A new book by Jen Browne on how to self-eradicate digestive disease. Currently seeking publication.

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5 Ways to Improve Gut Health TODAY

Key to healthy digestion

It’s no secret that if you want to strengthen your immune system (something we all want to do at this time of year), you have to start with your gut. Your intestines are the key to great health, and when you provide a good home to your good bacteria, you’re subsequently telling the bad bacteria to get lost, pronto.

While there are many factors that determine just how healthy your gut is at any given time, an ideal ratio of good to bad bacteria is essential. That is, you need more good than bad—and that can be difficult to attain at this time of year. Wintertime is full of bugs, booze, and baking: things bad bacteria thrive on.

So let me help you out. Here are 5 ways to increase the good guys, decrease the bad ones, and give your gut a great start to the New Year:

  • Begin taking probiotics. This is SUCH an easy way to increase the good guys. A daily dose of good quality probiotics can make a huge difference in your gut health. Tip: buy probiotics that are displayed in a refrigerator, and make sure to keep them cold at home, too. These supplements are full of living bacteria, and have a very short shelf life once they reach room temperature.
  • Stop consuming added sugar. Excess sugar depletes the immune system. It’s completely unnecessary, and over consumed by just about everyone. Food that contains naturally-occurring sugars are fine; things like fruit and whole grains. But abstain from candy, baking, chocolate, alcohol, fruit juice, and anything else that is loaded with added sugar. Believe me, you’ll thank yourself for this move: you’ll feel better, have more energy, clearer skin, and a much healthier immune system. (Not to mention losing a few post-holiday pounds!)
  • Eat less. This has nothing to do with losing weight. When you eat more than you need to, it creates strain on your digestive tract and throws your organs into a panic. For good bacteria to do its job properly, it needs to work what’s in its limits—and overeating on a consistent basis does not help these guys. If you want the good bacteria to thrive, then feed it what it can handle. Tip: Don’t eat until you feel full; eat until you don’t feel hungry anymore. When you reach 80%, stop. (This is also a good tip for those with IBS.)
  • Add fermented foods to your diet. I DO NOT MEAN BOOZE, PEOPLE! Fermented foods come in the form of sauerkraut, good quality, plain Greek yogurt, kombucha, organic miso, organic tempeh, and kimchi. By adding these probiotic powerhouses to your meal plans, you will increase the number of enzymes you consume, which will aid the good bacteria.
  • Make sure you stay regular. Yep—I mean in the bathroom. When you become constipated and stool backs up, friendly bacteria becomes completely overrun with the bad guys. Bad bacteria LOVE poop. Don’t let them have it—make sure you are using the toilet at least once a day to keep the bad guys in check, and the good guys happy. Tip: Upon waking, drink one liter of room-temperature water before putting anything else in your body. This will kick-start the digestive process.

There you have it! 5 ways to improve the health of your gut, ASAP. xo

Is 2015 the Year for Radical Self-Love?

Love

I attended a yoga class this morning, and, as always, benefited spiritually as well as physically. I was so thankful to have been granted the opportunity to make it to that class, and I wanted to share what I walked away with.

We all began by laying on our mats, on our backs with our eyes closed, and the instructor began to speak about resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are typically compiled in a tidy list of promises we attempt to make to ourselves. Usually, they’re about change. We want to work out more, lose twenty pounds, start reading American classics, or be a better parent.

That sort of thing.

We’ve all heard that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” right? Simply translated, we all have great intentions of making ourselves better people, but when we inevitably “fail” (don’t read, gain weight, persist in our habit of brushing off our kids), we become very hard on ourselves and it’s this by-product that we all need to try and avoid. Although the resolution was made with pure intent, it often results in guilt and varying degrees of anger or disappointment towards ourselves.

My yoga instructor today posed the question that instead of setting ourselves up for regret and negative self-talk and guilt, what if we all made 2015 the year for “radical self-love?”

