I’m going to straight up WARN YOU this is a very long post and because I’ve been working so hard to get this eBook done, there are no cute and fluffy pictures to break it up. Print it out and take it with you to the grocery store. You do not have to read it all in one sitting and if you are already plant based it will probably make you sad. REMEMBER: the goal is to create more conversation so we have to HAVE the conversation to do that.
The spreadsheet will be in the eBook, so this in basically an explanation post that will soften the blow of stultifying nutritional information.
Here we go
Let’s review a little bit. Everything in your body is made out of the food you eat. Your hair, skin, nails, blood, bones, everything single bit of you was grown by the food your mother consumed while you were in utero or what you have eaten since. Food matters. It matters a lot. It matters because high quality clean food is essential to keeping us healthy and great tasting loving food is essential to keeping us happy. Anyone who says that a really great meal doesn’t make you happy is either just plain weird or lying to themselves. Anyone who still thinks food didn’t make your body probably is reading the wrong blog .
So, here is some basic nutrition in a very simple format:
Proteins are one of the essential components of food and proteins are formed by amino acids. Your body breaks down proteins into amino acids and uses those amino acids for energy, to grow and to repair its cells. Your body must have the essential amino acids (ten in total) in order to survive but your body can also produce some non essential amino acids. There are many plant sources of proteins such as whole grains, pulses, legumes, soy, nuts and seeds. You can get all your essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins. Perfect plant proteins like quinoa contain all the essential amino acids you need to form a complete protein chain.
Carbohydrate is a term that is used to describe a food source that can be broken down into sugars which are then used for calories or energy bundles. Good sources of carbohydrate are complex and not filled of simple sugars. Generally speaking the more complex the carbohydrate, the harder it is for your body to convert it into sugars and this is a good thing. Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole unprocessed grains (also containing proteins) vegetables and fruits. Simple carbohydrates are sugary snacks or highly processed baked goods. We will be avoiding simple carbohydrates.
Fats are sadly misunderstood. Much like carbohydrates there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are made up from naturally occurring sources in plants (and animal proteins). Bad fats are some saturated fats and all transfats, both of which tend to be solid at room temperature. A bad fat example is hydrogenated oil or Crisco. Good fats are mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated which tend to be liquid at room temperature. Complicating all of this are some good saturated fats like coconut oil. Examples of other good fats include vegetable oils like avocado, olive and walnut. You must consume fat for your body to survive and thrive but those fats needs to be good fats. Your body needs a lot less fat than is traditionally consumed in our culture. Fat carries twice the amount of calories (energy bundles) per equivalent amount of protein or carbohydrate. Our Paleo buddy ate a LOT of fat but remember how highly active he or she was hunting for game and surviving saber tooth tigers. Our Paleo buddy also did not consume a high fat diet with an overload of simple carbohydrates. We mistakenly think that consuming low fat will make up for consuming simple carbohydrates. It doesn’t work that way, sorry.
Vitamins are compounds found in food that are essential for healthy growth. You cannot make vitamins on your own, you must get them from plants or animal sources. Each different vitamin is linked with certain traits. One example is Vitamin A is found in carrots. Vitamin A is good for your eyes. Vitamin C is found in red peppers. Vitamin C is good for your autoimmune system.
Minerals are even smaller building blocks as these refer to the actual chemical elements that we require. Good examples of essential minerals are zinc and calcium.
Antioxidants help neutralize the effect of environmental toxins (like air pollution) and help our body to repair itself. Antioxidants help reduce the physical effects of the environment, bad habits and aging and also help prevent disease. The human body can produce some antioxidants naturally, but most come from food. Antioxidants are abundant in “super foods” and fruits and vegetables.
Polyphenols are plant micronutrients that help with specific purposes like burning fat or increasing metabolism. Polyphenols are the new kid on the block at nutrition school and there is a lot more work that needs to be done in figuring out what and how many we need. We do know for sure that they are present in all the best foods like red wine and chocolate. So YIPPEE we can drink our Pinot Noir and eat our dark chocolate! Ok small amounts, but still, it’s a a win for the team.
There will be a spreadsheet in a little bit to help you plan your pantry and figure out which foods to purchase each week. This whole plan is designed around the variety and colors you will be eating but here are a few basic rules.
Fruits and Vegetables
Make sure you shop the rainbow meaning you have oranges, yellows, reds, greens, blues and purples in your cart. Different antioxidants are present in different colors so you want them them all. Eat at least one of each color vegetable every day and multiple servings of green vegetables. Try something new and shop each one of the categories. Don’t get into the rut of broccoli everyday because you know you like it.
Always buy organic when purchasing any one of the dirty dozen. This is a list published yearly of vegetables and fruits that retain the highest level of pesticides.
If money is an issue, you can buy conventional when you are buying the clean fifteen. This is the list of plants that retain the least amount of pesticides. Avoid buying fruits or vegetables that have been pre-chopped or prepped since they are generally sprayed with preservatives to prevent them from discoloring. Try not to buy fruits and vegetables that are out of season and shipped long distances. These are generally picked before they are ripe and often “ripen” by being gassed with noxious substances. Add to that, a carbon footprint like Bigfoot’s…you get it.
