Just Say No to the Swizine!


If there’s anything that screams last season, it’s a hospital mask and the oh-so-feminine fragrance
of eau de vom. Let’s discuss staying healthy for dummies, shall we?

EAT:

*Garlic, which not only neutralizes many strains of bacteria, it also helps your bod get rid of heavy metal contamination and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Get over your fear of garlic breath and add it to omelets, stir-fries, and pasta dishes. Sautee a clove or two in a teaspoon of olive oil and drizzle it over steamed veggies!

*Cumin, an antimicrobial that adds a complex, mildly spicy flavour to hummus, scrambled tofu, ground beef or savory mashed sweet potatoes. Try it in Curry Bonanza! (Though the research I’m familiar with suggests that cumin’s antimicrobial properties are more effective on fungal and yeast cultures than bacteria, loading up on the yummy spice can’t hurt!)

*Broccoli, which is high in antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory properties. Steamed broccoli makes the perfect addition to any meal; try something new and sprinkle your broc with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast.

*Mushrooms–particularly shiitake, which are packed with beta-glucans, a fungal property that kicks the immune system into superhero mode. Throw some chopped mushrooms into any salad or pasta dish or try them with spinach in an egg white omelet.

*Shrimp! The phytonutrient astaxanthin that gives shrimp its color stimulates the immune system and provides you with heightened protection from the harmful effects of UV rays (but don’t forget, you should still slather that pretty face with sunscreen all winter long!)

DRINK:

*Wheatgrass juice, a super-concentrated source of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which acts as a natural energizer and cleanser of the lymph system. Juicing this badass plant requires special machinery, so most of us have to hit the coffee shop or smoothie stand to get our fix, shelling out several bucks a shot. The other downside is that the straight-up grass taste isn’t for everyone…but I love it! Mmm, lawn.

*Green tea, the goddess of the immune system. Start with a strong cup in the morning (I double-bag it) and guzzle a decaf version all day long. You can never have too much green tea!

*Creamsicle Juice, which combines your immune system’s BFFs, Vitamin C and ginger (which also settles an upset tummy.)

*and of course, Water. Aim for two liters a day, but stop drinking at least two hours before bedtime. If you get really thirsty pre-beddie bye, allow yourself just a sip.

AVOID (as always)…

*factory-farmed animal products. cruelty tastes yucky. hit up local farms and farmers markets whenever possible!
*tuna and other large fish, which can contain high levels of toxic heavy metals like mercury.
*processed foods, white flour, and sugar (indulge in small amounts, and use alternatives like raw honey whenever possible)

and finally

*Get plenty of sleep! At least 7 1/2 hours a night is optimal. Resolve to shave 30 minutes off your evening routine (turn the TV off! step away from the Facebook!) and turn in early, and your rested bod will thank you tomorrow!

* This should go without saying, but do like yo mama said and KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF! Wash ’em frequently, regardless of whether you think you’ve touched anything germy. When my job required me to take a food safety course a couple of years ago, I learned this fun fact: getting your hands squeaky clean requires washing with warm water and plenty of soap while you sing TWO rounds of “happy birthday”. Fun times for everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone’s having a marvelous holiday! I’m not sharing any big day-specific recipes because here at the Healthy Girl house, we decided to go a new route–one of decadence and UNhealth! Well, that’s not entirely true…I’m hoping my veggie side dishes will be a success!

Let’s all be thankful for the amazing machines that are our bodies, and all the wonderful things they do for us!

Satan in Sandwich Form

I just came across this article on The 8 Worst Sandwiches in America, and I had to share it with y’all (check out the all-time winner, which packs FOUR DAYS’ worth of fat!)

I love that restaurants are now required to make their nutrition facts available, but I’m usually not prepared for the results. Recently, my go-to lunch when I don’t have time to pack has been Au Bon Pain’s hummus wrap; I recently discovered that this seemingly healthy sammy (hummus, lettuce, feta, olives, cucumbers, and sundried tomatoes) has 600 calories and…are you ready? 30 grams of fat! Turns out it’s actually one of the most fattening things on their menu; looks can be deceiving, eh? The lesson here is to do your homework and, perhaps most importantly, pay attention to portion size! I’m a food fanatic who finds it impossible NOT to clean my plate regardless of how full I am, so I’m working on not overloading it in the first place.

