An Interview with Hungry Foodography

i-NJFD is proud to have partnered with our friends at Hungry Foodography.  For two years in a row, Hungry Foodography has shared with us their mouth-watering portraits of food to inspire healthy eating worldwide.

Marko and Željka Dušak are the founders of Hungry Foodography.  This husband and wife photography team has mastered the art of food.  Their crisp, bright and moving images prompt an almost insatiable desire to eat healthy for 1 day and every day!    

Marko and Željka Dušak - founders of Hungry Foodography

Marko and Željka Dušak - founders of Hungry Foodography

 

Marko shared with us a little bit about how Hungry Foodography began and his thoughts about the i-NJFD initiative.

1) When did you start Hungry Foodography and why?

My wife, Željka, and I started Hungry Foodography in December 2014.  I enjoy eating food, and I know how to cook.  I also know how to identify good food when I see it.  I fell in love with photographing food, but developing the skill took some time.  I was a wedding photographer for over ten years, and I started taking photographs of food as a hobby.  Željka would prepare and arrange food, and I would take photos informally, not professionally.  Gradually, our hobby became Hungry Foodography.   

2) Your photographs feature food in all stages from its preparation to the time it is served.  The food is often raw, being cut, cooking, and plated.  You work in an amazing kitchen and own a unique collection of kitchen utensils and tools.  Talk to us about how you developed your studio.   

I came up with the idea of creating a vintage grandma’s kitchen to serve as a backdrop for the photographs. Željka and I spent time gathering the equipment we needed to achieve the look we were after.  We bought a vintage refrigerator and a stove through an ad, and had them varnished.  I found chairs, tables and kitchen cabinets at an old furniture store, and the owner had them redone to achieve the vintage look.  When I photograph a chef for an interview or event, I now have in my studio a beautiful vintage background and everything I need to accomplish a sharp, hunger inducing shot.

A few months ago, we hosted a cooking event in our studio.  We invited some of the best chefs in Croatia - specifically:  Gregorio Mannucci, Priska Thuring, Pero Savanovic, Kristijan Matijevic, Martin Karabajic, Sanja Sajko,and Villiam Gasparini.  We brought in fresh and healthy ingredients, and everyone had to cook something using only those ingredients.  Mostly they cooked Mediterranean dishes, which - as I explain below - is typical Croatian fare.  Having this amazing kitchen made an event like this possible.  To see photographs of this event, click here.    

Top Croatian chefs get cooking at Hungry Foodography's studio

Top Croatian chefs get cooking at Hungry Foodography's studio

3) How did you learn about photographing food?

First, I bought several books on food photography.  I had to learn about light set up and the art of arranging food in a beautiful way. I’m a big fan of the Chicago food photographer Stephen Hamilton, and his “Who’s Hungry” magazine became a great source of inspiration to me.  When I look at attractive photos of food, I always play with the lighting set up in the studio to try to achieve the same effect in my work.

4) For you, what has been the biggest challenge with photographing food? Also, what do you love most about it?

The biggest challenge for us is arranging the food – a good photo of a badly arranged dish won’t look delicious.  The process of getting an attractive photo of food that makes people hungry as soon as they see it requires patience, creativity, and preparation.   

Through my foodography, I tell the story behind the dish from start to finish.  I want food to be seen naked, in its raw state.  I then capture how it is prepared, seasoned, and cooked.  Finally, I feature how the food is arranged on the plate.  I love telling these stories and capturing the joy, hard work, and effort that go into preparing fresh food.   

5) What are your thoughts on “junk food” and food generally? Why do you support i-NJFD?

Junk food, to me, is food with artificial additives, such as packaged food that isn’t fresh.  Food at fast food restaurants, like burgers and fries, are also junk food.  To me, the same food is not junk if I prepare it fresh at my home.  When I cook at home, I buy quality matured beef or steak, I use plenty of organic vegetables and other ingredients, and vine olive oil.  I believe that the quality of the food we eat is important because eating meat that has been processed cheaply or inexpensive packaged foods are not nutritious or healthy.

Before I started photographing food I didn’t know much about vegetables or different cooking equipment - like cooper dishes, cast iron pots and grills.  Chefs that we have met have taught us many new recipes, made with vegetables and other healthy ingredients.  Through Hungry Foodography, we started eating healthier because we started preparing more vegetables and fresh ingredients at home.    

Food in Croatia is very important.  It is a tourist country with beautiful coasts and seas.  We are partially a Mediterranean country, so our food is also heavily influenced by the Mediterranean diet.  We eat plenty of fish, pasta and tomatoes, like nearby Italy.  We also eat truffles, mushrooms, and grilled meat, like burgers and steaks.  We usually use extra virgin olive oil and we like to drink good wine.  There are many famous wine makers in Croatia.  We also produce great prosciutto and goat cheese.

Hungry Foodography promotes healthy eating every day through photographs of fresh food.  I have been inspired to eat healthier through this work.  I believe that through i-NJFD, people from across the globe can learn from one another about what is healthy food.  Photographs especially can help communicate what foods are healthy  - we can break language barriers through food photography.  In this way, Hungry Foodography is part of this movement for healthy eating awareness across the globe.  

We are proud to support and promote the i-NJFD initiative to eat healthy on March 30 and beyond!

You can view Marko and Željka’s work at - www.hungryfoodography.com - click here to visit their website!

 

 

 

Heart Felt Messages to Myself, Mrs. Obama, and Back / Mensajes de Todo Corazón a Mi Misma, la Primera Dama, y su Respuesta

Heart Shaped Homemade Pizza on Valentine's Day

Heart Shaped Homemade Pizza on Valentine's Day

It's the last day of February and as the month in which we celebrate love and friendship comes to an end, I'd like to draw attention the importance of self-love.  

The practice of loving oneself requires courage, confidence, patience, forgiveness, strength, and a positive mindset.  At times, when people feel most down or emotionally unstable, they turn to food - maybe not even knowingly so.  

International No Junk Food Day celebrates healthy foods and healthy eating.  Yet, I only recently understood that the crux of my own personal battle with my fitness goals consisted in defining what foods were "healthy".  Were granola bars "healthy"?  Whole wheat bread? Homemade pizza (like the one featured above)?  How about key-lime flavored yogurt?  Surely heavy desserts (cake, brownies, etc.) were unhealthy, but what about all those other products I ate that claimed to be "healthy"?  I thought they were, and I was wrong.  I also thought that someone my frame and size needed to eat a 2000 calorie diet.  I was wrong about that too.

As a Hispanic/Latina, in my family, food is at the heart of everything -- celebrations, sorrows, chit-chats, and quick visits.  Everyone wants to feed you and you are pressured into eating it all!  In the last few years, I have learned that there is great value to loving yourself, and that includes feeding yourself the right foods; honoring your own limits; and creating your own personal balance - whatever that means for your body, heart, and energy.  All of that includes turning down food - no matter what people may think.  It sounds selfish but the self is at the root of self-love and it isn't a bad thing - it's actually a very good and important thing.    

I recently found a note I wrote to myself.  I believe I was approximately 22 years old - still in collage.  In the note I express frustration over the fact that I haven't reached the weight/fitness goals I had set for myself all my life up until that point.  I gave myself a now or never type of ultimatum.  I decided to carry the note with me everywhere I went so that I could be reminded of who I wanted to become, what I wanted to be, and how I wanted to feel in my own skin.  The note is torn and weathered, but when I rediscovered it, I realized that it had become a big part of me - a part that I would never forget.  

Vilma at 22 loved life, but she was also frustrated at the fact that she was failing at losing weight and becoming more fit.  She was hard on herself - expected more and better.  Little did she know at the time, though, that she had the drive, motivation and commitment she needed -- all that she really lacked was knowledge about food.  

After finding the note, I decided to write a letter to Michelle Obama.  

Below you will find the heart-felt message I wrote to myself years ago.  The message still prompts uncomfortable memories, but I share it because I know others can relate to that 22 year-old me and I want them to know they are not alone.  I also include the message I wrote to Mrs. Obama about i-NJFD on February 15, 2016, and the response I received from the White House on February 29, 2016.  

It's a lot for content for one blog post, I know - but tomorrow is March 1, which marks the first day of the month in which we celebrate International No Junk Food Day!  

Chef José Andrés is celebrating the day at his Beefsteak Veggies Restaurant in DC - let's hope other big names get on board.  Fundraising for a cause is in order!  

But just remember:  The love of others stems from the love of one's self first. 

A Letter of My Own 

Dear Vilma, 

Here goes - one of the last resorts I'll be taking in order to get me where I wanna be.  I know why I got like this, what I don't know is why I still AM like this. But, well, I'm doing this in order to try and ensure that I don't continue BEING this in the future - and I guess that at this point that's all that really matters. One thing I must definitely keep in mind is that I've had many accomplishments in the past.  Perhaps not all the way up to the standards I set - but they're good enough.  I must remember that this is just like any one of those things - it requires PATIENCE, HARD WORK and plenty of will power not to "give in."  Results then are certain.  

Reasons:  I want to feel lighter and  more confident, I want to look my best, I want to look at a picture and say "That's Me!" rather than "that's me?", I want to look good in my clothes, I want to buy small sizes and fit into anything, I want to get rid of and if not avoid getting anymore yucky marks on my body . . . I want to be healthy and athletic.  I don't want my own weight to weigh me down, I want to be muscular and strong and competitive even.  I want to feel good about myself and get into the habit of being in shape, trim, lean, muscular and powerful!  I want to know what it's like to be liked by other good looking people and know what it's like to not be embarrassed at having to go to the beach or do varying activities.  I want my body to give me the liberty and confidence I lack to do whatever I please because I know I am aesthetically pleasing.  I want to love myself and be proud of myself for having accomplished my goal and for becoming the person I long to be.  In all my dreams I picture myself thin.  I want those dreams to come true and to lead the life I wish for - but if to do that I have to look differently - then it's something I must do - NOW! 

