How Raw Food Led Me to Love Exercise

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Get more exercise!

I love exercise!  I can’t even believe I just wrote that… but it’s the truth.  My body craves it.  I got off work today at 8pm, took the train home, put on my gym clothes, went to put a down payment on my new place, then got to the gym — at 10pm!  I have never done that before!  And what was funny is that I got to the gym, signed in, and got pissed because someone was on “my treadmill!”  Yes, I know that this gym has about 30 treadmills — maybe 5 were being used at that time.  And I was really upset that someone was using “my treadmill.”

Do I owe this newfound love of exercise to raw foods?  Absolutely!  Since completing my 30 day raw food challenge in June, I have been eating at least 2 raw meals a day.  Those meals are usually breakfast and lunch because those meals are easy for me to take to work.  The energy I have now is indescribable.  My thoughts are so much clearer.  I am better at completing the many tasks and projects that come my way at work.  The stress is definitely mounting during this time of year.  I have the added stress of trying to move to a new place and getting rid of just about everything I own.  And even though I know all of these things are happening, I know I have what it takes to handle it.  I don’t drown my feelings in french fries and chicken wings.  There’s no running out to the grocery store for ice cream I don’t need.  I get rid of the day’s stress on the treadmill — AND IN 95 DEGREE HEAT AT THAT!  I get on that treadmill and I run until I can’t run anymore.  I have no plan (at least not yet…) for how far I want to go or how long.  I just run until I’m tired.

So what’s a great pre-workout energy picker-upper?  I drink about a pint of a green smoothie starring KALE GREENS.  I don’t know what it is about kale, but whenever I have a smoothie or salad with kale greens, my body can’t rest.  It’s almost like drinking coffee without the jitters.  If I drink it for breakfast, I will have a quart or more.  That gives me lots of energy until I get to lunch.  I cut the serving size down to a pint for my evening workout because if I drink too much, I won’t sleep that night.

Here’s the recipe to the green smoothie I concocted tonight:

Pinapple Jolt Green Smoothie

1 bunch of kale greens (I used curly leaf – you use what you have)

3 or 4 slices of frozen pineapple

1 banana

1/4 to 1/3 cup of water

1. Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender.  I love my Vitamix, but use what you have.

2. Pour in a fancy glass, or put it in your workout drink container.

The Bacon Wars: Bacon, basil, and tomato sandwich

Bacon, Basil, and Tomato Sandwich

If there is anything I miss about my old way of eating, it’s pork bacon.  I generally cut out pork products a few years ago because it contained too much fat.  Nowadays I continue to eliminate pork from my diet because the Bible prohibits it (who am I to argue with God…).  If you are still a meat eater, turkey bacon is fine — just be sure to read the labels as many of them still contain pork products and other unGodly fillers you don’t need in your body.

There are some vegetarian and vegan versions out there.  My personal favorite is Smart Bacon by Light Life — which you can find in the fresh produce section of your mainstream supermarkets (it is generally cheaper at mainstream supermarkets than those that cater to the organic/vegetarian crowd).  Smart Bacon is best cooked in a nonstick skillet in olive oil so it can get dark and crispy — that’s my preference.  You’ve got to eat it as soon as you cook it though.  I tried putting on a sandwich and taking it to work for lunch.  Let’s just say I wound up getting a sandwich at Subway because the taste of that bacon transformed into damp cardboard!  I have also tried smoked tempeh bacon, which I don’t really care for.  It is cut too thick and tastes more like wood in my humble opinion.  But you can decide for yourself.

I made this Bacon, Basil, and Tomato Sandwich on a day I ran out of lettuce.   I have this terrible habit of not using all the produce I paid for, leaving some food to go to waste.  I am making a strong effort to use everything I buy before heading out to the grocery store to buy new produce.  So I decided to utilize some of the beautiful organic basil I bought at Shoppers on sale for $.99 (this grocery store tends to be much cheaper than most mainstream grocery stores and they do sell some organic, gluten free items).  This sandwich is a quick comfort food for hot summer days when you don’t want anything heavy or anything that requires too much time at the oven.  However, please understand that I am not saying you should eat this bacon everyday (vegan or otherwise…).  It is still a processed food product and should be enjoyed sparingly.

BACON, BASIL, AND TOMATO SANDWICH

4 or 5 slices of your favorite bacon

1 small whole wheat pita (gluten free available for those who care…)

fresh basil leaves

1 Roma tomato

Vegenaise (my favorite brand of vegan mayo)

1 teaspoon of olive oil

Sandwich Assembly!

