The Aftermath of the Whole Foods 28-day Challenge

A big focus of my life and my blog for more than a month was the Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge. For those 28 days, I went without meat, dairy, oil, and refined sugar. Except for a few small lapses, I was true to the diet.

It was incredible at first. I lost three pounds in the first week. I felt better, leaner, and I stopped craving sugar. On the downside, I was tired. Not I-have-2-boys-and-don’t-get-enough-sleep tired, but exhausted tired. I would start nodding off at 9 p.m. instead of my usual 11. On days I exercised, it would start falling asleep at 8.

Once the diet was over, I had decided I would work oil, fish, and eggs back into my diet. I wanted to keep up with most of the dietary guidelines and slowly add just a few foods. One thing I promised myself was to not jump feet first off the vegan wagon. A strange turn of events landed me in New York the week after I ended the diet and not only did I jump off the wagon I jumped into a vat of beef.

I went crazy. I started out saying I would be vegetarian instead of vegan so I could have a grilled cheese with roasted tomato mayo from the 48 Lounge. I would show you a picture, but I ate it too fast!

Country Pate at Gramercy Tavern

It went downhill from there. My friend and I went to the Gramercy Tavern and ordered a dinner of meat. Really. Other than the hint of greens, our meal was all meat. And it was fantastic. We had sweetbreads, pate, a fish cake, and the world’s richest meatballs.

Sweetbreads at Gramercy Tavern

This lapse into carnivorism, didn’t wreak havoc on my stomach like I imagined it would. I actually felt great. That’s probably because I wasn’t eating enough protein during my vegan diet, not because I was a vegan.

The rest of June and most of July was not great nutritionally. The part where I felt great after eating meat only lasted a few days. Then I felt like I did before the diet, a little bloated, a little thirsty (amazing how you your tolerance for sodium changes when you eat out less and have less processed food). And the three pounds I lost? They’re back.

I think I really need to go back and embrace the idea of the diet. I need to cook more at home. Go out less. Don’t cover meat with cheese and potato as seen in the picture below. And really think about what I’m eating.

What I think I need to do is make parts of the 28-Day Challenge a lifelong challenge.

Meatballs with Fontina and Potato Puree

Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge: It's Day 28!!!

It’s almost over!!! Just a few more hours!!! I’m in the home stretch of the Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge. I’ve gone 28 days without meat, dairy, oil, or refined sugar (except for a few bites here and there).

Here’s what I’ve learned about being a vegan:

1) It’s not so bad. There are a lot of delicious plant based foods
2) I don’t need to follow every meal with dessert. Giving up sugar wasn’t as difficult as I thought
3) It’s exhausting – There is a lot of preparation that goes into making all of your meals.
4) It’s not for me

I think I can easily become a vegetarian, but vegan is too much. I love cheese and yogurt. Come to think of it, I love fish and carnitas and eggs, too. So maybe I’ll just become someone who eats a lot of vegetables.
One of the things I really embraced about the diet was experimenting with food. I made lentils with curry and coconut milk, cookies with no sugar, and chocolate pudding with avocado and date paste. I would not have tried and liked these recipes without the challenge.

But the main thing I learned from this diet is that I can go days without sugar. I don’t need to eat a piece of salted chocolate after a long run. My low sugar, all natural sports drink is enough.

I kept joking that I’m going to eat a donut on day 29, but I think I’m going to stick to parts of the diet for a while including no sugar (or very little), and no dairy for as long as I can stand it.

It was a long 28 days, but it was worth it.

Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge: Vegan Frijoles de la Olla

There are a few recipes that I’m known for and serve often at Casa de los Condes. Green chile chilaquiles, gluten-free mixed berry pie with dark sweet cherries, and pinto beans cooked with bacon.

My beans are my mom’s recipe and it’s one of my favorites. The pinto beans are soaked overnight and cooked the next morning with bacon and bay leaves. After they simmer on the stove all day, she puts in garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, cheese and a chili powder I can’t find anywhere outside of Arizona. (The ingredients are chili and natural spices and flavor. God knows what’s really in it, but it sure tastes good!)

Part of the challenge of the Whole Foods 28 Day Challenge is cooking without meat and dairy so there goes the bacon and cheese. Beans without bacon and cheese?? Why even make them??

Because I was starving, that’s why. I hadn’t been eating enough protein and needed something that I could go to all week long if I needed something quick. Last Sunday I tried making a vegan version of Frijoles de la Olla. I combined recipes I found in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday and in Marcela Valladolid’s Fresh Mexico.

Rick Bayless had directions for making beans in the slow cooker without soaking them first. He writes that soaking them doesn’t help much with digestion and you end up throwing away the flavorful soaking water. I had never gone without soaking beans, but thought it was worth a try. Chef Marcela had a recipe that called for garlic, onion and bay leaves.

Here is the combined recipe and it turned out amazing. Really tender and flavorful beans that I think are just as good as the bacon and cheese version.