[The End]

The note expresses a fitness dream deferred.  Reading it now, I realize that the experience taught me something even more important than what it takes to accomplish a fitness goal.  Four years ago I learned that my frustrated inability to lose weight stemmed from my own ignorance about food and not lack of competence, will, or dedication.  I didn't realize that sugar-loaded yogurts were turned quickly into fat whereas full vegetables took much longer to break down.  Armed with that information, I made different choices.  And the foods I chose to eat yielded awesome results - as referenced in my letter to Mrs. Obama.  When I commit to eating no junk food, I feel little to no desire to participate in eating the pizza, chips, popcorn and wine.  The focus of the day is eating no junk food.  After all, tomorrow is NJFD Tuesday! 

A Letter to Mrs. Obama 

February 15, 2016
Mrs. Michelle Obama
First Lady of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

VIA CERTIFIED U.S. MAIL AND EMAIL

Dear Mrs. Obama:

You have built impressive awareness on food and exercise through your “Let’s Move!” campaign.  By arming people with information about the benefits of healthier living, you have changed and saved lives.  The mission is as extraordinary, as it is important.  Extraordinary, because having a meaningful discussion about what we eat on a national platform is difficult.  Important because, through this initiative, you have touched the lives of children and families who now exercise more and eat healthier.  I admire your commitment to this cause. 

Last year, I asked my friends, family, and anyone who would listen, to celebrate International No Junk Food Day (NJFD) or, in Spanish, el Día Internacional de Comida Chatarra, on March 30.  I started NJFD to create healthy eating awareness on a bilingual platform.  My goal is to celebrate healthy eating, with no judgment or guilt about food.  NJFD is sensitive to personal food preferences, cultural traditions, financial means, and time constraints.  All barriers to healthy eating come down on NJFD.  Participants are free to define what is healthy (or healthier) to them, and every effort made is celebrated. 

I write to ask that you please become an Ambassador of NJFD.  To explain why I am asking for your support, I’d like to first share with you a little bit about me. 

Becoming Food Aware

As a child and adult, I wanted to lose weight, but always struggled, not knowing why.  I recently rediscovered a letter I wrote to myself in college (see www.nojunkfoodday.com/blog).  In it, I wondered why, after so many years, I wasn’t the fitter person I wanted to be.  I start my internal monologue in a defeated tone: “Well, here goes – one of the last resorts I’ll be taking in order to get me where I wanna be.”  To pick myself up, I next wrote:  “One thing I must definitely keep in mind is that I’ve had many accomplishments in the past.  […] I must remember that this is just like any one of those things – it requires PATIENCE, HARD WORK, and plenty of will power to not ‘give in’.  Results are then certain.” 

Even at 22, I struggled with feeling insecure because of my weight, and over imperfections on my body.  Most surprising and heartbreaking to me now is a reference in the letter about being “liked” by “good looking” people.  I didn’t actually care about that in college.  Looking back it’s clear that, for purposes of this harsh note, I harnessed inner child/teen experiences in which I felt afraid, embarrassed, insecure, or not “cool” for lack of confidence.  I firmly gave myself a now or never ultimatum, by concluding:  “In all my dreams I picture myself thin and I want those dreams to come true and to lead the life I wish for – but if to do that I have to look differently – then it’s something I must do – NOW!”  I said all of this knowing I felt very happy at the time of the writing.  But I was also frustrated, and young.  

A lot of emotion is packed into that private letter.  Despite all the years that have passed since, sharing it makes me feel vulnerable.  I welcome the discomfort now, though, because I know that many children and adults identify with what I wrote.  It pains me to think that, when it comes to body image and food, some people feel as I did at the start of my note:  defeated.  My relationship with food fortuitously evolved and, in the process, I learned that nothing wonderful in life depends on how much I weigh.  The decade following my poignant letter to me was full of adventure:  I swam in several oceans, fell in love, and created memories that were more wonderful than any I had ever imagined.  I enjoyed all of these things, not because of the number on a scale; rather, I was happy and loved ME.  Yet, I had a life goal, and I was angry at how unattainable it seemed.  But I didn’t lack motivation, desire, commitment or will power, as the note would lead me to believe.  Instead, what I needed was knowledge about food.     

Four years ago today, I attended a health/nutrition luncheon in Chicago.  I learned that our bodies process different types of foods differently.  I began to understand how critical it is for us to get the nutrients we need from fresh, whole foods.  The event sparked an interest in nutrition in me that led me to ask questions, read books, and eliminate processed foods from my daily diet. I lost over 30 pounds in that first year, and have kept them off since.  More importantly, however, food became less about superficial looks and more about how I felt.  I started paying attention to how the nutrients in the food would best serve my thinking brain, breathing skin, and moving body.  I now know that the more fiber, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats that I eat, the more full I will feel.  I learned to gauge what amounts of less healthy food is right for me.  The knowledge empowered me to change my eating habits, which changed my life.  I also started thinking about food in the context of my own Latino upbringing.  When it comes to learning how to balance food in life, Information is Power.  Even if just as a hobby, I wanted to talk about healthy eating on a bilingual platform.  The question for me was, how?

A Call to Action

I served as volunteer at the Partnership for American conference in Washington, D.C. on February 26, 2015.  It was an honor for me to shake your hand.  Your speech about the progress the “Let’s Move!” program has made truly inspired me.  At the time, I didn’t realize all that your words would move me to do. 

On March 3, 2015, while on a walk at lunchtime, I thought:  What if for 1 day, no one ate foods that are high in added sugar, salt and fat?  What a statement that would make!  I envisioned a true celebration of healthy foods that are fresh and sustainably grown.  My passions for food and cultures from around the world organically blended together that day to declare March 30 Int’l NJFD.  I searched online for a similar concept, and found National Junk Food Day (July 21).  Alarmed, I felt called to immediate action.  

In under one month, I created social media platforms, and built a website.  A friend of mine who teaches in a bilingual school taught a bilingual lesson on NJFD to her third-graders, and they loved it.  They became NJFD Ambassadors in their school, and drew posters to promote healthy eating.  I was impressed by the kids’ commitment to the cause!  Celebrity Chef José Andrés encouraged his followers to eat healthy for NJFD on Twitter.  On March 30, NJFD-ers went to Farragut Square at lunchtime to hand out free bananas and mini-flyers about NJFD.  Last summer, NJFD Ambassadors also photographed 60 plus days of meals that contained minimal to no added sugar to promote diabetes awareness in honor of lost loved ones. 

Healthy habits start with one day, and any effort made is worth celebrating.  My journey started on February 15, 2012, in an unlikely place:  the 61st floor of the Willis Tower.  I am a lawyer with limited bandwidth because my work has nothing to do with food.  My family and friends have been great pillars of support with every NJFD “like” or personal story that they share about healthy eating and food.  Their enthusiasm for this cause energizes me. 

I am determined to grow this event from last year, and have made some great progress.  Chef José Andrés, on Twitter, has already agreed to celebrate March 30 at his Beefsteak Veggies Restaurant.  Now that NJFD is in its second year, I want to see more people step out of their food comfort zones and push boundaries by trying a new dish, fruit or vegetable.  The best part about NJFD is there are many ways to celebrate:  make a home-cooked meal, eat mindfully as a family, drink more water, or simply eat/buy no (or less) “junk food”.  A snapshot of that effort, tagged #nojunkfood1day, creates a community by prompting others to do the same.

As First Lady, you have set a strong example and encouraged people to make healthier food choices for eight years. I believe in the positive campaign you built around eating whole foods and drinking water, and your speech influenced me to build NJFD.  I believe that a partnership between “Let’s Move!” and Int’l NJFD would make a perfect fit.  To that end, I am formally asking you to please support Int’l NJFD this year as an NJFD Ambassador or participant. 

I hope you join me in celebrating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and a great variety of healthy proteins for 1 day.  I include a few additional suggestions that would be helpful here:  (1) Name March 30 National No Junk Food Day and encourage people to celebrate it on March 30; (2) Spread the word about NJFD through press releases and on your social media platforms; (3) Encourage schools to teach a lesson about all the benefits of eating healthy foods on March 30 (or any 1 day); (4) Plan a “Let’s Move!” activity or fundraiser around healthy eating on March 30 (or thereabouts); (5) Share information about NJFD on the White House Garden’s blog and facebook page, or allow NJFD be a guest contributor; (6) Join me and Chef José Andrés at Beefsteak in Washington, D.C. to celebrate vegetables and healthy eating on NJFD; or (7) Any other ideas that create healthy eating awareness are welcome.

Thank you for all you do to create healthy eating awareness.  If you have questions about NJFD, please contact me at info@nojunkfood.com or (202) 697-6885.  I hope to work with you, if not this year, then in the future.  I’m looking forward to many NJFDs, so please know that you are welcome any time!

Yours truly,

Vilma T. Arce Stark

A Response to My Letter

My letter to FLOTUS was delivered on February 24, 2016.  

Today, I received the following response:

Let's Move! Mrs. Obama to promote March 30, the Second Annual Int'l No Junk Food Day!  #FirstLadyNJFD @FLOTUS

NJFD's Look Back to Jump Forward / Una Mirada hacia Atrás Lanza a NJFD al Futuro

A blog post is long overdue.  

             Typical "Fat Tuesday" foods featured in top row

             Typical "Fat Tuesday" foods featured in top row

Happy Mardi Gras!

Last I wrote was on National Dessert Day.  Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which means that No Junk Food Day Tuesday stood little chance this week.  In many countries, the day before the start of the Lenten season is celebrated by feasting on foods that are high in sugar, flour, fat - like pancakes, paczki (a polish jelly-filled doughnut), and king's cake.  But in addition to being Pancakes Day and Paczki Day, this year, Fat Tuesday also coincided with National Pizza Day and National Bagel Day, which both fall on February 9.  A perfect coincidence, no?  

No matter how you celebrate Fat Tuesday, it is possible to incorporate some healthy NJFD dishes in the celebration, as I did today. And although in some cultures this day is about confession and repentance, do not repent any of the foods you chose to eat ... especially when celebrating a holiday actually called "Fat" Tuesday.

Reflecting Back

No Junk Food Day was born almost one year ago, and now that I'm bringing back the blog with this post, I think it's worth reflecting a bit on what NJFD accomplished in 2015.

Early draft of a possible NJFD logo

Early draft of a possible NJFD logo

Rewind back to January 2015.  I had a flip phone.  Need I say more?  I was completely disconnected from the online world.  

