Mindful Eating: Eat To Live

Mindful Eating: Eat To Live

This week I started following Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat To Live” program, in order to clean up my diet, shed a few pounds before summer but more importantly; increase my energy as I’ve got a lot on my plate these next few months with setting up my new business, studying for continuing education courses and wanting to feel better all around.  The concept of Dr.  Fuhrman’s ‘diet’ (I hate using that word) is in essence, that when the ratio of nutrients to calories in the food you eat is high, you lose weight. The more nutrient dense food you eat, the less you will crave fat, sweets and high calorie (and less nutrient dense) foods.  It’s essentially about maximizing the macronutrients per calorie.  His formula goes like this: health = nutrients / calories.


I love this way of eating because there is no need to weigh or measure the food. You get a list of foods you can eat as much as you want of (basically all raw vegetables, leafy greens, crucifierous vegetables, beans, legumes and all fruits), some to eat in moderation (raw nuts and seeds, avocado, plant based milks, and starchy vegetables such as butternut squash and sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole grain breads), and foods that are OFF limits include dairy, all animal products, in between meal snacks, fruit juice and dried fruit as well as all oils, salt and sugar.  Now I will tell you I am not perfect, and will still be salting my food! It’s the last “vice” I have from my chef’ing days, I still think vegetables taste bland if not salted. I managed to compete in bodybuilding and get shredded and down to below 10% body fat while still eating salt, and although I am not as heavy handed with the salt shaker anymore – I am picking my battles here…

The five “rules” are:

  1. Consume a large green salad every day, and put some raw onion and shredded cruciferous veggies on top.
  2. Eat at least a 1/2 cup of beans or lentils each day, in a soup, stew, or top of a salad or in another dish.
  3. Eat at least 3 fresh fruits a day, especially berries, pomegranate, cherries, plums, and oranges.
  4. Eat at least 1 ounce of raw seeds and nuts daily, utilizing some chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. Limit to 1 oz if you are trying to lose weight.
  5. Consume a double-sized serving of steamed greens daily, and utilize mushrooms and onions in your dishes.

There are endless ways of preparing these foods, while you might think the list looks restrictive, it certainly isn’t – just think of how many varieties of green vegetables there are out there! As a chef, I am challenged to come up with different ways of eating my food, and how to enjoy them. I am using my spice rack frequently and utilizing herbs and spices I haven’t in a while, which have been delighting my taste buds.  I’ve had not felt hungry all week and have had surprisingly few cravings, with the exception of last night, when I was craving something sweet (I ended up chewing on a date and going to bed). I am sure there will be days when I want to run to the store and buy the entire shelf of chocolate, breads and crackers, but will then take a moment to reflect on my goal and why I want to do this.  Eating crappy foods always make me feel crappy – it only gives me pleasure for a couple of minutes.  Mindful eating is about paying attention to every bite, reflecting on how it nourishes your body and how you will feel eating it as a result. Try it!

I will continue to post about my experience with this way of eating. I’ve added some photos below of meals I’ve prepared this week… If you are curious about the Eat To Live program or have any questions at all about plant based eating, as always- please don’t hesitate to ask me anything, I love to hear from you! Wishing you all a happy and healthy weekend filled with delicious, mindful eating! 🙂

Breakfast 1: Oatmeal with cinnamon, currants, blueberries, strawberries, 1/2 a mashed banana sprinkled with 1 tbsp of walnuts:



Breakfast 2: Green smoothie with lots of kale, 1/2 banana, 2 dates, water and ice:






Dr. Fuhrman’s Anti-Cancer Veggie Soup, with lentils, chickpeas and adzuki beans sprinkled with some nutritional yeast:


My daily green salad for lunch with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and some type of beans will go on top. Dressing is always oil free, sometimes with some nut butter (cashews) to make it creamy:



A flax roll up (which is awesome, low calories- around 135 cal, and 12 grams of protein, only 24g of carbs, 9 grams of fiber) spread with a ginger-garlic-tahini sauce, stuffed with grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted peppers, arugula and cucumbers, SO good!:



Oil Or No Oil? That Is The Question. Plus Two Delicious Salad Dressing Recipes.

