Food Variety Key To Keep You on Track

Food Variety Key To Keep You on Track

I caught myself this week feeling a bit tired of my tried and true go-to lunches I typically prepare at home to bring to work. For those who know me, might find this incredible – as I always love to experiment with foods and pride myself on making at least two new dishes every week and add to my repertoire. But when days and weeks get hectic and time is of the essence, my creativity suffers and I end up with something lack-luster on my plate and not looking forward to eating. This is a common problem among many, whether you choose to make your own food or resort to buying prepared foods.

If we eat the same thing over and over (like I did for instance when I was on a traditional bodybuilding diet prepping for a show), our bodies will resist as we are depriving it of nutrients, and cravings kick in.  This is when we “fall off the wagon” and end up buried in a sea of Doritos, chocolate, tubs of ice cream or bottles of wine, whatever your “drug” of choice is.  So what can we do to avoid this?  Go to the grocery store and pick out at least one or two items you have never cooked with (or maybe never even heard of) before, and research how to prepare it.  This could be an exotic vegetable or fruit, or some type of ancient grain, spice or condiment that looks interesting.  Build your meal around it, and you’ll be surprised at how happy your taste buds will get! Your body will thank you, and you will discover you need to eat less to feel more satisfied. It’s a win win, and you’ll learn something new in the process.


Today I went through my cabinets, determined to cook something different, and I found a bag of teff which I had forgotten all about. Now, I’ve cooked with it before, but it has been a while, so I happily cut it open and started to create a meal.  Teff is a nutritious and versatile African cereal native to Ethiopia, about the size of a poppy seed, and come in a variety of colors.  It has been named by many the “new quinoa”, as it is rich in protein (26 grams per 1 cup uncooked),  calcium, thiamin and iron.   The iron from teff is easily absorbed by the body and is also very high in fiber, thought to benefit diabetics, as it helps to stabilize blood sugar.  Teff is also gluten free, hence a great choice for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.  Due to is energy enhancing properties and rich nutritional profile, it is also popular among athletes.

So how is teff used? It’s known as the main ingredient in the Ehtiopian sourdough flatbread “injera”, but can also be used as a thickener in soups, gravies and stews.  I also like to make a porridge out of it and eat it for breakfast, in place of the old favorite, oatmeal.

Today I chose to make a stew out of teff, and I largely used the recipe on the package, with a few additions.  Can’t wait to bring it with me to work and have it for lunch!



I’ve included the recipe below – it’s highly satisfying, high in protein, nutrients and low in fat – just like I enjoy my meals. I hope you will try it, and as always – if you have any questions or need help with coming up with ideas for plant based recipes to include in your diet, please let me know in the comment section!

TEFF STEW  (vegan and gluten free)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp berbere

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable stock

1 cup teff

2 cups cauliflower florets, chopped up

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped up

1 x 15 oz canned tomatoes, chopped up

2 cups canned (or pre-cooked) black beans (or chickpeas)

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup organic frozen corn, thawed

juice from one lemon

handful fresh cilantro and mint, chopped up

In a large pan, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat and add onion, pepper and garlic and a drizzle of kosher salt,  saute for about 5 minutes until onion mixture starts to soften up.  Add spices and lower heat, cook for about 1 minute, then add teff and cook for another 2 minutes until spices are soaked up into the teff. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Add the beans, peas, corn, cilantro, mint and lemon juice, stir until combined and heated through.   Taste to with salt and pepper and serve.




Creative In The Kitchen

Many of my non-vegan weight lifting friends constantly ask me and show curiosity about what I eat now that I no longer include meat, fish, eggs or dairy in my diet. After all, what else is there right? (sic)  Most traditional bodybuilder’s diets consist of egg whites, tilapia (yuck), chicken and non fat cottage cheese and/or Greek Yogurt, and not much else. I’m not trying to make fun, I was once that person, and had 4-5 portions of the same exact, bland meal in my bag every day, trying to convince myself that this really was a diet worth keeping.  While it may have given me a six pack for a short while, I completely lost my creativity in the kitchen, and as a chef and food lover,  I found the lack of interest to be inventive to be quite depressing. Food was just something that needed to “happen”, every 2-3 hours, to keep the “metabolism going” (another unfortunate wives’ tale), a necessary evil, if you will. You hold your breath for 12 weeks or however long it takes you to get into stage shape, and then you celebrate post-show with any crappy, processed foods you could think of. What a nice cycle, right?

After I turned to a vegan diet, I realized there are no good or bad food groups – I have plenty to choose from in protein and carbohydrates and I even get to include fats in a variety of forms (oils, nuts, seeds and fruits)!  As a result of eating whole, unprocessed foods with a big emphasis on fresh vegetables, my taste buds have exploded and I find myself with less and less cravings of any particular foods, especially sweets.  Every meal is nutritious AND delicious, just like the commercial 🙂 The revelation that I don’t have to “suffer” to eat bland foods but I can spice it up, add new fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes I’ve not tried before, every single day without my waistline expanding – is amazing! Don’t get me wrong, I still calculate my  macro nutrients to make sure I stay within my range for what my goals are (and the diet will be different depending on what I’m trying to achieve) but the parameters seem much wider and more importantly: I have gotten the desire back to cook and experiment!

Vegans are perhaps some of the most creative cooks I’ve come across ever, I am constantly baffled by recipes and the depth of flavor I get from them when I try them out. I wanted to share a recipe for a protein packed, amazingly tasty Moroccan-spiced lentil and sweet potato stew that I made last night… I added some extra vegetables in for added nutrients…  Try this out and your tummy and entire body will thank you!


2 tbsp coconut oil

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup dry green or red lentils, rinsed, and picked over

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

3 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped

1 Vidalia (sweet) onion, chopped finely

24 oz organic Vegetable Broth

1 tbsp sweet curry

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp cinnamon

1 x 2 inch fresh ginger knob, peeled and minced

1 x 15 oz organic can chopped tomatoes

2 cups coconut milk

1 large bunch of kale, stems removed, shredded

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Nutritional yeast (optional)


In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat and saute the onions, ginger and garlic for a few minutes, until softened.  Add the sweet potatoes and carrots along with the spices, stir well and cook for 1 minutes or so to allow for the spices to infuse.  Season with salt. Add the lentils to the pot, stir, then add the vegetable broth, chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a light boil, quickly turn it down and let the stew simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add in the chopped kale and the sherry vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with salt and nutritional yeast (optional).  Makes enough for several meals and you can also freeze this – enjoy!!


Moroccan-spiced Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup