Plant-Based Protein


I’ve been struggling to figure out how to maintain my protein intake while continuing to reduce the amount of processed foods I eat. I recently realized that the most highly processed part of my diet is protein – from milk to ham.  In fact, I rarely eat other processed foods. So how can I keep cutting them out?

Many plants are significant sources of protein, and can easily be bought fresh and whole. In particular, nuts and avocados contain protein. However, I already maximize my nut and avocado intake daily; I eat about 30 nuts and a whole avocado each day! These also serve as my main fat sources.  Because I’m trying to cut down on processed foods, I’m not going to choose tofu, tempeh or plant-based milks. And I’ve found that my body functions best when I eat fewer grains. Another source of protein I’m already eating is dark greens like kale, collard greens and chards. I did want to mention, however, that those are also often high in protein content.

Legumes, which include beans, lentils and peas, seem to be the group of plants with the highest protein content that I don’t eat regularly. In particular, chickpeas [1] have more complete amino acid profiles than other legumes [2] so I will try to strengthen my body’s ability to break-down protein by including these particular legumes more often. I am going to buy raw legumes, then wash them thoroughly before cook them myself, thus avoiding potential chemicals from canning or other packaging processes.

Along with eating legumes regularly, I will also boost my dark green veggie intake because kale [3] and collard greens [4], for example, are also great sources of high-quality protein.

Plant-based protein seems to be the solution to my conundrum because I can’t afford to buy fresh fish and seafood daily, and it would be unpractical for me to buy a whole cow or pig. Poultry is also fed with corn and hormones these days, so I would also like to reduce its presence in my diet.  The milk, cheese and even egg whites I buy are pasteurized, yet I feel wasteful separating egg yolks if I’m consistently eating just the whites.  Studies have demonstrated that protein from animal byproducts are actually inferior to plant-based protein. [5] Granted, a vegan or vegetarian diet has been shown to be at least adequate, if not beneficial, for athletic performance, but this dietary choice is still often questioned. [6][7] Although I’m not a professional athlete, I do want to be taking good care of my body to be happy and healthy. Hopefully shifting away from processed meats and animal byproducts will help boost my health and vitality.

LA Marathon: Consistency and camaraderie

Photo credit: Michael Dorausch

Watching elite runners finish the LA Marathon, I was awed at how effortless their running looked after more than 26 miles. Once these very first runners completed the race, my husband and I waited for more marathoners because I had hoped to watch a close race to the finish – I had imagined that the runners would try to sprint and place at a higher rank. Instead, I saw competitors clapping and cheering each other on as they were passed.

Another aspect of the finish that surprised me was the variety of athletes completing the race simultaneously. Because of staggered start times, there were wheelchair competitors rolling in alongside the elite and even a man who had a prosthetic leg. This indirect competition also encouraged camaraderie toward the finish.

Running a marathon is not about the competition with others, it’s a personal challenge. People have different goals, and while for some it is about rankings, for most it’s simply about crossing the finish line (sometimes to support a cause). Still, others wish to finish within a specific time frame. While I knew people have varying goals, it nonetheless surprised me that many of the top athletes maintained their pace through the finish line instead of speeding up when it came into sight. Consistency was their key to getting through the first 25 miles, and they persisted on for the last mile as well.

I will also focus on maintaining good form throughout the triathlon I plan to compete in. Some people completing the LA Marathon had poor form, which made me think that perhaps they weren’t even nearing their potential for the race!

Once I had realized that we wouldn’t see a sprint to the finish between competitors, I gained further respect for these athletes. I thought about not only the grueling 26+ miles that they had to run during this race, but also all of the time and training they had done to compete at such a high level. Consistency at the finish line was just a sign of how committed they had to be throughout their race and the months of training they dedicated to achieve their LA Marathon goals. My goal for the triathlon I will compete in is to enjoy the course of the race and to be just as effortlessly strong at the finish line as the athletes I saw finishing the LA Marathon.


LA Marathon: Motivation for a Triathlon

LAMarathonlogoThis past weekend I watched the LA Marathon – first on TV and then in person by the finish line in Santa Monica. Seeing athletes complete the marathon, I noticed that most did not look as exhausted as I had expected them to look. I was watching the elite runners finishing first, but most of them had just run the course in a time to set new personal records. Why then didn’t they look spent?

I realized that training had well prepared these athletes for the marathon distance. I could also see the joy on many of their faces because they were doing something they love, and achieving their goals in crossing the finish line. It was incredibly motivational. So much so in fact that I have decided to compete in a race for the first time since high school.

