Documentary Review: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

*Recently, my husband and I watched two documentaries: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc. We were so inspired and informed by them and I’d highly recommend them to anyone (both are available on Netflix instant play!).*

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead chronicles the journey of a man from Australia, very overweight and stricken with a chronic disease.  He decides to go on a fresh fruit and vegetable juice fast for 30 days while he tours the United States talking to people about their diets.  He has a great accent, by the way!  The first half of the documentary shows his dramatic and amazing transformation.  He actually drives around with a juicer in the back of his car and juices as he goes!  The second half focuses on the even more amazing changes that occur in a man he inspires to follow in his footsteps.  I absolutely LOVED seeing these men take charge of their lives and transform from sick, hopeless, lifeless creatures into energetic, happy, and healthy individuals right before my eyes!  Very inspiring!  My husband and I bought a better juicer after seeing this and are now juicing almost every evening.  When you see what wonderful changes occur when these men simply begin to fill their bodies with naturally-occurring nutrients and stop eating animal products, empty calories, and processed junk, the relationship between nutrition and health will take on a whole new meaning for you.

“Cheese” Sauce

This recipe is adapted from one posted by SusanV on FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  I didn’t have all of the ingredients so, as usual, I made crazyish substitutions and hoped it would turn out…. and it tastes good!  I’m using it in an also-modified version of SusanV’s eggplant parmesan recipe

“Cheese” Sauce

  • half a block of extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I like Pacific Natural Foods brand)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. corn starch

Just put it all in a blender and turn it on- doesn’t get easier than that!

Note: this recipe contains a few processed ingredients, the most notorious of which is tofu.  While I have GREATLY reduced my consumption of soy and soy products, including tofu, I will still eat it occasionally.  Please don’t crucify me, soy protesters!

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #7- “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Kiwi” Smoothie

Tastes Like Kiwi, but isn't!

Wednesday before last, I made Smoothie #10 from the RAVE book.  We really liked it and renamed it “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Kiwi” because it really did taste like it.

My husband rated this smoothie an 8 and I rated it a 7.  Thanks to his rating, I’m going to include the recipe:

  • 5 kale leaves
  • 3 apples (I used Granny Smiths because we like it tart!)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups water

The directions are simple here: just stuff it all into the blender and turn it on! As you can see in the picture, the kale in this smoothie gives it an astonishing green color.  Those are vitamins, baby!

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #5- Polenta-Stuffed Peppers, Plus: How to Make Your Own Polenta

On Sunday I made Polenta-Stuffed Peppers.  This was a pretty tasty recipe.  I opted to make polenta instead of buying it.  In hindsight, I should have made the polenta ahead of time since it was to be measured in weight.  To do that, I would have needed to cook it, let it cool, and then weight it out, I guess.  Instead, I attempted to hastily make it and use it.  I hadn’t made polenta in awhile, and I did a sloppy job, so it ended up a lot thinner than it should have been, and lumpy.  This wasn’t all bad, but it probably contributed to the kind of yucky look my finished product took on….

Polenta-Stuffed Pepper

I really should focus on taking more appealing pictures of my recipes in the future.  I actually took this exact pepper to work, where I cut it open and let all the lumpy polenta spill out and ate it!  I got a few “What is that??” questions.  Anyway, my husband gave this recipe a 7 and I gave it a 6.  I might have rated it higher if I’d done a better job with the polenta.  I might actually attempt this one again because I looooove roasted peppers!

For those of you who would like to make your own polenta, here’s a good basic recipe to start from:

Basic Polenta

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water

Boil the 3 cups of water in a saucepan.  Whisk together the cornmeal, 1 cup water, and salt in a bowl and pour into the boiling water.  If you don’t mix the cornmeal with the water first, it will end up lumpy.  Lower the temperature to a simmer and cover, stirring every few minutes.  Cook for 15 minutes.

You can use the cornmeal as a breakfast cereal or side dish, or you can pour it into a cake or loaf pan and refrigerate it overnight.  The resulting thickened cornmeal (called polenta) can be sliced and fried, cut into shapes, or chopped up and used in recipes (like the pepper recipe I made).  Polenta is good as a savory dish or a sweet one.  I like to cut it into large slices, fry it, and eat it for breakfast with maple syrup on top.  🙂 You can add just about anything  to the polenta while cooking it (sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs and spices, etc.) to give it different flavors.