In February 2015, I got an iPhone (hello world and, more importantly, bus and google maps apps).  I also volunteered at the Partnership for a Healthier America's Summit and met Michael Moss, author of Sugar Fat Salt, and Michelle Obama (well, I heard her speak and shook her hand - that counts as "meeting" - right?).  

In March 2015, I decided the world needed to celebrate healthy eating, even if just for 1 day. In my online search for a National No Junk Food Day, I found a National Junk Food Day, National Doughnut Day, Pancakes Day, Blondie Day, Apple Pie Day, Pizza Day, Bagel Day, Dessert Day, Nutella Day, and basically a day for every sweet and savory food that exists.  I felt called to immediate action.  I declared March 30 International No Junk Food Day, which incidentally, shares the date with National Turkey Neck Soup Day.  March 30 became the lucky date because it was the only day in March not already ascribed to celebrating an unhealthy food.         

Kids working on posters to celebrate and promote NJFD at their school

Kids working on posters to celebrate and promote NJFD at their school

I quickly mobilized in March to set up this website, an instagram account, facebook page, twitter account, etc.  In two weeks, I figured out how to use all these platforms and link them up, because I was new to ALL of them.  I'm still trying to figure much of that out!  I printed flyers and shared information about the day with friends and family, many of whom were very supportive of the effort.  At first blush it seems to me that not much has been done in NJFD's first year.  But actually, a lot happened last March and since then.  

In the week before March 30, NJFD created cartoon characters with the help of a talented artist and friend, and took them to a bilingual school in North Carolina, where a teacher (also friend) taught a whole bilingual lesson about healthy eating for No Junk Food Day.  The kids drew posters to promote the day in their school, and they knew to decipher between healthy and unhealthy foods.  There was real movement in NC on NJFD!! :)   A group of us also informed people of International NJFD by handing out bananas and flyers in Farragut Square in Washington, D.C.   

Buff Broccoli, created by Stephen Bolton for NJFD

Buff Broccoli, created by Stephen Bolton for NJFD

March 30 came and went - and it was great to see people react so positively to the idea of eating healthy foods for 1 day.  At the same time, some people reacted viscerally to the very thought of living without their comfort foods - even for just one day.  However, NJFD isn't just about deprivation - it's mostly about exploration and opening yourself up to new possibilities by trying new foods that are both delicious and healthy.  NJFD is also about reflecting on what foods are healthy/unhealthy to you, and comparing that with what is healthy/unhealthy to others - without imposing any judgment or unnecessarily labeling different approaches "right" or "wrong".     

In April 2015, I learned that my aunt, who suffered from diabetes, was terminally ill and we lost her in late July.  At that point, NJFD began promoting diabetes awareness and it inspired other people to join in that discussion as well.  

Postpartum nutrition box sent  to sis-in-law on behalf of NJFD 

Postpartum nutrition box sent  to sis-in-law on behalf of NJFD 

In June 2015, after learning a bit about the nutrients women need postpartum, NJFD created a box of treats filled with omega3s, fiber, folic acid, and other essential nutrients that support women bodies through breastfeeding.  The box was sent to the newest mother in our family.   

In September 2015, NJFD introduced NJFD Tuesdays, which serves as an opportunity to eat healthy and mindfully (at least) once in the week. Through its Instagram account, NJFD has served as a platform that talks about food.  There is a lot more work I would like to see NJFD do, and I look forward to working together with more like-minded people to draw attention to important food issues that affect all people worldwide.  

NJFD connected with great people in 2015, like photographer Marko Dušak, who generously shared his Hungry Foodography photographs to brighten NJFD's web pages, and chef José Andrés, who promoted NJFD 2015 on Twitter.  We have also been lucky to hear from many people who say they have changed their eating habits and felt great because of what they read on NJFD.  It is equally satisfying to hear people say that they enjoy the NJFD Instagram and Facebook posts, or have been inspired to change their regular eating habits because of them. 

Early draft of a possible NJFD poster

Early draft of a possible NJFD poster

And so, although it feels like not much has been done, in fact, attention has been drawn to healthy foods (even if just in a small and exclusive network of friends and family!).  However, the discussion isn't meant to point to an easy "fix" to health and food.  There is no such thing.  Different people have different needs and to me, it's important to keep in mind that, when it comes to food, not everyone has the same resources, access, or even personal preferences.  At the same time, we all stand a lot to gain from learning about food and trying something new.  Few things challenge your body and taste buds more than experiencing a new food or dish.  And the experience opens you up to more new foods, dishes, people, and experiences.  

2016 - New Year New Possibilities

The New Year has begun worldwide from east to west - Happy Chinese New Year (Feb 8)!!  The year of the monkey brought with it new foods in our household.  We tried Shanghai nian gao (a rice cake dish) for the first time, and it was fantastic.  But for purposes of NJFD, what would I like to see in this New Year? 

2016 Twitter exchange with Chef Jose Andres

2016 Twitter exchange with Chef Jose Andres

NJFD talked with Chef Jose Andres via Twitter and the plan this year is to host an event at his Beefsteak Veggies Restaurant on March 30 or thereabouts to celebrate NJFD.  I ate at the restaurant last week for the first time and I was super impressed by how well the food is prepared.  In fact, the food is so healthy that friends who joined me for lunch had to search for dessert elsewhere because the sweet options at Beefsteak consisted of fresh fruit and fruit juices.  No question that Beefsteak Veggies is the real healthy deal, and I'm really excited about partnering with them to celebrate NJFD this year! 

 

Other plans in the mix include - informing Michelle Obama about i-NJFD this year; launching videos about food/healthy eating; drawing more attention to worldwide, national and local food issues; fundraising for health/food related causes; and promoting NJFD in more schools.  There are infinite possibilities, and I look forward to making them happen.  If you are interested in helping me promote healthy eating awareness, please do not hesitate to contact me through info@nojunkfoodday.com --

NJFD Crew hands out bananas in Farragut Square to promote NJFD on March 30, 2015

NJFD Crew hands out bananas in Farragut Square to promote NJFD on March 30, 2015

I will sum up the beauty of NJFD in a few sentences here.  No matter the financial resources or limited time available to you, where there is knowledge, there is power.  We stand a lot to gain from embracing our cultural differences and personal preferences, while - at the same time - learning from one another and pushing our personal boundaries to try new dishes and foods, all within our own financial means and without judgment.  

Let's support, encourage, and empower each other to eat well in 2016 through NJFD!  

 

Redefining National Dessert Day / Otra Interpretación del Día Nacional de Postres

Image received in advertisement for Native Foods Café via e-mail. 

Image received in advertisement for Native Foods Café via e-mail. 

Today, October 14, is National Dessert Day. 

I had never heard of the holiday before, but I have to wonder: Why do we need to eat dessert to celebrate the existence of "desserts" at all?  Between birthdays, promotions, defeats, grades in school, farewells, welcomes, holidays, etc., we (and marketers!) spend all year coming up with excuses to "treat ourselves" by eating dessert. We don't really realize it, but fattening "occasional" "indulgences" make their way into our bodies at least once a week and likely more often than that. After all, who doesn't want to experience "a slice of heaven" every day?  

Even assuming we "need" to celebrate the very existence of a high calorie-fat-sugar "occasional" treat that makes us feel good and bad at the same time, why does National Dessert Day have to be in the season we eat the most sweets anyway? 

It's October and in a couple weeks we will be celebrating Halloween with tons of chocolate and candy.  Meanwhile, we are in the midst of celebrating the beautiful fall season with friends and food. 

Yours truly is hosting a pie/tart bake-off this weekend. Also going to an apple orchard to pick apples and freshly baked pumpkin and apple cider doughnuts.  Let's face it - this outing is more about the doughnuts than the apples or fall foliage, and we'll be using the apples to bake pie! We are getting plenty of "dessert" this weekend, and it's not even the holidays yet. 

I am participating in V's End of the Year Resolution Eating Game (#VSRES) this fall/holiday season, which marks my effort to "enjoy" food in a mindful way through the end of the year.  Because of all the sweet treats to come, I will NOT be participating in National Dessert Day. At least not with anything sugary or excessively fattening.

We don't need a dessert holiday, but now that it exists (thank you marketers), how about redefining how we celebrate it?  Ideally, we should use the opportunity to reflect on our relationship with dessert - what it means to us, why it makes us feel good, what types of desserts we love and what about them we enjoy.  But no one will do that.  Not even me.  And so I suggest eating healthy desserts instead. Have vegetables that are naturally sweet today, like kobacha squash and sweet potato. If you have never had a vegan, gluten-free, high protein dessert before - try one!  Notice how you feel.  A "slice of heaven" without the crash.

Happy National Dessert Day! 

     

 

V's End of the Year Resolution Eating Game (#VSRES) // Propósitos de Fin de Año del Comer de V (#VSRES)

 

End of the Year

October 2015. Already. The holidays are right around the corner. Meanwhile, the Fall brings with it bright colorful leaves, crisp air, as well as tons of Halloween candy and "pumpkin" muffins, scones, cakes, pie, coffee, creamer, doughnuts, candy, and just about everything you can imagine (some with questionable ingredients!).  See image on the left - it depicts what likely awaits you on those upcoming coffee breaks and holiday parties. 

A Resolution...

Over the weekend, I talked to a friend who told me she wanted to eat better from now through the end of the year. How brave! At this point in the year most people wait for January to change their diet.  After all, who wants to ruin the Fall and holiday season with food restrictions?   

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Erica Duncan, owner of the Business Alchemist, proposed playing an "End of the Year Resolution Game."  Set a goal or intention to accomplish in these last few months of the year.  

Thanks to these two lovely ladies, the NJFD #VSRES - or V's End of the Year Resolution Eating Game - is ON.

Eating (better) through the Holidays

Last week, I decided to commit to getting fitter over the next few months. At the same time, I too want to "enjoy" the holidays. By "enjoying" the holidays, I am not referring to singing carols with family and writing greeting cards. Unfortunately! (It could mean that, but - alas - for me, it doesn't). Of course, "enjoying" the holidays to me means that I want to eat and drink foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat. I want to do this and suffer none of the consequences. Not happening. 

