A Glance into the Vegan Life

A few friends of mine recently turned vegan and noticed an improvement with weight management, an increase in energy, and feel overall much healthier…so I thought I’d give it a try for a month to see how it made me feel.

Here’s how it went for me…

WARNING: You may become very hungry after reading this post.  It’s all about FOOD.

WEEK 1 – Start date: November 3rd

It was a bit of a rocky start, as it took time to become reaaaaaaally aware of ingredients…and there were a few oversights because of things I automatically cook with during meal prep, such as oyster sauce and Better than Bouillon chicken stock, which are now blatantly obvious! lol

On November 4th, we watched Georges St Pierre fight, at a sports bar.  Not many vegan options, as you could assume.  We had onion rings and yam fries…not very healthy and now that I think about it, it was likely not deep-fried in a vegan way either.

The following day I made up for it by going to the Vancouver Health Show, learning some things and discovering some vegan food products, such as “pulled pork” using young jackfruit instead of pork.  Also picked up amazing vegan dumplings from one the vendors, House of Yee.  Later that evening, I went for happy hour drinks at Earls Kitchen and had a delicious Quinoa & Avocado Powerbowl, while I watched my family eat chicken wings, tuna poke, and meat pasta.  I love all those things but luckily the powerbowl tasted amazing, so I was barely even phased.

That week, I meal prepped more powerbowls.  I admit, I became a little obsessed with powerbowls…because they were so yummy, so colourful, and so easy to prepare!  The powerbowls consisted of chickpeas, quinoa, orange peppers, cucumber, spinach, corn, and avocado…and then I had it with hot sauce.  I pretty much ate these for lunch and dinner until I became tired of them.

WEEK 2

After a week or so, I started to get the hang of it and was better at catching myself from eating things with eggs or dairy hidden in them.  I also was pleasantly surprised at how restaurants are able to cater to veganism.  I went to Hapa Izakaya with a couple friends, and the server pointed out all the vegan-friendly options AND had the kitchen make a few off-menu items just for us.  We ended up enjoying a roll, a salad, a stone rice bowl , yaki udon, and a whole lot of sake.  It was a great night.

The next day was my niece’s birthday, so knowing that there would be nothing we could eat there, we went to Jinya Ramen Bar for the Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen (add corn), my new favourite dish!  Then after playing with the kids for 3 hours, we had worked up an appetite, so we went to a nearby sushi joint to have a few vegan rolls.  Later that night, some friends & I enjoyed a big meal at The Naam in Kits, a vegetarian restaurant with live music on the weekends!

The next day, I went to Virtuous Pie with the same vegan homies from the previous night.  On Monday’s, they have all-day happy hour with select pizzas and wine on special!  This place is amazing, whether you’re vegan or not.  And then the day after that, we went for vegan hot pot at Little Sheep Hot Pot.  They have a vegan broth (which comes out clear as water, but don’t worry, it becomes more flavourful throughout your meal) and a huge selection of veggies and sides that you can order a-la-carte.

For lunches, I prepped powerbowls again.  Quick, easy, and delicious. Pretty much used the same ingredients, but then I became a little tired of them by the end of the week again.  This is when I realized I needed to become more creative when cooking vegan meals!

On Friday, I finally went to try Melu Juice Bar with a girlfriend.  Had their lunch combo that came with juice (I had The Hulk), a salad (Undercover Curried Rice w/ Zoodles), and a health bar (Salted Pecan Pie).  Everything tasted sooooo good, and the shop is really cute too!

WEEK 3

On November 18th, we decided to take a break from veganism and enjoy all the things at Pan Pacific’s Opera Buffet.  It was a fantastic meal and made me realize that I’m okay with incorporating some meat back into my diet.  I had really been missing fish!  Dairy and red meat, I could live without…and especially being lactose-intolerant, I try to stay away, and take a Lactaid pill only when absolutely worth it.

The next day, I meal prepped chickpeas, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and zucchini for my lunches.  It was a nice change, and still super simple to prepare!

My lunches were healthy but I was finding that the rest of my meals were quite carby, since most vegan options I craved were noodle dishes or vegan pizza.  I hadn’t noticed many health benefits yet, other than feeling less gross or heavy after meals.  The difference was more noticeable after eating out, like having vegan ramen vs chicken ramen.