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #4- Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup- RAVE Diet book

Friday I made “Curried Sweet Potato Soup”.  This recipe was simple to make, but very   delicious and got the highest ratings so far: a 7 from my husband and an 8 from me! My husband said it was  his favorite of the recipes I’ve made from the RAVE book.  It was also the first recipe in which I really didn’t miss the salt at all.  It tasted sweet but savory at  the same time- totally delicious!  We had some of the leftovers last night and it was good the  second   time around as well. Here’s the recipe:

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

serves 6

  • 5 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • minced cilantro (optional)

Heat broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and curry powder and saute for 2 minutes.  Add water, broth, and sweet potatoes.  Cook for 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.  Place one-third of the sweet potato mixture in a blender and process until smooth.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining sweet potato mixture in batches.  Return the pureed mixture to the saucepan.  Bring the soup to a boil and remove from heat.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Note: I did not blend the soup, but merely mashed it with a potato masher.  I suppose I did this because I was lazy.  Also, my blender was being washed.  Also, I don’t mind having my soup a little texturized and it did still taste delicious!

How To Turn Down Foods You’d Rather Not Eat

Yesterday my coworker brought some dessert thing made out of cereal covered in peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar.  It looked yummy and the coworker raved about how delicious it tasted (and how I should really try some), but I knew it in no way fit with my current eating choices.  Today a plate of beautiful brownies appeared in the kitchen, born on the triumphant hands of another co-worker, who encouraged us to dig in.  What do you do when in this kind of dilemma?  I vacillate between explaining the whole “I’m not eating processed foods right now” story and just eating a bit of what’s offered.  You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but you also don’t want  to compromise your standards unnecessarily.  Is there some of kind of rule you can use to decide what to do?  And if you do decide to turn down goodies, what’s the best way to do so?

If you decide to turn down proffered foods, make sure the person knows you are turning down their food, not them.  Maybe a few compliments would help (“Not right now…. That looks delicious, though!  You are such a great cook!”).  You could just explain that you’re trying a new way of eating (and feel great, by the way, thanks), or you could choose less sharing and say that you’re really full from lunch, that it looks delicious and you’ll maybe have some later….  The great news is that once people start to know you as someone who cares about healthy eating, you might not have so many awkward turn-down moments.

Alternatively, sometimes you may feel that your diet principles aren’t worth hurting someone’s feelings.  This doesn’t mean you’re a health failure.  Just make sure the following isn’t true of you: you are using this as an excuse to compromise your standards, you care about saving face or avoiding awkward situations more than you care about your health, or you are being too hard on yourself in the first place (some lifestyle changes can benefit from transition phases).

What Exactly is a Vegetarian? Vegan? Omnivore?

There are many different ways a person can be classified based on the types of foods they choose to eat.  It can get a little confusing, especially if you’re new on the scene.  The great thing is that there is a name for just about every type of diet choice, as new words are being coined with relative freedom.  While researching this topic, I found some that were even new to me.

I have a degree in biology.  I mention this because I’m thinking of one of my favorite parts of science classes where identifying the scientific name of a plant or animal is required-  using a dichotomous key.  It’s so much fun.  I made you a key for deciding which category you belong in so you can share in the fun. 🙂  Just answer the questions and follow the directions.  If you already know where you fit in, click here for eating style definitions.

  1. Do you choose to eat animal products?
    • If yes, go to #2
    • If no, go to #5
  2. Do you choose to eat red meat?
  3. Do you choose to eat either fish or chicken?
    • If yes, go to #4
    • If no, go to #5
  4. Do you choose to eat just fish, just chicken, or both?
  5. Do you choose to eat either milk or eggs?
    • If yes, go to #6
    • If no, go to #7
  6. Do you choose to eat just milk, just eggs, or both?
  7. Do you choose to eat cooked food?
  8. Do you choose to eat processed foods?
  9. Do you choose to eat either milk or eggs?
  10. Do you choose to eat processed foods?
    • If yes, you are Your Own Kind  🙂
    • If no, you are a Macrobiotic

I’ve probably forgotten some.  If you belong to a group of eaters that isn’t recognized here, feel free to let me know and I’ll correct my key!

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #2- Baby Poop Smoothie

I went shopping today for all the recipes I plan to make this week.  It definitely takes a little longer when you have to get certain stuff, especially when some of that certain stuff you’ve never actually bought before- like arugula.   Along the way I found some rhambutan, a cool spiky fruit I ate a lot the summer I went to the Philippines.  I bought a couple for my husband to try.