  1. Heat up a nonstick skillet.  When pan is hot, place the bacon slices in a pan.  If you are using Smart Bacon it may be difficult getting it out of the package in one piece.  Just get a butter knife, wedge the knife between the first slice in the MIDDLE, and gently slide the knife to the out edges.
  2. Take about a teaspoon of olive oil and drizzle it directly on the bacon slices.  You don’t need any more oil than a teaspoon.  Use the back of the spoon to coat the entire bacon slice with oil.  When the slice begins to brown on the outer edges to your liking (2 to 3 minutes), turn over and cook for another minute or so.  When the bacon is done, transfer to a paper towel to soak up extra oil.
  3. Warm the pita in a hot, dry pan.  Perhaps a toaster would work, but I am kitchen space challenged — so I don’t own one!
  4. Cut the tomato into thick slices and sprinkle with a little Spike seasoning.
  5. When the pita is warm, remove from the pan and slice it in half.  Spread a little vegenaise on both sides.  Put the bacon, basil leaves and sliced tomato in both sides.

This is great with some sweet potato fries, your favorite chips, or a side salad.  Enjoy!

 Halona Y. Black recently lost 22 pounds in a month during a 30-day raw food challenge.  Halona is a self-trained, at-home cook who wants to become a certified raw food chef so badly that she is vacating her comfy 1 bedroom apartment for a small room.  Her secret mission in life is to teach young, busy women to learn to cook already.  You can contact Halona at GarlicAndLemons@gmail.com.


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CHEESECAKE! Need a Better Reason to Go Raw for a Day?

Happy International Raw Food Day!  I can see you raising your eyebrows at this…  Yes, today is International Raw Food Day — a day launched by Raw Food Coach, Karen Knowler from the UK.  The point of the day is to encourage people to either go raw for a day, or at least do some research on what eating more raw foods can do for your body.  If you are asking about when this started, I can’t tell you because I  just found out about this date myself a few days ago.  So now I’m passing it on to you.

The one raw food recipe that got me truly excited about raw foods was CHEESECAKE!  Let me tell you, I have never been a big dessert person.  This is most likely because I don’t care for syrupy sweet things overdone with lots of sauces and toppings.  However, some months back I went into my favorite health food store and I saw a slice of lemon vegan cheesecake in the fridge.  I’m telling you it looked like regular cheesecake, but I was thinking, “it’s probably gross…”  Having just got paid and being the adventurous eater I am, I decided to give up $6 for one slice.  I took my bag of groceries and my $6 slice to the car, pulled out my plastic fork, and dug in.  Let me tell you, the moment I put that cheesecake into my mouth, I closed my eyes, put my head back, and thanked God for something so delicious.  I think a tear even came to my eye.  The cheesecake was so creamy and fluffy, the lemon was nice and tart, with enough sweetness that didn’t overpower the cheesecake.  I absolutely had to learn how to make this for myself.

I searched online for the best raw cheesecakes.  They all seem to be made of pretty much the same things:  raw cashews, almonds, dates, coconut oil, etc.  I used the recipes written in the blog, The Sunny Raw Kitchen.  Here’s a photo of what I was able to create using the site’s recipe as a guide:

Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

The beauty of this is that you can eat this for breakfast without feeling too bad about it.  I made this when I was still fairly new to raw foods, so there is no reason for you not to try to make this or some other easy raw food recipes.

What recipe first made you excited about raw foods?

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Why Your Salad Sucks: 5 tips for building a better salad

 Salad background of fresh mixed salad ingredients. Stock Photo -  1497699

Need a little help pimping your salad?

I am always trying to convince meat eaters (or even some vegetarians who live on lots of starch) that a big salad can be a satisfying meal. Yes, there are some of those fast food chains that sell big salads, but have you looked at the list of ingredients??!!  Lots of bacon, boiled eggs, fried chicken, fried onions, and fatty dressings that can leave you with a 1000 calorie meal!  You would probably be better off having a burger.

The only way to ensure that you are getting the healthiest meal possible, you are going to have to become more acquainted with your kitchen and the grocery store.  That is really the best way to know what is going into your food.