#VSRES is about "enjoying" the holidays in moderation. You're invited to watch, and join me in the fun.  Everyone's goals may be different, but feeling accomplished by the end of the year, and a little less bloated and fatigued for eating healthier (even if just slightly), is what matters. Might as well get a head start on that New Year Diet Resolution!! Whoever feels the best by the end of the year WINS. 

Let the Game Begin!  

The image on the right features everything I ate today. I started the day with Ezekiel bread, almond butter, a little honey, and cocoa nibs (wasn't too hungry this morning). I had a couple mini-apples as snacks. Wish I had packed some additional sources of protein because by the time I got home I was hungry. Wound up munching on about 5 prunes. Had several cups of mint tea and water at work. 80-90 ounces of clean liquids is my ideal goal. Sipped on a little bit of wine at home - antioxidants! Would've preferred to drink more water. All the same, I wasn't too hungry for dinner, so I ate most of the greens and left part of the meat, beans, peppers as leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I'll share some of what I think about food in my posts. A vlog may be coming up next - the suggestion has been made more than once now.

Without question, the #VSRES game promises to be a challenge for me. Hoping my efforts help you reach your goals and navigate the holiday season with success!

(Spanish translation of this post to come)    

 

 

An Independence and International-NJFD Tuesday

September 15 marks the Independence Day of several countries in Latin America.  Last week the date fell on a Tuesday, and it will be several years before a NJFD Tuesday and this Independence Day coincide again.  The date also marked the last day of i-NJFDer Laura's journey through 31 days of eating no added sugar in honor of loved ones who suffered from diabetes complications.  I am sharing a portion of Laura's last post here because it beautifully sums up one of the reasons International No Junk Food Day is an international effort.    

September 15 - Laura's post of meals on Day 31 of her No Added Sugar Diabetes Awareness Tribute

I requested no cheese [at dinner] but the request never made it... so I scraped off the cheese and enjoyed my Pinto beans, and more importantly celebrated Mexican Independence Day! Viva! This post official concludes my 31 days of no added sugar in honor of family members that have passed away from diabetes. [....] Thanks to all of you who inquired, commented and supported my tribute. I have learned much along the way. I will continue to eat no sugar added for the most part, but I will enjoy sugar periodically and in moderation, as it should be. I will post every week to continue to provide tidbits of info, as I am a scientist. I have conducted research in the fields of cancer, diabetes, immunology, and basic mechanisms of gene regulation throughout my career, but it does not take a scientist to gather that minority populations are affected disproportionately by diseases like diabetes. My tribute is dedicated to my grandmother who died from diabetic complications when I was ten. She was born in Mexico City and came to the US, in the 50s and was an amazing cook. I hope she would approve of my tribute in efforts to raise diabetes awareness. Happy NJFD Tuesday!
— Laura

Because Laura is a scientist, her statement that it does not take a scientist to know that minority populations are disproportionately affected by diseases related to food truly struck a chord with me.  We rely on scientists for many things, and we should.  But what if, instead of eating what the studies, government, and food companies tell us to eat, we paid closer attention to how our bodies react to food when eating?   

In 2013, Mexico surpassed the U.S. in obesity levels, reportedly due to an increased consumption of processed snacks consumption and drinks.  For the many of us who do not eat "snacks" or sugary drinks, added sugar, fat, and salt in so-called "healthy" and other products that are either eaten alone or together with whole foods are also likely culprits of the epidemic in Mexico, the U.S., and all over the world.  According to U.S. News & World Report, "the number of overweight and obese people increased from 857 million in 1980 to 2.1 billion in 2013," representing "an increase of more than 145 percent."

Food that is fast and high in sugar, fat and salt is marketed to consumers all across the globe.  And many of us do not realize how these foods affect us.  Because knowledge is power, the purpose of International No Junk Food Day is to share information about food, and strategies for making healthy eating as easy and affordable as possible.  We are each responsible for discerning the mix of foods that serves our bodies best every day, yet many of us don't know what fiber is, why we get hungry, how ingredients affect our moods and bodies, and whether eating a nut bar full of a number of other ingredients is "healthy."  

International No Junk Food Day strives to draw attention to many of the health issues that are tethered to food.  In addition, part of its purpose is to learn about how people from a variety of cultures and traditions worldwide think about food and what they eat.  Efforts are also made to share substantive information about the nutrition certain foods offer.  At the very least, i-NJFD is available to you as a reason (or excuse) to eat well (i.e., more vegetables and whole foods than average, no junk) on one day or several in the year.  Let's continue inspiring each other to make time for enjoying traditional whole foods that are tasty, nutritious, filling, and made with love.     

Thank you to Laura for participating in the 31 day no added sugar diabetes awareness campaign and sharing her journey!  Senator Cory Booker has committed to continue eating added sugar free through the end of the year.  Anyone else up for joining?  How about just for one NJFD Tuesday?!  Healthy habits always start with one day. 

#31days in an Insta; 31 días en un Insta[nte]

To raise diabetes awareness, in memory of my aunt who passed away on July 15, 2015, and had the disease, I ate whole foods with no added sugar and photographed all the food I ate for 31 days, from July 16 through August 15. I tracked my food every day on Int'l No Junk Food Day's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.  

I have consolidated all the photos from the Tribute in this bilingual blog post. I have also included a list of all the foods I ate in the month - recorded here in one place.  All of the foods were purchased or eaten at farmer's markets, supermarkets, Costco, restaurants, drugstores, and the homes of friends. Healthy food is accessible - whether shopping at Walgreens or Wholefoods. 

Eating healthy requires food prep and some planning but you can see that the formula I maintained was the same: veggies mostly; filling proteins in snacks and meals; healthy fats; something sprouted; and one serving of fruit. 

The 31-day tribute came to an end, but making a community effort to create healthy eating awareness and learning about foods across cultures forges on.

Live simply. Be picky with food. And consciously do something each day that fuels and exercises your most valuable assets - the body and brain.

Be brave and challenge yourself to eat better with NJFD every once in a while throughout the year.  Your body might thank you for it!     

Happy Eating on this NJFD Tuesday and always!

Por 31 días - del 16 de julio al 15 de agosto - tomé fotos de todo lo que comí, evitando comidas con azucar agregada, para tomar conciencia de la diabetes en honor de mi tía quien tristamente falleció el 15 de julio de 2015.  Todas las fotos de lo que comí están en las páginas de Instagram, Facebook y Twitter del Día Internacional Sin Comida Chatarra.  

He juntado en ésta página bilingüe las fotos del Tributo demostrando lo que comí.  Incluyo también una lista de las comidas que comí en ese mes para conservarlo en un solo lugar. Todas las comidas fueron compradas o consumidas en las ferias del agricultor, supermercados, tiendas de compra por mayor (Costco), restaurantes, tiendas de farmacia, y los hogares de amistades. Comidas saludables son accesibles - sin imporar si hacen sus compras en tiendas como Walgreens o Wholefoods. 

Comer saludable requiere preparar la comida y un poco de planificación pero pueden ver que la fórmula que he utilizado es el mismo: vegetales en su mayoría; proteinas que llenan en los platos fuertes y meriendas; grasas saludables; granos germinados; y una porción de fruta.    

El tributo de 31 días ha terminado, pero sigue adelante el esfuerzo de concientizar comunidades sobre las comidas de diferentes culturas y el comer saludable. 

Viva sencillamente. Sea exigente con la comida. Y concientemente haga algo cada día que nutre y ejercita sus bienes más valiosos - cuerpo y cerebro. 

Se valiente y competa con si mismo a comer mejor con NJFD de vez en cuando al transcurso del año. Pueda ser que tu cuerpo te lo agradezca! 

Coma Felíz en este Martes NJFD y siempre! 

Days 1 - 4

Vegetables/Vegetales

  • Broccoli 
  • Eggplant 
  • Green onion
  • Spinach
  • Mixed greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Red cabbage 
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes 
  • Cucumber 
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Celery
  • Kabocha squash
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Various other squashes (tried new ones)
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sweet peppers 
  • Asparagus 
  • Red onions
  • Artichoke 
  • Sauerkraut
  • Salvadoran curtido (pickled cabbage mix)
  • Olives 
  • Green beans
  • Flor de Itabo
  • Other edible flowers
  • Fresh garlic
  • Brócoli 
  • Berenjena
  • Cebolla verde 
  • Espinacas
  • Lechugas mixtas
  • Acelga
  • Repollo colorado
  • Zanahoria  
  • Tomates
  • Pepino
  • Calabaza cabello de angel 
  • Apio
  • Calabaza Kabocha 
  • Calabacín
  • Calabaza amarilla
  • Variedad de calabazas (probé unas nuevas)
  • Maíz
  • Papas
  • Camote
  • Chile dulce 
  • Espárragos 
  • Cebolla morada
  • Alcachofa
  • Sauerkraut
  • Curtido salvadoreño
  • Aceitunas 
  • Vainicas
  • Flor de Itabo
  • Otras variedades de flores 
  • Ajo

Days 5 - 8

Fruit/Frutas

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Plantains
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Mangos
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Papaya
  • Dates
  • Avocado
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Blackberries

 

  • Manzanas
  • Bananos
  • Plátanos maduros
  • Duraznos
  • Peras
  • Mangos
  • Arándanos azul 
  • Frambuesas 
  • Cerezas
  • Papaya
  • Dátiles
  • Aguacates
  • Pasas
  • Uvas
  • Moras

Days 9 - 12

Dairy / Productos Lácteos

  • Plain Greek yogurt (mostly fat free)
  • Cheese for frying
  • Fresh mozzarella 
  • Various hard cheeses 
  • Various soft cheeses 
  • Cottage cheese 
  • Milk 
  • Butter (minimal use - mostly in cake baked)
  • Cream cheese (added only to cake baked) 

 

  • Yogur griego sin sabor o natural (sin grasa)
  • Queso para freír
  • Mozzarella fresco 
  • Variedad de quesos duros
  • Variedad de quesos suaves 
  • Queso cottage 
  • Leche
  • Mantequilla (utilizada en receta de pastel) 
  • Queso crema (sólo en receta de pastel)

