Vegan Chocolate Loaf

Given that my previous recipe pretty much blew my mind in terms of the undetectability of the main ingredient I decided to follow suit with another sweet treat that features some sort of bean. After all, legumes are here to stay, given the new and improved, almost released Canadian Food Guidelines, so we must as well embrace them.

I decided to marry red kidney beans with chocolate for a delicious Vegan Chocolate Loaf. If you are wondering if I’ve been as successful with this recipe to disguise the Beans I can assure you that you would not be able to tell there are beans in this treat! I can guarantee you that if I were to make 2 loaves like this and only one featuring beans you could not be able to tell the difference between the two.

As for the taste test – I might be biased because I love everything chocolate, put some cocoa powder in your treat and I am all over it – but to be perfectly honest, this loaf is exquisite. It has a dense texture, due mostly to the beans, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you are hoping for a light sweet treat, however, if you are looking for a slice of cake that would pair great with a cup of tea, this is your cake! I’m not even kidding.

Vegan Chocolate Loaf
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 10
  • Serving size: Slice
  • Calories: 184
  • Fat: 3
  • Saturated fat: .8
  • Trans fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 37
  • Sugar: 14
  • Sodium: 202
  • Fiber: 7.2
  • Protein: 7
  • Cholesterol: 0
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Vegan, plant-based
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 340g Red Kidney Beans (canned)
  • 110g Pitted Medjool Dated
  • 1 cup of boiling Water
  • ¼ cup unsweetened Cashew Milk
  • 170g Oat Flour
  • 55g unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 50g Coconut Sugar
  • 25g Chia Seeds
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • Dash of Salt
  • Dairy-free chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Soak dates in boiling hot water for 15 minutes.
  2. Add soaked dates, beans, and milk in a large food processor and integrate fairly well.
  3. Whisk all the dry ingredients and add to your wet mixture.
  4. Process in a food processor until you get a somewhat cakey consistency.
  5. Add chocolate chips and mix lightly to integrate the chips evenly in the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes or until your toothpick comes out dry.

 
Here is a visual of all the ingredients (minus the chocolate chips) that this loaf requires. Nothing fancy – exactly what any plant-based person would typically have in their pantry anyway.

 

I highly recommend doubling on the amount of chocolate chips, they really up the chocolate level in this loaf.

 

I will admit to forgetting to take more staged photos to tempt you to try to make it for yourself, maybe next time when I am not so enamored by my new found love for bean sweet treats!

 

Whenever I share my treats people often assume they are good for you. If you have been reading this blog you know that I don’t claim my sweet treats are, per se, good for you. I do believe they are way better than anything you buy in a package at your grocery store or at your grocery’s bakery section. However, I don’t think either choice is good for you, especially on a continuous basis, everyday type thing. If you have a slice of my loaf on a Friday night as a treat you will be just fine, but if you down it in one sitting, it will be just as detrimental to your waistline as eating an entire bag of conventional chips or cookies. And this brings me to my point: All food has calories that if added to whatever else you consume throughout the day will inevitably end up as body fat – that is if you eat more than what your body burns to live. There is absolutely no free food.

Let me elaborate… Most recently I learned that Weight Watcher (whose spokesperson apparently is now no other than Oprah) is implementing a new Freestyle counting system. They have decided that there are certain foods that just don’t count:

Flexible counting and tracking. With more than 200 zero Points foods (including favourites like chicken breast, eggs, and seafood) you can form the foundation of a healthy and satisfying menu – and never feel deprived!

So, in a nutshell, what they are saying is that amongst other food items: chicken breast (3oz=210calories), eggs(1 egg = 140 calories) and seafood(5oz salmon=250 calories) can be eaten with no regard for their nutritional value. According to WW you can eat as much as you want of those calorically dense foods and not count them as consumed.

If you ask me, whoever is behind this point idea is not only brilliant but also a great business person – oh wait, a quick google search revealed that she was, in fact, a business entrepreneur! Well, this Weight Watchers business certainly was and continues to be a success – it follows a prime example of a sustainable business model.

It amazes me to no end how this company can have such great following when they tell you to eat as much as you want of A B and C because supposedly they don’t count – I guess we really know that little about simple human physiology because we keep flocking to WW meetings like it’s some sort of a new age savior, yet year after year our waistlines are not getting any smaller. But I will admit it is a brilliant way to make sure people keep coming back. Make sure those waistlines will never get any smaller by telling people there are certain foods that don’t have any points – we’ll feel encouraged to eat them with no regard and will keep the weight on or in most cases put on more.

So what about the people who are successful with Weight Watcher? After all, there are some success stories that keep motivating the rest of us. It’s simple: any diet will work as long as you keep your calories (not points) below the amount of food that you expend via daily activities. Period. You can eat twinkies and burgers and wash them down with non-diet coke and still lose weight, as long as you keep your food intake below what your body burns. It’s a simple equation that should be well known and understood. So the question one has to ask themselves: What do I want to fuel my body with? Do I want to fuel my body with nutritionally void foods or do I want to nourish it with whole foods?  If it’s the former then you also need to know that eating nutritionally empty calories (and Weight Watchers does encourage eating that way, they also sell packaged manufactured foods ) then keep in mind that sooner or later it will catch up with you.  Just look at the American population dying of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Secondly, eating manufactured packaged food-like items is a trap that nobody escapes – you will not end at eating one because they do not satisfy, they are not even half as satiating as whole foods.

So what are you to do? I say, save your hard earned money that you otherwise would give to Weight Watchers and buy real food, preferably plant food and get an app on your phone that will track (for free) the calories (not points) you are eating. Go online to calculate the number of calories your body (at your age, size and activity level) needs to function optimally, take away between 200-500 calories from that max, eat real food and see the weight melt away! I know what you will say, you will say “Oh, that’s so hard, so time-consuming, etc. etc.” Yes, losing weight takes effort, if it were easy none of us would have any to lose and WW would be out of business. The way WW is failing most of us is by implying that losing weight is a piece of cake that you can also eat – that’s a lie. It isn’t easy and unless you are ready to accept that, you will continue the vicious cycle. You need to put a lot of effort and a lot of thought into shedding some pounds if you want to do it the conventional way. To make things easier simply switch to Plant-Based Whole Foods diet.

This was a rant, I realize, but there is nothing that pisses me off more than a multimillion dollar company that takes advantage of uninformed people. I get visibly upset when people talk about WW and how they have to get back on the plan that I had to put in my 2 cents about how horribly wrong WW is. If you stuck around this far here is my video for the Vegan Chocolate Loaf 🙂

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Even though I’m not much of a Christmas person – long boring story – I do get in a cooking/baking holiday spirit around this time of year. Traditionally, in Poland, the cookery starts in early December and continues until Christmas – after all the poor polish women have to create 12 dishes to grace the Chrismas Day table. I don’t exactly carry this tradition in my own home, mostly because, as much as I love leftovers, I don’t want to be eating them for months on end. However, I do get an itch to create dishes that maybe I wouldn’t if it wasn’t for the holiday season.