Tired of the same old balsamic dressing or just a drizzle of lemon juice on your greens? Me too!  I am constantly looking for variety in my dressings, but most recipes I’ve seen include a ton of oil, and I don’t want to add a lot of oils to my salad. It sort of defeats the purpose of a healthy meal and doesn’t taste as fresh as I want it to.  Simultaneously, I want my salads or buddha bowls to taste flavorful and satisfying every time I make one. My favorite thing is to just throw a lot of vegetables, tofu or tempeh I have in my fridge, and/or add some grains, beans or lentils from my pantry in to a bowl and make a delicious dressing to drizzle over it, and my meal is complete. It’s cheap, quick and very satisfying. I will spend a few hours on Sunday afternoon/evening cooking a bunch of ingredients for the week so they can quickly be combined in tupperware containers to go.

So do I use any oil at all in my diet? Yes and no. Vegetable oils, particularly, I stay clear of (which are not made from “vegetables” at all).  I am referring to processed seed oils like soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil and a few others. They typically contain a large amount of trans fats, and can contribute to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. I will go more into detail of the negative aspects of vegetable oil in a later blog post.


I am not saying that all oil is bad.  Really high quality extra virgin olive oil can be great, as is coconut oil, and I use these sparingly in my food.  Coconut oil has in fact proved to be quite good for health.  Medium chained fats, like those found in coconut oils, are promoted for their ability to increase energy expenditure and to improve appetite satisfaction—resulting in weight loss. That being said, with everything else I eat that sometimes also contain fat, I try to monitor my intake on a regular basis.   If you want to read more about oils you should definitely avoid, check out Food Babe’s great article here.

Back to my dressings! Yesterday morning before heading into work, I made a carrot-ginger-cumin dressing which has a Moroccan spice accent, as well as a creamy avocado-lemon-parsley dressing. I love the bright colors, but most of all I loved how they came out! Oil was not missed at all.  Flavor packed and SO fresh – any bottled dressing don’t stand a chance next to these, I guarantee it!  Both were inspired by several amazing vegan websites I follow, and I added a personal touch to them. You can play around with what you put in, but hopefully this will give you some great ideas for your next salad.

You can add a little less water to these dressings and use them as dips – both options taste awesome!

North African Oil Free Dressing

Adapted from Dreena Burton’s Plant Powered Kitchen

1 cup raw carrot, cut in discs or small chunks (roughly 4 – 4 1/2 oz.)

1/3 cup raw cashews

2 – 2 ½ tsp apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar

1 small clove garlic (or ½ medium clove)

½ – 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1/8 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground fennel

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

About 1 cup water

Using a high powered blender, puree all the ingredients  Taste and add extra vinegar if you wish, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Avocado-Lemon-Parsley Dressing

Adapted from mindbodygreen.com

  • 1 large avocado ripened (skin and pit removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 small clove fresh garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp  agave or maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Place all ingredients except  water in the bowl of a food processor or a high-speed blender. With the blade running, slowly add the water. Puree until smooth.  If you don’t mind oil, you can also include either extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil in here (about 1 tbsp) for an ever thicker and creamier version, but it really does not need it!


Flavor In A Bowl

Once (or sometimes twice) a week I cook a meal for my husband and I where I pretty much make whatever I want and feel like. I don’t count calories, fat, carbs or protein – just a “cheat meal” if you will (although I sort of hate to call it that because I like to think I don’t really restrict my food), where we can both enjoy a nice, flavorful dish.  Life is to be enjoyed, and I certainly love good food, and I take pleasure in preparing and cooking my food as well.  I find cooking therapeutical, being in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, handling multiple bowls of food while sipping on a glass of wine, with my favorite cheesy TV show in the background, while the dogs are sleeping in the living room and my hubby doing other chores in the garden or around the house.

