Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad

I have no idea why it has taken me so long to come across this blog, but I’m ranking it up there with a few others as my go-to for weekday meals.  I find that once you start cooking, it becomes more and more difficult to find simple, easy, and delicious recipes to make that don’t require an hour in the kitchen.  I know most people don’t have too much time during the weekday evenings to throw something together, so getting some basic recipes that you can keep coming back to when you’re standing in the grocery store, not knowing what to make, is really, really important.  However, what I’ve found over time is that these types of recipes, that are few in ingredients, but delicious to taste are rare.  There are a lot that have few ingredients but then end up tasting bland, or conversely look like they have a thousand things in them, plus dirty a bazillion dishes, to taste heavenly but have taken up an entire afternoon to make.

In the throws of trying to find some new inspiration, I came across Cookie and Kate, a vegetarian blog that sets out to celebrate whole foods – which I’m totally down with!  Her photography is clean and simple and the blog makes you just want to try everything and is easy to navigate.  I applaud her style.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I wanted to make something not fussy for dinner and came across her recipe for Crunchy Thai Peanut & Quinoa Salad. It is delicious, easy, and quick. All things I love in a recipe!

This is my version of the same salad.  My suggestion, now that I’ve tried it, is to add in triangles of baked tofu, and I used parsley instead of cilantro because I’m not a big fan of cilantro.  Easy peasy!

Red Lentil Stew with Tomatoes, Rice, and Coconut

This wholesome and earthy stew was adapted from The First Mess‘ beautiful and delicious extra recipe bundle that is available when you pre-order Laura Wright’s cookbook (which is by far and away the most inspirational cookbook I’ve bought in a while). I primarily adapted this because I didn’t have all of the ingredients in the house that I thought I did and so….But this is how inspired and new recipes are created.  A little bit of this and that added to the pot.  Stir it up and try it out on your guinea pigs (not that I refer to my loved ones as that usually ;-).

I haven’t come across a recipe in a long time that requires dirtying so few dishes.  It honestly was one pot, one knife, a chopping board, a measuring cup and one or two measuring spoons.  Gluten-free, nut-free, no sugar.

Red Lentil Stew with Tomatoes, Rice, and Coconut

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dried chili or red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dried red lentils, rinsed

1/2 cup dried arborio rice, rinsed

1 x 15 oz can diced tomatoes (preferably no salt added)

1 x 15 oz can crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, which is what I used) – fire-roasted is suggested by Laura to be awesome

3 cups water

1 cup light coconut milk (or just over 1/2 a 15 oz can)

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp lemon juice

 

Directions

  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat with the oil.  As the pot heats, chop up the onion, carrots, and celery. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, around 4-5 minutes.
  2. Once the onion is soft, add to the pot the turmeric and garlic. Stir to incorporate.
  3. Add the cumin and chili or red pepper flakes and stir. Let sit for 30 seconds as the spices become fragrant.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and water.  Raise the heat and bring the contents to a boil, then lower heat, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure the lentils and rice do not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Once the lentils and rice are cooked, it is time to puree the stew.  This is optional, but pureeing at least part of the stew will lend a creaminess to it.  Ladle around half of the stew into a blender with the coconut milk and puree to desired consistency.  I like mine a bit chunkier.  Add back the pureed mixture to the pot, mix, and reheat.  Add in the lemon juice and stir.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.

See! So easy and so so delicious.  Until the next recipe….

Simple Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Last week I had a carbohydrate craving like no other.  Bagels in the morning.  Sometimes bagels at night.  On the weekend I felt like a holiday feast and made Leftover Thanksgiving Burgers and Cornbread Stuffing, as if thanksgiving wasn’t over a month ago.  And I gave in to it all.  So what happened?  I can’t bear the site of carbs this week.  Not bread, not potatoes, and not even yams!  So I’m listening to my body and eating mostly veggies and fruits.  I’ve even leaned away from legumes which is weird because I LOVE legumes.  Anyway, after a long day of work and already having had a salad for lunch I ended up throwing together this simple and delicious spaghetti squash ‘lasagna’.  In no way shape or form does this need to be layered, you could even just convert it into a casserole. And what’s the BEST is the fact that you can adjust this in whatever way you like!  If you love peppers, saute those up and throw them in!  Lentils? No problem, boil them up and in they go.  Sub basil for parsley if that’s what you have on hand.  Use any kind of cheese you love.  Have fun with it!