I’ve been wanting to incorporate beans into my sweet treats for as long as I can remember. Even prior to becoming plant-based I felt like beans were such a great underappreciated food. I’ve seen bean-centric recipes made by people in the fitness industry as a way to limit the use of processed flours, but they always included a lot of whey protein powders and artificial sweeteners. Somehow those recipes never really appealed to me that much, but today I am again drawn to bean recipes. After a quick internet search, this is what I came up with: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I was very skeptical about these cookies from the very beginning. As I was opening my beloved can of organic chickpeas I imagined the funky smell that these would give off and I scrunched my face in disbelief that I was actually attempting to put beans in my cookies. But I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained and I proceeded to make my try-out batch.

 

The process was very easy (see the video below) and the blended mixture sort of looked appropriate for cookie dough, but it wasn’t until I cautiously licked the spoon to test the dough that my face suddenly lit up with newfound hope and excitement. In fact, the dough was so good that I licked clean the food processor bowl! It tasted nothing like chickpeas! I was in heaven! But a healthy dose of skepticism was still hovering over clouding my hope, making me think that they might still not turn out the right way – you know, I pictured them not holding shape when baked, or something…

 

In about 45 minutes all the clouds have dissipated when I eagerly bit into one of these rounds to discover that they were perfectly crunchy on the outside and beautifully chewy on the inside with a flavor unmatched by any commercially made cookies IMHO. I’m not ashamed to admit I slowly made my way through the whole batch, they were that good. So, I decided to replicate them by tripling the recipe to bring some to work with me the following day. And you guessed it, nobody was able to tell that they were eating beans! I call that a success.

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 820g
  • Serving size: 10g
  • Calories: 34
  • Fat: 1
  • Carbohydrates: 6
  • Fiber: 1
  • Protein: 1
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: vegan, vegetarian, plant-based
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Noone will guess what's hiding in these cookies!
Ingredients
  • 800g rinsed Chickpeas
  • 150g Oat Flour (grind some oats if you don't have oat flour)
  • 100g Coconut Sugar
  • 2Tbs Vanilla Extract
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 2Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 100g Dairy-free Dark Chocolate Chips
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Combine the dry ingredients together.
  2. Bend Chickpeas, Vanilla Extract and Apple Cider Vinegar together in a large food processor.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to your Chickpea mixture, adding water to help the ingredients bind and form cookie dough.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with some parchment paper and place spoonfuls of the dough, making sure you even them out with the spoon.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until the cookies brown a bit and get a crunchy exterior.
  6. Serve with a cup of tea.
Notes
These are to die for! If you make them you will fool the biggest of food connoisseur - it's impossible to guess what's hiding in these.

Now mind you, I'm not saying that these are healthy by any stretch of the imagination - they are still sweets, so don't be food by the ingredient list. I don't believe there is such a thing as healthy sweets - unless of course you're eating an apple.

 

I feel somewhat accomplished in knowing that none of the people I fed these to were able to name the main ingredient in them. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure that had I revealed the main ingredient up front, I wouldn’t have had many if any takers. I’m certain of that because I get the same reaction when I list out the components of my daily lunches after an inquisition ensues caused by the smell of my reheated food that leaves an inevitable aroma trail as I return to my desk to have my feast – people seem almost willing to dig in with me, that is until I spell out what’s in my lunch container. Then, all of a sudden, all as one proclaim they would not touch it with a 10 foot pole. “But why?”, I ask. Why? Simply because it’s unfamiliar? Well then, the joke’s on you, I just put chickpeas in my cookies and you loved them! And here is how you can make them yourself. Enjoy!

 

 

#veganlife part 1

You might have heard from pro-meat eaters that switching to a plant-based diet is difficult, incomplete and leads to a slew of deficiencies in various vitamins and nutrients. Let me just say that it is literally and figuratively a pile of Bologna.

I took the plunge into a fully plant-based diet in the Spring of this year and I have to say it was the easiest transition I have ever made. Apart from ditching all animal foods (meat and dairy) and learning a bit about the preparation of Tofu, Tempeh and trying out Seitain once there really wasn’t anything else that is foreign to me. All other foods that are part of plant-based diet were either already very familiar to me or already present on my plate. So let’s talk about protein sources for a minute.

Tofu (bean curd) and Tempeh are pretty much the same in that they are both made out of  Soybeans: Tofu out of soy milk and Tempeh from whole beans. The only difference between them is how they are made: Tofu comes in several firmness levels, from silky smooth (almost yogurt like consistency) to extra firm. Tofu texture is very smooth void of any resemblance of soybeans that’s because soy milk is coagulated and then the resulting curds are pressed into soft white blocks that are submerged in water in a plastic enclosure when you buy it at the grocery store. Tempeh on the hand is made by natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds the actual soybeans into a cake form that yields a very textured product. However, the preparation for consumption of both can be very similar….

1. Get rid of the water from your Tofu.

Tofu preparation is slightly more involved because since it’s immersed in water while sitting on the shelf of your grocery store you will need to get rid of that water that penetrated your Tofu before cooking for best results. What you want to do when you bring your Tofu home is to take it out of the plastic packaging (that is if you plan to cook it fairly soon) and pat it dry with a paper towel. In fact, you can try to squeeze as much water out of it as possible by pressing it in your hands. You will notice that the paper towels get immediately soaked – it doesn’t look particularly wet but Tofu does hold a fair bit of water. Once you’ve squeezed as much water out of it as you think is there take a cutting board and line it with a double layer of paper towels, lay tofu blocks on top of the paper towels and cube it into 1/2 inch pieces keeping the integrity of the block intact. Place another layer of paper towels on top of the cubed tofu blocks in such a way that there is an edge of the paper towels left to tuck underneath of your tofu on all 4 sides. Once this is assembled take another cutting board and place on top of the paper towels and lay something fairly heavy on top that will squeeze the water out: think an iron cast pan or a heavy kitchen appliance or a plant, anything really will do. Do not worry, your tofu will be intact, it will not flatten out ;). Ideally, you want to leave this contraption overnight, but if you haven’t planned that far in advance, a couple of hours is better than nothing. When you go to retrieve your tofu you will notice that the paper towels are swimming in water. Transfer the dried out tofu into a bowl and whip up a marinade.

