by Sarah Lawrence | Dec 7, 2020 | Cooking, Nutrition
Healthy Eating Tips Every Vegetarian Needs to Know
Are Meatless Mondays intriguing? Wondering what vegetarians eat and how vegans get protein? Tasty, healthy, socially conscious plant-based meals can be part of any diet… and yet, this dietary approach is always prompting a lot of questions. How about digging in a little with me as I share the healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?
What is a vegetarian diet?
- A vegetarian diet is one excluding meat, poultry and seafood.
- A fully plant-based vegan diet is further excluding eggs and dairy.
Now, you might be thinking that vegetarian diets all include a lot of vegetables… right? Unfortunately, not all do. There are plenty of junk foods that are vegetarian and vegan. Oreos, twinkies, potato chips, mashed potatoes, french fries, processed meat substitutes, etc are all junk food options. Grains, nuts, and plant fats are also vegetarian and vegan. Occasionally, those foods are okay, but a diet of those alone is lacking! While we think that the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” are health conscious, they do not necessarily mean “healthy.”
Well-planned, balanced, nutrient-dense vegetarian and vegan diets, on the other hand, focus on plant foods that are packed with nutrients. This type of diet can be appropriate for people of all ages including infants, children, teens and pregnant and breastfeeding women, adults and seniors.
Are there health benefits?
Yes! First, vegetarians often have healthier body weight, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians. In addition, rates of heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes is also lower in plant-based eaters. These health benefits may result from higher intake of fiber and phytonutrients from fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts along with lower intakes of saturated fats.
Healthy Plant-Based Foods
- Veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Choosing vibrant colors, especially orange, red and dark green ensures that your diet will contain plenty of vital nutrients.
- Broccoli, bok choy and collard greens provide calcium; Spinach, iron and bell peppers, Vitamin C. The list goes on and on!
- Fresh is best, frozen is fine. Most frozen produce is flash frozen at the peak of freshness so you do not lose any nutrition AND you get the benefit of the best flavor!
- For canned veg, be looking for brands that don’t add salt. Choose BPA free cans to reduce exposure to those extra toxins.
- Colorful, seasonal fruits supply fiber, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants that help your body fight free radicals and stay healthy.
- Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits, including fresh, frozen and canned with no added sugar.
- Berries are low glycemic, meaning they do not trigger a big spike in blood sugar when eaten in moderation. Their fiber content is part of the secret that maintains blood sugar balance.
- Whole grains can be part of a healthy diet.
- Quinoa and millet are high in protein and gluten-free.
- Wild rice, buckwheat and gluten free oats are packed with fiber and nutrients.
- Steer clear of refined flours, pasta and breads in favor of whole grain options.
- Some people are sensitive to gluten, lectins and phytates. These are natural components of most grains. If you feel tired, bloated, achy or otherwise “off” after eating grains, this may be an issue for you.
- It’s a myth that vegetarians have a hard time getting enough protein!
- All plant foods are made up of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein!
- Just like gorillas can get their protein from grasses and plants, so too can you!
- Beans, peas and lentils are packed with protein and have the added benefit of iron, zinc and fiber.
- Nuts, seeds and soy products are also great choices.
- My favorites, quinoa and hemp contain all the amino acids to make a complete protein!
- Healthy plant-based fats promote brain health and have cardiovascular benefits.
- Fats are needed for fertility and to create easily passed stool too!
- Coconut oil, avocado and avocado oil and olive oil can be part of a healthy diet.
- Nuts and seeds are also sources of healthy fats.
- Dairy milk, yogurt and cheese contain calcium but it is a form that the body cannot easily absorb. On the other hand, non-dairy alternatives are fortified and don’t include the risks of hormones and animal by-products.
- Nuts milks, hemp milk, oat milk, coconut milk and soymilk are all readily available.
- Rice milk is another option. However, it tends to be overly sweetened and is generally not an everyday choice. All rice is a natural source of arsenic. Some varieties contain more than others. In general, rice should be an occasional food.
Beautiful, Healthy Plant-based Meal and Snack Ideas
A healthy vegetarian or vegan eating style depends on variety. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Spread mashed avocado on a slice of whole-grain or gluten free bread and top with sprouts and hemp seeds for a balance of protein, fat and fiber!
- Spread almond butter on a whole-grain toasted bagel and top with thin apple slices.
