Reading This Might Change Your Life

I’ve been feeling antsy lately. More like amped up. I feel the need to go deeper with my clients—which will be no easy task since for many we’re already treating our sessions like therapy. But I’m screaming inside and can’t contain it any longer; the evidence is just too great, and so I’m going to have to talk more about the plant-based diet. Maybe even nudge a bit.

The results I see in my gym are astounding. My core-focused strength training program is undoubtedly successful—lives are changing with the exercise component alone. But the cholesterol might still be high. The blood pressure. The fat around the middle. I say I don’t judge you for eating animal products, and I don’t, but hear me now: If you truly mean what you say when you tell me you want to see change, you need to switch to a plant-based diet. I am convinced that you will see the results you want, and your overall health will improve.

Why plant-based as opposed to vegan?

I’ve never been a proponent of all-or-nothing choices. Deprivation doesn’t work because it causes pain (read: diets don’t work because they include deprivation). So “vegan” is extreme and not really necessary unless you decide it’s right for you. (Remember, vegan equals no honey, no leather, not even some wines.) Plant-based to me means that I eat a mostly vegan diet, but that I’m not a drag to have over for dinner (I won’t refuse to eat your birthday cake just because there’s butter and eggs in it).

But where will you get your protein?

If I had a dime for every time I’m asked that freakin’ question… So here’s the hard truth: you’ve been brainwashed by the agriculture and dairy industries to believe that you need mega amounts of protein to be healthy/have energy/be full. How is it then, that a protein shake is used by both the bodybuilder looking to gain weight and the middle-aged mom trying to lose weight? I know, right? Think about it. This might blow your mind, but there is protein in plants. I do not eat meat or dairy and I have so much energy I can’t even contain it.

The problem is, you’ve been planning your meals around a “protein” for so long, thinking about planning a plant-based meal is intimidating, even overwhelming. My suggestion is to dip your toe in and go slow. Maybe one or two nights a week you experiment with a plant-based meal. See how you feel, how you sleep. How your stomach doesn’t feel so heavy—or worse, reject your meal. Maybe you could pack your lunch and snacks a couple of days, too. Meanwhile, you can look into some new cookbooks, perhaps find a few new items for your pantry. Just test the water—you absolutely do not need to dive right in.

I will share our planned meals week to week to give you ideas. I’ll offer snack suggestions if you’d like, and will be glad to help you locate the weird ingredient you’ve never encountered in a recipe before. Slowly but surely, I almost guarantee you’ll fall in love with your new lifestyle—because that’s what this really is, a change in lifestyle. I always tell people, far from having less to choose from when we cook, we have more. So much more. Our plates are colorful (as you know if you follow me on Instagram), and so incredibly full of flavor. And the best thing is we stay inspired. We feel so good and love our food so much, we can’t wait to dig into the season’s latest offerings. I won’t lie—it takes some effort—but if it makes you feel amazing and leads to a greater enjoyment of life, isn’t it worth a try?

In our house, my husband is the chef. On Saturdays he flips through cookbooks and chooses our meals for the week, writing up a shopping list as he goes. He leaves two nights open for dining out or being spontaneous. Sometimes he bases his choices on leftover sauces or veggies, and sometimes he just feels like trying something brand new. Bowls are great for weeknights. It takes time to find a rhythm when you’re serious about this new lifestyle, but we did it, and you certainly can, too.

Here is the menu Mike planned for this week (clearly we’re way into our new Minimalist Baker cookbook!):

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Buddha Bowl

Smoky Tempeh Burrito Bowl

Plantain & Black Bean Tacos

Mediterranean Bowl

Roasted Butternut Alfredo


Enlightened Miso Power Bowl: A Vegan Dish That Proves That “Rabbit Food” Really Can Be Filling

We are loving our new Oh She Glows cookbook! I’ve been telling people about some of the recipes, and it sounds like you might like to try a few of our new favorites. This one looks light, but boy, does it fill up the belly! Don’t worry that it’s not enough food!