Some vegans prefer to skip this step by frying their tofu and in the process drying it out. They place sliced tofu in a dry frying pan and dry it out that way and then add cooking sauces to it to sautée. I do not fry my tofu because I find by frying it I am not able to impart as much flavor into it as I can when I bake it, which brings me to my next step..

2. Add tons of flavor to your Tofu and Tempeh

While your Tofu waits patiently in a bowl, take a large plastic container with a lid and whip up a marinade. This step is the same for both Tofu and Tempeh (tempeh doesn’t require the first step so you can jump right in with tempeh by cutting it up any old way – I usually slice mine it into little chicken tenders-like shapes). For my marinade I tend to keep it fairly simple, making sure whatever I use isn’t full of salt, sugar or preservatives. I use the combination of the following, depending what’s currently kicking around my pantry:

For my marinade I tend to keep it fairly simple, making sure whatever I use isn’t full of salt, sugar or preservatives. I use the combination of the following, depending what’s currently kicking around my pantry:

  • Tomato Paste (no sugar added)
  • Mustard
  • PC Chipotle Hot Sauce
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Lemon Juice
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • A couple of drops of stevia or freshly squeezed orange juice for spicy flavor profile.
  • Nutritional Yeast as a thickener
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Any other spice blends I might have (think Mrs. Dash type seasoning)
  • Herbs
  • Water to help integrate all the ingredients and to achieve the right consistency (you don’t want the mixture to be too thick, but you also don’t want to dilute it too much, as it won’t stick to your protein)

I won’t use all these at the same time, I will pick and choose depending on what flavor profile I want to create. Once you have your marinade mixed and ready, transfer your Tofu cubes or Tempeh strips into the marinade container and coat the protein evenly, snap the lid on and put in the fridge until ready to bake.

This is what your raw tofu will look like coated in your choice of marinade. Note that most times marinade is associated with some sort of fat source, usually in the form of oils. I do not include oils in my marinade because they don’t add anything to my meal other than calories. I prefer to add fat in my dressings that comes from avocado, seeds, and nuts rather than oils. I’ve done some research in recent months concerning oils in my diet and have come to the conclusion that there are better ways of making sure I get the necessary fat in my diet than by consuming oils. Oils are, after all, highly processed foods.

3. Bake 

Once your Tofu/Tempeh has spent some time in the marinade, line a baking sheet with some parchment paper and transfer Tofu/Tempeh on the parchment paper. I find parchment paper best for controlling how much the protein sticks to the surface. You can sprinkle your Tofu/Tempeh with some more Nutritional Yeast or Unsweetened Coconut Flakes for an added flavor and crunch effect. Put in the oven at 350-400 degrees and bake for 30-50 minutes. I find tempeh requires less time in the oven and most times 30 minutes is perfectly sufficient, but you do have to keep an eye on it as it can very easily turn into a wood-like unedible mass. Tofu, however, does better when it’s left in the oven a bit longer. It’s never a matter of it being cooked through, but rather the flavor of the marinade penetrating the cubes while it bakes. Note, though, you don’t want to leave it in the oven too long as it has a propensity to dry out too much. Keep in mind that if you are like me and like to prep in bulk, you will be reheating it at a later time, so you don’t want it to become a solid block that is difficult to chew and enjoy. Well prepared tofu should be somewhat spongy.

Lay out your tofu evenly spaced out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You don’t want the cubes sticking to each other. Sprinkle with some extra spices and herbs and pop it in the oven.

Those 2 proteins will mimic meat in a plant-based diet for the most part, but that doesn’t mean boredom, quite the opposite. Just like with meat you will find you can play around with different flavor profiles. In fact, you can easily impart any meat flavor to them since both products do not possess any inherent flavor themselves and usually absorb the flavor of whatever accompanies them.

And voilà, ready to eat. I usually make a huge batch so that they are ready whenever hunger strikes. They are good reheated or straight out of the fridge in a cold salad.

At work, I get asked about my food daily and while I stick pretty much to the same basic ingredients I do try to vary my flavor, so when I march back to my desk with my reheated portion of the meal (protein and a cooked vegetable such as squash, potato or beans) I get a lot of heads turning in my direction trying to figure out what’s in my container. I’ve had people exclaiming various things like “Somebody is eating something yummy” OR “It must be pizza or a burger”  just to discover that it’s none of the above. Upon my unveiling of my food, most proclaim that they would not touch it with a 10 foot pole (my exaggeration) because they don’t even know what Tofu or Tempeh is. So here is a quick video of what these 2 proteins look like straight out of the package and how I prep them.

 

If you think that this is limiting as far as protein source is concerned, then think again. This is not it for protein sources. Most people don’t realize that the sources of protein are pretty much indefinite, we tend to think “meat” when we want to put protein on our plates. However, that way of thinking is actually pretty limiting. To find out where you can derive your protein from, other than meat and soybeans, stay tuned for part 2  of #veganlife

#cyclinglife

I will admit I haven’t been very present in my kitchen all summer – hence not much food related content on this blog. Somehow, while transitioning to a plant-based diet (yes, I feel I can openly admit that I am eating plants only) I find I don’t need to spend half as much time in the kitchen as I used to when eating animal products. The truth be told there is not much cooking necessary when eating plants and the cooking that does happen is of the quick and dirty variety. Mind you, one can certainly spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking on this WOE, but during the summer I mostly opt for raw foods, such as big-ass salads and such. My cooking has been limited to marinating my tofu/tempeh, throwing it together with sweet potatoes into the oven to bake. Later I’d integrate those with some raw vegetables and pour over some salad dressing and voilà my meals in a nutshell. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that – however, my work peeps still ask me every single time I eat at my desk what it is that I am consuming, with just as much interest and awe as when I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen:). So what have I been doing if I am no longer devoting as much time to cooking as I used to?

I’ve revived my passion for biking and am taking every possible opportunity to put on the mileage. It’s usually very uncomplicated: I hop on the bike and start along route 60 or what some like to call it “the old way”. Other times I try to plan it out a bit more and have a route in mind, but to be perfectly honest I am not much of a planner – I have to do these things on a spur of a moment basis, otherwise I’ll start analysing the activity too much and what ends up happening is I scrap the activity in favour of some productivity in the kitchen/house. Also, I hate to make a big production of something that is just supposed to make me move – getting out on a bike shouldn’t feel like I’m planning a wedding or some other time and resource consuming activity.  It’s a bloody #bikeride, not a life-changing undertaking 😉

Yes, you could say that biking is to blame for the lack of fancy meals and right now I am OK with that – there is only so much time left before the weather turns bitter cold, making it unsuitable for biking…

You know that every ride I take I snap as much as I possibly can.

