A question for all my omnivore friends out there:  Would you consider cutting meat out of your meals once a week?  It might seem like an odd idea, but joining meatless Mondays has so many benefits!

Meatless Mondays is a non-profit group that started as a health awareness program in 2003.  Their goal is to reduce meat consumption in order to improve our personal health, as well as the health of our planet.

Vegetables on Meatless Mondays

Meatless Mondays has now become a food movement that is catching on like wildfire.  Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, introduced me to meatless Mondays when he suggested America get involved during an interview with Oprah. Michael suggested that by cutting meat out of our meals once a week will reduce our carbon footprint.  He also noted an additional benefit of meatless Mondays. “To the extent we push meat a little bit to the side and move vegetables to the center of our diet, we are also going to be a lot healthier.”

Adding more vegetables, beans, fruits and nuts to your diet will not only help your digestive and immune system, but it also has an external body benefit.  A vegetarian diet on Mondays will help you consume more vegetables that contain vitamins, antioxidants and minerals that help make skin healthy and clear.

And of course an added bonus: learn some fun new recipes along the way!

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A friend just called me from Whole Foods to ask me what the difference is between vegetarian-fed and grass-fed beef.  There is a BIG difference between the two, and his question has inspired me create a ripple to share the answer with you.   

Grass Fed Beef

Traditionally, all beef was grass-fed beef, and it took 4 – 5 years before a steer was ready for slaughter.  In the United States today, the majority of meat that is available is feedlot beef.  Feedlot beef can contain corn, protein supplements, and growth hormones, which makes animals grow at a much faster rate.  In fact, on this type of diet, it only takes a little over a year before a calf is ready for slaughter.  This is a faster and more profitable process, but it comes with dangerous consequences to our health.  Switching animals from a grass-fed diet to an all grain diet damages their digestive system, which is remedied with antibiotics in order to prevent sickness or death.  I bet you didn’t count on your meat containing antibiotics last time you grilled up those steak tips.

Grass-fed beef is lower in total fat than grain-fed beef, and many studies have shown that it is higher in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.  Knowledge is power, and it’s important to know the difference between vegetarian-fed (or grain-fed beef) vs. grass-fed beef.  Yes, grass-fed beef is more expensive, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It is healthy to cut down the amount of meat in our diets.  Consider spending the same amount of money on meat per week, but substituting a couple of meals per week with a vegetarian or vegan option.  Asking questions like my friend did today is a powerful step towards making healthier choices for you and your family.

I have been inspired to join Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and I hope you will be too.  In his new TV series, Jamie is exposing the lack of nutrition in our school system.  Childhood obesity and diabetes is on the rise, and we can’t turn our cheek to it anymore.  As Jamie put it, this could be the first generation of children that don’t outlive their parents due to health problems.  Parental ignorance, lack of education, and substandard USDA regulations are the three glaring issues that I was left pondering long after the series premier had ended on Friday night. 

In the season premier, Jamie visits a family and has them put all food they consume in one week on the dining room table.  At the end of exercise the mother says through her tears of her children “I would do anything for them, but I’m killing them.” Here is a snippet of the scene:

One of the most eye-opening revelations in the episode was the fact that the kids in school could not identify fruits and veggies! How are children supposed to make healthy decisions if they don’t know what ingredients make up the food they eat?  Watch as these kids struggle to identify fresh foods:

If this initiative resonates with you, I would ask you to do two things.  One, please set your DVR to watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC on Fridays at 9PM EST.  He is sending a truly important, impactful message that should cause ripples across the country.  Secondly, please sign Jamie’s petition by clicking this link to join the revolution.  Here is Jamie’s Message:

“The American Food Revolution needs to start now! If you care about your country and the health of its children please help us make a difference. We need your support to get people back in touch with food and keep cooking skills alive before it’s too late. We want to make sure every kid gets good, fresh food at school. It’s proven that real food promotes more effective learning. If you want better health for your kids the junk food must go. I need to be able to show The President and industry how many of you out there really care about this issue so please don’t wait, sign up today. It will only take 30 seconds.