plan spaghetti squash lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium to large spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil, or similar

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

5 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 14 oz tomato sauce, or pasta sauce

1 14 oz can chickpeas, strained and rinsed

2 handfuls spinach, rinsed

1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

1 cup grated cheese (I used daiya mozzarella)

salt and pepper

 

Directions

  1. Heat over to 350 C. Place the spaghetti squash on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a silicon mat, cut side down.  Place in heated over for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the squash.  When cooked the skin of the squash should be slightly squishy.
  2. While the squash is cooking, prep the remaining ingredients and heat a pan on the stove over medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, and mushrooms.  Saute for 8-10 minutes until soft. The mushrooms shouldn’t have lost all of their moisture. Add salt and pepper. Saute any other veggies that may require softening prior to baking.
  3. When the squash is cooked, use a fork to scrape out half of the squash into a casserole or baking dish.  Add half of the tomato sauce, half of the mushroom and veggie mixture, half of the cheese, half of the spinach and half of the parsley.
  4. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients.  Top with extra cheese if you’d like or sprinkle with some breadcrumbs.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Enjoy!!

Mushroom Bok Choy Gyoza

Happy Weekend Everyone!!

I have had an entirely not productive day.  On these cold fall days I just feel like making tea, curling up on the couch and watching a movie.  Then eventually I get really hungry and have to leave the house for ingredients to make dinner.  I usually start off pretty much thinking ‘soup’ and then increasing the complexity to something that would take me all day.

I have tried gyoza before and decided I didn’t love the filling.  Today, I went with one of my favorite ingredients – mushrooms, and spiced it up with some bok choy and balsamic vinegar.  This combo has such fantastic flavours and the recipe is very simple, albeit the filling and crimping is a bit annoying.  However, put on some good tunes or a show on Netflix and spend 15-20 minutes zoned out making these bad boys.  I ate them as a meal but you can also take them as a delicious appetizer.

Mushroom Bok Choy Gyoza

Mushroom Bok Choy Gyoza

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Filling

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

3 cups mushrooms, chopped (I used cremini)

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 heads bok choy, chopped

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 package vegan gyoza wrappers

salt and pepper, to taste

Dipping Sauce

2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp maple syrup

 

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan.
  2. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for 10-15 minutes or until soft.
  3. Add in the shallot and cook another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and mix in the bok choy and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Put the mixture in a food processor and process until small chunks remain.  Do not over process until it forms a paste!
  6. Add approximately 1 Tbsp of filling to the center of a gyoza wrapper and moisten one half of the wrapper with water.  Flip over the remaining half of the wrapper to create a moon shape with the filling inside. Crimp the edges using your fingers. (or don’t bother – it doesn’t affect the taste).
  7. Steam the gyoza for 3-5 minutes.  Having done this a few times it’s easiest to steam on a piece of parchment paper.  Once steamed place on another piece of parchment paper.
  8. Mix together the sauce ingredients.
  9. Enjoy!

Chai Coconut Tart

Sometimes I make food and it sucks.  Or I make it and I think ‘this is not what I was hoping it would taste like’ or even better ‘How the hell did it end up tasting like THIS, I didn’t even add curry?’.  One minor ingredient can be missing that you can’t quite put your finger on that you know would transform a dish.  It can be frustrating to say the least.  I’ve been known to make food and when it doesn’t come out right, put it in the fridge and muddle over what might be missing that could take it to the next level – for days.  I liken food to music.  You have the main chords – or food items- that you like to work with or put you in a certain mood, and then you have a huge range of options that add to those basic notes.  Do you want bright and happy?  How about a little basil.  Thinking romantic?  Add some sweetness.  Feeling sad?  Give me anything with carbohydrates!!

Food combinations are an opera but I don’t like singing every night.  That’s what happened with this little baby, the chai coconut tart.  I started by wanting to make chai coconut pudding.  When I first tried it the texture bothered me and the taste was missing something.  So I added more ingredients and blended it.  I still thought it was missing something and though about it for another day.  Eventually I realized that this pudding needed to be eaten WITH something else.  Enter the tart.  What kind of tart?  Yes, well this cycle is the never-ending quest of the cook.  Meddle, fix, eat, throw out, meddle, fix, eat tentatively, fix again, eat, and eventually voila!  Suddenly the picture in your mind becomes the food on your plate and your taste buds go crazy.

