Sunday, January 8, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 8

I noticed the new purple lights (Raven's Pride no doubt) at Domino Sugar last night and stopped to snap a quick picture leaving the marina and heading to the car.  I love to see the lights dancing on the water at night.  :-)

We had a great Saturday! Not only was the weather nothing short of spectacular but we also got a few things accomplished, enjoyed some much needed boat time and spent time together (just the two of us).  Seriously, our day could not have gotten much better than that.  I hope your Saturday was also a great one.

I took my laptop with us as we were running errands and was working on the post for day 7 while Dan was driving.   My poor husband had to listen to tell him what I was thinking as I was typing. There are times when I really don’t know why he listens to me when I talk.   He is a good husband isn’t he?  I think I will keep him.  ;-)

Here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how far we have come during the first 7 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

What do you think about the January posts so far?  Do you like that I have focusing on many non-food aspects or would you prefer me to stick with food specific ideas.  I can do both but since I believe most of us know what we should be doing (at least in general) I thought the emotional aspects were more important to focus on. There will be food specific posts this month too and today is one of those in fact.  I won’t be telling you specifically what to eat (though I could if you wanted me to) but instead today will be a planning day.  You will see what I mean in a minute.

Taking the Stress Out of Meal Time:

When we first made the change from an omnivore to a plant-based diet I was completely and totally lost. I had not planned and that meant that meal time was utter chaos and beyond stressful.  When any of us are trying to change our lifelong habits planning becomes critical.  The problem with our personal change was that I didn’t plan instead I simply made the decision while reading a book. We went from omni to vegan literally overnight, no planning, nothing.  Talk about foolish!  What the heck was I thinking?  *shakes head*  Before you ask yes I can be a bit impulsive but that is part of my charm as my husband likes to say.  ;-)  However when my gut tells me something is right I go with it.  I guess you could say I tend to follow my intuition and then back it up with research.

So that meal time is less of a struggle for all of you I want everyone to learn from my mistakes and that means today’s exercise is all about planning.  Today we are going to look at the types of dishes that you can make quickly and which your family will eat.  We will also create a pantry list so that you have items on hand that will make a healthy and welcome meal for your family on those days when you came home late from work and everyone is famished.  This is a tall order I know but we can do it together.

The first things you need to know are the food preferences for everyone in your family and I am sure that you do. Maybe someone hates mushrooms, another family member refuses to eat tofu, and someone else hates spinach. Whatever these things are they are important to keep in mind.  The requirements at our house are few but we have them also.

Dan doesn’t like okra.  He will eat it but he really doesn’t like the texture so I can’t use too much of it.  Additionally Dan also doesn’t love an olive which is fine since they are high in sodium anyway. His last food request is not too much eggplant. Again he isn’t fond of the texture of cooked eggplant so even though I love it I don’t cook with it all the time.   Okra, olives and eggplant are the things I need to keep to a dull roar at my house …. I can handle that.

I was trying to figure out what I don’t like and literally there isn’t anything.  I guess that is how I ended up carrying around too much me huh? LOL

Obviously we don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs and we avoid sugar, oil, and flour when we are home except on rare occasions.  Oh yeah and we don’t ever eat processed soy foods like TVP, veggie burgers, soy dogs, or anything with soy protein isolates.  This was tough for a while but it has become our new normal.  Now I don’t really give it much if any thought.

The next step is to figure out what your family likes.  Make a list by family member of some of their favorites, if they are picky just list things you know they will eat.

Dan will eat almost anything but he does have a few favorites and these are:

vegan Neapolitan lasagna
mushroom ragu over polenta
Bolognese with ground seitan
red lentil and tomato soup
Moroccan chickpea stew
strawberry banana soft serve
tofu chocolate mousse (which he doesn’t get very often because it isn’t very healthy) but he does love it

Many of these older recipes use oil, agave and salt which I no longer use. Otherwise the recipes would be the same if made here now.

Again I will eat just about anything, but my favorite foods are soup, salad and anything with hummus. Gee I really have become one boring girl.  ;-) 

If you are trying to make some changes to your families diet and don’t know what they new foods they like just focus on what they like now. For example if your family enjoys lasagna write that down and then you can search for a healthier version of lasagna.  Even my 80 year old parents will eat my tofu lasagna (the one listed above) so there really is hope that your family will grow to enjoy healthier versions of their favorite meals.