America’s health needs you!”

Foodborne illness is costing the U.S. $152 billion annually, according to a new report released by the Make Our Food Safe coalition Tuesday.  What states topped the list with highest foodborne illness-related costs?  Connecticut, Hawaii, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, the capital Washington (District of Columbia), Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey. 

This important study was released as congress is working on legislation that would be the first major change in food safety in 50 years.  Yes, 50 years.  The goal is to bring the bill to the Senate by Easter, but supporters are worried that the frenzy around healthcare reform will postpone forward movement.  However, the Make Our Food Safe Coalition, which is made up of public health consumers and industry groups, are working hard to keep things on schedule  Today they rallied a group forty-five victims of foodborne illness on Capital Hill in support of the Food Safety bill. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 76 million people in the United States get sick each year with foodborne illness and 5,000 die.  By passing this legislation, not only would we save billions of dollars, but we’d also be saving lives.  It’s time for change.  If you want to find out more about how to take action to help pass strong food safety legislation, visit MakeOurFoodSafe.org.

I decided to experiment with drinking tea in the morning rather than a cup of coffee. After drinking tea for three days straight, and then going back to coffee, the difference in how I felt was so obvious!

Tea = Gentle

Coffee = Jitters

It got me thinking. I already get pretty stressed and riled up at work, so why would I make it worse by starting my day with a big cup of jitters? Since the majority of us are probably pretty hooked on our morning cup of joe, I thought it would be helpful to share some information about both coffee and tea.

Quick History (because they are both fun stories)

Tea was discovered by the ancient Chinese ruler Shen Nong, over 5,000 years ago, when a leaf landed in his boiling water. He drank the brown liquid and found it refreshing. Coffee was discovered much later and is believed to have been first cultivated in Arabia. In fact, it is believed that coffee beans were used to make tea until someone dropped a bean into the fire by accident, and voila, coffee was born!

Both contain caffeine, but how much?

Tea contains approximately 55 milligrams of caffeine per cup, and coffee contains about 125 – 185 milligrams per cup. As far as teas go, green teas contain the least amount caffeine, followed by white tea, and black and oolong have more. The effect of caffeine in tea usually takes longer to enter the blood stream than coffee, so it’s gentler on our bodies. Coffee, on the other hand, hits our system much faster, which causes that jolt in us that we’ve come to know and love for its ability to make us feel more alert.

What about decaf?

A lot of people are under the impression that they need to stay away from caffeine altogether. I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case! In fact, next time you reach for decaffeinated tea, consider this. Studies conducted from the US Department of Agriculture found that decaffeinated green tea contains less than a third of the catechins in regular tea. Catechins are the main antioxidants that make green tea so good for us!

Coffee and your health

On a positive note, the caffeine in coffee can help relieve asthma by helping relax the airways in the lungs. Other than that, it’s just a commodity that we like to enjoy, for better or for worse! Something to consider if you’re like me and enjoy french press coffee. MSNBC recently shared a study that showed that unfiltered coffee has a negative effect on cholesterol. However, to keep things into perspective, they did explain that “Unfiltered coffee has much less effect on your heart disease risk than smoking, high blood pressure, or being overweight.” Phew! I’m a big believer that most things in moderation are okay, but if you are interested or concerned, check out the full MSNBC article on coffee and cholesterol here.

Tea and your health

Studies show that tea helps slow the growth of cancer cells, helps with digestion, and has antioxidants that help keep our hearts healthy. It also helps lower our bad cholesterol and promotes weight loss.

Whatever beverage you choose to start your day with, just remember to pay attention to how your body reacts to it.  Although we’ve become accustomed to the coffee jitters, perhaps you’ll consider enjoying the effects of caffeine the gentler way with tea.

