How to Avoid Gaining Weight at Christmas

by Tracy Rohland

Winter is here and holiday treats are on their way in abundance. During this time, it is not uncommon to worry about the numbers on the bathroom scale gradually increasing. So, this season do not let your weakness for Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie get the better of you by following a few suggestions to help you stay healthy

  • A vegetarian diet is the best place to start. By sticking to a vegetarian diet, you will avoid a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol.
    • Use vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth in your gravies and soups. Instead of turkey or ham, try a main dish of grilled seasoned tofu or a hearty vegetable stew. There are also turkey alternatives such as Tofurky and Un-Turkey. Our recipe section on the website has some great holiday recipes.
  • Make a variety of vegetable side dishes. Think beyond steamed green beans and mashed potatoes and experiment with apple-beet salad, baked basil-eggplant, curried vegetables or sautéed butternut squash with shitake mushrooms.
  • Be sure to include a raw salad. It will help fill your plate as well as your stomach and will aid in digestion. Make it festive by using a variety of greens and adding walnuts, cranberries and apples.
  • Avoid white-flour rolls loaded with butter. Instead, make your own whole wheat rolls and top them with cranberry-orange relish.
  • When dessert comes around, the important thing is portion control. Take less than your eyes want and eat slowly. Resist that second piece of Pecan Pie ala mode. It is okay to indulge a little so long as you do not go overboard. For dessert, try a lighter version of the classics – see our recipe page for ideas including No-Bake Pumpkin Pie, Tofu Cheesecake, and Apple-Apricot cobbler.
  • Be sure to stay properly hydrated. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, and coffee all lead to dehydration so it is important to drink plenty of water or herbal tea to make up for the loss.
  • Finally, do not forget about exercise. When you have a little free time, grab your water bottle and take a long walk, a bike ride or do some yoga.

It is up to you to maintain your health over the Christmas season. It is natural to gain a couple of pounds over the winter because your body is trying to preserve itself for the cooler temperatures ahead. Just as things in nature are hibernating, closing and going inside, your body does the same. But do not be a victim of holiday excess – stay active and check out Down To Earth’s website for great recipe ideas.

Prevent Excess Weight Gain While Enjoying Holiday Cooking

by Tandis Bishop

The Holiday season is here again and right along with it are all the tasty goodies and home-cooked meals that are such a part of our lives during this time. To the dismay of many of us however, these delectable indulgences tend to leave behind some undesirable extra pounds on our bodies. Is it possible to enjoy hearty meals and sweet treats without the extra pounds? We at Down to Earth say, “yes!” Read on for some ideas to help you maintain a healthy weight during the holidays...

  • This holiday season, go meatless! You will greatly reduce your calorie, fat and cholesterol intake if you have a meatless, plant-based holiday feast. Our website has great vegetarian holiday entrees, salads, and side dishes to choose from. If you are unable to eliminate meat altogether, try to fill up more on the veggie side dishes such as yams, green beans, and cranberry sauce, and less on the main dish, which is usually very high in fat.
  • Make healthier desserts, such as cookies without refined sugar (see recipe at the end of this article). Experiment with agave nectar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup or honey as sweeteners and take them with you when you gather with your family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This way you are giving yourself and your loved ones healthier dessert choices. In addition, you should try to consume less of the other desserts which are rich in cream and refined sugar.
  • Choose whole grains when making or eating holiday dishes. Use whole wheat flour or exotic brown and wild rice blends when making stuffing and dressings. Use whole grains when making desserts and bread rolls. Whole grains maintain the fiber, vitamins and minerals that refined grains lack.
  • Instead of high calorie beverages such as eggnog, hot cocoa, soda and alcohol, explore the vast variety of herbal teas available at DTE. Lightly sweeten them with a tiny bit of maple syrup or honey. Offer to bring the drinks at the next party and reduce your calorie intake by the hundreds. There are numerous teas, including holiday-spiced varieties, which are perfect for such occasions. Teas can be served hot or cold with ice.
  • This is a great time to bond with your family and friends and enjoy some quality time together. What better way to do this than enjoying some sort of physical activity. Especially here in Hawaii, we have the luxury of enjoying many outdoor activities. Get the family together for a fun game of beach volleyball or tag football. Enjoy a game of tennis at a community tennis court. Go for a hike together, enjoying some of the world’s most beautiful trails and work off any excess calories at the same time. Make sure you have a water bottle with you to stay hydrated!

