bed it reminds you of the all the good things you did all day and puts you in a great frame of mind to fall asleep.  I definitely have better dreams when I write acknowledgements just before bed.  I hope the same thing works for you.  *fingers crossed*

Random Observations:

Early this morning a good friend of mine sent me the link to the article which states that Paula Deen has diabetes, is no longer eating her own food and signed a contract to hawk a diabetes medicine. This made my blood boil for a number of reasons.  For years I have been saying that she needed to have her cardiologist on speed dial and should be ashamed of herself for “pushing” such unhealthy food on Americans. Seriously we have enough health challenges in this country without Paula Deen adding fuel to the fire.  *rolls eyes*  Now that she has type II diabetes I am hoping that more people are going to wake up to the simple law of cause and effect. If you eat like Paula Deen you will get diabetes like Paula Deen unless you have been blessed genetically and you shouldn’t expect that to be the case. 

This is why I am going to go even further and point out that if Paula Deen really isn’t eating her cooking now (and shame on her for still selling it in her restaurant not to mention the her cookbooks) then her condition can be reversed.  However reversing diabetes takes serious diet and lifestyle changes.  Just giving up three pounds of butter a day isn’t going to get the job done.  Too bad Paula isn’t willing to take the high road and make serious dietary change and set an example for the rest of the country. Nope, she would rather profit (through the contract with the drug company) from the problem she helped perpetuate in this country than to do something to really help people. Can you tell that she irks me?

On a related note, veganizing recipes from Paula Deen is no more healthful than eating the omnivore originals.  Just wanted to point that out since I have seen more than a few people “veganizing” her recipes.  *sigh*  What are people thinking?

On a much, much more positive note we are both enjoying spending time with our nurse Lauren.  It is wonderful to have a healthy friend in the neighborhood.  *happy dance*  Lauren tells me she will be cooking a few recipes from the blog tomorrow on her day off. The ones we showed her today were:  cashew queso (which everyone even omnivores has loved), the beefy seitan cutlets, and the vegan Neapolitan lasagna (one of Dan’s all-time favorites).  I thought those of you who are new readers may want to check those out.  I will share the lentil pate recipe that I made for Lauren today with you soon. I haven’t loaded the cookbook software on this new machine yet otherwise I would have gotten the recipe up today.

Considering that we spent our Saturday at Hopkins I think we had a very good day.  Dan’s fever is down a little and we are hoping that is a trend.  If you want to send cooling thoughts our way please do.  ;-)


Since I just mentioned being at Hopkins on Saturday I am sure you guessed that we were also there on Friday.

Joe (the dietitian) and I were talking about ALA and the variable conversion rate to EPA and how much ALA we should be consuming to get adequate EPA.  He was kind enough to print two articles for me on the topic.  I wish I had found time to read them but I haven’t been able to shoe horn that into my schedule yet.  I was too busy talking about food (my favorite subject) with Lauren, writing this post, and keeping Dan company to read the articles.  Sometimes fun has to take precedence over being productive.  ;-)

Considering the swirling chaos in my life this week hasn’t been bad. Sure we would have rather not been at Hopkins all week but Dan is in far better physical condition that the most of the other patients in this nursing unit and for that I am very grateful.  Once we get his fever under control, without fever reducers, we will be out of here.   *happy dances her way to the door* 

Here are a few pictures I took of Hopkins to give you an idea of the size of this place. 

All the buildings you see are Hopkins and there are many more that I didn’t photograph if that starts to put the size into perspective for you.  Huge!

This is coming up from the subway entrance into the hospital.  It is interesting how they tied the old to the new isn’t it? 

I took this last night which is the iconic Hopkins dome as the sun was setting.  Sorry for the picture quality I was using my cell phone.

Minor Blog Layout Change:

For those of you who use the “search this blog” function I wanted to let you know I moved it to the top of the blog.  My husband pointed out that it would make more sense for the results of the search to come out closer to the search box. It never occurred to me that this would be a good idea. We really do need each other don’t we?  LOL

In case you are accustomed to the search block where it used to be (under the followers) I wanted to point out that I moved it, I didn’t delete it.

Happy thoughts:

I hope that reading my happy thoughts every day reminds you that good things happen in your life too.  It is so easy to focus on what goes wrong in life.  However if we all stop and notice the good things they are also there. Here are my happy thoughts today:

·         I had a good morning with the fur children before coming back to the hospital. My babies are definitely concerned because things are different (I am gone more and Daddy isn’t home at night) but they are being brave big cats.  I think my little ones are growing up.  Since they are all 10 years old I guess I shouldn’t expect them to remain kittens forever now should I?  At least they are starting to sleep through the night instead of staying up waiting for Daddy to come home.

·         I enjoyed sharing my lentil walnut pate and new tofu mousse recipe with Lauren.  Life is always better when you share things isn’t it?  J

·         While green juice isn’t Dan’s favorite he had two big cups of the fresh juice that I brought from home.  Late this evening he asked me to bring two quarts of juice to him tomorrow.  He knows that he needs more micronutrients since he isn’t getting many at all from the hospital food.

·         Last night Mike (our evening nurse) called security and walked me to the security desk to make certain that I got an escort to the parking garage.  It was late when I left and I was in the outpatient parking lot. I thought that was very nice of Mike to do that for me. Again, this just proves that there really are good people in the world.   J

·         Saturday I was able to get a parking space in the Weinberg building. Can we get a woo hoo for a very safe parking space?  Isn’t it amazing that something so simple can make such a big difference in my day.  LOL

·         Overall life is going fairly well, but it will be better once we get over this recent bump in the road.  We are both looking forward to spending some quality time together….at home!

Signing Out:

You probably guessed that the CAT scan wasn’t clear yesterday. Darn it!  There was a little shadow that may be pneumonia.  So….better safe than sorry, Dan will be spending a little more time at Hopkins. We are hoping for a Sunday release but who knows.  I have stopped trying to guess when we are breaking out of here.  On the bright side if we are still here on Monday Lauren will be back and that means I can get a first-hand account of her cooking adventures on Sunday. See, there is always a bright side even with the darkest cloud.

On that note I am going to log out and try to relax a little before heading for home.  I hope you are having a fabulous weekend. Have some fun for me will you?  Talk with you again tomorrow.  Good night.


  1. Alicia,

    Sending cooling/prayerful thoughts to Dan and you!!

    Just wanted to let you know as I try to decide whether I am interested or committed, I am eating Kale chips as a snack, while I read your blog!


  2. I did have some Ali-type fun! I watched a lecture. :) Dr. Doug Lisle (The Pleasure Trap guy, he talked about the "food-sex" sharks in Forks over Knives) has a current lecture on the Forks Over Knives YouTube channel ("How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind"). It was encouraging and affirming, and I highly recommend it!

  3. I'm still reading, enjoying this month's posts, sending good wishes your way...
    For our take-out Chinese dinner, I ordered one stir-fried veggies with tofu (which comes with a yummy sauce) and one steamed (no sauce, super bland), then combined them when I got home. Unfortunately they don't have brown rice and I didn't have time to make any. Eating out is a real challenge, but we're getting more used to asking for the "right" things.

  4. I think this is the most comprehensive and helpful post on eating out that I've ever read. I'm going to bookmark it as a favorite page for quick reference. WooHoo on Dan's temperature going down!!! And awesome that you brought him green juice to the hospital. Keep up the good work!

  5. I’ve learned a lot from your blog here, Keep on going, my friend, I will keep an eye on it.

    Vancouver Chiropractor


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