This restaurant always has its parking lot blocked around supper time. I’ve only eaten there once, in another life, but what I do remember about it is that the baked potato dish that they served was to die for. I don’t remember much else, but that mashed potato was splendid. I remember when I first came to Canada about 17 years ago I was taken aback by all the utility poles still above ground. I was used to them being buried underground, but not so much in Newfoundland. Later I found that to bury them underground wouldn’t be very feasible here where we pretty much sit on a rock.

 

This was my first ever fall on my bike – I was warned that it might happen with clip-in shoes, but I was very careful up to this point. I spent a good deal of time learning how to clip-in and clip-out my shoes having my bike held for me. Every ride I made damn sure that when I anticipated a stop that foot would be out of the pedal long before my stop. In a way, I did get a bit overconfident. I thought I got it down pat, but I was wrong. Especially after having trekked through the woods in my clip-in shoes to get through a path to the highway one day. On that day I almost fell down but saved myself by unclipping my non-dominant foot just in time. The next ride I took I thought my cleats were clean and ready for more cycling but did not account for the fact that all this banging, cleaning and unclipping might have shifted the placement of my cleat on the shoe and now releasing it by twisting my foot outwards was no longer feasible. No matter how much I twisted my foot it wasn’t enough and my left foot didn’t unclip in time to save me from a fall this time. The fall was pretty gentle, but quite embarrassing, right in the middle of traffic. Turns out I have to twist inward now to unclip. Definetly a learning point in my cycling adventures 🙂

When I bike I tend to go-go-go, but I recognize the opportunity to stop and appreciate the scenery.

This hill used to give me a hard time – it is such a drawn out hill when going uphill. Don’t get me wrong, the hills are what makes this place much more challenging for a cyclist and that’s a good thing! What would a bike ride be if there were no hills? It’d be no more challenging than walking but add hills and all of a sudden you have an activity that’s building your muscles while also elevating your heart rate to burn off the crazy 😉 This stretch I am referring to goes from Topsail Rotary Park to Sobey’s in Paradise and according to google maps is about 4km. Here is what’s super awesome about cardiovascular activity (or really anything that you put your mind to) – practice makes perfect! A month ago I used to have to take 3 breaks on this stretch going uphill. Now I take none both ways! 4 km of steady uphill with no breaks feels just as exhilarating for some reason as turning around and picking up the speed downhill!

 

This is what Newfoundlanders call a beach – it will do, but I’m always scoffing at the idea of a rocky beach, having grown up being spoiled with sandy beaches 🙂

I swear these are going to be my proudest body part come next summer! I’ve been working on those wheels 4 times as hard as I used to prior to my shoulder injury that they have to come out on top no matter what!

 

Took a relaxing moment before getting inside – my legs always get a beating during my rides. Somehow they always end up dirty as if though I was crawling and down on all fours – I swear I’m actually biking 😉

 

Let food be thy medicine

Have you ever heard the claim that as long as you exercise you can eat what you want? I have heard people say this time and time again and my response to these claims is: “You can, however, you cannot outrun a bad diet!” to which most people don’t know what to say. So why negate all the hard work with putting junk in the trunk? The reason why we do it is because many of us have a skewed relationship with food in that we use it as therapy, as a trophy, as a friend, or the worst of all… as a reward.  Our relationship with exercise is also broken in that we treat it as a punishment, we feel that once the exercise is completed we will have a free ticket to reward ourselves and what better way than with indulgent food? The idea that exercise might be a tool in obtaining health and food might be a tool in fueling this exercise and recovery is foreign to many.
Why do I care so much about watching what I eat even when I am putting in the work? Wouldn’t I want to relax a bit and gobble down a tub of ice-cream after a long hike? I would, it would be so much easier, but I know better. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that it matters what we eat regardless of how active or inactive we are.
When you take a sedentary, sick and overweight person, your first instinct is to point out that the reason they are sick and overweight is because they don’t move. But make that person move and they will not heal. They might lose a few pounds, but they might not because they will probably compensate by eating more of the wrong foods. Why do I think that’s the case? Because there are plenty of active people who still get sick. You might not have heard of Bob Harper’s – the host of the Biggest Looser – heart attack, or maybe you have – in any case, wouldn’t you expect that the person who helps other people get in shape, be himself a picture of health? I would. He looks fit and trim, he is active – how is it that he has almost died from a heart attack? I have one word for you – DIET or the lack of proper diet.
I’m pretty sure most of us know at least one fit, active person who on the outside looks like a walking and talking health encyclopedia, but it’s only when they suffer from a heart attack, a stroke or other physical manifestations of sickness that we see there is something wrong on the inside and exercise alone is not able to prevent it.
This is why I feel so strongly about fueling myself properly even when I know I’m putting in the work by moving my body. I want it to receive the best fuel there is for any activity I perform and reward it with the best fuel for recovery. I don’t believe in punishing my body by putting junk into it just so that I can have a momentary taste buds pleasure – yes, it’s true: junk food tastes good – the companies making it made damn sure of it. That’s why it’s important that we reclaim our taste buds and relearn to like to eat real food.
Here is an example of 2 meals, evening and morning that I had on my last overnight hike to Cape Broyle:
After hiking a measly 7.5k to the campsite I made a pasta meal with dehydrated mushrooms and sweet potatoes. This is a complete meal with plenty of protein and carbs.
This pot is half full, so even though it doesn’t look like much this is actually quite a bit of food. Depending on your exertion level and how much you ate prior to the hike you might follow it with a snack. I did have a Larabar as this meal was low on fats, so Larabar filled the gap just perfectly with about 10g of fat.
This is the pasta I use for my hiking trip meals and for flavoring I use 10g of this soup mix. The reason I use this particular pasta is because it’s made out of beans so it contains both carbs and protein – I do not need to worry about adding a protein source to this meal. I also like it for its simple ingredients: beans! And as a bonus, it is very lightweight and takes literally a couple minutes to cook, especially if you pre-soak it. The flavor mix is optional but highly recommended as it thickens up the dish and contains only real ingredients. If I am out of this soup I will make my own spice mix (any Mrs. Dash, pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika, sumac, etc) and add some nutritional yeast to thicken and to give the meal a cheasy vegan kick.

The following day for breakfast I served quick oats with a crumbled Larabar and some dried apple slices:

I used about 40-50g of quick oats for their quick cooking time. Ideally, I would have some steel cut oats, but that would require 20 minutes of cooking, so not ideal for the trail. I was out of my homemade Larabar so I simply used the store bought one, which worked out fine because this meal was missing some fat. You could add nuts or hemp seeds instead of Larabar for fat, you could also jazz it up with all sorts of dehydrated fruit thrown in there for flavor.

