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The Ultimate Guide To A Healthy and Happy Plant-Based Thanksgiving

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Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley

Food is an integral part of social life.

I have such fond memories of the stew that my Mom would cook for every birthday, of the local burger joint that we used to go to on the last day of school, of leaving campus at lunch with my best friends to grab lunch at Taco Time.

And then there are the holidays.

I’ll never forget driving down to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas. We would open presents and then sit down for the traditional meal of ham and Grandma’s famous (and very weird in retrospect) green jello.

Who doesn’t equate those beautiful, serene, and happy holiday moments with the smells wafting from the kitchen or sitting down with loved ones around an abundant table?

Every single one of my most cherished memories has a dish, diner, smell or taste associated with it.

Can you relate?

On top of personal holiday memories, we often have family traditions that go back generations. Our very heritage and deepest identity is tied into the foods that we eat.

And these feelings run deep.

So when we make the decision to take our health destiny into our own hands and start living the veggie-centric life, we have to make our way through some treacherous territory.

The everyday challenges we all face pale in comparison to the holidays — when family dynamics, old memories, travel, and stress all come together to create the perfect storm.

It’s hard enough to separate the memories from the food, and stay on plan when faced with so much temptation.

And then there is the real difficulty is taking our personal decision to change our diet into a the public arena.

Best case scenario, you stand out like a sore thumb and feel awkward turning down dishes and explaining the decisions you’ve made to wonderfully supportive family and friends.

Worst case scenario, your mother-in-law, dear ol’ Dad, or obstinate uncle take your decision as a personal affront.

They decide to spend the entire holiday making vegan jokes, loudly worrying about your looming protein deficiency, feeling sorry that you can only eat rabbit food, and trying to get you to have “just one bite” of the Turducken.

If you run into this issue, you might want to take a look at the article I wrote about how to talk to others about your plant-based lifestyle.

My First Plant-Based Thanksgiving

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Photo Credit: Liz West

I first went plant-based around June of 2009, and I was pretty set on my new lifestyle when Thanksgiving rolled around.

But I sure didn’t have a clue how to travel, talk about what I was doing, or prepare any semblance of a holiday themed plant-based meal.

I spent a ton of money buying and preparing food that I could take with me to North Carolina to visit my Mom.

And while I was committed, it didn’t mean that I didn’t have any cravings for my old ways.

Did some part of me want to be chowing down on turkey and stuffing, laughing with everyone around the table and falling into the post-meal food coma?

Of course!

Instead I sat in the middle of the table, eating my wimpy salad, and defensively attempting to sound like I knew what I was talking about, answering questions about protein, enzymes, heart disease statistics and so on.

Luckily, I happen to have a very supportive and understanding family. They are always there for me even in the midst of my craziest adventures.

But I was so protective of my baby lifestyle, that I even turned down the baked yam that my Mom made for me — her super sweet gesture of support and acceptance.

So continues my proclivity for making things more difficult than need be.

But I survived. In fact, I even remember enjoying myself. But it certainly wasn’t the old relaxing Thanksgiving that I used to enjoy.

And with each passing year the holidays have gotten easier and easier.

My family now knows what to expect, that this is part of who I am, and they know that I’m not judging their choices.

We are just happy to be in each other’s company, and we don’t let our differences get in the way of that.

I’ve found the more that I can take a relaxed and joyful attitude, do everything that I can to participate and share my lifestyle without being evangelical, and let everyone how happy I am just to be there, the more things go smoothly.

In fact, I asked my mom proofread this article, and she made a very interesting comment.

I don’t think either side knows the best way to extend and accept the changes that a new lifestyle brings, so they try to cover it up with jokes and too many not helpful offers that can get annoying and make the plant-based eater defensive.

One of the parts I thought was particularly significant to emphasize is the part about your own “relaxed and  joyful attitude”, because it appears to have the potential to be a landmine kind of experience, but really people just want to be sure you are fed and cared for (of course this is a mom speaking).

Confidence carries a lot off.  I think it would be really helpful to let people know how hard the holidays are and will be and that you’d love to be eating that stuffing and mysterious green jello concoction, but you are committed to this lifestyle.