What if we spent 365 consecutive days telling ourselves we’re perfect; that our wrongs can’t and shouldn’t be undone; that who we are today is because of those mistakes and errors in self-judgment and pride, and we just vowed to love ourselves and be gentle; to radiate warmth and compassion for those around us and ourselves?

What would the end of the year look like?

Love

Kindness and love is contagious, as is anger and frustration. Instead of wallowing in our own mis-steps and asking ourselves why we did what we did, or why we aren’t better, stronger, wealthier, or more successful, what if we made a pact to spread acceptance and forgiveness?

This is where we discuss the “trickle-down effect.” When you exemplify love, you receive it. When you show (not just tell) others how to be kind, you are breeding kindness all around you. So what if you did something bad or made terrible decisions in your past or have been collecting every reason under the sun to dislike yourself and give others reasons to dislike you, too?

Stop it.

By trickling down positive feelings instead of negative ones, we automatically offer the people in our lives the tools to do the same. How powerful is that? Instead of a My Little Pony, what if you could give your daughter the gift of self-love? Children model what they see and experience, as do the rest of us. If we all modeled self-love, self-respect, and self-worth, wouldn’t the world be an incredible place?

Forget the typical resolutions, and instead, make 2015 the year for love, kindness, patience, and above all, forgiveness; not just towards others, but towards yourself. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and make a conscious effort to move forward in your life by radiating empathy and acceptance for all you’ve done, and who you are right now. You’re already a perfect version of yourself—you just have to be willing to acknowledge it, and move on.

Happy New Year

Radical self-love. 2015. You can do it. Spread the word, and love, baby, love.

Happy holidays! xo

Travelling with a Digestive Disorder

Vacation

Alternative title: What Does My Second Brain Have against Crossing Time Zones?

Those who follow my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/loveyourgut.ca) know that I just got back from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Which is exciting. Because Mexican food ROCKS MY WORLD.

Unfortunately, it also forms a rock in my stomach.

I mean, if I was travelling in Italy, and planning on consuming tons of pizza and pasta and all things wheat and cheese, then I would have been more prepared. But I was thinking beans, guacamole, fresh fruit (including papaya, which gets things GOING), and salsa, which in the past, have been pretty safe.

The first half of the week was okay, probably because I was playing a lot of water polo. I was being active. And selective with my alcoholic beverages. (No blender drinks, not much sugar.)

During the second half of the week, I found myself up shit creek without a paddle. Except without the shit. Or the creek. Or the paddle. Actually, for the first time in YEARS, I went THREE days. Without…you know.

It’s like the little being who likes to screw with my stomach was happily enjoying the Mexican sun, and then suddenly sat up and was like, “Wait a minute! I love to screw with this woman! I gotta get my shit together! It’s GO TIME!”

But because I had already had such a great four days, I didn’t hear my little crazy amiga, and instead thought, “Yes! I made it FOUR DAYS! Let’s party! I’m gooooooood!!!” And then I started being a little more adventurous with my food (Ravioli? Let’s do it!) and drinks (Spicy mango margarita? Hell, yes!).

And that’s when I almost killed myself. Death by heavy foods. That WILL be the way I go. I’ll be that slim chick who ate herself to death, and it’ll be confusing for people, which will delight my ghost who looks on, but I digress…

SO…I guess what I’m trying to communicate are the lessons that I learned this past week while vacationing: (I know, that was a REALLY long intro to my blog post, right? Sorry.)

1-      Stay active. Two days of water polo and feeling proud for taking the stairs to your room (especially when you’re on floor TWO) is not enough. If you’re used to going to the gym, maintain that habit while on vacation.

2-      Don’t eat foods that you wouldn’t eat at home. Stupid ravioli. It was SO good. Your body won’t be prepared for it, and mine responded by literally shouting “What the FUCK?!” (Okay, not literally, but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.)

3-      Bring your supplement regimen with you. I left my digestive enzymes and probiotics and my B12 at home. Not that B12 has anything to do with my stomach hating me, but just continue your routine. Our guts are like children. Or men. They like routine, and it’s confusing for them when something is different. (That last part was for my husband.)

