What we eat and what we cook

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, Health and Fitness, My Pregnancy

I’ve been asked to post our usual meals multiple times. There are quite a few reasons why it took me this long to get around to it, and why this post is far from what I imagined to be.

  1. Up until recently I hate food with all my soul ( thank you 1st trimester) and the prospect of thinking about food, let alone writing about it would send me into gagging spells.
  2. I hate photographing food. First of all, it’s BORING! Secondly, when I’m in the midst of my craziness where I try to cook, cut, saute, bake and prep 3 different meals at the time (multitasker+perfectionist=crazy person), the last thing I want to do is bring down my DSLR and attempt to get good photos of every step. NOT. GOING.TO.HAPPEN.
  3. Since I can’t get around to photographing food, I resort to quickly snapping some pictures with my iphone. And those photos offend my sense of beauty. Yuck!
  4. Most of the time, our meals are simply things I come up with or throw together out of whatever available vegetables/whole grains we have. So there are  no real recipes for what we do. We just come up with it on the go. I can remember only 1 or 2 occasions where I actually managed to PLAN for a meal (i.e. buy ingredients and actually make it before said ingredients went bad in our Florida humidity)
  5. If I didn’t take a picture, I don’t see the point in posting a recipe- how on earth would you know what you’re cooking.

That being said, I have put together a tiny example of SOME meals we’ve made that I managed to take a picture of.

Before pregnancy, I was a vegetarian who on occasion had smoked salmon (my weakness), almost no diary and eggs. So basically, I was almost a vegan. With pregnancy that had to change to make sure I get an adequate amount of protein, so I went back to drinking milk, eating cheese and eggs, and making an exception for 1 fish for its nutritional value and almost complete lack of dioxins and mercury (sardines). My husband is a vegan and has been that way since October 2010. So basically whenever we cook for both of us, it’s always vegan, and then I add whatever I need to for myself ( cheese, sardines,etc).

Just for the sake of full disclosure, I really think cheese is “evil” and I will be happy to drop it again once I don’t need as much protein, but for now, I need its evilness for the calories and protein punch.

THE ONLY 1 RULE I have while cooking is IT HAS TO BE HEALTHY AND MAKE SENSE NUTRITIONALLY. If I am cooking something relatively “empty” in nutrition, I always add extra vegetables or greens.

Let’s start with SPICY KALE STEW

I found the recipe on Epicurious a long time ago and we would make this stew ALL THE FREAKING TIME. It’s not bland at all and it goes great with rice or stand alone.

This was before I was pregnant, and since then we switched to cooking on stainless steel only. We bought this stainless steel cookware set to compliment what we already have. I really recommend it if you’re looking to switch from Teflon ( which can become very dangerous as it gets old) to stainless steel. It was on a huge sale on MYHABIT, so we managed to grab it for $275.

NEXT: Vegetarian/Vegan Lasagna

I couldn’t find  whole grain lasagna squares, but I wanted to try making a vegetarian lasagna, so I settled with traditional white lasagna. Also, I’d suggest getting pre-cooked ones, instead.
It’s really pretty easy- you can layer the lasagna with whatever your heart desires. I chose spinach and pesto for one stripe of lasagna; spinach, pesto and black beans for another  and finally choped and sauteed garlic and mushrooms for the third. You can read the recipe for a lasagna here and adjust it any way you’d like.


This recipe isn’t for everyone. If you’re squirmy about fish and smells, you might not enjoy cooking it. I find sardines are a tastier and much healthier version of tuna fish. So if you think of it that way, this will be a staple.
The recipe is here
This ROCKS as leftovers the next day! I always use any type of whole grain pasta I have at the house and this ends up being one of my go-to meals if I am lacking calories or nutrition for the day.
Sauce/Vegetable side.

This is one of these meals where I just throw a bunch of things together and hope they stick. This one stuck!
Almost all our meals start with garlic, sauteed until it’s fragrant. Aside from the fact that garlic is good for you, it flavors vegetarian meals to a point where even an omnivore won’t miss meat.  It takes vegetables and pasta from bland to super tasty.

So we saute garlic in hot oil for about 2 minutes, then add chopped tomatoes and cook on low heat, preferably covered to contain the moisture in. I usually add whatever nutritious greens I can find in the fridge, like spinach, kale , collard greens. In this case it’s chopped spinach, since cooked spinach (and tomatoes for that matter) beats its uncooked counterpart in nutrition (read here).

After a bit of sauteing on low heat covered, until the mixture gets thickened, you add it to whatever it is you were making it for: whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans, etc.

Vegetable shrimp burrito
When I am really low on protein for the day and don’t want any more cheese or milk or eggs, I go to shrimp. I saute it really well in part oil, part water (you only need to get it to opaque, but since I am pregnant, I usually cook the shit out of it). So for this meal, I needed something fast. I had left overs from the mix of vegetables I made the other day (eggplant,mushrooms, tomatoes, olives), so I added them to the shrimp in a whole wheat tortilla, cut some scallions for taste. And done.
Some other miscellaneous stuff:
Vegetable kabobs
Roasted potatoes with dill and olive oil {when i am too lazy to think of anything, this is the easier meal ever and super tasty}
A mix of everything on the planet {this would probably represents all the nutrition a person needs}: Whole grain couscous, black and kidney beans sauteed with tomatoes, roasted potatoes, pickles, sauteed zucchini, spinach and mushrooms, whole grain tortilla chips and green olives. A great example of throwing things together.
And a ton of salads of course

I love my ceasar salads. I make my own dressing ( Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, organic mayo, garlic and anchovies )
This salad saved my buck when I was sick. It’s nothing more than cucumbers and tomatoes in canola oil with salt. But it’s so fresh that it was the only thing I could eat without gagging.
Romaine, cherry tomatoes, green olives, dill and garlic dressing.
Another smorgasbord of things: cucumbers, avocado, olives, tomatoes, canola oil.
We always have a salad for lunch, so I just throw together whatever is in the refrigerator and is healthy.
Again, sorry for such horrible pictures and see you on Thursday or Friday for the 21st week update.


Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, EVERYTHING ELSE, GET FIT, HEALTH, PHOTO


1. If you haven’t yet, join the challenge here: GET FIT and GET HEALTHY
2. Every Saturday come back to The Art of Making a Baby and ShutterMama to read the tips on how to be fitter, healthier and more confident.
3. Weekly write a post about your progress, following the questionnaire below, take a self-portrait (optional) and link up with us.
4. Don’t forget to grab the GET FIT challenge button on the sidebar and display it proudly on your blog or GET FIT post.
5. Link your post with
Selfie Saturdays if you took your week’s self-portrait.


I’d like to share something I recently found out about nutrients of certain vegetables. I was always under the impression that if you cook vegetables, you basically effectively eliminating all the good nutrients and vitamins from them, so it’s best to eat msot vegetables raw or lightly sauteed. However, it turns out it’s not true for all the vegetables, actually quite the opposite for some of them.

Check out the nutrition breakdown:

Broccoli and spinach , if eaten raw your body will absorb less than 5% of the nutrition for which you are eating them . With the exception of lettuce all the green leafy veggies must be heated. This is the only way to release the vitamin E and the Iron for your body to get at it . If eaten raw your body will get neither of those and only a small portion of the flavonoids . The calcium can be retrieved without heating .
Tomatoes if eaten raw your body can only acquire the vitamin C . The main nutrition you eat a tomato for is the lycopene! This is the enzyme in the tomato that gives it the red color.”

So green leafy vegetables? HEAT! Kale, spinach, collard greens. have an amazing spicy kale stew recipe that I really need to share with you guys.

 My entry for week 15

1. Height: 5’11″, weight: 136 lb

2. Your fitness challenge(s) for this week: Special exercises designed for pregnancy to increase flexibility (daily) + Kegels (twice daily). An hour of walking/running + 20 situps every hour of the day 

3. Your health challenge(s) for this week: Continue eating whole grains, veggies and fruits only with a few servings of kefir and sardines daily (sardines are low in dioxins and mercury)

4. How well did it go:

  • Fitness: Did really good. I am feeling good and motivated, taking my time to do exercises rather than rush through them
  • Water: Drinking 64 oz a day
  • Food: I have this strange sweets aversion this week. I didn’t have ANYTHING sweet AT ALL. Eating really well otherwise: lots of beans, salads and vegetables with fruits.

5. Failures and slip-ups: Nothing really. I am very happy with this week6. Weekly challenge wisdom: Sometimes we get caught up and want to do things other than working out, but I found if you let yourself know that this hour is for exercising and that’s how it’s going to be, you take your time and actually enjoy it, rather than rush through it to be done for the day.

7. Advice to fellow GET FIT members
: Is your partner helping you and supporting you in your quest to be healthier and fitter? If not, you need to get him to be on the same page with you. it’s so much more fun to eat well and exercise when you don’t have to accomodate someone else in their eating or couch habits.

8. Self Portrait: This week Selfie challenge was  Collaborations. We were to hook up with one of our bloggy friends and do a photo together, even though we might be 3000 miles away from each other. Here’s what Teagan and I came up with. I think the tagline is really fitting :)



Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, EVERYTHING ELSE, GET FIT, HEALTH

1. If you haven’t yet, join the challenge here: GET FIT and GET HEALTHY
2. Every Saturday come back to The Art of Making a Baby and ShutterMama to read the tips on how to be fitter, healthier and more confident.
3. Weekly write a post about your progress, following the questionnaire below, take a self-portrait (optional) and link up with us.
4. Don’t forget to grab the GET FIT challenge button on the sidebar and display it proudly on your blog or GET FIT post.
5.  Link your post with
Selfie Saturdays if you took your week’s self-portrait.

Today i want to share with you some of tasty, fast and low calorie vegetarian and vegan recipes that I use  at home. Most of the time I come up with my own dishes utilizing anything that we have in our fridge and cupboards, because it’s faster that way, other times I’ll actually adopt a recipe, making a few modifications. {sorry for horrible iphone pictures}

1. Roasted Vegetables
My most favorite and easiest meal to make is roasted vegetables. What I love about it is how little thinking it requires and you can use any vegetables you have at home.
I usually use zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, yellow squash, baby potatoes and onion. All you have to do is cut a bunch of vegetables up into chunks, dice lots and lots of garlic, use 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 450F for about 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are done. Garlic is a very important part of the meal
The meal is easy to pack away for left overs and tastes GREAT the next day.  If you want to use it as a vegetable side for whole grain pasta or rice, or a meat dish, simply skip the potatoes.

 2. Chickpeas Salad

I came up with this one in a totally random way. We had nothing good left to eat and I needed to make something healthy quick. I pulled out romaine lettuce, canned chickpeas, hot pickles and a low cal garlic dressing.
YUM! It’s one of our favorite salads now! Has plenty of anti-inflammatory lettuce and chickpeas high in fiber and protein. Hot pickles are a mus since they add the spice to the salad.

3. Black Beans 

Again, one of those “throw together anything that you have” deal.
Saute onion in 1 tb of canola oil, add red/green pepper, 10 minutes later canned black beans (drained) and tomatoes. Saute for 5 minutes.  Salt and spice. You’re done. 

 My absolute favorite:

4. Tuscan Panzanella Salad

Super healthy, tasty and easy to make. Recipe here

I would like to encourage you to try out new things on your own. Be creative, mix things that you have for amazing new tastes. Stay healthy and low calories by choosing vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains in everything you make. Use canola oil for sauteing and salads, and olive oil for salads. Never overheat olive oil to the point of smoking. You’re making a good thing extremely harmful that way.

Finally, for some of you who are struggling with removing meats from your diet and those who have already gone meatless, here’s a post I wrote about MEAT  that might help you eat more vegetables and fruits rather than meat products.



Now, my entry for week 7

1.  Height: 5’11′, weight: 131. lb  

2. Your  fitness challenge(s) for this week:  30 minutes of pilates every other day + 30 minutes of cardio ( rollerblading, running, swimming or treadmill) every other day. Special exercises designed for pregnancy to increase flexibility (daily) + Kegels (twice daily). A total of about an hour of physical activity a day.

3. Your health challenge(s) for this week: My eating habits are close to perfect,  however I could improve on my water intake. My goal will be 8 glasses of water daily + continue eating the way I do now.

4. How well did it go:
  • Fitness: Oh yeah! I got my mojo back this week! I was concerned when for two weeks following my surgery I was far from doing well on the fitness challenge. This week I am back and LOVING it! How do we forget how awesome it feels to fulfill your exercise goals? It’s just the best feeling in the world!
  • Water: Ok, i was so focused on exercise and coming up with meals using whatever was left in the fridge, that I completely forgot about water. I still probably got around 6 glasses a day, but need to pay closer attention to that.
  • Food: This week I had to tap into creative cooking. Our fridge was nearly empty and my husband and I were both too busy/lazy to go grocery shopping. we did have our farmer guy deliver us veggies that we’ve been eating all week. The kind of meals I cooked up with seemingly nothing usable were honestly amazing! I’m very impressed with myself. Nutritious is of utmost importance to me, even more than exercise and I have to say it worked out great even with limited ingredients.
  • On a separate note, I’ve been trying to gain the weight I lost after the surgery, but I haven’t really been able to do that. I eat way too healthy to be gaining weight and I cannot increase the amount, because I simply can’t eat any more when I am full. I also refuse to eat unhealthy just to gain weight. I need to gain some weight, because when we start TTCing, I want to make sure I have enough body fat to conceive.
    I also haven’t been able to eat nuts which is both high in calories and healthy, due to my wisdom teeth surgery. If you have any suggestions as to what I could be eating to gain weight that is extremely  healthy, I’m all ears.

5. Failures and slip-ups: Most people would reach for easy foods or go to a restaurant or a fast food place when their fridge is empty, however i guess I am at the point where it is not an option for me. So even though I had plenty of excuses to fail on the nutrition front this week, I held strong. We did go to a restaurant on St Patty’s day only because we had a gift card burning a hole in our pocket, but we both chose extremely well (hummus, a side salad, a side of grilled mushrooms and a side of brown coconut jasmine rice). I also skipped my rollerblading yesterday because of lack of time, but I intend on making it up today.

6. Weekly challenge wisdom: After the rain, there’s always sun! If you really sucked this week, do better next week. Don’t just assume this is too hard and give up.

7. Advice to fellow GET FIT members
:  Cook more at home. Keep meal vegetarian or vegan if you’re trying to lose a lot of weight. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to maintain weight when you’re consistently eating mostly fruits and veggies.

8. Self Portrait: Model Eyes

Self Portrait


How meat is silently killing you!

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, EVERYTHING ELSE, HEALTH, Pre-CONCEPTION

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Before you make assumptions about what this post is regarding, let me tell you  this:
It is not about animal cruelty ( which is bad, but I prefer not to think about it as much as I can, because it upsets me).
Neither it is about me being vegetarian and trying to convert all you “sinners” to follow my way.
It also has nothing to do with religion, or politics.
All I want to talk about today is health. And weight loss. No, wait, weight loss deserves its own topic, but I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this post for why you should stop eating meat, besides the obvious- calories :) 
Meat is Murder, not because we have to hunt animals for food, but it is murder, because of how it Kills us!