It is certainly possible to maintain your health and weight over the holiday season. The key is to fill up on veggie dishes, avoid refined foods and control your portions – don’t overdo it even on healthier treats. And remember, choosing these healthy, organic and natural foods won’t cost more than conventional foods and is often less expensive.

Healthy Holiday Cooking

by Tracy Rohland

The holidays are just around the corner, and as we all know, along with the festivities usually come enough sweet and savory goodies to last the whole year. This can spell trouble and temptation for those watching their diets, but don’t worry – it’s not necessary to completely abstain from eating your favorite dishes. With just a few substitutions, you can turn a fat and sugar-laden holiday season into a tasty and healthy one. Below are a few suggestions to use in your cooking. Try any combination of them and use your imagination to create tasty holiday treats!

  • Instead of whole milk, substitute skim milk, soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.
  • Instead of cream, try plain yogurt or evaporated skim milk
  • When making sandwiches or wraps, use an eggless mayonnaise with healthy, non-hydrogenated oil in it.
  • Also look for vegetable spreads made from non-hydrogenated oils to use instead of butter.
  • Applesauce can replace oil in a cake recipe.
  • Instead of fat-and-caffeine-laden-chocolate, try making carob brownies, or carob-chip cookies.
  • In baking recipes that call for eggs, use an egg replacer to reduce cholesterol and fat.
  • Add some wholesomeness to your cookies by using whole-wheat flour in place of bleached white flour.
  • Avoid too much sugar by using alternative sweeteners like Stevia, Xylitol, and honey.
  • On top of that hot apple strudel put a scoop of non-fat frozen yogurt (or soy frozen yogurt), and leave the ice cream in the freezer (or at the store).
  • For a healthy and tasty dessert, experiment with fresh fruit tarts – each different combination of fruits will make a different treat! You can also use seasonal fruit to make a colorful fruit salad.
  • Make a toast with sparkling cider instead of champagne.
  • Finally, forget the turkey and try making a Heathy Holiday Mock Turkey from this month's recipes or pick up a “Tofurkey” at Down to Earth.
  • Top it off with some vegetarian Mock Turkey gravy! (See last month's e-newsletter recipe section).

These ideas will hopefully get you started on the way to a healthy holiday season. Take some carob cookies to a get-together and indulge your friends without feeling guilty. Share with them your secrets of healthy cooking. Just remember- moderation is also important. Despite the fact that your goodies will be healthier than normal, it’s important to resist overeating. Above all, have fun with your cooking. Get the kids involved and teach them about healthy eating. The good habits they learn will stay with them their whole lives.

Until next month - Happy, Healthy Holidays to all!

Emerging From the Holiday Health Rut

by Tandis Bishop

We wrote about healthy “holiday” eating in the November/December issue, so we thought to get you ready for January. If you are like most health-conscious people after the holiday feasting, you probably want to get back on track in terms of your daily diet. Even for the most avid health crusader, it is difficult not to slip a bit over the holidays. Family gatherings and celebrations generally revolve around food to some extent and in most cases you are not the one preparing the whole meal! Travel, stress and lack of time during this season can also contribute to a decline in your usual healthful diet. Below are a few ideas to help you get out of the rut and back in the groove…

  • Start by re-hydrating. Get the liquids flowing through your body by drinking plenty of water. Water will help flush out toxins, improve digestion, assist with fat-loss, hydrate skin and give you more energy, just to highlight a few of its benefits.
  • Get your body moving! Exercise is a primary factor in getting your health back up to par. Especially if your body has been more stagnant lately, or you have been eating heavier foods, exercise will be the key to getting back in shape. Even a brisk 20 minute walk each day will make a difference.
  • Revive your body with immune boosting and nourishing whole-food supplements. Give your body the basics it needs to rebuild and ward off sickness. Sugar, often in abundance around the holidays, can take a toll on the immune system. Stop by Down to Earth for friendly and informative assistance in picking a supplement that is right for you.
  • Take advantage of our seasonal vegetables, especially those locally grown. They are often cheaper and fresher than those from the mainland. Use a variety of vegetables to create delicious, low calorie, nutrient rich meals. See our recipes page for ideas.
  • Learn new ways to enhance your healthful diet. Come to one of DTE’s vegetarian cooking classes to get new ideas for scrumptious and healthy vegetarian meals.

And remember, don’t get discouraged if you are having a hard time staying healthy over the holidays. Once you get back into your regular schedule, your body will quickly bounce back and you will feel energized and motivated for the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Holiday Cooking: Trending a Healthier Tradition

by Tandis Bishop

There’s no question that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for you. We are beginning to look for ways to include them in our diet as evidence supports the importance of plant foods in wellness and disease prevention. You can continue this healthy effort during the holidays by adding plant foods to your favorite holiday dishes.

