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6 Healthy Eating Hacks For When You Don’t Want to Give Up Meat & Dairy

When you sit down to a plate of food, the first thing on your mind is whether or not it tastes good. Ofcourse you know that your food choices make a difference in your health and appearance. But, not everyone can follow a raw food, vegan or even, vegetarian diet. You love good food and you like to eat whatever you want. You keep wondering why some people keep telling you to abandon your tastebuds and give up all the foods you enjoy eating. After all, not everyone can follow a raw food, vegan or even, vegetarian diet! 

While I don’t miss eating meat nor dairy, I know that many of my loved ones feel like they can’t survive a day without stuff like chicken, fish or cheese. I still hear the comments and get the emails, “I want to start eating healthy, but I don’t think the food tastes good without the meat.” What you really mean when you say that sort of thing is, “I can’t be bothered with learning to make any new dishes or trying out new options on the restaurant menu. Don’t you know any way for me to get around the ‘change your diet’ thing?” (My response to the ‘making plants taste great’ challenge is quite simple, but that answer is for another topic, on another day.) So, can you get around changing your diet, while reaping the health benefits?

Yes and no. You don’t need to give up your favourite meat and dairy dishes and become a vegetarian. But, you will need to eat a whole lot more leafy green vegetables than you’re used to.

The earth isn’t half green for no reason! You were meant to eat greens. In fact, half of your plate at mealtime and at least half of what you eat daily from the plant world should be green.
Greens are the life force of the vegetable kingdom. Green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach carry with them all the nutrients you need to thrive.  

from “Appreciate the Power of Greens in a Plant-Based Diet” in Plant-Based Diet For Dummies by Marni Wasserman)

Dark-green, leafy vegetables are the one food I tell myself that I must consume every day, and the one food I recommend to others to base their diet on. The colour green represents life, renewal, nature, life, growth and freshness – all things we need to be healthy, yet greens are often the dish we kotch onto the side of a scanty plate or resort to when the cashflow is low. However, as Wasserman points out, greens are our life force!

Whether you are a staunch raw vegan or a junkfood addict, eating more greens is the best thing you can do for your health. In fact, most vegetarians and vegans don’t consume enough dark-green leafy vegetables. Instead, their diet is heavy in starch foods like rice, bread and pasta. While whole grains are an essential part of balanced diet, they shouldn’t be the main part of the diet. Ever wonder why many of the popular weightloss programmes encourage ‘no carbs’ and leave you eating ‘lean protein and salads’? Since they often limit the amount of lean protein you eat at each meal, you’re left filling up on the vegetables from the salads and the high intake of greens ultimately proves itself by melting the excess fat, boosting your immunity, supercharging your energy supply and giving you glowing skin.


So, how do you eat more greens? Sneak them into your regular eating routine! 

A lot of the foods we already eat can be modified to include dark green leafy vegetables without compromising on taste. Here are 6 different types of meals that you can sneak leafy greens into for maximum nutrition:Juices & Smoothies

1. Smoothies & Juices

Whether you are on #TeamBlender or #TeamJuicer, liquefying your greens is one of the most efficient methods of consuming dark-green leafy vegetables in large quantities. The best part, for me at least, is the option we have of combining the greens with our favourite sun-riped fruit for a sweet beverage that almost always tastes better than it looks.
Soups & Stews

2. Sides & Salad

From Callaloo Rice to Garden Salads, the side dishes we pile onto our plates don’t need to be starch-heaven. We can green them up with our favourite leaves, adding nourishment, texture and colour. Your macaroni salad is not off-limits either. Just saute your greens and mix it in. Of course, for vegetable salads, you should “Go Large” and “Go Hard” with the greens. The darker the green of the leaves, the better.

3. Stir-fries

This is my 2nd favourite way to have my leafy greens. In fact, stirfried or sautéed greens end up on my family’s daily menu at least once a day. You can have the greens all by themselves, lightly seasoned with your favourite herbs and aromatics (e.g. garlic, onion, escallion), or toss various non-leafy veggies in the mix with your favourite sauce. I love stirfries because they can be served for any meal of the day.

