Pin It

Veganism! Everyone is doing it. What is all the hype about?!? It’s surprising, how many people I’ve heard from or read about lately that are going vegan. Eating vegan means not consuming any animal products so no meat, fish, eggs or dairy. I’m always curious (because it sounds SO hard) and usually ask “Why did you decide to go vegan?” 9 times out of 10, it’s because they watched the documentary What the Health. A few months ago, I decided I should watch it too to see what is so powerful about it that people everywhere are deciding to go vegan. My teen son and I watched it together and both agreed that it was extremely one sided, overly dramatic and probably downright wrong in some ways. There is no way that eating one egg is the same as smoking 10 cigarettes!

There was some good information in there too. The fact that our diet DRAMATICALLY affects our health is a huge point that I want everyone to hear about! I’m thankful that part of the movie is reaching people. My son and I both knew before we watched it that we were never going to be completely vegan but after watching, we were motivated to eat less animal products and we decided to eat vegan for 10 days to see how we felt. The first cleanse that I ever did several years ago was for 3 weeks and it was vegan based along with no sugar, caffeine, alcohol, gluten, soy etc. That is the best I have ever felt so I felt it was time to try it again.

Do I think that a vegan diet is healthy? It depends. Everyone is different and I think that some people can thrive on a vegan diet and some people thrive on more of a Paleo diet. I encourage everyone to experiment with their diet and figure out what works best for them. But if you are going to eat vegan,  you need to make sure you do it in a healthy way. Lots of junk food is vegan!

I personally think that I feel better eating minimal animal products but I will never cut them completely out. I don’t like any diet that is so restrictive – that is just no way to live! (unless you have true allergies of course)

The bottom line for everyone is that we all need to eat WAY more fruits and vegetables and other plant based foods like nuts, seeds, beans. And if you do eat animal products, eat smaller portions, eat them less often and please choose higher quality. Most of the meat and dairy sold in the US is very low quality. The animals are raised in poor conditions, they are miserable, sick, they are fed genetically modified feed and given antibiotics and hormones. Choose meat from local farms if possible (or organic or grass fed) and choose dairy that is organic and/or from grass fed animals.

Here is what we ate for 10 days…

1. Brown Rice Pasta with Creamy Cashew Sauce

2. Stir fry with tofu, broccoli, onions, carrots, celery, bok choy – served over brown rice

3. Veggie burgers with caramelized onions, avocado, lettuce and pickles. Served with baked steak fries  – veggie burger recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook. These are the best veggie burgers I have ever had.

*Grey’s favorite meal

4. Take out Thai Food – vegetarian curry and a rice noodle dish – one with tofu, one with extra vegetables

5. Vegan Lasagna – I have made this lasagna several times and it is delicious.

6. Vegan Nachos – from Oh She Glows Everyday. Absolutely fantastic! The “cheese” sauce is made from soaked cashews, carrots, potatoes and nutritional yeast – blended into a sauce that looks just like the baseball stadium cheese sauce. The taste is different but delicious! *my favorite meal

7. Spaghetti and Meatballs  – I made these delicious vegan meatballs and served them over brown rice spaghetti

8. Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with black beans, guacamole and leftover “cheese” sauce from nachos

9. Black Bean Burgers at a restaurant (the worst thing we ate during the 10 days)

10. I ate another veggie burger at a restaurant for a work dinner. The family got Chipotle – their sofritas (tofu) are delicious and taste so meaty! They use non organic (non GMO) tofu which is a bonus.

How did we feel? Here are some things we noticed: better bathroom habits, better mood, more energy!

As you can see, I cooked almost every meal. It was a bit time consuming but we ate food that was really delicious and satisfying. (if an 18 year old boy is satisfied, you know it’s true!) If you do not cook, I do not see how you can eat vegan in a healthy way unless you live in a really big city with tons of healthy vegan options in restaurants. In Charlotte NC, it is very hard to choose healthy vegan in restaurants. If you survive on salads and pasta with marinara, bagels, and french fries you are going to be unsatisfied and under nourished.

If you are going to experiment with a vegan diet, please do it in a healthy way. Think of it as a whole foods vegan diet vs. a processed foods vegan diet. And you don’t have to be 100% vegan, everyone can benefit from eating less animal products and more plant based foods.

Things to Eat:

Fruits and Vegetables – eat tons of them, as many as you can fit into your diet. And get a variety! Everyday – lots of different colors. And buy organic whenever you can. You don’t want to be consuming herbicides and pesticides.

Beans – chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, lima beans, black beans, lentils etc.

Whole Grains – brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, black rice, farro, millet – try new grains!