Hosting Christmas this year or bringing a dish? Have fun with healthy vegetable-based side dishes that on their own will make a meal! Change up some old favorites – add an extra cup of vegetables like celery, spinach, kale, or mushrooms to your stuffing; add apples and whole wheat bread or wild rice. Cook fresh cranberries and sweeten them with maple syrup or coconut palm sugar instead of canned cranberry sauces loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. Add vegetables such as onions, sweet bell peppers, turnips, and carrots to your baked or roasted dishes. Add walnuts to a fresh green bean salad. Cut down the cholesterol by using eggless mayonnaise. For healthier, low-fat proteins add lentils, tofu, or white beans to your pot pies or casseroles. Make a fresh garden salad using dark baby greens such as spinach, romaine lettuce, chard, and arugula. Add some dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, shredded carrots, beets, or sprouts. The possibilities are endless!

In November, the Love Life! Team offered a special Holiday Feast workshop to help customers prepare a variety of healthy, vegan and gluten-free dishes for their holiday dinners. A second workshop focused on holiday sweets and featured healthy dessert recipes to enjoy, share and cook all season long. If you missed these holiday workshops, here are some of the recipes you may want to try for Christmas:

The Love Life! Team will continue to offer healthy cooking workshops with various themes throughout the year. So there is plenty of opportunity to learn more about fun and tasty ways to cook healthy meals!

Remember when it comes to holiday cooking, there are no rules! As we trend toward a healthier tradition, you can create your own script for your children to follow and pass down to future generations.


Being Thankful - Being Vegetarian

by Michael Bond

With Thanksgiving Day growing near, those who are following a vegetarian diet have much to be thankful for. You can be thankful for your overall good health, derived from your healthy diet choices. More specifically, you can be thankful for your healthy heart, clear arteries, and lower cholesterol that can be credited to a plant-based diet. You can be thankful that you have lowered your risk for heart disease, colon cancer, strokes, diabetes, and a number of other life threatening conditions.

You can be thankful that you have reduced the strain on Mother Earth by using less water and natural resources to produce your food. You can be thankful that you are not contributing to the meat industry’s environmental degradation through topsoil loss, deforestation, water pollution, etc.

You can also be thankful that you are not contributing to the needless pain and suffering experienced by billions of innocent creatures each year.

It is sad that on this wonderful day of giving thanks, what is on many peoples’ minds is the turkey dinner. We all know the original purpose of Thanksgiving was not to focus on eating a stuffed bird. Thanksgiving originated as a feast and celebration of the harvest and later grew into a day where people would offer thanks and appreciation to God for all that He has provided (such as fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, grains, fruits and vegetables to nourish us, and so on).

Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder that we should count our blessings, and be thankful for all that we have. And of all days, Thanksgiving Day should remind us to be compassionate to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. That compassion should not extend only to our friends and families, but to all of God’s creatures, and yes, even to turkeys.

Millions of turkeys are slaughtered each year, just to “celebrate” Thanksgiving. It is unfortunate that our society has adopted this cruel tradition, and many feel that to have Thanksgiving without the turkey dinner, would not be the same. If that is the case, then why not try having a healthier, cruelty-free Thanksgiving and try one of the several tasty mock-turkeys that are now available. And along with that, get back to the roots of Thanksgiving by celebrating the harvest with preparations using your favorite seasonal vegetables and fruits.

Check out this month’s recipes for some specific ideas, and from all of us at Down to Earth, have a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

Having a Compassionate Christmas

by Tandis Bishop

One of the most profound ways you can celebrate Christmas this year is by moving towards a plant-based vegetarian diet. The mass consumption of animals for food causes pain and suffering all over the world, so it is up to each individual to decide to make the effort to change.

I remember the story a man once told me. He was a slaughterhouse worker, in charge of slaughtering the cows, one at a time. He was not interested in living a compassionate life. Then one day, one of the cows that he was about to slaughter fell down on her forelegs, tears dropping from her eyes as she silently pleaded for mercy. The man I met and the other slaughterhouse workers who were there could not bear to kill her. They pooled their money together and bought the cow to spare her life.

After having personally killed thousands of cows, that experience awakened in him the natural compassion that lies within each and every one of us. He became a vegetarian and has also helped many other people become vegetarian since that experience.