Once you have a list of meals that will work for your family now it is time to pull together the recipes into location which I would set up as a family recipe binder.  If you keep them all in one place you don’t have to look for the website or blog where you found them, or the book they are in.  Having a binder of recipes (assuming you use recipes) makes life easier.  I did this many years ago when I was first learning to cook and it was extremely helpful.

Now that you have a binder of recipes you can set up a pantry list using those recipes.  For example we always have the ingredients in the house for most of Dan’s favorite meals.  This way if I have no idea what to cook for dinner I can always make him soup, lasagna or a smoothie.  Does this make sense?

If you are more organized than I am you can take this a step further and actually plan your menu for the week.  I wish I was able to do that but it simply isn’t in my DNA.  I have always been the sort of person who needs the flexibility of making “whatever” comes into my mind for dinner.  It does make planning impossible, but keeping a well stocked pantry of items necessary for family favorite meals helps meal time be less stressful at our house.

Speaking of a well stocked pantry that will also be the focus of another post this month.  Many of you have asked me what sort of things I keep in my pantry so I thought that would be good to talk about later month as well.

To recap what today’s exercises are:

1.       List the foods your family members don’t like

2.       List family favorite meals by person

3.       Pull together a family recipe binder which contains recipes to satisfy everyone’s favorites which you listed in item 2 above (find healthy alternatives if appropriate)

4.       Using your recipe binder that you created in item 3 above now create a pantry list so that you can make your families favorite meals anytime you haven’t planned dinner

5.       If you are feeling extremely organized create a few variations of weekly menus which you can rotate for variety

The most difficult part of today’s exercise is finding recipes to put into your binder.  This is easy if you aren’t trying to change your family’s diet.  However if you are intending to make changes this becomes more difficult.  There are many substitutions you can make to your existing recipes which may be helpful.   To give you some ideas of those substitutions here are things I would do to gradually shift your family to a more healthful diet.  At the beginning I would start with 75% of the original ingredient and 25% of the healthier ingredient.  Then you can continue to replace the healthy ingredient a little a time.  You might be surprised how well your family adapts to change. 

Here are the substitutions I would suggest:

Instead of __________ try….  ___________

sautéing with oil …. use water, wine or veggie stock
chicken stock … veggie stock
ricotta cheese  …. crumbled tofu (see the recipe above which includes Dan’s favorite lasagna filling)
dairy milk …. almond, soy or hemp milk (you can make your own almond milk)
ground meat ….. minced mushrooms which you can also add shredded carrots and celery to this
cream ….. pureed raw cashews
sour cream …. cashew crème fraiche
sugar …. stevia (be careful you can easily use too much of this stuff and then it leaves an after taste)
processed commercial faux meats …. make your own seitan
processed commercial veggie burgers …. make your own veggieand bean burgers
parmesan cheese …. Walnut parmesan
cheese sauce …. cashew queso sauce
salt … no-salt seasoning
salad dressing with oil … make your own using salad dressing using raw cashews as the creamy base

I hope my suggested substitutions gave you some ideas for tweaks you can make to your current recipes to improve their healthfulness.

Progress on my goals:

1.       Newsletters – No progress on this goal on Saturday.   I should have clearly stated that I wasn’t going to work on my business on the weekends because I wanted to spend time with my hubby.  However that was my intention all along. Expect to see progress on this and item 5 again on Monday.

2.       Body Bugg – Six days in a row wearing my bugg and going strong. I think this has become a habit again.  ;-)

3.       Date with Dan – We had an entire date day on Saturday.  We both enjoyed our time running errands and definitely hanging out at the boat relaxing.

4.       Measuring calorie dense food – I am still doing this, and it continues to annoy me less each day.  I am starting to get a better feel for what a tablespoon of seeds looks like.

5.       Working on my business  Again no progress on this goal on Saturday for the same reason as item one above.

How are you doing making progress on your goals?  I hope you are pleased with what you have accomplished so far.  Please keep in mind that this isn’t a race.  Small changes that become habits tend to be the way to go. 

Also I find that it helps for me to remind myself that it isn’t important to change all the things about myself which I don’t like, what is important is to accept those aspects of myself.  For example I told you yesterday that I am not happy about aging, specifically the grey hair and sagging skin aspect of growing older.  However I have no intention of using chemical dyes or of getting plastic surgery.  Instead I will focus on accepting and loving myself exactly as I am aging and all.  I hope you see the distinction.

Random Observations:

I think I like the idea of the random observations section of the blog.  Often random thoughts will flow into my mind and I am not sure where to include them so I leave them out and maybe they should have been said.