- Soaking ½ cup gluten free oats overnight in 1 cup non-dairy milk and topping with nuts and fresh fruit or dried cranberries in the morning makes for a quick breakfast
- Whole-grain toaster waffle topped with blueberries and tahini
- Veg burger or falafel with non-dairy cheese, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce and pickles on a whole-grain bun
- Salad: leafy greens, cut-up vegetables, beans or tofu, fruit, nuts, hemp seeds
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread with carrot and celery sticks
- Avocado roll with seaweed salad and miso soup
- Start with chili made with beans, lentils and quinoa. Then, top with shredded non-dairy cheese and add a side of cornbread and salad
- Whole-grain pasta with tomato sauce plus vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and onions) and a gorgeous green salad
- Pizza with or without cheese, topped with your favorite vegetables and arugula
- Tacos or burritos filled with beans, corn, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cilantro and avocado
- Vegetable stir-fry with quinoa
- Butternut squash soup with a mixed salad and whole grain flatbread
- Use baked russet or sweet potato as a base. Then, top with sautéed mushrooms, broccoli and melted Daiya cheese and chives. Or, try hempseeds, avocado, minced parsley and pine nuts.
- Hummus with pita wedges, celery sticks, bell pepper strips and carrots
- Prepare and keep sliced veggies and fruits in the fridge for quick snacking and meal prep.
- Top a bagel with nut butter
- Coconut Yogurt layered with crunchy granola, hemp seeds and sliced fruit
- Enjoy a cup of vegetable soup and whole grain crackers
- Mashed avocado topped with crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt
What is your dietary approach? Is plant-based eating something you would try? Sharing is caring… do you have any other healthy eating tips every vegetarian needs to know?
Want a copy of these tips in a handy pdf? Click here for instant access –> Healthy Eating Tips for vegetarians
by Sarah Lawrence | Nov 18, 2020 | Cooking, Digestion, Exercise & movement, Health, Immune & Inflammatory Balance, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Nutrition
4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck
Do you have a desire to improve your health, but you find yourself not knowing where to start?
Does a holistic mind, body, and soul approach feel good to you? Let’s walk through some basics that may be just the thing you need!
Making small changes and shifting based on how your body responds is a simple way to get started on your health. The goal is balance, right? Having the energy to do the things you desire, while feeling really good and being productive so that you can be your best self… You deserve that!
Now, you may think that untangling health imbalance is complicated… and it can be! But, getting started is quite easy.
Here are my 4 Simple Nutritionist Approved Ways to Get Started when You Feel Stuck:
#1. Identify Areas That Need Support
The very first thing you need to is to identify the areas where you need support. Do you struggle with digestive issues or acne or PMS? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you need to lose a few pounds? Or maybe you need time management strategies to help balance time for work, home, social life and self-care?
#2. Track The Basics
Jot down how you sleep, how you feel, your energy level, when you poop (and the quality of your poop).
Why journal? Easy – taking a mental note doesn’t let you review and assess. Actually jotting down the basics lets you actually SEE what’s going on rather than guessing. It may seem overwhelming to journal like that… and if it does, I want you to ask yourself what’s more overwhelming: jotting down a couple things during the day or continuing to feel off your game and not knowing what to do about it?
The beauty of this step and this “ask” is that it’s all about your individual path to wellbeing; no one else’s. You
#3. Track Your Diet
Before you raise your hand and point out that this is another thing to jot in your journal, know that I get it… this is a slightly bigger ask. Thing is, this is no more difficult and really doesn’t take much time. Just jot down what you eat in addition to basics or use an app like MyFitnessPal, to track your diet each day (BONUS points if you track what you’re doing for fitness too!)
Thing is, you don’t have to track forever. This is a for now thing. This is a couple of weeks thing.
#4. Assess and Respond with One Shift
- You made a list of a few things that you think need support.
- You tracked the basics for a few weeks.
- The next thing to do is review your work and assess the situation.
It may surprise you to see that you feel snippy the day after you eat dairy or have less energy on days when you drink less water. Be on the lookout for shifts in focus and memory when you have a difficult night’s sleep and look for changes in your poop around your monthly cycle (yep, that’s a thing).
Once you have the data, one or two things will probably stick out. It may be obvious what action to take to support yourself. For example, if you bloat or breakout after eating dairy, then the logical step would be to ease off the dairy.
If nothing sticks out, go back to your list of things that you know need some work. My suggestion is to experiment for a few weeks and see what happens if you avoid gluten, dairy, caffeine and processed sugar. Those four things are known troublemakers that can disrupt hormones, sleep, digestion/absorption and blood sugar. So many health issues are rooted in those four factors.