If we truly want to live a compassionate life – not just in words but in real life action – then we should try our best to never unnecessarily harm other living beings. Great spiritual teachers Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha have taught this virtue. One of Jesus’ primary teachings was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He taught compassion - the ability to feel others’ pain in a sympathetic way. Lord Buddha also underlined the importance of living a compassionate life. He said, “In compassion lies the world’s great strength.” He also said, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”

Not only are animals not necessary for food, eating animals brings intense suffering to individuals and society in the form of greatly increased levels of disease, environmental devastation, etc.

Consider some of the following enlightening facts:

  • More than half the water used in the United States is used for meat production.
  • It takes less water to produce a year’s worth of food for a pure vegetarian than to produce one month’s food for a meat-eater.
  • Raising animals for food is the largest polluter of water in the United States, topping all other industries that produce toxic wastes.
  • 85 percent (more than 5 billion tons) of annual American topsoil loss is directly associated with raising livestock.

Gearing up to Stay Cool

by Tracy Rohland

Summer is here. That means long days at the beach, hikes in the mountains, family get-togethers, outdoor parties and plenty of fun and sun. Unfortunately, summertime can also mean sunburn, dehydration, and heatstroke if you are not careful. But with a little forethought and planning before you head outdoors, you can avoid some of these common mishaps and make the most of your summer.

In hot weather, our bodies work extra hard to stay cool. Sweating is the body's way of cooling the skin. However, in humid weather, as is common in Hawaii, the surrounding air is already too saturated to evaporate your sweat efficiently. The heart must compensate by pumping harder and getting blood to the skin to release heat. This explains why you can feel tired and wiped out after a day at the beach.

One big danger from being out in the heat is the body's loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are electrically charged ions that keep your nervous system working and your muscles contracting properly, including your heart. The primary electrolytes we are concerned with are sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. Sweat contains mostly sodium and water. Sodium holds water in the cells and stabilizes blood pressure.

As the sodium levels drop in the body, you begin to feel thirsty. Unfortunately, most people then try to re-hydrate by drinking plain water. This actually makes the situation worse as it dilutes the sodium level even more. Proper amounts of fluid in the body are necessary to maintain a cool body temperature, adequate blood pressure, and normal kidney and brain function.

The first and most common symptom of dehydration is called heat cramps. This generally occurs in people who have been exercising in heat and humidity. Due to electrolyte depletion, the person's muscles begin to contract in slow and painful spasms. Someone experiencing heat cramps should cool down, rest, and hydrate with an electrolyte drink.

A more serious case of dehydration is heat stroke, also known as heat exhaustion or heat collapse. This occurs to people who have lost an immense amount of fluid and electrolytes through sweat. Symptoms include excessive thirst, nausea, headache, fatigue, dizziness, numbness and tingling in extremities, dry eyes, nose and mouth and confusion. Heat stroke can lead to loss of consciousness and even death. The victim should lie flat on a cool place and ingest electrolyte fluids, intravenously in some cases.

Now that you know the dangers of heat stroke, it is important to find out how to prevent it. First of all, know how to properly hydrate. Plain water will not sufficiently hydrate the body after sweating in the hot sun. Electrolyte drinks like Recharge are better for bringing mineral levels back to normal, but it is also a good idea to add more salt to them; about ½ to 1 tsp. of salt per one liter of fluid. If you have a family or personal history of high blood pressure, consult your doctor for the best hydration techniques.

  • Always have a water bottle with you and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Drink before you feel thirsty because by the time thirst kicks in, your body has already lost too much water and salt.
  • Incorporate your exercise program into the morning hours before the sun is at its peak.
  • Ease into the hot weather. Gradually increase your exercise program each day so your body can get used to the heat. It takes about two to four weeks for your body to get acclimated.
  • Persons over the age of 65, those on heart or blood medication, and overweight people are most susceptible to heat stroke. If you fit into any of these categories, be especially aware of how hard you work your body. Take it easy in the summer heat and discuss new exercise programs with your doctor before undertaking them.
  • If you find you are exhibiting symptoms of overheating and dehydration, get to a cool or air-conditioned environment immediately, take a cool bath, or dip in the ocean or lake.