Dirty Dozen: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, lettuce, kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes, tomatoes, carrots, plums, pears, strawberries
Clean Fifteen: asparagus, avocadoes, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, kiwi, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet corn, peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon
Vegetables categories: Always buy local and seasonal first, organic next and conventional last. Eat a rainbow of colors every day, dark green, purple, blue, red, orange, yellow, and white. Pick a variety from each category of color and type so you get a variety. See the spreadsheet for the plan.
Examples of Vegetable Types:
Dark Leafy Greens examples are: kale, collards, mustard greens, watercress, dandelion, wild lettuces, spinach, arugulas, lettuce mixes and romaine
Cruciferous vegetable types: cabbages, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower,
Bulbs and alliums: garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, scallions
Roots and Tubers: parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, yams, carrots, celery, fennel, sweet potatoes, beets, kohlrabi, jicama, burdock root, potatoes, celery root
Squash: Kamboucha, butternut, pumpkin, Hubbard, acorn red kuri, sweet dumpling, zucchini, chayote,
Everything Else: Asparagus, Peas, Green Beans, Okra, Cucumbers, Peppers, Cactus, Eggplant & then there are tomatoes & avocadoes which are actually fruits
Herbs: parsley, cilantro, rosemary, tarragon, dill, chives,
Weird stuff: lemongrass, ginger, sea vegetables, TVP
Rice: There are lots and lots or rice types but the one type you DO NOT want is parboiled, enriched or bleached. You do not want rice with flavor packets but bulk bags with nothing but unprocessed rice. I often tell my students to look for rice with foreign writing on it. Other countries don’t seem to like everything as white as the driven snow. White rice is generally rice where the outside husk (read fiber and good stuff) is removed and brown rice it is left intact. Obviously brown rice is better for you and whenever possible use brown. Wild rice is not rice at all but a seed from a grass but still really great tasting and filled with fiber. You can have white rice once every now and then, or as rice noodles for Pho. White rice for sushi is ok too because you are not eating it every day. For every ten times you eat rice, only have white one time.
Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the seven ancient grains that are the building blocks of civilization. It is filled with plant based proteins and is a perfect food source. That is not something I say lightly, so pay attention. Quinoa comes in red (they may call it brown), black and white. The red is nutty, black is not as flavorful and the white is great for desserts and breakfast and absorbs other flavors. Quinoa is easy to cook and is beginning to be available at almost every store. Quinoa is a great breakfast food if you are not a huge oatmeal fan. Quinoa is also a great flour source.
Bulgur: Bulgur is cracked wheat and comes in three types of grind: fine, medium or coarse. What you do with it determines which grind you will use. If a recipe calls for bulgur and you have a wheat intolerance or celiac substitute quinoa instead. What I found with my “wheat intolerance” is that I actually had a “processed food” intolerance. Whole grain wheat was fine for me; it was the white flour sugar smack that was the problem.
Oats: Oats come in quick cooking or traditional. For our purposes, quick cooking is just fine for all the things we are going to make. Oats also are ground into bran which we will use for bulk or fiber in baking. If you can’t find oat bran you can just make your own in the food processor. Oats should be as plain as plain can be. No cute flavors. Sorry. Oats are what’s for breakfast. They are good for your heart health, filling and filled with nutrients to keep you going through the day. Also, oats are cheap.
Barley: Barley is a food your grandparents used to eat a lot of and it fell out of favor because it is so darn good for you. Go for the unprocessed barley that still has all the fiber. Barley has gluten so if you are celiac substitute something else.
Optional grains: Kamut spelt, amaranth, millet, wheat berries, teff, faro, freekah are all grains that can be used in most of the recipes. Look in the “options” section for ideas. A lot of very good cereals use these grains to make unsweetened flakes that are minimally processed grains. Check out the company Kashi if you are looking for breakfast cereals that have minimal sugar and minimal processing.
Minimally processed grains:
Polenta: Polenta is just a fancy name we chefs use for corn meal and like oats it can come as both quick cooking or traditional (read: takes a long time) varieties. Grits is simply white corn meal and all of these products can be used interchangeably. What you want to make sure of is that they don’t use chemicals to keep it from sticking together. Since this is a processed food we are going to only use very limited quantities every now and then.
Couscous: Couscous is actually a tiny little pasta made out of wheat. So don’t be confused into thinking this is a healthy grain. If you decide you must have couscous as a special treat, do not get the cute little packages with flavor packets; get the kind that is either in a bulk bin or just plain. Look on the ingredient label and all it should say is flour and water (or maybe a vegetable like spinach or tomato for coloring). Since couscous is also a processed food we are only going to use limited quantities every now and then. Any recipe you are used to making with couscous you can use quinoa or fine grind bulghur for instead.