I find it funny how when you tell people you’re vegetarian, the eyes start rolling. Like “OMG, one of those”. Actually, I think the same thing happens when people hear that you don’t drink coffee, or don’t consume alcohol. Instantly, it’s “Oh come on, live a little!”. When what you’re actually doing IS trying to make sure you live a LOT. Since when our healthy choices are laughed at and ridiculed.  How come when you say , “Oh no, I don’t smoke!”, no one goes “Weako!” or “Oh stop being so extreme!” Is it because it’s a widespread knowledge that smoking KILLS. But do you think that 50 years ago when the information was starting to come out that smoking is bad for you, when everyone and their mother puffed, people still accepted other people’s healthy choices ? I don’t think so. I think it’s human nature to disregard things until they’re up in their face and printed on the packaging “Smoking KILLS”. So until then, we, people who are CURRENTLY making healthy choices, are going to be given the stink eye and weird looks.
Now I am really not judging anyone. To be fairly honest, I DID THE EXACT SAME THING. A few years ago, whenever my husband and I would hear someone is vegetarian, we’d instantly roll our eyes and think “Weirdo! Now we have to modify what we make at home, while they’re visiting”. Yeah, I was there with you, meat eaters! Being annoyed at other people’s choices to be healthier. Now to be fair, I’m pretty sure some of those people’s choices were for religious reasons or “meat is murder” reason ( which is still annoying… hahaha… just kidding), but regardless of that, it was their choice and who were we to judge it. One thing I have to tell you is this: people who are vegetarians for the “right” reasons, will never make it inconvenient  for you. You don’t have to accommodate us. We will pick and choose what we eat and won’t make a big deal out of it. 

So before you decide to stop reading right there and go back to your meatloaf, do yourself a favor and hold your decision making until you actually know ALL the facts. One cannot say “I will never stop eating meat” unless they’re truly educated about what meat does to them. I did a lot of research on it and have felt all the positive effects of giving up meat products, such as clearer mind, weight loss, healthier body, better eating habits.

So if you don’t really eat meat, read up- you’ll be happy that you don’t and this will motivate you to continue being healthy.
If you do eat meat occasionally, but want a reason to make yourself stop, because you secretly know that it’s not good,  read up. It’ll convince you your feelings are right and give you an extra push to skip on that huge steak you just ordered.
Even if you’re a meat lover and don’t see any reasons whatsoever that you would willingly give up something as delicious as meat, read up anyways.   It never hurts to be educated about things you’re eating, even if you end up deciding to be ignorant about it ( in the nicest way possible). 

But until you have all your facts, you cannot make the right decision for you and your body. And that decision will be yours and will be respected. At least by me. 

So first,  I’d like to start with my own “meat” story to establish a baseline here. 

I was never CRAZY about meat. And when I say crazy, I mean I enjoyed meat (never steaks), I loved meat products: pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham, chicken- you name it. I remember going a whole year eating nothing but Meat Lover’s Pizza Hut pizzas and banana splits ( thank you my skinny genes { as opposed to skinny jeans} and my 18 year old metabolism for letting me live that one down). Yeah, I wasn’t always a perfect healthy  food angel {Read: FREAK}
If it didn’t have meat I didn’t feel like I was getting food, substance. It was like trying to satisfy a primal hunger with a piece of hard candy.
Time went by and I was bombarded by article upon article about how bad meat was  for you because of the cholesterol. In my perfectionist mind, I wanted to live forever, therefore I needed to ease up on meat. I don’t think it was a conscious decision though. I was still eating like shit, still loving pepperoni ( switched to Super Supreme pizza though), buying microwavable dinners full of breaded chicken and pasta, and sausage. But at least now I knew that for my husband eating that chunk of rare steak is bad bad bad. Eventually meat left our dinner plates for diet reasons, when I needed to go from size 2 to size 0 for modeling, since it has the most calories.
But it wasn’t until I started getting ready to get pregnant did I truly understand how evil meat can be. Having done  lots of research and read a lot of books on pregnancy nutrition and the harm that eating animal products can do to a little fetus, made me even a stronger believer in being a vegetarian ( or, better yet, vegan if you can possibly handle that). And I am here to share my knowledge with you, so that even if you continue eating meat, you will at least do so, fully armed with facts  and not out of ignorance. 

One more thing I’d like to mention: before you go on declaring something like:” I’d never be able to give up meat/cheese/milk/whatever! I love it too much”, give it a try. If the facts I present are compelling enough, don’t disregard them simply out of “weak will” expectations, but “attempt” to do something about it, even if you expect yourself to fail. 

Again, I am not here to convince anyone, but give fact and information, to share my journey and experience, along with medical studies and research that has been done. 

So here we go: 


Let’s start with the minor stuff. 

1. Saturated and Trans Fats

{ “I don’t want any vegetables, thank you. I paid for the cow to eat them for me” Doug Coupland  }

You’ve all heard it. Saturated fat is bad for you.  Everyone is well aware that saturated fat is bad for our cardiovascular system as well as our diet. Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood.  High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.  In addition to that, many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher.  The majority come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products.  Examples are fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard and cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.  These foods also contain dietary cholesterol.
Add to that the fact that most processed foods and baked goods are full of saturated fat due to current manufacturing processes and we have a nation that is inundatedwith saturated fat in their diets. We get up to 3 times more saturated fat that we should. All by itself in reasonable quantities saturated fat isn’t that bad. However, if you review your daily food intake, you will surely find more than the allowable 16 grams of saturated fat. 

Now, trans fat is even more dangerous than saturated fats, and it also occurs naturally in animal products as well as processed foods, with the majority of them found in commercial baked goods (pastries, biscuits, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, doughnuts and cookies) and fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, breaded chicken nuggets and breaded fish), snack foods (popcorn, crackers), and other foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, traditional vegetable shortening or stick margarine. 

There have been numerous studies linking these type of fats to heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol level. A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at the diet of more than 500,000 Americans over a span of 10 years. It found that (other things being equal), men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from heart disease and cancer, than those who consumed much less. The increased mortality risk from consuming higher levels of red meat ranged from 20 to 40 percent. Another one that followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years found that those who ate a Western-style diet high in red and processed meats, desserts, refined grains, and French fries had an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and death from other causes. 