As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl
As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

(Comment from the Fitness Girl: Trade out veggies as you like. We used red peppers and broccoli once. And we leave out cilantro, green onion, hemp seeds and sprouts, so use what you’ve got!)

1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil, melted
Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 medium carrot, julienned
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1/2 cup sprouts

For the Orange-Maple Miso Dressing:
3 tablespoons light miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup


1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sweet potato rounds on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle them with the oil, rubbing it on both sides to coat. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then flip and roast for 8 to 10 minutes more, until tender and lightly browned.

2) Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Cook for 20 minutes or so.

3) To assemble, divide the cooked quinoa evenly between 2 plates or bowls and season it with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted sweet potato rounds, edamame, carrots, green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, hemp seeds and sprouts. Drizzle with Orange-Maple Miso Dressing and enjoy!


In a mini or regular food processor, combine the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, orange juice, water and maple syrup and process until well combined.

Source: Oh She Glows Cookbook

Homemade-so-you-know-what-you’re-eating Energy Bars (that happen to be vegan)

Ever wonder if your “energy bar” is really more like a candy bar with a good marketing firm? If not, you should. Make a batch of these and they’ll last you for weeks (and won’t clean out your wallet like those bars).

Super-Scrumptious Homemade-so-you-know-what-you’re-eating Energy Bars
(Thanks to New Jersey restaurant Wildflower for this recipe, published in a book we love, Virgin Vegan)

3 c quick oats
6 oz chocolate chips (dairy-free if possible)
½ c shredded coconut
½ c sunflower seeds
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c sliced almonds
½ c dried cranberries or raisins
1 c nut butter of your choice
½ c agave syrup
½ c brown rice syrup
½ T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and liquid ingredients in a small bowl. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry; mix well. Pour batter into an 8” x 8” (or similar) baking pan and press evenly with spatula until mixture is well distributed. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until top is light brown. Remove from oven and cool.

What's in YOUR energy bar?
What’s in YOUR energy bar?

Can be cut into bars once cooled. Keeps at room temperature for weeks! (But can be frozen for extended time.)

Cleanses and Detoxes and Superfoods….and YOU??

What's in your stash?
What’s in your stash?

Where do you fit in with all these trends? Is it all hype to you? Or are you on Day 3 of your please-don’t-mention-food-to-me juice cleanse?

Does your diet have enough color, variety, antioxidants, nutrition, ahem, produce to keep you healthy? It is so hard to know in this age of powders and mega-nutrients packaged affordably and at eye-level, making us question whether we really are getting enough sea vegetables in our daily intake of normal-people food.

I myself have bought into it, to a degree. I mean, I have my shelves of nutritional supplements, including Spirulina, chia seeds and “Power Fuel.” I do feel good about these few add-ins, but in truth, I wonder if I even need to take my daily multivitamin anymore, now that I’m hyperconscious of every bite I take, and now that plants have become the largest slice on the pie chart that is my diet. If I consciously eat bell peppers simply because I haven’t had enough color in my diet yet today, I think it’s likely I’m at a point where my diet doesn’t need supplementing.

But what if it does? The constant barrage of news and findings in the media keeps us wondering, and there’s just something about second-guessing when it comes to your health. You don’t want to do it.

So, what’s my advice? As usual, everything in moderation. That means, if your heart is telling you it’s time for a juice cleanse, then try it. But don’t do 30 days; do 10 days. Take a look at the supplements out there, then take a look at your diet. Know that the supplements are not going to do the work of a good diet. They are not going to keep you healthy if you swallow them and then sit down to a greasy hamburger. My advice is to always eat consciously, aware of the nutrients you are consuming. Only then can you decide if your diet is lacking in something. If you scan the aisles at Whole Foods the sheer number of supplements available can be overwhelming…even enticing. But necessary? I’m not so sure.

A Good Time for Transformation

The way I see it, life is pretty mundane unless you’re working on some sort of transformation. Giving up smoking, becoming vegetarian, becoming a parent—whether it’s a small or huge change, there’s a reason every year begins with New Year’s resolutions and the excitement about “starting fresh.” Life would be a long walk on a treadmill if we didn’t throw some challenges in its wake every now and again.