One of my favourite things to do is create healthier, do-it-myself versions of the not-so-healthy things I like to eat. My Greek Goddess Wrap is lower-fat, veggified version of my Au Bon Pain nemesis. What’s your favourite sandwich? Does it need a healthy makeover too? If so, lay it on me!

Healthy Choices for the Chinese Takeout Lover

Ellen recently requested tips for making healthy choices when ordering Chinese food. As a general rule, I suggest sticking to vegetable dishes, but if you’re really craving meat, choose a combination like beef and broccoli; some veggies are better than none! Here are some other tips for navigating a takeout menu:

1. Always ask for steamed brown rice. White rice has the same food value as white bread. Simple carbohydrates never did nothin’ good for NOBODY.
2. Ask for your sauce on the side, and only use as much as it takes to add some flavour to your dish. In some cases, you can cut the fat, calorie and sodium content of your meal in half by doing this (and by the way, always ask for reduced-sodium soy sauce.)
3. Don’t be afraid to request cooking specifications; as long as you’re polite, restaurant staff shouldn’t mind if you ask that your meal be cooked in little or no oil or in broth. You should definitely consider making such a request if you’re ordering a noodle dish; these are usually served dripping with oil.
4. If you’re getting an appetizer, soup is probably the healthiest choice. Eating a cup of miso or chicken soup before your meal will help curb your appetite (steer clear of those devilish crunchy noodles, though!)
5. If you’re ordering spring rolls or dumplings, make sure you do not order a crispy (read: deep-fried) version. Avoid egg rolls; if you’re really craving one, split it with your dining buddy.
6. If your dish comes with nuts, ask for them on the side. Using a couple of tablespoons of nuts is fine, but more than that makes your meal excessively fatty.
7. Most menus have a section devoted to lighter options, but I suggest maintaining an investigatory attitude. Just because a dish is listed under this heading doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you, or that it couldn’t be prepared in a more healthful manner.

Terms to look for (if you can’t find them, you can always make a request!): steamed, roasted, boiled.

The following terms are NOT your friends: crispy, crunchy, creamy, fried, coconut (often included in curry sauce; make sure you ask for the sauce on the side) sweet & sour, General Tso’s, Kung Pao.

A Note About My Labels

Hey Y’all,

I just want to make it clear that I take tagging my recipes (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) very seriously. If I’ve catalogued a recipe in a way that you feel is incorrect, please let me know. I’ve had my share of experiences with misleading titles (finding out that the “Vegetarian” dishes I’d been eating at certain restaurants were made with chicken broth and whatnot) and it’s important to me that this website is a trustworthy tool from the get-go.

I try to feature recipes that can easily be altered to fit your needs. This is not always evident in my photographs; for example, I sprinkled my Veggie Stacks with Quinoa Cakes with mozzarella but tagged the recipe as Vegan and Dairy-Free because I made a notation in the recipe that either cheese or soy cheese can be used as a topping. If the substitutions are any more complicated than that, I don’t place them in a category that would involve changing multiple ingredients to avoid confusing you. If you find a recipe to be misleading (or just plain wrong!) please let me know by commenting on the recipe or by e-mailing me at healthygirlcooking@gmail.com.

Also, if you have a dietary restriction you’d like to see represented on this website, please let me know! I’m always up for trying new things, and I love to experiment in the kitchen!

The Tale of Princess Quinoa


Once upon a time, about five thousand years ago, there lived a beautiful Incan princess. Everyone called her Princess Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) because she would eat nothing but her namesake, also referred to by her people as the Mother Grain. This ancient grain is considered by many to be the perfect food as it is a complete protein, very low in fat, and loaded with fiber, iron and riboflavin (aka vitamin B2) Princess Quinoa’s love affair with the delicious grain made her strong, smart and beautiful (and if only she had supplemented her diet with some fruit, veggies and dairy, she just might have lived forever!)

