Food lessons from my sister

by Christina on June 19, 2011

One of the best things about moving to SF is living in the same city as my younger sister.


She works long hours in her consulting job, has read a TON about health and fitness, and has figured out some secrets to staying healthy while busy.

I asked her for some tips below… ENJOY!

Food lessons from my sister, Jenny Palmer

How would you describe your diet?

My eating habits are continually evolving. After being vegetarian and wanna-be-vegan for over six years, in the past few months I moved towards a nutrient-dense, whole-foods plant-based diet. That meant giving up refined carbohydrates, processed soy protein and other fake meat, and anything with added sugar. I also decided to give up my daily cup or two of coffee.

No coffee? Really?!

It’s been about 4 weeks since I’ve had a cup of coffee, and I feel great. I still have caffeine before workouts, with Vega performance optimizer or Amazing Grass’s Energy Green superfood. But I’m happy that on days when I’m not working out, I no longer need coffee or caffeine! I’m not giving up coffee altogether—I just don’t want to rely on it every day.

What led you to make these changes?

I’ve always wanted to eat as healthy as possible, and I thought I was. But I would still crave cheese (and give in to that craving too often), and I ate too much processed food and refined carbohydrates.

Then, my sister (you!) pointed out how much added sugar was in my seemingly healthy Luna bars. Next, I read some inspiring books: Annemarie Colbin’s Food and Healing, John Robbin’s Healthy at 100, and Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. I even read a book on the Paleo diet, and agreed with most of the arguments on refined grains, processed food, and dairy, though I disagree strongly on the pro-meat, anti-legume/anti-grain aspect. I also came across the vegan body-building community, and became excited about building a powerful, muscular body on a “clean” diet with lots of plant protein. Another key step in my food journey was investing in a Vitamix.

What do you typically eat these days?

Every morning, I make myself a big green smoothie. On mornings when I don’t feel hungry or feel the need to purify, I drink cucumber-water or lemon-water with cayenne pepper. Before working out, I’ll eat chia pudding, sprouted bread (such as Food for Life) with sliced banana, or an apple, depending on how hungry I feel. Post-workout, I typically drink a Vega protein shake or a green smoothie with lots of ground hemp seed. (I wouldn’t recommend extra protein to everyone, but I am currently trying to build muscles.)

What about at lunch and dinner?

I eat whole foods for lunch and dinner. For example, I like making falafel or black bean burgers from scratch, and eating them with avocado, tomato, and red onion. For lunch at work, I often go out with co-workers and get salads, quinoa vegetable bowls, or a Chipotle veggie salad or burrito bowl. When I can, I bring in dinner leftovers to eat for lunch. Beans and brown rice, along with a raw salad, works great.

Do you eat snacks at work?

In my office kitchen, the usual snacks are things I choose not to eat (cereal, Cliff bars, Sun chips, yogurt, salted nuts). Luckily, my office is very responsive to our requests. We now get hemp milk and fruit delivered weekly to our office. I sometimes drink cold hemp milk or make steamed hemp milk in our espresso machine for an afternoon pick-me-up.

I also come prepared with my own snacks, time permitting. I bring in chia pudding, whole avocados, and kiwis. Another snack I like is sprouted grain bread and fresh nut butter (either made in my Vitamix or purchased from the bulk food section at Whole Foods). I also sometimes bring green smoothies in a Nalgene bottle.

For those days when I don’t come prepared, I have a drawer stocked with Vega vibrancy bars and whole food optimizer shakes.

How do you make a green smoothie?

Eating green smoothies every day is probably the best change I made! Like most people, I don’t love the taste of kale or collard greens, but I love them in smoothies with fruit. Consuming all those nutrients at once curbs my sugar cravings all day. In my case, I think it also cured me of my cheese cravings. My favorite fruit/green combinations are pear/kale, apple/carrot/collard greens and pear/arugula.

Here are quick green smoothie instructions:

  • Throw washed fruit, greens, ice, and water into your high powered blender: 60% fruits to 40% greens is a good starting point.
  • Mix until blended (maybe 30 seconds).
  • Adjust to taste: Add ice to make colder. Add stevia, bananas or mangoes to make sweeter.

What about this chia pudding you keep mentioning?

Chia seed pudding is a great post-workout snack. Chia seeds have all essential amino acids and also provide omega 3’s, fiber, and other nutrients. It’s also great to bring to work because you don’t have to add water until you’re ready to make it.

Here are some simple chia seed pudding instructions. Check here for awesome flavoring ideas.

  • Combine chia seeds, cinnamon or cacao, and stevia.
  • Add water or almond milk. A 2-to-1 liquid-to-chia ratio seems to work well.
  • Let it sit for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Eat by itself or with added fruit. Add in whatever else you like: earlier today I added in peanut butter to my cacao flavored pudding, and it tasted great!

Where do you go for inspiration?

First off, my inspiration came from reading books. I recommend Eat to Live to everyone. I also started following lots of blogs through Google Reader. One of my favorites is ChoosingRaw.com. I love Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” iPhone app.

Farmer’s Markets and the produce section of Whole Foods also inspire me! I also just signed up for a CSA and am very excited to get farm fresh produce delivered to me weekly.

Wow, thank you, Jen! I’m inspired and now off to prep some food for my first 30 hour call as an intern.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben D June 19, 2011 at 2:31 am

Sweet interview! You’ve almost sold me on green smoothies…

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Chris palmer June 19, 2011 at 4:32 am

I absolutely loved reading this interview! I have so much to learn! Inspiring blog posts like this deserve a wide readership because so many people would find the information fascinating and helpful.

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Khalida June 20, 2011 at 12:24 am

I absolutely love the feel-good inspirational vibe I get every time I visit your blog, it’s one of the highlights of my day! 🙂

And you’re both brilliant and beautiful, keep up the awesome work.

p.s. i’m going to try out the green smoothies and black bean patties tomorrow! *so* excited.

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Laura Sessum June 22, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the great tips! I eat a primarily plant based diet with seafood, but have been trying to make some changes. I wasn’t sure where to begin, so this was just what I needed to see…step one will be the green smoothie!

Oh and I had emailed you about yoga in SoCal; just returned home and regretfully I didn’t get to try any studios in San Diego or LA. =( We had our children with us (and it was their first trip to CA), so we ended up too busy seeing the sites and visiting with family.

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Hannah Edgar July 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hello to you, my far off Cousins!!

Do you know it was so amazing reading your blog, and whats so amazing is that i’m following a raw cancer fighting diet and doing all the same things as you but so far away but now i feel so much closer to you! This is great. A few of my new found favourites are Flax seeds/Flax oil, Braggs liquid Aminos, Umeboshi plums and Power Balls- half nut butter & half Molasses(blackstrap), adding ground flax, sunflower, pumkin, sesame seeds to thicken, roll into bite sized chunks coat with sesame seeds,coconut,carab powder. keep in fridge. Great for when your having a sweet craving. which for me is far too often. also kids love these too!!

looking forward to more blog posts

love to you

Hannah xxxx

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Christina July 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Hannah! It’s so wonderful to hear from you and hear about all of this – please tell us more! What kinds of books have you been reading for inspiration?!

I wish we lived closer and could cook/eat together!!

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