Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Machine

The Girl Who Hates Lettuce has come a long way in the vegetable department in six short months. For the first few weeks I would think "What am I going to eat today?" before breaking out in a little sweat. As long as there was meat in the fridge, I just had to figure out what else to throw on the plate. The meat was absolutely the focus. Now I'm closer to "What am I not going to eat today!". The previously unknown world of vegetables has been revealed and I'm happily overloaded with options - I love it!

I still haven't crossed the Salad Threshold (and probably never will) but each day now contains more fresh vegetables than I used to eat in a week. The more I push my body through running and yoga, the more my body politely asks for more vegetables. Sometimes it's not so polite.

The game changer in greening up my diet has been what I lovingly call The Phoenix Smoothie... it rises from the ashes of crappy nutrition. Every morning - no exceptions. It's like nutritious crack. I got started with a Vega product called Smoothie Infusion but the components are all things that I've since purchased separately. I can get larger quantities and saving a little dough along the way.

Hemp Protein Powder (very easy to digest and comes green and alive!)
Chlorophyll (yeah, the good stuff found in all the plants I never ate)
Ground Flax Seed (must grind - whole seeds don't digest)
Udo's Oil Blend (I got the 3.6.9 - not for cooking but is yummy for dips and dressings)

Just toss in an assortment of fruit, a little pineapple juice and some almond milk. Voila! Green Crack!

I've experienced so many benefits from the liquid greens. I feel more alert and can focus for longer periods of time. My hair is shinier. My nails are growing faster and stronger. I'm recovering more quickly from my long runs. Even the fine lines around my eyes are lessening - Hello 41. It's all pretty miraculous!

Another useful trick is to make a large batch of spinach & broccoli soup on Sunday evening. It's super simple - just cook down onions, garlic, fresh broccoli or broccoli flower, and either fresh or frozen spinach in a small amount of canola oil. Add a dose of cumin and black pepper and then pop into the blender with some vegetable stock. Nothing is easier than taking soup to work for lunch. It's also low enough in calories to make a great dinner if I get stuck eating late. This bright green soup is lovely to have around!

The bottom line is that I've finally accepted that Green = Good. I was always fooling myself about the number of vegetables I was eating... mega low ball. Paying some respect to the vegetable is paying some big dividends!

Eat kind, Lauren

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dichotomy In Paradise

Close your eyes and conjure images of the Caribbean. After the powdery sand and aqua blue seas, you might picture a bounty of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables - I know I do. For some reason that's just not the reality in Beautiful Barbados. Don't get me wrong, it is seriously gorgeous and I love living here on every level - except one. Produce.

I don't know what is up with the supply chain but I know things are bad when a visiting girlfriend ( know who are) shed an actual tear during her first trip to the produce section of my grocery store. She bought absolutely nothing. I know for a fact that the hotels are chock full o' fruit and veg and it has slowly come to irk me that I pay upwards of $9 usd for a pint of strawberries that usually contain at least a few moldy buggers at the bottom.

The conventional wisdom in Ayurveda is to eat locally and seasonally. What happens when there are only 1.5 seasons? As the years roll on it's harder to cope when the only fresh fruit available is mango and even then, only for a few months of the year. Sometimes there are fresh papaya but I'm not a huge fan. Our local bananas are downright depressing when compared with their imported counterparts.

The title of this blog is for reals. It is odd that I spent a lifetime surrounded by abundance and never wanted it. Now that I want it, need it and crave it, it's wilted, moldy and costs a small fortune. The irony is not lost.

Some of this is upbringing. I grew up in Oregon picking berries - Straw, Marion, Rasp, Black, Blue - my tastes lean heavily toward fruits that simply do not grow in the tropics. Paying exorbitant amounts for these imports is just plain bad all the way around. How many resources does it take to get those Driscoll strawberries from California to Barbados? How are any of them not moldy?

I hit the apex of frustration last week when I was tasked with making a huge crockpot of Minestrone soup for work. I swung by "The B" and there were no (drum roll) onions, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini or mushrooms and the only fresh herb was parsley. Defeated, dejected - I left the store with nothing but vegetable stock and a crowd of hungry people waiting for me in a mere 18 hours.

When I returned home I turned on the news to watch a story about the uprising in Cairo and it's effect on tourism. The camera panned across a market that is usually filled with tourists and (what!) there must have been an acre of stalls packed with fresh fruit and vegetables. All I could think was "In the middle of a revolution in the dessert of the Middle East there are more fresh fruit and vegetables than in The B!" How is this possible?

Reluctantly, I headed north to a Costco-esque store where I had let my membership expire because "it's too far away". Reality check - I'm turning Bajan. It's only a 10 minute drive from work but it might as well be 100 miles away once you've lived here for while. Lo and behold - I hit the mother load of fruits and vegetables! Where have they been hiding all this food and who has the magic wand? Clearly, I went nuts.

