Friday, June 29, 2012

Health Starts Here Challenge - Day 4

Hey everybody! It's day 4 of the Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge and I'm feeling great! I can tell that cutting all dairy out of my diet has helped me tremendously, plus eating more vegetables than ever before has improved my energy.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I have serious back and neck issues. I see my chiropractor regularly and have gotten many massages to help. Throughout the school year, my neck and back are AWFUL because I sit in a chair all day and have to look at a laptop/pieces of paper a lot. Then I have to come home and do the same thing! Once I got on this Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge, my back and neck have felt much better. I've had a few moments of pain in my neck and lower back, but nothing long-lasting has happened yet. I haven't been more active or anything either; the weather has been so awful that I can't do anything active outside. My days have seriously been all about sitting, lying down, cooking and eating, which isn't too different from what I do during the school year. I believe that the omission of dairy has reduced inflammation in my muscles and is making me feel better.

I highly recommend that you start incorporating Health Starts Here principals into your diet. It could be one small thing or two big things. If you suffer from chronic pain somewhere in your body, try cutting dairy out for a couple weeks and see how you feel. Try eating WAY MORE VEGETABLES and cooking with new and interesting whole grains, too.

Every morning, I start with what the Health Starts Here packet calls a "breakfast porridge". It's basically like oatmeal, but you cook a different whole grain every day. So far, I've made rolled oats, quinoa and millet (I had quinoa two days in a row because I had leftovers). Tomorrow, I'm going to make some amaranth and hopefully later on I'll have some brown rice. You can use whatever spices, nuts, seeds and fruit you want to create a different flavor every time. The following list will help you make your own breakfast porridge from time to time. Just follow the cooking instructions for your grain on the package or look some up on the Internet, add your other ingredients and eat!

What you need (serves 1):
  • 1/4 cup dry whole grain (quinoa, millet, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, oats, etc.)
  • A bit of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, date paste - you make this by pureeing some dates with water in the food processor)
  • About 1/3 cup fruit (apples, pears, berries, mangoes, etc.)
  • Spices of your choice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla extract, etc.)
  • Seeds and/or nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds without oil, sesame seeds, etc.)
  • Soymilk, almond milk or coconut milk (you can cook the grain in this or stir it in when it's time to eat)
Some suggestions I have are to put millet with berries, quinoa with strawberries and mangoes, oats with apples/pears and cinnamon, and brown rice with bananas. Remember that you don't have to follow those flavor combinations exactly. You have creativity with your breakfast and you should try something new every time!

Another thing I've been doing is drinking a green drink for my afternoon snack. I drink two tall glasses every day and it fills me up really well! I have a Vita-Mix at home, which is seriously the best blender ever, but you could make these in a normal blender as well. Keep in mind that not all blenders are as big as mine, so you might want to scale the recipe back.

What you need (serves 3 - 6, depending on how much you drink):

The Necessities
  • 3 - 4 cups baby spinach
  • 3 - 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries (if you have a Vita-Mix, leave the strawberry tops on)
  • A small piece of peeled, fresh ginger
  • 3 cups tropical juice blend, apple juice or water (100% juice only)
  • 1 tall glass full of ice cubes
You need 1 - 3 of these...
  • 1 apple, cut into big chunks (only remove the core if you don't have a Vita-Mix)
  • 1 cup frozen mangoes
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 kiwi, peeled (add apple in a smoothie with kiwi; otherwise, it will be too tart)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/3 of a medium-sized yellow squash
Just blend the ingredients on the highest setting of the blender until it reaches the desired consistency. The more ingredients you add, the more smoothie-like it will become. Try to drink as much as you can, because this drink will contribute to your servings of fruit and vegetables for the day.

If you have any questions about Health Starts Here, how to cook various grains, making green smoothies, my life outside of the kitchen or something of that nature, email me at and/or go to\healthstartshere. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow this blog, follow me on Twitter (@MDchef_123) and tell your friends and family about Teens Can Cook, Too!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge

Hey everybody! Sorry that I haven't posted in awhile. I feel like I say that at the opening of every blog post I've written this year... I'm a bad blogger! As you know, the month of June is INSANE for everyone and there really isn't much time to just sit at your computer and write blog posts.

