Back to School: How to Eat Vegan with Julie

This past weekend, I was SO LUCKY to have my friend, Julie, visit from Chicago.

photo 1 (10)

I think the most exciting part about hosting is cooking meals for my visitors. However, this time my visitor, Julie, was vegan and I found myself in uncharted waters.

I looked to my fridge in preparation for her arrival. I realized rather quickly that I would need to do a little shopping; and perhaps I would need to defer to her expertise on cooking meals.

Luckily, she was happy to teach.

Presenting… Vegan Cooking with Julie

Here’s a few staples you’ll want to have on hand if you ever have a vegan visitor: Veganaise, Earth Balance (vegan butter), firm tofu, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, soy or almond milk, vegan sausages, sweet potatoes, granola, and plenty of vegetables/fruit.

There are so many people that consider “vegan diets” to be healthier. I haven’t experienced this to be true. I think there are a lot of different diets that lead to health and this is one possible option. It is definitely not the easiest option as the window of opportunity for eating food away from home gets much narrower- especially if you’re not living in a major US city. No one wants to be stuck eating French fries because there is nothing else “vegan” on the menu.

Also to note… It would be very difficult to follow a diabetic diet while vegan. CARBS are EVERYWHERE! Please check and double check your labels if you are a person with diabetes wanting to follow a vegan lifestyle.

For instance, check out this “cheese”

photo (8)

You see what happens up there? We went from a food that was no carb, half protein and half fat – to a food with no protein, half carbohydrate and half fat.

Am I the only one that finds this interesting? Yes. Okay. Moving on..

Julie and I made dinner on Friday night and it was excellent. Julie’s contribution to the menu was a Sweet Potato and Bean Burrito. I made a Strawberry and Kale Salad.

Kale. It's what's for dinner.

Our carbohydrate consumption was saved by the fact that we found some really high fiber tortillas (Mission Carb Balance – try them!). Still… our meal was probably 60grams of carbohydrate after subtracting fiber (34g fiber for one burrito).

Recipe: Vegan Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos

Vegan Diabetic Food

Ingredients:

  • 6 Carb Balance Wheat Tortillas – 10 inches
  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Zucchini, small dice
  • 1 1/2 C Mushrooms, diced
  • 1 Can Black Beans, half drained
  • 1 1/2 Large Sweet Potatoes, cubed, boiled, and mashed
  • 2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper (or a very light dusting if preferring more mild burrito contents)
  • Olive Oil, as needed
  • 1 C Cherry Tomatoes, chopped
  • Vegan Cheese, as desired

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet – combine onion with 1 Tbsp Oil and sauté. Add black beans and seasoning (cumin and cayenne) and let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. In a separate smaller skillet – combine zucchini and mushrooms with 1 tsp olive oil. Sauté over very low heat. Remove when cooked, but still al dente.
  3. In a sauce pan, boil water and add chopped sweet potatoes. Boil until soft and then drain water. Mash with electric mixer or masher.
  4. Prepare burritos – approximately 1/2-1 C Sweet Potato, 1/2 C Black Bean Mixture, 1/4 C Vegetables, sprinkle of tomatoes and cheese. Wrap tightly and fit into a Pyrex or metal dish.
  5. Bake burritos in oven (400 degrees F) for 10 minutes to “set the burrito.”

Enjoy!

A Note to the Diabetics: This is a meal with several high fiber ingredients. You may want to subtract the fiber and count it as ~52g instead of 86g. It would probably be a good idea to test before and 2 hours after a meal like this. If your blood glucose doesn’t jump more than 40 points, then you’re probably good to go. If not, try to scale down your portion for the next time.

Breakfast: Fresh Guacamole with Toasted Cumin

Your Introduction to the Ancient Spice, Cumin.

  • What is Cumin? It’s possible some of you are unfamiliar with “cumin” as a spice; but you’d probably recognize it. Cumin is the major seasoning in taco spice!
  • What is an Ancient Spice? I call cumin an ancient spice because it’s been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Several ancient spices like cumin, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic, and cayenne have medicinal and health benefits – some known, and some undiscovered. This is part of the reason they were passed down.

Cumin is generally sold as “cumin seed” or as “ground cumin.” I would recommend you try buying the seed. Don’t make the mistake I did and think you should put it in whole. Cumin seed is meant to be toasted and then it’s meant to be ground.

I remember the first time I learned seeds could and should be toasted for the full flavor. I was at a conference in Napa Valley put on by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America. A chef at the front of the room was toasting cumin and I could smell it from my seat 100 feet away. It was memorable. I went home and looked at the cumin seed in my spice cabinet with a new interest.

How to Toast Cumin…

These seeds are great. Buy them whole, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat. When they start to put off a really wonderful cumin smell, take them off the heat and grind them up in a spice grinder. Tada! Fresh Toasted Cumin – soooo much more flavorful than buying the cumin the jar that’s already been ground.

The cumin will be great for the guacamole breakfast you’ll be eating in few seconds/hours/days/months. (Come on! You gotta’ try it!)

Here’s the delicious breakfast I sat down to eat this morning:

Guacamole Breakfast

Pictured Above: Baby Swiss Chard and Spinach with sliced Strawberries, Green Onions, Drizzled Olive Oil and Raspberry Blush Vinegar. 2 Scrambled Eggs with 1 Tbsp Mexican Cheese Blend, 1/4 C Fresh Guacamole, 1 Large Apple (30g carb), 1 C 1% Milk (12g carb). Nutrition Information: 46g carbohydrate, 578 calories.

The first time I made guacamole for Peter (my roommate), he refused to call it guacamole. He called it “avocado salad” because he claims it has too many tomatoes and other things to be “real guacamole.”

However, this morning he walks into the kitchen and asks, “What are you making? Guacamole?”

And I said, “Ah HA! You DO acknowledge this is guacamole!”

He just shook his head, smiled at me, and left for work.

Recipe: Fresh Guacamole with Toasted Cumin

Fresh Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 1 soft avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 C cherry tomatoes, cut
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp fresh ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 Lime (~2 Tbsp)

Directions:

  1. Cut Avocado in half and twist it apart. Lodge knife into the pit and remove. Score (crosswise cutting) the avocado in the skin and scoop into a bowl with a spoon.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, red onion, lime juice, and salt.
  3. Mix with spoon until ingredients well integrated.
  4. Serve immediately. If wanting to save guacamole leftovers for later, place into a zip lock bag with zero air and seal. This will keep it from going brown.

A Note to the Diabetics: Guacamole is considered a vegetable and a healthy fat. This is not a food that will impact your blood glucose. Chips (8-10 tortilla chips = 15g carb) are commonly served with traditional guacamole. I would argue that guacamole is not dependent on a chip to get from the bowl to your mouth successfully. Try them with scrambled eggs. You might like it. :)

Green Bean and Heirloom Tomato Salad

It appears as though it’s that time of year… GREEN BEAN SEASON!

Unfortunately, most people only know how to make green beans one way. But, you won’t be “most people” after this post. You’ll be the “other people.” The other people who look at a green bean and see multiple opportunities for enjoyment. I’m sure that excites you as much as it does me.

Even if you’re not excited. You should pretend. I think the more hyped we get about green beans the better this dish will taste. Not that it needs any help…

I LOVE IT.

Recipe: Green Bean and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Green Bean Salad

 Ingredients:

  • 1-2 C Fresh Green Beans, snapped
  • 1-2 medium Heirloom Tomatoes, large chop
  • 4-5 pieces of Shaved Parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Recommended Dressing: Toss with 1 tsp Olive Oil  + then add 2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:

  1. Snap stems off of green beans and wash.
  2. Cut into 1cm pieces on an angle.
  3. Place green bean pieces in microwavable bowl.
  4. Add 1 Tbsp Water and microwave on high for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from microwave and drain excess water.
  6. Add sliced heirloom tomato and toss with dressing.
  7. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

A Note to the Diabetics: This is a non-carb side. Several times, I get complaints that people don’t have time to cook anything for dinner. This side dish takes only 4-5 minutes to complete from start to finish. I ate this as a side dish with baked herb chicken, 1 C watermelon (15g carb) and a slice of banana bread (30g carb).

Life Isn’t Fair. Get Over It.

If everyone else is breaking rules, why can’t I break the rules?

Dark Walk Bridge

10pm on a Saturday night, I was walking home from the train station by myself.

My mom and brother told me the week they moved me into my apartment, “I don’t think this would be a good way to walk home at night.” But, I ignored them.

They told me I should wear a shroud, walk with a limp, trail drops of blood, and drag a dollar on a string behind me. I really should have gone with that plan…

“It’s ten PM,” I thought. “What could possibly happen at such an early hour?”

I was about halfway down the walking path (seen above) when a man passed me on a bike wearing dark clothing. I panicked a little, but he passed me and continued on down the trail. I put my head down and told myself, “Seriously, Sarah. Not EVERYONE in dark clothing is trying to rob you. He’s probably just trying to get home – like you.” I kept walking down the trail – getting closer and closer to the locked gate that attaches to my apartment complex.

I was just about 50 feet away from the safety of my gated neighborhood when he rode back towards me from the darkness. This time he was headed straight for me – not choosing to take the opposite side of the walkway. I knew something was wrong before he reached in his jacket to pull out a gun.

You have no idea how you’re going to react to something like that until it actually happens to you. My reaction was a surprise to me. I wasn’t mad. I didn’t cry. I didn’t panic.

I LITERALLY started to mother him with a look of disapproval.

I tilted my head to one side “Are you serious?” I asked with a tired look on my face.

He was serious. “Come on, man. Look at you. You’re young. You’re healthy. You’re good looking. Why do you have to do stuff like this to get by?”

He refused to answer me, but looked surprised. “Just give me your money!”

“Look, I don’t even have much with me. You really could have picked someone better to rob…” He rolled his eyes, growing visibly impatient, “What’s in your purse?!”

We briefly discussed the contents of my purse (that I had pared down to the very minimum earlier that night). He decided he still wanted to rob me, so I handed him my purse. He gestured to my phone.

“Aw! My phone? Let me keep this. You don’t need it.” He must have felt like I wasn’t taking him seriously enough because he spun the revolver and moved closer to my abdomen.

SIDENOTE: He must have known I was a dietitian. I knew exactly where the gun was pointed (my large and small intestine) and considered whether I would want to kill my love of food/eating meals that quickly. Visions of a ruptured bowel from a gun shot wound flashed through my head and my decision was made.

I gave him my phone. He quickly checked my pockets, and then he was off. He was caught, but then escaped after pursuit onto the train tracks of Philadelphia.

I didn’t cry (until three days later when I realized how scary it was). I didn’t get angry. I didn’t blame him. I would say I handled the whole experience… okay. I even attempted to forgive him so that I wouldn’t have to carry the burden of being held at gunpoint for the rest of my life.

But it was hard.

Fast Forward 2 Months…

My friend Sarah and I were driving in a district called Manayunk – a place renowned for the difficulty of finding a parking spot. We’re not having much luck…when suddenly, I see a spot on the opposite side of the street.

I consider my options and decide to do a U-turn – even though I know it’s illegal. A person does what a person has to do in order to get a good parking spot. Right?

Wrong.

In the midst of this maneuver, I waited for oncoming traffic to pass, but forgot to check behind me again. I pulled out to turn and a car slammed into my driver side door.

Luckily, everyone was okay. But, I was pretty upset with myself for weeks afterwards.

I kept asking myself, “What makes you feel so special, Sarah, that you can put other peoples lives in danger to break rules?”