4-      Stick to clean drinks. I know, I know—all-inclusives are hard to not drink your way through, right? But the purpose of you bring there is to relax and have fun. So don’t drink a bunch of crap that makes the opposite occur! You don’t need a round of Dirty Monkeys to feel awesome. Besides drinking A LOT of water, these are the drinks I found both delicious, and conducive to my skittish gut:

  • Vodka, water, and lime. Ask for better vodka—my resort had Grey Goose!
  • Gin, soda, and fresh mint. Mint is very calming for the digestive tract.
  • Blended Fresh Mint: A giant handful of fresh mint, rum, water, cucumber, lime, and soda. It was DELISH and low in sugar, which is very unlike the extremely popular Banana Rama and Bob Marley.
  • Tequila on Ice. Just joking. I thought this was gross, but I had to try it, because I’m in Mexico and felt pressure to consume tequila. I literally took one sip.

5-       Relax, and get some major sun. Your body craves vitamin D by this time of year, so go on and feed the beast.

Alright, I’m done. I’m writing this at 7am, and those who know me know that I’m not great at this time of day, so hopefully this all makes sense. (Notice that I’m not concerned enough about it to delay posting this, just to mention it and then post it anyway.)

TGIF! Eat your veggies, and love your gut. (Even if it doesn’t love you. It’ll come around. You’re awesome.)

Fragmented Foods: is low-quality food and lack of nutrition education to blame for poor digestion?

Photo from whollyfitvictoria.com

Photo from whollyfitvictoria.com

When you think of food, what immediately comes to mind? Do you think of grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and good quality meats? Or do you conjure up images of pre-packaged breakfast cereals touting ‘whole grains,’ and processed deli meat that is meant to inhabit a bleached-out bun? Most people wouldn’t admit it, but option number two is far more prevalent than the first.

Today’s “foods” are the leading contributors to the enormous influx of gastrointestinal disorders that over twenty million Canadians[1] currently suffer from. Forget meds and surgeries—could simply eating better food solve most of our gastrointestinal problems?

Dr. John McDougall is one doctor that thinks so. In his book, Dr. McDougall’s Digestive Tune-Up, he says “the food you put in your body is the single most powerful factor that determines your health and well-being.”[2] If you’ve read his book, you’ll know that he’s speaking primarily about the power good foods have on proper (or improper) digestion.

Hmmm…food for thought?

I have to admit, I have a personal vendetta against food companies that market their products as healthy, natural, and whole, only to discover them teeming with filler, additives, artificial ingredients, and preservatives; companies that go out of their way to label sugar as “organic cane sugar” or “sucrose” so that un-savvy consumers think the sugar content is lower and healthier than it actually is—and don’t even get me started on “fat-free!”

I suffered from irritable bowel syndrome for nine years before realizing I could eradicate my terrible symptoms by eating actual food instead of food-like substances—in six days. (True story—and I was a pretty healthy eater to begin with! Just not informed.) If ordinary foods have the ability to correct extraordinary digestive problems, then why aren’t we all eating the good stuff and leaving the bad foods alone (to NOT rot– haha) on the grocery store shelves?

One reason is that most of us just don’t realize that digestive issues may be related to what we eat. When talking to a doctor about your IBS or IBD or whatever chronic digestive malfunction you may be experiencing, you will almost NEVER hear that doctor ask you what you’re eating or what you’re not. Even most specialists won’t ask you those questions! Most will ask you about family history, offer you medications that have been approved for treatment (even though many of them are statistically less effective than a placebo)[3], and maybe try and book you for another appointment with different doctor who may or may not be interested in talking you into surgery. Grrr…

The second most common reason for not changing your diet when confronted with digestive problems is that food companies do such a great job of disguising crappy ingredients from the average consumer. We genuinely have no idea what we’re putting into our bodies.

(If that major company is calling this food, then its food, right? I mean, is HAS been approved by the FDA…) Etc, etc, etc.