Researchers suggest limiting hamburgers to once or twice a week, a small steak to every other day, and a hot dog to every 6 weeks. 

In the study, those participants who consumed larger amounts of fish and white-meat poultry, and those who consumed larger amounts of fruits and vegetables tended to live longer than those who did not. Poultry and fish contain lower amounts of saturated fat than red meat, and fish also contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. 

To reduce the “bad” fat intake, try eating less animal products, swap them for fat free diary and Omega 3 rich fish, more vegetables, beans and legumes and stay away from commercially processed foods. The best way to ensure this is to cook at home and eat as many fresh foods and possible. 

I know you’ll say “Hey, that means I can still eat meat as long as I limit it?”
Well, yes and no. There’s a lot more wrong with meat than just some saturated and trans fats. So read up. 

2. Digestion

{“Happiness: a good bank account, a good cook, and a good digestion”  Jean-Jacques Rousseau}  

I hear you saying “Ah! Who cares about digestion?”
YOU should! 

Your large intestine (colon) is the most important under-repped organ in your body. It is the first organ to be developed in the fetus. Because without a proper waste elimination system, we will be literally poisoned. If you eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and rarely any animal fat, your bowel movement should be perfect: fast easy and daily or more than once a day. For most people, however, who follow the standard American diet, the colon is the most toxic place in the body. 

Red meats on average take from 1 to 3 days to be completely digested and eliminated from the body. They take much longer to digest than other foods because of their high protein and fat content. When meat has been processed or ingested with other incompatible types of foods ( carbohydrates to be exact, which exactly what your average American eats: meat and potatoes), it takes up to 5 times longer to digest, because different types of foods require different digestive juices, which disrupts our whole digestive process, thus making it even longer. As a result, the partially digested meat start to petrify (spoil) right there inside of your body, going through the colon and releasing all the toxicity it holds. After years and years of eating this way, it starts to get very tough on our colon, thus giving us digestive problems in the older age. 

Wouldn’t you think that we are supposed to feel fresh and energized every time we have a meal, since food is a source of energy? You would think so. However, most people experience stomach pains, heartburn, gas, constipation, and extreme fatigue immediately after a large meal ( Thanksgiving anyone?). That occurs because digestions also happens to be the most energy sucking activity our body can do. It takes more energy to digest a meal than to run a marathon. And when we’ve treated our mouth like a garbage disposal putting into it anything that looks, smells or tastes good without any regard to its content, no wonder that we are ALWAYS exhausted after a big meal. Our body is struggling to digest all the fat and a mess of protein and carbs. The more we throw in there, the longer it takes to digest, the more it starts to spoil before we are able to eliminate it.
All this stress on our large intestines is bound to affect us somehow. Which brings me to: 

3. Colon Cancer

{You are full of shit!} 

Colon (large intestine) cancer  is the fourth most common form of cancer in the United States and the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. What? You didn’t think that all that disregard for our digestion and nutrition would  get us anywhere? I realize many of you have never heard of this type of cancer, or never knew anyone with it, but do you really think anyone would willingly admit they have COLON cancer? Come on! It’s much more prevalent than it seems. it’s one of those things that you don’t know about it until it hits you ( or your family).
many studies have been done that linked dietary and lifestyle habit, specifically red meat consumption, to developing colorectal cancer. 

In a study involved more than 140,000 men and women that was led by the American Cancer Society, researchers collected information about the participants’ eating habits over a ten-year period. When the study was over, the average age of participants was 63. In comparing red meat consumption to colorectal cancer incidence, researchers found that people who ate a lot of red meat were 30-40% more likely to develop cancer of the lower colon and rectum than people who didn’t eat much red meat.  However , lifestyle changes ( such as exercising, healthy diet)  could decrease the risk of colorectal cancer as much as 60-80%. 

4. Cancer ( in general)

{“The more you cook, the worse you look. The more you fry, the faster you’ll die”} 

Aside from a very high risk of colon cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research “red or processed meats are convincing or probable sources of some cancers.” Their report says evidence is convincing for a link between red meat, processed meat, and colorectal cancer, lung, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers. 

National Cancer Institute also points to a large number of studies that link red meat consumption with chronic diseases. 

The question is why? Why does red meat cause cancer? There’re several reasons, besides the ones I already mentioned above in the Colon Cancer and Digestion section. 

When meat is cooked or grilled, carcinogens can form on the surface. They’re called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). And processed meats like sausage or pepperoni usually contain nitrosamines, another known carcinogen.  Saturated fat has been linked to cancers of the colon and breast. Heme iron, the type of iron found in meat, may produce compounds that  can damage cells, leading to cancer. And the most importantly, in my opinion, high levels of dioxins ( read below). 