Rhambutan, inside and out

Tonight I made Smoothie #1.  Basically it has spinach, banana, carob powder, ground flaxseed, and mint leaves in it.  I had to substitute a baby salad mix for the baby spinach, simply because all the spinach in the store looked really really bad, like on the verge of being rotten.  I suppose we might not have noticed since we were just going to blend it, but I still didn’t get it.

My husband rated Smoothie #1 a 4 and I rated it a 6. I suppose that it might taste just a tad different if there had been more spinach and less of the other greens (you know how sometimes those salad mixes have some bitterish greens), but I thought it was pretty good.  We renamed it Baby Poop Smoothie because with the carob and greens mix it ends up being a nice greenish brown color 😛

Baby Poop Smoothie

Whenever we come across a recipe that gets a 8 rating or higher, I’ll post the whole recipe on here.  If anyone wants another recipe, I’ll be happy to e-mail it to you!

This next paragraph is sorta embarrassing, but I’ve decided to be as honest as possible here about my whole foods journey.  Hopefully seeing me fail and keep trying will serve as encouragement to at least someone.

Tonight I began cooking up some sauerkraut mushroom pierogies from the European foods store that we’ve had in the freezer for awhile.  There isn’t anything really objectionable in them, except that they’re made with white flour of course, but as I was cooking them I began to realize more and more that this definitely isn’t a whole food (duh, right?) and I probably shouldn’t eat them.  Also, they fell apart in the pan.  I thought they weren’t done yet because they weren’t floating, but they were actually stuck to the bottom and then they just fell apart….  Anyway, I ate a few but was disappointed in both the taste and my own failure to stick to whole foods today (My husband, meanwhile, is eating them with A1 sauce and loving them).

I think I’ve realized that I’m going to have to crank out more than one recipe in a day since some of them are just, well, smoothies like today.  Either that or I’ll have to plan to supplement this menu with other dishes.

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #1- Lentil Bulgur Pilaf

Lentil Bulgur Pilaf

So, today is day 1, but I’m not sure if I’m going to try any recipes today.  Mostly because I need to go shopping for ingredients first.   For breakfast I ate the granola I made last night…. I did use some almond milk, which is technically processed.  I haven’t decided yet if that’s going to be ok.  I could make my own, I suppose.  I think the RAVE book suggests using fruit juice or applesauce or something….

Lunchtime was at someone’s house and all I’m going to say is that I can’t be held responsible for what I ate there. 😛  No, really it was all allowed, I believe, except for the oil.  The RAVE book doesn’t use oils of any kind, either, and I haven’t yet decided how closely I’m going to adhere to that.  My husband is head over heels in love with olive oil.  I swear he’d do anything for that stuff, but I think we could both benefit from cutting most of that out of our diet as well.  I really just feel like I want to be as strict as possible so I’ll really know for sure how my diet is affecting me.  Going halfway isn’t my goal here.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

So I looked through the recipes and found one that I did have ingredients for: Lentil-Bulgur Pilaf.  It’s a simple recipe and, like all the recipes in the book, doesn’t call for any salt.  The rule is that I’m not going to make the recipes with salt, but if we need to add some after it’s on our plates, that’s fine.  Hopefully that will help us cut down and eventually even cut out?  I want to see if the flavors really do come out when salt is eliminated.

How was the dish?  It was good.  Not earth-shattering, but good.  If I made it again, I might add more cumin.  We love cumin.  🙂  I’m going to post a picture of each recipe I make.  We’re also going to rate each dish according to taste.

Here’s the rating scale:

1-awful (blech, don’t ever want to eat it again)

3-acceptable (filled my tummy, but probably won’t ask for it again)

5-good (yes, I want it again)

7-very good (definitely want it again!)

10-excellent! (want to eat it all the time!)

My husband and I both rated Lentil-Bulgur Pilaf a 5

My Life in Food

Just four months ago I was eating cheesecake and lasagna at my wedding and inhaling chocolate and anything with sugar in it like there was no tomorrow, and today I’m considering making recipes without salt?!  What happened here??