Quinoa often slips under our radar, but no more, ladies and gentlemen! This wheat- and gluten-free grain makes it friendly for those with celiac disease and those who chose not to eat gluten for other reasons. Quinoa’s high content of iron and protein make it an invaluable staple for vegans and vegetarians. Its shape is similar to that of couscous, but it sprouts when cooked, giving it just a bit of a crunch.

This week, we’ll be paying homage to this glorious grain by posting a different recipe each day involving quinoa. If you have some time this evening, stock up on quinoa, beans (any kind you like; I prefer black,) corn, and veggies and make a big ol’ pot of quinoa to dip into all week long for quick lunch-packing and easy post-work dinner-making. And check back every day for the quinoa recipe du jour! Tonight, try quinoa-stuffed peppers They come with my carnivorous boyfriend’s stamp of approval!

A Note About Healing & Healthy Eating

In the last week, I’ve gotten e-mails from several women who have struggled or are still struggling with eating disorders. I’m thrilled that Healthy Girl Cooking is beginning to foster a dialogue about the meaning of healing and reimagining our relationship with food.

The stories I’ve heard this week have gotten me thinking about the process of overcoming an eating disorder. Everyone’s experiences are different, of course, but the thing we all have in common is that we’ve learned to channel our anxiety into the act of over- or under-nourishing ourselves. Eating disorders are such private things; often, we even keep secrets from ourselves by burying the original sources of our anxiety and displacing them onto our relationship with food. There is alot to understand on a personal level before healing can begin, and my hope is that communicating in an online setting, which allows for as little or as much anonymity as you care for, can serve a therapeutic purpose.

I think the second step in overcoming an eating disorder, after deciding that you want to get better, is becoming mindful of your stressors and the things that trigger your behaviour. Therapy has been instrumental in helping me change my relationship with those stressors, which made working on the eating disorder stuff easier. I happen to think that most of the problems in the world would be solved if everyone just had a good therapist, but therapy is especially important if you’re dealing with an eating disorder. It’s important to find someone you feel comfortable with who will gently push you to do the work at hand, but who also respects your boundaries and is sensitve to them. Therapist shopping is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and good therapists know this–it’s perfectly fine to agree on a trial period (3 sessions, for example) after your initial session to determine whether you have a good match. If you don’t feel that the dynamic is right, you needn’t feel bad about saying so; part of a therapist’s job is to help you find a match that will enable you to get as much out of the experience as possible. He or she can probably even refer you to a practitioner who may be a better match for you.

Becoming mindful of my destructive habits has helped me to develop a different relationship with food; understanding nutrition and the benefits of eating well has helped me turn my old fixations and rituals, like the never-resting calorie calculator in my head, and the slow, methodic consumption of a single carrot stick in which I used to take such comfort, into positive habits. I think the transfer of this energy was significant; I don’t know how to eat without knowing exactly what I’m ingesting, so I needed to find a non-destructive way to do that. I think it’s important to listen to yourself as you heal. Find healthy new habits, no matter how small, that comfort you without being destructive.

Please keep your comments and e-mails coming. Understanding your experiences can help me make this blog the most helpful and supportive tool possible. Feel free to post using your name or remain anonymous. You can also e-mail me at healthygirlcooking@gmail.com if you’d like. Respecting your privacy is important to me, and anything you e-mail me will always be referenced anonymously unless you specify otherwise. If you don’t want me to reference your comments on this blog at all, let me know.

Thanks, healthy girls. You can do it! :)

Welcome to Healthy Girl Cooking!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Healthy Girl Cooking! 

I created this blog because I love inventing healthy ways to eat that work with my busy schedule. I also wanted to make my ideas accessible and get YOUR ideas about improving my recipes! This is just the beginning for Healthy Girl Cooking; I have big plans for the future, and you’re a big part of that! HGC can’t go anywhere without your input.