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that we limit cooked meat in our diets, while completely avoiding  any processed meat products, such as sausage, deli meats, ham, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages. If you do choose to eat meat, make sure not to overcook it and trim all the fat before cooking. Keep in mind that most frozen meat products, such a burger patties,  contain as much as 50% fat ( the guideline for lean meat is at most 5% fat)

It’s like they say “The more you cook, the worse you look. The more you fry, the faster you’ll die” 

5. Agricultural standards

(” You are what you eat and you are what what your food eats” )

Agriculture is a business like any other. Which means it operates based on a business motto:”Faster, Cheaper, Easier”. Cows are shot up with growth hormones (steroids) to make them grow faster and stronger. They are administered numerous antibiotics to keep them disease free  and living longer. As result, we have beef full of steroids and antibiotic resistant bacteria.
To add insult to an injury,  they’re being fed the most horrible disgusting stuff you could ever imagine: chopped up animal carcasses. Long gone are the days of cows serenely mooing at the pasture. These cows are stuck in modified cages and fed animal by-products ( meat, rather than grass) that their stomachs are not designed to digest. Cows are herbivores by nature, they’re made to eat grass. So when fed animal fat, they retain all the toxins, poison and diseases present in all their feed. And with  humans being at the top of the food chain, those toxic elements eventually end up in our body ( read above about colon cancer and digestion). And this is the kind of meat that ends up being sold in our grocery stores.

“What about grass fed cows, organic meat?” you might ask. So fine, take out the last paragraph about agricultural standards, however everything else still applies and it’s still pretty darn bad. Dioxins ( read below) are present in “organic” cows and do quite a lot of damage.

 6. Dioxins ( my favorite and most recent topic of research)

{If you’re a woman of childbearing age, this is of UTMOST importance to you}

Most people have heard about pesticides and other carcinogens, but very few people know what dioxins are, which is very strange, considering the omnipresence of these highly toxic substances.

Dioxins are considered to be some of the most toxic chemicals known to science and describe a group of elements that are a by-product of many manufacturing processes involving chlorine. In simple words, these are very dangerous carcinogens that are present in our environment and our bodies without the general public really knowing much about them.

Since dioxins are stored in fat of humans and animals and last virtually an eternity, they are everywhere: in our bodies, in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, in the oceans, on our grass and produce, in our bloodstream.
Our major sources of dioxin are in our diet. Since dioxin is fat-soluble, it bioaccumulates, climbing up the food chain. A North American eating a typical North American diet will receive 93% of their dioxin exposure from meat and dairy products (23% is from milk and dairy alone; the other large sources of exposure are beef, fish, pork, poultry and eggs). In simple words, it’s like this: dioxins “settle” on grass that is then fed to the cows, they accumulate in cows, that are then fed to humans, so we end up being the end carriers of all of the dioxins of the world. A worse scenario: cows being fed with animal by-products that are already full of dioxins-> we get triple  the dose of dioxins, which then stay with us for 7-10 years. The fattier the animal product, the more dioxins  it has. Even cows and animals who are WILD and GRASS FED have high levels of dioxins due to their exposure, especially in the Midland of America.

What about vegetable produce and grains? Didn’t you say dioxin “accumulates” there too? Yes and no! It can only be stored in FAT, so vegetables, fruits and grains don’t “store” it, they simply have it on the surface. Wash the produce well and you’re good to go. In EPA’s dioxin report, they refer to dioxin as hydrophobic (water-fearing) and lipophilic (fat-loving). So in the end dioxins will always end up on ( or more like, IN) top of the food chain, i.e. humans.

But that’s not the scariest thing!  Besides there not being a “safe” level of exposure to dioxins, their “half-life” is about 7 to 10 years, depending on the individual age and  levels of dioxins. That means once in our bodies, it takes about 7 years to get rid of them. What’s even scarier is that general US population already has them at or neat the level with adverse health effects. We all have it, and we all continually ingest it day after day. 

In addition to cancer, exposure to dioxin can also cause severe reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system and interfere with hormonal systems. Dioxin exposure has been linked to birth defects, inability to maintain pregnancy, decreased fertility, reduced sperm counts, endometriosis, diabetes, learning disabilities, immune system suppression, lung problems, skin disorders, lowered testosterone levels and much more. 

These effects are often hardly noticed and are attributed to other conditions and genetic problems. There’s no way to find out where weak immune systems, genetic abnormalities, cancers, learning disorders come from. And it’s even harder to pinpoint them to dioxin exposure, because it works under the radar.

However, developing fetuses and infants are most at risk from these effects.  This is because these chemicals “mimic” or “block” estrogen and progesterone, natural hormones which instruct the body on how it should develop. Hormones regulate how an unborn baby develops. If they’re disrupted, horrible things can happen. While our bodies might be big enough and strong enough to not see much damage from the level of dioxins in our systems, a little pea sized embryo will have it at a toxic level causing developmental disorders, genetic abnormalities( and thus miscarriages), diabetes at birth, hormonal disorders that lead to obesity and worse.  All humans get a first dose of their dioxins through the mother’s placenta, and then through breast milk if breastfed, making breast-feeding for non-vegan/vegetarian mothers quite hazardous. So if you’re a non-vegan female who is planning on having a kid in the next 7 years, you can be sure that baby will get a nice dose of dioxins through the placenta and then through the milk before it can even do its own damage by eating meat later in life. In just six months of breast feeding, a baby in the United States will, on average, consume the EPA’s maximum lifetime dose of dioxin. Breast milk contains high levels of fat. This means that dioxin levels in the bodies of newborn babies are already at levels that put them at risk of serious illness. “The amount of chemicals required to disrupt normal development could be as low as one part in a trillion, the equivalent of a single drop of liquid placed in the center car of a 10-kilometer long cargo train. Dioxins are also highly persistent in the environment and extremely resistant to chemical or physical breakdown.”