We love us a good transformation. It’s my favorite part of a talk show—when they show the grizzly bear of a man in the “before” picture, and then have the Men’s Health cover-ready version walk out on stage in the “after” version. Or the dowdy woman who has never cut her hair or shopped at a mall who walks out in a trendy new ‘do and J. Crew outfit? Forget about it. It makes me tear up. And I just bet it has the same effect on you.

In my world, the transformations I see most often are flabby to tight. Weak to strong. Heavy to much, much lighter. Carnivore to herbivore. Mindless to thoughtful. You see, becoming a healthier being is not just about waking up early to get your 30 minutes in at the gym. It’s also about transforming yourself, mind, body and spirit. Imagine you are going to be the guest on that talk show: what would your “before” picture look like? And what about the “after”? What is it you hope to transform?

I consider myself a constant work in progress. My body—that’s a given. I’m always finding ways to push myself to higher boundaries. But spiraling out of that is the diet transformation, which has gone from vegetarian to mostly vegan, always looking for more ways to be more plant-based and learning, learning, learning…. It’s genuinely a thrill. Then there’s the spiritual, metaphysical part of me that’s goading my transformation from a reluctant successful trainer to allowing myself to ask, what if? What if I do allow my business to blossom? What if things get big? What if?

I do love a good walk on a treadmill, but I can’t imagine being stuck on it for too long. I stay inspired by watching the transformative successes of my clients, and by creating new challenges for myself all the time. What does your “after” picture look like? What small steps can you take now to get yourself from here to there?

Just a typical Thursday night dinner (aka thank G-d my husband is the cook)

The answer to “What do you eat for protein?” (Which is, by the way, the most tired question. A) Do you really still buy into the “man-beating-chest must have protein” way of thinking? and B) By now, you must know about legumes, lentils, tofu, nut butters……..)
Cast Iron Stir-Fry With Avocado, Basil & Peanuts from PPK
Cast Iron Stir-Fry With Avocado, Basil & Peanuts from PPK

I’m loving my citrusy summery juice

I’ve been enjoying my morning juice so much lately, I thought I’d share an updated summery recipe. Into the Vitamix, I throw:

About 6 oz water

A quarter of a grapefruit

1 whole Clementine orange

A light grating of fresh ginger

A handful of spinach or kale

A sprig of parsley

4-5 baby carrots

About 1/4 cup frozen mango or pineapple (instead of ice)

Add some green powder if you use it (we use Amazing Grass Raw Reserve), but even without, what a blast of nutrients in your glass! I hope you love it like I do.


Are You a Nibbler?

Does this sound familiar: You head over to your parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, hang out a while, and finally sit down to the table for the grand meal… only to find that your mom won’t be fixing herself a plate. Apparently she’s been “nibbling all day” and is no longer hungry. Right? Heard that one?

It happens all the time, not just on holidays, and it might be sabotaging the good moves you’ve made in the diet arena. It’s sampling as you cook, or it’s eating what the kids left over, or it’s munching on the crust of the pizza when the box has long been abandoned. All these little bites—the ones that don’t make it onto your food diary log—add up, and their total calories could be worth noting.

You might be thinking “I totally do that!” but you might also be thinking “Do I do that?” There are people who consciously nibble as they bake or cook, and there are people who do it without realizing they do it. It’s time to start paying attention. If you prepare dinner for your family but find you have little appetite when it’s time to plate the food, you are likely a nibbler. Try to notice what your hands and jaws are doing while you’re cooking.

If you know you’re guilty already, curb the problem by first identifying why you do it—do you feel guilty throwing your kids’ uneaten food away? No problem. Pack it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow, or add it to the compost bin. You might just consistently cook more than you need to. Prepare less, let your family eat it all, and if they’re still hungry, offer them an apple. Do you hate to leave just one bite (not enough to put in Tupperware)? Pause just long enough to think—is it really worth adding that bite to my midsection? I thought not. Women especially have a tough time tossing out perfectly good food. It’s probably got something to do with starving children in Africa. It’s a good instinct, but it’s not our fault those kids are starving, and adding inches to our midlines is not going to feed anyone else’s kids.