One of my random observations today came from something that I saw at the marina.   Watching people carrying bags of fast food from a national burger chain (I am not naming the company to avoid any potential legal action) has become practically painful for me now.  I know so much about how this CAFO (concentrated area feeding operations) meat was raised and processed which ultimately becomes their burgers I would rather not eat anything than put that stuff (and that is the nicest word I can use) into my body.  It is completely a mystery to me that anyone would ever eat conventional ground meat.  Don’t they realize how many animals are in their one burger, or the antibiotics, pesticides and chemicals found in the fat of those burgers, cheese and bacon?  Even if they don’t care about the health impact of elevating IGF-1 by eating meat aren’t they worried about the other problems?  *sigh*

Do most people not realize that feeding their children garbage is worse than feeding it to themselves? When we are young our bodies are growing rapidly, cells are dividing and means that there are more opportunities for those cells to make mistakes which could lead to cancer 20+ years from now.  I often think of the garbage we ate as children and wonder about the impact that is having on our life now.  At least when we were young our parents didn’t have access to the information of how harmful these products are, but now we do.  If you want to know more about this topic read “Disease-Proof Your Child” by Joel Fuhrman, MD I think you will find it to be eye-opening.

If any of this is something that you want me to write more about in the future let me know. I can talk about this stuff for hours, maybe weeks.  See how much fun I am at parties?  Yes I am just a joy to be around if you are someone who eats anything that resembles the standard American diet.  LOL


We started our day with our new favorite tea, a double strength green and white with a little fresh grapefruit juice and some cinnamon.  If you haven’t tried this, and you can have grapefruit juice, please do.  We both think this stuff is delicious.

After we had our first mug of hot tea it was time for breakfast.  Dan and I discussed it and we decided that salad sounded like a good idea.  I know salad isn’t a traditional breakfast food but it makes a wonderful breakfast.  If you have salad for breakfast you are definitely getting a jump of your raw vegetable servings and who wouldn’t like that?  Any time we start our day with raw leafy greens I know that we have jump started our immune system and that makes me happy. 

After breakfast we watched the first lecture on the mindfulness meditation course together.  Dan has agreed to watch one lecture (30 minutes) with me a day. After we watch the lectures then we discuss it.  Buddhism and meditation aren’t precisely Dan’s cup of tea but he isn’t opposed to it either which I appreciate.  I am hopeful that he will get into it as much as I am and that it becomes something that we can share (unlike golf, a long and ugly story LOL).

My laptop had been having difficulty running all the programs that I tend to keep open.   Once I added Dragon to the list it became more of a problem.  Since Dan is my tech guy he looked at things (translation of things, the tech stuff which I don’t understand) and decided that I needed a new machine.  Sounds like a plan to me.  All I ask is that the computer does what I want it to and I don’t need to know how it works.  ;-)  The good thing about getting a new laptop is that means we have an extra one that can live on the boat for Facebook and other miscellaneous things.  Speaking of Facebook I really need to figure out how to log back in.  One of my email accounts got hacked and it had the same password as Facebook and now I can’t get into Facebook.  See what I mean about me and technology?  I really need to figure this problem out and get back on Facebook.  If you were wondering why you haven’t seen me there now you know why.  ;-)

After we picked up the new computer we ordered Vietnamese food and headed to the boat.  It was literally 66 degrees in Baltimore Saturday afternoon.  How insane is this January weather?  It should be in the low 40s here now.  However I will take temperatures in the mid 60s any day.  *woo hoo*

We also brought the V-Berth door back to the boat.  The cabinet maker dropped it off with Dan at his office on Friday.  As soon as we finished our late lunch Dan had the door back on the hinges. It is so good to have a handy husband. Thank goodness one of us is handy with tools, and it isn’t me unless we are talking kitchen tools.  ;-)

Dan and I hung out at the boat until late, about 9:30pm and then we headed home for dinner. Since lunch was late, about 4:00pm, neither of us got hungry at the usual dinner time. While we were at the boat we had a couple mugs of hot green tea (yes we keep the boat well stocked with green and white tea) and a few nibbles (in this case Mrs. May’s Triple Berry Crunch or something similarly named).  This was more than enough to tide us over until we arrived at home.

When I asked Dan what he wanted for dinner his answer was … a green smoothie.  Really he wants a green smoothie again?  I swear I think he is addicted.  As I read him this section he was nodding to the statement that he is addicted BTW.   I made him another green smoothie with cocoa and I poured myself small glass and that was dinner.  My husband has become extremely easy to feed hasn’t he?