Days 13 - 16

Meat / Carnes

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Local crab
  • Chicken
  • Wild salmon
  • Sardines
  • Turkey bacon
  • Bacon 
  • Turkey
  • Liver 
  • Pastrami
  • Jamón Serrano 

Days 17 - 20

  • Carne de res alimentado con pasto
  • Cangrejo local
  • Pollo
  • Salmón salvaje 
  • Sardinas
  • Tocino de pavo 
  • Tocino
  • Pavo
  • Higado
  • Pastrami 
  • Jamón Serrano

Grains and Legumes / Granos y Legumbres

  • Ezekiel bread
  • Freekah
  • Sprouted corn tortilla
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Pupusas (masa)
  • Popcorn
  • Black beans
  • Garbanzo beans

Days 21 - 24

 

  • Pan Ezekiel (hecho de granos germinados)
  • Freekah (grano antiguo) 
  • Tortillas de maíz (grano germinado)
  • Avena
  • Masa de pupusas
  • Palomitas de maíz 
  • Frijoles negros
  • Frijol de garbanzo 

Spices / Especias

  • Cinnamon 
  • Hot sauce (added sugar free)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Pepper 
  • Salt
  • Spice mix - no salt or sugar
  • Olive oil - for cooking
  • Grapeseed oil - for cooking
  • Coconut oil - for cooking 

Days 25 - 28

 

  • Canela
  • Salsa picante (sin azucar) 
  • Albahaca 
  • Oregano
  • Pimienta 
  • Sal
  • Especias mixtas - sin sal y azucar 
  • Aciete de oliva - para cocinar 
  • Aciete de pepitas de uva - para cocinar
  • Aciete de coco - para cocinar

Nuts and Seeds / Nueces y Semillas

  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Almond flour 
  • Flaxseeds 
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds 

Days 29 - 31

 

  • Nueces 
  • Marañones 
  • Almendras 
  • Maní
  • Mantequilla de maní
  • Mantequilla de almendra 
  • Harina de almendra 
  • Linaza
  • Semillas de chia 
  • Semillas de cáñamo
  • Semillas de calabaza 

Other / Otros

  • Champagne Brut Nature (zero added sugar)
  • Gin/Vodka - sometimes mixed, with minimal added sugar 
  • Coffee/teas - no added sugar or sweetener
  • Water
  • Honey 
  • Cocoa nibs

 

  • Champán Brut Natur (sin azucar agregado)
  • Gin/Vodka - a veces mixto, con poca azucar agregada
  • Café y te - sin azucar agregada y endulzante
  • Agua
  • Miel de abeja
  • Nibs de cocoa  

Tuesdays are now "No Junk Food Day"!

Photograph by Marko Dusak Spinaker of Hungry Foodography

Photograph by Marko Dusak Spinaker of Hungry Foodography

Birth of a New "Day"

The idea came about gradually. A walk in downtown Washington, D.C. at lunchtime made me realize that people eat junk food every single day. How great would it be if, for one day, we made eating healthy our focus - no matter how busy we are or how expensive we might think healthy food is. People who eat healthy every day could make an effort to eat a little healthier or perhaps try something new. Take time to savor a meal as a family together. Simply eliminate that daily soda beverage or drink additional glasses of water. Whatever effort made, would count. And because obesity and other diseases affect everyone around the world, the effort should be an international one.

Setting aside one day a year to celebrate eating healthy food and drinking water or unsweetened beverages sounded like a step in the right direction to me. I declared March 30 International No Junk Food Day. 

While celebrating healthy eating on 1 day is still a worthy cause, we eat food every day. Some people eat no meat on Mondays (Meatless Mondays), and others eat a vegan diet on Wednesdays (Vegan Wednesdays). Tuesday, September 1, 2015, became the first i-NJFD Tuesday.

What are the terms of NJFD Tuesdays? Eat/drink No Junk Food or eat/drink healthier. Examples include: eliminate processed foods, don't buy junk food, drink more water, prepare your own foods to avoid eating out, participate in community food outreach. The possibilities are endless.

Would love to hear your i-NJFD stories at: info@nojunkfoodday.com or on social media! (Twitter and Instagram: @nojunkfood1day) 

 

    

Nace un Nuevo "Día"

La idea se desarolló de modo gradual. Un día caminando por Washington, D.C. mientras la gente almorzaba me di cuenta que comemos comida chatarra todos los día. Increíble sería si por un día podriamos enfocarnos en comer comidas saludables - sin importar lo ocupados que estamos o lo caro que consideramos comer saludable es. Quienes comen saludable todos los días podrían ezforzarse en comer un poquito mas saludable aun o tal vez probar algo nuevo. Tomar el tiempo de savoriar una comida en familia. Eliminar las sodas que toman a diario o tomar unos vasos de agua adicionales. Cualquier esfuerzo contaría hacia la iniciativa. Y como la obesidad y demás enfermedades afectan a todos alrededor mundial, el esfuerzo sería internacional.

Apartando un día para celebrar el comer saludable y para tomar más agua o bebidas sin azucar agregada parecía ser al menos un paso hacia un objetivo importante. Declaré el 30 de marzo el Día Internacional Sin Comida Chatarra.

Considero que celebrar comidas saludables por 1 día una causa que vale la pena, pero comemos comida todos los días. Algunas personas en los EEUU no comen carne los Lunes, y otros comen una dieta vegana los Miércoles. El martes, 1 de setiembre de 2015 fue el primer Martes, Día Internacional Sin Comida Chatarra (i-NJFD Tuesday, en inglés o Martes NJFD).       

Cuáles son los términos de los Martes NJFD? No comer/tomar Comida Chatarra o comer/tomar comidas y bebidas que son más saludables. Ejemplos incluyen: eliminar comidas procesadas, no comprar comida chatarra, tomar más agua, preparar sus propias comidas para eviar comidas en restaurantes, apoyar proyectos comunitarios tratando el tema de comida. Las posibilidades son infinitas.  

Nos gustaría saber sus anéctodas de i-NJFD. Pueden escribir a: info@nojunkfoodday.com o por las redes socials! (Twitter y Instagram: @nojunkfood1day) 

Let Me Eat Cake!

Birthday Sugar Rush

Many people celebrate birthdays with cake. It's a fun tradition, but today we eat too many foods that rapidly shoot up sugar blood levels - prompting more hunger and cravings. We don't usually think about how sugar affects us. Some people simply get moody/tired or gain weight. At an alarming rate, however, pre-diabetes and diabetes are becoming commonplace.

To create diabetes awareness, and in honor of my aunt who recently passed away and had the disease, I decided to eat zero added sugar and no sweeteners for 31 days. I have been documenting and sharing my unsweetened journey on Facebook (Int’l No Junk Food Day) and Instagram (@nojunkfood1day).

In the middle of my sugar awareness campaign, my husband had a birthday! I thought about creating a raw alternative to the soft, super sweet, and spongy birthday cake. Watermelon cut into a torte-shape, topped with berries and some candles anyone?! Or better yet, shape a vegetable the same way? But then, wouldn't that work-around be just a little too easy?!   

I decided to bake my beloved husband a cake to celebrate his birthday. It was not, however, an ordinary cake. The cake was gluten-free. Though I wanted sweetness to come from fresh whole fruit, the recipe I used called for a less desirable sweetening agent. But wait - don't judge me yet! Eating cake proved to be anything but a derailment to my "zero added sugar" crusade.  I explain here why.    

Sugar in Baking

First things first. I am no expert cake baker. In my life, I have baked from scratch 1 cake prior to this one, and it had both gluten and tons of sugar. Fortunately, it occurred to me to ask a friend who bakes about the baking process. As it turns out, refined granular cane sugar does more than just sweeten cake. Sugar is a functional ingredient that creates volume, structure, browning, and moisture in cake-baking. Admittedly, these are all highly desirable qualities. Knowing that I would bump up my daily sugar quota, I didn’t want a flat cake.    

My husband picked one of several recipes I had gathered and, to my chagrin, he chose the one with the most sweetening ingredients. It also looked the best in the photos, I’ll give him that. I decided to give the birthday boy what he wanted - especially because what he really wanted was a conventional cake. And so, I took a close look at the ingredients.

The recipe called for the following sweeteners: 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar (granular form), 3/4 cup of chopped dates or raisins, and 1/2 cup of maple syrup for the frosting. 

Right away I spotted the ingredient that would preserve the integrity of the cake’s structure: coconut palm sugar. At first, I resisted using it. I had never heard of coconut palm sugar before. I researched it a bit to see if I could find any redeeming qualities. Some websites claimed it had a lower glycemic index (GI). I didn’t think GI would matter with a granular form of sugar. The American Diabetes Association seems to agree with me on that (see by clicking here). Others said it maintained more nutrients, and has less fructose than table sugar, which are desirable traits to some. I won’t get into glucose, sucrose and fructose here because none of that made much difference to me.  

This novice baker had no luck finding a more wholesome substitute that would create fluffy, tasty cake. What was a #noaddedsugar and #zerosweeteners girl to do? I chose compromise through balance, which compels me to share more thoughts about how I see the supposed "villain" of this story - dear sugar.  

Sugar in Food

A few years ago, I learned from a friend some information that has served me well since: 

Our bodies break down all food into sugar - eventually.  

The question, therefore, isn’t simply what contains sugar (of any sort). Rather, someone once advised me to eat foods that are nutrient dense and take the longest to break down (keep me full, cravings down).  

On my Tribute journey, I ate fruit (limited to 1 cup or less/day on most days), honey, and vegetables containing sugar that are nutrient dense (fresh beets, sweet potato, etc.).  I also continued eating gluten-free oats and Ezekiel bread.  These foods (minus the honey) are harder for the body to digest than ones comprised mostly of simple sugars. Once the stomach breaks down all food, however, it becomes sugar.  How much sugar our bodies use as energy, versus how much is stored as fat, varies by person based on their size, metabolism, weight, etc.  Warning: I'm no nutrition expert, but I have figured out that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to food.

If the body uses all broken down food (sugars) in more or less the same way, then I decided to account for the cake’s additional sugar to minimize its affect on my body (cravings, hunger, fatigue, etc.).  

