Is eating healthy hard?

People ask me about what I eat a lot, since I work in the health space. I don’t know that what I eat ultimately matters to anyone else’s health, but hey, it’s a conversation starter. I eat a vegetarian diet. I actually eat vegan probably 80% of the time, but I always hesitate to say I’m vegetarian, or to even talk about veganism, because there can be a lot of unfriendliness and absolutism in this space. Some folks get very worked up about it, and it can really be a flashpoint for drama. Some of this stems from the fact that people tend to associate diet with identity (I AM a vegetarian, rather than I EAT vegetarian food). Certainly, some people identify as vegan and they extend this to other aspects of their life including clothing, personal care products, etc. This is a choice with a lot of valid reasons to support it, but everyone who chooses to eat a certain way is not necessarily also doing this, and that’s OK. People make different choices for different reasons. Diet is complicated because it isn’t only about nutrition, it’s also about culture, socioeconomics, ethics. I want to talk about what I eat, though, so please recognize that there’s a lot of issues that I think about but am not going to get into right now (but if you want to, we can talk about it later).


I make choices for myself, and I also give advice as part of my professional life, about diet. And while I eschew hard and fast rules, I do have some general principles that I believe are healthiest. I base this on a combination of evidence, common sense, and experience. Scientific study abut diets is plagued with challenges, which is part of why there’s so much confusion. So I say, keep it simple. I like to eat mostly whole foods, mostly plant-based, and mostly easy-to-make stuff– so I mostly cook my own food.  The more I stick to simple patterns, the easier it is.

What I eat: fairly accurate.

So what are my go-tos, my day-to-days, what I like to eat when I have the time and flexibility to do it my way?

  1. Coffee. Whether you buy the health hype or not, it’s a ritual that makes me happy. I brew french press and add steamed/frothed unsweetened soymilk (sometimes Oatly, or almond milk) to make an au lait (or a faux-lait, if you prefer). This is usually before I work out or do anything else, really. I think there’s value in having comforting habits and rituals.
  2. Breakfast is usually one of two things:
    1. A smoothie. I mix it up, but a common combination is kale/spinach, mixed berries, half a frozen banana, peanut or almond butter, hemp or chia or flaxseeds, sometimes cacao nibs, and unsweetened almond milk.
    2. Steel-cut oats with fresh fruit (berries, bananas, stone fruit, apples. . . whatever’s good), nuts, and almond milk.
  3. Lunch. I don’t usually have a morning snack, but if I do, it might be nuts or a Larabar. I eat lunch on the early side. I like to have either:
    1. A grain-based salad. These hold up well in the fridge and travel well. I take a whole grain (farro, quinoa, millet, wheat berries, sorghum, barley), add some combination of vegetables, nuts, or dried fruit, and a flavorful dressing (often citrus is a good fit).
    2. Leftovers from dinner. Especially things like curries and chili tend to get even better when they sit in the fridge.
  4. Snack. I usually have one in the afternoon, especially if I was active or am going to the gym or eating late. This could be an apple with nut butter, or whole-grain crackers or carrots with hummus.
  5. Dinner: My favorite is a big bowl with a grain (brown rice or quinoa), a green (kale, or broccoli rabe is a favorite), a bean or other protein-rich item (tempeh, tofu, homemade vegan sausage, pinto beans, black-eyed peas), with a flavorful and creamy sauce (a cashew-cream with tomato and red pepper, a peanut-soy sauce, red-hot tahini). Often with a glass of wine.
  6. Chocolate. 70% is a good starting place for me, and I might like it with sea salt, or ginger, or chili, or something else simple.
  7. Beverages— you’ve already met my friends coffee and wine. I also regularly drink green and herbal tea, kombucha (I make it at home), plain old water, and bubbly water.

 

Obviously it isn’t like this every single day. Some days there’s work lunch. Sometimes there’s the airport. Sometimes there’s takeout, or meeting friends. And sometimes there’s pizza (and it’s often vegan pizza!) But the closer I stick to this basic plan, the better I feel.