I've made gorgeous food for the past three days and can literally feel the nutrients hitting my system. Thank you Pricesmart - may your shelves be ever abundant. I will never let my membership lie dormant again.

To my friends abroad - never ever take your fresh food for granted.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thrive - The Game Changer

I just read (and re-read) Thrive by Brendan Brazier. You can't spend five minutes researching vegetarian + running and not bump into Thrive. This guy has written what seems to be the "Gold Standard" of nutritional information for vegetarian/vegan endurance athletes. Since I'm wholly committed to completing my first marathon in October fueled solely on plants, Thrive just keeps popping up.

If you have any interest at all in learning about how food metabolizes in your body, how all forms of stress effect your system (and ultimately performance) or how to make a rockin' pizza "crust" from vegetables and legumes... read on...

I won't rehash the contents of Thrive here but I highly recommend the book if these things interest you. I listened to an interview with Brendan on one of my favorite websites No Meat Athlete. Between the book and the interview I learned a ton but these are my two take away game changers:

1) You have about a 45 minute window to replenish your glycogen stores and protein after a workout. Eat the proper food within the window and you can be well on you way to recovery within a couple of hours and do it all again tomorrow. Miss the window and you miss your chance! Your body will cannibalize your muscle to restore itself. I Did Not Know This! I thought I was the smartest girl in the world for doing my long run on Sundays and following it up with 90 minutes of butt-kicking yoga before eating a single bite. WOW! How much more awesome would I be had this piece of information crossed my path? Hopefully, this will afford you months of potential awesomeness.

By wolfing down a green smoothie (more on this in future posts) or a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter & banana within a few minutes after exercise, you'll be able to save the hot muscles you've worked so hard for. Then you can go home and prepare a proper meal OR torture yourself with 90 minutes of yoga! The choice is yours...

2) The incredible value to be found in the long, slow, easy run. The longer, the slower, the more your body will learn to burn fat for fuel. Your carbohydrate fuel runs out at about 90 minutes no matter what so tapping into fat for fuel is key for improving endurance. My competitive and statistic-driven nature makes this lesson a hard one. I want "faster.better.more" when I need to be focusing on casually chatting up Hillaire at the 20K mark. If I can master this little nugget, I believe I will finish the marathon happy, healthy and smiling!

If this kind of information is useful to you, check out Brendan's books or vegan nutritional line "Vega". He also has a free video series called Thrive in 30 which outlines the principles of his book in 5-7 minute video clips. You'll receive videos with written reviews of the last lesson delivered to your email account every two days for a month. This is a great way to stick your toe into the Thrive/Vega world!


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Five Thoughts on Oprah

Thanks Oprah!

Five thoughts on Oprah's Vegan Challenge. I have about 23 but have elected not to torture you will all of them.

My initial thought is that the world may be changing for the better when Oprah does a full hour on veganism. Oprah accidentally drops a book on the floor and it becomes a NYT Best Seller! This kind of exposure is fan.flippin'tastic!

My second thought is that Michael Pollan said it best when asked why "eating meat" is such a hot button issue. Paraphrasing but... "It's because it challenges us on a moral level and challenges our traditions - it's like a direct attack on your mother."

I find that there are as many reasons and variations on being vegetarian as there are vegetarians. The commonality among meat eaters (and I say this from experience) is that to eat animals, you have to maintain "The Great Disconnect". You have to protect yourself from thinking about the slaughter house, the obesity, the heart disease and the consequences for the animals who cannot protect themselves against us. The mere discussion of vegetarianism is like Chinese water torture on The Great Disconnect. Drip.drip.drip.

My third thought is that Carghill Meats was way smart to allow Lisa Ling into their newest, cleanest and most compassionate processing plant. Their PR people were genius! A pretty, young, female meat processing Plant Manager who "loves vegans" - nice work PR - couldn't have come off better. I've seen several undercover slaughter house videos and they look nothing like this particular Carghill plant. This footage was the meat industry's best case scenario. You can watch the video clip here

Thought number four is completely selfish. The shopping trip to Whole Foods almost made me break down. What possible reason do you have to buy any animal products when you have a WALL of vegetarian/vegan substitutes? I'm not a believer in constantly replacing real meat with fake meat but it would be nice to have the option every once in awhile. Did you see that wall? I still want at least double points for going vegetarian in Barbados. Who do I see about that?

And number five...(I didn't need Oprah for this one!) The choice to not eat animals is extremely personal and admittedly hard. I have never been more conscious of anything. For someone like me (lettuce hater) every single meal is a choice. There were no "already vegetarian" meals in my repetoire. I was a 90% lean protein, 10% carb kinda girl. I loved Kathy Freston's concept of "leaning into" veganism. It really doesn't have to be all or nothing. Every time you consciously choose a meal sans animal it's a victory for your arteries, your heart, your digestive tract, and for one little (or HUGE) creature out there.

Thanks to Oprah for shining the light!