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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!”

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!

Consumer Reports published a study that reports finding fecal bacteria in bagged salads!  Never again will I fall victim to believing that “pre-washed” or “triple-washed” means that I can just pour my bagged salad into a bowl and start chomping.  Now that I think about, it makes sense that there would be a lot of opportunities for the greens to become contaminated during the production process.  During its journey from the farm, to the factory, to the supermarket, the greens are likely to be exposed to animals, manure, chemical washes, and other pathogens.  In fact, I remember last September when there was a recall on loose spinach due to Salmonella contamination.  Of course there are government regulations and voluntary programs to ensure these natural greens remain a healthy food for us to eat.  However, it doesn’t hurt to be on safe side and make sure that we are washing our foods, even if the bag says it was quadruple-washed, before we enjoy a healthy salad. 

Madonna is going cuckoo for coconuts, and maybe we should too!  She has invested nearly $1.5 million in a New York-based company called Vita Coco that makes coconut water.  Some other celebrity investors include Mathew McConauhey, Demi Moore, and singer Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

Read About Madonna’s Investment in Vita Coco

What is coconut water

Coconut water is a liquid that is extracted from the inside of young, unripe, green coconuts.  A lot of people confuse coconut water with coconut milk, which is made from pureeing coconut meat and water, then straining it to remove some of the fat. 

Health Benefits of Drinking Coconut Water

  • Naturally Boost Immune System
  • Improves Intestinal Health
  • Increases Metabolism & Weight Loss
  • Balances Body PH
  • Detoxify & Fight Viruses
  • Stops Fatigue
  • Prevents Hypertension
  • Controls Diabetes
  • Aids in Circulation
  • Reduces Cancer Risk

Alternatives to fresh young coconuts

I mentioned Vita Coco already, but some other brands of coconut beverages include Zico Pure, and O.N.E.  I’ve tried two flavors of Vita Coco.  The passion fruit is a big thumbs up, and the acai flavored is a big thumbs down.  Go out and try one and let me know what you think!  Could coconut water become a threat to sports drink brands like Gatorade?  Would you switch over knowing the benefits? Or do you not believe the hype?

Source: holistic-nutrition.com, slashfood.com, bevnet.com

The other day, a friend told me that she really misses eating turkey sandwiches now that she is pregnant.  Doctors recommend that pregnant women should not eat cold cuts because of a harmful bacterium called Listeria. 

I posed the question to my husband, “Why would it be unhealthy for pregnant women to eat cold cuts, but it is safe for everyone else?”  To which he responded, “Well, our stomachs are stronger so we can fight things off more easily.

Fair enough. But I did a little digging and found that it’s not just Listeria that can make cold cuts harmful.  Sodium Nitrates are found in many processed meats, which react with stomach acids to produce nitrosamine, which has been linked to cancer.

If you have to buy cold cuts, purchase nitrate-free cold cuts, because they don’t contain any preservatives, and read this article from Supermaket Guru to be a little more educated about of what you are biting into.

Supermarket Guru Talks about Deli Meats

Additional Sources: family.com, TLC cooking, WebMD


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