Flour: Flour is one of the huge disasters that FOOD INC has managed to mass market and sell you a bill of goods about the way it should look. Flour is (usually) made from wheat that is milled and in its natural form comes out a slightly brown color. However, it has been determined that we (read US consumers) like our bread white and brown flour makes brown bread. With the infinite wisdom Food Inc possesses, all the fiber and outside husk were removed and the remainder was bleached till it is BLINDING WHITE. They basically took out everything in the wheat that is good for you. All that brown stuff is fiber and protein (wheat is loaded with both) so they decided with a master stroke of logic to enrich it with essential eight vitamins. The label should read flour sugar smack but now it reads “fortified with EIGHT essential vitamins.” Wouldn’t it have been better just to leave it in? Flour should be unbleached. Preferably whole wheat and organic but NEVER ever bleached AND enriched. If they are enriching it that means that they already messed it up to begin with. The same rule applies to anything that says low fat or no fat. If they have taken out the naturally occurring fats then they put something else back in to make up for it. The usual switch is fat calories for sugar calories.
Other flours: corn, soy, Besan, quinoa, spelt, amaranth are all flours that are fun to work with and try and give you diversity in your diet but they are essential if you have a gluten intolerance. It is a sad fact that wheat is loaded with gluten and if you have celiac, a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance you must avoid it at all costs. There is a really great gluten free flour made by Bob’s Red Mill and it will substitute perfectly in any recipe where we use wheat flour.
Breads and Tortillas: These should follow all the rules listed above in flours and not have anything that is bleached or enriched or puffed. There is an old Jewish proverb that says “the whiter the bread the sooner you’ll be dead.” That is a pretty straight forward statement. After the first 28 day cycle you can eat whole grain breads, sprouted grain breads and bread made with anything but bleached white white white flour. Ezekiel has a good bread in the freezer section. Tortillas should be fresh corn with no preservatives. We are going to avoid bread, pita, and flat breads for the first cycle but after that you can add in some different types. Corn tortillas are left in for the first cycle in limited quantities. It’s only 28 days. You’ll live.
Noodles: So the problem with noodles is that they are mostly made out of that bleached white flour that we have been talking about. You have to find the kind of noodles that are made from whole wheat and even grains other than wheat (spelt, quinoa, corn, garbonzo bean to name a few). There are several new products on the market that use vegetables and minimally processed wheat or sprouted grains to make fun flavors like artichoke and tomato. You will see rice noodles listed in several of the recipes with an Asian twist. Rice noodles are made from rice flour and have great flavor are resilient to cook with and are gluten free. What you want to see on the label is (unbleached) whole wheat flour and water. Some will have a little olive oil and salt and vegetables but that there should be no words that ends with “ate” or “mine” or “ose.” Ezekiel has a good noodle product but avoid noodles if possible your first 28 day cycle. I put a few recipes in with rice noodles, mostly for entirely selfish reasons. I really don’t think I can live 28 days without Pho. You can also spiralized vegetables to make “pasta.” You will notice that bread and noodles are included in the special treat options. If you choose them make sure they are the good kinds!
Beans: Dried beans such as pinto, black, Garbonzo, northern, white, red, soy, mung or cannellini are an essential part of this cooking adventure. We will use mostly dried beans in bags because they are cheap and very nutritious. Also beans in bags are hard to mess up unless they come with a spice packet. Beans are filled with plant proteins and are an essential part of almost every countries national cuisine for the basic reason that beans are cheap, easy to grow, utilize your land well and they give you what you need to live in a perfect little package. You will learn how to cook the dried beans in the HOW TO section. Dried beans save you money and canned beans save you time. Look in the canned section for what to look for on the ingredients.
Lentils or Pulses: Lentils are another little perfect protein present just waiting to jump start your red blood cells. Lentils come in many different color varieties that are favored according to country and you will find most of them utilized here. Red, green, brown, black…how do I love thee let me count the ways you make my heart pulse (get it?).
Split Peas: Come in yellow or green and both are good. Buy the bag of plain split peas with no seasoning packets. The split pea and ‘ham’ soup recipe list will make you weep it’s so good.
Seeds and Nuts:
Chia a super food powerhouse. Throw chia in almost everything for breakfast.
Sesame Seeds: Sesame packs a whopping vitamin c punch. I throw them in everything. Slightly nutty, even better wild or black.
Flax seeds: Omega 3 heaven (read: very good for you) and also a great substitute for eggs in baking. Throw flax meal in every smoothie or baking recipe you can. Get the whole and the ground. Whole is basically just going to go through your system. Grind it fresh.
Sunflower seeds: RAW not roasted or salted. Sunflower seeds in the shell make a great snack. Extremely messy (read: eat outside) but so much fun to spit.
Nuts: Nuts should be raw. Roasting nuts changes the oils inside them and makes them less good for you. The nuts in the recipes you can change types or omit if you wish, the one exception is that raw cashews make the best cream. Those of you with nut allergies can safely leave the nuts out of any recipe. You won’t be able to make the cashew cream but there are tons of alternatives. Peanuts are legumes not nuts. They are filled with protein but if you are allergic just substitute something else.