 

You might be wondering about the color of my oats – the beautiful yellowish color comes from this Raw Plant Protein Powder by Vivo. It’s entirely up to you if you decide to pump up the protein by adding protein powder or not. If you decide you want to, you have to be careful which protein powder you chose, because they are not created equal. I have been experimenting with a few different brands of plant based protein and this one is quite tasty. I also like Garden of Life protein powders.

 

And the ingredients, as well as the macros, are quite spectacular if you ask me.

And voilà! It’s that simple. Putting this together pre-hike did not take very much time out of my day – I simply measured the servings and put them in plastic baggies. It was just a matter of having the right stuff in my pantry.

I will also point out that if I am going on an overnight hike, where cooking a meal is required, I don’t believe in snacking in between. Let’s face it, I am not exerting myself enough to justify extra food in between meals – I simply make my meals nutritiously dense enough that I only get hungry when it’s time to eat. If by any chance my meal does not satisfy my hunger, I will follow it with a snack. And if I am going on a day hike I do take a snack just in case but intend not to eat it and I will eat regular meals at home before leaving and upon my return. Snacking gets a bad rep in my books.

Enough about food… After all I came along for the pictures…. and for the kiss-ass workout…. and for the wildlife…. and of course, there was fog.

 

This little precious baby bird was sitting right smack in the middle of the path! It was only by chance that he was not stepped on. Since I’m always with my head down looking at what I am stepping on (not keen on breaking a leg over sticking out roots) as I was approaching him I yelled out “OMG there is a bird on the path”, which I followed with “I’ll be here a moment”… After all, I came to take pictures….

 

He seemed to have been injured because he would not budge one bit. We gently relocated him (without actually touching him) so that somebody else would not step on him. Needless to say, on the way back the following day he was nowhere to be found and I don’t want to contemplate what might have happened to him.

It’s all about that light – it can make the least exciting subject look spectacular and fetching.

 

As usual, fog did not disappoint, but there are still ways to make it work 🙂
And this is how we hydrate – never carry all the water that you’ll need, there is plenty around you that you can make drinkable 🙂

Maybe it’s just me, but is he checking his watch as if to say “Hurry up!” 😉 ?

 

Speaking of making food work for you instead of against you – here is a little video for you. She touches on some very important points – definitely worth a watch.

 

On a roll

Sometimes when I can’t do what I am used to doing (like right now) I become stagnated feeling sorry for myself. Until I snap out of it. And when I do good things happen in the kitchen 🙂 

In fact, if I keep going at this speed I might have to get a new pantry to store my hiking snacks because there is probably enough to fuel every hike until the next season. This time I have taken to making my own Larabars because at $2 a pop they are a pretty expensive snack – for that price I can get 500g of dates (the main ingredient for Larabars) and make a pretty decent batch of them myself.   

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing bad to say about Larabars. For those whose main fuel is carbohydrates, Larabar is about the only snack food that I would fully endorse- there is literally nothing bad in them. The reasons why I choose to make my own are:

  1. It’s way cheaper.
    From my calculations making Larabars at home runs me between $0.30-0.40 per bar and this is a very rough estimation. The price will vary depending on what type of ingredients you use – if you use a lot of nuts it could be more expensive. Also, do your math before you dish out the big bucks – I found that dates tend to be the cheapest when you buy in bulk at $0.39 per 100g, but if you buy them pre-packaged you can expect to pay as much as $1 per 100g. 
  2. It’s way fresher.
    That’s a no-brainer – you have just made it yourself, so it has not been sitting on a shelf getting old. 
  3. You can choose your won ingredients.
    I like this part the most – Larabar only comes in so many flavors but when you make the bar yourself the sky is the limit. For example, if you want to make it nut free you certainly can; if you want to add any dry fruit to yours you sure can. You can literally make it any flavor you desire. Be creative!
  4.  You get a certain satisfaction that cannot be achieved by simply buying the bar.
    I used to think of cooking as a chore in the past, but these days I feel I’ve done something good for myself and my loved ones when I make something from scratch instead of buying a ready to eat product. 

These bars were so easy to make that I made 2 different flavor batches: Apple Cinnamon and Banana Almond.

Apple Cinnamon Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 6
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 2
  • Saturated fat: 0.9
  • Carbohydrates: 25
  • Sugar: 20
  • Sodium: 40
  • Fiber: 3
  • Protein: 4
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Better, Tastier and More Satisfying than the original
Ingredients
  • 200g Dates ($1)
  • 100g Figs ($1.50)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 1 scoop of Clean Protein by Vega ($1.30)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes ($0.16)
  • 1 dehydrated Green Apple ($0.50)
Instructions
  1. Chop your dates and figs to help with the processing.
  2. Put pumpkin seeds and apple into the food processor and run on high to chop into small pieces. I reserved a handful of apples and chopped them to add at the end for a bit of texture.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse for a while until smaller pieces form. This is important because the dates and figs are quite hard on the food processor - you don't want to ruin it.
  4. Add a bit of water to help the mixture bind.
  5. When the mass is pretty uniform transfer onto a cutting board and form a flat surface with your hand, you can use a large knife to help with this.
  6. Once one big flat mass is formed cut into individual bars.
  7. Transfer onto a piece of parchment paper and put in the freezer to solidify.

Banana Almond Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 10
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 7.5
  • Saturated fat: 1.5
  • Carbohydrates: 28
  • Sugar: 21
  • Fiber: 3.6
  • Protein: 3.8
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 300g Dates ($1.50)
  • 100g Almonds ($1.00)
  • 100g dehydrated Banana ($0.19)
  • 15g Sunflower Seed Butter ($0.18)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (($0.16)
Instructions
  1. Put Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds in the food processor and process on high until you get very small pieces.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and incorporate well making sure to go easy on the machine at first.
  3. Transfer the mass onto a cutting board and form your bars with the help of your hands and a large knife.
  4. Transfer to the freezer to solidify.

And then I decided to cut both of them up in tiny little bite-size pieces and throw them in a bowl for random enjoyment 🙂

 

In addition to getting creative in the kitchen, I have finally completed my first bike ride. I’ve been itching to go out there and start at it again. I would love to bring back the year bike rides were a weekly ocurrence. I have been getting pretty jealous of whoever owns the 3 bikes always parked at work until I found out one of them doesn’t live very far from me and I got an idea that maybe I could be biking daily to work…

So yesterday I set out to bike as far as my work just to get a feel of what it would be like. Mind you I have done the distance before (even longer distances were the norm at the height of my biking), but I haven’t been biking outside yet this season and we’re taking biking before work and right after work – a total of 50km which would pretty much mean I’d get up go bike to work, bike back home and go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.  