4. Sandwiches 

Not everyone loves to eat their ‘main dish’ in between two slices of bread, but there are other ways to enjoy your greens aside from the traditional loaf squares. Warm roti skins or other flatbreads are an excellent alternative to the regular ‘harddough’ bread. Using tortillas and pitas, you can stuff lots of greens into your burritos, tacos, falafel pockets. Of course, there are open face sandwiches, so we can enjoy our leafy toppings on servings of bammy or crackers, too.

5. Sweet Treats

Smart mothers around the world have found innovative ways of sneaking veggies into treats their children enjoy for centuries. But, now you can do it for yourself knowg the benefits of an Otaheite Apple & Romaine Lettuce Icicle (Freezer Pop) or Blueberry-Kale Ice Cream. You can find recipes for cookies, muffins and even key lime pies that have been infiltrated by hearty servings of dark-green leafy vegetables. Sometimes the greens help to colour the desserts and sometimes they go undetected.

6. Soups & Stews

Ital stew is not just for peas and beans, toss in some shredded greens in the last few minutes of cooking, for a powerful dose of energy and immunity. Any stew that you set to simmer is worth the upgrade of leafy greens, so don’t be afraid to include them. The traditional Jamaican pepperpot soup is an excellent way of sipping on some warm greens, but you don’t need to limit your soup-and-greens pleasure to that age-old dish. Just like the stews, you can toss in a handful of edible leaves towards the end of your soup pot’s boiling time or make it a main star alongside other key ingredients in your soup.

The reality is that just by increasing the amount of leafy greens in your diet, you are guaranteed a health boost. Unlike other elements of the modern diet, whole (unrefined) vegetables don’t harm us when consumed frequently and in large quantities. They only restore our bodies’ immune systems to optimum performance and give us steady supplies of high energy and mental clarity. So, today is the day to make greens the foundation on which you build the rest of your diet – whatever your diet may be. After all, the earth isn’t half green for no reason 😉

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    10 Mouth-Watering Desserts You Can Enjoy Without Any Guilt

    You’ve just completed a hearty meal in a fine restaurant and the waiter returns with the menu, inviting you to try their decadent-looking desserts. Dessert or no dessert? This is the question that many of us mothers struggle with on a daily or weekly basis; we want to provide treats to satisfy that innate desire for sweetness, but we also have to struggle against the all too common sugar addiction and its accompanying diseases.

    Today’s Sugary Habits 

    We don’t need to look very far to observe the dangers of feasting on ice cream and cake. There are kindergarteners on insulin for type 2 diabetes, obesity is becoming more prevalent among elementary school children and teenagers are being hospitalised for heart disease and stroke.

    The times have certainly changed; our eating habits and our food choices have deteriorated, and now we’re paying  the price. School canteens, corner shops, and quick-service restaurants have become regular features in our daily lives, having replaced home-cooked meals and fresh foods. These businesses provide us with shelf-stable, readily-made and pre-packaged desserts loaded with genetically-modified ingredients, synthetic preservatives, artificial flavours and unnatural colours. These individually-wrapped novelties are mass-produced and high-fat, high-calorie and sugar-laden with little to no nutrients, even though they bear the same names as the lovingly-prepared, wholesome desserts we enjoyed as children. Additionally, these treats are sold very cheaply and marketed, not as once-in-a-while bites, but snack items to enjoy between meals. Ice cream sandwiches are munched during TV time, sticky donuts and hand-held pies are served for breakfast. The average child can consume a handful of chocolates and caramels in half an hour without anyone batting an eye.

    Cooking Dessert the Old Fashioned Way

    When I was a child in Jamaica, we had desserts for special occasions; Easter buns and Christmas cakes during the respective holidays, sugar buns and rock cakes at special events, and my grandmother’s homemade puddings and pone whenever we had good sweet potato and corn harvests. Whenever my mother had time on the weekend, she tolerated us tangling her feet in the kitchen while she ‘rubbed up’ batches of pineapple-upside-down cake, orange cake or baking sheets of warm, flaky plantain tarts. When things were hectic, a scoop of rum n’ raisin ice cream or a small bowl of strawberry Jell-O was our Sunday afternoon delight.

    Since treats were not a regular part of our diet, if we wanted something sweet after dinner, we had to make do with freshly picked fruit or baked nuts. Or, instead of drinking plain water or limeade with the evening meal, we might get to guzzle down homemade fruit juice.

    When I think back to my childhood desserts, I think of homemade goodies – not the stuff from the supermarket shelves or pastry shops. My mother and grandmothers always knew exactly what went into their baked goods and sourced high quality produce to create them. I can’t help but agree with medical professionals and nutritionists who’ve been saying that we, the new generation of Mommies, need to return to real, whole foods.

    Planning for Dessert

    The strategy of meal planning and pre-cooking can be applied to desserts – especially if you reserve dessert for a special/Sunday night dinner. Even if you decide to satisfy your sweet tooth on a daily basis, fruit-based desserts are an excellent way to get yummy tummies without the guilt or dietary ills. You’d be amazed at how fresh fruits can be transformed, quite quickly and easily, into freezer pops, ice creams, sorbets or slushies without giving you any extra work. By searching out some whole  food, plant-based recipes, you can discover dishes that are easy for children to make and allow for them to enjoy something sweet without the adverse effects of excess sugars, fat or refined carbohydrates.

    Healthy Dessert Ideas 

    The following list of whole food plant-based desserts are a great place to start. If they become regular features in your family’s meal plans, you will certainly be decreasing the amount of ‘products’ in your diet and increasing the amount of ‘produce’ you consume. Here’s to healthy and delicious desserts, for your family and mine:


    1. Mint-Melon Sorbet Recipe here


    1. Raspberry Lime Freezer Pops  Recipe here


    1. Peanut Butter-Banana “Ice Cream” Recipe here


    1. Vegan Chocolate Banana Mousse Recipe here


    1. Dairy-Free Chocolate Bars Recipe here


    1. Raw Strawberry Peppermint Cheesecake Recipe here


    1. Coconut Cream Pie Recipe here


    1. Vegan Strawberry-Banana Cupcakes Recipe here Picture1
    2. Vegan Cinnamon Rolls Recipe here lemongrass-dreadlocks-500x500
    3. Vegetarian Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe here


    Which of these will you make first?




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    12 Easy Meatless Dishes to Boost Your Health

    Two months into the year, you’re probably debating which health-improving resolutions habits were too unrealistic to stick with. But, that doesn’t mean that you need to give up on efforts to improve your health. How about making smaller changes and working on more achievable goals? After all, this is your health we’re talking about!


    If you’ve been paying attention, you’d have noticed the international health campaign to get everyone to eat more fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables and less meat, fish and poultry. That’s because, even the healthiest of gym-rats and the biggest green smoothie fan can benefit from reducing the amount of meat she eats. I know… You’re not a meat-addict! You watch what you eat and make a conscious decisions to limit your junkfood intake. In fact, you could easily drive through the tempting smoke and sizzle from the Pan Chicken vendors on Red Hills Road without a thought to drool! LOL. Well, that’s exactly why Meatless Mondays is the one of the easiest health-boosting habits you’ll pick up for 2015.


    Meatless Monday is a global campaign that encourages us to avoid eating meat once a week. Basically, you make a commitment to leave out the meat every Monday, and eat regularly from Tuesday to Sunday. Yes, it’s quite simple and just takes a little bit of planning to make it into a habit. Cutting out the meat once a week comes with a lot of health benefits, “because going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.” (Read “Why Meatless” here.)


    But, before you start grumbling about not knowing what to eat, let me remind you of 12 easy and delicious meals that you enjoy regularly, or can get easily at a quick-service restaurant. The various dishes are linked to their recipes, so you have no excuse!


    1. Peanut Porridge
    2. Baked Beans
    3. Scrambled Tofu
    4. Pancakes


    1. Callaloo Loaf
    2. Vegetable Pizza
    3. Veggie Burger
    4. Vegetable/Ackee/Soy Patty


    1. Veggie Stew Peas
    2. Daal Curry
    3. Vegetable Stir-fry
    4. Spaghetti with Chunky Tomato Sauce

    So, there you have it! An entire month of Meatless Mondays covered – without repeats!


    While you’re thinking about when to start your meat-reduction commitment, please go over to the Meatless Monday Jamaica website and LIKE the Facebook page. You will get even more info and recipes to help you realise that “Small Changes Make a Big Difference.”



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    The Doctors Told Me To Quit Eating Meat

    You might be surprised to find out that I usually avoid talking about my eating habits with new friends. That’s because a lot of people are quick to whip out their “Expert Dietician” personas and haul me off to an imaginary interrogation room. I’m still not sure why saying, “I don’t eat meat.” usually prompts people to empty a full clip of Nutrition 101 questions on me. They are often quite surprised at my admission and make such firm attempts to save me from my insanity, that I’m equally amused and annoyed. But, only a few of these Protein Preachers have ever asked me why I ended up on the ‘rabbit food’ side of the fence. Even fewer have asked me where I’ve been getting my nutritional information from. So, today I’ll tell you about the doctors whose prescription I filled.


    The Last Supper
    On the night of my little brother’s 21st birthday, when my family cozied up in one of Kingston’s more trendy steakhouses, I never imagined that it would have been the last day I sat down to a meal of flesh foods. You know how sometimes, people will say they don’t feel for any meat today. Well, I had been hanging out in one of those zones for a few weeks. Even though, I had spent the previous weeks not having any appetite for meat or poultry, I had been eating lots of seafood with no complaints. But, when my fish dinner arrived, I couldn’t stomach more than a couple bites and convinced someone else to finish the fillet for me. I just realised that I couldn’t do it anymore… My body had decided to quit liking meat!

    It wasn’t a big surprise, really. My co-workers had gotten used to me trading the chicken in my boxed lunch for their steamed vegetables. But, what they never knew, was that for about 3 months, I had been feeding my mind on various lectures by various health experts and wellness advocates about making healthier food choices. But, these weren’t the regular, “avoid fried foods and sugary drinks” campaigns. All these medical professionals had been singing the same song: “eat plants, not animals”. So, it didn’t take very long for all their arguments, research findings and real-life case studies to set up residence in my mind and convince my mouth to stop salivating for Pan Chicken and to inveigle my stomach to get repulsed by the normally appetising Steamed Snapper, Oxtail & Beans, Jerk Pork, and Curried Mutton.


    The Plant-Based Doctors
    5 years in, I can say this is not a passing fad. My switch to Vibrant Eats (meals that bring vitality to the body without failing to bring my tongue satisfaction) was actually initiated, encouraged and continues to be supported by medical doctors and nutrition experts. I knew that a plant-based diet was the best one could embrace while sat ad learned at the feet of Dr. L. Danovan Whyte during his Saturday meetings at the Lifestyle Transformation Centre in New Kingston. His book, “Perfect Health is Unquestionably Yours” is very dear to me – I have re-read it many times and reference it often. The knowledge he shares and the impact it is having on those who are willing to make the necessary changes can be heard through his Wednesday night radio programme, “Your Health Matters” on NewsTalk 93FM. Of course, I have much respect for other physicians like Dr. Anthony Vendryes, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. among others.


    Food as Medicine
    Through their writings, videos, workshops and lectures, these truly compassionate and responsible physicians have highlighted the dangers of eating animal foods (meat, fish, dairy and eggs) and revealed how real people, like you and I, have reversed lifestyle related diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension just by switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet. But, they haven’t just left it there. They have gone through the trouble of teaching people about the nutritional needs of the human body and how to fully satisfy those needs with a varied diet made up of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. I have personally had the privilege of watching Dr. Whyte prepare live (uncooked) food and served it to us with love and enthusiasm, on more than one occasion. I still have a folder full of some of his favourite recipes. which he so kindly shares in his workshops.


    Your journey is very likely different from mine, but if you have been arguing with the quiet voice, inside, to make better eating choices you may want to give these doctors a listening ear. Look them up and examine what they have to say. At the end of the day, you may not eliminate animal products completely, but you will undoubtedly have a new respect for your body, be more conscious of your health and make healthier eating choices.


    Have you ever listened to or read from any of these Plant-Based Physicians? Please tell me what has impressed you most?



