I’m a regular contributor to a couple of fabulous health and wellness hubs, Crazy Sexy Life and One Green Planet. Here are my latest contributions to them that I think you’ll find useful.
The lovely, fun, extraordinarily awesome Kris Carr asked me to write a guest post for her blog. I was honored and humbled, and, of course, I jumped at the chance. If you’d like to read it, come on over here. I wrote about Raw Vegan lifestyle tips.
Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Kristen in banana
, brown rice protein
, Death On A Factory Farm
, Kristen Suzanne
, Kristen's Raw
, raw vegan lifestyle
, sprouted flax
, sun warrior rice protein
From Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Life blog: Eat Like You Give A Damn (that’s a picture of my t-shirt with those words – my BFF bought it for my birthday *grin*)…
“At the wee age of 10 years old I was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma or — in other words — BONE CANCER (gasp!). I endured almost 3 long years of chemo and lost my lower right leg. I’m also a veggie-lovin’ vegan who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and never even heard the word “vegetarian” until, uh, college? Seriously. There was rarely ever a vegetable cooked in my house that didn’t have a ham hock (aka: pig’s knee) in it! Every meal incorporated meat or dairy (usually both) until my first semester of college where not only did I hear the word “vegetarian” but I became one instantly after reading about the plight of farm animals. It was then that I made some life-changing connections between the meat on my plate and the miserable life of the individual it came from.”
Read more of this great story here.
HBO SPECIAL: Death On A Factory Farm
I’m eager to see this, and while I’m sure it’ll be hard to watch, I feel a responsibility to do so.
My Raw Food Intake Today
I feel extra awesome today, no doubt from all of the kick-ass healthy Raw vegan foods that are nourishing my body! Oh, and by the way, when I post the food intake, my husband is eating the same. Sometimes he gets extra snacks, or a big protein smoothie or two, or larger portions than me… just depends. Either way, I thought you’d like to know how my husband eats, too, for the most part. And, he loves it!
Vibrant Plant Blood (a.k.a. green juice, although this was anything but green)
~ This was so delicious, refreshing, and just what I needed to cleanse and start my day off right. Vibrant Plant Blood included (all organic): 1 large beet, 1 lemon (peeled), 1 head of broccoli (stalk and florets), 1 inch ginger, 4 med-large carrots
Banana Sprouted Flax & Rice Protein Smoothie
~ This combo keeps me fueled, filled, and satiated for a long time. It’s simple and tasty. I get my sprouted flax seed powder here and the sprouted brown rice protein powder here. The recipe was 2 cups cold water, 2 bananas, 1T flax powder, 1 scoop rice protein powder.
Large Kale Salad
~ Ooooh! This was good and fun. I’m keeping the recipe a secret, but only for a short time. I’ll post it later – giving it its own special post!
Carrot Sticks with Cheezy “Brazil Nut” Nacho Sauce
~ Well, I ran out of hemp seeds – bummer! So, I improvised and made the recipe with Brazil nuts (full of selenium). It was very good, but not as addictive as when I make it with hemp seeds. The cool thing is my carrots were bought at the Farmer’s Market this weekend, so they’re organic, locally grown, and Super Qi food. I love that!
Vega Bar (Berry flavored)
~ These are pretty tasty and filled with nutrition. I like having raw and vegan bars on hand for easy snacking or when I’m running out the door.
Kale Salad (large serving) and Spinach Thyme Soup
~ The soup recipe was featured in VegNews magazine, as well as in their most recent email newsletter.
~ Total sweet heaven. I don’t see how anyone could ever miss cooked desserts when you have something this extraordinary and decadent to enjoy.
I can appreciate that controversial articles can make us question our choices. We’re constantly bombarded with various advertisements, opinions, figures, information, etc., and I know it can make you wonder… “WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?”
So, here is yet another opinion on the matter (mine). I’m emailed all the time about this issue and decided to blog about it.