Mark (my husband) is not vegan but when I cook, he happily eats anything I make, which is great, otherwise he would go hungry! hahaha… I must brag, that a few times he has been really surprised at how tasty my dishes turn out, and has asked for the recipe, such as my cashew cheese and a bean dish I made for myself for lunch one day.  Maybe one day they will end up on the menu at the restaurant where he is the Chef de Cuisine. we can only hope 🙂

On Sunday I made a lovely Pad Thai packed with flavor, inspired by one of my favorite vegan blogs, Vegan Richa. Try it out – it may look like a lot of work, but once the veggies are chopped and everything is mise-en-place’d (French for “put in place”, or measured out and ready to be added to the pot) the dish comes together in 10 minutes!  This is guaranteed much lower in fat, sodium and sugar than the version you will order in from your local take-out …. Use any Asian noodles you may have, I like rice vermicelli, they are thin and light and not too filling.  The rest of the ingredients, such as tamarind and samba olek you can find in Asian grocery stores, online or even sometimes in your own regular super – or gourmet market.  Bon appetit!

Delicious Vegan Pad Thai

Serves 4

1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari
fresh juice from one big lime
1 teaspoon tamarind paste mixed with 2 tablespoons water or 1 tbsp tamarind chutney
1/4 cup organic coconut sugar
8 ounces rice noodles
4 tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil, divided
1 pound soft or firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and crumbled
1 rounded tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms,  cleaned and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large carrot, shredded
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp Sambal Olek  (Thai red chili paste)
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cups tightly packed fresh spinach
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Cilantro leaves and lime wedges, to garnish

Salt and more lime juice to taste


1. In a small bowl, combine the tamari, lime juice, tamarind, and sugar. Mix well and set aside.
2. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook, these babies cook fast! Drain the noodles, toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and set aside. (add more oil if the noodles stick together)
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the tofu, nutritional yeast, and turmeric. Cook, stirring, until the tofu is dry, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a bowl, season to taste with salt, and set aside.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and carrots and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili paste, and bell pepper, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Add the noodles, spinach, bean sprouts, peanuts, reserved sauce, and reserved tofu. Cook, stirring, until the noodles are tender but not overcooked, the sauce has been absorbed, and everything is heated through. Serve hot garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.


A Spicy Coconut Thai Curry Soup to Ring in the New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers!!

Hope that the new year is treating you all well so far, and that you are off to a great start with both your diet and exercise, work and life in general!

Remember, small steps is the key to success if you are just getting back into a routine.  Don’t go from not having moved for months to thinking you need to spend hours at the gym every day to “punish” yourself for being lazy last year, and live off carrots and celery sticks all day. This is why people only last for about 2 weeks or one month, and get dumped into the category “New Years Resolutioners” by regular gym goers.  What matters the most is that you do a little something extra every day that you didn’t do before, whether it’s walking around your neighborhood for 15 minutes or taking a 30 minute weight training class at your gym.  Soon you will want to increase that as your stamina improves and your confidence increases.

More importantly is getting in the mind set of healthy eating. I think diet is 70% of the equation if your goal is to lose weight and firm up. That is not to say that you shouldn’t exercise, as this works your heart and improves your stamina during regular daily activities and is the key to a healthy and longer life!  Neither does it mean that you shouldn’t allow yourself a treat or two a week, I am a big believer that no food should be “off limits” or thought of as “sinful”.  The brain works in mysterious ways and the forbidden foods always taste the best and is the most desirable, aren’t they?? 🙂

Ever since I adopted a plant based diet, my body feels so much lighter and my energy has sky rocketed. My taste buds have exploded, which is interesting since I work as a wine buyer and typically have thought of my self as a hyper sensitive taster. Now, I appreciate the taste of an orange for instance, SO much more, and I am constantly experimenting with new flavor combinations.

For the past couple of weeks I have been craving Thai flavored anything… and with the subzero temperatures we’ve been having in New York lately, a hot soup seemed entirely appropriate.  I finally decided to make a Thai Coconut Curry Soup yesterday, as my husband has come down with a terrible cold, and a spicy soup filled with nutritious vegetables was just what the doctor ordered.

