Having been vegetarian for most of my life, nutrition was not always an easy path because of the limited food choices available. There weren’t as many plant-based foods as there is now. Back when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a “veggie burger.” If you wanted a veggie burger, you ordered “Big Mac minus the meat.” Talk about ‘deer in the headlight stares’ every time I placed my order.
Fast-forward to 2014 when gluten sensitivities entered into my already scant food menu. The reactions were severe enough that even one bite of gluten would leave me inflamed and sick for days.
My love-hate relationship with food ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise. To be honest, I enjoyed the study of fitness and body movements more than I did about the role of nutrition in the healing process. But now, I had no choice but to understand why certain foods affected us the way it did.
As I began to understand the process of how crops were grown to how they made their way onto the shelves, I knew it was time for another change in this journey. It was then that I decided to make a conscious choice to eliminate dairy from my diet.
With no meat, no gluten, and no dairy available on my list, I developed a frustration with nutrition. Initially it was a daily struggle to find something that quenched my hunger and satisfied my cravings.
I knew there were endless combinations that would have allowed me to be creative in whipping up some unique delicacies. There were also certainly no limits on the number of online resources had I just googled “gluten-free vegan food.” But the truth was, I didn’t have enough patience to be creative. This led me back to resorting to all of the processed foods I worked so hard to walk away from.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love to cook and am pretty good at it when I take the time and stay present with the process of creating.
A few weeks of eating from a box left me feeling swollen, tired, anxious and imbalanced.
That was when I accepted that nutrition was more than just eating. Nutrition was life.
I had to be realistic and straight and transparent with myself on how much time I wanted to spend in the kitchen. So, I quickly learned to put together recipes that were easy, nutritionally dense and could be made in batches and stored.
No doubt a huge learning curve for someone who would rather be doing anything else other than spending time in the kitchen. But it was where I needed to be!
I am still learning. The kitchen may look like a tornado struck the same spot twice, but in the whirlwind of the chaos emerges the essence of healing-nutrition!
Listen, the pandemic has knocked us off of everything we knew to be safe. So if you , like many others, put on a few pounds during this time, don’t sweat it. If your anxiety levels are escalating thinking of the winter days ahead, don’t sweat it.
The body is magnificent and can reset with a little discipline and effort.
Just to have some fun this month and to get you motivated in the process, I want to share with you three of my favorite original recipes. These are by no means an elaborate creation. But for me, they satisfy my sweet cravings and bring comfort to my soul. I hope they do the same for you.
- Banana Energy Bites:
¼ cup chopped nuts of your choice
¼ cup sweetened Baker’s coconut
½ cup peanut butter
½ – ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
1 scoop protein powder (optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Spread into greased 9 x 13 pan or make into equal size balls. Place in fridge for 3 hours. Can place in freezer if prefer more crunchier texture. Cut into squares.
Enjoy for breakfast or mid-day snack.
- Indian lentil soup
1 cup lentils (any variety)
Choice of any vegetables-fresh, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger grated
½ stick cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tablespoons oil
Curry masala powder (available at any ethnic grocery store)
Red chili powder (optional for spicier variety)
Salt to taste
½ can coconut milk (optional)
Chopped coriander to garnish
Soak lentils for 3-4 hours.
In large pain, heat oil. Once heated, add fennel seeds. Allow it to turn slightly brown. Then add onions, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, ginger, cinnamon. Saute until brown. Add vegetables and saute. Add 2 tsp masala powder and salt. Mix so vegetables are fully coated.
Drain lentils and add to mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 tsp more masala powder (adjust to taste) and red chili powder (if desired) and salt.
Add enough water to cover to top of lentil mixture. Cover with lid on medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Continue to add more water until lentils have cooked.
Add ½ can of coconut milk and allow to boil for 5 minutes.
Turn off stove and garnish with coriander leaves.
Enjoy as a soup, with naan or on top of warm fluffy rice.
- Cream Cheese Sandwich (Can substitute dairy free spread cheese and gluten free bread)
1 tub cream cheese
1 shredded cucumber
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup shredded carrots
Red chili powder
Indian Chaat masala (optional. Available at Asian grocery stores)
Salt to taste
Mix cream cheese, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots. Whip until frothy. Add desired taste of chili powder, paparika, chaat masala and salt. Store in refrigerator in air tight container.
Enjoy on bread, dollar rolls, crackers. Or use as your favorite vegetable dip.
These are just a few fun creations I enjoy having around and hope it will spark the same for you.
Planning ahead and understanding how important nutrition is in our healing allows for us to live a life that can be enjoyed without having to compromise on some our favorites.
I am by no means a recipe developer. I am just a girl with a sweet tooth who values the meaning of living your best life, but knows it is perfectly ok to have your cake and eat it too!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.
Eating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.
Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.
Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.
So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!
The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!
- Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
- Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
- Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
- Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
- Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
- Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
- Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
- Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
- Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!
Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.
Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!