And then sometimes you just throw pasta in a pot, mix with some oil and vinegar and whatever else may or may not be handy and call it a day.

Chai Coconut Tart

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Pudding

1 14oz can coconut milk

2 chai teabags

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup chia seeds

up to 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Crust

1 cup gluten free oats

1 cup dates

 

  1. Gently heat the coconut milk in a saucepan.
  2. Once warm, add syrup, spices, and salt.  Gently mix.  Remove from heat and add the teabags.  Let sit until desired chai-ness has been reached.
  3. Remove teabags and let cool.  Once room temperature whisk in chia seeds.  Put in fridge to set.
  4. Once set (around an hour or so) remove from fridge and add to a blender with almond milk and additional spices if you want more flavour.  Blend until smooth.  Put back in the fridge to set.
  5. Start the crust by adding oats and dates to a food processor and process until chunky and slightly sticky.  Press the oat/date mixture into a mold of your choice.  Place in freezer until serving.
  6. Before serving, remove the mold from the freezer and remove the shell from the mold. Add the pudding into the shells.
  7. Top with coconut cream and fresh mint, raspberries or whatever else you like!

Hearty Lentil Vegetable Soup

So fall has suddenly leaped into being and the trees are quickly dropping their leaves.  The air is brisk and change is in the air.

I’ve been away the last few weeks for work up North.  It is always great to get out of the office and experience  nature at its finest.  However, being away from home, eating differently than I’m used to (sometimes soup straight out of a can!), and working hard outside for 10 to 12 hours at a time can really zap your energy.  I ended up coming home feeling absolutely drained.  I didn’t have the energy to do anything I usually love to do.  Even cooking was a struggle.  So thank goodness after finishing this work week in the office, I have a long weekend to look forward to.  And what have I done to create some balance in my life?  I have slept like the dead.  For hours and hours.  It’s one of the crazy things about me.  I sleep more than is normal and need a lot of it to function.  I’m talking at least 9 hours a night.

What else have I done?  Forced myself in the cold mornings to make myself smoothies chalked full of healthy ingredients, like my favorite green smoothie.  I’ve started taking my multivitamin, calcium and magnesium, Vitamin D drops, maca, spirulina, ashwaganda, etc.  and I’m starting to feel more myself.  Today I sat down with some tea and a good book and just relaxed.  There is nothing better than letting your body and mind let go and have some down time.Relaxing with tea

And what better way to full myself for dinner than a delicious, filling, and heart-warming soup.

lentilvegetablesoup

Hearty Vegetable Lentil Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1 large yellow onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons ground thyme

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes

3/4 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed

5 cups vegetable stock

2 handfuls spinach, torn apart

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

salt and pepper for seasoning

  1. Heat oil on medium in a large pot.  Once hot, add the onions and saute around 5 minutes, until soft and partially translucent.  Add in garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  2. Add to pot the carrots, celery, and pepper.  Saute another few minutes.
  3. Add cumin, thyme, and turmeric and mix together.
  4. Add the rinsed lentils, diced tomatoes and vegetable stock.  Bring to a low boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add spinach and white wine vinegar.
  6. Season to taste.

This recipe is incredibly easy and goes well with crackers or toasted bread and hummus.  To make even more hearty add in peeled and chopped potatoes with the other veggies.

Enjoy!!

Weekday Chickpea Coconut Curry

I went to a potluck the other week and one of my friends made this incredibly delicious chickpea curry.  Although I did look at the original recipe, I decided to tweak it a bit to better suite how I like to eat (ie. I added veggies).  I mean what’s a meal without something green in it?  This curry is an absolute winner when it comes to simplicity and speed.  15 minutes tops I would think since the majority of the time is just sauteing the onions and opening some cans.

Perpetual Flow - ingredients for chickpea coconut curry

On evenings where I’m totally strapped for time, or even just so starving I’m close to eating an entire bar of chocolate just because it’s already made, I make this curry.  My trick is to go to the store and grab the ingredients for 2 meals so that if the next time I don’t have time to cook I already (brilliantly) have everything I need.  Obviously, this recipe can be played with as much as you like.  Add whatever veggies tickle your fancy and other spices too.  You could even add ginger if you have some lying around that needs to be used or red pepper.  There are so many options!

