Tag Archives: weekend musings
The following contains my personal opinions and a synthesis of my own research through the years. However, I am not a professional and only wish to start a conversation, not give medical advice.
As I navigate the check-out aisle at Walgreens, new posts on BuzzFeed, my feed on Twitter, and shared posts on Facebook, I am bombarded by unwanted “diet advice.” You know the kind:
How to Lose that Holiday Weight!
The Detox You Will Actually Enjoy!!
Cleanse Those Holiday Goodies Away!
Get Your Bikini Bod Back!
Ten Recipes to Undo All That Eggnog!!
The exclamation marks are a must. 😉
At their best, these articles contain nutritious and unprocessed recipes yet typically just emphasize the caloric content and temporary extreme restriction. At their worst, the articles include body shaming, misogynistic notions of what a woman’s body should look like or what women should care about, unrealistic guides from celebrity trainers, and misleading (or downright wrong) advice about “healthy eating” (e.g. DRINK GREEN JUICE TO BURN YOUR FAT AWAY!).
(I almost linked you to actual articles for examples, but I refuse to give them any more traffic.)
I am not against using the notion of a “new year” to make positive changes to your life. After all, I did this when I first started eating less meat. I am asking you to be careful about the goals you are setting and the action plan you choose to achieve them.
I have two main issues with these articles:
One of the reasons I love cooking is because I find it a therapeutic process. I find the kitchen a great place to relax because there are so many great sounds, sights, smells, and tastes. It’s a great time to tap into your awareness of what’s happening around you–because everything that’s taking place is so gosh darn pleasant.
But I know that not everyone feels this way. Some people think it’s not fun and more like a chore. Some people would rather order Seamless because the reward (eating food that someone else made for you) is higher than laboring in the kitchen to make it yourself. (more…)
Hi oatmeal lovers. I’m going to go completely off-topic for a moment.
Yesterday, I celebrated my third anniversary of being vegan—my veganniversary, if you will. Like many vegans, I went on this adventure without a clear idea of what I was doing, or even how to cook. While all our journeys are a little different, I’m guessing there are some common experiences, especially when it comes to “the firsts.”
10 Firsts that Every Vegan Must Endure:
1.The first cheese-less meal
The first shock of new veganism is realizing how often you put cheese on just about everything. One of the challenges in the beginning (which becomes kind of fun, actually) is finding replacements for that creamy, salty flavor.
*cough* avocado *cough* (more…)
Read Part I here.
Recently, I was traveling home for my brother’s wedding. The hotel did not offer a free continental breakfast (what is that nonsense??), so I decided to pack some oatmeal. I knew I would have minimal resources at my disposal, and I didn’t want to eat flavorless porridge, so I packed my Matcha Marketplace oatmeal packets (the blueberry coconut flavor).
It was the perfect solution. Cooked with nothing but water, it created a delicious oatmeal and I didn’t feel like I was “settling.” This ignited an unusual interest in flavored oatmeal packets, and I started thinking about ways to enhance the typical packet experience.
Here’s my first: Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal + Pumpkin puree. That’s it!
I have added banana before, but I think pumpkin works even better because the banana adds sweetness to an already sweet oatmeal. Pumpkin solves this problem because it is bitter and earthy, and it needs the sweetness from the oatmeal packet.
Prepare the oatmeal as directed, and stir in 1/3 cup pumpkin puree. I topped mine with PB&Co Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter, coconut, and pecans. 🙌
More ideas for Maple & Brown Sugar:
- Stir in mashed sweet potato
- Stir in unsweetened applesauce (it takes on a kind of apple pie taste)
- Stir in unsweetened chestnut puree
- Add instant coffee granules
- Cook 1-2 servings of quinoa porridge and add the Maple & Brown Sugar packet in the last five minutes (it will create a multigrain porridge, with a more mild maple & brown sugar flavor)
Do you have any oatmeal packet hacks? Or do you have ideas for more hacks I can try?
Remember, I am not a nutritionist. Everything I’m about to write came from my own experiences and from independent researching. If you haven’t yet read my musing about being a nutrition skeptic, I highly recommend it!
For a long time, I’ve noticed that my stomach is happier after eating overnight oats compared to stovetop oats. I had no idea why. Even when I made a larger portion of overnight oats (they are typically smaller in volume than the same measurement of dry oats on the stove), it would still leave me with a happier gut.
When Giselle submitted her guest post for the Spiced Plantain Brownie Baked Oatmeal, she included an instruction to soak the oats in an acidic liquid overnight. Curious, I emailed back to ask why. She responded, “Soaking the oatmeal (or any other whole grain) in acidic liquid is supposed to break down the phytic acid to make them more nutritious and digestible. Rinsing them removes most of the lemon flavor.”
Normally, hearing something like “break down the phytic acid” would set off my BS radar. 😜 I take being a nutrition skeptic very seriously, and I think there is a lot of nonsense being thrown around. But considering the very real, noticeable difference in my digestion after eating overnight oats vs. stovetop oats, I was intrigued. (more…)
For those of you following me on Instagram, you will be well aware that I am completing a challenge right now using the Oh She Glows cookbook (the first one). For this challenge, I am preparing 20 recipes from the book in one month’s time–enough to build a sense of urgency, but not enough that I can’t skip a day or two.
I made this challenge up (it’s not a “thing,” haha), but I have found it’s a great way to force myself out of my comfort zone and to branch out from my usual routine. I love my Happy Herbivore mac and cheese, and I love avocado toast, but I know there are other recipes out there that I’m missing.
And furthermore, how many of you buy cookbooks and then let them collect dust on your shelf??? This is a struggle of mine. Everyone was going crazy for the OSG cookbook when it first released, so I gave in to peer pressure and bought it myself. However, after flipping through the pages and admiring the pretty pictures, I never got around to making any of the recipes. Why? Because avocado toast is so much easier. 😉
Knowing well that I was missing out on some fantastic recipes–and also thinking about the $25 I spent on the book–I decided enough was enough. Having previously done a similar challenge using the Happy Herbivore cookbook, I knew this would be the kick in the pants I needed.
Recipe 1: Walnut, Pear, & Avocado Salad
Confession: that’s not even a pear. It’s a golden delicious apple. My neighborhood produce shop didn’t have any pears that day, so I decided a golden delicious apple was the next best thing (and as you all know, I don’t even like pears, so I wasn’t even upset about it). The recipe is meant to be served as a full meal, but I reduced the portion and ate it as a side with some avocado toast because I’m me and I wasn’t quite ready to abandon my old habits. ^_^
I chose this recipe first because I love salad and find them easy to prepare (and it was also 90 degrees out). However, this still forced me to experience a different type of salad since I wouldn’t normally go through the effort of marinated and cooking mushrooms, especially for a salad. This was delicious!! Probably because of the golden delicious apple. 😉 (more…)
My personal nutrition journey began in 2009 when I saw Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Food, Inc. I suddenly learned the value of an apple and the implications of high-fructose corn syrup. I became obsessed, and I loved the adventure. I enjoyed reading more about how the body processes food, the politics behind agriculture, and the historical evolution of America’s food culture. And most of all, I loved trying new foods and learning to cook and prepare from-scratch dishes.
But along the way, I encountered many “charismatic” nutritionists (to put it nicely). It seems every nutritionist in the media holds the elusive key to how to be THE healthiest human, or how to CURE all your illnesses, or how to FINALLY lose that weight. Some of them seemed a bit too crazy for me, and I scoffed immediately and moved on. Others, however, enticed me with their messages and lured me into worshiping their advice like scripture.
Why is this problematic?
Traditionally, nutritionists work with clients individually and create an action plan that responds to the client’s needs, wants, and limitations. It’s not a place for “THIS IS THE ANSWER YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR” advice. Instead, working with a nutritionist is more of a dialogue. A “this is working, this isn’t.” A place to set goals and reflect on how they are going. A “how could I do this better?” A place free from shaming, but also a place to learn about the impact of your choices.
A photo posted by Lauren Smith (@oatmealartist) on
Nobody could write a book for a mass audience that could handle the dietary nuances of each reader. Thus, nutritional advice is simplified and made palatable to readers desperate to try something new for their health and wellness. And, to outsell the competition in a capitalist market, these nutritionists package their books (and themselves) with some “simple” diet plan, usually marketed as a “Don’t.”
Don’t eat fat. Don’t eat bread. Don’t eat refined flour. Don’t eat sugar. Don’t eat dairy. Don’t eat starch. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t eat empty calories. Don’t eat egg yolks. Don’t eat fruit. Don’t eat processed food. Don’t eat meat. Don’t drink soda.
And boom, just like that, they’ve created an easy action plan that thousands of readers can easily adopt. Imagine if all you had to do to be healthier was to stop eating egg yolks. Simple!
The food we eat involves so much: what is accesible to us (consider food deserts), our food cultures, our budget, and even our likes and dislikes. It should strike you as suspicious that someone wants to tell you what to eat (and make you feel ashamed, scared, or in danger for not following their advice) despite not knowing anything about you.
That applies to all of us. How many times have you heard a classmate, coworker, aunt, or random stranger recommend that you “drink more milk” or “use low-fat dressing” or “eat more protein”? I am not immune to this tendency, either. While I try not to dish out nutritional advice on my blog, I’m sure I have slipped up from time to time as well (especially in my older posts). So yes, be skeptical of me. There is no single truth when it comes to nutrition. But you should critique that sentence, too. 😇
Let’s consider this: many book-selling nutritionists are currently (and understandably) catering to people affected by Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related illnesses. It’s the biggest (and most dangerous) problem in the health industry, so many people are eager to “solve the crisis.” Everyone dreams of curing cancer, but what if you could be the person that figured out how to prevent it from ever happening? (If you want to be pessimistic, you could also make the case that they are exploiting the fear and desperation of this audience, or simply taking advantage of the fact that it’s a large target audience.)
Do you think nutritionists give the same advice to someone who is underweight as they do to someone who is obese and dealing with diabetes? No. Definitely not.
Do you think they would give the same advice to a “healthy,” non-picky eater with a comfortable budget as they would to someone recovering from their second heart attack in a food desert? No. No way.
One size does not fit all. Especially when that “size” has been measured to fit the needs of a health crisis.
Let’s discuss a specific example. There is a certain semi-famous food blogger and cookbook author whom I have previously worshipped. I will not name her specifically because I respect her too much to publicly slander her, so let’s call her Broccoli. However, no matter how much I respected her and appreciated her quick, easy, and tasty recipes, I remained skeptical. Broccoli is very vocal against oil, and she even avoids “too much” nut butters, nuts, and avocado.
Look, I’m not saying you should fry all your food or douse everything in truffle oil, but doesn’t this seem a little strange to you? Avocado is a whole food. Nuts are a whole food. Yes, they are high in fat and calories–but those are both nutrients we need! And when you’re on a whole foods, plant-based diet, getting enough calories can be tough if you cut out foods like that. In fact, I became pretty obsessed with Broccoli’s advice for a while and stopped buying oil and ate as little peanut butter as possible, and I wasn’t getting anywhere near enough calories (and my stomach isn’t big enough to eat bigger portions of such fiber-packed food). That’s what actually led me to seeing a nutritionist in the first place–to undo that physical and mental damage.
When I analyze Broccoli’s message, it usually has a foundation in curing diabetes and heart-related illnesses (a la Forks Over Knives). That’s super–the same diet that can cure such an illness can also prevent one. But once again, one size does not fit all. (Imagine if everyone adopted Michael Phelps’ 10 billion-calories-a-day diet!!!)
Recently, Broccoli publicly announced her daily calorie allotment (spoiler: it’s freakishly low) and published before/after photos of herself. Naturally, people commented with horror and concern, but she defended herself staunchly and acted as though the nay-sayers were simply ignorant of real nutrition. She acted as though she possessed the truth–that all we had to do was buy into (literally) her message via meal plans and cookbooks, and we could possess the truth as well.
Her actions had little regard for the specific needs of the individuals in her mass audience, and worse, could have dangerously affected readers vulnerable to disordered eating habits. This made me completely question any authority I had previously granted her. I’m glad I had been always skeptical of her, and I wish my skepticism had been stronger to prevent me from getting too wrapped up in the “lifestyle” she was marketing.
But guess what? I still use her recipes. Why? Because Broccoli makes some dang good recipes, and unlike many plant-based cookbook authors, Broccoli uses ingredients that are simple and easy to find in most stores. I can make most of her meals in 15-30 minutes, and many of them are easy enough to be memorized and incorporated into my regular recipe cycle. But I top them with avocado or cook the veggies in coconut oil when I want to. Because guess what? Lauren walks lots of stairs in NYC and needs plenty of calories to do it.
Give me all the peanut butter.
The sad part is, I could list a dozen more examples of “nutritionists” whom I’ve had this experience with. But this should suffice.
Am I Still Vegan?
YES! And I’m 99.999999% sure that will never change.
I love eating a vegan diet, and it loves me back. I chose to eat this way for my health and for the environment, and I believe strongly that it benefits those two causes. While there are plenty “charismatic nutritionists” out there touting vegan diets as the “cure-all,” I am confident and comfortable in my decision to eschew meat, eggs, and dairy based on the very real fact that my digestive system problems, acne, and PCOS greatly subsided and/or disappeared after making the switch. And, just as importantly, the environmental impact of animal agriculture is enough reason for me to live a healthful life sans bacon and gouda.
A photo posted by Lauren Smith (@oatmealartist) on
That being said, there are plant-based nutritionists out there trying to generalize dietary advice for the masses to sell their books, so be careful. Look out for people who mock others for having differing opinions. Look out for people who ridicule commenters who disagree with their posts. Look out for people who pretend that THEIR way is the ONLY way. Look out for people who are regularly marketing their books, their speeches, etc.
It doesn’t mean you can’t read them or follow them. It means you should approach them with caution because they are marketing. You have money, and they have a business that likes to earn money. Go ahead and read the book. I’ve read tons, and I love them all. But don’t treat it like your own dietary bible. Read critically. Ask questions.
Be a skeptic.
I will readily admit that I’m not an easy roommate. Ask my roommates from my year in Newark, and they will tell you that the thing I was most meddlesome about was food waste. I can recall one moment when a roommate was going to throw something away that was a bit past its prime, and as she carried it toward the garbage, I sharply inhaled and stared in horror. I quickly became the food waste police (which I do not recommend as it will not make you very likable 😜).