So you say salads are boring?  Here are some tips on pimping your salad:

  • Skip the iceberg lettuce.  This variety of lettuce is mostly water with zero flavor, and very little fiber.  It’s not that iceberg lettuce is bad for you; it’s just that there are so many other varieties of lettuce that have a much higher nutritional content and are much more flavorful.  If you are really hardcore, you can try using kale or collard greens!  Here is a wonderful video on growing lettuce in your home or apartment.
  • Experiment with new veggies.  There is more to a salad than just lettuce, tomato, and maybe a little cucumber.  Try adding okra (my favorite), fresh corn off the cob (uncooked), zuchini, jicama, sprouts (gives your body SOOOOO much energy!), mint or other fresh herbs.  Visit some of your local ethnic grocery stores and spend some time in their produce section.  You are sure to find some veggies you may have never seen before.  Ask one of the workers how to prepare it.
  • Go for color.  Use the greens as a base.  What other colors do you like?  Add a little red or orange pepper (much sweeter than the green variety), purple cabbage, or even some fresh blueberries.
  • KISS = Keep It Simple, Silly!  Don’t try and douce your salad with too many flavors.  Trying picking a theme for your salad.  Do you want Asian flavors?  Try mixing spring mix salad leaves with some bok choy, cashews lightly coated in ginger and agave, scallions, tomatoes, and a homemade orange/ginger salad dressing.
  • Salad dressing is the key to a tasty salad.  I spent several years looking in stores for the best salad dressings (does that make me weird?).  My favorite store brought brand is Annie’s Goddess Dressing (I swear I could bathe in this stuff…).  However, if you stop and read the labels of many other dressings, you will see that they are full of processed sugars, soybean oil (often GMO), and preservatives.  I learned that I can very easily make my own salad dressing in about 3 minutes.  Here is the recipe for my own Maple Mustard Dressing:

Maple Mustard Dressing

* measurements are approximate

2 Tbsp of dijon mustard

2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp of maple syrup

1/4 tsp of garlic powder

sea salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Put all the items in a small, leakproof container.  I use Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids in the smallest size available.
  2. Close the lid and shake.
  3. If you like it spicy, try adding a little cayenne pepper.  For a more savory flavor, add some chopped up rosemary leaves.

You can double or triple the measurements if you want to make dressing to last you 2 or 3 days.  You can also add more or less of some ingredients to suit your own tastes.

So what’s your favorite salad recipe?

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30 Days Raw: 6 Big Raw Food Lessons

Before 30 Day Raw Food Feast - End of May 2011

I can’t believe I did it!  I am at the end of my raw food feast!  I cannot believe I made it to this point!!!  This raw food feast has been about 3 years in the making.  I remember when I started on this journey to be more fit and healthy, my biggest concern about eating more vegetarian foods was how to season food without meat.  Eating more raw foods is so much easier than I ever thought possible!  Here are my six big raw food lessons — in no particular order:

The morning is not the devil!  This is a big one for me.  For years I have woken up cursing the day light like a vampire.  Even my beau has remarked how sweet I am in the morning now!  The morning is when I am my most productive — my mind is clear and ideas are constantly running through my head, so much so that it is difficult to write them down as they come to me.  This is the best time for me to do my blogging.  When I get home from work, I find that my head is so filled with “work stuff” that I am just too exhausted to do anything else but eat a light dinner, exercise, then lights out by 10 or 11pm.  Yes, the morning is now my best friend! :)

After 30 Day Raw Food Feast - June 30, 2011

Raw foods ain’t rocket science!  Making cooked food can be complicated.  You have to worry about oven temperatures, is the flame too high or too low on the stove, worrying about if it’s cooked all the way through, how long do you cook it…  With raw foods, you have none of that worry.  I initially wanted to prepare the more complicated raw food dishes because I was under the impression that food had to go through several processes before it becomes edible.  Don’t get me wrong — there are lots of delicious gourmet raw food recipes out there.  However, you don’t need a whole lot of complicated equipment or skill to make raw food taste good.  All you need are some good knives (I bought mines at Target), a decent cutting board, a quality blender (I LOVE my Vitamix, but I had a low end Oster I got from CVS which worked just fine for me for about 3 years),  a hand-held citrus juicer, and some big bowls.  My nutmilk bag is awesome for making my own almond milk, but you can just buy some cheesecloth from Walmart and get the same results.  Some of my favorite raw meals have 5 or less ingredients, with just a few minutes of marinating time.  My favorite dinner:  melon, eaten right out of its own bowl.

I am in control of what I eat.  No longer will I allow my busy lifestyle to dictate what I put into my body.  During this month I have paid more attention to how others spend their lunch time, what they make for dinner, and the foods they choose to put into their shopping carts at the supermarket.  People often say, “I just need something quick to get through the afternoon.”  Why do we need to throw food down our throats super fast just to “get through the afternoon?”  A lunch hour (if you even get that much time…) is meant as a time to refuel your body so you will have energy to last you through the remainder of the work day.  Take the time to pack a nutritious, energizing lunch the night before!  Go outside and get some sunshine!  Walk around the block for 15 minutes or so and get away from your computer!  I am absolutely adamant about using my lunch time as MY TIME and not a time to catch up on work.