Perpetual Flow - chickpea coconut curry

Many people love serving it on white jasmine rice, but I went with wild rice this time just to kick things up a notch.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 x 15 fl. oz can coconut milk (full or low fat, I don’t find it makes much of a difference)

2 x 15 fl. oz cans chickpeas, strained and rinsed

2 tbsp curry paste (I used red because it’s what I have in my fridge but you could also use green or yellow)

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1 or 2 medium tomatoes or a handful or two of cherry tomatoes, cut into chunks

1 or 2 handfuls of spinach, rinsed

salt and pepper, as needed

1 tbsp lime juice

fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley  (optional)

Rice (optional)

perpetualflow chickpea coconut curry

  1. In a large pan, saute the onion over medium heat until translucent (around 5 minutes).  Add in the garlic and continue sauteing until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
  2. Add the curry paste and 1/4-1/2 the can of coconut milk to the pan.  Stir the curry paste until dissolved into the coconut milk.
  3. Add in the strained chickpeas, the remaining coconut milk and the tamari. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes.
  4. Right before serving add in the tomatoes, lime juice, salt, pepper, and spinach.
  5. Garnish with herbs and a slice of lime.  Serve over rice.

And there you go.  A crazy delicious, simple, and fast recipe for any weekday night you’re in a pinch.  I usually have chickpeas soaking on the counter because I use them in so many recipes so you’re welcome to use non-canned chickpeas too if you have them available.

Chocolate Chia Pudding with Vanilla Coconut Cream

I woke up this morning and realized that it was Valentine’s Day.  I don’t have anyone to ‘celebrate’ it with here in Kelowna but I still decided that a little love could be spread on my part and hopefully others would feel it.  As I lay there I thought to myself ‘what would be something easy to make today that could spread the love?’.  Answer?  Well, obviously chocolate because it’s awesome…and what else?  Well, I am one of the world’s (lucky) coconut lovers.  A light bulb went on – chia pudding and coconut cream.  This recipe requires so few ingredients and it’s so simple to make.  Even a boy could do it! (Just bugging you men!)  No complicated folding or baking or rising to worry about.  Mix a few things together in two separate bowls, layer, and VOILA!

Chocolate Chia Pudding with Vanilla Coconut Cream inspired by Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows
Chocolate Chia Pudding with Vanilla Coconut Cream inspired by Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows

I also learned throughout this recipe that the hand-mixer I purchased from the Salvation Army does not work if absolutely anything is touching the beaters.  I could put the darn thing in water and the beaters would stop turning.  So, this recipe also shows that you can do the coconut whipped cream by hand and save yourself dirtying up more dishes if you’d like.

Coconut Whipped Cream inspired from Oh She Glows
Coconut Whipped Cream inspired from Oh She Glows

Layering was probably the most stressful part of this entire dessert.  Although truly it’s nothing to worry about and the more half-hazard you do it the more deliciously disheveled it will look.  Top with any fruit you’d like or even jam or coconut chips.  Have fun and if you don’t have someone to share it with I hope you eat it all just like I did!!!

Choco Chia Pudding with Coconut Cream
Choco Chia Pudding with Coconut Cream

 

Chocolate Chia Pudding Recipe can be found at Minimalist Baker and the Coconut Whipped Cream can be found at Oh She Glows. Two of my most favorite food blogs!

 

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So Easy – Almond Milk

I have been making my own almond milk for over a year now and I have been asked many, many times about why I do it and how long it takes.  I was the exact same before I started.  Fearful that it would take a long time and waste a bunch of expensive almonds.  Once I tried it though, I could never go back.  It is so different than the stuff you buy in a box they shouldn’t even be able to label that stuff almond milk.  So, in an attempt to show everyone who wants to know how EASY it is to make your own almond milk at home, I’ve posted this video.

And if you don’t believe me, I’ve got almond-milk-making into a science and it takes me 5 minutes in the morning.  That means I throw them in a blender, go brush my teeth, come back and drain the milk, go and change my clothing, wring out the milk and it is made!!!  Amazing!!  It lasts about 4 days so you do need to make it more regularly than buying the boxed variety but it’s so much better!!!  Just try it once.  I dare you.

Diets make me crazy!