As you nibble while you cook, start writing it down. Don’t make it official—little bites don’t need to be recorded in My Fitness Pal—but keep a notepad by your cutting board, and as you nibble, scribble it down. I think by the fifth time you have to wipe your hands to pick up the pen to note yet another “tiny bite,” you might be cured—for the day anyway!

What this all amounts to is adding some consciousness to your food preparing. Realize that all those little bites of crust add up to calories you absolutely didn’t need that day, and would have been perfectly fine without. Occasional tasting is fine. It’s the habitual nibbling that might be the reason you can’t seem to part with those last couple of unwanted pounds.

Energy for a Rainy Day

Made another batch of my yummy version of energy bars this morning.

It was storming and the whole family was hanging out in the kitchen. What better to do than bake vegan cookies and roll up some energy balls to store in the fridge for the week? These little bite-size treats are made with nothing but real food–dried fruit, nut butter, and honey. The original recipe can be found here.

Energy Bites
Just two of these might take the edge off your hunger pre-workout.

Reacquaint yourself with these homemade “energy bars.” You can add flaxseeds, chia seeds, even protein powder if you like. Your body (and pocketbook) will thank you for making them yourself. 

WWKE? (or What Would Karen Eat?)

I have been asked on occasion to keep my own (public) food diary, so that you all can see what a normal, not superhuman, mostly vegan, highly food-conscious person eats all day. I thought today would be a good day to start because it’s a typical atypical day—we all have them—when work started earlier than usual, I’m a little bit sleep deprived, it’s date/yoga night so we eat dinner out….

Anyway, here’s what has entered my body today, as of 11:30am:

1 cup of coffee with splash of soy creamer

Small bowl of Barbara’s cereal (what’s it called? My son calls it the “hexagon cereal”) with rice milk and blueberries

Trained one client

Almond Dream yogurt

Trained another client

Oatmeal. Finally! This is what I usually start with. ½ cup of oats, sprinkling of raisins and walnuts, some blueberries, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and 1 cup of rice milk.

I also drank my tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (mixed with water), and just made a glass of juice to take with me into my next class.

Juice: About 6 oz diet cranberry juice (less than 1g sugar and only 5 calories) with a splash of Trader Joe’s Beet and Purple Carrot juice (because I’m trying my damnedest to use it up—blech), half a banana, 2 sections of grapefruit (I ate another quarter of it while preparing), 1 tablespoon Amazing Grass Green Superfood. My basic recipe is in an earlier post, which you can find here.

This will take me through till 1pm when class is over.


Small bowl of leftover collards and rice alongside also leftover Moroccan deliciousness that is chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, spinach and spices. I haven’t had it yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll wrap it up in the kitchen with a square—one square—of dark chocolate.

Now it’s 4:00 and I’m heating the water for some tea. Just had a tangerine as I opened to this screen and started typing.


Ain’t gonna lie: About half (small pieces broken off at a time) of a large matzah cracker toasted with a thin spread of peanut butter. While preparing the kids’ dinner I got my evening smoothie ready: almond milk, 1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter, a cup or 2 of spinach, dash of cinnamon, half a banana, half an apple, some ice. That’s it until yoga’s over, around 9:30 tonight.

So we made it home by 9:40 with our standard post-Bikram dinner (since Farm Burger is across the street and it’s WAY too late to cook): Salad of the day (dressing on the side, of course), side of farro and kale with carrots and caramelized onions (this could have been my whole dinner, super yum), and a quinoa burger with arugula, pickled onions, and honey mustard—again, on the side—restaurants highly overdress sandwiches. I put half my sandwich in the fridge to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Mike and Davin make cookies often (and often before Mike goes to work in the morning—there’s sometimes no negotiating with a 3-year-old), so we usually have a cookie for dessert. I feel good about it because we know what went into them, they’re vegan, and they are well-darn-earned.