Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Crystal Bernard - Her Recipes for Healthy Changes

Crystals four cute kids :-)

Today I'm not going to share a recipe for creating a meatlessly mouthwatering dish. Instead, with her permission, I am going to share with you an e-mail that I received the other day from my amazing cousin Crystal. It's her inspiring story of great steps she's made recently to improve the health and lives of herself, her family and in a way the community around her. You might say it's her recipes for healthy changes. As you read her story I know you will be inspired to make even more healthy changes in your life!

"Thank you so much Crystal for sending this and letting me share it with others."

(I would love to hear your stories as well you can email them to me at meatlesslymouthwatering@gmail.com )

Her email:

Hi Steve!  I hope all is well for you and your family! Sorry it took me a bit to get this to you.

First off, I wanted to let you know that I love your blog site.  I think it is fabulous that you could set that up and maintain it.  And the addition of the videos now is awesome.  I wish you the best with all of that and hope to see more. 

I know sometimes a big part of being able to stay motivated in making positive changes is seeing how you affect others and knowing you aren't chugging along alone.  So, I thought I would share with you what we are doing, health changes, and some (free) resources I have found.  You are welcome to share anything you choose to on your blog if you so desire, but I didn’t feel a need to post it myself : )

I am pretty positive my family will never be vegan or even fully vegetarian, but I am striving for the healthiest maintainable level that I can.  I have watched many documentaries on food.  Most of which I see on your site that you have also viewed.  They really had an impact on me.  First one I watched was Food Inc.  I recall seeing it soon after it was released on dvd, which was probably 2 or so years ago.  Since then I have been more selective about the foods I choose to buy.  I would only purchase beef products from a local market that sells locally raised beef.  Pork is very limited in our house and always has been but, other than the very occasional package of bacon, became something I would not buy on principal.  I also have not knowingly purchased any product by Tyson since then (found out recently that KFC and McDonalds purchase chicken from them, so they are now officially banned – not that we have been eating much fast food anyways).  I have yet to see Forks over Knives but all of the others you mention I have seen, plus I think a few more.  The one that impacted me the most was Earthlings.  I don’t regret watching it, because I needed to know the whole truth.  But, it is a show that I have a hard time recommending anyone watch.  Simply because it had a very emotional permanent influence on me and some of the images are just burned into my memory.  I think I cried thru most of the video and was beyond shocked at some of the things I saw.  The influence Satan has on this world is overwhelmingly evident when you take a closer look at how people treat Jehovah’s creations.  After viewing Earthlings my purchasing habits changed drastically.  I do NOT want to support a large industry that takes so much, and inflicts so much pain and suffering on helpless animals.

Ideally, I would like to be pescetarian, but have not yet been able to fully wean my family from a few meat/chicken products.  I am very selective in choosing fish that I serve so that I know it is sustainably raised or wild caught and humanely treated.  I only purchase eggs that are from free range chickens.  I do prefer to make from scratch whatever I can so I know what went into it.  For example, mayo and ranch dressing I generally make myself.  My family is very big on dairy products so I am still trying to find better alternatives to cheese, yogurt, and sour cream.  There is a local year-round farmers market that I recently found out about that sells free roaming grass feed beef among other things.  I can also get fresh/raw milk there and make my own sour cream and yogurt from it if needed.  The community we live in is a mixture of farming and city life.  There is a family run farm-store 5 minutes in one direction from my house, go the opposite direction for 5 minutes and you come to a Wal-mart Superstore.  I think the only thing that doesn’t grow around here is citrus and maybe a few things like avocados.  We even have apple orchards and berry farms that you can go pick your own fruit from.   We have a local companyhttp://www.brownboxorganics.com/ that does home delivery of local products. Many of their resources are within 1 hour of my house.  So really, after much research I have discovered the options I want are around.  I just have to find them all.  I believe that a large part of changing buying habits is about knowing what is really out there to choose from.

What I really wanted to tell you about is the changes we have made and progress towards a better life because of it.  In the past 3 months I believe I have only purchased 1 pound of hamburger.  I have purchased some free range chicken, but probably a 75% reduction of what I used to buy.  I do not buy lunch meat, hot dogs, or anything processed like that anymore.  This was a big change for us as having a turkey or bologna sandwich for lunch or grilled hot dogs for dinner was very much normal.  I have also made other healthy changes like limiting sugar and soda and rarely buying potato chips or processed snack foods at all.  My family is big on tacos so I found a store that sells TVP (textured vegetable protein) and I was able to substitute it in tacos instead of hamburger meat without them even noticing.   I have tried my hand at many vegetarian or vegan recipes and have had some success with getting my picky family to eat it.  Of course, some were total bombs too, lol. I even got my meat loving brother, dad, and mom to eat several of the meals with a good outcome.  I have tried a few of the vegan/vegetarian replacement options for cheese or lunch meat, but my family did not like them at all.  I started a garden late in the season last year, but have plans on expanding it and planting my little seedlings I started here in the next week or so.