My try-out bike ride to work did not go as far as work, but pretty close and on the ride back I run out of steam, so I had to be rescued. But I was glad I did it.  

Here is a snapshot of the trail for your enjoyment. Forgive the portrait mode, I’ve been told to never do it again 😉

Hiking food prep made easy and cheap

One of the ways that I decided to adopt to deal with my shoulder injury is to focus more on training my legs –  and what better way to strengthen and lean out at the same time than to hike? If you ask me it’s a win-win. I am of course looking forward to resuming my regular routine, but you can only work with what you’ve got and right now I have an incapacitated shoulder but a pair of pretty strong legs 😉

As a form of treatment for my shoulder, I have decided to try Chinese Medicine. Yes, I know, many people would probably dismiss this idea as a waste of time, but the thought of physiotherapy, that I was referred to, did not seem that appealing to me, so I went in the totally opposite direction. So far I have received traditional acupuncture, cupping and laser treatment. Initially, I figured I would only want to go once every 2 weeks, mostly because of the cost, but now after only 3 visits, I wish I could go every single day. Is it helping? It’s hard to say right now because I am ingesting a lot of ibuprofen and it’s only been 3 visits, but I am very optimistic, except for the times when I get deeply depressed about my situation and images of an operating room flash in front of me in my nightmares. I am actively trying to refocus, though and find peace within myself to help my recovery. Here is what I looked like after my last treatment, turns out there is a lot of inflammation in the general area of my injury, which is the anterior deltoid.

To take my mind off this irritating, debilitating issue I have taken to prepping easy to store, grab and go snacks for the trail – dehydrated vegetables and fruit.  Sure, you can buy them already made, but a lot of it has added sugar that really isn’t needed when we’re talking fruit, not to mention preservatives and other additives. So here is how I make mine.

You will need a mandoline and a dehydrator. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes with cynicism, but trust me all you need is the most basic one there is, it will run you about $40 at Canadian Tire and if you are smart about reducing the weight of your pack while hiking you will use it a lot.

All you need to do is slice your fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, mangos what have you) or vegetables (mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots etc.) quite thinly and lay them out on the trays like so:

 

 

You think produce is expensive? Think again! These 3 beauties were discounted probably for their blemishes. I got them at half the regular price. Again, it pays to pay a little attention – don’t dismiss the discount shelf at the grocery store, there is often great things to be had at a fraction of the cost 🙂

Turn on the dehydrator and forget about it for at least 12h. When you are happy with the level of dehydration harvest your crop and put it in an airtight container and store until needed. For tracking nutrition purposes only I weigh my pre-dehydrated produce and divide the weight by 100g. When the fruit/veg is fully dehydrated I weigh it again and divide that weight by the number I got from weighing it raw. This way I know how much of the dry product equals 100g of the raw product. For example: if my raw fruit weighs 500g, then I know there are 5 servings of 100g in the whole batch. Let’s say the dehydrated version has shrunk to 150g (by eliminating water content), then I’ll know that to get 100g I need to divide 150g by 5 and weigh out only 30g of the dehydrated product. Why is this important to me? Well, it’s easy to overeat on dry fruit and I’m not looking to gain any weight while I’m exerting myself. I want my body to tap into my stored energy more so than to overload it with energy. But of course, this step is not necessary if you are not tracking your meals.

What do I do with my dehydrated fruits and vegetables? You saw how I incorporated Sweet Potato Chips in my Chickpea Burger recipe. Granted you won’t take that on the trail, but you can just as easily throw some chips into your pasta meal for added crunch or simply use them instead of traditional chips. In fact, for this batch of Sweet Potato Chips, I sprayed them lightly with some coconut oil and seasoned with some Himalayan Salt so they resemble traditional chips quite well (not as greasy, though). Dehydrated fruit usually ends up in my morning meal while hiking which mostly happens to be oatmeal, but you can most definitely put it in your trail mix or munch on it like you would on chips. Or go a step further and include it in your homemade granola bars! 

When these were baking in the oven the house filled out with the most amazing aroma. If I didn’t know any better I would have said there was an apple pie in the oven!

I sprinkled the apple slices with some cinnamon because everybody knows cinnamon and apples make the greatest of marriages!

 

Apple Granola Bars
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 12
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 3.6
  • Saturated fat: .4
  • Unsaturated fat: .8
  • Carbohydrates: 24
  • Sugar: 7.8
  • Sodium: 53
  • Fiber: 4.2
  • Protein: 7.1
  • Cholesterol: 0
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan and nut free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Don't settle for junk, make your own granola bars that are chock-full of nutrition!
Ingredients
  • 200g whole Oats
  • 1.5 scoop Clean Protein by Vega (you can sub for your favorite brand)
  • 60g Natural California Raisins
  • 200g Bananas
  • 60g Prunes
  • 20g whole Flax Seeds (ground)
  • 50g dyhadrated Apple chopped into tiny pieces (optional but recommended)
  • 20g Chia Seeds
  • 20g Hemp Seeds
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ cup of water
Instructions
  1. Grind the flax seed and add to the rest of the ingredients and incorporate with your bare hands. Add enough water for the mixture to bind together.
  2. Transfer the mass onto a parchment lined pyrex dish and press with your hands to mold it into what's to become your granola bars.
  3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes depending on your oven.
  4. Check for doneness - you want the edges to crisp up a bit.
  5. When out of the oven cut into individual bars.
  6. Store in the fridge to preserve freshness.

 

Since we are on the topic of hiking I feel it’s necessary to share pictures from my umptieth visit to Deadman’s Bay Path. I kid you not, for a person known for not being that much of a hiker I know this path inside and out 🙂

Chickpea Burger

I have never felt this incapacitated as I do now and have been since October 2016. I like to research new ways of training, adding things I’ve never tried before and I remember distinctly having found a YouTube video with a different type of shoulder training around the time my shoulder started bothering me. I was very eager to try it, moreso because it was performed by one of my ketogenic diet gurus. Lo and behold, the following day my shoulders were on fire. I didn’t pay much attention to the discomfort since a healthy dose of soreness is good for progress. That is until it got worse and it no longer felt like the regular DOMS I’m used to getting. Fast forward to today and I might as well cancel my gym membership because I have completely stopped training upper body due to this injury. One might think “Big deal! Take care of it!” however to me – even though I am taking care of it – it is a huge deal.  

