What are your intentions…

Two months in for this plant-based girl and I realize that I have literally dropped off the face of the earth with my food blog (maybe I shall blame it on the eclipse!).  To the handful of you that actually follow this thing, I say thank you and many apologies for not giving an update sooner. Oh but the plight has been real!!!  This plant-based diet has not been an easy one.  I think I mentioned  in an earlier post that one of the reasons I decided to venture into this new leafy realm was not only due to my strong desires to explore a healthier (albeit “on-trend”) lifestyle, void of consuming anything that came from an animal but also for health reasons, allergic health reasons to be exact.

But what I now have clarity on… drum roll please…is the fact that I am what I would like to dub as “PBD intentioned on the daily” but..with the slight gravitational pull towards seafood when needing a protein source that doesn’t give me an allergic reaction…Oh! and a bread consumer (yes, the kind that’s made with eggs) when eating at a restaurant.  Wow, if that wasn’t a lot to digest and “soooo LA”!!!

So, why have I made such adjustments to my diet you ask? Well, for starters, I got hives and an allergy attack a few weeks ago to something I was consuming (my hunch is that I’m either gaining an allergy to or having a new intolerance to peanuts) and I’ve been having some unfortunate stomach cramping and issues with anything containing soy.  Soy oh boy, not my friend!!!  Now I knew going into this diet that I was allergic to soy but I didn’t realize how pestersome this plant-based protein would be to my body. So to that end, I decided to make a conscious decision to add seafood (fish) back into my diet and to the best of my ability I will make sure I know where it’s sourced from (wild not farmed!).  I also decided that although Los Angeles has some great restaurants for plant-based food-goers (Crossroads Kitchen, Sage, Araya’s, RICE, just to name a few), it’s really not ideal when you do a lot of dinners out and the majority of restaurants cater to omnivores.  So to that end, I have decided that I will incorporate bread back into my diet.  For health reasons, I’m also still steering clear of cheese and have been feeling great since I cut out the delicious chunky, sprinkled and slicey devilishly stinky pieces of heaven.

What’s next for me you ask?  Well, I’m going to continue to trek along this uneasy territory and continue to learn what I can and cannot eat but while staying as plant-based diet intentioned as possible.

Two product shoutouts, I recently got turned towards the direction of a food intolerance test called PinnerTest (by Pittney Bowes) and Grow_eens giant protein cookie.  PinnerTest you can find on-line, Grow_eens is only at Juice Crafter locations.  If you’re anything like me (and you’ve already done allergy testing and shots) and still have issues when eating a variety of different food options, then I encourage you to take a food intolerance test.  And, if you like delicious nut, seed and dried fruit packed protein cookie-esque type food, then you’ll go bananas over Grow_eens…just don’t expect to find it at your local grocery store!

Overall, I will say that I am very happy with the feeling and results I’ve received from eliminating meat, dairy and eggs. I am determined to commit myself to this diet and to this blog.  I may not write as frequently as I did during my 30 day challenge but I will continue to share my plant-based plightyness.  To turning over a new leaf!

 

What are you letting go of?

Thirty-one days and DONE! With the month of July coming to an end, I have to say its been a crazy ride.  From challenging myself and going plant-based, badly cutting my hand (I now affectionately call the incident “avocadogate” but its apparently widely known as “avocado hand”…insert emoji slapping forehead), oh and some other instances that I’m not quite used to but adjusting to nevertheless.  So I’m happy to say, with all that has occurred this month, I am quite happy to bid adieu to July. Although there was much to gain from all of my experiences, I have decided that I am dedicating this blog post to the things I am “letting go of” ( a recent “question of the day” from a restaurant I visited that coincidentally came to me at a most opportune time) in regards to the month of July and over the course of this diet evolution.  I’ll also be including some fun insights at the bottom of this post from some new restaurants I’ve experienced over the last 31 days.

First, I must admit that I was a bit confused and somewhat torn when I initially, in essence, strapped on my hiking boots to begin this uphill journey towards the mountain of plant hood.  I have realized as I navigate through this adventure that I cannot profess to being a vegan (oh sadness and despair fill my eyes) but this is a FACT, as I have not eliminated honey from my diet (although I don’t consume much of it anyway) and for the time being I have not omitted prior leather purchases from my wardrobe. Gasp I know! Eeks, please don’t call the PETA police!  I do love animals but my choice to go plant-based was really due to the direction my diet was going in, the fact that I have a TON of food allergies, the “on trend” documentaries that have enlightened and inspired me to question my current eating habits since the beginning of the year, and because I like putting myself through new experiences and exploring new ways to improve my overall awesomeness.  Ha! Yes, I did just say that but it was either that or some cliche spiritual “new age” mumbo-jumbo about the mind, body and spirit.  So again, as usual, I digress but this all brings up a good point.  I have a new question (yes, other than where’s my protein coming from) that plagues me these days. I’ve had multiple curious people ask me why I’ve decided to go down this extreme path towards eating only things that are plant-based and my response is really the following:  it was a multitude of influences as well as health reasons that inspired me to change my current routine, to step outside the norm.  I have noticed a difference in energy and overall a better feeling.  So, if I’m reaping positive benefits from this change, then why not continue on this path, right?

I’ll admit, I went onto this trail with a helping hand, someone that inspired me as we helped give each other the extra nudge we needed to open ourselves to something new and challenged each other to do this diet change for at least 30 days (well, 31 to be exact).  And, like all things, I took this new journey on like any other challenge I’ve willingly taken on in the past…with utter excitement and complete determination!  Along the way, I’ve had to “let go” of that hand, do things on my own, make mistakes…for which I have learned from, and let go of a few other things along the way.  For example, although not an everyday occurrence, seafood, charcuterie and cheese have been a slight struggle throughout this journey.  Quickfix, unhealthy snacks have gone to the wayside along with tummy aches, heavy meals and a closed mind.  I’ve let go of judgemental thoughts towards those individuals that are vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, etc. and become more open minded regarding the differences in peoples diets and what they themselves decide to put inside their bodies.  I’ve also learned even more so, to let go of the opinions of others.  The decision to go plant-based was for my body and no one else’s, so nothing can slow this explorer down.

Ultimately though, it really doesn’t matter who or what inspires you. What matters is that you’re being inspired.  I’m lucky in the fact that, for every person that’s given me a bit of ridicule for turning plant-based, there has been someone who has given me inspiration, direction and encouragement.  If we don’t question our current path, explore new opportunities and allow ourselves to be inspired, then how can we evolve?  Whether it’s food or life in general, to those of you who push me every day (you know who you are), thank you for helping me navigate through this journey.  I love your passion, recommendations, insightfulness and pure enthusiasm, which coincidentally tends to mirror my own.  I will not be letting you go nor my new plant-based ways.

Now for the food portion of this post!  Here’s a list of the resaurants I have tried thus far and how they have either adapted to fit my vegan tendencies or lived up to their expectations.

Shojin – a cute place in an unexpected location (a mall in DTLAs Little Tokyo district), this restaurant explores Japanese food with a vegan/macrobiotic twist.  My favorite appetizer was the potato-like (because of the texture and the fact that it’s deep fried) gyoza, a sushi cut roll called Kiss of a Spider Woman and their desserts.  Definitely worth going back to do a further exploration of their menu.

RICE -one of my favorite restaurants in Manhattan Beach. If you live in Los Angeles you have many options as a vegetarian or vegan. But if you’re new to a plant-based diet and you used to love sushi then you’re bound to struggle struggle struggle. Now I’m not saying that you’re ever going to have anything that taste exactly like sushi but MAN, this one comes close. Get the dynamite cut roll, volcano and yellow brick road.  Although the dynamite was and still is my favorite with its delicate texture and slight smokieness, I could/will go once or twice a week for their kabocha pumpkin.  The spicy miso vegan ramen option was neither spicy nor a favorite of mine but I have high expectations when it comes to my noodle soups.

North Italia – although this restaurant does not tout itself as being vegan/plant-based, I felt compelled to add it to my list as they were so fabulously accommodating.  Their pastas are all made in-house, without eggs and can be combined or adapted to whatever dish you like.  I literally took one of their pasta dishes (the burrata tortelloni), told them to hold the cheese and added mushrooms, spinach and pine nuts.  It was amazing to say the least.  Especially since I hadn’t had a pasta dish like this since becoming plant-based.  They also mentioned that they can adapt any salad and can make pizza without cheese (although if you are vegan, I would like to mention that they do use honey in their pizza dough).

