Jump Start Your Plant-Based Life!

Stumped about where to start your new plant-powered lifestyle? I suggest starting one meal at a time. Find a recipe that looks delicious and only slightly ambitious, go out and explore one or two new-to-you ingredients, and then go home and get cooking. Do that once a week for a while, and before you know it, you’ll have a stocked pantry and some basics for your meal-making rotation.

To help you out on your journey, I post our family’s weekly dinner menu on Instagram. We shop on Saturdays to have what we need for a week of delicious dinners. The more ambitious or time-consuming ones we save for the weekend. Sometimes we roll a recipe over into the next week. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s a guide, and it might just inspire you to make your kitchen your favorite restaurant–like ours is to us!

Strength training for beginners… & thinking about going veg?

It’s so cliché, but this is the perfect time of year to think about making a big change. Sometimes we just need a flip of the calendar to switch us into a new gear! If you know you need to lift heavy things once in a while but have no idea what to do with a set of dumbbells, I’m offering a 6-week workshop this January just for you. It won’t be easy, but it will be basic. We’ll take the time to correct form and make sure you’ll know how to venture into the free-weights area of your gym by February.

And if you already do plenty of exercise but need a little tweak to your diet to make a change, try going meat- and dairy-free. Or at least eat less of them. You think you can’t live without cheese, but guess what, not only can you live, but you’ll live longer. And much happier. There are so many (SO MANY) reasons to let go of those animal products, and your weight is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be fooled by the meat and dairy lobbies that try to brainwash you into thinking you need animal protein to be healthy. Educate yourself about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I’m not saying it’s all or nothing. But trust me: eat more plants.

If you follow me on Instagram (@karenthefitnessgirl) you’ll even find a weekly menu, complete with recipe sources, that shares what our family is eating…posted in time for you to hit the grocery store before the week begins!

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

http://minimalistbaker.com/sweet-potato-chickpea-buddha-bowl/

Smoky Tempeh Burrito Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/smoky-tempeh-burrito-bowls/

Plantain & Black Bean Tacos

http://minimalistbaker.com/spicy-plantain-black-bean-tacos/

Mediterranean Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/the-ultimate-mediterranean-bowl/

Roasted Butternut Alfredo

http://www.theppk.com/2012/10/roasted-butternut-alfredo/

 

Fat. And Happy?

Lindy West has decided to “come out” as a fat person. She told the world about it on This American Life last week, so she’s sticking by it. Rather than feeling like “a thin person who has been failing her entire life,” she’s just fat. Not overweight—just fat. And she’s okay with it.

I really do get that on a certain level. It must be some kind of difficult to feel anxious about your body and diet every single day of your life. Yet, as a fitness professional, I can’t help but think, “But I can help put you on the right path! Don’t give up!”

I have heavy clients with the energy and enthusiasm of thin people. I also have heavy clients who talk more than they (literally) walk, which is frustrating for both of us. Some say they don’t care how they look, just want more energy to do normal daily activities. Some really, really care how they look. Everyone is different, with different motivations, and yet, I wonder, what must it be like for someone who is overweight (sorry, I’m just not ready to say “fat”) to really truly give up the fight? Or maybe I’m asking, is it really truly possible to give up—for real?? To just ignore the extra weight?

I’m going to go on doing what I do, because my passion is helping people learn to live a healthier lifestyle—whether it’s initially for weight loss or not doesn’t even matter because a healthier lifestyle leads to weight loss in the end. I really do see overweight people turn into smaller versions of themselves in my work, and that always pleases both me and my client. But I’m open to listening to people like Lindy West, and trying to be less judge-y, and learning from those who fight that fight every day. I can’t imagine what it must be like. I might be able to understand why a person would want to find peace with who she is right now rather than always striving to be someone else, saving that peace for a time that, honestly, might never come.

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

Ingredients
(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

ASSEMBLE:

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!

MAKE THE ORANGE-MAPLE MISO DRESSING:

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.)