Nut and seed butters: Cashew, almond, soy, sesame are all great substitutes for the wonderful peanuts but this is one ingredient that you really want to buy organic whenever possible. The quality of the nuts and oil make all the difference. Nut butters need to be refrigerated after opening.
Tahini: Sesame seed paste is used in a lot of Middle Eastern dishes and is loaded with good fat, nutrients and vitamin C. I like my tahini smooth and creamy, not hard. Shake up the jar. You should see the paste move. If you don’t, it probably has been sitting for a while. Beirut brand is awesome. Look for well trafficked kosher, Halal or ethic grocery stores.
Soy: ALWAYS make sure that your soy is organic whether buying the nuts or the butter or the tofu or the milk. Soy is an amazing source of protein if used in the right way. 90% of the US soy crop has been genetically modified. That’s 90% you can avoid by making sure it says organic or GMO free. Soy is another misunderstood food source. Eat soy in moderation and only organic soy. Read ‘The China Study’ if you want to do more research about estrogens. Too complicated to cover here.
Olive Oil: Always Extra Virgin because it is the first pressing and therefore the best of the oil. Since it is the first pressing they also don’t use chemical to separate out the oil from the seed. I generally use either safflower, sesame, coconut or olive oil for just about everything. Different olive oils have different flavors and olive oil should be used promptly after the press. Does your oil have a date stamp? One year after that date throw it out. Store in cool and dark cupboards. Never put over your stove.
Organic Safflower Oil: The organic label guarantees that you won’t have anything with hydrogenated oils, transfats or GMO’s. I do a lot of my cooking with organic safflower oil so I want to make sure it is the best possible.
Organic Sesame Oil: Toasted sesame oil is the yummiest.
Coconut oil. Substitute for butter or oil in baking. Make sure you use this at least once a day. Great for your skin and your metabolism. Use it as a makeup remover and face wash. Amazing.
Other oils: avocado, walnut, almond, grapeseed, make sure all are fresh and not hydrogenated.
Milk Products and Dairy Substitutes:
Soy, almond, hemp or rice milk? It is really a matter of personal preference and finding out what you like the best. Make sure your soy is organic and GMO free. Check for sugar content. Personally I love vanilla cashew milk but I know people who swear by plain rice milk. What I usually do when we go to the grocery store is to buy one carton from the refrigerated section and get another box from the shelf stable section. Gives me a back up, and lets me experiment with the different varieties. If you buy one you don’t like, don’t worry you can use it up in baking or smoothies and you won’t really taste it anyway.
Soy butters: Organic Earth Balance or Organic Smart Balance are the best brands out there with one caveat. Smart Balance has added a bunch of new ingredients to the original traditional one. If you cannot get the original organic vegan dairy free version, then get Earth Balance. Let me clarify that these products are not made with hydrogenated oils so like traditional margarines of the past they will not do nasty things to your heart. HOWEVER these are for finishing only and we do not use them frequently.
Soy Yogurt: Make sure your soy yogurt is organic and not made with GMO soy.
Plant Powered Proteins:
Tofu: Anyone who says they don’t like tofu has never had it cooked properly so don’t say it! This is by far the most complicated and most essential ingredient in your arsenal because there are literally dozens of flavors and textures available. Remember that all soy should be organic and GMO free and it should say one or another right on the box.
Soft or silken: Used for creamy dressings and as a dairy substitute.
Firm or Extra Firm: Has more of the water pressed out of it and makes it better for stir fries or curries.
Flavored: You can find tofu that has flavors added like Thai or curry; these often add a lot of flavor to the dish.
TVP: Stands for Textured Vegetable Protein and is a predominately soy derivative. This product needs to be hydrated and can be used much like ground beef once it has been. If you have a gluten allergy you will want to check the label. TVP is often made from GMO soy so check label carefully for ORGANIC certification.
Temphe: Fermented soy beans that can be smoked and seasoned to taste a lot like bacon. The temphe smoked ‘Light Life’ bacon is awesome.
Vital Wheat Gluten: Wheat has two major parts, the outside shell and the inner germ. This inner germ is where all the protein is. When you take that and grind it up you have fine flour that you use to make Seitan. The fun thing about Seitan is that you can make it taste like whatever you want to and it looks like an enormous booger when you are making it. So, needless to say, it’s super fun. HOW TO section will have a Seitan demo.
Nutritional yeast: You are not going to find a lot of recipes with nutritional yeast in them here but it is loaded with vitamins. It’s a great ingredient to throw in smoothies for a B vitamin kick. I just don’t like it so I rarely add it to anything. You may love it and can add it to everything.
Transitional Meats: Gardein, Quorn, Beyond, Morningstar, Field Roast, and Tofurkey, all of these companies make transitional meatless products. You can use them just like you would use burger or sausage. I am not going to include them in any of the recipes because you can do that on your own . If you need them for a quickie dinner, by all means, include them. Just remember that they are processed too and definitely watch Morningstar’s gratuitous additions of animal proteins. They have cleaned up their act a little, but beware and be judicious.