This injury has affected me in ways that I cannot begin to describe as I am unsure that I comprehend them myself. Not being able to do what I do that pretty much defines who I am is like cutting off a bird’s wings and still asking it to fly. I have been training at the gym for the majority of the last 8 years, if not longer. I am not a professional competitor, I don’t make a living with this activity – It’s what I do to feel good, to start my day in a positive way. I’m a cranky morning riser, so getting that rush of adrenaline first thing in the morning is what makes me go – and now that’s mostly gone. On days that I do go to the gym to train legs I still feel like I am unable to workout with the intensity that I know and love – so it seems that it’s a wasted time.   

When you depend on your fix and it’s not delivered your life starts to crumble. You start doubting your self-worth, you don’t see a point in carrying on, you become depressed and moody for the smallest of reasons. In your mind it all comes down to one thing – you are not able to do what you love and it makes you miserable no matter how much you’re trying to resist the misery.  

This has been my reality for much too long and I know it’s affecting more than just me…. Right now I am trying to find a way to be OK with the way things are until things get better, but it’s difficult when there is no improvement, no light at the end of the tunnel and all odds seem to be against me. My mind is unwilling to look at the bright side of things and be hopeful without compassion and understanding – instead, it inevitably gravitates towards the worst case scenario. How does one fly with no wings? 

So as a way of being OK for the time being I have started to experiment in the kitchen a bit more – trying to find ways to incorporate more and more plant-based protein in my meals. It’s more a way to occupy my mind than anything else, but I have been finding quite interesting to try new things and to develop my tastebuds so that I don’t depend on the same old, same old. Here you have it –  today’s supper was a Chickpea Burger with a side of homemade Sweet Potato Chips. 

 

This is my idea of “fast food” – it was fast to put together, it was delicious, but it didn’t clog my arteries the way that a regular fast food burger would and that’s a bonus!
This little patty pack in a lot of nutrition and flavor. No, it doesn’t taste like meat, it tastes way better! I haven’t been eating beef in a long time, so I don’t feel like I am missing anything, anyway 😉

Chickpea Burger
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 5
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 193
  • Fat: 9.5
  • Saturated fat: 1
  • Unsaturated fat: 4
  • Carbohydrates: 20
  • Sugar: 3.6
  • Sodium: 24
  • Fiber: 7.5
  • Protein: 8
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Better than meat burger!
Ingredients
  • 300g cooked Chickpeas
  • 100g grated Carrots
  • 30g Tahini
  • 70g Avocado
  • 20g Hemp Seeds
  • 15g ground Flax Seeds
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1tsp Cumin
  • 1tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 10g Nutritional Yeast
  • 2-3 cloves of Garlic
  • ¼ cup of Lemon Juice
Instructions
  1. Reserve the carrots and 50g of Chickpeas for later
  2. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mass is smooth.
  3. Add the rest of the chickpeas and carrots and pulse only slightly to incorporate, you want to leave some chickpeas somewhat chunky.
  4. Form patties and brown on both sides in a non-stick frying pan.
  5. Assemble your burger with the bread of choice - I decided to use Ezekiel bread because that's what I had on hand. Also, I used a leaf of purple kale - it has the most beautiful fragrance and purple veins. As a side I served my very own Sweet Potato Chips that I made simply by slicing the potato on a mandoline, spraying the individual chips lightly with some coconut oil spray and sprinkling a tad of pink Himalayan salt. As a spread for the bread, I used my own hummus.

 

What the Health

I promise this is going to be the last review post and I will get right back into cooking. I’ve seen this title so many times being touted as the crème de la crème of food documentaries that I just had to sign up for Netflix and see for myself. I thought to myself that if nothing else, I would have gained some blog fodder 🙂

I will admit that the first time I attempted to watch it, I only watched the first 10 minutes of it due to the multiple attempts of making refined sugar seem like the good guy in the “food pyramid”. I just couldn’t get over the fact that anybody in their right mind would try to convince anybody that eating sugar won’t kill you. That was a deal breaker for me and I had to turn it off in utter disgust and disappointment. However, I did return to it with a clean slate and decided to give it a try in hopes that I would be able to crush it in my review.

First of all, the sugar commendation in the first 10 minutes of the movie is a very weak attempt at trying to convince the viewer that carbohydrates in general are not the enemy and should not be feared. The authors mistakenly and to the film’s detriment, in my opinion, dump refined sugar in the same category as other sources of carbohydrates coming from natural plant sources (think sweet potato, rice, fruit, beans and veggies). To me, this is very off-putting and inaccurate – I don’t believe that a calorie is a calories and it does matter where that calorie came from. If it comes from refined sugar it will only make you crave more of it, if it comes from a plant it will satiate you and nourish you until your next meal. So, I think it would have been a good idea for the authors to scale back on the promotion of pure refined sugar at the beginning and instead talk about carbohydrates coming from vegetable sources. 

However, there was a reason why the film specifically mentions sugar as the good guy –  in order to promote veganism/vegetarianism the film needed to convince us that high carbohydrate diet is not the source of disease such as diabetes or obesity. A specialist in diabetes Dr. Neal Barnard states that ” diabetes is not and never was caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by eating sugar.  The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat into the blood, I’m talking about a typical meat based, animal based diet.” To show how this happens we get to see an animation of the muscle cells being blocked by the buildup of fat that prevents the natural sugars from getting in the cells where they belong and this causes insulin resistance as the sugars now have to remain in the blood steam. This sounds plausible, until you get to listen to the next guy.

Dr. Garth Davis states that “carbs cannot make you fat in and of themselves”. He points out that we have storage in our bodies for carbs called glycogen in the liver and in the muscle – so when we eat carbs we either store them or we burn them. When we eat fat, he says, it goes straight to our hips and organs as there is no inbetween for fat. He fails to mention, though, that the storage for carbs is only about 2000 calories. So what happens when we eat more carbs than we can store or burn? Well, we’ll get fat. He briefly states that you would have to overdo it by a lot to get fat just from eating carbs. But the real kicker comes when we get told that the cookie would not be bad for its sugar content if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s accompanied by fat. In other words, the only reason why the cookie will cause you to gain weight is because you cannot efficiently use the energy from the sugar in the cookie because of the inhibiting powers of the fat surrounding the sugar. So, this assertion made me consider that, maybe, if you eliminated sugar from the diet, fat could be used for energy and as a result would not block sugar from getting into the cells? Think Keto.

I don’t have answers to this hypothesis, but one thing that becomes more and more obvious to me is that you have to pick your campsite and stick to it. You are either an efficient carb or fat burner and you either thrive on carbs or fats, not both. Does the fat have to come from animal source, though? I don’t think it does and the authors of the film don’t think so either, but their reasoning is completely different than mine. But I won’t spoil everything for you, you should find out for yourself, because there is more in the film that’s worth watching. Not least of which is the type of conflict of interest that the government is a part of by taking money from the industry to sponsor studies and research that will then put this industry’s products on the shelves of your grocery store. How can you trust the government advising you what to eat by creating their infamous food pyramid, when you know that the various conglomerates in the food industry basically paid the government to promote their individual products?  It’s quite upsetting to realise that any industry has this much say in what the government is recommending you to eat – this fact alone makes me want to reconsider my entire menu. 