WEEK 4

It was around this time where I decided to be 86% VEGAN – that’s 3 meals a week where I can have meat.  I was missing sashimi like you wouldn’t believe…and then I was magically treated to sashimi and sushi rolls at Tojo’s!  If you haven’t been, you must go.

Following that weekend, my lunches were consistently healthy and vegan, and my dinners were either salad or noodles, depending on cravings or who I was dining with.

And here we are after a month of veganism.  It has definitely tapered off (maybe about 50% vegan now) and I decided to go back to eating meat because I felt like I was missing something from my diet.  My eczema came back in full force and I found myself craving heavy carbs again… but on the plus side, this vegan trial made me want to eat cleaner and get more creative with my meal preps.  I made butternut squash for the first time, and I loved it.   I dine often with my vegan homies, so there are still many more restaurant/recipe discoveries to be made!

So there’s a glance into the vegan life… and some really awesome vegan restaurant recommendations for all you foodies out there!

xo,
Sheena

 

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No More Sick Days!

It’s cold & flu season, so here are some quick tips on how to avoid the bug and stay healthy all year long!

Wash your hands.  Wash them often and wash them well.  With plenty of soap, scrub all surfaces and in between your fingers.  When handling washroom doors on the way out, use a paper towel to protect your hands from possible germs.

Use hand-sanitizer.  Keep a small bottle in your car or purse for when you’re out, and a pump bottle at your desk.  Offices are notorious for circulating the bug so don’t be shy with the hand-sani.

Pamper yourself.  Massages, cupping, and acupuncture are a few self-care ways to stay healthy, keep your immune system up, and increase circulation.  These services also provide several other health benefits, so I’d say that’s a win/win.

Get a flu shot.  Clinics and pharmacies offer it and some workplaces even bring in a nurse to administer it.  There’s always the controversy on whether it’s effective or not, but after turning down the flu shot a few years in a row and catching the flu more than once, I’m thinking…what’s the harm?

Sweat it out.  Whether you hit up the sauna/steam room or have an intense workout, getting your sweat on is a great way to release toxins.  Be sure to hydrate with plenty of water in the process.

Consume immune-boosting foods.  Citrus fruits, bell peppers, turmeric, ginger, green tea, apple cider vinegar, beet juice, and many other fruits/veggies/juices will nourish you with the vitamins you need to keep those sicknesses at bay.

Relax yo self.  When we’re stressed, our entire nervous system is affected and our immune system weakens.  Do you ever notice that when you’re really stressed, you tend to get sick more often, have low energy, and just kind of shut down.  When we’re happy and healthy, our bodies functions at its highest capacity and we’re able to fight off bugs more easily.

With this said, I hope you all take amazing care of yourselves and stay healthy throughout this beautifully cool sweater weather!

xo,
Sheena

Vegan Low-Carb Cookies

Here’s my recipe for incredibly delicious vegan low-carb COOKIES!

Ingredients:
2 cups Almond meal
1 scoop Hard Magnum Choco Love protein
1/2 tbsp Baking powder
1 tbsp Flaxseed meal
1 tbsp Chia seeds
1 tbsp Stevia
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
5 tbsp Unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp Almond butter
Chopped vegan dark chocolate
Mixed nuts to top

Pre-heat oven to 375F, mix dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients til you have a cookie dough consistency (add almond milk if too try, add almond meal if too wet), prep baking sheet with coconut oil, roll dough into balls, flatten them with a spoon, top with a nut, bake for 8 min…and enjoy!  Simple as that.

Aren’t they beautiful?  Good luck resisting eating the whole batch at once!

xo,
Sheena

Diets, Diets, Diets…

There are soooooooo many different diets out there – some work, some don’t, some are maintainable, some are harmful.  And don’t misunderstand the word “diet” as “starving yourself” because that is not always the case, especially these days…the word “diet” should simply be used to describe the type of food we eat.