I was thinking about this as I was riding home on my bicycle and realized that I am probably not much different than my robber from two months before. I looked at his situation and thought, “How can you be like that? You have so much going for you. Why do you need to break the rules that keep us safe?”

And, I could say the same for myself.

We could have both taken the life of another person from our decision on those two separate nights. Sure, our intention was SLIGHTLY different (not a lot different – both intentions were born out of selfishness), but the outcome could have been the same.

As it turns out, my robber and I, we’re not that different after all. And you know what? It made forgiving him a whole lot easier.

What did I learn?

It gets easier to justify selfish tendencies (like breaking traffic laws for your own benefit or robbing a girl at night for the money in her purse) when it seems like everyone else around you is doing it too.

But, it’s not okay.

I’m SURE there are things in your life that you’re able to justify with the statement, “But HE/SHE is doing it!”  Don’t let yourself get away with it. I hate to bring it back to my profession, but I see this over and over with bad food choices. “But, so-and-so is doing it! It’s not fair!”

Too bad. Life isn’t always fair.

Anyone that told you otherwise was lying to you.

It’s a little kid lesson come back to be re-learned as an adult. Hopefully, you won’t have to get robbed and wreck a car in order to learn it. :-/

 

Don’t Waste a Workout

Sunday was a lovely afternoon.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little restless because I have been used to spending all this quality time with the roommate and now he is TOO busy with work to hang out with me. I’ll admit I was spoiled. Since he’s been gone, living solo has made me a little restless…

I could either wander around the house looking for something to do or I could get out of the house and have a chance at not going crazy. So, I set out to go read my book by the pool.

Unfortunately, the pool was closed.

Not to be set off my course, I decided, “That’s fine. I’ll just walk down to the river and read my book there.” It’s a bit more of a walk and there are a few more people, but it was a really pretty day, so I didn’t mind.

East Falls

The unfortunate part about choosing to lay by the river rather than the pool is the number of tiny bugs that enjoy warm human flesh snacks in the afternoon. I did not enjoy being the “human,” so my time by the river was short lived.

I was walking home bummed out and thinking how much nicer it would have been to be in a pool instead of being eaten alive by fire ants when I noticed that, magically, the pool was now open! I threw off my cover up and jumped in with enthusiasm… ahem, I carefully lowered myself into the freezing cold pool and convinced myself I would enjoy it… eventually.

A new friend…

After about two laps, I heard someone calling my name behind me. It was Erin, a (beautiful and very fit) girl I knew from Crossfit. How perfect! A friend!

I got out of the pool and went to sit by her as she tanned. We talked literally for hours (perfect since I had nothing to do).

Being typical Crossfitters, we got onto the subject of working out. Both of us were acknowledging how frustrating it was to have people assume that we were working out to look a certain way. In truth, that is secondary and I would rather get less attention for my body rather than more. I work out because I LOVE working out. I also LOVE being part of a team. I LOVE competing. Part of this “love” entails getting stronger; and of course, protein powder.

Protein powder comes up when you talk about working out, too. Right?

Erin was saying that some girls who join Crossfit are scared to start looking more muscular, so they won’t do protein powder after a workout; but once they started adding it in – they made the body shift with no problem and learned to appreciate it.

This hit a little close to home for me, because I HAD been doing protein powder, but stopped when my silly roommate started teasing me about it.

It got me thinking – I wonder how many of my readers are wasting their workouts.

Girls with Muscle

Over and over, I find that my patients are missing basic foundational truths of life. Here is one of those missed simple truths: YOUR MUSCLES ARE YOUR BODY’S STORES OF PROTEIN.

Think of it like a bank. If you can build your muscles, then you have more in the bank for when you need it. You need protein (amino acids) to repair things and build new things in your body. It’s very important.

If you engage in RESISTANCE TRAINING and break down your muscle fibers, it is your responsibility to either…

  1. give you body some protein to help it rebuild, or
  2. force your body to break down other muscles to rebuild – essentially, rendering you the exact same as you were before.

Who would want to do all the work and end up the exact same as before?

Think about it… if you don’t let your body put on new muscle from your workouts, then you miss out on a lot! Muscle helps support your skeleton. People that are more fit don’t get hurt as easily. Muscle lets you move the things in life that need to be moved (this includes yourself, sometimes). Muscle helps you age well. Muscle speeds up your metabolism so that you can start eating more food and not run the risk of gaining weight.

It’s AWESOME.

Protein is key. It’s especially important if: 1) you’re older (>70) and wanting to maintain the muscle you have, 2) you’re sick and in the process of repairing your body, or 3) you’re working out and wanting to change your body composition through lifting weights.

FYI, You don’t have to use protein powder – there’s nothing magical about it. It’s just more convenient than cooking up 3-4 ounces of lean meat after each workout.

SIDE NOTE: It should make sense that meat consist of protein as you are essentially eating the muscle of another animal. It’s the quickest and most efficient way to get protein in your diet and it’s one of the major reasons I am not vegetarian.

In Summary: The Rules of Protein after a Resistance Workout

  1. 20-30 grams of protein should be fine for most people.
  2. Protein needs to be taken within an hour of finishing your workout.
  3. Don’t skip it. If you do, be prepared to not have the body change you were looking forward to

Alright, go forth. Make strong friends, lift heavy things, and eat/drink protein so your workouts count! And, enjoy that efficient metabolism that comes from putting on some muscle and burning fat.

Nuts for Breakfast

A real conversation between me and my roommate, Peter…

  • P: Are you going to make those nuts again tomorrow morning?
  • S: What nuts? The ones I left for you?
  • P: You LEFT those for ME?!?
  • S: Yeah, that’s why I put them there. I ate half; and left the other half for you whenever you got up.
  • P: I’ve been going by that plate all day – sneaking a few here and there! I thought to myself ‘She won’t notice if one more is missing…’ All this time, they were for me?!?! All of them?
  • S: Yeah.
  • P: Oh. (pause) Well, then why did you eat the rest of them later?
  • S: You weren’t eating them. I wasn’t just going to let them go to waste! They’re GOOD nuts!
  • P: (shakes his head and walks away) Make the nuts. Tomorrow.

It’s funny. The nuts are really easy to make. Nothing magical. And Peter is actually a really good cook. I think he just likes the fact that they appear magically in the morning. One day after making him nuts, I got this text message (from a person that hardly ever texts me, mind you)…

“Ohh how I’ve missed my nuts”

I was mad at him for not texting me back the previous day – so I intentionally did not respond to his reply. But, as my sister tells me, I can be tough when I need to be… “I’ll do your laundry and make you your special nuts, but I WILL NOT text you back. I’m mad at you.”

Anyways, I digress. The point is these nuts are the one thing I do well at home.

It’s almost enough to make a person cocky…

Prior to yesterday, I felt like anything I made with those nuts would be appreciated.

I was wrong. 

He was getting ready to leave for work and I was making breakfast. I asked him, “You want some breakfast.”

He says, “Eh, I’m not that hungry.”

I said, “How about a LITTLE breakfast? I made nuts…”

He smiles and agrees, “Okay a LITTLE breakfast then…”

The Breakfast Menu

Pancakes without syrup

I warmed up some pancakes (from last week – freeze any extras and pull out only as many as you need later) and decided I would make this delicious breakfast with whole grain pancakes, goat cheese, warm peaches, and maple spice nuts. I fixed myself two pancakes and him one.

We sat down to eat. Two bites into the meal, he looks at me. “Does this have cream cheese on it?”

I stop mid-bite, “No, it’s a little bit of goat cheese. Why? You don’t like it?”

He looks down at his pancake with a new look of disgust, “Ew. I don’t like goat cheese. Why does goat cheese have to taste like it came from the goat’s butt?”