Diet and exercise really work!  I lost a total of about 22 pounds while on raw foods this month.  People ask me what’s my secret.  I have to tell them to put that fried chicken down, eat more fruits and vegetables,  and walk around the block a few times a week.  It really is that simple!  My body feels lighter, my gut has gone down some.  The foods I eat — particularly dark, leafy greens — give me so much energy that I ABSOLUTELY MUST go out and exercise afterwards.  Factory farm produced meat injected with hormones and artificial colors is coma inducing.  It may taste good on the fork, but once you finish eating it, you’re ready for a good nap.  This is not what God meant for us to use as a food source.

All vegan foods are not healthy.  There are so many choices nowadays in so-called healthy vegan options in grocery stores.  You no longer have to go to a specialty store to find organic and vegan foods anymore either; you can go right to your mainstream supermarket and find aisles solely dedicated to organic produce and organic packaged foods.  Some stores have even expanded their meat selections to include meat without hormones.  However, don’t be fooled!  When looking for veggies, skip the can and opt for fresh.  While frozen veggies are said to retain their nutrient content, they do need to be cooked to taste good — which completely defeats the purpose of a raw food diet.  I am working on a blog post talking about where and how often to shop for fresh veggies.  After spending a good month paying attention to what kind of crap people are putting into their shopping carts, it has become clear to me that people don’t have a clue on how to do basic food shopping!

Creating delicious, fresh food is my passion!  I have been saying for several years that I wanted to connect to my more creative side, but didn’t know what I wanted to do.  There really is no better feeling than to make a meal that people find surprisingly delicious.  Preparing food gives me the opportunity to teach others information that can potentially be a spark that can allow them to save their own lives through better food choices.  What is better than that?  As a result of this, I have decided to begin my plans to build a personal chef and health coach business where I can teach people how to transition to making healthier life choices — all beginning with food!

This really has been a powerful 30 day shift for me!  I am so hopeful about my life.  I even notice that I complain less because I really don’t have anything to complain about!  I have never felt so connected to my life’s purpose!  I hope you will choose to stick with me and my blog so we can learn how to be healthier together.

If you have a link to any before and after pics of yourself after eating raw foods, please share in the comments!

27 Days Raw: Vegan Restaurants Really Need to Do Better

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Fish Tofu:  Does this look remotely appetizing to you?

I have to be honest.  This past Saturday I was starving and had to go off of raw foods for a moment.  I figured, if I have to do cooked foods for one meal, I might as well make the best choice in cooked food possible, right?  So I went into a vegan restaurant.  I figured, how bad can it be — it’s all VEGAN!  I took a look at their ready-made cooked food choices:  starches — pasta, potatoes, rice; overcooked veggies, and meat substitutes made of soy.  Yes, all these choices are vegan, but it was all DEAD FOOD.  Their raw/cold selection consisted of a wheat pasta salad, a cucumber salad, and some type of faux tuna salad.

I decided to be adventurous as I usually am with my food and ordered a “fish” special.  It came with rice and peas and I selected an order of cooked collards and cabbage on the side.  The faux fish tasted, well, processed.  It kind of had an escoveitched fish flavor, dense like a piece of king fish steak (any Caribbean food lovers out there???).  It also had some kind of a faux fish skin on the outer edges of it.  I am guessing they bought this faux fish already processed as I could not imagine the restaurant preparing this “fish” themselves.  The taste???  SUPER SALTY!!!  The denseness of the faux fish absorbed a lot of the saltyness.  However the onions and peppers were not able to survive — they were inedible right along with the rice and peas.  The tofu sat at the pit of my stomach like a couple of bricks (even heavier than I remember meat to be…).  The cabbage and collards were delicious with just an added touch of spiciness.  But what was missing from this plate was that surge of energy I get from eating raw greens.  Quite literally, when I eat raw kale or collards, it’s like I took its vitamins, put it in a syringe, and injected all that goodness straight into my blood stream.  It really is the best feeling in the world!  Food is meant to be a source of energy and fuel so we can get through the day.  I ate this plate of salted tofu kindalikefish stuff and I wanted to go right to sleep.  I mean, I sat there in a coma for about 30 minutes — just staring out the window because I had no motivation to move.