Do you have a regular routine around food choices?

E.N.E.R.G.Y., 7 ways

Last night was both the winter solstice— the darkest night of the year— and a magnificent full moon. As if the sky wanted to remind us that the light returns, starting now!

Lots of folks, myself included, find it hard to keep our energy levels up at this time of year. Exactly when there seem to be extra demands on us. Funny how that goes, isn’t it? If we just accept the defaults, we’ll probably crash at some point (who hasn’t had a December meltdown?). So what can we do? How can we turn this strain into a teachable moment for ourselves?

Stress can point out to us exactly where the inflection points are.  Then it’s up to us to pay attention.

So, ENERGY: each night, experience rest, gratitude, and yoga? even night-owl extroverts require gentle years? eggplants! nectarines! endive! radishes! ginger! yams!

OR. . .

Here’s some low-hanging fruit— things that are easy to blow off in the moment, but that add up to exhaustion:

  1. Go to bed! It’s OK to lean into the hibernation instinct a little bit. When you have a lot to do, don’t knock sleep off the back. Set an alarm for bedtime, use the function on your iphone, and stick to it. If you don’t have a true reason to be up too late, don’t be. I don’t mean skip out on being present for important events, but I do mean maybe turn off the Hallmark channel and get some quality pillow time. (I’ve given the sleep rundown before, but I’ll give you the short version again: make your room cool and your bed warm, no screens in bed, make it dark and unplug stuff with little glowing lights, use do not disturb mode on your phone).
  2. Eat your veggies. Of course there’s lots to indulge in around the holidays, and I’d never tell you not to do so. Just don’t crowd out all the nutrition your body needs to function. Remember to eat green stuff every day. If you know you’re going to a party, maybe start your day with a smoothie or have a big salad for lunch. Order a side salad. Bring a veggie dish to the potluck. Whatever works.
  3. Pay attention to energy vampires— sugar and alcohol. It would be easy to drink wine and eat dessert every single day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This will probably make your energy levels tank. Both will disrupt your sleep, in addition to taxing your system, dehydrating you, and giving you that fuzziness (you know). So just pay attention. You could think about skipping either or both few days. While we often think there’s social pressure to indulge, the fact is, most people don’t really care what you do or don’t eat and drink. You can say no thanks. You can have a seltzer with lime or a kombucha or an apple cider at a party. You can say those look delicious but you’re totally full and would love one for later. If you do take a day off, note how you feel in the morning. 
  4. Get some sunlight. It’s in short supply in December, so get creative. If before and after work are dark try midday (a walk, at least?). . Go out in nature on the weekends. If you live somewhere dark, maybe light therapy lamp is for you. Using a bright light (look for “10,000 lux)  for 30 minutes per day has been shown to combat depression
  5. Relatedly, get some exercise. Maybe you can organize a family hike? Or run a 5k? If you’re a gym person, carve out the time. Even if it’s less time than you’d like, make time.  This will feel easier if you do 1, 2, and 3. And everyone feels better after a sweat. Promise. 
  6. Don’t burn yourself out. You don’t have to say yes to everything and everyone. You can put in an appearance and go on to the next event. It’s OK if that event is a date with a good book and your dog.  
  7. Finally, don’t lean too heavily on artificial sources of energy to pull you through. I love coffee, I really do, but it doesn’t replace the things I suggested above. If you’re too tired, maybe you should listen, honor that, and cool your jets.

Which one of these fall off first for you? Can put it back?

Work travel. . . again.

I’m a health-consious person (but you knew that). I set up my daily life to make it easy— walk/bike/public transit. High-quality food in my kitchen, healthy snacks in my backpack, veggies with everything. Breaks for a stretch/walk. Standing and fidgeting as I work. Runs, yoga classes, gym classes surrounding and sometimes interrupting my work day. It’s easy for me when I have control.