This was probably the biggest argument that made me reinforce my desire to not eat meat and had me stop eating most cheese and dairy products ( I still drink yogurt and kefir due to its positive effects on bacterial balance and digestion, and I eat certain types of fish that are low in mercury and dioxins, like sardines).

I have to say that  eating fatty fish is very beneficial to our health, benefits that are hard to achieve in a pill form. If you decide to eat fish for health benefits, just keep in mind that ocean fish has significantly lower levels of dioxins  than freshwater fish. So seeing as I am preparing for a pregnancy, I have allowed myself sardines for two reasons: Sardines do not eat other fish, but plankton, and they reside in the oceans, therefore their dioxin levels, as well as mercury levels are negligible compared to the healthy omega 3 fatty acids that they are full of.

If you’re eating the typical North American diet, this is where you are getting your dioxin from:

Dioxin Exposure Chart
Chart from EPA Dioxin Reassessment Summary 4/94 – Vol. 1, p. 37Now, I do know that our government is making”some” efforts to reduce the amount of dioxins in our country, it is obviously not enough. I think the most important thing is public awareness. If you want to eat meat so bad that you’re willing to risk years of your life and your baby’s health, at least it’s your decision. But people CAN NOT make those decisions without having all the facts and being educated on the matter. And articles titled “meat is bad because it raises your blood cholesterol level” obviously aren’t doing enough to make people want to stop eating animal products. Michael Jacobson, executive Director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, suggested that  food labels could include dioxin levels. That way maybe consumers would begin to eat less greasy fatty food if they were told how much dioxin was in each serving.

A final note on the dioxin topic: There’s no way to get rid of dioxins for men. They have to wait until dioxins break down in 7-10 years. Women have two ways to expel dioxins out of their systems: through the placenta and through breast milk, neither one is viable for obvious reasons. I would also imagine that you can somehow get rid of dioxins in your system through weight loss since they’re stored in fat, however the danger of that I’d imagine is the increased amount of dioxins in bloodstream that needs to be cleared out by your liver and kidneys. So if you’re losing weight and were a big meat eater, make sure you do everything to properly support your liver and kidney functions.

So with all that being said ( and I hope I haven’t lose you yet),

 is there ANYTHING GOOD about meat?

Well, red meat is high in iron, something many teenage girls and women in their childbearing years are lacking. The heme iron in red meat is easily absorbed by the body. Red meat also supplies vitamin B12, which helps make DNA and keeps nerve and red blood cells healthy, and zinc, which keeps the immune system working properly.Red meat provides protein, which helps build bones and muscles. 

“Calorie for calorie, beef is one of the most nutrient-rich foods,” says Shalene McNeil, PhD, executive director of nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “One 3-ounce serving of lean beef contributes only 180 calories, but you get 10 essential nutrients.” 

However, I think all that can be found in other varied foods, as well as supplemented, to be sure.

How come our predecessors lived just fine eating meat? The first questions is DID they? Back then the average median age was 40 years old. Now, I wouldn’t link it to meat consumption, however  you cannot compare what our predecessors did or did not do due to completely different circumstances and environment we live in. First of all, our planet wasn’t as polluted as it is now, with dioxins poisoning us. Secondly, our predecessors had  much healthier lifestyles and diets, working in the field all day, and not sitting at the computer. They also didn’t have all the processed foods we’re having now, even if you think you eat relatively healthy. They didn’t have restaurants stuff their food with MSG and fats for better taste and present them with portions 3 to 4 times larger than an average serving. They had healthy trim lean cows that ate clean grass rather than animal by products, chickens that ran around all day, rather than be locked in cages and pumped with hormones and antibiotics, wild fish that was caught in the clean unpolluted waters, unless nowadays when farmed salmon while being a healthy fish in the wild, is so fat, it’s no longer worth eating it for the sake of its barely existent omega 3s. Our predecessors didn’t smoke, didn’t abuse alcohol, didn’t breathe the polluted air we breath.

So we have to deal with the time we live in now. And as far as I am concerned, while there’re certain things I cannot help as much I’d like to, such as what I breathe ( pollution), mercury content in fish, dioxins in animal products, one thing I can control is what I put inside of myself willingly. There’re plenty of reasonable and tasty ways of getting enough protein and B vitamins and iron in my body that I do not need to rely on contaminated products. I chose health, I chose exercise, I chose being educated and knowing my facts and making my own decisions, I choose to be prepared. I choose to  live as long as I can, for my kids and my husband and my parents. It might NOT be your choice, I realize that. Some people choose to be lazy and not exercise regardless of numerous studies showing that how exercise modifies our whole body: keeps us healthy, stress free, disease free, it keeps our brain sharp. ( That’s another post), and it’s their choice. Others choose to eat whatever their heart desires and be obese, regardless of consequences. Those are their choices and they will have to live with them. So this is your choice as well, like any other.
But I choose NOT to ignore my facts and take care of myself.

I really hope that you got something useful out of  MY choices and reasoning behind them. And I hope you will make your own decision to be healthy, even if it’s in you own way.

Some people will say: “So what now I can’t live at all? If we’re worried about everything then it’ll be no fun to live?”