Veggie Grill – what can I say.  I used to cringe whenever a coworker would suggest going to the Veggie Grill when my office was in Santa Monica and now that I’m a plant-based girl, I was dying to check this place out.  Someone had mentioned to me that they have the Beyond Meat burger and encouragement me to go for it.  Now I will mention that I can’t remember the last time I did have a burger (was probably at The Tripel in Playa Del Rey since it has the most amazing pretzel burger) so when I put my lips to the Beyond Meat burger, I was actually completely satisfied.  It doesnt hurt that it also has all the typical fixings. Now, I just need the time to go back to try some of their other yummy dishes.

Palmilla – Wow, everything pretty much is made with lard at this place but their corn tortillas.  I did hunker down and have their guacamole and street tacos with mushrooms, which wasn’t bad.  Not one of my favorite meals for the month of July but doable.  It’s funny to me because there are definitely Mexican options that can easily be made into vegan dishes but sadly, they are not on the menu yet. The spicy margaritas at this establishment is really what draws in the crowd though.

Cafe Gratitude – overall ambience and service were great.  The avocado wasabi toast (made with fermented sourdough bread that’s to die for) and quinoa and black bean taco plate will keep me going back for more so its a good thing this place isn’t within walking distance to my house!  The only issue I have is the fact that they put cashews in A LOT of their dishes and I happen to get a reaction that’s not so fun.  rThe sister restaurant to Gracias Madre does have a cute “question of the day” that’s a fun conversational starter while waiting for your dishes.  If or shall I say, when I go back, I would get the banana and almond butter toast again just minus the honey.

Happy Veggie – when I’m in need of a soothing noodle soup, I will be going to this place.  In a strip mall in Redondo Beach, Happy Veggie literally serves a pho soup that rivals its meat- based broth counterparts.  Fresh, light and absolutely amazing.  I can’t wait for cold days in the winter when the temperature is a balmy 65 degrees (harr har, it’s why I live in LA) so I can have this soup EVERY SINGLE DAY!

Araya’s –  in Hollywood off of Beverly, this hole in the wall Thai gem literally has not failed me with a single dish.  Delicious spring rolls, dumplings, yellow curry and pad thai (that I crave on the regular) make this resaurant one of my favorites in Los Angeles.  Everything taste super fresh and is cooked to perfection.  I would, hands down, recommend this restaurant to anyone.  It really doesnt matter if you’re an omnivore or herbivore…you just need to be a lover of good food!

 

 

 

 

 

Friend or foe…

Twenty-one Days In (it only takes 21 days to form a new habit so they say…) and in the short time that I have been a plant-based girl I’ve often struggled with the word meat (AKA PROTEIN) and those that consume it…is it/are they a friend or a foe now? 

It’s truly funny to me that the number one question I receive from any meat consuming individual when I tell them I’m now on a “plant-based diet” AKA: VEGAN (to which I get a look of disgust, grief or disappointment) is how or where am I getting my protein from… such a genuine concern, how sweet (insert mild sarcasm).

Now it’s no surprise to me since American’s have successfully promoted the mass production and consumption of meat for decades and heck, just 20 days ago I was still somewhat of an omnivore, especially when faced with any cured meat or cheese, to which I often summoned my inner Oliver Twist voice with my Asian brown eyes, open mouth, and eager taste buds wafting in the salty goodness with a…”please sir may I have some more.”

But as I went into my first week on a plant-based diet I had absolutely no idea where to start and therefore my body had absolutely no energy to sustain me throughout the day, let alone throughout a workout.  My only knowledge at that point was the flashing red light screaming STOP whenever I saw meat, fish or dairy and the giant neon light pulsating YES whenever I picked up something that stated vegan.  Every documentary or existing vegan told me to get my protein from vegetables, grains and beans, but I was ill-prepared I tell you!!!  I kept consuming already prepared food that didn’t contain enough protein or enough calories for that matter, and I could literally feel my knuckles dragging on the ground…my body mirroring that of a limp noodle.  I was like the little excited impala hopping and bouncing on the vast terrain called the Serengeti when I had made my decision to be plant-based and then BOOM!!! Out of nowhere came a cheetah screeching me to a halt, making me quiver at the knees.