I'm not going to be posting recipes anymore. I have a set that I'm going to work with for my cookbook and I don't want to share them all before the book comes out. I don't have an agent or a publisher or a photographer yet, and I haven't tested the recipes to make them perfect, so it'll be awhile. However, I do plan on making videos about how to fend for yourself in the kitchen, simple cooking techniques and about my life outside of the kitchen.

If you want an update on my garden, you'll be disappointed. The weather in the Seattle area has been absolutely miserable and there's no way we could get the garden going like this. The tomato plants still aren't doing very well. We'll be lucky to get any tomatoes at all this year. Once the weather clears up, we'll plant our starters and seeds. Hopefully those will produce lots of delicious vegetables for us!

Yesterday, I started the Health Starts Here 28-Day Challenge! Health Starts Here is a program through Whole Foods Market that encourages people to eat whole foods, plant-strong diets, healthy fats and nutrient dense meals without any refined oils or sweeteners, dairy and eggs.

My goal with Health Starts Here is to teach all my teen (and adult, but mostly teen) readers that if I can go 28 days without any refined oil, sugars, refined grains, dairy or eggs, then you can eat a healthful diet with lots of vegetables and minimal amounts of oil and animal products. For most kids, immediately jumping into a Health Starts Here way of eating would be too much to handle. However, if you adjust to a diet that's halfway there, I suggest you take the 28-Day Challenge at your local Whole Foods!

I've had a lot of people ask me why eating oils, dairy, eggs and refined sugars is bad. I couldn't answer until last night at the class. The explanations are below.

Eggs: In our class, we didn't have enough time to talk about eggs. I think eggs aren't allowed because eggs cause inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is the main cause of our pain and health issues.

Dairy: Dairy is a MAJOR inflammatory. Another reason that we shouldn't eat it is because it promotes the growth of cancerous cells. Cancerous cells are cells that multiply out of control. When a protein from dairy called casein is added to the body, it encourages the cancerous cells to grow and causes information. Studies show that there are spikes in cancerous cell growth when a cancer patient consumes dairy.

Oils: Before starting Health Starts Here, I always cooked with olive oil because I was told it was good for me. At the class, we learned that the studies that show olive oil is good are potentially misleading. Decades ago, studies were conducted about the benefits of olive oil in Greece. The people that they tested were very athletic and carried fish on their backs because that's how Greeks lived decades ago (I have no idea how they live now though), and a little bit of olive oil didn't do them any harm. But what about someone who doesn't carry a huge fish on their back all day? Olive oil is good: compared to what? Every tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories. By omitting the oil, you've just created space for more vegetables or whole grains to nourish your body.

Refined ingredients: Refined ingredients don't give your body energy. They waste the space that could be used for healthy ingredients, take many resources to process (which in turn hurts the environment) and can cause inflammation.

Just because I started this doesn't mean I'm revising all of my recipes to be Health Starts Here friendly. I want my cookbook to be for kids who either need to start eating more healthy meals or kids who eat lots of vegetables and want to learn how to be able to cook for themselves. Taking a kid who knows nothing about cooking and throwing them into a Health Starts Here situation would not be good. I do want my next cookbook (which is hard to even think about at this point) to be mostly Health Starts Here recipes. The first book will just be a transitional book, I guess.

If you have any questions about Health Starts Here or how to get started, you can email me at and/or visit\healthstartshere for more details and Health Starts Here recipes. Remember to follow this blog, subscribe to me on YouTube, follow me on Twitter (@MDchef_123) and tell your friends about Teens Can Cook, Too!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bilingual Video

Hey, everybody! Sorry I haven't posted. The garden isn't doing so well - we tried making a makeshift greenhouse for the tomatoes, but the plastic blocked the sunlight more than aticipated and the plants are dying. We're still planning on planting the rest of our starters, though, so stay tuned for pictures!

In Spanish, I was assigned a project where I had to make a presentation of something I'm very passionate about. I chose to do a YouTube video in both English and Spanish for mine. The link is below!

School is almost out, and I'll try to be better about posting!

Stay healthy!

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