Clean Drinking Matters, Too

This week, I’m down another pound and a half! I don’t have a progress shot for you because while every little bit matters when you’re trying to lose weight, not all losses are enough for a visible difference. Regardless, I’m proud of how far I’ve come in a short amount of time. I sense that I’m just about to plateau, so I’ll need to step up my game now that I’m feeling worlds better. More on that next week…

For Week Three post-baby, I’m focusing on clean drinking (check out my clean eating tips from last week). What you drink is just as important as what you eat on the journey to improved fitness. Today, I’m sharing with you what I drink on a regular or semi-regular basis. It’s a short list compared to what I don’t drink, but in a nutshell, I stay away from juice (except for occasional freshly pressed), soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, dairy milk, and coffee (coffee only because I don’t like it).

I try to consume beverages that are simple, as natural as possible, and packed with nutrients. Here’s my “do” list:

WATER AND WATER WITH LEMON: I’m not a scientist or nutritionist, but I’d venture a guess that water is the most beneficial liquid that you can put in your body. Living in the desert of Arizona, it’s especially important I am well-hydrated at all times. I don’t leave my house without taking water, even if I’m just running a short errand. While I don’t buy bottled water for environmental reasons, I do filter my water to remove the metallic, chemical-like taste in Arizona tap water. I don’t miss Michigan winters, but boy do I miss drinking delicious water straight from the tap!

Not only do I not leave my house without water, I don’t go to bed without a glass on my bedside table. If I wake up in the middle of the night—which is occurring quite a bit lately with a newborn—I drink water. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is drink water. Drinking cold water, in particular, right when you get up is a great way to get your metabolism revving.

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When I have lemons on hand, I also add lemon to my water and/or tea. Lemons are loaded with vitamin C and lemon in warm water (thus adding it to tea) has even more health benefits. In Arizona’s heat, I am only drinking my tea hot a couple of months out of the year, so most of the time, I am consuming lemon juice cold. You could simply cut a slice and squeeze it into your beverage of choice, or try making my drink infusers. They are quick, easy, and packed with flavor, and because they are frozen, you won’t have to worry about pre-squeezed juice spoilage.

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UNSWEETENED, UNFLAVORED PLANT MILK: It’s not often that I pour myself a glass of say, almond milk, but I love the taste of it enough to drink it all on its own when I’m not adding it to a smoothie or other dish. I love almond milk, but also drink oat, hemp, and cashew. Coconut milk is growing on me and I’m open to trying just about any kind; I’ve seen rice, sunflower, grain, and hazelnut milks, too. The key with buying processed plant milk is to find a brand that is organic, unsweetened, and unflavored. The upside to the processed variety—not often that those words are together in one of my sentences—is that they are often fortified with calcium, containing even more than dairy milk.

The downside, of course, is the processed part. Making your own plant milk is not terribly difficult, but it is somewhat costly. The amount of almonds, for instance, that it takes to make a half gallon of almond milk will likely cost you substantially more than purchasing it premade. There is also texture to consider. Having purchased a Vitamix a few months back, Travis and I are ready to attempt plant milk again, and recently acquired a plant milk bag (a sheer bag with tiny holes for straining) to help us with the job. We have made pumpkin milk in the past (from the seeds), but haven’t experimented with other types yet. I’ll let you know how it goes…

In short, plant milks contain an abundance of nutrients without the cholesterol found in animal milk, and are often lower in calories (if you’re counting) than the other kind, too.

GREEN TEA: You have probably heard that drinking green tea is great for boosting your metabolism and burning fat. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and has been a trusty health tonic in Asia for thousands of years. I was just getting into green tea when I visited my sister and her husband in Tokyo a couple of summers back, and after that, I was hooked. Green tea—and not that canned stuff with all the sugar in it—is available everywhere, hot or iced, and seriously tasted great every time I had it. There may not be any bad tea in Japan. 🙂

After drinking water upon first waking up, I start my day with green tea—typically before I even eat—and drink up to four cups a day. I am lucky to be a morning person and function extremely well without caffeine, so the nominal amount in green tea (when compared to coffee) does not play a role in my decision to drink it; the aforementioned health benefits and the taste make it my tea of choice. Now that I’m no longer preggo, I can go back to making it a regular part of my day.  (This one contains acai berry!)

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BEER AND WINE: Yup, I drink alcohol…not every day, and not a lot, but I do drink it. I love to have a couple beers while watching football or a glass of wine to wind down at the end of a long day. If alcohol consumption is smart and not excessive, there’s no reason why you can’t treat yourself and still lose or maintain weight.

Travis and I try to purchase craft and/or craft and local whenever possible. Quality and taste are important to me if I’m going to splurge on something that I don’t need. Growing up in Michigan—one of the country’s top craft beer destinations—and coming from a family that owns a gourmet food store specializing in some of the rarest and most sought after craft beers makes one a beer snob. Yea, I’m a beer snob…and so is Travis…

…so much so that we often make our own beer and wine just so that we can control the quality and flavor. There are tons of craft beers out there that we love, but when I offer you DIY as a wellness tip, I live up to it in nearly every aspect of what I consume, alcohol included. Turns out that brewing beer and fermenting wine yourself is not as difficult as one might imagine. While I don’t stress about beer and wine being vegan if I purchase it in the store (thankfully, most of it, naturally, is), if I make it myself, I can ensure that there were no animal parts involved in flavoring or stabilizing the product.

Cheers to good health…and enjoying 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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