I have a pet peeve and it’s the word diet. I feel like fad-diets are thought of as ways to help you ‘hack’ your life and end up thin, popular, rich, and healthy. Fad-diets to me are just temporary band-aids by which ‘doctors’ or ‘experts’ take money from those of us who just want to be healthier and feel good. And who wants to be throwing money at someone who almost always makes us more confused about what is healthy? Based on looking at the number of books in the Food and Health section of your local bookstore, healthy fats, minimizing carbohydrates, eating only meat, taking pills, juicing or fasting, cheat days, ketosis or doing all of them at the same time is the way to a healthier you. There is no possible way we can keep up with the myriad of information bombarded on us and make any sense out of it at all. It becomes insanely confusing, made worse only by the fact that marketing and branding sends us mixed messages about…well, everything.

Fad-diets are temporary. They are usually restrictive and they are 100% not fun. They can even be exceptionally unsafe. Eating healthy foods and getting rid of the rest of the processed crap has been shown to promote health in so many ways I don’t want to list them here. That’s not a diet. It’s a life choice that is possible and fulfilling in the long term.

I wrote this post due to a situation that happened to me a few months ago. I went out for lunch with two of my bosses at a restaurant of my choosing. One of my bosses knows my predisposition for plant-based eating and is understanding because his girlfriend is vegetarian. My other boss, however, does not know this about me. We sit down and pretty early on my male boss asks me if I’m still vegan. I say yes and my female boss looks at me, smiles and says, “Does that mean you don’t eat gluten?” I didn’t know what to say. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know that people out there just eat food they think is good for you (or not) and don’t try to understand or learn about nutrition. Totally fine if that’s the world you want to live in. However, what really got me was that now that I’ve been immersed in being nutritionally conscious, I forgot that there are people out there that don’t care or don’t know about alternative ways to eat. This post is for those of you who want a refresher on diets, want to learn what different diets are, or just don’t care but will read anyways.

As an initial statement, I wanted to put in perspective the current state of fad-diets. In a study by Katz and Meller (2014), major diets of the day were compared to see if one came out on top: low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets. What they couldn’t conclude was that there was any best diet, however, they did state that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.” The researchers also noted that nutritionally-replete plant-based diets are supported by a wide array of favorable health outcomes, including fewer cancers and less heart disease.

Below I have explained a few of the more common diets. In some cases I have added notes about when care may be necessary regarding a diet, but feel free to eat in a way that works for you.

Vegan

The first thing I’d like to clarify is that veganism is an ethic, not a diet. It is an entire lifestyle choice and does not revolve solely around what is or is not being eaten. Vegans are best described as not eating animals, animal products, or animal secretions (which just sounds incredibly disgusting). This includes: meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and gelatin. Other less obvious foods include some sugars (those made with bone char), many candies with shiny coatings (which are made from the resin excreted by the lac bug), some red-pigmented foods (those with cochineal, carminic acid, or carmine listed which are made from a female cochineal insect), soy cheese (some have casein, a milk protein added to them), peanuts (some use gelatin as an additive), refried beans made with lard, orange juice that is fortified with omega-3s derived from fish, and many beers and wines. The list is a long one, so to be vegan means in many cases, making your own food or being very diligent about checking labels (or eating at vegan restaurants – which are usually delicious!).

In addition to not consuming foods that exploit animals, this also extends to the use of products that may exploit animals. This list is extensive but includes various items such as leather, lotions, cosmetics, clothing, shoes (surprising it’s commonly the glue in shoes that is derived from animals), paint/paintbrushes, and many vitamins and supplements.

There are many reasons that people choose to live their lives as vegans. The most common that I am aware of include: 1. living their lives with compassion towards animals and to prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals, 2. for their health, and 3. to prevent environmental degradation.

A while ago I probably had the same feelings about vegans as most non-vegans. I thought they were too pushy about their beliefs and many of them came across as hacky-sac playing hippies (no offense). More recently I’ve learned that although I still don’t appreciate the pushy vegans, I completely understand their message and have chosen to live my own life similarly. I have met many, many wonderful caring, quiet, humble, fun and fashionable vegans who don’t want to push anything on you, but just want to live their lives as they choose.

Living as a vegan isn’t necessarily easy and you do need to put in time to ensure you are fulfilling all of your nutritional needs, but it has been shown to promote many health benefits as well as weight loss.