Juice your own! The problem with commercial juices is most are nothing but sugar and fruit concentrate (read: more sugar) so obviously mass produced shelf stable juices are not really adding much to your daily dietary needs. The refrigerated varieties are a little better but not much. Check out the sugar grams on the back of the package. All the great fiber and nutrients of whole fruit are lost in the processing. All those great smoothie drinks you now see in the refrigerated section? Those are basically sugar, water, fruit and pasteurization. Not alive and vibrant whole food. Also juice is not something you drink instead of water. If you do buy juice, you want to make sure that the only ingredients on the label are the fruit or vegetable and water, no added sugar, fruit concentrates or anything with an “ose” in it. Fresh juicing is great for you and our smoothie recipes will attempt to recreate the juice bar experience by adding a bunch of new stuff into the blender. You will see green juices listed as an option for most daily snacks. Make sure that you are using 70-80 % vegetables in any juice you make.
Tomato: We use a lot of tomato juice in soup so find a brand that has tomatoes and water in it and little else.
When most fruits are dried they lose their naturally vibrant colors and become basically brown. It was decided by the powers that be, that consumers (read: you) like fruit to have bright colors so most dried fruits are treated with sulphur. Try to find dried fruits that are sulphur free. You will recognize them. They are the ugly ones that look like they were left in the sun. Fruits like cranberries and cherries are generally sweetened as well. The ingredient label should not have any added sugar in it. I guarantee that all of the dried fruits you have in the house have been sweetened. It is HARD to find the unsweetened varieties!
Most dried fruits are interchangeable with others. If you particularly like dried apricots and a recipe calls for raisins just chop the apricots to the same size and substitute away. I generally have cranberries, raisins, apricots, plums and dates around. Goji berries are amazing super foods. The smoothie and power bar recipe section will also have great ways to use dried fruits.
Sundried Tomatoes: Technically a fruit and packing a flavor wallop. Look at the recipe to make your own.
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck it generally is a duck. Substitute the word ‘duck’ for ‘sugar.’ You will never forget that rule, I promise, because that is such a silly way to teach it. If you have insulin intolerance then all sugar will have the same effect on your system whether it is organic cane juice or high fructose corn syrup. By reading labels you can control the sugar you take in. Plan to cut your sugar consumption by at least 75 percent. If you already have insulin intolerance then cut out ALL added sugars until it is back within normal ranges. Just leave out the sweeteners in any of the recipes. It really is not much more than a tsp or so anyway and you just won’t miss it. If you have outrageous sugar cravings for the first few days make sure that you choose vegetables and fruits that meet that craving. Sweet potatoes were the love of my life during this stage. Bake a whole sweet potato and sprinkle a little nutmeg, cayenne, coconut oil and sea salt on the flesh. Mash it in and you will not notice there are no marshmallows on top.
Organic sugar: Means sugar cane that was raised without pesticides and when processed was not bleached.
Evaporated cane juice: Is the juice of the sugar cane plant that then has the water removed. Pure and simple sugar without all the processing and bleaching.
Agave nectar: Is the juice from the agave plant. This is what I use most often. When I buy it I look for raw and organic. It is available almost everywhere at this point and has come down in price.
Maple Syrup: Look for pure unadulterated maple syrup. Maple syrup that is Grade B has lot more micronutrients and B vitamins.
Brown rice syrup: Can be used like honey and has a rich roasted mellow flavor.
Brown sugar: Sugar without the color removed.
Vanilla extract: Make sure this is pure organic vanilla extract.
Baking soda: You will need this in hand to take the farts out of beans and boil out your stock pot when you burn it. Also essential in vegan baking.
Baking powder: Make sure this is aluminum free.
Cornstarch: This is not modified corn starch that is used as a food additive but rather a thickening agent that you can buy in the grocery store. I prefer organic because that guarantees that the corn is GMO free.
Ketchup: Ketchup should be free of high fructose corn syrup. There are a lot of labels out there that say HFCS free. Buy organic, tomatoes are usually members of the dirty dozen club.
Mustard: Mustard is hard to mess up, so you can use anything that says mustard seed and water but avoid other additives like “yellow dye” this or that.
Vegannaise or Hampton Creek: Is a type of mayonnaise made without eggs. It’s amazing. Use it judiciously and remember that it is not number one in the hit parade for a fat choice. Grapeseed vegannaise is good if you can find it in the refrigerated section.
Vinegar: Vinegar is like mustard, pretty hard to mess up, but all vinegars are not created equal. Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar is a super food (sort of like a superpower) that will do so many great things for you I can’t even list them all here. Great for your digestive health, great for your goodies if you are a girl, great for your blood…yup a true super food. Anywhere that calls for vinegar you can use UNFILTERED apple cider vinegar instead. If you get the filtered stuff it has had everything good taken out (see a trend here?) you also won’t get the really great cloud of mold at the bottom. Relax, it won’t hurt you.
