This post is the introduction to a series of six posts (one per week) that I’m doing in partnership with Whole Foods and Garmin to start the year. As compensation, I received Whole Foods gift cards and a Garmin vívofit, both of which I’m using to create the content for this series.
(I’ve also got a $100 Whole Foods gift card and another Garmin vívofit to giveaway to a few lucky readers. I’ll include the details for entering in a later post.)
Over the past year or two, I’ve thought a lot about how we’re eating when we’re doing it “right,” versus the odd week — or sometimes, month — now and then when we get off track. Mainly, I mean those times when life with two young kids gets busy and we fall out of the smoothie routine, skip the big salad each day, and order takeout way more than we should.
And what I’ve determined is that it’s never a matter of willpower. Instead, it’s entirely about preparation.
To kick off the year, I thought it would make for a fun post if I did a big Whole Foods trip with the express purpose of buying those staples that make such a big difference in which version of our diet shows up — the foods that essentially put healthy eating on autopilot for us.
So that’s what I did last night, and below I’ll explain how we use each food to grease the wheels in our kitchen.
First, here’s the haul:
And here’s how each food makes healthy vegan eating (at least, the Frazier household version of it) easy. Unless otherwise noted, almost all of these foods are Whole Foods brand. And they’re mostly organic, but not always.
Tomatoes, celery, avocado, romaine lettuce — for making salads (usually served for lunch with beans and homemade tahini dressing; see below). Why heads of lettuce instead of clamshell packs? I find they stay fresh much longer and are much cheaper per pound. Usually I get romaine, green leaf, or red leaf … whichever looks the best or is on sale.
Tahini — I use this mainly to make an oil-free dressing, with lemon juice, a little vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, water, and sometimes garlic, ginger, or sriracha to jazz it up when I get tired of one variation. There’s a skeleton recipe in the middle of this post if you’re interested in making it.
Baby spinach — to freeze and add to smoothies. I don’t love the taste of fresh spinach, but I can’t taste it at all in smoothies (and crucially, neither can my kiddos). Sometimes instead we eat it fresh and only freeze it for smoothies once it’s ready to go bad, but this time it went right into the freezer.
Raw walnuts — for smoothies. They’re a good source of omega 3 fatty acids (much more so raw than roasted).
Raw (well, steam pasteurized) almonds — for making raw almond butter in our Blendtec. Unfortunately it’s not easy to get completely raw almonds in the United States.
Pumpkin seeds — a good source of iron to that we usually add to smoothies. I meant to get raw, unsalted, but I messed up and got dry roasted and salted. I’ll try these in my smoothie, but figure out another use if the taste ruins it.
Strider’s Snack trail mix — this is my go-to snack most days. If I don’t have it around, I snack on mostly fruit, and miss out on all the benefits of nuts. The nuts here are raw (again, the almonds are steam pasteurized), but I don’t think the raisins are raw since there’s a little bit of oil in the ingredients. It took me a while to get used to snacking on raw, unsalted nuts, but the raisins really help me to enjoy it.
Ripe bananas — we go through so many bananas in my house it’s not funny (good thing they’re super cheap). In smoothies, with breakfasts, as snacks, as desserts. Ever since the Woodstock Fruit Festival last summer we’ve been buying them very ripe, often spotted, because apparently more of the starch has been converted to sugar and they’re easier to digest this way.
Dried chickpeas — for cooking in the crockpot and freezing in small batches. We use them in homemade hummus, on salads, and in any recipe that calls for chickpeas. I’m not against canned beans now and then, but have found that if we have the dried beans, we’ll make them ourselves, and I like that better.
Dried red lentils and coconut milk — ingredients for a meal-in-a-pinch. The coconut milk isn’t in the recipe I use, but sometimes I use it in place of some of the cooking water for a different flavor. I use either this recipe from Anjum Anand, or the adapted version with easier-to-find ingredients that I included in my book.
Almond meal, brown rice flour, and chickpea flour — for their standard breakfast, my kids eat (and freaking love) Heather Crosby’s Heck Yeah, Banana Pancakes from her book, Yum Universe. They’re gluten-free and vegan, so every few weeks my wife breaks out the griddle, makes a huge batch, and freezes them. Heather was kind enough to let me share the recipe, so I’ve included her recipe at the end of this post.
Ezekiel sprouted grain bread — now and then I’ll eat an almond butter sandwich on it, but mostly this is for my kids, who like that for lunch sometimes. Sprouted grain bread is more expensive than regular, of course, but with this and other foods that we eat pretty infrequently, I’m happy to splurge.
Almond milk (unsweetened) — entirely for my kids, who drink it like it’s their job.
GoodBelly — also for kids. My less-than-two-year-old daughter will drink her smoothie straight up, but my four-year-old son sometimes asks that we put a little juice in his. GoodBelly has added probiotics, but honestly that isn’t the reason we use it … our son just happens to like it.