Along with confidence, not taking ourselves too seriously, and a little vulnerability goes a long way.

Difficult social interactions will happen. Learn to laugh at them, and keep the focus on what is most important — having a good time with the people that you love.

A Little Prep Goes A Long Way

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Photo Credit: Faith Goble

If you are getting ready for a Thanksgiving away you might be wondering if there will be anything for you to eat. What is the proper protocol? Do you bring your own food?

If you are hosting others, what will they be expecting? Is it your duty to cook up a turkey even if you won’t be eating any?

What about the temptation of Grandma’s famous stuffing? Do you indulge once a year? Make a plant-based substitute?

You used to impress everyone with your famous pumpkin pie, what if they hate the plant-based version?

Is it even worth it? Should you just go along with the crowd and get back on track once the holidays are over?

Fortunately, as our plant-based whole foods community has grown, so have the resources available for us choosing to celebrate both the holidays and our health.

There are delectable Thanksgiving recipes, travel tips, ideas on what to bring to a Thanksgiving gathering, and even how to host your own.

Today, Regan and I want to showcase some of the best resources out there, so that you can have the best Thanksgiving possible.

After all this is important!

As I’m oh so fond of reminding you, the lifestyle works, but for the lifestyle to work you have to stick with it.

And for it to be sustainable it has to be easy, it has to be joyful, it has to be abundant. It is very possible to thrive not just physically, but emotionally, and socially.

So take a few moments and invest in yourself. Read a few of these fantastic articles and plan how to navigate the challenges presented by the upcoming turkey centered holiday.

How can you make it easier on yourself?

We wish you a very happy plant-based Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and loved ones. We’re hoping it’s the best one yet.

The Ultimate Plant-Based Thanksgiving Resource Roundup

Chapter 1: No Fail Thanksgiving Recipes

Chapter 2: Tips for Hosting or Dining With Others

Chapter 3: Getting To Your Destination: How to Travel on a Plant-Based Diet

Chapter 4: Overcoming Temptation and Staying On Track

PS: Are you worried about the holidays? Leave a comment and let us know what your biggest concern is. We’ll read every single one.


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Matt Jager is a wellness activist, yogi and co-founder of True Wellth. His life mission is to transform the healthcare and food system in this country, so that every single person has access to the tools and support they need to look and feel their best, control their health, own their happiness and revolutionize their well-being.

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Better Than Pumpkin Pie

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Fall weather has finally arrived here in Southern Arizona. The cold weather is usually at least a month late in this part of the country, but it does arrive eventually.

Temperatures are dropping and I’m getting excited for tea, soup, and cozy evenings reading by the fireplace.

This also means that certain, yearly, recurring events are soon upon us. That’s right, I’m talking about holiday-pocalypse 2014!

What? You think I’m being over dramatic? That if I had TiVo it would be filled with soap operas and telenovelas?

Ok, maybe I’m being a touch sensational, but holidays can be quite stressful for many of us on the plant-based path.

It may mean attending dinners filled with old favorites that you must forgo in order to stand by your healthy values.

It may mean cooking dinner for relatives that love to make fun of your plant-based choices.

In general it means standing out like a sore thumb in a culture that doesn’t see food as medicine, and the incredible power that we have to shift our health destiny based on the food choices that we make.

I know the challenges the holidays can bring, so in the coming weeks I’ll share some of my best ideas on how to truly enjoy the holidays while keeping your health and social standing intact…not always the easiest thing to do!

Today, I’ll get started with one of my favorite ways to win over family and friends and make sure that you truly enjoy yourself over the holidays.

The ol’ make an incredible, delectable, mouth watering dish that will impress the pants off everyone in the room.

You don’t even have to mention the fact that it’s plant-based, whole food, and free of refined sugar until someone says, “Wow, this is incredible! What’s in it?”

I love the look on their faces when they find out that the delectable dessert they just inhaled was actually as healthy as it was delicious.

As you know, I’m a big believer in simplicity. Most of my meals are very simple, and think it’s a great strategy for long-term success on the plant-based path.

But sometimes, you just need to knock the socks off your mother-in-law with an incredible culinary delight.

To that end, I asked my wonderful partner Regan to share one of her recipes with you. Of course I’m biased, but she is an absolutely fantastic chef with the credentials to back it up.