Other vinegars are red wine, white wine, balsamic, rice wine ….did I forget any other wines you can make vinegar out of? Anything that ferments can potentially become vinegar. Fermented foods are great for your colon health (read big poops) and help you digest properly. I do a shot of apple cider vinegar most mornings. I’ve actually grown to like it, although if you asked me whether I liked vodka better, I wouldn’t be able to lie about it.
Soy sauce or Tamari: Tamari is soy sauce not made of wheat (hence gluten free) so my infinite preference. Organic tamari has come down greatly in price so there is no reason not to make the substitution.
Pickles: There are very few countries that don’t pickle food and have it part of their national traditions and we are no different. The only problem is, yet again, the innate goodness of pickling as been subverted by the need to make food shelf stable, pasteurized and processed. Pickled foods should need to be refrigerated. If they are shelf stable then the probiotics (stuff for your gut) are dead. If you are very adventuresome and brave check out kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage) in your refrigerated section. Almost anything can be pickled but the key is to make sure that you keep the probiotics (fancy word for little organisms that help you digest food) alive. Your body should have several trillion little organisms in your gut happily doing their job. Antibiotics kill these little guys off. I you have taken a course of antibiotics within your lifetime (lol) then you are in need of fermented foods. The will rebloom and grow back if they are given the tools to do so.
Vegetable stock: If you don’t have time to make it use a ‘better than bouillon’ vegetable paste. I have a section on making your own in the HOW TO VIDEOS(it will be in the eBook). I go through gallons of the stuff daily so I make the base and freeze it in little ice cube trays. Pop out the cubes and you have a perfect serving size.
Cans and bottles:
Organic Applesauce: And lots of it! Make sure that apples are the only ingredients unless you like the types mixed with other fruit. Make sure there are no added sugars.
Coconut milk: Not sweetened just straight coconut milk. Don’t get the lite stuff. Processed and has added sugar.
Canned beans: These are a time saver only, and I always have a couple of cans for nights that I need a quick dinner. Garbanzos straight out of the can make an excellent snack. Get the ones you like most, but remember to check that beans are the only ingredient. Rinse well after opening.
Unsweetened Pumpkin: For baking and substituting for eggs.
Tomatoes: I have all forms of tomatoes in bottles and cans available at all times. Puree, paste, diced, juice, sauce, you just need to check ingredients to make sure the only things listed are tomatoes, EVOO, herbs and salt. The Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes are amazing and save you time.
Artichoke hearts and Hearts of Palm: YUM YUM YUM the crabcakes with hearts of palm are to DIE for.
Organic hoisin: The reason that hoisin needs to be organic is so it won’t have high fructose corn syrup and MSG in it. Check the label.
Curries: Yellow, red and green curry paste comes in small tins. My favorite brand is MaPloy because it doesn’t have a bunch of junk in it or animal products. Several of the recipes will use curry pastes but get the small tins first to make sure you like them. If you want to make your own curries I have a bunch in the next book and will be posting on the blog.
Olives: Don’t get the kind that are canned and on your grocery store shelf, look instead for cured, brined and seasoned olives. Many grocery stores now have olive bars that you can buy by the pound. Each olive is different and you will just have to taste test to find out what you like. Personally I am a huge fan of Kalamata and Picoline but I love Nicoise and Lugano as well. The difference between green and black olives is ripeness. Green olives were picked while they were unripe and black were picked when ripe. They are both equally good to eat. Green are often stuffed in the middle and make the best martinis in case you were wondering.
Tofu or coconut ice ‘cream’: Because I swear you can’t tell the difference from dairy. Everyone needs a little ice cream occasionally, so why not have something that actually is good for you (sort of) on hand? Plus anything with a name like Tofutti Cuties has to be… well…cute. In all seriousness, you are going to want something sweet at some point. Everyone has that one night when if they don’t have ice cream in hand something bad is going to happen. Make sure that when you want to indulge that you are indulging with special treats, not specially treated ingredients.
Edamame beans: These come shelled or in the pod. Pods are super fun to pop but the shelled are easier to throw into salads.
Frozen Fruit or berries: This does not mean blocks of high fructose corn syrup waiting to be thawed and turned into sugar water. This means that you have to look at the label and make sure that the ingredients are straight organic fruit and nothing but fruit.
Frozen Vegetables and Fruits: Obviously fresh is the way to go but you can’t always find blackberries or peas or corn fresh so sometimes you have to buy them frozen. The idea is to not buy anything frozen that you can get fresh (potatoes formed in to fries are a great example) and to just keep them for quick snacks, a desperate quick dinner or to throw into smoothies.