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    Yummy Instant Cashew Cheese

    I had sort of gotten used to ‘life without cheese’, after a couple of decades of being a cheese addict. But, now I think I’m getting back on the cheese junkie train. LOL. But, not the regular dairy cheese – that stuff is still prohibited. My new fave ingredient is an instant cashew cheese that I’ve found, here in Japan. Kempo – a health food store (they do mail order, and just opened a shop in Tokyo this month) – was passing out samples of the cheese and I decided to try it. I tossed it into a couple of dishes and have been completely won over! Now, I’m seeing a lot of cheesy dishes in the future 😀


    Pic 4


    I Love This Cheese!
    In the past, I’ve enjoyed my little sister’s homemade Classic Cashew Cheese (recipe link) and thoroughly enjoyed it. But, whenever I fork out the cash to buy cashews, I normally don’t have the resolve to keep them for making anything. I just munch on them because they’re so yummy straight out the bag. Which is part of the reason I really like this instant cashew cheese: just add water and mix until smooth and creamy. (I think the instructions mention using a blender to get it just right, but I’ve just done it by hand.) If you visit Kempo’s online store, you’ll find that they sell the Cashew Nut Powder, Nutritional Yeast and different vegetable powders (like onion or garlic). So, I’m sure it’s possible to use those ingredients and make your own instant cheese. But, the 150 gram packet for ¥450 is a deal for me.



    This 1 pizza became 3 pizzas before lunch was through. LOL.
    I started with 1 ‘test’ pizza and ended up making 3 pizzas before lunch was up.


    Some Cheesy Experiments
    Sheila (the lovely lady who gave me my first Instant Cashew Cheese sample and took my order when I later decided to buy some more cheese and other stuff from Kempo) gave me the basic instructions for using the cheese powder, plus some recipe ideas. The guideline is 2 parts cheese powder to 1 part water. However, in some cases I’ve added less water to get a thicker consistency for the cheesy sauce. Some recipe suggestions she gave me were:

    • Sprinkle the cheese powder on just-boiled and drained pasta for a cheesy ‘sauce’.
    • Sprinkle the cheese powder into potatoes as you are mashing them.
    • Make the cheesy sauce a little thinner and pour on toast or sliced potatoes, then bake or toast them till the cheese looks toasty.
    • Toss some boiled potatoes into tomato sauce (canned is fine), then spread them out on a baking dish and smother in cheese sauce, for a potato pizza. (You can add olives or mushrooms, too!)

    She also mentioned that you can store the Instant Cashew Cheese powder at room temperature. But, if you plan to keep it for a long time, she recommends refrigeration – to keep rancidity away (now that the weather is hot).


    Pic 3

    Lentil Casserole
    So, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous using the cheese powder, at first. I tried it in my ‘famous’ Pasta Casserole. I usually use tofu to make a ricotta cheese, but this time, I skipped the tofu. Instead, I tossed the pasta into some white sauce (grateful for that Food & Nutrition lesson in High school – LOL) and used the Cashew Cheese powder to give the ‘cheese’ taste. In one casserole dish, I just sprinkled the cheese powder between the layers of pasta, lentils and tomato sauce; but in the other casserole dish, I made a cheesy sauce. I think the one with the cheese sauce tasted more flavourful and creamier. I took pics of the whole process, but now I can’t remember which device I stored them on – so maybe I’ll add them later.

    Eggplant Pizza
    I love pizza! My parents used to keep frozen pizzas in the deep freezer and on when we ran out, we loved ordering delivery. So, I just happened to have some pizza crusts sitting in the freezer – don’t follow me, make your own pizza crust 😉 However, I never had my favourite toppings – only a couple eggplants, some sweet peppers and an onion. I always try to keep tomato sauce in stock, too. So, I tossed all these onto the pizza crust – along with some Instant Cashew Cheesy Sauce and WOW! We ended up eating three pizzas for lunch – it was so good! Did I mention they were personal-sized crusts? *ahem* Now, to tell you how good this cheesy sauce made the pizza: Mr. Amazing is NOT a fan of pizza, but declared that it tasted really good and asked for more. Just so you know: I licked my plate – LOL. If it’s only to make pizza, I’ll be keeping this Instant Cashew Cheese in my kitchen as a mainstay.

    Pasta Parmesan
    For a quick dinner the other day, I boiled up some spaghetti and poured on my favourite mushroom pasta sauce then sprinkled the cashew cheese powder on top. WOW! I’m not sure I’ll have pasta without it again. It makes everything taste so rich and CREAMY! Yup – I’m sold.


    Pic 6
    Instant Cashew Cheese Pizza Toast (Credit: Kempo)


    Would you like to try Kempo’s Instant Cashew Cheese? Let me hook you up! If you’re in Japan, please like my Facebook page, and leave a comment beneath the “Yummy Instant Cashew Cheese” post.