I give him a look I’m sure my mother taught me, “Give me your pancake. You’re done. I’ll eat the rest.”

Unconcerned with my look, he smiles, slides his plate over to me, grabs a few extra nuts from the kitchen, tosses me a “Have a good day at work,” and he’s out the door. Meanwhile, my carefully planned portion grows by 33%. That man.

Despite my roommates very rude comments…

As long as you’re okay with goat cheese, I think you might like this pancake variation. (INSERT BIG-SMILE-TO-SELL-IDEA-OF-GOAT-BUTT-ON-PANCAKE HERE)

I certainly enjoyed it.

Recipe: Cinnamon Spice Nuts

Pancakes without Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 C Pecans
  • 1/3 C Almonds
  • 1/3 C Walnuts
  • 1 tsp Canola (or Coconut) Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Sprinkle of Black Pepper (if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup

Directions:

  1. In a small skillet, heat nuts and oil until fragrant and toasted, but not burnt. Tossing frequently helps keep them from burning. Sometimes I put the lid on it if I’m in a hurry – but only for short periods. This process takes maybe 5-6 minutes.
  2. Once nuts are toasted, add spices and salt.
  3. Quickly thereafter, add the maple syrup and toss until mixture is dry in a hot pan.
  4. Remove from heat and place on a cool plate. Let nuts cool at least 6 minutes before eating. They will get crunchier after cooling completely.

A Note to the Diabetics: Syrup can be very difficult to incorporate in a low carb diet. 1 Tbsp Syrup = 15g carbohydrate. A 4-5 inch pancake = 15g carbohydrate. 1 medium peach = 15g carbohydrate. Things are adding up quickly. If 2 pancakes with a few syrup flavored nuts and 1/2 a piece of fruit don’t get you feeling full – you might consider adding eggs to this meal. I would NOT recommend adding more pancakes and syrup.

17 Small Grapes

Most of you know I’m a diabetes educator/dietitian..

nerd day at work

One of the main things I teach people is how to follow a consistent carbohydrate diet. It’s a really good diet because they’re able to meet the needs of their brain (130g glucose per day) while not overwhelming their body with a huge insulin response.

There are three main ways I teach people to count carbs:

  1. Reading Labels – Easy peasy. The only major hang up is when patients want to count “Sugars” instead of “Total Carbohydrate.” 
  2. Looking up Foods Online – Mostly for restaurant foods or foods with labels that they forgot to check, but eat frequently.
  3. Carbohydrate Counting – A way to (pretty accurately) estimate carbohydrates by sight. It basically teaches a person the portion/serving = 15g carbohydrate. For example, 4 inches of banana is 15g of carbohydrate. So, if I see an 8″ banana, I would automatically think “30g.”

Here’s where the 17 grapes come in…

Everyday, invariably, I will say something like, “This [gestures to handout] says 17 small grapes is equal to 1 carbohydrate choice or 15g of carbohydrate… but we don’t see small grapes anymore. We have BIG grapes. So, I’ll just write in ‘1/2 Cup of grapes = 15g carb.’ Mmk?”

Never have I had a patient call me out on this. They usually accept it and we go on with the education. Noooo problem. But, in the back of my mind, I’m always wondering, “Are 17 small grapes the same as 1/2 a cup? I THINK it is…”

And then…it happened.

I saw small grapes at a farmers market.

The woman behind the stall told me she would give me two for the price of one and that no one was buying them. She also told me that they were picked by her nephew “Jemmy.” She reminded me to be sure and wash them before I ate any because “Jemmy’s little hands were all over them.”

(I wonder why she wasn’t selling many small grapes touched by Jemmy?)

Jemmy’s hands don’t scare me.

I bought them.

I had to know if my 1/2 C guess for 17 small grapes was accurate. You know what? It wasn’t.

I’ve been wrong all along.

17 small grapes