Oatmeal – real oatmeal like rolled oats or steel cut oats – not flavored instant packets. Flavor yourself with honey or maple syrup, berries, nuts, seeds

Nuts and Seeds – preferably raw – cashews, walnuts, pecans, almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.

Smoothies – you do not need dairy to make great smoothies – for the liquid use unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond milk, cashew milk, hemp milk, flax milk, coconut milk), water, coconut water, or green tea.

Nut butters – made from above nuts or seeds – store bought or homemade. Looks for brands with no sugar or oil added

Healthy oils/fats – extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, olives, avocados

Things to Avoid:

Bread, bagels, pancakes, pretzels, white pasta

Processed oils – soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil

Foods with added sugar

Peanut butter like Jif, Skippy etc. They are full of bad oils and added sugar. If you do eat peanut butter, buy an organic, natural brand. Almond butter or cashew better are better choices.

Potato chips, french fries

Any foods with empty calories – always choose foods that nourish you





Pin It
Pin It

Hello friends!

We all want to be healthy, right?! What is one thing that we all need to do to improve our health? We need to eat more fruits and vegetables! Most Americans don’t even get close to the recommended daily amount – especially kids. If I can serve something that will make my kids eats more salad and veggies, then I’m all for it. Everyone loves ranch dressing. Unfortunately, store bought ranch dressing is pretty scary (sorry to be the bearer of bad news!). Making your own is so much better for your health and it seriously tastes delicious!

Hidden Valley Ranch ingredients: Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Canola Oil), Water, Egg Yolk, Sugar, Salt, Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, Natural Flavors, Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Vinegar, Phosphoric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Modified Food Starch, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Artificial Flavors, Disodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid and Calcium Disodium EDTA as preservatives, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate.

Here are the issues that I have with some of those ingredients.

Soybean and Canola oil are highly processed oils that are inflammatory to our bodies. Inflammation is the root of most major diseases. These oils are also most likely genetically modified (GMO) which I try very hard to avoid. Here is a great article about the dangers of GMOs.

Added Sugar – we are getting so much added sugar from places that we don’t even expect it like yogurt, granola bars, marinara, ketchup and yes, salad dressing. Sugar is addictive, causes inflammation, is toxic to the body and feeds cancer.  Salad dressing does not need sugar.

Natural Flavors are flavors extracted from nature but then manipulated in a lab to create the “perfect” flavor that makes us want more. Many different ingredients can hide under natural flavors too.

MSG is an excitotoxin which means that it excites brain cells, sometimes to the point of damage or death. It is added as a flavor enhancer and actually makes you crave more.

Artificial Flavors are flavors that are not derived from nature, they are made in a lab. They are nowhere close to “real” food.

Other Additives – Plus, there are a number of other additives in there that act as flavor enhancers and preservatives. I encourage you to eat food that has no ingredient list or one with ingredients that you recognize and would use in your own kitchen.

My version of Ranch Dressing is super simple to make and uses ingredients that you probably have on hand. It is very versatile too. You can add a splash of buttermilk instead of the lemon juice, you can use plain whole milk yogurt instead of sour cream. And feel free to try different spices. Fresh herbs are a great addition too if you happen to have some.

It’s not exactly the same taste as store bought ranch because all of the chemicals give Hidden Valley (and most store bought versions) a “special” taste that is hard to replicate. My version is garlicky, herby and creamy – what’s not to love?!?!


1/2 cup organic whole milk sour cream
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or white wine vinegar)
1/2  teaspoon sea salt
black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed
dash of cayenne (optional)

Mix everything together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop. I like to shake it in a glass jar. It’s more fun than stirring or whisking. I imagine that I am shaking a martini!



Pin It
Pin It

Don’t give your loved ones crappy chocolate full of chemicals and toxins. Take a few minutes (they are so quick) to make these delicious brownies full of clean, healthy ingredients. Yes, they have a little sugar but they are brownies after all.

1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup certified gluten free oat flour (or all almond flour or all oat flour)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2  teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/4 cup melted coconut oil + more for greasing pan
2 eggs, preferably pastured and/or organic
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I like to use 365 brand dark chocolate chunks or a 3 oz. dark chocolate bar, chopped)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 x 8 pan with coconut oil. In a medium bowl combine flour(s), cocoa powder, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix well with a whisk.

To the same bowl, add applesauce, coconut oil, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool pan on a rack before cutting. Makes 16 brownies.

Notes:  I like them best with dark chocolate cocoa powder but my kids prefer the regular. If you haven’t tried coconut palm sugar yet, it is a great 1:1 substitution for regular sugar – it is still sugar though so use in moderation.




Pin It