But what happens when, suddenly, I’m stuck in an airport, on a plane, in another airport, in a hotel, in a conference center? No vitamix, no yoga studio, no time to seek out a grocery store even. I’ll tell you how I make it work, but I also have a wishlist for the hotels and conference organizers (I’m looking at you, Hyatt Bethesda).

Let’s start with the stuff I can do, no matter where I wind up:

  1. Pack workout clothes. No one can take this from you, even if your schedule is tight. If the weather’s OK and the location is safe, an outdoor run is the best— gets you oriented, helps your body clock, just plain feels good. This might mean packing something warm. If not, there’s almost always a gym. You can find out what they’ve got (pool? bikes? kettlebells?) before you go— website or phone call will usually do it.  Yes, a hotel gym can be a sad place, but I’m like my border collie mix (hi Pippi!)

    black and white dog with wagging tail

    we’re going for a run now, right? RIGHT??

    and if I don’t get at least 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, I’m a nightmare for the rest of the day. I’m not a treadmill person, but I’ll use one in a pinch. I’ve found I’m better off with a little structure for an indoor workout so I don’t quit out of boredom. I tried Aaptiv this trip, which lets you stream or download audio workouts for treadmill, bike, rower, strength training, etc. It got the job done (meaning, I got a good workout in on the treadmill and didn’t die of boredom). I’d do it again.

  2. pink hydro flask bottle

    keeping hydration cute.

    Bring your water bottle. Yes, you have to bring it empty through security. But you can find bottle fillers everywhere now, or at least water fountains. If you have access to it, you’re more likely to drink it (plus my pink hydroflask is just plain cute). And if you didn’t pay $6 for the water, you won’t ration it. Planes (and plane wine, let’s be honest) are dehydrating. Indoor air is dehydrating. Packaged, processed food is dehydrating. Too much coffee (guilty), even, could be dehydrating. Let’s keep things from getting too desiccated, shall we? Your skin, digestion, and brain will thank you.

  3. You can move around, even if the structure of the day doesn’t include it. Stand up at every break and walk outside, upstairs, to the bathroom, around in circles. Go out at lunch time instead of staying in the conference center. Walk to the restaurant for dinner (you can meet them there if you’re the only one braving it).
  4. Take a routine from home with you. I like to meditate, journal and plan in the morning, so I bring Headspace and my planner with me. It helps me keep some normalcy.

 

So, what could the hotels do better?

Continue reading

Getting healthier– how to start if you don’t think you can start.

So many people feel lousy most of the time. And don’t know how to fix it. It’s easy to feel like wellness just a hobby for the privileged. Aside from the Gwyneth Paltrow crowd surrounded by juice bars and jade eggs, even just the idea of taking time and energy to focus on basic wellness can be a challenge for many of us. While we might think of the CEOs as busy people who can’t find time for good food and exercise, no one works harder than shift workers,  minimum-wage (or less) workers supporting families, folks with more than one job. (And yes, there are health risks associated with being poor). Feeling crappy is a problem facing all kinds of people. It’s not always as simple as joining a gym, hiring a trainer, signing up for a meal delivery service. The reality is that some folks’ lives are challenging in ways others don’t have to think about.

I was thinking about this when I stopped at a Circle K on my way home from work yesterday. Continue reading

Holiday Fun Times: Veggie Edition

No matter your views on our country at the moment, no matter whether or not your feeling patriotic, you might have the day off, and you might want to spend some time grilling with your best peeps. So I gathered up a few ideas from around the inter webs to get you going for a veg-heavy fourth of july.

Enjoy!

Grill, meet veg. —From the early days of zabbylogica: tons of ideas for how to veg it up outside

Grilled Salad from Angela at Oh She Glows– if you want to avoid grilling in the heat of the moment, so to speak.

Have you ever grilled your corn? I never used to do this when perfect New Jersey corn was on my table the day it was picked, but now, it’s my favorite way.

Did you know you can grill Mushrooms , Nachos(!),  Watermelon (!!), or Rice Krispie Treats (!?)

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!