Whole Foods Plant Based

This diet is exactly as it sounds. It emphasizes eating whole foods (meaning not processed) that are plant-based (similar to being a vegan). Therefore, it tries to move away from what is considered ‘vegan junkfood’ such as tofu, tempeh, ground-round, and other meat-like alternatives that have been processed, to whole foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and grains, that are minimally or not processed at all. Some plant-based eaters are vegans but just don’t want the hassle of being labeled a vegan.

Side note – A very interesting and motivational whole-foods plant-based athlete, author, and podcaster is Rich Roll. He is a very well known athlete (running, biking, swimming), motivator, and podcaster. I recommend checking out his site here (http://www.richroll.com/) to read about his journey, how he came to eating plant-based, and listening to his podcast.

Vegetarian

Ask any vegetarian what they eat and you will probably get a different answer from each one. Some don’t eat meat, some don’t eat fish (like fish is any different than meat), or eggs, or dairy, or radishes. It’s like they become a class of diet because they don’t have defined limitations on foods they will or will not eat. They become the IBS of the diet world: a catch-all due to their non-specific food restrictions. If you actually look up the definition of vegetarian, you’ll find that they are “a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons”. Wikipedia says that vegetarianism is the practice from abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. See here all Vegetarians – by definition, meat includes seafood. IF you eat seafood, you are called a pescatarian. IF you eat eggs and dairy, you are called a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (lacto means milk and ovo means egg in Latin). IF you don’t eat radishes, then you’re totally normal because I think radishes taste awful. Although, most other people don’t care what type of vegetarian you are, I do find specific terms useful, since cooking for a ‘vegetarian’ can be like a game of Russian roulette.

Gluten-Free

Gluten is a protein composite found in various grains and wheat. It gives dough elasticity and breads a chewy texture. The protein gliacin, which is found in gluten, is the culprit behind the crappy, bloated feeling you can sometimes get after eating foods with gluten in them. Taking things to the extreme, people who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease are gluten intolerant because eating gluten will physically damage their small intestines.

Dr. Perlmutter in his book Brain Maker, explains how gliacin acts to increase the permeability of your gut. This increase in permeability is known as leaky gut and occurs in almost everyone who eats gluten. Wheat eaters, even if you feel fine, be aware!! (For even more specifics on this topic, read his book Brain Grain, which is about how eating gluten affects the body). Leaky gut occurs when the tight-junctions between cells in your gut let through compounds or molecules they shouldn’t. In response, your immune system attacks the unknown invaders and an inflammatory response occurs. Long term and chronic inflammation within the body can cause serious health consequences (I will write about this issue in a separate post).

The problem these days is that gluten is hidden in many foods, including very surprising items, and sometimes it takes an expert to figure out if it’s in something or not. Many people are sensitive to gluten, so if you feel like you’ve tried everything to feel better after eating, maybe you should remove gluten from your diet for a while and see how you feel. There’s no harm in trying.

Paleo

Oh-Paleo. How much I’ve heard about you lately. This diet feels like it has taken over North America, especially in the cross-fit community. The Paleo diet is based on eating similarly to a Paleolithic person who lived during the Paleolithic era (approximately 2.6 million years ago to approximately 10,000 years ago). This pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer period is distinguished by the development of primitive stone tools. The Paleo diet of today emphasizes high protein intake in the form of animal products, lower carbohydrates with lower glycemic index values such as non-starchy fruits and vegetables, high fiber, moderate to high fat intake, high potassium and lower sodium. Sounds pretty reasonable…However, when I’m around Paleo dieters, I’m always shocked at how much meat they eat as a proportion of their total meal. After looking on the paleodiet.com website, this becomes less surprising, as they state “Protein comprises 15% of the calories in the average western diet, which is considerably lower than the average values of 19-35% found in hunter-gatherer diets”. Whaaat?!? This means that with all of the meat consumption in the “average” western diet, we’re still supposed to actually eat MORE to be Paleo??? That seems like a lot of meat. And from my understanding it’s supposed to be organic and grass-fed. I can tell you right now that this type of diet is not going to be sustainable for our world now and moving into the future unless the organic and grass-fed meat that is eaten is a vastly smaller amount of our total food consumption.

If you currently eat a Paleo diet, please be very careful and understand what you’re putting into your body and understand that there is controversy regarding this diet. Don’t just do it because everyone around you is. This diet has not been proven to confer health benefits in the long term.