I should back up, though.  My food history started before I was born when the concept of healthy eating was first introduced to my parents.  I was raised vegetarian, mostly vegan too, but I remember eating the fresh eggs from our chickens on the farm and we must have had cheese at least every once in awhile because Saturday was always pizza night.  🙂  Sometime during my junior year of high school I suddenly decided to make a few radical changes to my diet.  I still don’t know what possessed me at the time, but I’d noticed that chocolate gave me a headache, so I decided to just stop eating it.  I also decided that I was going to become a vegan.  I’m not sure whether this surprised my parents much or not, but they pretty much followed suit.  Unlike them, however, I’ve fallen off that wagon more times than I can count.  My first college boyfriend was decidedly not vegan.  In fact, he was a meat-eater (gasp!).  That, along with the fact that the cafeteria’s vegan fare was usually less than palatable, soon brought an end to my veganism.  Actually, if I’m being totally honest, I missed yogurt like crazy and that was pretty much what did me in…

For the rest of college and after college and then during graduate school, my diet was horrible.  Not only was I eating just about anything (except meat- I didn’t developed a taste for it growing up so I never missed it), but I was eating it at crazy times and in crazy quantities- sometimes I’d eat until I was ready to pop and sometimes I’d get so busy with life that I’d hardly eat at all.  I have a super high metabolism, so I’ve never had problems with my weight.  This is probably almost a bad thing because I never had losing weight as a motivation to eat healthy.  Food has such an impact on your life and body, though, and I always knew this even when I wasn’t acting on it.

I remember one summer a few years ago when I was trying to gain a few pounds.  This is actually not easy for me and very frustrating because almost everyone else in the world is  trying to lose weight.  It’s difficult to find both sympathy and good advice.  Anyway, I kept a food journal that summer and my goal was to eat 2500 calories a day.  My husband just saw a few of those journal entries the other day and it was pretty embarrassing.  Cottage cheese and ice cream for dinner??  Yeah, to some people it probably sounds like a dream come true (ok ok, it is for my taste buds as well and I think I’m even starting to drool on my computer), but I think we all know it’s not nutritious.

About a year and a half ago, my two best friends and I decided to commit to a diet of strictly whole foods for one week.  We all lived together in a small apartment and shared a tiny tiny kitchen.  I proudly stuck to the diet for the entire week and felt so good that I continued to eat that way for awhile.  Eventually, however, I lost my motivation and slid back into old habits.  This time, however, I had seen some significant changes in my health and I couldn’t get the concept of healthy eating out of my mind.  My favorite food is ice cream and I could eat chocolate all day long, but some pelvic pains that had been bothering me for 5 years had subsided almost completely while I’d been eating whole/non-processed foods, and that really got my attention.  The benefits didn’t seem to come when I only halfway followed the diet, however, and it seemed so difficult to maintain long-term that I got discouraged, Iguess, and eventually quit trying.

I moved to Michigan a year ago to live closer to my now-husband, and since that move my eating has improved, thanks to his support and encouragement (as well as his good eating habits).  Just this month I heard something one the radio about whole foods and for some reason it really inspired me.  I said to myself, “If that person can do it, so can you!” and I decided to really give whole foods another serious try, but for a longer period of time.  I decided 8 weeks was a good length of time to try to be really strict with myself.

That was about 20 days ago.  I can’t say that I’ve totally adhered to the standard this whole time, but I have kept trying.  Eating in restaurants is kind of a problem because it’s difficult to know what you’re really getting.  Going to other people’s houses is difficult too, because even if you know what’s in the food sometimes you don’t want to hurt their feelings by refusing to eat it.  Most people have a difficult time understanding such a strict diet.  Vegetarian- ok fine, most people know what that means.  Even vegan is a concept that people can easily get.  But when you trying to cut out processed foods completely, the majority of people in this country are at a loss to know what to feed you- lettuce??

I have come up with a couple of strategies to help myself not give up on whole foods.  The first one is this blog.  I know that it would be embarrassing to get on here and have to say, “Yeah, I ate cheesy lasagna last night”.  I know for certain that I’ll have some confessions at least, but I’m hoping it will deter me at least somewhat.  The other strategy involves the book “The RAVE Diet & Lifestyle”.  This book has about 215 recipes in the back and I’ve decided to make all of them before my birthday in August.  August 13, to be exact.  I will pretty much have to make one every day, or maybe two.  I might slip up in between meals, but as long as I’m feverishly trying new whole foods recipes I figure that I won’t have a lot of time (or tummy room) to sneak the junk I crave.  Hopefully by the time I’m done my body and sense will have adjusted to the new way of eating and I will have made a permanent change.  If my pelvic pain disappears that will be absolutely wonderful, but I know there are many hidden affects of diet that should motivate me to feed my body good things anyway.