Luckily, like the tiny impala, I too was eventually able to stir up some courage to bob and weave to safety.  As I approached the start of my second week the obstacles in my new found veggie-land started to morph into cleaner, better sources of energy.  All of a sudden I was on a high and finally felt in control of fully supporting my active lifestyle. The moment of clarity started when I finally decided to make my own food.  I started using more nutritious foods like beans, vegan cheese, vegetables (spinach to be exact) and whole grains in a variety of different meals, helping me to sustain my energy throughout the day and continuing on this new found path.

Oh but the struggle is real (gurrrr)!  Some of my friends and certain coworkers who have questioned or poked relentless fun at my decision to cut out all animal products, continue to remind me, if everything is about meat, “protein consumption” (because to me that’s the real basis for which people that are not plant-based raise their judgmental eyebrow) then really who is the friend or foe?  Meat protein or the fiercely scolding and mocking individuals that consume it? And how much daily protein do we need and what’s really the best type?

The answer, neither.  Everyone is different and what we consume and do to our bodies is our prerogative.  My decision to decide what’s best for my body is no different than someone else’s decision to go Paleo, keto or organic.  My point is, the type and amount of protein (which is coincidentally more than what the food pyramid recommends -42 grams a day) my body consumes is actually working for me!  Who knew I would thrive so well by cutting out any and all animal consumption.  And again, my friends/coworkers and quite frankly the millions upon millions of people out there consuming meat, you are neither a friend nor a foe, you are just you.  Doing and consuming what’s right for your body.  Albeit, sometimes with exhaustive conversation and snarky remarks but truthfully, I probably deserve it (but only a wee bit) as I have committed similar crimes of ignorant obnoxiousness in the past.

So what I say unto you, “protein” whichever type you are and however much of you that’s being consumed (fun fact #646…from the Forks Over Knives website -great documentary by the way-vegetarians and vegans actually consume around 70 grams a day and non-vegetarians over 80 grams…that’s DOUBLE than what we actually need), thank you for being a source of sustainable energy, nutrients and building block for our bodies.  Whether you come from a delicious plant or succulent cut of meat, you are doing your job for the many individuals that need you on a daily basis.  For me though, I’ll take the delicious plant-based version of you.

Follow @mhope33 on Instagram for recipes, as I go through this new plant-based journey. 

 

 

 

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover…a tale of trial and error

Eleven days (going on 12) in now and let’s just say it’s been an interesting and fun ride! I didn’t realize how tricky (I don’t want to say hard because I like a bit of a challenge) a plant-based diet was going to be until I actually started the entire process.  Let me start by saying; don’t judge a book by its cover.  Unfortunately, there are misconceptions to all sorts of food out there.  Just when I thought I was progressing in my new game called “cut out anything and everything that comes from an animal” I was slapped right in the face with a reality check when I threw back a bag of Back to Nature crackers during a meeting last Friday.  All of a sudden someone blurted out (of course after I completed the entire bag) that what I had just devoured actually contained dairy.  Stupidly my response was, “no it doesn’t, it’s just crackers.”  Yes, this is the point in monopoly where I would get the card that says “Go to jail:  go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.”  What a complete fail! I felt completely dejected.

The problem is, anyone would have realized this but when you’re learning new habits, when you’re in the process of adopting a new lifestyle, you’re bound to make mistakes.  We live in a society where everything is compounded on our already stressful lives by the idea that having more is okay. Eating more, doing more, wanting more, without any consequences.  Until you actually give a damn and want to make a change!

Now, I am HUGELY consciously aware of everything I consume and super interested in what I now dub “the label game.” Which consists of the following:  does this product contain any animal products, are there odd trade names for which I need to do homework on to see if its another type of “no no ingredient”, what’s the protein count, and while I’m at it, what’s the calorie count?  It’s been challenging since I also keep a fit lifestyle but as I slowly peel back the leaves of the artichoke, I’ve found that there are numerous options out there and now a completely new way of being creative with my approach to food.  Albeit, I’m human and I’ve made a few blunders along the way (more than just the cracker incident mentioned above), like purchasing cream of tomato soup.  The most ridiculous, obvious moment, of what I like to refer to as a “brain fart.”  The word “cream” would have given anyone in their right mind the idea that they’re about to purchase a product with dairy in it. I mean honesserry (my lingo for a frustrated honestly)!!! Then, the purchase of a salad that contained feta cheese but I didn’t notice the ingredient at the bottom of the ingredient declaration until after I got home, and lastly the realization that my coffee creamer (which by the way states NON DAIRY) actually contains a milk derivative (that means, although it’s okay for those who are lactose intolerant, it is not okay for vegans!).

So where does that leave me now, as I come to the close of Day 12?  Well, I’m a fighter and don’t give up easily when challenged.  I’m standing proud with my new herbivore cape and finding new vegan-friendly products to consume on a daily basis (like Lotus Foods Rice Crackers, Soyrizo, YES bars, Beyond Meat burgers, CHAO cheese, Mary’s Gone Crackers and of course fruits, veggies and beans).  The plight is strong with this one (yes, geeky Star Wars reference) so  I’m bound to make more mistakes but I’ll learn from them and gain more knowledge towards building new, better (HEALTHIER) habits.

 

Ctrl. Alt. Del. RESET

Growing up in an American household, I was filled with an abundance of food.  Which by the way, I guarantee you that if I had stayed in Korea I would most likely not be the same body structure that I am today…but I digress.  Anyway, we always had a full “American style” meal in front of us with food from every food group and dessert to top it all off.  I was always a smaller boned frame so to me I could naturally eat whatever I wanted and quite frankly if you ask anyone, I was what they called a “grazer” when I was a child.  Well, to my dismay, it catches up to you!!!  No matter what you think or believe about your genetics or body type, eating healthy is immensely impactful at any age…so the earlier, the better!

Most recently and maybe most unfortunately, I’ve become more aware of this fact as I creep up in age.  With different truths about food and the source of where my food comes from, I wrongfully and arrogantly pfft off other peoples food ideals and smirked at those who scoffed at my meat eating ways.  But alas, the beauty of the internet, word of mouth, and Netflix is the fact that we (in this free country) have a copious amount of information right at our fingertips. So of course, I was just like every other working woman out there who multitasks on the regular…keep a tidy house, fit workouts in at all times, eat healthy when possible, maintain a happy and healthy family and social life, travel for work and pleasure and maintain personal interests like writing (uh hem…the aforementioned) tennis, yoga, calisthenics, and newly adopted golf.

Sooooo, when I watched Food Matters earlier this year, and then watched What the Health (upon numerous recommendations), my food world turned a bit upside down. Why would I be so easily influenced you’re probably asking?  Well, A) that means you haven’t watched either yet and B) I was already pretty much a pescatarian aside from the cured meats I would jam down my face with a block of aged Gouda and glass of wine every now and then, so why the heck not…I really didn’t think it would be that much of a change…right?!?

WOW! Was I wrong.  Not that omitting meat was that hard but cutting out cheese, butter (ghee in particular) and SUSHI has been a bit of a struggle.  And not only that but I had absolutely NO IDEA that all of my protein bars (something I had become so reliant on as a pre-workout or pre-activity snack in my multitasking world) were animal-based and even my vitamins contained gelatin, which unbeknownst to me comes from animal as well!  Durrrr….who knew!!! Fun factoid (number 1 of many I’m sure), gelatin used in most soft gel capsules or chewable for that matter, comes from an animal…yes, you read that right (I still consume chewable gummies and yes, they contain animal byproducts)!!!…pork is the most widely used here in the US since it’s the cheapest and that’s quickly followed by beef and fish (gasp).

So now, where does that leave all of my prior food habits?  Well, for the time being, I’ve decided to leave my omnivorous lifestyle for one month (the month of July and hopefully longer), and explore a new adventure through the growing fields of plant hood, otherwise known as herbivore land (yes, like the plant-eating dinosaurs before me).  Mimicking the pastor grazing cattle I once consumed, my decisions moving forward will leave all forms of animal consumption to the wayside as I venture into this new unchartered territory.  Stay tuned as I press Ctrl. Alt. and Del. on my past omnivorous lifestyle and RESET into my future as a vegan.