Regan

Regan

Originally trained in the french culinary tradition, she became interested in the plant-based lifestyle when a loved one was told to try eating “raw” in order address a serious health challenge.

This led her to a 6-month apprenticeship at a center specializing in plant-based nutrition where she was later hired as a chef (also where we just so happened to meet).

She now does chef consulting, health coaching, and makes the most incredible plant-based dishes that I’ve ever had.

In fact, I’ve asked her to play a big role in the future of this little site, so this will be the first of many wonderful recipes to come.

So without further ado, here is Regan to introduce the recipe:

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

When I walk into a grocery store in Autumn, I am overwhelmed by all the different varieties of squash available. Sometimes I think “What the heck are the fall decorations doing in the produce aisle?”

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Recently, I tasted one of these fall decorations — the Kabocha Squash, sometimes referred to as a Japanese Pumpkin. This squash is a wonderful replacement for pumpkin. The texture is creamier and the taste, sweeter. The result is a very healthy, out of this world pie.

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

    Filling
  • 3 Cups Kabocha Squash, Cooked and Pureed
  • 2 Cups Cashews or Cashew Pieces, Soaked 8 Hours
  • ½ Cup Coconut Oil
  • ½ Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbs Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Ginger Powder
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Powder or 2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp Cloves
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbs Agar Agar Flakes, Dissolved in Water
    Crust
  • 1 Cup Buckwheat Groats, Whole or Ground Into Flour
  • 1 Cup Shredded Coconut, Groud Into Flour
  • ¾ Cup Pecans, Ground Into Meal
  • ¼ Cup Coconut Oil
  • 3 Tbs Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Powder or 1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ Cup Water
  • ½ tsp Salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350༠
  2. In a Vitamix, grind the buckwheat groats into a flour and scrape into a medium large bowl. If you would like a crunchy crust, leave the buckwheat groats whole.
  3. Grind the shredded coconut into a flour and transfer into the same bowl as the buckwheat flour.
  4. Place the pecans in the Vitamix or food processor and pulse them until they are crumbly, careful not to blend too long or you will start to form pecan butter (...a delicious mistake!).
  5. Add the pecan meal and the remaining crust ingredients, mixing together until everything is sticky. If the mixture is not sticky enough, add some water, a little bit at a time.
  6. Press crust evenly into a springform pan
  7. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Allow pie crust to cool before adding the filling.
  9. In a saucepan, bring 1 and ¼ cups of water to a boil
  10. Add 2 Tbsp of Agar-Agar flakes and simmer until completely dissolved.
  11. Pour mixture in blender. In the same blender, add all of the filling ingredients except coconut oil.
  12. Blend at high speed until everything is smooth and completely combined.
  13. Dip a finger or spoon into the mixture and taste it. Make sure it is well balanced and adjusted to your preferences.
  14. Lastly, add the coconut oil. Using the tamper to scrape down the sides in a clockwise motion. Do not leave the blender running too long or the coconut oil will become over processed and take on an odd flavor. If you would rather not use the blender for this step or if the coconut oil does not completely blend in after 30 seconds, use a rubber spatula to fold in the oil, until completely combined.
  15. Pour the filling into the crust and place pie in the freezer to set.
  16. Freeze until firm, then transfer to the refrigerator. The pie should keep for about 5 days.
https://www.truewellth.org/better-than-pumpkin-pie

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Crust

 

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Filling

 

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Considerations

There were a few tips I wanted to share with all of you about the process of making this pie. They will save you the heartache of making a whole pie only to find out that it tastes just a little bit off.

  • I use a Vitamix. The Vitamix has a tamper attachment, which allows you to scrape down the sides of a very full blender while blending. Ensuring that everything is smoothly combined as quickly as possible.
  • I do not use a traditional pie pan when I make pies. I prefer to use a springform pan. I think they are easier to work with and the presentation is nicer.
  • Remember all equipment varies. For example, my oven may cook my pie crust slightly quicker than your oven. Ovens in general circulate heat differently. This rule applies to blenders, food processors, etc. This means, always keep an eye on things, give it care and take it slow.

Happy baking!

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Regan is a sought after wellness educator, health coach, and live food chef specializing in Conscious Eating and Spiritual Nutrition.

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The Ultimate Guide to Green Juice

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We humans are always looking for the quick fix or the easy way out.

This usually doesn’t work in the health world, however in this post I’ll share with you one simple thing that you can do that yields huge health dividends.

What is this magical elixir?

Green Juice.

Juicing is fairly well-known in the natural health world, however there are many different takes on what and how you juice.  Not surprisingly, some are better than others.

In this post I’ll share all the juicy (get it?!) secrets, so you can get the maximum benefit with minimum time, effort, and yes…cost.

But first, a little inspiration to get you going.

Why Juice?

Did your mother ever tell you to eat your veggies?  Did you know that almost every health authority recommends 6-8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day?  Green juice is a great way to guarantee that you not only meet, but exceed your recommended veggie intake.

Think about it…green juice takes several pounds of vegetables, concentrates the nutrients, and puts them in a form that is easy for the body to assimilate.

That’s right, serious natural nutrient infusion.

Green juice is also:

  • Alkalizing
  • High in Chlorophyll
  • High in Iron and other minerals (green leafy vegetables)
  • A rich source of oxidizing enzymes

And some say green juice can:

  • Neutralize toxins in the body
  • Help purify the liver
  • Improve blood sugar problems
  • Regulate digestion
  • Help rebuild tissues

For me personally, I can honestly say that I have experienced the health transformational power of drinking green juice.

The best thing to do is to give a try, and see what it does for you. It doesn’t happen overnight.  You might not like it at first.  It might not feel good.  But consitency and persistance pays off.

I am firmly convinced that juicing is the final key to giving you a radiant, energetic life, and truly optimal health. – Joseph Mercola, M.D.

The best green juice recipe ever

I’m about to reveal to you the top-secret green juice recipe that will unequivocably solve all your problems, make everyone fall instantly in love with you, and…SAVE THE WORLD!!!  That’s right.

You’ll notice that this juice has no sweetener.  It doesn’t need one.  I put in apples for years before finally realizing that I liked the taste so much better with out.  Fruit juice can spike blood sugar and insulin levels, so while a nice treat, I don’t drink fruit juice on a regular basis.

We’ll just stick with the green juice for this blog post and let you do your own research on the fruit juices.

But know this: Juice without a sweetener is a low-glycemic juice! It’s the perfect health trifecta: nutrient-dense, alkalizing, and low-glycemic!

Ok, onwards.

The recipe:

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 head of celery (save the rest for tomorrow)
  • 2-3 cucumbers
  • Half a bunch of leafy greens. (save the rest for tomorrow)
    Here you have lots of options:  Kale (super nutritious but intense), swiss chard (less intense), spinach (healthy and delicious), or dandelion greens (oh so bitter, but great for the liver).

That’s it!  3 ingredients!  Delicious!  I made juice from this exact recipe yesterday and it yielded over 32oz — more than two pint glasses worth of juice.

Extras?

Once you get this down you can then experiment with adding condiments, like running an inch-long knob of ginger through the juicer, or a quarter of lime with peel intact.  You can also try adding cayenne powder (1 tsp), tumeric powder (1 tbsp), or cinammon (1 tsp)

How to make Green Juice

1.  Get a juicer.

If you are going to make juice you need a juicer.  I highly recommend the Omega 8006 (not an affiliate link, just the juicer I use and used every day for nearly two years when I first began juicing).  Why the Omega?  It is easy to clean (super important!)  It is a slow juicer which keeps the valuable and sensitive micronutrients in the juice intact and gives you a higher quality of juice.  The Omega is also versatile, able to juice just about everything well from wheatgrass to carrots.  The only thing it doesn’t do well are softer fruits such as apples, but it makes a mean green juice, and that is what we are here for.

Insider secret.  if you don’t have a juicer, you can make juice with a high-powered blender like the vitamix.  Just blend your ingredients and strain them through a nut milk bag.

2.  Get produce.

People typically have two complaints about juicing.  The first being that it is time consuming, and the second being that is expensive.  While there isn’t much we can do about number one, a little negotiation can go a looong way with cost.