Why This Process Works
This process is similar to the model I use as a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner. The ART of Functional Practice includes Assessment, Recommendation and Tracking. Basically, we can’t know what steps to take until we have a clear picture of what’s happening. It’s why I don’t recommend particular supplements or targeted strategies to people in the produce aisle and the same reason neurosurgeons don’t diagnose people at the dinner table. Trusted practitioners take the time to use the tools and training that we know will get results and ensure your safety.
Tapping into the Functional process provides you with a framework not only for action, but for success! Take the four simple steps outlined above and get started. You’ll see that it’s easy to step out of overwhelm when you break it down and start slow. Track your basics and use that information to improve your quality of life as you continue your journey to overall wellbeing.
Start your journey from stuck to health savvy.
- Download your free journal page by clicking here (no strings attached – it’s instant access!)
- Print as many copies as you need AND commit to use them for at least 2 weeks.
- Post below and let me know if you like the worksheets and if this strategy is helpful.
Making a ton of changes all at once can actually cloud the picture! Try the 4 simple ways I outlined above and get started when you feel stuck… your mission is to start small, keep it simple and keep it up!
by Sarah Lawrence | Sep 25, 2020 | Digestion, Health, Hormones & Neurotransmitters, Immune & Inflammatory Balance, Mind, Spirit, Emotions, Nutrition
In a world where more people are turning to prescription and supplement sleep aids, a whole food solution for sleep and health may not be the first choice. However, as a Functional Nutrition & Lifestyle Practitioner, whole foods and natural options are my go-to. If a good night’s sleep is a challenge for you, join me. I will share my secret bedtime drink for people who need better sleep.
Turmeric is one of the most researched plants on the planet. Over 8000 scientific studies explore and confirm turmeric’s medicinal properties. Everything from depression and diabetes, to inflammation and blood pressure regulation; even liver detoxification and immune system support!
This is an ingredient that you definitely want to have on hand.
First, the good news: turmeric is affordable and available. Second, it has a neutral taste. Third, it is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Hint: it’s the star of our bedtime elixir recipe!
Traditionally, turmeric is used in teas, curries, broths and herbal supplements. Those are great ways to get turmeric into play. But, as a healthy foodie, you are probably familiar with adding turmeric to a meal.
Here’s my truth:
I’ve had a relationship with turmeric for years. It’s been in my soups and stews. I toss in with my potatoes and pasta sauces. It even gets added into my morning smoothies! As a student of Ayurveda, I learned that daily use of turmeric could have a profoundly positive impact on my health. So, we’ve been in a hot little relationship ever since!
Turmeric tea sipped throughout the day is a go-to if I’m feeling bloated or at all inflamed. I simply slice a piece of turmeric root and a piece of ginger. Then, I grate them and add to a pot with water. Finally, simmer, steep and sip.
Incorporating turmeric into my nighttime routine has been magical. You deserve something magical, too!
Turmeric And Coconut Milk Bedtime Elixir
Turmeric-infused coconut milk is delicious and warming. Try this before bed to improve digestion. It can calm the nervous system and help prepare you for restful sleep. Best results will be seen over time. The ingredients work to nourish and replenish your body.
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 2 tsp powdered turmeric or 2 tbsp peeled, fresh turmeric
- 2 tsp powdered ginger or 2 tbsp peeled, fresh ginger
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup, raw honey OR a squirt of liquid stevia
- 12 peppercorns, gently crushed
- First, combine everything except the coconut oil into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
- Next, let the mixture bubble gently for about 5 minutes, then shut off the heat.
- After about 5 minutes of cooling, strain the mixture through cheesecloth (or a fine strainer if you prefer a smoother texture).
- Finally, taste and add maple syrup, honey or stevia if desired!
The Amazing Benefits and WHY You Should Consider This Turmeric Coconut Bedtime Elixir:
- Coconut Milk And Coconut Oil – The fiber and fat content of coconut are what help coax sound sleep. Fiber and fat support balanced blood sugar.
- Ginger – Natural anti-inflammatory that can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, bursitis and other musculoskeletal issues. Particularly calming for the digestive tract. For sleep, it’s the melatonin present in ginger that seals the deal!
- Nutmeg – Acts as a natural relaxant in small doses.
- Black Pepper – piperine in pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin. It contains nutrients, including manganese, iron and vitamin K. Also, commonly used to calm digestive issues.