I’m planning to do a sprint triathlon in about three months. The distances for the triathlon are about half a mile of swimming, 16 miles of biking and a 3.4 mile run. While I am confident that I could even now do all of these three events individually, the combination will be a challenge.

Planning out and maintaining a triathlon training schedule is now a fitness priority. I may not post daily blog entries when my training intensity peaks about a month before the event, but I definitely will write about my successes and challenges throughout the process.  For this I’m starting a new category, “triathlon challenge”, in which I will file this and all other related entries.

Also, I will be swimming and biking regularly now, and occasionally trying to test out my running abilities (don’t want to strain my knees!) If anyone has competitive experience in any of these disciplines, especially if you know about intervals and tapering, please let me know! I’d love to have your input as I develop my own regimen in the coming weeks.

Thanks in advance for your support!


Cooking Basics from a Professional

Hundreds of cookbooks, websites an magazines feature quick meal ideas, but the most important thing is to start with basic skills so you can evaluate a recipe, and have the knowledge to not only follow it, but adapt it to your needs, the ingredients at hand, the tools at your disposal, and the tastes of your family. Add seasonality and freshness, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Read new recipes through and then think them through before you start, making sure you understand them. After a while, you’ll find ways to modify your favorites to make them your own. Check to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and ingredients before you start.

Hone up on basic techniques

The first thing I teach my own students is how to hold a chef’s knife. Remember to hold your wrist straight, and hold the knife with thumb and first finger on either side of the blade, and the other three fingers curled around the handle and you’ll have better control. Here is a demo I found on Youtube from Chef Drew Tait.


The second thing to learn is how to cut an onion. Remember that the root end holds the whole thing together, so cut up to it, not through it. A lot of savory dishes start with a chopped onion. If you and your sharp knife can do that quickly and easily, you will have a quick start. Practice this basic technique until you are confident and you will become a better cook. Again, there lots of Youtube videos on the subject but there is a lot of misinformation out there and I could not find a perfect demo. Here’s the best (none are perfect!) video on how to cut an onion featuring Chef Curtis Stone. My only quibble: if you cut the stem end first, and stand the onion on that flat surface to cut in half, it’s safer than cutting through a round onion.

Choosing and maintaining knives

Keep your knives sharp, store your equipment logically so you can find it when you need it, and you’ll save a lot of time and work safer. Keep a sharpening steel in your knife block, and use it every day. There are numerous videos on how to do this. If you keep your knife steeled, it will keep its edge much longer.

If you don’t have a decent set of knives, go to one of the many cookery stores and get demos from the staff. Figure out what you like, what feels comfortable for you, and what you can afford. But start with knives that are sharp, and suited to the task at hand, and you will be a happier cook.

In my kitchen, because I have so many knives, I buy relatively inexpensive ones. The trade-off is that I need to sharpen more often, because they don’t hold their edge as well. Be sure to have high carbon steel, not stainless — it’s too hard to sharpen.

About Terry’s business: Paulding & Company

The Paulding & Company kitchen is located in Emeryville, California, one freeway exit from the Bay Bridge and is accessible by public transportation from San Francisco and the East Bay area. The 2400-square-foot, state-of-the-art kitchen and dining area was built in 2003 by Terry Paulding, as a combined teaching and catering facility. The kitchen is a warm, friendly, clean space that combines lots of room for group work and dining, with a professional catering kitchen set-up. Combining teaching and catering allows Terry to share her love of good food and her creativity in the kitchen with her students, her corporate team building clients, and her many catering clients.  For more about the company, click here.



Chocolate is a delicious, rich indulgence for me. I used to eat some dark chocolate every day, but then I cut it out when I began dieting and now I sometimes indulge. I might begin eating more chocolate, however, given the beneficial qualities of it that science is increasingly supporting. Also, I appreciate that chocolate has to have only two essential ingredients: cocoa beans and a sweetener (like cane sugar, for example) – and such chocolate is not super hard to find! For example, Nirvana Organic Belgian Chocolate is 72% cocoa and lists unsweetened chocolate, cane sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla powder as ingredients.

The Ugly

The main chocolate brands that are sold most extensively also contain a myriad of other ingredients in addition to cocoa beans that have a varying degree of negative health effects.  In particular, soy lecithin is often found in chocolate because it is used as an emulsifier that keeps ingredients shelf-stable for longer. This is a plant-based all-natural ingredient but also contains estrogen[1] and other properties that have led many people to avoid eating it. Personally, I am starting to try and not consume soy lecithin but it is also used as an emulsifier by one of my favorite tea brands, so it may be hard to transition away from it. 