A few common diets out there:

Weight Watchers – This is probably one of the most well-known diets from back in the day.  It goes by a points system (similar concept to counting calories) which encourages you to eat more healthy nutritious food and less junk food.  By only having a set amount of points to use in a day, you will naturally reach for healthier foods like veggies, fruit and lean meats, over sugary, high-carb, fatty foods which will use up your points faster. This is a good program to get started and if you go to an actual Weight Watchers facility, you will have support and be held accountable by the regular check-ins…but I’m not sure how maintainable it would be in the long run.  For me, personally, I get tired of constantly having to track each meal so closely.

Vegan Diet – As most of you know, especially from living in Vancouver, a Vegan diet only consists of plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts.  Because you’re cutting out all meat and dairy, this diet is naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.  To ensure you stay nourished and strong, just make sure you educate yourself on how to continue a balanced diet and receive a sufficient amount of nutrients each day.  This diet, I can’t do, as I love meat too much…but for those who are Vegan, luckily our society is catering to this type of diet more and more now.  More yummy, vegan restaurants are popping up or at the very least, menus will label which dishes are vegan-friendly.

Raw Food Diet – This diet isn’t so much about weight-loss, it’s more so about overall health.  The Raw Food diet is about eating only uncooked, unprocessed foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, egg, fish, meat, dairy.  So it isn’t vegan, it’s just rawww.  People who do this believe that heating foods loses all it’s nutrients and natural enzymes, which is not good because enzymes boost digestion and fight chronic disease.  Some also believe that cooking foods makes it toxic, so they will take their food in the form of juice, smoothies, or just plain uncooked raw goodness.  I personally do not believe in this diet, as I love hot, cooked food and avoid thinking about the potential loss of nutrients.

Ketogenic Diet – A new-ish fad diet that focuses on high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carb intake.  It works because it forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates, and works best if you are incorporating exercise into your program.  Rest assured that even though you are lowering your carb-intake, you will still have enough energy for your workouts and enough nutrients to build muscle.  Some people also know this as the ‘Atkins Diet’, which came about for drastic weight-loss.  You can technically do this forever, but it also comes in 4-phases – from lowering your carb-intake significantly, to working it back into your diet gradually once you reach your weight-loss goal.  I am going to start this today, so be sure to follow my Instagram to see how I’m liking it!

Intermittent Fasting (IF) – This one is rapidly becoming popular because Terry Crews shared that he does this…and just look at him!  For women, it’s fasting for 14-15 hours.  For men, 16 hours.  This diet is more about when you eat, than what you eat.  By only having the ~8 hour window to eat, this will control your daily caloric-intake, therefore helping you lose weight.  It’s also known to lower insulin levels and make positive changes in hormones, which is what my competition prep diet had thrown off.  There are a few different methods to IF and you can look them up to see which one would suit you best.  I’ve personally been fasting for ~15 hours and eating for ~9 hours, and I am starting to feel results.  It’s quite easy to skip breakfast, in fact, it’s a time-saver in the mornings.  I also haven’t noticed a drop in energy, so it hasn’t hindered my workouts, and I give this diet most of the credit for helping me end my binge eating.  Hallelujah!

So here’s a snapshot of some of the diets out there.  I personally think it’s all about finding the one that works for you, one that you can maintain with ease and get/keep the results you want.  Just about all diets will take some time to adjust to, but if your body is still struggling with it after 1-2 weeks, then it probably isn’t the diet for you.  Listen to your body and cater to what it needs.

xo,
Sheena

Mindful Eating

“The core principles of mindful eating include being aware of the nourishment available through the process of food preparation and consumption, choosing enjoyable and nutritious foods, acknowledging food preferences non-judgmentally, recognizing and honoring physical hunger and satiety cues, and using wisdom to guide eating decisions.” –Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

Benefits of eating more mindfully are to bring awareness to your hunger and fullness, avoid overeating or eating too fast, improve weight management, reduce stress, have more appreciation for what you are eating, make better food choices, improve your relationship with food, and appreciate your meals more.

So foodies, here’s how you can take your enjoyment of food to the next level!

Start with one meal – with any new habits, practicing “small successes” have been proven to be more effective…so start with one meal, or even part of a meal, and be aware of how hungry you are before your meal and when you become full.