Whether the movie convinces you to ditch the meat or not, I think the main message of this film is a good one : eat more of the real, plant stuff because it is good for you.

 

What rock have I been hiding under?

The one that nobody would come looking for me, I suppose. But to be brutally honest I’ve been somewhat incapacitated by miserably cold and gray weather that’s been sticking around this rock for way too long and by a persistent shoulder injury. The rock I live on has a tendency to “gift us” with a prolonged winter that for people like me means depression galore. That paired with the fact that back in October of last year I injured my shoulder and it hasn’t healed since made for quite a miserable human being, who literally did not want to lift a finger. But I’m working on recovering my shoulder’s health and (knock on wood) sun has finally decided to show its face around here. So, with baby steps I’m edging out from underneath the heavy rock I’ve been living under.

All this hiding did not go to waste, though. Even though, I have not felt inspired to make any blog worthy meals, I have continued to cook to nourish myself. But I also took a long and hard look at my eating habits and I have re-evaluated my nutritional approach. Let me explain:

At around this time last year I have fully immersed myself in what’s known as the ketogenic diet whose approach is to switch the body’s energy source to fat instead of carbohydrates.  I’ve read all there is to read about this dietary approach and I plunged into it (slowly at first) believing in the premise – made famous by Steve Phinney – that in the beginning, a portion of the 70% of fat should come from body fat that we are trying to burn and not necessarily from dietary fat as shown in the diagram below:

So, when I started the ketogenic diet my dietary fat only came to about 50g, which coupled with the very low carb requirement made for a rough start. All of a sudden, all my starches were gone (sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, oats, gone were the indulgent pastries, I even modified my grocery list to remove permanently the high carb options, I no longer bought fruit and instead have been seen explaining to the Bulk Barn employee why pork rinds are a better option than conventional chips) to be replaced with fat.

So, eating 50g of dietary fat and deriving the rest of the 70% from my body fat, keeping my carb intake from all sources at a maximum of 50g and making sure my protein remained moderate as well (because if you know anything about the keto diet you will know excess protein is a no-no) I found that results came quick. I quickly moved on to the second phase, where fats were increased ever so gently and on to the 3rd and 4th phase. But what ended up happening was, that even though the macronutrient ratio increased on paper, the volume of food on my plate did not change significantly and I like volume. This was a problem – I like to eat.

There was another problem that I was frantically trying to hide from myself – I’ve been addicted to the free-foods of the fitness industry. Ever since I’ve set up my IG account I’ve been the victim of the knowledge of the masses (aka pseudo-knowledge), falling prey of all the “latest and greatest” devoid of nutrition food-stuffs that spammed my IG feed. Yes, you can rest assured that I’ve tried most of those artificially sweetened food-stuffs. And while they are promoted as calorie-free, guilt-free alternatives I no longer believe that eating them is without cost to our health. I do believe that they leave us craving more of the wrong stuff, they mess with our hormones, our perception of taste and our food inhibitions. This constant bombardment of fake food-stuff along with a high fat diet made me uncomfortable in my own body.

But it’s not just my own faulty experience that made me rethink my approach, I have also been observing other keto fellows, just to discover that there are only a few of them who are fully thriving on this WOE and achieving body compositions worth a mention. Without naming anybody, I will say that most of the ketoers (people who follow a ketogenic lifestyle) tend to become very plump, if not overweight. Is a keto diet meant for weight loss? According to Phinney and Volek yes, it is, but some claim that it is not meant for weight loss and rather for health gain. Whatever the case and whatever dietary approach one chooses to follow one thing is for sure in my books – as long as we keep fooling our our bodies by feeding it fake stuff we will continue to be fat and sick.

While under my gloomy rock I kept going back to my food journals from the pre-IG era and I couldn’t help but notice the absence of fake stuffs and the overwhelming presence of real food in my diet. I ate starchy vegetables, oats and fruits galore and I felt and looked good all while keeping my fats in a healthy range of 50-60g a day – all coming from real food. So, I kept thinking: “How is it that all of a sudden I am afraid of a piece of fruit or a plateful of veggies and feeling so under the weather and deprived?”  

I started looking around, reading, searching youtube for a whiff of fresh air – inspiration if you wish, finding similarities among the most unlikely channels, all centered around best fuel for physical performance. I revisited and scrolled through Geraldine Morgan’s – a bodybuilder vegan – IG account that seems to disappear from time to time, but if you are interested you can check her out on her FB page. And then it hit me with a force of an avalanche : I’ve been always preaching real food and we all know where Popeye’s strength and big muscle come from – spinach!

So my focus shifted to researching vegan/vegetarian bodybuilding and I stumbled upon a youtube channel unlike any others by a fellow Canadian – Derek Simnett of Simnett Nutrition  – and his easy going approach to performance fuel immediately grabbed my attention and made me put my sweet potato and oats back on my grocery list. Heck, I even bought dates and bananas! However, I haven’t eaten meat in the past 2 weeks and I feel great and haven’t lost all my muscles.

Am I a vegan or a vegetarian now? No. If I have to label myself as anything I prefer to call myself the real food monster. I still eat fat, only it’s plant-derived fat, I no longer believe we have this extreme need for dietary fat, we only need enough for vitamin absorption, hormone production and brain function. Excess fat will be stored like any other macronutrient that we over-consume. I have been forgoing consumption of meat, only because I find preparation of it very energy consuming. I haven’t become an animal activist by any means, but I do find meal preparation so much easier when it does not involve meat as the protein source. I’ve learned that plants have a lot of protein that’s easy and quick to prepare – in fact it would have never occurred to me that a fully plant based meal can deliver just as much protein as a meal centered around a piece of meat! Have a look at my typical breakfast and lunch:

Who would have thought that in 2 plant based meals one can get 53g of protein? Not me! I’ve been pre-programmed to believe that the only viable source of protein is meat and that we need a lot of it. What’s more, the volume of those 2 meals had me chewing for a solid hour 🙂  

I leave you with a video by Derek in which he explains what he eats in a typical day. Note that his protein intake is not high by bodybuilding standards, even though he points out he finds it high for that day of eating. If you look at any of his other videos you will see he has built quite a bit of muscle eating this way, which goes to prove that protein over-consumption is not necessary for ideal body composition. Have a look for yourselves: