Happy New Year!

Yea, I know – I’m a few weeks late in wishing you a Happy New Year.  🙂  January (and the holidays in general) has been a hectic month for me.  My sister and her husband visited from Tokyo and my maternity leave officially ended.  Now that the dust is settling a bit, I am able to catch you up on what’s been going on in my world.

First of all, The Fresh Formula turned one on New Year’s Day.  This blog was born from recipe requests from my Facebook friends.  Several of them encouraged me to put all of my recipes (formulas) and budding knowledge in one place so that others could learn, too.  As I am not a nutritionist, professional chef, or food expert of any kind, I was flattered.  What started as a hobby for me has turned into a way to help and inspire people everywhere.

THANK YOU – The Fresh Formula continues to be a passion of mine because of YOU.  What can you expect from the blog in 2016?

I will, of course, continue to share formulas and recipes.  In addition, I am going to write a bit more about me, my family, and our life.  My readers have expressed a great interest in reading more about my plant-based journey—particularly since I’ve recently given birth to my second child—in addition to the regular meal, snack, and dessert ideas.

Let’s start with an update.  When I last checked in with you regarding my post-partum progress, I was a pound away from my pre-pregnancy weight, fresh off of a one-week raw food challenge, and continuing to work on getting back into shape.  I am happy to report that I officially reached my pre-pregnancy weight just before Christmas and successfully maintained that weight throughout the holiday season!  (Plant-based living makes weight maintenance effortless for me.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been as dedicated to exercise and toning up as I had originally planned.  Without going into too much detail, as pregnancy and the aftermath are not the true focus of this blog, I have been experiencing bleeding, cramping, and other signs of my body’s inability to heal from childbirth.  Yes, this is still happening nearly three months post-partum and seems to be triggered by strenuous physical activities like working out, lifting, etc.

I went to my doctor and my bloodwork came back normal, although more testing may be needed.  I am awaiting the official results of an ultrasound, but what I have been told so far is not terribly worrisome.  I am potentially looking at a hormonal imbalance, among other contributing factors.

The bad news is that while I have kept up with getting outside to walk and doing a little light toning with weights at home, I have not picked up the pace with any cardio since every time I have tried I have experienced a setback in my healing.  The good news is that now that my test results are showing that my issues aren’t likely serious, I can power through and really, finally, now get back into getting in shape.

I look forward to sharing more of my progress with you.  For now, check out my latest pic!  My abs don’t have much definition yet, but that tummy is damn near flat, less than three months post-baby.  I’ll take it!

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The Answer to a Popular Question: What Do You Eat?

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If you’re a vegetarian or even more “extreme,” a vegan, you’ve probably had omnivores ask you questions like these: If you don’t eat meat or cheese, what do you eat? Wait, no eggs either? What’s left to eat? Before I knew what I know about plant-based living, I may have behaved just as incredulously. So, I think it would be helpful to spend a day in the life of a mostly-vegan to see exactly what I eat…and it’s a lot!

As you know, I very occasionally splurge on an item of my former omnivorous diet, be it a bowl of macaroni and cheese (of COURSE that’s what I craved when I was pregnant!) or baklava dripping with honey. On the regular, however, thanks to my getting-better-everyday discipline, these splurges don’t occur. Travis and I pretty strictly refrain from purchasing any animal products for our kitchen. At home, we eat totally vegan, 99% of the time. As I explained in my bio, animal products typically only make their way into our lifestyle when we are out and about, if then.

Parents may also be wondering what my two-year-old eats on a day-to-day basis. As you learned in my post about his second birthday party, he basically eats like we do, although is a little less adventurous with raw vegetables at this stage of the game. Here’s a sample of what I eat in a given day (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Breakfast: unsweetened green tea* and raw fruit:
  • Snacks (2-3 daily): more unsweetened green tea with one or more of the following:
    • raw nuts or seeds
    • dried or raw fruit/veggies
    • homemade trail mix
    • dark chocolate
    • popcorn –> popped on the stove from bulk seeds
    • rice cake with or without nut butter
    • homemade graham crackers
    • homemade hummus with raw veggies, pita bread, etc.
    • super food muffin
  • Lunch: more unsweetened green tea with salad, as is, wrapped in a tortilla, or sandwiched between slices of homemade bread:
  • Dinner: another salad or a cooked or partially cooked plant-based meal:
    • veggie curry
    • chili
    • soup/stew
    • veggie burgers
    • pasta
    • homemade cheese-less pizza
    • veggie stir fry
    • roasted vegetables
  • **Dessert: raw fruit, dark chocolate, or homemade vegan dessert (e.g. cookies, brownies, etc.)

*I drink 3-4 cups of unsweetened green tea daily. I’m sure you’ve heard greatness about this superfood, but just in case you haven’t, you should know that it is jam-packed with antioxidants, has healing properties, and can even help you to lose weight.

**On a regular basis, I don’t eat a traditional dessert like cookies or brownies…not because I don’t like them, just because I can’t always make a dessert as healthy I can a square meal or snack. If I do have a craving for something sweet, I make it myself and you guessed it: it’s vegan and made with smart substitutes (i.e. whole wheat flour and flax seeds for white flour, maple syrup for white granulated sugar, etc.). I will very often, however, have more raw fruit and/or dark chocolate near the end of the day.