Different Sweeteners For Different Reasons
The healthiest sweeteners are fresh, organic whole fruits, including dates. That said, dates sometimes compromise texture in recipes. As a chef, I look for beautiful texture, and as a health food advocate, I lean towards fresh dates. And, then, as a consultant helping people embrace a Raw vegan lifestyle, I’m supportive of helping them transition, which can mean using organic raw agave nectar (an easy-to-use sweetener that might not have the healthiest ranking in the Raw food world – especially to purists, which I am not), but is still much healthier than most sweeteners used in the Standard American Diet. I think it’s important to support people in the transition with eating a healthier lifestyle and, therefore, it’s important to be flexible. After all, a slice of Raw vegan cheesecake made with raw agave nectar is a heck of a lot better than a typical candy bar found in a convenience store or cookies made with white sugar and butter (and cooked!).
Agave isn’t something that you have to put in your recipes every day. If you’re unsure about it, then balance it out with dates. Many dessert recipes probably come out with the best texture if you use raw agave nectar (think mousse, pudding, etc). But, if it’s a soup or a smoothie or a dressing, then you can pretty easily just swap out the agave for 1-2 pitted dates. In my life… sometimes I use dates or date paste (recipe below), sometimes I use raw organic agave nectar, and sometimes I use a combination of both raw agave nectar and dates.
My main stance is that I’m comfortable with organic raw agave nectar and I use it in some of my recipes. I do not consume it every day.
Raw & Organic Agave Nectar – But Is It Really?
I agree that there are agave brands out there that claim to be raw and probably aren’t. The label says that it’s raw, but it doesn’t specify the temperature at which it was created. That’s why I stick with Madhava’s Raw Organic Agave for light agave (check out the FAQ of theirs for more details). I also use Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Agave when my recipe calls for a darker (or blue) agave nectar. Both companies claim on the label to not process their agave nectar over temps of 115F and 118F.
Update 3/6/09: I’ve recently been sent a sample of another Raw agave nectar. I’ll let you know my feedback, but from what I’ve read… it’s very promising.]
Update 12/9/09: I do like the raw agave from Ultimate Superfoods. Update 3/17/10: I came across this blog where an article is featured “Agave Nectar: Hold on now… Response to Rami Nagel’s article By Craig Gerbore, President of Madhave”
Listen To Your Body
People are different and at different stages of raw (or even just healthy eating, for that matter) – this is important to consider if you have doubts about the health of raw agave nectar. Ask yourself… How does it make you feel? If you have something made with raw agave nectar, do you feel OK? Do you feel icky? Do you feel good and healthy? Many people on the Raw vegan journey find that over time, they eat meals that are simpler (for the most part) and don’t eat as many gourmet foods, where you find raw agave nectar used more. So, over time, you might not consume a lot of raw agave nectar, but to have some occasionally is common.
Honey? Heck No!
As a happy and very proud vegan, honey is not an option, nor is it something that I advocate for other people. Dr. Michael Klapper, M.D., (a vegan doctor and best selling author) advises against using honey for health reasons, because it spikes natural sugar levels of the body. Honey is, basically, regurgitated bee vomit. Gross!
Bees make honey for the colony and pollen for the new queen. They don’t go to all the trouble to give it to me. When a colony is disturbed by someone taking their honey or pollen, it places a great amount of stress on the bees. This can disorient them and, in that sense, their whole order has been tampered with. I wouldn’t dream of stealing from bees. (There is a lot of information here about bees and their honey.)
In my opinion, there is no need to consume honey and harm bees, when you can use delicious and nutritious alternatives such as fresh organic dates to sweeten recipes. You can even make a date paste if you need something of a liquid nature (recipe below).
Stress About It? Double Heck No!
Stress is one of the worst things for us. So, don’t stress about your choice to use, or not use, raw agave nectar. When you do things in moderation, it helps ease your mind. And, if you use agave nectar, get the best on the market (organic and raw) and feel secure with your choice.
Date Paste – Yummy & Healthy! It’s great to keep this on hand in the refrigerator so you have it available and ready to use. It’s easy and should take you less than 10 minutes to prepare. Moreover, I love Medjool dates for my date needs because they’re plump and big (I usually buy them from SunOrganic
For those of you who want to stay away from both raw agave nectar and honey, here is a nutritious alternative that is smooth and delicious.
By Kristen Suzanne of KristensRaw.com
Yield 1 cup
15 Medjool dates, pitted, and soaked 15 minutes (reserve soak water)
1/4 – 1/2 cup reserved “soak water”
Using a blender, or a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, puree the ingredients until you have a smooth paste. You can add a pinch of Himalayan crystal salt, if desired. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator (glass mason jar is perfect), Date Paste will stay fresh for 10-14 days or longer.
Monday, February 2nd, 2009
A follower of my blog inquired recently about eating a Raw diet and maintaining/building muscle…
Hey Kristen… I was wondering would it be possible for you to do a blog post on eating raw and weightlifting….I have lost 50 pounds since beginning to eat all RAW..now I’m doing ChaLean Extreme (it’s a program where you lift heavy weights to failure)… should I be concerned that my body will use my muscles for fuel instead of burning fat… I’m concerned with the whole calorie thing,because eating RAW I haven’t been counting calories. I want to reap the best results from all this hard work, because I have seen people who eat raw and have lost a lot of weight and some don’t look fit just smaller and soft… so that leads me to think they have lost some muscle, what do u think?…any advice would be greatly appreciated.
First of all… CONGRATULATIONS on your weight loss and for taking control of your health. I’m so happy for you. I’m actually a tiny bit familiar with the ChaLean program because I know someone who is doing it, and I’ve read about so many others bragging about it and loving it. If I had a set up in my house where I could do dvds for some of my exercise, I’d be all over this program.
Regarding your overall question… I switch between all-Raw and HRAV (High Raw, All Vegan) and my husband follows suit since I’m in charge of food – haha. I’m not soft and skinny; my body is toned and I have no problem maintaining that. :) And, let me tell you… my husband is buff and his bod is mega hot – ripped abs, chiseled chest… TMI? Maybe – haha.
Things I do to maintain my muscle mass, and things my husband does to maintain and grow his:
1) Strength train (we get our butts in the gym at least five days per week!). Period.
2) A healthy, alkaline diet complete with nutrient dense foods. Consume enough calories in general, including foods rich in amino acids and simple carbs. As people who work out a lot, we also add more protein to our diet. To do this, we drink shakes and smoothies with hemp protein powder, and lately we’ve been doing a mixture of both hemp protein powder along with Sun Warrior’s Raw Rice Protein Powder, and typically include bananas or some other fruit in it. We also like green smoothies (fresh amino acid-rich greens and fruit). Here is a link to a great workout smoothie recipe – GGGRRRR! Beowulf Protein Smoothie. We also love our fresh Plant Blood (green juice) which fills our bodies with phytonutrients. Sometimes we drink Plant Blood daily and sometimes we drink it every few days – just depends on our fridge contents.
We also make sure we’re consuming certain foods before and after our workouts (our exercise tends to last 45 – 75 minutes). For example, before a training session, we typically consume something with simple carbs (examples: fresh dates, a ripe banana, or other fruit is excellent workout fuel). After a workout (within 60 minutes of completing it), we have a small smoothie with simple carbs and a little protein (see the recipe for the GGGRRRR! Beowulf Protein Smoothie – we usually split this or something like it). Then, after an hour has passed we have another shake that is heavier with protein (typically Sun Warrior Rice Protein, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein, Vitamineral Green Powder, Fruits of the Earth Powder,water, and usually a banana blended in).
3) Recovery – This is an important topic that is frequently left out. You need to let your body recover and build, and this includes getting plenty of rest and sleep. Diet is also an important aspect of recovery, but rest and sleep are vital.
Basically, we listen to our bodies, monitor our progress, and make changes as needed. Ensuring success with this might mean some calorie counting, at least in the beginning, until you get an idea of what you should be consuming on a daily basis and how your body responds to it. Everyone is different so you need to find what works for you personally. But, it can be done!
Here is the gist of a question I was asked recently:
One of the big questions I’ve had in transitioning to raw is whether I’d be able to work out as strenuously as I had before and whether my results would be slower, faster, etc, etc. What has your experience been? What is your experience/opinion on muscle growth on a raw food diet?
Basically, here is my take:
For those of you who don’t know, I used to be a competitive bodybuilder in my early twenties. I repeat, I was a bodybuilder (not a fitness gal, rather a hardcore, natural bodybuilder). This was PRE-Vegan, PRE-Raw.
It’s very hard to make a true comparison for my ability to gain muscle because I’m simply not comparing apples to apples. More than just my diet has changed over the past 10-years, which could contribute to different levels of muscle growth.
Age: Does This Make A Difference?
I was younger back then, and some say it’s easier to grow muscle as you age into your 30s, while others claim it’s easier the younger you are. Either way, it’s a contributing factor that doesn’t relate to diet.
Experience & Technique:
I’m more experienced in the gym now so my form and technique are better. This could enhance muscle growth and isn’t related to the food I consume.
Sleep: Big Difference And It’s Important!
Sleep (quality and quantity) is crucial for anyone in training. When you stress your body in trying to grow muscle, it’s critical to get extra rest and quality sleep. Muscle growth demands a lot from our bodies, and the major repairs from a heavy workout are typically taken care of while we sleep. This is something I didn’t do well in my bodybuilding days. Between going to college full-time and competing with a hectic schedule, I was short on sleep and rarely let my body rest. That’s different for me now. My lifestyle today (healthy diet, lighter daily schedule, etc) allows me to get plenty of sleep and rest. Furthermore, the quality of my sleep is so much better as a result of my diet. I used to toss and turn all night, because my body was busy trying to detox all the crap I was ingesting. Today, I sleep like a baby. Because of this, I feel my time in the gym is rewarded with better progress than it was ten years ago.
Nutrients vs Stimulants
This goes hand-in-hand a little with the topic of sleep. When I was bodybuilding, I consumed massive amounts of coffee and other stimulating, over-the-counter pills for energy, diuretics, and even some laxatives (to move all the protein I was eating through me). Because of this, the quality of my sleep was extremely poor.
Recovery: Faster and Better
Again, this relates to sleep and rest. One of the major improvements I’ve noticed since eating an High-Raw, All-Vegan diet is my recovery is faster. Therefore, the frequency and quality of my training increases and this supports muscle growth.
Attitude: Super-Powers Anyone?
When I eat as healthy as I do, I can’t help but feel like a super-hero. My mental outlook and attitude are those of feeling Strong, Empowered, Bad-Ass, and Unstoppable. This is important when I’m in the gym because it helps me get in that additional rep, and gives me that extra oompf to lift heavier.
Although it’s hard to get an accurate take as to whether my muscle growth is better today because of my diet, I’d like to think it is. I can’t say for sure because there are many things that have changed in my life which could impact my ability to grow muscle. However, I feel so much healthier, look healthier, sleep better, recover faster, etc. So, all in all, I’d say there is probably improvement. That being said, I don’t find myself in the same camp as some people who claim they’re gaining more muscle, at an accelerated rate, with a Raw diet. But, as I always say, everyone is different so it’s hard to compare yourself to others.
Thursday, January 10th, 2008
For those of you who think living the Raw vegan lifestyle could be costly, let me help break it down because it doesn’t have to be. In the beginning stages, it can seem expensive, but in the long run, it’s not. Keep the five following points in mind:
>If you are new to Raw, you’re probably going to try lots of new recipes and you typically don’t have all of the ingredients on hand. As a result, you’re frequently buying new ingredients as you stock up your pantry. Once you’re stocked up with all the appropriate seasonings, herbs and ingredients then you’ll only purchase them occasionally.
>You may find yourself making all kinds of food for others to sample (in getting them to understand and support you, or maybe just trying to impress them, or even encouraging them to try the lifestyle for themselves). It’s all perfectly natural, but keep in mind that these – exotic foods, learning materials, parties, etc. – can increase the financial cost of going Raw.
>Super foods can be expensive (goji berries, green powders, raw cacao, etc) and many people don’t find them necessary at all. Personally, there are times I enjoy them and times when I don’t have them for months on end. It just depends on my preference at the time. For example, if I find that it’s been a couple of weeks without much variety in my diet, I’ll add them to make sure I’m getting a more balanced diet. Or, if I’m traveling, I always take a green powder to mix with water or juice so I’m still getting my greens. Just keep in mind that overall, if you use a lot of super foods, they can add to the cost of your Raw vegan lifestyle.
>Living the Raw lifestyle means not eating out at restaurants very often. This alone can save money! The equipment cost you pay in the beginning can add up, but remember you probably won’t need to buy these items again (or for a very long time) if you purchase high quality equipment. Ask for these gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
>Remember the things you will not be buying, which will save you money. Meat is expensive. Supplements are VERY expensive – most (if not all) will no longer be necessary. Processed and packaged food is expensive. Going to restaurants is expensive. Doctor co-pays and bills are expensive. Prescription drugs are expensive. Being sick and staying home from work is expensive. Not having enough energy to really pay attention to your kids and be there for them 100% is expensive.
Large green juice
Large green juice
2 of my Heavenly Cookies
Large salad of lettuce, red bell pepper, carrots, celery, tomato topped with a zesty Raw Italian Dressing YUM!
3 of my Heavenly Cookies
Saturday, January 5th, 2008
Tomorrow we’re leaving for a snowboarding trip. Whoo-hoo! I used to be a big-time skier, but this is the first time I’ll be snowboarding. I can’t wait! It’s going to be awesome exercise and I’m sure I’ll work muscles that I haven’t used in a VERY long time.
Staying Raw while going on our snowboarding adventure will be super easy. I’m not going to abandon my healthy eating habits while I’m on the slopes, so I’m planning in advance. Since we’re driving to the mountains for our adventure, we’re able to take a cooler, which will be full of fresh produce. I packed my Tribest Personal Blender so we can still enjoy our super nutritious smoothies every morning and evening. (To keep our produce fresh, I’ll change out the ice in the cooler using the hotel’s ice machine.)
I packed organic Raw Sweet Vanilla Rain Almonds (recipe in this ebook), along with fresh dates, dehydrated buckwheat groats and energy bars (all perfect for stuffing into my ski coat pockets) which will serve as filling snacks when we’re warming up in the lodge between runs – clearly I won’t be having the traditional donuts and hot chocolate.
I researched the area for health food stores (fresh, organic produce) and vegan-friendly restaurants ahead of time. What did people do before the Internet? And, when we’re back in the room and need a midnight snack…no worries!…I’m prepared with Raw cookies.
Living the Raw vegan lifestyle is easy even when I’m away from home because I make it that way. It’s simply a matter of thinking ahead, being prepared and packing the essentials.
Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness. ~Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, speech 1873
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008
Going organic on a budget is not impossible. Here are things to keep in mind that will help you afford it:
1. Buy in bulk. Ask the store you frequent if they’ll give you a deal for buying certain foods by the case. (Just make sure it’s a case of something that you can go through in a timely fashion so it doesn’t go to waste). Consider this for bananas or greens especially if you drink lots of smoothies or juice, like I do.
2. See if local neighbors, family or friends will share the price of getting cases of certain foods. When you do this, you can go beyond your local grocery store and contact places like Boxed Greens or Diamond Organic. Maybe they’ll extend a discount if your order goes above a certain amount or if you get certain foods by the case. It never hurts to ask.
3. Pay attention to organic foods that aren’t very expensive to buy relative to conventional prices (bananas, for example). Load up on those.
4. Be smart when picking what you buy as organic. Some conventionally grown foods have higher levels of pesticides than others. For those, go organic. Then, for foods that aren’t sprayed as much, go conventional. Avocados, for example, aren’t sprayed too much so you could buy those as conventional. Here is a resource that keeps an updated list.
5. Buy things on sale. Pay attention to which organic foods are on sale for the week and plan your menu around that. Every little bit adds up!
6. Grow your own sprouts. Load up on these for salads, soups, and smoothies. Very inexpensive. Buy the organic seeds in the bulk bins at your health food store or buy online and grow them yourself. Fun!
7. Buy organic seeds/nuts in bulk online and freeze. Nuts and seeds typically get less expensive when you order in bulk from somewhere like Sun Organic. Take advantage of this and freeze them (they’ll last the year!). Do the same with dried fruits/dates/etc. And remember, when making a recipe that calls for expensive nuts, you can often easily replace them with less expensive sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
8. Buy seasonally; hence, don’t buy a bunch of organic berries out of season (eat more apples and bananas in winter). Also, consider buying frozen organic fruits, especially when they’re on sale!
9. Be content with minimal variety. Organic spinach banana smoothies are inexpensive. So, having this most mornings for breakfast can save money. You can change it by adding cinnamon one day, nutmeg another, vanilla extract yet another. Make spinach apple smoothies and throw in a date in or some soaked raisins for pizazz. Make salads, smoothies, and soups with ingredients that tend to be less expensive such as carrots (year round), bananas (year round), zucchini and cucumbers (in the summer), etc.
Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
Yesterday, my awesome, loving boyfriend and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary. Whoo-hoo! It’s been the best two years of my life; we have so much fun together! I couldn’t have asked for a better boyfriend. I absolutely adore him. This is a picture from yesterday with the gorgeous bouquet of flowers he bought me.
I’m often asked about the kinds of things we do, the places we go, restaurants we frequent, etc. We’re High-Raw Vegans, which means that we eat 100% vegan and it’s Raw most of the time (with many periods when we’re 100% Raw). Since we don’t have totally Raw restaurants in our area, we eat a lot at home (and why not, since I love to prepare food). We enjoy physical fitness activities together: going to the gym, hiking, bowling, bike riding, epic walks in the middle of the night under the stars, and of course this. We’re also huge fans of going to the movies. When we do this, I can be counted on to smuggle in our green smoothies and Raw treats in my big purse.
One of our favorite things to do is spending part of the day at one of the many big, beautiful hotel resorts here in Arizona. I pack up a little bag of organic Raw snacks and we sip herbal tea or wine, while enjoying our books or working on our laptops. The hotels have fantastic lobbies, bars and patio areas that are furnished with big, comfy couches and it doesn’t cost hardly a thing (just whatever we order to eat or drink).
None of our friends are Raw (not yet at least – ha!) but a few are transitioning to a vegan diet (YAY!). Just because our friends don’t completely share our lifestyle doesn’t stop us from socializing with them though. They know we value our health and that we feel great with our lifestyle, so they support us. We bring our own food to gatherings, unless it’s at a restaurant. If that’s the case, our friends are more than happy to meet us at restaurants that offer some Raw vegan friendly items (delicious salads, etc).
We’re very excited about the holidays. I’ll prepare a number of Raw dishes to bring to our family gatherings as we visit each side of the family. Scrumptious fun!
The process of love is exciting, and it fills me with joy and anticipation.
Being in love makes me feel powerful – it makes me feel as if all kinds of wild and wonderful things are possible.