Who could say no to a firefighter hugging vegetables?

Today is day 21 of the 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge and I can honestly say this experience has changed the way the Slaters eat for good. Not only that, but I currently have two other sets of friends officially starting their challenges this week and I’m sure there are many more considering it. Here’s a little break down of the week leading up to the challenge, and the weeks so far for those of you who are considering taking the challenge yourself:

Pre-challenge: I receive the email from Whole Foods inviting me to join a group of food bloggers in a month of healthy eating. I read it to Tony and we both scoff at the idea of going vegan again. We both spent plenty of time seeing hardcore bands in Krishna temples and did our time as starving, broke vegans. No thanks.

Then I think about how miserable I’ve been in my own body lately – sluggish, chubby – like I’ve lost control. I talk to Tony and tell him, “what the hell? If I hate it, I’ll quit. What will they do, send the Whole Foods police after me?” I agree to take the challenge, and bully myself into sticking to it by posting about it.

Week One: I go to the first Challenge meet up where I meet Rip Esselstyn and enjoy a surprisingly tasty and satisfying dinner from his book. After dinner we head to the movie theater where we all watch Forks Over Knives. (Truth be told, my friend Stacie and I sat through about 3 minutes of Water for Elephants before we realized we were in the wrong theater.) Eventually we find the right theater and watch the movie. Then I lose my mind.

If you live in the Midwest you know this ain't Photoshopped.

I come home and frantically throw away absolutely every junky thing in my kitchen. I swear off dairy, and I talk Tony’s ear off until well past our bedtime. Annoyed with me, he tells me he will eat one lone piece of cheese once a month if it means not being a vegan. I go to bed angry. The next day we talk again and I promise we are not going vegan. We are going Plant Strong. We don’t have to donate our Nike collections, we don’t have to say good bye to Ian’s pizza. We just have to eat more vegetables and whole grains. Try to cut dairy out of our daily diet and concentrate on eating nutritiously, not just conveniently.

That week we go to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and our local produce stand. We stock up on stuff for smoothies, veggies for the slow cooker, lots of greens, nutritional yeast, oats, quinoa, couscous, brown rice and beans. And so it begins.

Week Two: I take a class about cooking with greens. The next day I make Tony collard greens (with no oil) that are so good we start throwing kale, collards, turnip greens, etc into just about everything we cook. I start throwing spinach into my smoothies. By the end of the week we can honestly see that Tony has lost weight. After about 25 years of skateboarding and 5 or so years of his knees being to sore to do so, Tony’s knees feel good enough to skate again. We do a little research and discover that all the greens we’ve been eating are good for joint health. So much for “milk does a body good.”

Week Three: Tony’s knees feel so good I actually skip my class about cooking without oil so he can skate. Being a book nerd, I request the information from the class leaders and do some research of my own. (I also posted an info sheet on cooking without oil on the Bake and Destroy Facebook fan page.) Long story short, oils are OK in moderation, but they aren’t a whole food. When you use oil, you’re extracting the fats and the flavors but you’re leaving behind the fiber and all the nutrients found in the actual food. So whenever you can, you should try to add flavor with spices and whole foods. Use oils sparingly.


I find myself getting annoyed at this point with the things people say to me. After 12+ years of vegetarianism and on-again/off-again veganism, everyone has heard my snappy retort about elephants getting plenty of protein, and that it’s perverted to drink another animal’s milk. But people seem to be on a mission to warn me about not getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids if I don’t add oil to my food. Again I wonder why no one is shaking their fists at gorillas and warning them that they better put olive oil on those greens or they’ll suffer poor heart health. I also dig in and discover that it’s not so much that Americans aren’t getting enough Omega 3’s, but rather that we are getting too many Omega 6‘s. But rather than suggest that we precious Americans eat a healthier diet, thus cutting down on 6’s relative to 3’s, we add Omega 3 to anything and everything and call it a day.

Then Tony makes the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever had and I forget to be angry with anyone. This does, however, bring back some binging tendencies that I’ve been happily without throughout this experience. I find myself going overboard on everything I touch. Double helpings of mac n’ yeast, an apple in between every meal, and even if I’m not hungry, a bowl of coconut milk ice cream before bed. For the first time since starting the challenge, I feel guilty about eating again.

Week Four: (This week.) Tony and I did cheat once at Ian’s this week end (I was hanging up SugarSlam posters and they had mushroom penne pizza, what was I to do?) But we bounced back and not only had a healthy dinner that night – we even managed to have a healthy Memorial Day meal at my mom’s house. Tony made mac n’ yeast again and my entire family ate it. No one knew what it was, and everyone at every bite. I did tell them the truth afterwards because nutritional yeast makes your pee really yellow and I didn’t want them to freak out.

Tony started reading Meat is for Pussies over the week end and has officially surpassed me in the healthy eating department. I polished off the last of the coconut milk ice cream alone last night because John Joseph says you shouldn’t eat before bed. I’m still struggling with compulsive overeating, but overall I am feeling less disgusting that I was 21 days ago.

Which brings us to today…

Teno’s school turned one of the classrooms into a little coffee shop where the parents can buy a cup of coffee and a muffin when they drop their kids off in the morning and where the older kids (8th graders) can hang out after school. All the money goes to the school and it’s parent volunteer and student-run. Adorable, right? Although he hasn’t officially started yet, I did open my big mouth and volunteer to bake for the cafe every week so I’ve been sending over whole wheat muffins every Monday.

Since Monday was a holiday I made some apple muffins to bring by on Tuesday. I may have tried to pack too much into these, but I think I’m onto something. Here is the recipe as I made them, with notes on what I recommend doing differently, or what I will try next time.

You will need:

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup suar
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peeled, finely chopped green apples
  • 3/4 cup carrot-apple juice
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • (granola, chopped walnuts or brown sugar crumb to top, optional)

Notes: These are pretty “whole wheaty” – which is fine for Teno and me, but you might want to do half all-purpose and half whole wheat to lighten them up. I would also advice using soymilk (or ricemilk, or whatever you like) in place of juice. I think the juice added too much sugar to the recipe and made the muffins browner than I wanted them.

Then you:

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a muffin pan. (I don’t like to use paper liners for muffins, I like them to be nice and crunchy on all sides.) Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Toss in the apples and coat them with the flour mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients and stir just until mixed. I filled the cups all the way to the top for a nice, big muffin. Top the unbaked muffins with granola or whatever you’re adding on top (optional) and bake for 18-25 minute or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

LIke I said, I think the juice made mine brown a little too much, and my oven tends to run hot – I should have checked them earlier. Between the two, they aren’t very pretty, but they taste pretty good and will make a good breakfast on the go for the parents at Teno’s school.

If you want to follow my friends Justin and Bunny on their adventures in healthy eating, check them out here.