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This typical menu may look like a lot or a little bit of food to you. As I’ve mentioned before, because I am eating mostly raw fruits and veggies and whole grains, I can basically eat as much as I want. When I eat a salad, for example, it is often the size of a large mixing bowl, just to give you an idea. The energy level I maintain is such that I am hungry more often and am burning a lot of calories, even when not exercising very intensely. As a result, I eat when I want to eat and as much as I want to, depending on what I plan to consume, of course.

DSC_1764 Here’s a day in Nolan’s life, which you will notice is not much unlike my own:

  • Breakfast: super food muffin and raw fruit and/or togurt (so far, he will eat any fruit in any capacity and the muffins are a great way to hide vegetables that he isn’t willing to try yet)
  • Snacks (2-3 daily): see above (finely chopped/small pieces)
  • Lunch: will sometimes eat the same salad that I make for myself or will munch on cubes of marinated tofu, baked veggie fries, or any one of the cooked meals above
  • Dinner: will sometimes eat another mostly vegetable or bean salad, but is typically always up for a salad made with grains (e.g. quinoa, wheat berries, etc.) or one of the above cooked meals
  • Dessert: raw fruit, every night before bed

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Lately, I’ve been trying to track what I eat so that I can give you the most realistic picture of my lifestyle possible. These are just rough estimates, and amounts certainly vary from day to day based on what is available at the store, what we have in stock, and what’s on our schedule, but here are more of my food stats:

  • I eat 60-70% raw plant-based foods in a day; the rest are partially or fully sautéed, steamed, boiled, or baked.
  • I eat 3-4 different whole grains daily (e.g. farro, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, cracked wheat, rolled oats, etc.).
  • I eat 7-10 different fruits daily, in varying amounts.
  • I eat 10-15 different vegetables daily, in varying amounts.
  • I eat 2-3 significant sources of protein daily (e.g. beans, seeds, nuts, etc.).
  • I eat 2-4 significant sources of calcium daily (e.g. plant milk, seeds, green vegetables, etc.).
  • I eat 6-7 times per day, be it snacks or meals.
  • I drink only water, tea, plant milk, or 100% juice with no sugar added (plus alcohol in reasonable amounts, although not daily).
  • I do not count calories, carbs, or fat grams, but do pay attention to amounts of protein, fiber, and iron, vitamins, calcium, etc. and thoroughly read the list of ingredients when I am considering eating something that is packaged.
  • I eat within an hour of waking up and within 90 minutes of going to bed.

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This certainly isn’t the entire picture and life circumstances can change any strong or poor diet at a moment’s notice, but I wanted you to see how fulfilling it can be to subsist primarily on plants. There are endless combinations and methods and I can assure you that there is, definitely, plenty to eat. 🙂

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Must-Haves from the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival

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When the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was at its peak, I decided to take the act of charity to the next level and complete weekly acts of charity for an entire year. This weekend, my personal IBC led me to the Arizona Vegetarian Food Festival in Scottsdale to benefit Evolve for Animals.

The festival was teeming with eager vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and environmentalists. While typical festival/carnival/state fair crowds tend to damper the experience for me, this time, I was thrilled to be surrounded with like-minded people who care about animals, sustainability, and of course, their health.

Various booths with information and most importantly, free samples (woo!), peppered the perimeter of the Scottsdale Civic Center Amphitheater. The first booth that my husband, Travis, and I stopped at, Arizona Microgreens, featured an assortment of organic baby greens, which are easily my new favorite salad base and sandwich filler. I had had microgreens before, but didn’t realize just how many varieties existed. As you can see, they look adorable when compared with something like iceberg lettuce (I do believe that presentation matters when it comes to eating) and taste absolutely delicious. Many samples and $15 later, we walked away with broccoli and pea shoot micros.

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Up next, we stopped at a clothing booth that specializes in tops made from organic cotton and bearing catchy vegetarian and animal-friendly phrases. Geeky for some, but I was smitten and had to have one of Herbivore Clothing’s creations. Like many things organic, the long sleeve shirt I selected wasn’t cheap, but $30 well-spent to advocate for causes that I believe in without even trying.

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Who doesn’t love a soft pretzel?! As if being 100% vegan weren’t amazing enough, these pretzels were shaped like mustaches! Scrumptious and fun to eat, I now understand why the line was 30 minutes long at Mustache Pretzels. After all, “great mustaches aren’t born – they’re bread.”

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Lastly, Travis and I hit up a tortilla chip booth that had really long lines when we first arrived. By this point in the festival, it was raining, so we were able to make it to the front of Beanfields in just a few minutes. These tortilla chips–which were fantastic–are made from beans and brown rice. I’m not a big proponent of processed foods, but there are some gems out there are these are one of them.

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They were the perfect snack to end a fulfilling day doing one of the things I love most: living a plant-based lifestyle. Good for me, good for animals.