     I often find recipes in books and magazines that are quick and cheap but not healthy, and sometimes healthy and budget-friendly but not quick or easy. Like most of my friends, I’m on a tight budget, but I don’t have time to waste on a recipe that’s super complicated, might not turn out right, or requires a bunch of ingredients I don’t have in my pantry (one element of this website that’s still in development is the Weekly Meal Planner, which will match up recipes that share ingredients, helping you to buy minimal items for maximum quick, delish cooking. 
My goal is to have that in place by the end of this weekend.)
     I’m committed to making Healthy Girl Cooking a resource that’s easy to use, as well as one that fits your needs. Your feedback is very important, both in terms of the technical aspects of the website, and the recipes themselves. As i learn more about web design, i plan to expand the capacities of Healthy Girl Cooking’s domain to maximize this site’s abilities.
Where I’m coming from…
I’m an omnivore with 11 years of vegetarianism and almost 2 years of veganism behind me. Last summer, after a grueling trial-and-error project that involved obsessive food journaling, I discovered that an intolerance to soy was at the root of my many years of stomach problems. I sympathize with anyone who must always check the labels of anything they eat, because believe me, I’ve been there.
I also had the opportunity to become familiar with the gluten- and caesin-free diet when the lovely family I used to babysit for changed their lifestyle. With two kids under the age of 5, they really have their work cut out for them, and I admire them for all the challenges they successfully conquer each day (pureeing veggies to sneak them onto dinner plates and whatnot.) Their challenges have inspired me to include both gluten-free recipes and, as this website expands, a section entirely devoted to kids’ interests (this is an area in which I’ll need ALOT of help, especially from all you parents!)
…what healthy eating means to me:
I spent my teenage years battling an eating disorder. I realized, eventually, that in addition to changing some elemental aspects of the way I dealt with stress, I needed to change my relationship with food. That’s a very tricky concept, I’ve discovered, especially when we live in a culture that simultaneously values the sensual experience of eating and encourages women to blame food for all our problems. I know this sounds like an infomercial from the 80’s, but I have to say it: Listen up, ladies, FOOD IS NOT YOUR ENEMY. I’m here to encourage you to question the stealthily coded messages you see in commercials, on TV, in magazines, on billboards, and in conversation. We’ve been conditioned to speak a certain way about our bodies, eating, and GUILT (hello, we associate the word GUILT with eating!)  and I’m going to do my part to change that. The fact of the matter is, eating is necessary for survival. Eating is also a wonderful experience that engages our senses, and we have every right to enjoy it. We live in a culture that milks the concept of excess for all it’s worth, so unfortunately, we have to work a little harder to learn what moderation really is, and to implement the concept in our daily lives.
Healthy Girl Cooking aims to foster a dialogue about everything I’ve mentioned in this entry, and anything else you might be interested in discussing. Please don’t be shy about bringing your comments to the table; that’s what we’re here for!

a note about my nutrition facts

I learned how to count calories when I was twelve, and they’ve haunted me ever since. Though I was a slave to nutrition facts for many years for all the wrong reasons, I’m proud that I can now enjoy food for its nutritive powers and eating for the sensory experience. Reading labels HAS made me skilled at estimating the nutrition content of foods, which helps me eat a balanced diet. So while I encourage everyone to learn the basics of nutrition, I caution against obsessing over numbers. In general, I suggest eating low-fat dairy, lean meats & seafood (if you’re an omnivore,) cooking with olive & canola oils to reap the benefits of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and loading your plate with whole grains, vegetables and fruit at every meal. I also suggest eating small meals and snacking all day long to avoid getting so hungry that you want to eat everything in sight. Finally, it’s a good idea to avoid foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce; the more additives and preservatives, the further the food is from the earth. Your body likes whole foods!

Also, please know that the nutrition facts I publish here, while always as accurate as possible, are educated guesses rather than scientific proof. I draw from the labels of the foods in my recipes when possible, and when there are no labels to consult, I cross-check data on websites like fitday.com, nutrition.gov and nutritiondata.com.