Happy thoughts:

·         What a great Saturday, and I still over the moon about the weather.  I still can’t believe it was 66 degrees yesterday.  I loved seeing everyone out on the sidewalks in short-sleeved T-shirts soaking up the nice weather. The dog walkers and moms with baby strollers were really out in force yesterday and who could blame them.

·         While we were out running errands the sun was trying to come through the clouds and I noticed and took this picture.  People in the parking lot were looking at me like “what is she taking pictures of” but that didn’t slow me down at all.  I hope that when they saw me with my camera out it caused them to notice the sun rays too.  There are so many lovely things all around us when we just slow down and take the time to notice.

·         I am thankful for a husband who understands technology and takes care of me on that front.  He has been diligently setting up my new machine (whatever that means) since last night.  Good thing I have my husband because I would have just expected to plug the machine and have it work and clearly it doesn’t work that way.  ;-)

·         I greatly appreciate my husband’s willingness to watch the mindfulness meditation lectures with me and to discuss them after he watched them.  I know how unusual it is to have a spouse who is open to different ideas and who communicates.  I love you baby!

·         The temperatures dropped quickly last night when the sun went down but the heater on the boat did a nice job of keeping us warm. We were both pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it stayed on the boat.  As Dan put it last night if things ever get really bad we could definitely live on the boat even in the winter.  Not that I am anticipating world war 3 or anything like that but it is good to have options.  ;-)

·         Today I am grateful for the boat log I started keeping when the boat arrived in September. We brought the log home last night and it has a record of all the things that we need to start thinking about now so that they are taken care once the weather warms up enough that we can unwinterize our girl.

·         Sunday was another lovely day in Baltimore.  While it wasn’t as warm as yesterday, 52 degrees in January is still pretty darn awesome if you ask me.  On an even brighter note the weather people are predicting a week of highs in the 50’s with 59 predicted for Thursday.  *NICE* 

·         I made a nice white bean and barley soup for lunch on Sunday which my husband enjoyed enough to have two bowls.  It makes me very happy that he appreciates my healthy food so much.
Signing Out:

Dan and I had another nice day this weekend.  He spent many hours setting up the new laptop for me, which I am using now to finish writing this post.   What would I do without my husband? 

While Dan was working on my new laptop I had my nose in a book.   You are shocked to hear that I was reading again I am sure.  ;-)  Of course it is another book on health since that is my favorite topic.  One of these days my head is going to explode from all the information that I try to cram into it.  When I come across interesting facts when I read I actually stop and read that section out loud to my husband. See why I often say I am lucky that he puts up with me?  ;-)

For those of you who want to know what is coming up for tomorrow that post will be discussing the value of acknowledging our successes both small and large. This is something that I do every day and it has a huge impact on my overall attitude, particularly on those days when nothing seems to go right.

I hope you are having a great weekend and that your upcoming work week will be both productive and pleasant.   Talk with you again tomorrow.   


  1. So, I have not been able to keep up with all the days so far, but I appreciate all your hard work.

    I especially liked your December post about interested vs committed because I have been more interested than committed and am trying to change that.

    I have been able to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet with some vegan days, but I have lasted longer than in previous attempts of being more interested than committed.

    Also, I have had green smoothies with kale 3 or 4 days this week. I was always a bit afraid of Kale and used spinach instead, but turns out I like kale.

    All this to say thanks for all of your hard work!!


  2. Susan,

    I am sorry that you are so busy that you can't keep up with the posts. But on the bright side they will be there waiting when you have time. :-)

    Thank you for letting me know that you liked the interested vs committed post. I was a little concerned about writing that one since I knew some people would take offense to it. However I also knew that if I didn't write it I wouldn't be giving them a chance to consider their behavior and then change. For years I was more interested and committed too so I totally understand.

    Yay for loving kale in your smoothies. I was also a bit scared of kale and defaulted to spinach early on. However the nutrition is so much better on the kale which is what convinced me. I agree with you kale is much better than I expected initially too. :-)

    Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate very much your letting me know that I am helping.


  3. You provided a good list of substitutes that I'll cut and paste in an email to some health-minded friends. It reminds me of your use of collard leaves instead of flour-based wraps, which I only tried once or twice. I'd like to experiment making flatbread or crackers with non-flour ingredients (veggies, nuts/seeds, etc.).


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