We started juicing probably 6 months ago, soon after watching the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”.  My dad used to juice MANY years ago and he still had his old Juiceman juicer in the back of a cabinet so he dug it out for me when I inquired about it.  I started making an almost daily juice for Doug and myself.  I wanted to do a full 10 day juice fast, but I had no support with that idea so it didn’t happen.

Doug has central sleep apnea (diagnosed about a year ago) and has always had a problem with driving for longer than 15 minutes because he gets tired, particularly in the afternoon or evening.  About 11 years ago he even fell asleep at the wheel and got into an accident.   He now works at a job that is about a 45 minute commute from our home.  Many, many times he had to stop along the way home and either take a nap or get out of the car and stretch his legs to be more alert.  Now, he takes his juice with him to work in the mornings and either sips on it thru the afternoon or drinks it on the way home.  Since just a day or two of him starting doing this he has not had an issue with driving drowsiness as long as he is also getting his 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night! A huge improvement for him! 

I have had kidney stones, kidney infections, and bladder infections as a constant battle for 13 years.   For over three years I had not gone a day without kidney pain.  Some days, it was so painful that it was hard to even breathe… and I have a very high pain tolerance level.  My kidney malfunctions are starting to affect my adrenal glands (they sit on top of the kidneys) and causing other scary health issues.  I was already following recommendations to increase fluids, reduce caffeine and sugar, and take cranberry supplements.  These suggestions did not help much.  That was my main reason for starting to juice and reduce meat intake.  I have also had blood pressure issues over the years so keeping that down was a secondary goal.  Within a few weeks of juicing once a day I felt tons better.  Then after eliminating most meat products from my diet also, I felt even better.  I have yet to lose any weight from these changes (another goal) but I’m sure if I keep with it things will change.   Now, I have only occasional kidney pain and it is generally within hours of having caffeinated coffee or something else with caffeine.  The relief of not having constant kidney pain is wonderful.  Of course, I still have kidney stones as they can form and just sit in your kidneys for years, but I have hope that one day they will all be gone.  And I still have occasional infection issues, but they have become much fewer than before.

About three months ago, my dad had to have a physical for a certification he needed at work to operate the heavy equipment.  Without the certification, he can’t do his job.  His blood pressure was too high for the doctor to sign off on the health clearance.  I do not recall what the numbers were right now.  The doctor put him on a water pill and recommended that he lose 20 pounds.  Included in that recommendation was that he reduce the amount of red meat in his diet and increase his fruit/veggie intake.   That night, I gave my dad back his juicer and brought him a supply of veggies/fruits to get started asap. Then I ordered my own Breville juicer from Best Buy (I think I actually have the same one as you).  I also purchased a cheaper juicer at Walmart to get me by until the one I ordered came in.  My intent is to send the cheaper one to Abby so she can try out juicing without making a monetary commitment to a juicer if she doesn’t like it, but I keep forgetting to send it off.  My dad started juicing every morning and made significant changes to his meat intake.  He also started trying to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.   A few days shy of one month later he was back at the doctors’ office.  He had lost 16 pounds and his blood pressure was down enough for the doctor to sign off on his certification.  The doctor said he would like for my dad to lose another 20 pounds, and now he only has 7 more pounds to go.   My mother also made many changes with my dad. She has not told me how much weight she has lost, but it is obvious she is losing and has much more energy than she did before.

I know you like recipes so I wanted to share with you where I get some of mine.  I love the website veganbaking.net.  A few weeks ago I seem to remember you posting looking for a good pancake recipe.  There are lots on there that look fabulous.  Also, Michelle might really like the suggestions for egg replacers in recipes for baking.  They also have information on making your own vegan butter.  It is pretty simple to do and I think it tastes pretty good.  I also have a membership on sparkpeople.com (it’s free) and included with the many health trackers and such is a recipe section.  There are recipes from their own chefs and a lot of user submitted recipes.  There is a black bean quinoa recipe that I LOVE on the site, it’s a vegetarian recipe, but it could easily be adjusted to be vegan.  I also found a minestrone soup that is fabulous and a vegan version of eggplant parmesan that everyone loved.  Another resource I use is www.allrecipes.com. You can sign up for a paid membership with more perks, but I just have the free one and their database of user submitted recipes is really nice.  Some recipes may need to be adjusted, but it’s really a very good place to get new ideas to expand on.  On all of these sites I make a point to read thru the comments and suggestions of others as most of the time they are very helpful in making any adjustments that might be better.

Wow, I’m sorry this ended up being so very long!  I hope it was nice to hear about someone else’s ongoing journey   : )

Love to all!