Can we please take a step back from this mess and do our own investigative work? Once you want to, it’s easy. Being diligent about such things as reading ingredients labels (if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it), buying organic (if it’s not organic then it’s been sprayed with chemicals), and making sure you consume plenty of whole foods (non-processed—a food with one ingredient; for example, apple, oats, grass-fed beef, almonds) will ENSURE you better digestion, and in turn, better overall health.

What’s it going to be? Confusion over your tummy’s ability to cooperate with you on a regular basis? Or will you begin to take a hard look at what you’ve been putting in your mouth? Your gut is important—create a happy, healthy environment, and you will alleviate a lot of unnecessary pain and embarrassment.

Happy Father’s Day!

References:


[2] John A. McDougall, MD. Dr. McDougall’s Digestive Tune-Up. Introduction. Book Publishing Company. 2008.

My Baby Finally Has a Name! (My Book Has an Official Title)

Love Your Gut

I’m super excited to announce that although I am a little sad to see my working title of Love Your Gut go, I’m thrilled that an official title has been chosen for my very first book! Love Your Gut is now Happy, Healthy Gut: The Natural Diet Solution to Curing IBS and Other Chronic Digestive Disorders!

YAY!

This is fun, because although I sold my manuscript to Skyhorse Publishing in December 2012, almost NOTHING has happened that I can see directly! I’m learning alot about how patient (or impatient) I am via my first go in this process. Hahaha…I still have 6 months left ’til pub date…(January 2014)

Next up? Hopefully a book cover and ISBN number! Stay tuned!

Smoothies: small meals, high nutrient absorption

Smoothie

Most of us already know that there are countless health benefits to consuming liquid nutrients. Blending is a fabulous ways to flood your body with highly nutritious fruits and vegetables, which are notoriously chalk-full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, water, and fibre. Although the main goal for consuming smoothies is to get as much of Mother Nature’s goodness in you as possible in small-meal form, there are also other great benefits to one’s digestive tract and subsequent overall health.

Blending for Better Nutrient Absorption

Blending is a great way to include a variety of healthful ingredients into one, 12 ounce glass of pure, plant-based nutrients. For example, you would never eat 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of filtered water, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon of flax oil for breakfast, unless you consumed it smoothie-style. You get every single part of the whole food when blending (including the fibre), and as an added benefit, smoothies are filling. They can be used as a complete meal replacement when protein-rich hemp is added, which is great for on the go, or to follow up a workout when your body is begging you to ingest something wholesome, stat.

(Just remember, fabulous foodies: wine does not count as a fruit!)

Nutrients are absorbed in both the small and large intestinal tracts. Enzymes that are both consumed and produced assist greatly in this process. By blending raw fruits and vegetables, you are increasing the number of enzymes that are made available to your body. Enzymes that naturally occur in raw, living nutrients are super important in keeping up the health of your gut.

If you only consume food that is “dead” (food that has been processed, packaged, dried, or literally killed), you decrease your enzyme count, which leads to digestive angst. Which brings me to:

Blending for Increased Digestive Health

Because much of our western diet is comprised of heavy, nutrient-void “foods,” [1]  smoothies are a completely awesome alternative to a ‘fast-food,’ while remaining kind to our digestive tracts. 60-70 million Americans suffer from digestive disorders,[2] and that number is only on the rise. Not unlike heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure, digestive disease can be mostly eradicated by consuming foods high in absorbable, plant-strong nutrients.[3]

Those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, and chronic constipation can greatly reduce their symptoms associated with these disorders, by eating a diet high in readily-digestible foods, such as smoothies.[4]

Often, those living with these types of digestive ailments respond very well to a diet high in fibrous, plant-based nutrients. The abundance of both soluble and insoluble fibre one gets from blending meals is exactly what it prescribed for disorders associated with chronic constipation.

Increased energy is another major benefit to consuming nutrients in liquid form. Your body is given a break from attempting to digest chemical-laden products and heavy, acidic animal products. By delivering the best foods you can to your body, you encourage it to work more efficiently, and therefore divert much more energy that you used to use for digestion, to other endeavors. (Such as beating that 3pm slump, and going for a run!) Energy re-routed from digestion to other areas of the body also allows you to burn fat more efficiently.