In order to save yourself money, you need access to good quality, organic, preferrably local produce.  And where do you find local produce?  At the farm!

Stop by the nearest organic farm and get to know the person growing your veggies.  Farmers typically have extremely high standards for their produce, and you can sometimes get high quality produce with slight cosmetic imperfections for a lot less strain on your money bag.  These are called “seconds” in the farm business.

Now, I’m going to share with you the exact script that I used to negotiate a deal with the farm just down the street from me.  After this conversation, I received free…yes, FREE seconds from this farm for nearly two years.  Every thursday I would stop by, say hello to Gwen (name changed so she doesn’t get hit up by dozens of greedy juicers to be) and load up my bags with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, and drop dead gorgeous greens.

Me:  Wow what good looking greens you have (ie compliment the produce, but perhaps use a less creepy opener)

Gwen:  Yeah, we pretty much rule at farming.

Me:  I know how difficult it is to farm, and I love supporting local farmers.  Do you have any way that I can cut out the middle man and buy produce directly from you?

Gwen:  Um, obviously, you are currently talking to me in the middle of our farm stand.

Me:  Wonderful.  You see, health has become a big priority for me recently (if you have a health challenge, go ahead and share it.  Sympathy points!)  and I’ve taken up juicing.  As a farmer, I’m sure you understand the connection to health, food, and soil, so I’m trying to get as many veggies into my system as I possibly can.  I’m sure I’ll be coming in a lot, and if you ever have any opportunities for a work trade or deals on seconds or have too much of something you need to get rid of, I’d be more than happy to buy them from you.  As long as the veggies are good quality, it doesn’t matter to me how they look.

Gwen:  In fact, we throw out our seconds every Thursday.  Why don’t you just come by on Thursday mornings and you can take what you need.

Me:  Millions of peaches, peaches for me.  Millions of peaches, peaches for me!  Moving to the country…gonna eat a lot of peaches.

Gwen: Why are you standing in the corner singing to yourself?

Me: Oh no reason…See you on Thursday!

You get the idea.  The key is to first establish a good relationship with the farm, and come from the place of wanting to support the farmer and make the relationship work for them.  Who knows if you’ll be able to get a deal, but take whatever is offered graciously, and really do make it a priority to support them as much as possible.  Farmers work incredibly hard and for most of them financial struggle is just a way of life.

Don’t have a farm nearby?  Stop by the farmers market.  If you go at the end of the market, farmers are usually trying to get rid of everything that didn’t sell, so you may be able to get a deal.

No farmers market?  Find out where your local health food store sources their greens.  You may be able to get a wholesale account with a local organic food distributor.  They may require an EIN (business tax number) and they will most likely have a minimum order amount with some being higher than the others.  If you can meet the minimum order by yourself, great, and if not how about going in with some friends?  Friends that juice together, stay together…or something like that.

Juice!

3.  Prep.

Le sigh, your newly acquired veggies need to be prepped for juicing.  This means washing (yeah you really should wash them, even if they are organic), and cutting.  Peel the cucumbers if they aren’t organic.  The downside of the Omega 8006 Juicer is that it has a fairly small feed chute.  To save time, you can do one major prep session of your veggies to last 2 – 3 days.  Just wash and cut big batches and them store them in the fridge.

4.  Juice

When your veggies are prepped, its time to turn them into green gold.  Just turn the on switch and go.  Start with the cucumbers and alternate with the celery, so that the cucumbers don’t clog the system.

Juice is best consumed fresh, but you can make a bigger batch for the whole day and maybe the next.  Any juice not immediately consumed should go right into the fridge.

How much should you drink?  As much as possible!  You can’t drink too much juice.

However, especially when starting out we want to make green juice a habit.  And habits are best formed when we make them easy!

So everyday for the next three days, I want to challenge you to make just one pint, thats 16oz, of juice in the morning.

Your body will thank you.

Do you have a favorite juice recipe? Share it in the comments below! We love to hear from you.


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Matt Jager is a wellness activist, yogi and co-founder of True Wellth. His life mission is to transform the healthcare and food system in this country, so that every single person has access to the tools and support they need to look and feel their best, control their health, own their happiness and revolutionize their well-being.