Dark chocolate: Who knew that chocolate would turn out to be good for you? Not just any chocolate of course, but chocolate that is made with at least 72% or above pure cocoa. This is not your convenience store chocolate but rather a dense robust flavor that is a lot stronger than you are probably used to. The cocoa bean in its purest form is not actually sweet, so in order for it to taste good you have to add sugar to it. You want to buy chocolate that comes from good cocoa as well as good organic sugar. Another thing about cocoa is that it comes from countries that traditionally have abject poverty and are often exploited by large international corporations. Which means women and children are working just to eat. Look for the Fair Trade label on chocolate that you buy. Fair trade products help the countries and communities that produce them by creating trade equity and sustainability. Fair trade practices help to insure that people who work in these industries are fairly paid, have access to clean water and decent living conditions. Who knew that the chocolate you chose was such a big decision?
Organic Coconut flakes: (unsweetened) If you love coconut then this is what you buy to add into baked goods and smoothies. If you buy raw coconuts then scoop out the inner flesh and use a dehydrator.
Tapioca pearls: A must for bubble drinks. Made out of cassava, tapioca is surprisingly not terrible for you. It’s the heavy cream, eggs, and sugar in the pudding that give it the bad rap. I will have a tapioca pudding in special treats that tastes decadent.
Organic Unsweetened Cocoa powder or nibs: see above with chocolate and all the same applies but cocoa powder is unsweetened so you have to add something to it to make it palatable.
Popcorn: This is my snack of choice and air popped is the only way to go, which of course requires a popper. We got one for the microwave that looks like a pot belly stove and has a little red top that you can put coconut oil in to moisten it. The great thing about popcorn is that it actually has tons of fiber, very few calories and you can change the flavor to be anything you want. Old Bay? Cayenne? You name it.
Tortillas and Chips: The market on healthy tortillas and chips is expanding rapidly. Look for labels that say corn flour only and NO TRANS FATS. A lot of the new brands are made out of fun ingredients like rice and beans. Do not get flavored (read: pretend cheese or chemical flavorings) and try to find a tortilleria around you if possible. Corn tortillas, rice and beans are a super combination for proteins and nutrients. Add a tomato in the mix and it’s a perfect meal.I could get all technical here about how the nixtimalization of the corn breaks down the lycopene of the tomato and the amino acid chains but you would get bored. Just know that most underdeveloped countries in the world have some form of rice and bean combination as a national dish. Accident? I think not.
Spice it up:
Spices are meant to be used sparingly and you should always start slowly and add a little more until you have it where you want it. Adding salt without thinking is one of my major pet peeves. Taste the food, decide what it needs, and then if it really, really needs salt then go slowly. The same thing goes with every seasoning you add. Take your time, taste and stir, stir and taste until you get it just where you like it. Also do not get jumbo containers of spices unless you know you love it and are going to use it a lot. Spices have to be fresh and in order to keep them vibrant. Only get what you need in small quantities. Herbs need to be replaced every six months or they lose the aromatic oils that give them flavor. Buy small quantities from a spice market if you have one locally. Recently several herbs and spices have gone viral on the internet for their antioxidant level and metabolism boosting properties. They will be noted with a star *.
Herbamare: This is a blend of herbs and sea salt that I love and use almost exclusively instead of salt. It is available on the internet. All their spices are organic and it reduces your salt consumption dramatically.
Sea Salt: Salt that comes from the sea and is not treated with chemicals or iodized. Sea salt flakes, Himalayan pink, Celtic, French, Hawaiian, go crazy with salt flavors but use it sparingly.
White pepper: My personal favorite because it gives a clean, even heat.
Black Pepper: They have the new pepper grinders that have the pepper in it and you can grind away. Great stuff.
Cayenne pepper*:I loved this even before it became popular. Great combined with nutmeg.
Paprika: Two varieties sweet and hot. For most recipes we will use the sweet.
Thyme: dried is fine but grow your own during the summer.
Basil: Dried has no flavor, buy fresh or don’t bother.
Rosemary: Fresh or nothing. Makes a great houseplant.
Cilantro: You either love it or hate it but it’s my favorite so I use it in everything. Don’t bother with dried cilantro. It is a waste of time. If your name is Glenn you can substitute parsley for anything with cilantro in it.
Parsley: Another great houseplant. Overused as a dry herb.
Cinnamon*: ground for baking and sticks for the fun bean or Pho dishes loaded with antioxidants.
Nutmeg: couldn’t live without it, great for baking and savory dishes
Ginger*: fresh or nothing
Cumin: I use cumin a lot. If you don’t like it just leave it out. To me it is better than chocolate.
Chili powder*: Dried chilies ground up, comes in all different heat levels also raises your metabolism.
Turmeric*: an amazing antioxidant doesn’t taste great on its own but an essential ingredient for yellow curry blends. Also used for changing the color of tofu to look like eggs. I find that cayenne, turmeric and ginger are a banging threesome for increasing the heat register and metabolism quickly.
Dry mustard: Packs a punch in salads and dressings.
Wasabi: Dried Japanese horseradish powder that you can add water to for dressing and marinades.
Curry powder (yellow) A blend of spices used in traditional Indian cooking. Look on blog for homemade recipes.
Granulated toasted garlic: The toasted granules have a lot more fragrance and flavor than the powder.
Onion powder: Great for adding onion flavor without the actual onion.
Star anise: a must for Pho. Sometimes I will put whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks in a pot of water and just simmer it on the stove.
Peppercorns: Szechuan for Pho, any other color for everything else. Brined green for fun.
Cloves: whole and ground
Animal Proteins: * if you are already vegan skip this part it will just upset you*
We eat far too many animal products in this country. Most of what we consume is produced from animals that live in conditions of abject horror. If you are going to eat animal products make sure you do so with thoughtfulness and integrity. Do your homework and find a local farmer that raises animals for meat with kindness, dignity and compassion. If you choose to eat flesh, then eat happy flesh and the best way is to find farmers in your area is to go on the national farmer’s market website and put in your zip code. You should be able to locate antibiotic, hormone and steroid free meats and poultry. If you can only shop at a supermarket, organic meat and poultry are the safest bet. Conventional meats and poultry are not a friend to your health or to the environment.
Eggs: Eggs should be organic, free range, vegetarian fed and cage free. If you love eggs just love them every now and then, and not every day. Preferably love buying them from a farmer at your farmers market and nowhere else.
Dairy: I will say it again and again dairy is not your friend either. She pretends to be your friend but she is really a bloodsucking slut who leaves you with a runny nose and an over ample ass. If you are consuming dairy in any form, even yogurt or kefir, make sure that it is organic. The best way to do this is again by doing your research. Go on the website of the dairy producer that you normally buy from and look at their animal husbandry practices. Do they treat sick cows with antibiotics and continue milking them? Do they use hormones to keep production up? Small family farms generally have happy cows and goats and sheep. Look for a farmer that loves what they do. I bet they take too much pride in their craft to use antibiotics other than to treat sick animals. You will not need to buy any dairy for the recipes that are in this book but if you choose to have cheese every now and again just make a choice that is organic, clean and humane.
Conventional dairy is generally loaded with the steroids, antibiotics and hormones that they gave to cows to have them produce three times more than they did in the 1950’s. Since dairy is big business it makes sense that they want the cows to produce as much as possible and they do this with RgBh a bovine growth hormone that has cows pumping out milk at about three times the rate they are supposed to. This growth hormone is not something you want to have in your body. If it makes a cow grow super fast and produce lots of milk what do you think even a diluted version will do to you? And no, it won’t just make your boobs bigger if that’s what you are thinking. It’s going to make everything bigger, all over. Organic dairy makes sure that the cow is free of all that nasty stuff so if you are going to indulge you should indulge organically. Just remember, dairy provides absolutely nothing you can’t get with plant calcium, so moderation is the key. On a personal note, when I travel abroad I sample the cheeses of other countries. I have travelled around the world and never had the reaction from dairy that I have in this country. I’m pretty sure that this is because of our farming practices and not my body’s intolerance to dairy.
Poultry: Look for the words ‘cage free’ or ‘free range’ which generally mean that the chicken has access to the outdoors. ‘Organic’ and ‘vegetarian feed’ on the label insure that they are treated humanely and not fed chopped up dead chickens or GMO corn and soy. You must be certified to use the term ‘organic’ which means you have to adhere to strict guidelines involving food (vegetarian organic feed), care and additives. Most importantly, make sure that somewhere on that packet it says ‘antibiotic, hormone and steroid free.’ Just saying ‘natural’ does not cut it, since there is no law governing its use. The word ‘natural’ can be used wherever they want, with no restrictions, and big food inc. puts it on just about everything. Oftentimes they use recycled looking “green” packaging that has no resemblance to the bleached and processed product inside. Natural and Green are two new big food trends that are making money for Food Inc. While they generally don’t want to do the heavy lifting involved with making the product more humane or healthy, they are more than willing to capitalize on your desire for a healthier body and planet. In the back of this book there will be a list entitled “Companies that Care.” While this is a dynamic and ever changing grouping, it is a good starting place to look for people who are making food for the right reasons.
Cow Meat: Same as above, but you are going to also look for the words ‘grass fed.’ Most cattle raised for slaughter are fed a diet of GMO corn and soy (not the grass which cows are supposed to eat) and it substantially changes how good those proteins and fats are for you when you eat it. Your Paleo buddy ate grass fed animals, not cows fattened with GMO corn and soy feed.
Pig Meat: If you give up one animal product only please let this be it. Yes, I remember how good bacon tastes, but I also know that any hog in the feed lot is smarter than my dog. If you choose to buy pig then buy a farmers market pig. If you doubt that pigs are smarter than Harley, then you don’t know him.
Seafood: When sourcing seafood you want to make sure that whenever possible your seafood is wild and sustainable. Wild means that it is fished in the ocean or freshwater and sustainable means that it has not been fished to the point of having trouble reproducing and maintaining its population. There is a great website http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx where you can plug in your fish and it will tell you everything you need to know. It has a gazillion megabytes of information about things you can do to make a difference in your seafood choices and how each thing you choose to purchase impacts ocean health. The ocean connects the whole world. The health of the ocean is literally the health of our planet.