Yes, and it won’t be any fun to die prematurely, will it? Or have a baby with birth defects, or diabetes, or cancer, or asthtma or high blood pressure, caused by your unhealthy lifestyle. One thing I can tell you from my own experience is that you LIKE what you’re USED to. Once you make the choice to change your habits and stick with them, it becomes an easier choice every day. You eat an pear instead of a cookie, you make beans and veggies instead of meatloaf,  you cook a vegetable pizza on a whole wheat bread, instead of ordering Pizza Hut, you drink water instead of Coke, you eat salt water fish instead of steak. It becomes second nature and you enjoy it just as much. You enjoy the clarity of mind that comes with clean eating, the unstoppable energy radiating from you every time you eat, you enjoy your lean body that doesn’t seem to gain any weight regardless of how much you eat, you enjoy your clear skin and most importantly you enjoy passing it down to your children and bringing them up in the same manner, to be healthy and young forever.

I’m not saying meat will do it all. You have to start somewhere, and removing the biggest offender is the first move.
I am a vegetarian and my husband just turned vegan about 4 months ago. He has lost about  30 pounds without cutting calories or dieting by just becoming vegan and has never been clearer minded and more full of energy. I will probably turn vegan as well, once I’m done making babies and breastfeeding, but for now I do allow myself kefir/yogurt and sardines for health benefits.

I’d love to learn about your experience with food and meat and weight loss and health. How do you feel about meat?

{I am currently writing a post about healthy eating and weight loss in general, not centered on meat,
so look forward to many tips on how to make your diet more healthy and clean}

Please feel free to share a link to this post with your friends and family or reblog it on your sites. I think it’s important to spread the information out as much as possible because our government doesn’t seem to think it’s important enough and people tend not to listen.



Please don’t forget to VOTE daily!


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Tuscan White Bean Salad – The best salad you will ever make!

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking, PHOTO

So during one of our rare trip out for dinner ( we try not to eat out and cook more because that way we can control the ingredients that we put into our meals and cut out anything un-healthy), we ended up at CPK ( California Pizza Kitchen). I went for the usual Tuscan White Bean Soup and Hubby decided to try this new item off the small craving menu that was basically a bean salad ( and yes that’s all we ate- if anyone ever bothered to look up the nutritional content of any restaurant dishes, they’d know that that’s more than enough calories for a light lunch).
I literally fell in love with it at the first bite. It was so light, yet substantial. Too much oil of course, but you can expect that from a restaurant and we didn’t flag the waiter in time to tell him we needed dressing on the side. So determined to make it at home, I noted all the ingredients that went into it and the next day promptly whipped up what will become my all time favorite salad.

What I love about it is that it has a perfect balance of protein rich beans, fresh and vitamins K and A abundant cucumbers and tomatoes, healthy fats from an avocado, and folate rich beets.
So do yourself a favor- don’t be lazy and make this salad ONCE. If you don’t like it- no worries, but if you do, this will be one of the most nutritional and healthy meals you will ever eat/make.
Note: since I don’t have a recipe for it, all the measurements are eyeballed and to taste. I suggest you do the same.


1 cup White beans( rich in protein, Folate (64% DV in 1 cup),Thiamin, Iron and pretty much every other mineral) {I use navy beans}
2 Avocados( anti inflammatory, rich in smart fats, vitamins E, C and Folate, Potasium and Copper) {make sure it’s very ripe}
 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes( anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamins A,C and K)
1/2 Red Onion( incredibly anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamin C and Manganese)
1 Cucumber (rich in vitamin K)
1 Beet( rich in Folate and Manganese) { if you’re not a fan of beets like me, don’t use it. I personally like the beet-less version better}
3 leaves of Basil ( rich in
Croutons ( not rich in anything but damn good  in this salad)
Dressing: Olive oil and Red Wine Vinegar for dressing ( or red wine vinaigrette)

1. First prep the beans. If you bought raw beans from Whole foods like I did, soak them overnight or for at least two hours and then set them to cook for about an hour or until firm to touch but soft to taste. Don’t let them cook too long, because they’ll fall apart and that’s never good in a salad ( I let mine cook too long this time by accident)


Once the beans are ready drain them and set them in the salad bowl. Cut cherry tomatoes in half , cube the beets and add them to the bowl.
A note about the beets: I find this salad much more flavorful without the beets. So unless you’re a FAN of beets, skip this vegetable completely or use sparingly.

Cube your cucumber, add it to the bowl


Cut the avocado, basil and throw it in with the croutons ( the latter can be added later after you’ve already served if you plan on refrigerating the leftovers)

Add chopped up red onion ( I put way too much here. You need just a bit)

In the meantime, prepare the dressing: a little bit of red wine vinegar, mixed with slightly less olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper ( I’m sorry I do not have measurements, but season and mix to taste)

Season the salad with salt and pepper ( season generously- this salad like salt) and add the dressing. Voila! Healthy and Filling!

Let me know how it works out for you if you decide to make it.



Please don’t forget to VOTE daily!

Zuccini and potato fries

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Cooking


I have been a fan of healthy food for what seems like forever. But eating healthy usually means having to cook which wasn’t always my favorite thing to do. After some time, however, I learned how to adjust certain recipes to the way I eat: less oil, more veggies, fake chicken broth or vegetable broth. This recipe was given to me by my friend Leeka that I later modified and built upon. The funny thing is that I used to really dislike sweet potatoes. I always thought that sweet has no place in food but only the desert. I hated yams, and cranberry sauce on top of meat ( yeah NOT a fan of Thanksgiving food). So when Leeka suggested we cook sweet potato fries, I thought “Ew!”
I was pleasantly surprised, to be honest. Later I started using garlic and spices to spice the sweetness up, but it’s up to you how to season it.