Remove distractions – avoid looking at your phone, watching TV, or reading a book while you eat.  Give your full attention to your meal, otherwise you may completely not realize when you’re eating and you won’t feel satisfied by the meal.

Tune in – become aware of your mindset and recognize there is no right or wrong way to eat, and if you find yourself losing focus on the meal, gently bring your thoughts back to what you’re doing…basically just like meditating 🙂

Use your senses – analyze one item from your dish as you eat it…the smell, textures, colours, flavours.   Try noticing how they change as you chew it.

Take your time – mindful eating requires slowing down, allowing your digestive enzymes to kick in and know when you’re full.

Try these techniques on your next meal and let me know how it goes!  I will be practicing these this week too.

xo,
Sheena

Source: The Chopra Center

 

Recipe: Chia Pudding

My naturopath recommended I start having Chia pudding for breakfast, consisting of chia seeds, almond milk and Greek yogurt. I made it that way the first time but didn’t enjoy it, because the Greek yogurt taste was too strong. Blegh. Over the week, I’ve adapted it into something sooooo delicious, and here is my recipe:

2 tbsp chia seed blend
2 tbsp almond milk
1/2 scoop choco protein powder
1 heaping spoonful of Greek yogurt
1 tbsp almond butter

Mix the above together, let it sit for 5+ min or overnight, top with All Bran Buds, and ENJOY!

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Of course, you can tweak the recipe to how you’d like by changing the flavour of protein powder, adding in nuts/seeds/fruits, adding in oatmeal, etc.

BTW, got these awesome containers with the extra compartment for toppings or dips from Dollarama! I love them.

Do you have any chia pudding recipes to share?  Comment below!

xo,
Sheena

How to Manage Holiday Junk Food

Here are some tips on how to get through all the holiday parties and potlucks while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, good energy, and your waistline! …because Summer bodies are made in the Winter!

Have Your Own Pre-party

Just like it isn’t wise to cruise the grocery store on an empty stomach, you can’t show up to a holiday party feeling ravenous. Avoid this scenario by having a small meal or snack before you hit the party. You’ll arrive less famished and more prepared to make healthy selections.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

The “80%” is the clean, healthy, unprocessed, high-fiber foods we should be eating most of the time, while the “20%” is the junk food or cocktails of your choice. If you plan to have a few drinks with dinner, opt for something like baked fish and a salad with an oil-based dressing. If you don’t drink, then you can order that bacon cheeseburger. Refrain from allowing the 20% to grow to 30 or 40%. Or bank it – eat extra healthy over the week so you can indulge a little more on the weekend!

Be a Buffet Hover Hater

Certain holiday gatherings can be awkward, and too often we find ourselves making small talk while using food as a distraction. Try positioning yourself AWAY from the buffet. Get a drink (non-alcoholic or otherwise) to occupy your hands, and purposely hang out far away from the food. You’ll find you graze less and mingle more.

Give a Healthy Hostess Gift

Don’t let your healthy habits lapse just because it’s holiday time. If you’re going to contribute to a party, why not bring something healthy? That also ensures there’s something there you can eat and will enjoy.  Costco has some great options like kale salad, veggie/fruit platters, hummus dip, or apple chips!

Put Extra Effort into Exercise

Don’t wait until the New Year to get your exercise program on track. If you know you’ll be eating and drinking more calories than usual this time of year, double down on your workouts. It’s true that you cannot out-exercise your diet, but a few extra minutes of cardio will help minimize the guilt. Parties should be enjoyed, and exercise is one way to allow for that.

Choose the Healthier Alternative

There are many reason why alcohol isn’t good for you, but if you must have a celebratory holiday drink, opt for healthier alternatives like Vodka soda with lime or a splash of juice, Gin martini, Red wine, Whiskey on the rocks, etc.  Basically, the less sugar, the better.

Indulge on Your Terms

Eat and drink what you’d like, but consume less of it. Low-calorie does not always translate to better nutrition, so enjoy smaller portions of full-taste and full-fat foods. If you like dessert, then a 3” x 3” double-fudge brownie with a single a scoop of ice cream is a better choice than half a pan of low-fat brownies made with applesauce.

Do you have any strategies to avoid completely indulging in holiday junk food?  Share in the comments section!

xo,
Sheena