The Bottom line? Consuming more fruits and vegetables is on everyone’s to-do list, and it’s made easy when you blend. Give your tired tummy a break, and try blending for not only improved digestive health, but also clear skin, bright eyes, and lustrous locks.

3 Smoothie Recipes

Combine all ingredients, and blend until smooth:

1-      1 cup of frozen blueberries, 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp. of flax oil, and 1 tbsp. of chia seeds.

2-      1 cup of frozen mango, 1 banana, 1 ½ cups of water, 1 tbsp. of tahini (a sesame seed paste), and 1 tbsp. of lime juice.

3-      3/4 cup of frozen strawberries, 1 banana, and 1 of cup unsweetened almond milk. Blend, then top with raw walnuts.

 

References:


 

Food Allergies: New Phenomena or Old News?

Photo courtesy of drievy.ca

Photo courtesy of drievy.ca

Almost everyone I talk to about food (and I talk about food CONSTANTLY) pipes up with the fact that they’re allergic or sensitive to something that should be perfectly edible. Whether it’s nuts, dairy, gluten, wheat, egg, shellfish, berries, or corn, my reaction is always the same: this is RIDICULOUS! 50 years ago, nut allergies were rare, and wheat sensitivities virtually unheard of.

I have not escaped this fate. I am definitely lactose intolerant, and I also have a tough time digesting products with wheat (but maybe it’s the yeast?) like bagels and pound cake. I also can’t process heavy meats, like beef. So I’m currently vegan (but ask me tomorrow– it changes constantly), and also abstain from a large variety of wheat products. This is NOT because I love animals, though I do. It’s because I physically cannot process those foods without alot of pain, bloating, and back ache.

Do I feel ripped off? YES!

I’m also full-on allergic to penicillin and sulfa drugs, something that could easily be attributed to the over-medicating of farm animals, and our subsequent, steady but growing resistance to antibiotics.

*Sigh.

So, what’s up with the food allergies? I guess I should begin this rant (for that’s what it will be now) with supplying you with a distinction between a food allergy and a food sensitivity/intolerance. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say:

Food allergy: A food allergy causes a reaction within the immune system that leads to damage to one or several organs of the body. Food allergies are therefore more serious. They can cause a huge range of symptoms (shortness of breath, hives, vomiting, stomach cramping, etc), and even a miniscule amount of the offending food can cause a reaction worthy of an EpiPen. For example, if I even get my kids’ penicillin on my fingers (or lick my finger after getting a tiny amount on it without thinking about what I’m doing), I get a red rash at the point of contact, and can become itchy. If I were to ingest it myself, I break out into full-body hives, and need an antihistimine, stat.

Food sensitivity/intolerance: These guys come on much more slowly (sometimes you don’t even notice your body protesting), and don’t involve a reaction from the immune system. Often, they are attributed to the bloating you get after eating ice cream, or a bag of potato chips. Some causes of food intolerances are:

1- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) *I was diagnosed with this in 2001.

2- Absence of an enzyme needed for processing certain foods. For example, if your body does not make lactase, you will be lactose (milk sugar) intolerant.

3- Recurring stress. There is a well-known brain-gut connection, and when you’re chronically stressed, so is your entire digestive system. If this might apply to you, try decreasing your stress levels by getting better quallity sleep, exercise, and eat better food. Try yoga!

4- Food poisoning. Disruption to our intestinal tracts via dangerous microbes, such as E.coli, can create sensitivity within our guts.

5- Sensitivity to processed food additives. This one is HUGE. Many people are very sensitive to artificial colours, stabilizers, and preservatives.

6- Genetically modified foods. (GMOs) People are becoming more and more sensitive to corn and soy products, due in large part to their mass genetic modification. The sad part? There is some component of corn and/or soy in almost ALL processed foods. Beware.

7- Chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides that coat our produce is wreaking havok on our digestive systems, making it difficult for many of us to properly process foods. When our bodies are constantly in a state of panic and repair, we cannot possibly absorb all of the nutrients that we intend to. Just because we eat it, doesn’t mean we use it.

So, what’s our current food system have to do with it? Everything.

Today is all about bigger, better, faster, cheaper. So, we eat the cheapest food we can buy, and also the fastest to prepare. Right? Is this way good? Not so much. The bulk of our western diet is made up of sugar, refined starches, and animal products. A very small amount is attributed to fruits and vegetables. We are inundating our bodies (mostly our digestive systems) with acidic, sugary, refined, processed, chemical-laden, genetically modified food. No wonder we have so many intolerances and allergies nowadays!

50 years ago, people ate a much better diet, that did not contain NEARLY the amount of toxins we eat today. Therefore, food sensitivities were few and far between. And we can get back there– we just need to eat mindfully. Fresh, local, organic, and grass-fed. Foods of the earth. That’s what can turn around this mess.

Rant over. Have a great weekend! Don’t forget to love your gut!

Happy Pills or Happy Food? Can certain foods help your mood as much as anti-depressants can?

 Image courtesy of www.deviantart.com

Sooo….it’s the end of April, and I don’t know about you guys, but this is the time of year when I feel…blaahhh. I’m typically a very motivated, quick-paced, impulsive, upbeat person…but right now? Not so much. Living just outside of Vancouver, BC, I am currently experiencing some mythical sunshine (thank the Weather Gods), but ordinarily, I have been rained on for about 4 months straight by now.

Well, one can only take so much of this dark, wet, deflating weather before we start to feel…well, depressed. So, do we run off to our GP for a prescription for an anti-depressant, or do we take a good hard look at what we’re putting in our bodies and tune it in an attempt to lift ourselves out of our seasonal funk, sans meds? I don’t know about you, but I’m much more inclined to go for option number 2.

For those of you thinking that I’m talking about Ben & Jerry’s and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, I’m not. (I will NEVER endorse those things as a replacement for real food!) I’m thinking about all of the foods that are available to us that contain naturally high levels of the good stuff. That’s right– we’re talking about foods that contain high levels of folate, iodine, selenium, and vitamin D (low levels of these nutrients are known to trigger depression). There are also foods that that naturally possess seretonin-producing effects when eaten.

Here is a list of plant-based foods that are all well-known for being natural mood lifters:

Beets

1- Beets (250 grams has 30% of your daily folate intake)

2- Sea vegetables (super duper high in iodine)

3- Mushrooms (high in selenium and a natural source of vitamin D!)

4- Dark, leafy greens (boosts seretonin production, and high in EVERYTHING wonderful)

Some foods to avoid if you’re feeling depressed are caffeine, processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. All of these foods deplete your body’s mineral sources and contribute to increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. (Which is so weird, because for about 10 minutes while my mouth is full of cookie and wine, I feel AMAZING!) But then, like 5 minutes later, I don’t anymore.

Diet has been shown to be SO entwined with our moods, thoughts, feelings, outlook, self-esteem, etc. So, you can fork over the money for prescription anti-depressants and hope they work for you quickly (most take weeks to begin to take effect), or you can choose to feel better almost immediately and for a fraction of the cost by consuming good food. Good food also has no side-effects, aside from better bowel movements, shiny hair, and clear skin.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you stop taking the anti-depressants that you have been on for years and give this a shot. I’m not a medical professional in any way, shape, or form. Please talk to your doctor first. I’m just suggesting that if you notice you are suffering from the weather blues (commonly called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD), you may want to try hitting the grocery store before your doctor’s office. It can’t hurt!

Wrapping up: next time you feel as if you could benefit from a little pick-me-up, forgo the double espresso and the margarita, and head to the produce aisle instead. You can also get more ideas about your health and wellness from www.facebook.com/loveryourgut.ca. Happy Friday!

Vegetarian Recipes!

I’ve been asked to post a few of my fave vegetarian recipes, so here they are. Some are entirely my own, others have been inspired by someone’s else’s, and doctored to meet my needs. Your tummy will love them all!