Mountain Air Roasting coffee — Ethiopian coffee from my favorite local roaster. I make a single cup most mornings via a simple pourover method. (Sometimes I cut out coffee entirely for a month or so, but inevitably miss it and bring it back.)
Pisgah Pale Ale — to prevent me from killing my kids. Actually that’s a joke. The real reason is that I grew up in a state where grocery stores couldn’t sell alcohol, and now it’s physically impossible for me to complete a Whole Foods trip without buying a single. Pisgah is a local brewer who uses almost entirely organic ingredients, and if I had to choose just one beer, I’d say Pisgah Pale is the unofficial Beer of Asheville (western North Carolina, where I live).
Buchi kombucha — local kombucha from Asheville. Buchi is actually one of three local food makers (along with Roots hummes, see below, and Smiling Hara Tempeh) that Whole Foods made low-cost loans to when they opened their new store here. Buchi isn’t cheap, and it has a little more sugar than I’d like in kombucha, so I consider it a treat and don’t buy it often. But it’s delicious.
Roots oil-free hummus — my wife, kids, and I love this local-to-Asheville hummus. This is the oil-free version, but they also have all sorts of out-there flavors like Mango Sriracha and Thai Coconut Curry. They were very cool to my wife when she got a few bad containers of it once, so we’re fans for life. I saw Roots hummus in a San Diego Whole Foods too, so I think you can get it just about anywhere these days.
Maggie’s Conscious Vegan Cuisine (Lentils with Green Thai Curry) — this is the only item here that’s not (yet) a staple in my house. I saw it the other day when I needed a quick dinner and it was pretty good: for 12 bucks, we get three total meals out of it, and it requires almost no time or effort, so I’m trying all the varieties and will eventually stock a few for emergencies (though I must admit that’d be a pretty first-world emergency).
You might have noticed there aren’t many ingredients for actual, homemade dinners here — like I said, this was a stock-up trip for the foods that keep our routine running smoothly. Later in this series, I’ll share a few recipes for weeknight and low-cost meals. Patience …
More fun with habit automation!
If you can’t tell, I’m fascinated by the idea of “automating” healthy habits (see my intro to Doug’s recent guest post on tracking for an example).
What I mean, specifically, is answering the question “what can we do to make healthier choices, literally without having to think about it?” Because after all, willpower is finite. Use it with too many or too tough decisions, and you’ll inevitably crash and burn.
This is what I find most interesting about the wearable technology boom, then, and the reason I wrote yesterday that I’ve resolved not to be so anti-technology this year, is that simple awareness of your habit patterns can be enough to improve them — even with little or no conscious effort to do so.
For example, I’m testing out Garmin’s vívofit for this series. It’s the first time I’ve ever worn an activity tracker for more than a few hours, and I’ve noticed something unexpected:
Simply seeing the number of steps I’ve taken each day makes me want to take more.
To go a step further (got that, “step further”?), there’s an automatic step goal that’s presented to you each morning. Garmin computes it based on your previous behavior, and then tries to get you to improve just a little bit each day.
When I first read about this feature, I thought, “First of all, I don’t care how many steps I take each day. Next, I refuse to walk or run more just to achieve a goal that some mindless algorithm has set for me.”
Four days in, I’ve been proven wrong. The step goal is hands-down my favorite feature. Sometimes, rather than displaying my total steps for the day, I just leave the goal on the screen and watch it tick down. I want to beat that damn computer!
Similarly, there’s the sleep tracking side of things. The vívofit (and a lot of other devices like it) tracks movement while you sleep, and each morning I look at the report to see how I slept.
I can’t say I’ve made any changes as a result of the sleep data, but it’s interesting to me. And, with this idea of habit autopilot on the brain, I’m curious as to whether simply monitoring my sleep will cause me to sleep better.
Will I, consciously or unconsciouly, start winding down a little earlier, in hopes of seeing a better report in the morning? Skip the glass of wine or beer after dinner? Start to notice that certain behaviors (wearing my Ninja Turtle pajamas instead of plaid, spinning around in a circle three times before lying down, etc.) improve my sleep?
Only time will tell …
As Promised: Heck Yeah, Banana Pancakes from Yum Universe
These are the pancakes that my kids love so much and eat for breakfast most mornings. (They’re what the chickpea flour, almond flour, and brown rice flour above are used for.)
Recipe reprinted with permission from Yum Universe, by Heather Crosby, published by BenBella Books, Inc., 2014
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour (aka garbanzo flour)
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. Mash banana into a smooth paste, then whisk or blend together all wet ingredients until ultra-smooth. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk together.
3. Heat a skillet to medium-high and then add a dollop of oil. Using a ladle, pour batter into the hot pan. When the edges of the pancakes start to dry and the tops have bubbles, flip. Cook other side for 2-3 minutes and serve warm.