Eating Cake and Finding Balance

In anticipation of eating cake, I created balance on my sweets-less journey in a couple of ways.  Please note, I’m a lawyer, not a doctor.  And I don’t have diabetes.  If you have diabetes, consult your doctor before playing with food on your own. I’m sharing what I did because it worked for me.  While some things may be true for everyone, others may differ.  As always.   

First, I strategically planned the one thing I control:  my food intake. I ate no fruit or Ezekiel bread the day before I baked the cake. On the day after eating cake, I ate some fruit, but no Ezekiel bread and less food overall. Why would this matter? Bodies process food all the time. We know it's best to eat balanced daily, but sometimes we don’t. Awareness of what foods I put in my body is helpful to me. I figure if I go over in one way, I can create balance in others. A little planning goes a long way.   

Second, I added less sweet ingredients to the cake I baked.  While I used the full 1/2 cup of granular coconut palm sugar for texture and structure, I used very little honey and only a few dates. Again, I’m no baker, and didn’t realize that the honey was a “liquid.” Result - I think I got less batter. Instead of baking two layers, I baked a single thick one - so I made it work! Hoping to try other substitutes later. For purposes of the birthday, however, the cake was a solid hit.

Ingredients in Batter Matter

Ingredients truly matter. Even when it comes to cake. My body’s reaction surprised me, so I want to share how I felt after eating my first piece of gluten and refined sugar free cake (and why I plan on making more healthier baked goods recipes like this one).    

I always manage to eat more than one slice of cake. We had this cake first thing in the morning (note: that’s generally a terrible idea). I was prepared to eat two slices and embarrassingly report that I was unable to resist the temptation.  

We ate the first slice. Loved it. I wanted more, but my body wouldn’t take more. Never before had I experienced this phenomenon with cake. I’ve always eaten more and more! Why? Cakes made out of refined wheat flours and cane sugar head straight to the bloodstream. Simply put, our bodies break down these ingredients quickly and then we crave more. I know nothing about the details of this, but I do know it's what happens to me when I normally eat cake!

The cake I baked was a carrot cake and proved filling because it was packed chock full of protein, fat and fiber. Almond flour (protein/fat), coconut oil (fat), carrots (fiber), shredded coconut (fiber), cream cheese (fat), butter (fat), walnuts (protein/fat) and bits of dates (fiber).  Low calorie this cake was not.  It was hearty, full of fat, and many calories. At the same time, unlike most conventional cakes, it was nutrient-dense and very filling. I experienced no cravings, brain fog or fatigue. And with all the balancing, the indulgence didn’t result in any weight gain last week. Very pleasing, indeed.               

Verdict

Some might consider this a cheat or fail. Setting aside all healthier options for birthday celebrations (see watermelon torte), the experience was invaluable to me. I learned about the function that granular sugar plays in baking, got creative with the recipe, and lowered the cake’s total sugar content without compromising its flavor or structure. In addition, to celebrate a birthday, I made room for added sugar by cutting other sugars that were already present in my diet. At the end of the day, isn’t this the very tension most of us struggle to manage? I feel no shame for creating balance on this special journey that “Let Me Eat Cake!”    

August 3 - Day 19: Cheers to Zero Added Sugar!

Eating Less Sugar Leads to New Discoveries and Flavors 

My NJFD mission to eat no added sugar for 31 days in honor of my aunt who had diabetes led me to do a little research on the added sugar in wines. Many alcoholic beverages have added sugar, which is why I have cut most out for now.  Through my search, I learned about Brut Nature sparkling wine, which has zero added sugar - other than the tiny amount needed for the grapes to ferment. Had to try it, but it is difficult to find.  After calling several liquor stores, we found one bottle, but it was very expensive.  Found a better price at a local restaurant and, even better, they take half-off the price of bottles on Mondays.  And so we splurged to try the brut nature. Verdict: It was fantastic!  Well worth the hunt. Noticeably less sweet to me (husband didn't notice the difference). I tasted a little natural dry sweetness from the grapes, which I enjoyed.  Brut nature champagnes and sparkling wines are hard to find in the U.S. because the assumption is we love our sweet sparkly.  Let's step out of that comfort zone and prove them wrong!

All the food I've eaten today is featured in the photo above.  Starting with breakfast, I had two scrambled eggs with fresh sweet peppers and a little coffee. Followed that immediately with toasted Ezekiel, almond butter, blueberries and a drizzle of honey.  Didn't get hungry until lunchtime, at which point I had salmon (a bit more than is featured in photo), mixed greens, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, beets, tomatoes.  After eating all that, I also ate a whole peach and walnuts.  I am certain that I could have done without half of the food I ate at lunch today. I was fairly full after all the salmon and veggies.  I suspect I was doing a little stress eating at the office today, but at least I was munching mindlessly on nutritious foods.  

At the restaurant, I asked the waiter to consult the chef to make sure nothing we ordered had added sugar in it.  I also strategically paired the potatoes with a little high quality meat, keeping in mind that foods with a high Glycemic Index (GI) take a little longer to break down when paired with fats and proteins.  I didn't eat full portions of the tapas pictured, but rather I shared these portions with my husband.  My favorite discovery of the evening was ending the meal with a smokey sweet corn, feta, peppers salad.  It made me realize that "dessert" can come in many forms, and it doesn't have to be a fruit or other sugary treat. Sweet vegetables, like corn and beets, in their natural state, can make great options for ending a rough day on a sweet note.

I did fairly well today staying within the no sweets and 1 serving of fruit parameters.  The sparkling wine probably took me a little out, but it was well worth the taste.  I drank a fair amount of pure water, plus 2 cups of mint tea.    

I am looking forward to sharing more of my daily meals with you, my blog subscribers!  

A Sugarless Kind of Life: Reflecting on my Tribute to Tía Half-Way Through; Viviendo Sin Azucar: Refleccionando sobre el Tributo de Tía a Medio Camino

Finding Purpose in Family

On July 15, 2015, my family abruptly lost my aunt and her health deteriorated in a violent and devastating way because she had diabetes.  

On July 16, 2015, one of my cousins posted an article on facebook about how to reduce sugar cravings.  I decided, what better way to raise diabetes awareness than to show that it is possible to live without sugar and foods that convert quickly into sugar?  And so my project began. 

For 31 days (from July 16 through August 15), I cut out sugar, sweets, sweeteners, and all but 1 serving of fruit.  I also eliminated other foods that are well known to convert into sugar more rapidly, like bread, flour products (pasta/crackers), grains, almost all packaged/processed foods (just to be safe). The list has grown some from when I first started. Overall, the goal has been to stick with real foods - vegetables, proteins, healthy fats. I made a few exceptions for Ezekiel sprouted bread (because it has a lower glycemic index (GI) and it is not made out of flours), sprouted corn tortillas, oatmeal, small amounts of honey.  I also decided to share every bit of food I eat, through photographs and a narrative, every day for 31 days. 

I am just over half way through my diabetes awareness campaign.  I can't remember ever adhering so strictly to the elimination of sweets before. No bite-sized square of dark chocolate, at least?  I have realized that losing Tía Ana and knowing that the disease caused her many complications gave me great resolve. Not only because of all she always meant to me, but because of everything that my entire family means to me. Many of my relatives have diabetes or are borderline diabetic. Some may not even know it. The disease runs in my and my husband's families, and while no one can say that changes in food habits solve all health problems, Type 2 diabetes is one that is directly correlated to food.  Not just the sugar in sweets, but in all foods. And not only sugar that's often added to foods (like peanut butter), but also foods that quickly convert to sugar - like most breads. 

Through this journey, I have learned a lot about diabetes and the way my own body processes food (I had previously learned a lot about this, but had never before paid as much attention to how my body felt along the way). Most important to me, however, is that I've invested the time into photographing and listing in writing every food I've eaten, and shared it publicly on Facebook and Instagram. The project has pushed me to share my personal life and food diary well beyond my comfort zone (I only joined Facebook earlier this year!), but I am very grateful for the interest that my family, friends, and others have expressed so far with every single "like" and comment.  In particular, I've enjoyed hearing some people say they have made changes based on the posts!  

I hope that by sharing all the food I eat in one day all can see that eating healthier doesn't have to be complicated, expensive, fancy, or terribly hard.  

For those of you not on social media - I will share a list of all the foods that I ate in the past two weeks soon.  I have also stressed on my project the importance of drinking lots of water daily, and what a difference that's made on me.  

Some might wonder:  why invest time on this issue? I've only recently come to fully appreciate food. It fuels our brains and bodies, and affects our thinking, feelings, and energy. Food, or lack thereof, can offer us a sense of security or insecurity; stability or instability; confidence, or fear. Because of all the warmth and love that food has represented to me over the years, I am grateful to honor Tia Ana and my entire family in this way.   

No doubt, I have much more to learn about food and society. But there is one thing I do know, and it applies no matter country, heritage, socio-economic class, religion, culture. Food is the stuff we are made of. And it matters.  

Encontrando Propósito en la Familia

El 15 de julio de 2015, de repente fallecio mi tia, y su salud desmejoro terriblemente porque tenia diabetes. 

El 16 de julio de 2015, una de mis primas compartio en facebook un articulo sobre como reducir los antojos por el azucar.  Decidi, que la mejor manera de concientizar sobre la diabetes seria vivir sin azucar y comidas que se convierten rapidamente en azucar.  Y asi empezo mi proyecto. 

Por 31 dias (del 16 de julio al 15 de agosto), elimine de mi dieta el azucar, los dulces, enduzantes, y me limite a comer 1 porcion de fruit por dia.  Tambien elimine comidas que se convierten en azucar de manera rapida - como el pan, productos de harina (pasta/galletas), granos (a pesar de que estos son saludables si se comen con cuidado), y casi toda comida procesada o empaquetada.  La lista ha crecido conforme he avanzando en el proyecto. Pero, la meta ha sido comer solo comidas sanas - vegetales, proteinas, grasas saludables. Si he comido un pan hecho de legumbres y granos germinados, tortillas de maiz germinado, avena, y pequenas cantidades de miel de abeja. Tambien decidi compartir toda la comida que como cada dia mediante fotografias y por escrito, todos los dias por 31 dias.