I guess now that I am near the end of my raw food feast, I have learned to expect more from my food.  Food is not simply meant to taste good; food is nourishment for your body, mind, and spirit.  If your body is malnourished (and yes, even fat people are malnourished…), one or more of these three are going to be out of whack.  So I challenge our vegan restaurants to not just serve food that is a replica of meals cooked with meat and starch.  I understand that many vegan restaurants serve many non-vegan patrons.  However there is more to being vegan than deep fried Boca burgers, tofu, and pasta.  Try adding some raw foods that have some kind of nutrients in them and truly teach people how to eat well.

21 Days Raw: My Raw Food Goal Check-Up

http://www.behealthybewellbeinspired.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Thisismyyear_MursBlanc-300x300.jpgNothing to it but to do it!

On Day 2 I wrote a post giving some detail on why I was choosing to do raw foods for 30 days.  Goals are no good if you don’t check back in from time to time to measure your progress.  Here are my reflections on those goals:

  • Need mental clarity to make some decisions — both professional and personal.  I find it funny that I even had to make a distinction between what is a “professional” and what is “personal.”  So-called professional and personal life choices should be aligned with one another so you don’t feel like a person leading 2 crazy, mis-matched lives!  I’ve been so blind!  Raw food has definitely cleared out some of the “sludge” in my brain.  Things that were so difficult to voice an opinion on now seem much more black and white now.  I was stuck between deciding to continue on as an advisor at a community college, or become a personal chef.  I decided that it really doesn’t have to be an either or decision.  What I love most about my present position is my connection with students.  My advising sessions are much more than just about taking the right classes.  I am a “coach” of sorts, helping people to align their passions and lifestyles with what they are learning in school.  I could certainly continue to do that in my own food business.  I am planning to leave my apartment in the coming weeks to move into a room so I can save money to put towards this brewing plan of mine (if you live in the DC area and have a room for rent — or know someone who does, holla at me!).  My notebook is overflowing with ideas — it’s amazing what a couple weeks of fresh, wholesome food can do for your creativity!
  • To feel healthier, feel better.  I have lost about 20 pounds since beginning my raw food feast.  I don’t feel so weighed down with fatty foods as I once did.  One thing I did not expect though is that I can feel my body in a way I never did before.  Quite honestly, I did not recognize how fat I had actually gotten because I was too busy stuffing my face because of stress.  Now I wake up in the morning and I can feel the fat around my middle, the fat around my thighs, my flabby arms — and I can’t stand it!  The stressful days are still here, however I choose to get rid of the stress through increased activity.  I walk everyday for about an hour.  I also jump rope on my porch as well as jog/walk for about 3 miles in the Smithsonian/National Mall area of DC several times a week.  My body craves physical activity now — 5K here I come!
  • Get rid of fibroids and hopefully improve fertility.  From what I know about fibroids thus far, it is difficult to know if fibroids are getting smaller or larger without a sonogram.  As a matter of fact, checking for fibroids generally occurs when a woman has problems with her menstrual cycle.  Before I knew anything about fibroids, I went to several gynecologists over about a 5 year time span asking why my periods were becoming so heavy.  The only advice I was given was to take birth control pills and see what happens.  At the end of 5 years, my bleeding had become so heavy that I could not leave the house.  I was bleeding through my clothes — profusely.  That was when one genius gynecologist (can you sense my sarcasm here???) decided to do the fibroid check.  By that time, they saw about 5 fibroids — one about as large as a grapefruit.  Basically my uterus had grown to the size of a woman in her fourth month of pregnancy — which isn’t cute if you’re not actually with child.  During this cleanse, my cycle doesn’t seem any lighter — as a matter of fact it seems slightly heavier.  But according to what I have been reading, detoxing may make periods worse before they get better.  Perhaps I will see improvements in another 2 to 3 months.
  • Diminish my chances of getting breast cancer (as well as other cancers avoidable diseases).  I am reminded of the fragility of life after a recent death of a colleague who was about the same age as I.  Life is a gift and we must respect it as such.  What you put off until tomorrow may never come to fruition so stop putting off your goals and dreams because your life revolves around a job and a lifestyle you have no passion for.  While we don’t like to think about our own death, it is inevitable.  I choose to do what I can now to prevent many of the diseases that can cause a painful, premature death.  I choose to create a life that is full of love rather than base my decisions on fear of the unknown.

Have you ever gone through an event that made you drastically change the way you live?  I’d be interested in learning more about how it has changed you!