Try this in January – your taste buds and tummy (and waist line) will thank you!!


4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 x 3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer peeled, bruised with a knife and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (I add the seeds, but eliminate these if you don’t want too spicy)

1 tbsp green curry paste

zest of 1 lime (reserve the lime)

handful of fresh cilantro and basil leaves

1 small Vidalia onions, diced

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

6-8 cups vegetable broth

5-6 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)

1 x 15 oz can lite coconut milk

1 tbsp brown sugar

splash of olive oil

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup of another mushroom, your choice  (I used cinnamon cap mushrooms)


2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 3-inch thin sticks

1-2 bunches of baby bok choy,  roughly chopped (if you can’t find baby bok choy, regular is fine or any other greens such as spinach, Swiss Chard, lettuce etc.)

1 packet of firm tofu, diced and cubed into 1-inch pieces

juice of 1 lime


In a large soup pot, heat up some olive oil (about 2 tbsp) over medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, jalapeno and lemon zest. Saute until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add in the curry paste and saute another minute or two. Add in the onion and peppers, season with a bit of salt and saute for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent.  Pour in the vegetable stock, soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut milk and let come to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Add in the mushrooms, carrots, tofu and bok choy with a few leaves of basil and cilantro.  Simmer gently for another 15 minutes or so. Add in the lime juice, adjust seasoning (salt/soy and /or sugar) and serve the soup with freshly chopped cilantro and basil.   Optional: Serve with 1 cup of steamed jasmine rice and you’ve got a complete meal!

Note: This makes a LOT but it keeps in the fridge for about 5-6 days and makes a great lunch or dinner in the cold winter months, packed with muscle building nutrients and vitamins!!


An Incredibly Flavorful, Meat Free Chickpea Stew

It’s that time of year where we will be looking for recipes for hot foods again – and heartwarming, flavorful soups and stews are on the top of my list of favorite comfort foods that not only satisfy, but don’t have to pack a lot of calories or fat.  Since going vegan, I am trying to incorporate a lot of beans since they are great source of protein, and also amazingly tasty and versatile. I came across a recipe from the Wimpy Vegetarian blog that I absolutely loved but instead of adding eggplants (I’m a fan of eating according to the seasons, when the produce is at its best) I chose to include kabocha squash.  Squash is a great source of healthy carbohydrates and there are a gazillion varieties out there for you to experiment with. Trust that I will be including many recipes for squash going forward!!

As a newbie in the strictly tplant based food world, I must admit that I had no idea meatless and dairy free dishes could taste so unbelievably good.  Rich, layered with flavors that range from sweet, salty, tangy to spicy – this stew will transform even the most resistant of carnivores… The clever use of spices, herbs and other condiments make this a recipe I will be making regularly this coming winter. Enjoy with no guilty conscience!!


  • 1 large kabocha squash, cut in half, seeds/core removed, roasted (I use salt, pepper, olive oil and place a sprig of rosemary in the cavity, place it cut side down and roast at 375 degrees for about 40-45 min until soft)
  • 3 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 -3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Vidalia (sweet) onion, chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo, chopped
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 x 15 oz can stewed /chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar or erythritol (sugar substitute)
  • 1-2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons mint
  • 2 1/2 -3 cups canned or cooked chickpeas
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

On top of a gas stove, place the peppers and roast them over an open flame until black on all sides

roastpeppersPlace the blackened peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes or so.  Peel the skins off and remove the core/seeds and chop into thin strips. Season with a bit of salt and olive oil and set aside.

  • Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the chopped onion (it should sizzle when it hits the oil), season with some salt and sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Don’t move the onion around too much or it won’t brown. Add the garlic and cook another two minutes.
  • Add the cumin, paprika and ras el hanout and sauté another minute to toast the spices. It should be very fragrant. Add the chipotle in adobo, cook another minute, and then add the red wine, water/broth, chopped tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and mint. Fold in the chopped roasted kabocha and red peppers. Add the chickpeas. Gently simmer for ten minutes to begin to meld the flavors.

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