Beet Salad

Rainbow Chard and Beet Salad – serves two

This is a pretty and perfect salad for a fall or winter meal. The warmth of the rice and roasted beet create cozy flavours and textures that make you feel snuggly.

4 rainbow chard leaves

2 small beets

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup chickpeas

½ cup raw pecans

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

1 ounce goat cheese (if eating)

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Set oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean beets and wrap individually with foil. Place in oven-safe dish, and roast for 30-40 minutes until they are easily diced. Set aside to cool until just warm. Cook rice. Set aside to cool until just warm. Wash and dry chard, rip into pieces, divide onto two plates. Dice beets, and divide beets, rice, and chickpeas, and place on top of chard. Add pecans, seeds, and goat cheese. Drizzle dressing on top. Serve immediately.

Superfood Salad – serves two

1 bunch spinach

1 avocado

½ cup blueberries

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup walnuts

White Dressing to taste

Wash and dry spinach, rip into pieces and plate. Add diced avocado, blueberries, seeds, and nuts. Drizzle White Dressing to taste.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad – serves six

This salad is perfect to make for dinner, and then bring to work for lunch the next day. It’s super high in plant-based protein.

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

½ cucumber

12 grape tomatoes

6 basil leaves

1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas

1 tbsp. fresh pressed garlic

½ cup feta cheese (optional)

¼ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from burner and place lid on top, letting it sit for another 5 minutes. Remove lid and cool. Once quinoa reaches room temperature, dice cucumber, and cut grape tomatoes in half. Cut basil leaves into thin strips, and crumble the feta cheese if using. Combine all ingredients into large bowl and mix well. Keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.

Seeds ‘n’ Stuff Salad- serves 4

This salad feels like a big meal—as the same suggests, it has lots of stuff!

1 bunch leaf lettuce

½ cup sprouted mung beans

½ cup garlic spouts

16 red and yellow firm grape tomatoes, cut length-wise

½ cucumber, sliced lengthwise and then in half-moons

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced into chunks.

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup raisons

Wash and dry lettuce, then tear into pieces. Place in large bowl. Add beans, sprouts, veggies, seeds, and raisons. Toss well. Top with avocado and serve with dressing of your choice.

Rainbow Citrus Salad- serves 6

This salad is super hearty and fresh, and makes a great spring or summer main-dish salad. The citrus paired with the spinach makes for increased iron absorption.

1 small head of green cabbage

1 bunch of spinach

1 medium-sized beet

1 large carrot

1 orange

1 avocado

¼ cup sliced almonds

Wash and dry cabbage and spinach. Cut or tear into pieces, and place in large bowl. Using a julienne peeler (if you have one, if not just use a knife), peel beet and carrot into long, thin strips. Add to greens. Peel orange and section it. Cut sections into halves, and add to bowl. Core and peel avocado. Cut into small chunks, and add to bowl. Mix veggies well. Top with almonds, and serve with Sesame Citrus Dressing.

Vegan Tacos

Vegan Tacos

Super Easy Vegan Tacos – serves three

This is one of my fave meals. I love messy eats, and this one is up there with the best of them.

6 hard taco shells

1 cup black beans

½ small head of chopped raw cabbage

1 cup Fresh Salsa

2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. avocado oil

1 avocado, diced

1 lime

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds

Combine black beans, salsa, and chili powder in one bowl. Combine cabbage, avocado oil, lime juice, sunflower seeds, and avocado in another bowl. Fill your shell half way with bean mixture, and the rest of the way with cabbage mixture.

Marie’s Vegan Thai Red Curry – serves four

This Thai dish is to die for. It’s completely vegan, and totally amazing. Thanks, Marie!