The Bad

Chocolate is generally highly processed, especially because sugar and fat are both major components of this food. For example, although fat is a natural part of the cacao bean, it is often processed out and added back in a different form. Cocoa beans can be broken up into cocoa powder, which contains little fat and many beneficial components, and cocoa butter, which is fatty and does not contain as many beneficial components. Therefore, although most chocolate bars will contain cocoa powder, they may have a different fat ingredient like vegetable oil, for example.

The Good

Science is proving that cocoa beans are good for our health. Recent studies have not only found that it is helpful for our heart health[2] including lowering blood pressure[3] and improving insulin resistance[4] but also beneficial for our brains. Yet another study was publicized about how cocoa contains polyphenols, which enable our gut flora to flourish and enhance our digestive system.[5] Consequently, chocolate is a delicious and rich treat that will be less of a guilty pleasure for me going forward.

Myths about Body Fat

fat-suitBody fat is incredibly misunderstood; I am still struggling to fully comprehend how harmful it is when it accumulates in excess within our bodies. Most of my life, I believed that body fat is mostly what we see at the surface of and in the folds of our skin. I first learned about internal body fat through the Weight of the Nation documentary. More recently, I also heard about a new study that found that fat does not regulate our body temperature to the extent that was once believed. Myth #1: Body fat is mostly at the surface of our skin Body fat is not just what we see at the surface of our skin. Fat stores are actually accumulated throughout our entire bodies. This is what clogs people’s arteries, which in turn makes it harder for blood to circulate resulting in overdeveloped arterial muscles that are inefficient. The first installment of the Weight of the Nation documentary does a great job explaining the process and showing organs with excess fatty tissues, compared to normal organs. Myth #2: Body fat can help keep you warm Scientists used to believe that brown fat, a type of body fat, was entirely responsible for keeping us warm. However, this fatty tissue is now believed to play only a minor part in regulating our temperature. Our muscles are actually more beneficial to regulating body temperature. There are two ways in which

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science shows that our muscles regulate it. It’s not completely understood by scientists yet, but a recently discovered muscle protein called scarlopin is believed to help our bodies regulate temperature.[1] The other way that muscles help keep us warm is through shivering, which are contractions in our muscles that generate heat. Body fat slows down processes in our bodies. It percolates into all of our organs through our bloodstream, and will eventually cause serious health issues if it continues to accumulate. That said, even athletes have between 15 to 20% body fat so nobody will have none. But even the few positive things I used to think some extra body fat does for our bodies are turning out to be myths so its best to get active and burn off the excess.

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A Lazy Mood

one-arm-triceps-extension-arnoldExercising requires focus so that you maintain good form, which helps prevent injuries and boredom. However, to work out you don’t have to be in a certain mood; if you’re waiting until you’re in the mood to exercise then you will rarely get around to working out. A routine is essential to working out, and its easiest if you do it daily.[1]

Even once you’ve developed a routine, it is really hard to get motivated to exercise some days. Today in particular, I didn’t feel like exercising, and I don’t feel like writing this blog post. I’ve been drinking too much coffee, which has disrupted my sleep patterns and made me toss and turn last night. I even cancelled my early morning class in the middle of the night because I wanted to be able to sleep in as much as possible!

I didn’t enjoy my workout today, but I completed it nonetheless; I focused on keeping good form and simply trying to do all of the moves until I finished the workout. One thing at a time, just like I’m writing this post one word at a time; I’ve committed to doing both so I’m just doing it. I’m also feeling a lot more positive since working out. My mood lifted, and I’m looking forward to relaxing after writing this. I’m also done drinking caffeinated coffee for a few days so that I can sleep better. Sometimes I just get carried away with it because it tastes so good!

This is my process for working out, and it’s applicable in most areas of my life. If I have decided to do something I’ll follow through. I don’t have to enjoy the process at all parts, nor make everything perfect. Sometimes just getting through the day is hard, but that’s all right because there’s always something to look forward to. By sticking to my daily workouts I increasingly look forward to being healthy and happy, sometimes throughout them and other times shortly thereafter.

Diet Review: P90X Nutrition Guide


I started P90X workouts about a year ago on the condition that my husband and I would also follow the accompanying nutrition plan. I was not willing to devote time to daily workouts and risk not seeing results! Doing this diet in conjunction with the workouts was the smartest thing I did because it has helped me develop the skills necessary to eat healthy.

Similar to the workouts, the P90X nutritional guide leads you through calculating the daily portions of how much you should eat, based on your fitness goals and your physique. It also gives recommendations for healthy foods, and teaches basic skills of what to look for on food labels to control your daily consumption.

The nutritional guidelines shift through three phases that are about a month long each, matching the workout schedule. The transitions hinge on dietary component ratios. Recommended proportions go from a low carb, high protein diet during phase one to a balanced diet in phase two and finally to a high carb, low protein diet in phase 3; meanwhile fat intake remains at about 20% of your consumption throughout the program.

The reason that the nutrition plan works so well is that the phases align with how intensely you are physically able to do the workouts. At the beginning, you’re most focused on fat loss and muscle gain, so you boost the protein component of your diet. Toward the end you are expending a lot of energy during each workout; to maximize your stamina the diet incorporates more carbohydrates instead.

disciplineEating according to this diet was more challenging for me than the exercise component of P90X. Particularly during the first two weeks, my mind wanted me to put everything sugary in my mouth instead of the nuts or cheese I had to snack on. I often wanted to keep eating despite having finished my allotted portion for dinner-even though I was not hungry at any point!

Overall, I was only able to follow the P90X diet because the nutrition guide has basic instructions and because my husband was willing to help me stick to it by cooking healthier meals. I’m incredibly happy with the results of the program, which exceeded my goals more than threefold. Above all, however, my takeaway has been to learn much more about dieting and determine what foods and dietary proportions are best for me given my energy needs, which change from day to day. The P90X nutrition guide was one of my first stepping-stones to healthy eating because it provided a foundation with which to educate myself about nutrition.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast is my favorite meal of the day. For most of my life it consisted of sugary cereal with milk, until I found that it was the cause of daily migraines and reverted to experimenting with other foods or skipped breakfast until I decided on what I eat today.  I love egg whites and avocados, as well as vegetables and tea; these are my breakfast staples, which I eat most days.

While many studies have been done about breakfast and whether or not it is a good habit, I could not find a single scientific article that reported poorer health for people who ate breakfast compared to a control group. For example, a study that will soon be published in the Journal of Hypertension concluded that eating a larger breakfast reduced hypertension in subjects, as opposed to a larger dinner, which boosted blood pressure.[1] Several studies also claim that eating a regular breakfast contributing to good health is a myth, but they are also likely to be based on studies where subjects ate carbohydrate-rich breakfasts.

For many Americans, the typical breakfast is unhealthy. It’s often a multiple-course meal consisting mainly of sugary processed foods and beverages, like cereal, orange juice, flavored yogurt, toast and jam. This image of a typical breakfast is also often featured in the media, whether it’s in cereal commercials, fast-food advertisements or movies. This is what Wikipedia has as the image for an American breakfast:


This photo is mostly showing sweetened, highly processed foods that are high in saturated fat, as well as an entire avocado and a single egg. The proportions are all off! Meanwhile, studies have shown that what you eat for breakfast matters just as much as whether or not you eat breakfast.

A recent study showed that people feel more satiated and are less likely to eat a heavy lunch if they eat a protein-rich breakfast compared to a breakfast that contains more carbohydrates. [2] A protein-rich breakfast is still easy to make, you can even make it ahead of time.  Consequently, eating breakfast is a great way to kick-start your metabolism, establish a routine and be consistently healthy from day to day.

The Irony of Birthday Cake

birthday cake

While searching for an appropriate birthday card the other day, I had trouble finding one without birthday cake, cupcake or another food reference in or on it. I didn’t want to buy a food-related birthday card because it was for a co-worker that’s health-conscious. As I searched the card aisle, I realized that most people don’t even think twice about having cake for a birthday. I sure didn’t used to. In fact, I even ordered a cake for my wedding anniversary, a few months after having started P90X! At that point I knew how bad it was to eat cake, but it just seemed like cake was the appropriate way to celebrate.

The irony didn’t dawn on me until that day in the card aisle. Cake is made out of highly caloric and difficult to digest ingredients, primarily sugar and processed flour. Yet we eat it to celebrate milestones and achievements in our lives, instead of celebrating with healthy foods, like fresh organic vegetables and free-range organic-fed poultry, for example.

Why do we celebrate with birthday cake?

I actually could not find a reliable source that fully explained how cake became a celebratory tradition. However, based on the historical scarcity of sugar and flour, it makes sense to me that people who could afford a cake had it to celebrate their good fortune. Eventually, as these ingredients became more popular, everyone wanted to appear privileged and adopted this same tradition. Nowadays we probably eat more sugar in a few weeks than peasants in the middle ages did in during the course of an entire year.

Instead of cake, I might have a birthday salad this year!