Bonus Tip –
Some golden milk recipes include cinnamon. As a Functional Nutritionist, I encourage you to skip cinnamon at bedtime. Why? Because cinnamon is more of a stimulant. Traditional aromatherapy uses cassia and cinnamon oil to promote alertness. While the scent is warm and comforting, the spice helps stimulate digestive fire. So, save cinnamon for the morning cup!
by Sarah Lawrence | Aug 25, 2020 | Digestion, Health, Immune & Inflammatory Balance, Nutrition
Before I tell you everything you need to know about turmeric tea, I need to share a bit about turmeric itself.
Turmeric is a plant that is native to Southeast Asia. It is in the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family. The turmeric root has been used as an herbal ally for thousands of years in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
78 percent of the global supply of turmeric comes from India. While turmeric powder, teas and supplements are available in health stores or online, you can also buy turmeric root in most grocery stores (and you can even grow it at home!).
In this article, we look at some of the health benefits. I’m also going to share everything you need to know about turmeric tea! Why turmeric tea? Let’s find out…
What is Turmeric Tea and Why Drink It?
Turmeric tea is made by simmering grated turmeric or turmeric powder in water. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is fat soluble. This is why a little ghee or coconut milk is needed. To unlock the potential of the curcumin and improve bioavailability, we pair turmeric with a healthy fat.
There is no specific recommendation for daily intake of turmeric. Studies suggest 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric powder, three times daily, or 1 to 3 grams of grated fresh turmeric root is safe. Your trusted practitioner can help determine a good amount. Until then, a mug of turmeric tea daily can be an easy way to add a little turmeric goodness into your life.
Making Turmeric Tea
Turmeric tea can be prepared using fresh or dried turmeric root. Here is my easy recipe:
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated turmeric root OR 1 teaspoon dried, ground turmeric
- 4 cups water
- coconut milk
Add the turmeric to the water in a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Set the pan on low heat on your stove and bring it to a simmer. You want small bubbles, but not boiling. Simmer for 10 minutes and shut off the heat. Allow the tea to steep for another 10 minutes before straining. Pour into a cup with a splash of full fat coconut milk or a little coconut oil or ghee to improve absorption (because curcumin needs fat!)
- Add a little raw honey or a few drops of stevia or monk fruit, to sweeten the tea. Raw honey adds to the anti-microbial properties.
- Add crushed black pepper to the turmeric and water before simmering. Black pepper contains piperine, which also helps curcumin absorption.
- Add sliced or grated fresh ginger with the turmeric for a warming, spicy beverage.
- Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
Some Benefits of Turmeric
A July 2017 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine reported that the active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, can help in treating chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis (other autoimmune arthritis conditions likely too), Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. The review also found that turmeric may also help protect from cancers like lung, colon, skin cancers, stomach and breast cancer. And, curcumin looks promising for treating asthma, pulmonary and cystic fibrosis, lung cancer or injury, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties; all are known to improve immune function.
- Curcumin helps reduce pain and inflammation.
Turmeric is a traditional Ayurvedic and TCM remedy for many digestive conditions. Several studies have found that curcumin reduces pain associated with IBS and improve the quality of life of those people with the condition.
For people with transit time issues, it is possible that turmeric tea can help. A 2012 study in rats found that curcumin helped with speed gastric emptying (the time it takes for food to empty from the stomach to the small intestine). This may be beneficial for gastroparesis.
Who is this NOT good for?
Believe it or not, turmeric is not a good choice for everyone.
The National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network states no adverse effects are expected at doses of up to 8,000 milligrams per day.
Although turmeric is considered safe and non-toxic as a food, supplement and topical, there are studies that show turmeric can cause gastrointestinal issues in some people. High doses or long term use can cause stomach problems, according to The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Because turmeric contains oxalates, people who need a low oxalate diet or who have a history of kidney stones may want to use turmeric more sparingly than others.
People who are anemic likely should not supplement with high doses of turmeric. If you develop symptoms of anemia while taking or eating turmeric, consult with your doctor. This study has more information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414192/
Use of supplemental turmeric is contraindicated for people who are taking medications including:
- antiplatelet meds,
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
If you have stomach issues or take any drugs of these types or if you are unsure, talk to your doctor. These warnings only apply to the supplemental form of turmeric. Turmeric is safe to use in its natural whole food form in cooking or in skin preparations unless you are allergic!
A Couple More Things You Should Know
Turmeric is a dark yellow-orange colored root.
- When you work with the fresh root, your fingers and cutting board may be temporarily stained.
- Teeth staining may also occur, but swishing with water or brushing normally should remove it immediately.