2 cans unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp. curry paste

1 yellow onion

3 garlic cloves

1 package firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 yellow potatoes

1 bunch cauliflower florets

1 can bamboo shoots

1 to 2 red bell peppers

Dice onion and potatoes, mince garlic, cut peppers into long, thin strips, break apart cauliflower into pieces, and cut tofu into one-inch cubes. Set aside. Spoon out half of one of the cans of coconut milk, incorporating any thicker part and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until milk releases its sweet fragrance, about three minutes. Add curry paste and cook for three minutes more, mashing, scraping and stirring often to soften the paste and combine it with the coconut milk. Add onion and garlic, stirring gently to coat with curry paste. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 1/2 cans coconut milk, tofu, potatoes, cauliflower and bamboo shoots. Combine well, and bring to an active boil. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red peppers and stir gently. Cook for 5 more minutes, until peppers are cooked but not too soft. Serve over rice.

Eggplant Lasagne – serves six

This hearty lasagne is major comfort food, and super flavourful. The chia seeds act as a binding agent in place of egg.

1 package whole wheat lasagne noodles

4 cups diced tomatoes

1 eggplant

1 onion

2 carrots

4 celery stalks

1 cup mushrooms

1 cup Daiya

1 bunch spinach

¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup ground flaxseed

4 garlic cloves

1 tbsp. oregano

1 tbsp. red chilli pepper flakes

1 tbsp. onion powder

Set oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and wash all produce. Combine onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms in your food processor. Process on high for about 5 seconds. Combine mixture with diced tomatoes, flaxseed, and all spices in stainless steel pot. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook noodles until half done. (Still firm- this is important.) Thinly slice eggplant length-wise about 8 times. Sparingly coat baking dish with avocado oil. Beginning with the noodles, cover the bottom in a single layer. Then, stir chia seeds into sauce, and spoon half the sauce over the noodles. Lay eggplant in single layer over top, and then cover generously with spinach. Repeat with noodles, sauce, eggplant, spinach, noodles, and then end with sauce. Sprinkle with Daiya, and bake for 45 minutes. (Don’t overcook or lasagne won’t set properly.) Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Vegan Pizza

Vegan Pizza

Veggie Pizza- serves 4

This pizza is super simple to make, and has a very low-calorie density. It pairs well with a salad on the side!

2 large whole grain tortilla wraps

An assortment of veggies (bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, kale, spinach—whatever you like!)

½ cup Daiya

¼ cup tomato sauce

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tortillas on cookie sheets or pizza pans. Brush with tomato sauce. Top with veggies. Sprinkle with Daiya soy cheese. Rub basil leaves lightly between your fingers and thumb, then place on top of the Daiya. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until wraps become crunchy around the edges, and soy cheese is melted. Cut into halves, then quarters. Place two pieces on each plate, surround with salad, and eat immediately!

Green Spaghetti- Serves 4

This pasta dish is both delish, and heavy on the greens. Substitute whole wheat noodles for brown rice or kamut noodles or if you are sensitive to wheat products.

1 bunch raw spinach

1 bunch asparagus

1 avocado, pitted and skinned

½ cup pine nuts

2 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Enough whole wheat spaghetti noodles to serve 4

Steam asparagus lightly until bright green. Remove from pot. Using the asparagus water, bring to a boil and throw pasta in to cook. While the pasta cooks, combine spinach, asparagus, avocado, ¼ cup of nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in food processor. Process until it becomes a slightly chunky, but mostly creamy consistency. If needed, add a little water. Drain pasta, rinse with hot water (especially if using a grain other than wheat), and toss with green sauce. Divide into four, and top with remaining pine nuts. (If desired, you can also top with freshly ground parmesan cheese.) 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies- Makes 24-28

These little cookies are crazy good! They are vegan, gluten-free, can be raw if you don’t want to bake them, and can be made completely kosher, too! Play with the ingredients if you can think of more yummy things to throw in (swap out the chocolate chips for raisons, etc).

2 cups raw walnuts

15 dates

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ cup shredded coconut

¼ cup water

¼ cup kosher chocolate chips (dairy-free)

1 tbsp. ground flaxseed

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until desired consistency. Add a little bit of water if you need to. Once mixed well, scoop out dough and make a “patty” with your hands, about 1 square inch in size. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Remove and enjoy!