Frijoles De La Olla

1 pound pinto beansonions
4 garlic cloves
½ a large white onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano to taste
Rinse and sort beans. Bring the beans and 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, chop the onion and mash the garlic. Put the onion, garlic and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Once the beans are boiling, pour the beans and water into the slow cooker with the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook for six hours or until beans are tender. Add the salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

cooked beans

The beans will be more of a bean soup the first day. By the second day, they should be thick enough to use in a tortilla, taco or as a side dish.

Whole Foods 28-Day Challenge: Being Vegan is Better With Friends

I’m just beyond the halfway point of the Whole Foods 28-day challenge. I was worried about this past weekend and if I would be able to keep up with the diet. A Memorial Day Weekend with no meat, dairy, oil, or refined sugar sounded really difficult.

But it wasn’t hard, in fact it was fabulous. Went to see friends on Friday and was treated to a wheat berry salad with fresh figs and mushrooms. My friend Christina, who is doing the challenge with me, made soup with garlic, onions, beans, zuchinni, and tomatoes. It was amazing.

Even more amazing was the trouble friend and MomsLA contributor Debbie (Manhattan Beach Momma), of Fresh Brothers Pizza went to for the blogger party at Fresh Brother’s new location. She made a vegan pizza for Sarah Auerswald and I with half no cheese and half Daiya cheese (some people like the gluten-free, dairy-free cheese, but I’m not one of them). My half was really good.

And not only that, but Debbie made a gluten-free pizza for my husband. Fresh Brothers has the best gluten-free pizza I’ve tasted.

My kids were happy because although they don’t have dietary restrictions, they are really picky. They got to make cheese pizzas with no sauce.

And decorate their own very-special-cupcakes. These were not vegan and definitely not sugar-free, but they were nice to look at.

Whole Foods 28 Day Challenge; Why Did I Think This Was a Good Idea?

I’ve completed 4 days of the Whole Foods 28 Day Challenge and I’ve had a headache for 4 days. I’m no doctor, but I think the two things might be related.

This lifestyle change (I’m not supposed to call it a diet) hasn’t been easy. For an entire month I can’t have meat, dairy, refined sugar, or oil.

I’ve been eating mostly oatmeal, bread, nut butters, salad, and avocado, which worries me because other than the salad, the food is high carb, high calorie. Even so I’ve lost 3 pounds. I’m sure it’s water weight from not eating any processed food, but hey, I can button my pants again.

I’m not doing the challenge to lose weight. Rather, I’m really trying to get my sugar addiction under control. Not long ago, during one of pre-marathon training sessions, a running coach said that he eats something high in sugar and salt after long runs. I interpreted his off the cuff comment to mean that I needed to eat a lot of salt and sugar while training for the marathon.

So now that I’m on this new plan, I’m not concentrating on baking cookies and cakes to fuel my next run, instead I’ve been cooking more healthy meals. I made brown rice pasta (pictured above) with red onion, garlic, spinach, and mushrooms. There’s no oil in the “lifestyle change” so I sauteed the vegetables in vegetable broth. It was so good. I really wanted to put fresh parmesan, but I controlled myself and was thrilled that it tasted so good. I’m hoping I can make more good recipes.

Hopefully my headache will be gone by tomorrow and I can really embrace this lifestyle change.

Whole Foods and Drastic Measures

Most people run a marathon and lose weight. Not me. From the last month of training for the LA Marathon to now I’ve gained around 8 pounds. That might not sound astronomical, but I can’t button my pants. I don’t want to buy new pants, therefore I’m going on a diet.

A month or so ago I started seriously thinking about what I’m eating. When I was training for the marathon what I was eating was EVERYTHING. I wrote a story about marathon training and how not to gain weight, but obviously I did not follow the advice in that last month. I’ve also written about how I don’t diet, but I’m 40 now and it’s time to reconsider my strategy.

I don’t think I can do it on my own and my husband doesn’t need to lose weight. As a matter of fact, he’s down to what he weighed in college because he “just eats less” and he suggested that maybe I should try it.

After I removed the fork from his jugular I started thinking about that. Maybe if I could just cut out meat and eat less cheese, I could possibly drop a couple of pounds.

>Last month I was given a tour of the Whole Foods in Venice and told about their “Health Starts Here” program. It’s all about eating a plant based diet. I made this dish called “Greens and Beans” and it was really good. Simple and flavorful and naturally gluten-free.

Whole Foods “Greens and Beans”

Unfortunately, the recipe called for vegetable broth, but I was out so I used olive oil instead. This is a typical move for me; adding more calories to something that shouldn’t have that many. I was just proud that I didn’t add cheese.

After that day at Whole Foods I really started considering making more vegetables and less meat at home. But all I did was think about it. In order to take action I need to do something drastic. Now, thanks to Whole Foods of West LA, I’m going drastic. I’m one of a group of bloggers to do the “Health Starts Here” program. I’ve signed up for the “28 day challenge.”

There’s a guided 4-week program that includes cooking lessons, recipes, and information about how to build a positive relationship to food.

What is crazy and could kill me is that there is no refined sugar or meat. No sugar. I love sugar. I bake all the time and a big part of my blog is about making gluten-free dessert. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m definitely going to try it.

Disclosure: I don’t really have one. I wasn’t compensated for this post, but wanted to mention in case you were wondering.

Packable Lunch Ideas

This past weekend was a busy one. On Saturday, I dropped off gluten-free cookies and brownies for the Bakesale for Japan at Akasha in Culver City. There were amazing baked goods there and I was told they raised $2,500.

On Sunday I helped out my MomsLA colleague Sarah Auerswald at the Green Booth at Mar Vista Farmers’ Market. We were talking about No-Waste Lunches and giving away lunch bags from Whole Foods. I wrote up a list of ideas for packable lunches. Here they are –

Monday farmers market
Almond butter and honey sandwich cut into fourths
Strawberries, fresh or frozen
Edamame, fresh or frozen

Cheese and whole grain crackers
2 peeled clementines
Frozen or freeze dried peas

Nitrate-free turkey on whole grain bread with honey mustard
Snap pea crisps
Mango slices

Cut up apples with peanut butter or other nut butter
Whole grain crackers
Yogurt smoothie

Plain yogurt mixed with 100 percent fruit spread
Blueberries or seasonal fruit cut up
Whole grain and low sugar fruit bar (Kashi has one, gluten-free try Glutino)

5 Tips to Prepare You for “Back to School"

When my older son started kindergarten last year I thought I was so prepared. I had bought him a cool backpack from REI, a lunch box that I was sure wouldn’t smell after a week, and a collared shirt for the first day.

Well, I thought I was prepared, but when the first day rolled around, I quickly learned it wasn’t true. Here are the five things I learned:

1)   Don’t buy everything you think you need before school starts.

I went to the back to school sales in the summer and bought my son the cutest blue colored shirt, a couple pairs of shorts, jeans and shoes. The first time I washed the shirt it shrunk an entire size and was even too small for the 4-year-old to wear. Then the 5-year-old went through a crazy growth spurt where he ate everything in sight. So much for the shorts. I bought them one size too big, but they shrunk a bit, too. And I didn’t take my son with me to buy his shoes because until then he really didn’t care. When I showed him the awesome hiking shoes I got him he said, ““These are not cool and I need to be cool!” I hate to break it to you honey, but with these genes, cool is unlikely no matter what you’re wearing.

2)    Find out from a parent with older kids exactly what you need.

The one thing I was excited to buy my son was his backpack because it came from REI and gave me an excuse to go shopping at my favorite store. I love gear and my son’s backpack was super cool – black, sleek with mesh water bottle holders. It’s Kelty so I knew it was good quality. It’s absolutely fabulous except that it doesn’t hold anything. In retrospect, it’s tiny. It needed to fit a lunch box, folder, books, a snack bag and possibly a jacket. But I could barely get the lunch box inside. It survived the year, but I have to go get another one for 1st grade. I’m contemplating a suitcase.

3)    All lunch boxes are disgusting

I looked everywhere for a lunch box that had no fabric so I could wipe it out every night to avoid the moldy, rotten food smell. I found one that seemed perfect, but after a week it smelled like a homeless man used it as a pillow. I had tried the sack lunch boxes from Whole Foods, which cost around $3 and were great because I could wash them, but they fell apart after a couple of weeks. I ended up washing the Kindergartener’s lunch box even though the instructions said not to. Hopefully I did not release toxic chemicals into the box. At least it smells good.

4)    Don’t think because your son or daughter starts school that life will suddenly become easier.

After many years as a stay-at-home mom, I imagined that when my son started school I could start to seriously concentrate on my business. It was the light at the end of the tunnel and I was finally there. Wrong again. It was harder to get any work done. There was homework for my son to do (yes, there’s homework in kindergarten), field trips to go on, and volunteering to be done. Because I had a flexible work schedule I felt I should do as much as I could for the school. In addition to all those, the kids got out early once a week and some days they were off completely.

5)    Don’t say yes to everything. You’ll burn out quickly

On the first day of school, the parents got a questionnaire asking what we would like to do to help volunteer. I checked almost everything off not knowing that I would get a call or email every week asking me to volunteer. At first, I did until I realized it was okay to say no. My plan for the Fall is to volunteer for only the things I’m able to do.

This year, I’m doing very little advance shopping. We’ll figure out what we need as we go.

This post was inspired by the  Yahoo! Motherboard.

Whole Foods

I love food and I love to go grocery shopping. I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, which is why I sometimes come home with wine that tastes slightly better than Boone’s Farm, but looks lovely on the table. I try to go to the store when I have almost no time, so I can’t ponder over whether I need to try another brand of salted caramel sauce.

Last week I had an hour to shop, but ironically couldn’t buy anything. I was given a tour of a new Whole Foods flagship store in Tarzana the day before its grand opening last Wednesday. It’s 20,000 square feet and it’s fabulous. The gluten-free section had products I’d never even heard of and they were all on display together (I hate it when I have to search for gluten-free products all over the store).

I was given a tour so I couldn’t stand around and stare too long, but I really want to go back and try the wine and tapas bar. Or smell all of the Soaptopia soaps that were on display. Or try the Alba skin care products, my favorite these days.