Voy por la mitad del camino en esta campana con el objetivo de concientizar sobre la diabetes.  Nunca me he dedicado tanto a la meta de eliminar el dulce de mi diete.  Ni siquiera un pedasito de chocolate oscuro? Me doy cuenta que la perdida de mi Tia Ana y sabiendo que la enfermedad le causo muchas complicaciones me ha dado mucha fortaleza. No solo por lo mucho que quise a mi tia, pero po lo mucho que quiero a mi familia entera. Muchos de mis familiares tienen diabetes o son pre-diabeticos. Algunos tal vez ni lo saben. La enfermedad se da en la familia mia y de mi esposo, y aunque los cambios de dieta no resuelven todos los problemas de salud, la diabetes Tipo 2 is una enfermedad que se correlaciona con la comida. No solo el azucar en dulces, pero en toda la comida.  Y no solo azucar anadido en comidas (como la mantequilla de mani), pero tambien la que se convierte en azucar en el cuerpo rapido, como el pan.  

Mediante esta aventura, he aprendido mucho sobre la diabetes y como mi propio cuerpo digiere la comida (yo habia aprendido algo de esto desde antes, pero nunca le habia presto atencion a como mi cuerpo se siente a diario).  Sobre todo lo demas, ademas, me he dedicado a escribir y fotografiar toda la comida que como diario y lo he compartido con el publico en Facebook y Instagram.  El proyecto me ha impulsado a compartir mi vida personal y la comida que como a diario a un punto que es hasta incomodo para mi (recien me afilie a Facebook este ano!), pero estoy muy agradecida por el interes que mi familia, amistades y otros han espresado con sus "likes" y comentarios. Mas que nada me fascina saber que algunos hasta han mejorado o al menos variado sus comidas por mis posts!  

Espero que al compartir lo que como a diario demuestre que comer saludable no tiene que ser complicado, carro, lujoso, o dificil.  

Para quienes no estan en las redes sociales, compartire mas sobre lo que comí estos ultimos dias. Tambien mediante este proyecto he mencionado la importancia de tomar mucha agua a diario, y el impacto que eso ha tenido en mi. 

Algunos tal vez se pregunten porque me interesa este tema? Hace poco empece apreciar la comida. Ella nutre nuestros cerebros y cuerpos, y afecta nuestros pensamientos, sentimientos y energia. La comida o falta de comida nos ofrece seguridad o inseguridad, estabilidad o inestabilidad, fuerza o temor. Por el calor y carino que la comida ha significado para mi, estoy agradecida de poder honorar a Tia Ana y toda mi familia en esta manera.  

Sin duda, tengo mucho que aprender sobre la comida y sociedad, pero si se una cosa que aplica sin importar el pais, cultura, clase, religion, patrimonio. La comida es lo que somos. E importa.  

 

**perdonen la falta de tildes y cualquier error ortografico porque no pude hacer correcciones.  

Tribute to Tía

On July 15, 2015, my family lost my aunt, Ana Arce de Arguedas.  She was always an active and strong woman, full of spirit, great humor and generosity - especial towards children.  She was diagnosed with diabetes years ago.  The treatment triggered other medical complications, which she valiantly fought until her body could resist no more. 

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 387 million people worldwide suffer from the disease.  In fact, diabetes is present on both sides of my own family tree.  In honor of Tía Ana, and to raise awareness about diabetes, I am making the promise to live an added sugar-free life.  Starting July 16, I am choosing to eat foods that have no added sugar through August 15, which will mark one month since my aunt's passing.  

I will share photos of what I eat - nothing fancy or manicured, just my daily food.  Perhaps I will even include stories of the sweets I decided against eating.  Or perhaps I will fall to a dessert temptation and have to pick myself back up.  My husband's birthday is August 5.  No doubt the cake celebration will require some creativity and lots of will power.  Most of you reading this know - I love sweets!  But more important than anything to me right now is raising awareness about a disease that most of us take for granted is treatable with medication. 

For those of you wondering, I will be eating fruit on my journey.  I anticipate, however, that the protein, fiber and healthy fats will keep me full and curb sugar cravings.  You will likely see me eat few grains, though I will eat gluten-free oatmeal, sprouted corn tortillas, and Ezekiel sprouted bread - all of which have between zero and 1 gram of sugar per serving. 

I am excited about celebrating food in this way.  I feel it's the perfect tribute to my aunt, an amazing cook who thoroughly enjoyed bringing the family together with food and lovingly prepared healthy salads and dishes with lots of fresh vegetables!  

If anyone wishes to join me for a day or more to raise awareness about diabetes in Tía Ana's honor, please do!  It's never too early or late to try living a tasty, happy, full life that craves less sugar.  So far so good....

El 15 de julio de 2015, mi tía, Ana Arce de Arguedas, falleció.  Ella siempre fue una mujer activa y fuerte, llena de espíritu, un gran sentido de humor y muy generosa - en especial le tenía mucho cariño a los niños.  Hace muchos años, padecía de diabetes.  El tratamiento le causó otras complicaciones médicas.  Luchó con todo hasta que su cuerpo no pudo más.   

Según la Federación Internacional de Diabetes, 387 millones de personas padecen de la infermedad.  Inclusive, la diabetes se ha manifestado en ambos lados de mi propia familia.  En honor de Tía Ana, y para tomar conciencia sobre la diabetes, estoy haciendo una promisa de vivir sin agregarle azucar a la comida.  A partir del 16 de julio, estoy comiendo comida en su estado natural, sin o con poca azucar, hasta el 15 de agosto, fecha que marca un mes desde el fallecimiento de mi tía.  

Compartiré fotos de lo que como.  Nada especial, simplemente lo que como a diario.  Tal vez hasta les contaré de las comidas dulces que decidí no comer.  O tal vez caiga a la tentación de un postre y tendré que empezar de nuevo.  El cumpleaños de mi esposo es el 5 de agosto.  Sin dudo tendré que inventarme algo para partir un pastel en su honor, y necesitaré mucha fuerza de voluntad.  Muchos de uds. saben - me encanta lo dulce!  Pero en este momento lo que más importa es concientizar sobre una enfermedad que muchos consideramos tratable con medicamentos. 

Para quienes deseen saber, comeré frutas en esta odisea.  SIn embargo, serán la proteina, fibra y grasas saludables que me mantendrán llena y sin ganas de comer dulce.  Seguro comeré pocos granos, pero sí pienso incluir en mi dieta avena sin gluten, tortillas de maíz germinado, y pan de granos y lentejas germinados - todos estos tienen entre 0 y 1 gramo de azucar por porción. 

Me emociona celebrar la comida de esta manera.  Siento que es el tributo perfecto para mi tía - a quien le encantaba juntar la familia con su comida y preparaba ensaladas y platillos saludables con muchos vegetales frescos!

Los invito a participar en esta promisa conmigo - por un día o más para concientizarnos sobre la diabetes en honor de mi tía.  Nunca es muy tarde o temprano para tratar de vivir una vida llena, feliz, y deliciosia que desea menos azucar.  De momento, voy bien...

food and feelings

Feelings and Finding Comfort in Food

Photo:  VTAS

Photo:  VTAS

Let's reflect on stress-eating.  

My friend, Erica Duncan, and I recently traded stories about this.  We had both recently received some upsetting news.  We both became immediately drawn to fattening foods (funny how that happens).  I allowed myself to succumb to my sudden urge to overeat unhealthy foods.  Erica resisted it and - instead - thought about her feelings.  I reacted impulsively without acknowledging what I was feeling.  She reflected on what was going on.  

I distinctly remember making an effort to resist cookies and doughnuts that day (yes - that was cookies AND doughnuts).  I wasn't even craving any of it.  My brain switched gears instantly when it became upset.  I plunged into the sweets like a hawk going for the kill without any thought to how my feelings had drastically changed my decision-making process.  Likewise, Erica became upset and started feeling that her worries would melt away in a buttery and flakey chocolate croissant and cafe con leche.  Instead of justifying some mindless eating (as I had done), Erica resisted the urge and directed her energy towards accepting her feelings.  

Accepting feelings.  Not acknowledging them or trying to understand them or making an effort to change them.  But accepting them.  Erica allowed her feelings to be what they were in that moment, without needing to make them vanish.  By allowing herself time to accept her feelings, Erica experienced them fully.  She didn't need the croissant to make the pain "go away" - she accomplished accepting the discomfort, through self-reflection.  I eventually made it to my own personal self-reflection, but it took me much longer and I'm still working off the consequences of those cookies and doughnuts!   

No one can be expected to eat or react perfectly all the time.  But I learned a lot through our experiences. There is a real connection between feelings and food.  All of us are uncomfortable with experiencing (or watching people we love experience) feelings that make us sad, unhappy, or angry.  We believe food makes it all better and relish in the illusion of bliss as we bite into [fill in with fave unhealthy food here that's likely crunchy, soft, salty, or sweet].  Ads also reinforce these perceptions by telling us that food is therapy.  Words like happy, love, warmth, joy, fun, and family are all associated with soda, cookies, candy, cake, fries, chips, and ice cream.        

How much less salt, fat, sugar would we consume in a day, week, month or year if we just let ourselves be the way we are?  What if we stop looking at food as the solution to a problem?  Try it next time you feel stressed, sad, or angry.  Instead of eating ice cream to feel better, acknowledge what you are feeling.  Sit with it. Reflect on it.  Feelings pass.  Situations change.  It's okay to just be.  

On June 12, Geneen Roth posted on facebook the following advice, which is right on point:

Ask yourself what eating from stress really means. What do you believe would happen if you allowed yourself to feel your feelings instead of avoid them or swallow them with food?

Where in your body are your feelings located? What color are they? What texture? What shape? If you don’t know, take a wild guess. Assume you’re innately sane, extraordinarily wise, and your job is to ask questions. You don’t have to manufacture answers. They have been there all the time, sleeping under the brown grocery bag of your broken heart, but you haven’t looked.

Every time you feel stuck, every time you think you know why you are doing something, but you can’t seem to make yourself do it differently, write a dialogue with yourself.

Be open to the outcome. Assume nothing. Be ready for anything. You will be constantly surprised.
— Geneen Roth

Maybe give Roth's method a try.  And if you must eat something, reach for raw vegetables instead!  Nutrient dense food has a better chance of making your brain and body actually be and feel physically better.    

Comfort foods aren't actually comforting at all, FYI.  I felt bloated and tired after my personal stress fest.  Let's not forget that it takes a while to recover too.  I'm definitely going to try to "make it all better" more thoughtfully next time.    

Int'l No Junk Food Day is TODAY!

Photograph by Marko Dušak of Hungry Foodography

Photograph by Marko Dušak of Hungry Foodography

The first annual International No Junk Food Day is today, March 30.  Participate in an international day that challenges you to think about food in a way that you don't normally.  Kick your every day unhealthy (and healthy) rituals. Instead of reaching for bag of chips, try snacking on fresh foods.  Drink more water, eat less foods in a box, cook a meal, or avoid buying "junk food" today.  If you eat healthy, try fresh foods you have never tried before or rarely eat (e.g., batata, sorrell, starfruit, buckwheat).  Any effort promises to have a positive affect on your body, mind, and perhaps even your mood.  Let's make an effort to create healthy eating awareness worldwide, and without judgment, because new foods push boundaries. 

We are handing out free bananas in Farragut Square, Washington D.C. at 12:45pm and available to talk about the effort.  Post photos of No Junk Food Day foods and hashtag them #nojunkfood1day 

Chef Jose Andrés supports Int'l No Junk Food Day and No Junk Food Day Challenge while at Farmer's Market in DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C.

Chef Jose Andrés supports Int'l No Junk Food Day and No Junk Food Day Challenge while at Farmer's Market in DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C.

THE CHALLENGE

Eat and buy NO Junk Food for 1 day (today!).  Healthy eaters are encouraged to accept the Ultimate Take 5 Challenge:  Eat only fresh vegetables, proteins, real grains, fruit, and water.  

Take photo of healthy foods you ate, glasses of water you drank, or foods you cut out of diet altogether because of No Junk Food Day.  Post them online with hashtag: #nojunkfood1day 

Those of you with b-days and events can still participate – you/family/friends may participate on March 31 instead, or just plan having one healthier meal or beverage, don’t buy junk food (however you define it) on March 30 - whatever you do, let’s do it together!

It’s just for one day? I can do that!
— Marina in Washington, D.C.

Are Professionals Up For The Challenge? Plus - 5 Quick and Dirty Tips to Stay Healthy Under Pressure

Photograph by Marko Duśak of Hungry Foodography

Photograph by Marko Duśak of Hungry Foodography

Achieving work-life balance is hard in any profession.  All professionals (business, government, non-profit, medical, academic, etc.) struggle with having enough time to "do it all."  

Long work hours make eating "right" (whatever that means) difficult.  Project deadlines, meetings, and doing whatever it takes to get ahead can take their toll on us.  Some office pantries are stocked with snacks that include chips and cookies.  Coffee, soda, and energy drinks seem like great options to the blurry-eyed. We slip on eating healthy foods while at work (and when doing work), but social hours offer no respite.

Professional meetings, happy hours, networking or other social events offer drinks, appetizers, and meals that are designed to tantalize senses and be enjoyed!  Mini brownies, cakes, savory pastries.  Who can resist an indulgence?   Most of us would agree that there is nothing wrong with eating these foods every once in a while.  But in the professional world, the opportunities to eat them come up more often than our own bodies can handle. And those opportunities are hard to resist.  But what if on one day we accept a challenge to eat healthy - would that make turning down unhealthy snacks or eating healthier meals a little easier?   

On March 30, professionals are called participate in the No Junk Food Day Challenge.  The term "junk food" is one that can mean just about anything.  People define "junk food" differently:  some look at the quality of ingredients, while others focus on sugar, fat, salt content.  Some people don't believe there is such a thing as "junk food."  Foods to them are simply less or more nutritious.  No matter how you define "junk food" or "healthy food", participating in No Junk Food Day is about making a healthy change in your diet (however large or small) on the same day.  No Junk Food Day is about creating a community that, on March 30, is a little more aware of what they put in their bodies.   

And remember - the No Junk Food Day Challenge isn't about eliminating rich, sweet and savory foods from your life altogether - just for 1 day.  If your birthday or other event falls on March 30 this year, you are welcome to take the challenge on the 29 or 31 instead.  You can also choose to make a one-meal modification, or drink much more water throughout the day.  Whatever you do, we hope you decide to participate!  Check out the Challenge Wall here, if you do.  

Quick and Dirty Healthy Eating Tips for Professionals

  1. Drink as much water as possible.  Hydrating keeps your body and brain healthy.
  2. Some salads have more fat and calories than sandwiches or other choices because of the dressing. Order dressing on the side and try to gradually use less and less of it. 
  3. Eating lots of vegetables, together with a protein (nuts, hard boiled eggs, etc.), can fill you up for a longer amount of time than most packaged snacks.  As in the work-world, efficiency is key.   
  4. If you know the food will be fantastic at an event, try to eat less bread, starches, sugars, fats, etc. over the course of the week or on that day.  Cutting out packaged snacks and sticking with fresh veggies and proteins that are prepared with less fat on most days is what we like to call "strategic planning."  
  5. Generally, try choosing quality over quantity. You may find you eat less when you spend more to buy quality food.   

Why No Junk Food Day?

Photography by Marko Dušak of Hungry Foodography

Photography by Marko Dušak of Hungry Foodography

You may be wondering - what's the point of "International No Junk Food Day"?   

In March 2014, USA Today reported that "Americans [had] spent $2.8 billion on candy [for Halloween in 2013] alone, [...] an annual $117 billion on fast food[,] [and that nearly] half of Americans drink soda daily."  In May 2014, the Daily Mail reported that a study of 1000 adults found that they each spent, on average, $1200 on fast food in one year.

Food companies and restaurants serve us what we want... and most are serving either "junk food" or foods that are high in calories, sugar, fat, and salt.  Can we spend 1 day eating fresher food that is healthier for our bodies and lower in sugar, fat and salt?  Can we spend 1 day without buying soda, candy, and chips?  

For many worldwide, going without so-called "junk food," or even changing the same "healthy" every day foods, poses a real challenge.  The foods we are used to are convenient and taste good.  What an accomplishment it would be to say:  YES, we can change our eating habits for 1 day.  In fact, can we imagine having 1 day when, in the U.S. and worldwide, the amount of money spent on fast and "junk" food is $0?  Now that would be amazing.   

More importantly, however, International No Junk Food Day is about creating healthy eating awareness. What is junk food to you?  What is healthy food?  How might your answer differ from or be similar to someone else's?  International No Junk Food Day is about learning from one another, and stepping out of our daily routines to try something new.  

Or you decide you don't want to learn anything new.  No Junk Food Day is what you want it to be. Perhaps it's just about cutting out that one "indulgence" you have every day and replacing it with a fruit or vegetable.  You make an effort to think about what you eat - but you don't do it alone. 

"National" holidays are about sharing an experience.  "International" days are about creating awareness. No Junk Food Day calls us, worldwide, to do both of those things: we accomplish one goal on one day together, while thinking about food in a way we don't normally.  How awesome is that?

International No Junk Food Day or "i-NJFD" is a worthwhile endeavor, but what about all the other concerns that may have crossed your mind?

"I like junk food and I am not going to give it up" -- i-NJFD is not about eliminating junk food from your diet altogether.  We all love our junk food, however we define it.

"I don't eat any junk food" -- If you believe that you don't eat any "junk food" that may be because you aren't defining the term broadly enough.  Remember, junk food doesn't have to be limited to soda, candy, and potato chips.  And if your diet is already limited to eating 5 fresh foods every day (water, protein, veggies, fruit, and real grains), then consider eating vegetables or a combination of foods you have never tried before. 

"One day? What kind of a "challenge" is that?!" -- If eating healthy for 1 day sounds easy to you, then hopefully you will be participating in i-NJFD on March 30!  Declaring an official "no junk food day" also offers you the opportunity to encourage and support others to eat healthier.  The experience should be an accessible and positive one - no judgment allowed.  Every effort counts.  Every change in the diet, no matter how small, is worth celebrating.       

Introducing No Junk Food Day

Photograph by Marko Dušuk of Hungry Foodography

Photograph by Marko Dušuk of Hungry Foodography

VILMA'S FACEBOOK POST ON MARCH 3, 2015

Erica Duncan, a friend and owner of the Business Alchemist, challenged me to do something outrageous today. I'd like to declare March 30 International No Junk Food Day.

As I walked outside around lunchtime today, I realized that stores and restaurants sell a lot of junk food. I thought it would be awesome if on one day stores and restaurants took junk food off their menus. But that's completely unrealistic! A little more realistically I thought: "wouldn't it be great if people committed to eat no junk food... not for 40 days... not for 30 days... not for 20... but just on ONE."

What is junk food? Create whatever rules you want! For me, it will mean eliminating all baked and boxed foods, as well as foods with added sugar, salt, and fat.

On February 26, I had the great pleasure of spending some time serving as volunteer at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit.  I heard First Lady Michelle Obama speak and was among the few who shook her hand!  

At the Summit, Michelle Obama said "gimme five" new healthy things to celebrate 5 years of the Let's Move program.  Do 5 push-ups, take the stairs, try 5 new recipes.  Well, on March 30, International No Junk Food Day, try sticking to 5 "real foods" all day: vegetables, proteins, grains, fruit and water.

I'd love for all of you, your friends, family, and everyone across the globe to join in. And if you eat zero junk food every day, then use this opportunity to create awareness and prompt others to join you. Health problems related to weight are a worldwide issue.  Food security (having access to fresh food and the financial means to buy food) is also a real struggle for people everywhere.  I think this has real potential to make a difference - even if for just 1 day.

I learned today that a "national day" exists for every baked good and unhealthy food you can imagine (from doughnuts to cheese-it thingies). There is even a National Junk Food Day, as if we don't get enough junk food throughout the year.  So let's launch International No Junk Food Day!! I can't do it alone though.... help me make this happen - at least among good friends.

I can't wait to hear all you accomplish on the ONE day in the whole year we commit to zero junk food.  And if your b-day falls on March 30, observe it on March 29 or 31 instead - I like to be realistic!!