Another common danger of the sun is, of course, sunburn. Sunburn causes your skin to itch and peel, increases the appearance of aging, and can lead to skin cancer. Sunburn also inhibits your skins ability to sweat, thus increasing the risk of heat stroke. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States . Fortunately it is also very preventable. Remember these tips when venturing outside for the day:

  • Wear sunscreen! Make sure it has a minimum SPF of 15, preferably with a quality blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Reapply every 2 hours and every time you come out of the water.
  • Wear sun protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat, lightweight long sleeve shirt and pants. You might want to check out clothing that is specifically designed with an SPF to guard against the suns rays.
  • Wear sunglasses that give 100 percent UV protection. Anything less than 100 percent can actually damage your eyes more than wearing nothing at all.
    Be especially conscientious of protecting children from the sun! Their fair skin can be easily damaged and sunburn increases their chances of skin cancer later in life.

The Perfect Crowd-pleasing Dish for Your Holiday Table!

Photo: Tofu Turkey

by Tracy Ternes

The holiday season is still going strong and we hope you are still smiling and relishing all the delight that this time of year brings. If you haven’t had a chance to try our awesome Tofu Turkey recipe, you owe it to yourself to watch the video and give it a try. This recipe is such a crowd pleaser for all ages and appetites and can be adjusted for gluten-free diets as well. It’s simple, fun and fantastic with gravy!

See the video and recipe here or, if you’d rather see it live, then don’t miss our Honolulu cooking class on December 5th from 11am-Noon, where Tofu Turkey will be prepared along with mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegan chorizo-stuffed dates (Yum!).

The recipe calls for the tofu to be stuffed with a prepared stuffing of your choice. We have packaged options in the store or you can make it from scratch using one of our recipes:

To make your Tofu Turkey gluten-free, choose a gluten-free stuffing and remember to use wheat-free tamari or Braggs.

If you’re looking for another main dish or a dazzling dessert, check out the cooking class at our Kailua store on December 1st from 4:30-5:30pm. It’s entitled “Plenty O’ Pies” and will feature recipes and demonstrations for Vegetable Pot Pie, Raw Pecan Pie, and Tangerine Cream Pie (is your mouth watering yet?)!

Wherever your holiday cooking adventures take you, bear in mind that locally grown and seasonal ingredients are often the most flavorful, nutritious and cost-effective choices. Above all, have fun and find time to relax after enjoying your delicious meal. Even in the face of a holiday meal mishap (Uhh Mom…why is there smoke coming out of the oven??) a light-hearted attitude will help everyone to see the humor and embrace it as another fun family memory!

Healthy Grilling and Summer BBQ

Photo: People Grilling at the Beach

by Tandis Bishop

Grilling and BBQs are synonymous with summer.  Enjoy this quick and easy guide to fun summer picnics with your health in mind:

AS THE GUEST - Here are some tips to help you make healthy choices when attending summer parties.

Fill up on the healthiest food first. Begin by eating the fresh salads and other vegetable and fruit dishes. Raw fruits and vegetables will have enzymes which aid digestion and the fiber will help curb your hunger so you end up eating less of the richer, high calorie foods.

Use the smaller plates. Parties will usually have smaller dessert or salad plates available. Use them to help you eat less, as it will make your plate appear full with less food.

Bring a healthy dish. Healthy dishes can be scarce at some BBQ picnics. So bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy. It assures that you will have at least one healthy item on your plate!

Eat mindfully. Chatting with friends and enjoying the day’s events may distract you from proper eating habits and cause senseless or excessive eating. Eat slowly, take time to chew, put your fork down with each bite. Know and identify what is on your plate. Be aware of when your hunger is satisfied to prevent over-eating.

AS THE HOST - Center your menu on more plant foods with fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

Fresh fruits and vegetables: Dress your picnic up with lots of healthy summer fruits and vegetables including veggie kebobs, fruit kebobs, fruit salads, and fresh green salads. Take advantage of the summer harvest with fresh watermelon, lychee, mangos, papayas, and berries!

Legumes and high protein plant meats: Make your entrée lower in calories by using high protein legumes, veggie meats, and grains for a tasty, heart healthy dish. In place of a standard burger, meatless patties are great for easy grilling.  Try veggie, soy, or taro burgers, meatless hot dogs and sausages.  Zest up your grill with new options like marinated tempeh, smoked tofu, or portabella mushrooms.

Try this recipe for yummy Grill Ready Veggie Burgers.

The whole grains and nothing but the grains: We all know the benefits of whole grains. Keep the healthy momentum by choosing whole grain or sprouted burger and hot dog buns and whole grain pasta noodles for summer pasta salads. Whole-grain gluten-free grains, breads, and wraps are also available at Down to Earth for those choosing gluten-free.

Visit our website for more tasty, healthy recipes.