- If you have a temporary crown or plastic aligners, turmeric may stain permanently.
- Turmeric makes a great yellow dye for fabric!
Now you know about turmeric, where it grows, what benefits it offers, how to make it into a delicious tea and how to figure out if it’s a good choice for you!
If you decide to make turmeric a regular part of your diet, consider using a food mood poop journal to document your experience and help yourself assess your body’s response.
by Sarah Lawrence | Aug 25, 2020 | Cooking, Health, Nutrition
The better your kitchen is stocked, the more choices you will have at dinnertime. Here is a list of 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast. Most are shelf-stable, but a few require refrigeration.
10 Things to Keep in Your Pantry if You Want to Make Healthy Meals Fast
- Canned or aseptic pack beans: versatile and convenient. Beans like chickpeas, kidney, cannellini and black beans add protein and nutrients to salads, pastas, quinoa or rice dishes and soups. Puree them to make dressings, sauces, and dips. For veggie burgers, mix with cooked rice or quinoa, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, or nuts. Mash, shape and bake until crisp on the edges. The recipe here is one of my favorites – if you try it, post a picture to Facebook or Instagram and tag me!
- Bottled/Jarred pasta sauce: great for a quick and easy pasta meal (avoid hidden sugar by reading labels!) To make sauces taste fresh, sauté minced garlic in olive oil, add the sauce and simmer. Season with dried herbs like cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne. Top with fresh basil. A splash of wine can deepen flavor further.
- Quick-cooking grains and pastas: rice noodles, kelp noodles, konjac noodles, quinoa, pre-cooked brown rice, chickpea pasta, soba (buckwheat) noodles. Toss with olive oil or sauce. Cold noodle salads with peanut sauce, sliced veggies, and torn basil. Add to broth with a baby spinach for a quick soup.
- Oats: Blend oats with water to make creamy oat milk. Mix with an equal amount of water before bed and you will have breakfast ready to go. Roll oats with nut butter and hemp seeds to form snack balls.
- Cooked polenta: available in a log shape that you can open and slice. Great topped with marinara sauce, chili or sautéed greens and veggies. Polenta can be cut into crouton shapes, baked until crispy and used as a crunchy topper for salads and soups!
- Hemp hearts: Neutral, almost nutty tasting plant protein with healthy omega-3 fats and micronutrients. Blend with water for hemp milk or a smoothie base. Make dips and dressings by blending with a little water until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs for a variety of flavors! Sprinkle on salads. Mix with herbs and sprinkle on pasta for a cheese alternative.
- Boxed coconut milk: I love boxed coconut milk for a couple of reasons. First, it is easy to separate the coconut cream from the coconut water. Coconut cream makes a quick dessert topping sweetened with a little stevia or maple syrup. Make a yogurt substitute by mixing coconut cream with a squeeze of lemon juice and the contents of a probiotic capsule. The versatility does not stop there. Coconut milk can be blended with any fruit you have on hand to make a simple smoothie. It is a great addition to a lemony broth for noodles; just add a sprinkle of chili pepper for a Thai inspired noodle dish! Add curry powder and a bit of plain tomato sauce for a delightful curry sauce that you will want to lick off the spoon! (The brand I linked is my favorite – no additives or preservatives.)
- Coconut wraps: A shelf-stable pantry alternative to tortillas. Make burritos, fajitas, and quesadillas. Use them for wrap sandwiches, layered casseroles, or super thin and crispy pizzas.
- Jarred artichoke hearts: These tender veggies have great flavor and can elevate a dish from familiar to fancy! Drain, rinse, and eat. Add them to pasta, salads, or toss with beans to make a simple meal.
- Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, cashews… Add these to salads. Blend with beans for a creamy dip or dressing. Chop fine and add to veggie burger mix for better texture. Make nut milk. Blend with broth and white beans for a creamy soup. Chop and mix with minced mushrooms, onion, and taco seasoning for an easy raw taco “meat.”
Build Your Pantry
Take the stress out of mealtime. Start building your pantry. Adding shelf-stable items that are versatile can make mealtime a breeze. It is also a comfort to have staples on hand that are not only nourishing but also tasty. Start with these 10 things to keep in your pantry if you want to make healthy meals fast. Check back for the next blog in this series that will share fridge and freezer basics.
Get More Great Tips AND Recipes
I love helping to take the stress out of mealtimes! If you have not already, signup for my mailing list below to get exclusive recipes and more simple strategies like this list of pantry staples. I want to help you use nutrition to support and improve your health. We are in this together!