Okay…it’s not as crazy as it sounds.  Did you know that on average, 27% of all edible food is wasted every year in the US?  Yikes!  It kind of makes sense though.  When I put my chef’s cap on, and those extra scraps don’t quite fit into my culinary creation, they often end up á la trash.  Planet Green shared some really cool tips on how to turn your throwaways into functional flavors!  Here are my favorites:

  • Keep trimmings like parsley stems, leeks, celery leaves and fennel tops in a freezer bag to use for future soup stocks
  • Save the peels from fruits like lemon and orange to add zest to your favorite dishes
  • Save meat bones to add flavor to soups or sauces (and for your dog of course!)

Find the full Planet Green article here, and please share any creative ideas that you have!

So next time you join the ranks of the clean plate club, remember that there are many more fun and delicious ways to reduce waste when it comes to food.

Every dog deserves a good dinner, right?  Mimi, a 12 year old from central Oregon thought so, which is why she created freekibble.com!  Just by answering a simple trivia question about animals, you can donate 10 pieces of kibble to an animal shelter.  FOR FREE!   So help out our furry friends and check out the site.  I’ve signed up for a daily reminder to be sent to my email address so I can participate every day!  And remember to feed the cats too at freekibblekat.com.

Every day I wake up thankful to have a wonderful husband, loving family, steady job, and healthy lifestyle.  Okay, we all admittedly have those days that stress overwhelms us and the cloud settles in.  This morning, I spotted an article that gave me another reason to always look on the bright side of things… it may stop heart disease!

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Just because you’re eating a salad, doesn’t mean you’re making a healthy choice.  Who wants to lessen the benefits of eating all those beautiful fruits and veggies by topping it off with a dressing that’s loaded with fat and empty calories?!

Men’s Health released a list of the worst salads in America for 2009.  I enjoy eating at P.F.Chang’s once in a while, and I’ve definitely had the following salad that made the list (oops!):

P.F. Chang’s Chicken Chopped Salad with Ginger Dressing
940 calories
68 g fat (10 g saturated)
2,225 mg sodium

What makes this salad so unhealthy?  Men’s Health explains it perfectly by saying, “The ginger dressing gives this salad a tangy Asian-style kick; it also packs in a whole day’s worth of sodium. Order this salad as a starter and you’ll be consuming the caloric equivalent of 3 ½ Snickers bars before your main meal even hits the table.”

Here’s the whole list of the Worst Salads of 2009.

The dressings you find at supermarkets have all sorts of bad ingredients in them as well (many of which I can’t pronounce).  The easy alternative?  Make your own dressing!  It’s so easy, so why not?  Here is my new favorite:

Honey Apple Cider Vinaigrette

1/2 cup of honey

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 clove of garlic or 1 shallot (minced)

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk together honey, vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic/onion. Slowly whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper. 

This week I made it with a salad of mixed greens, thinly sliced fennel root, and 1 julienned granny smith apple.  Enjoy!

Shout out to Martha Stewart and White House Executive Chef for the recipe!

I’m flirting with the idea of becoming Vegan.  A meat-free, dairy-free diet appeals to me on so many levels.  I’ve stopped eating meat off and on for years, so that part won’t take much effort.  However, breaking up with cheese will be much harder for two reasons. One, because it’s yummy.  Two, because cheese contains casein, which is an addictive protein.  I had no idea there were opiates in my cheese!  Either way, I’m sure I’ll have slip-ups on the dairy front, but I’ll forgive myself.

I’m learning all sorts of fun stuff that I will share with you as I continue along my vegan journey.  I’ll conclude with something for you to ponder.  If humans are meant to be carnivorous, then why is the human anatomy so much different from other carnivorous animals?  For example, a tiger’s intestine is about 8 feet long.  It digests its food very quickly so there not time for it to rot.  A human’s intestine is about 20 feet long. It takes about 72 hours to digest meat (probably a good size serving, which is normally the case, right?).  Our bodies are 98.6 degrees. 

Meat + 98.6 degrees +72 hours = YUCK!

Now, I’m sure that I’m triggering some emotions in a lot of people, so go ahead, let it rip!

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