Side note (here comes a rant!) – I’ve never quite understood how a diet claims to represent a time period of over 2 million years. That is a freaking long time!! I mean, even in the last 200,000 years there has been two big ice ages. The world is a dynamic place and I can only imagine how vegetation and animals have changed in spatial extent and composition throughout 2 millions years. How do we condense 2 million years of eating to what is now known as the Paleo diet? I also don’t understand how thinking that eating like someone from prehistoric times is supposed to promote health in people of today. The world is a completely different place! One example I get frustrated with is the argument that Paleolithic people didn’t get cancer or arteriosclerosis or dementia, ergo, the Paleo diet must be good for us. The average life span of a Paleolithic person is estimated as only 35 years for men and 30 years for women. These people weren’t necessarily old enough to have had time to develop these types of diseases! Additionally, they most assuredly exercised more than we do, having to actually hunt for food and potentially migrate throughout the year. In conclusion, we can’t currently make claims that Paleolithic people were in any way more healthy than we are in the long term, with the exception that at least their foods weren’t covered in pesticides or originated from GMO crops.

Mediterranean Diet

I actually tried this diet in my youth when I came across the Blue Zone book because I was extremely inspired by the number of centurions (people who live to be 100 years old) alive who ate a Mediterranean style diet. It is based on the traditional living habits of people from Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France, Greece, and Spain. The Mediterranean diet varies by region, but emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish. Olive oil replaces butter and herbs and spices are used to flavor foods instead of salt. However, ensure you realize that although you may be eating like a Mediterranean, they are very active people, often walking many miles a day and living off of what they grow themselves.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measurement carried out on carbohydrate-containing foods and their impact on our blood sugar. The lower the GI value, the less it impacts blood sugar and insulin levels. A low GI diet claims that you’ll digest food slower so you’ll eat less because you’ll remain full for longer.

It’s probably not surprising for you to hear that low GI foods include vegetables, certain fruits, legumes and beans, and minimally processed wheat or starchy products such as breads, cereals, and pastas, and dairy. Apparently, meats do not have a glycemic index because they do not raise blood glucose levels.

This seems to be an older fad-diet that is still emphasized a lot for diabetics due to the problems they face with blood glucose. I still think that this diet allows for far too much starchy food, regardless of the GI, and doesn’t emphasize eating non-processed foods.

Raw Foods

So this diet is an interesting one to me. I’m actually glad I had to read about it, because apparently I didn’t know much of what it means to eat as a raw foodie. I assumed it was basically a vegan who only consumed raw and non-processed foods. Although this is a subset of Raw foodism, it is not the whole story. Raw foodism is far more expansive than I had originally thought. There are four main types: raw vegetarians, raw vegans, raw omnivores (eating both plants and animals), and raw carnivores (those who eat primarily meat).   Food isn’t heated about 40°C and is eaten fresh, dehydrated using low heat, or is fermented.

I have been to a number of raw food restaurants and am impressed that people can eat that way for the majority of their diet. Not that the processing is an issue, it’s more that I don’t feel satisfied when all of my food is raw and either cold or lukewarm. I love cooked mushrooms. Same goes for broccoli and cauliflower. In fact, I love many vegetables cooked over raw and I think I would miss more than anything the physical heat of cooked foods. Who doesn’t relax when you first taste a bowl of hot soup, or have a sip of tea or coffee that’s close to burning your mouth?

There is a lot that is still unknown in the realm of cooking foods versus eating foods raw (Subramanian, 2009), with my conclusion being that you should just eat veggies and fruits regardless of if they are cooked or not. Eating a broader range of these items, both cooked and/or raw, exposes you to the greatest number of good-for-you compounds that will keep you as healthy as possible.

Side note – want more information about a raw vegan diet? I just heard about Fully Raw by Kristina in one of Rich Roll’s Podcasts and really fell in love with her spirit and devotion to the raw and vegan lifestyle.  I visited her site and her food looks amazing!! Opening a not-for-profit co-op with local farmers contributing makes me wish we had more here in Vancouver.

Fully Raw Kristina and for some awesome recipes you can watch her YouTube channel Fully Raw Kristina YouTube Channel

References:

1. Katz, D., & Meller, S. (2014). Can we say what diet is best for health? Annual Reviews , 35, 83-103.

2. Subramanian, S. (2009, March 31). Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones. Retrieved June 21, 2015, from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/raw-veggies-are-healthier/