Tag Archive | plant-based

Chocolate Decadence Smoothie

(recipe:  vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

Sometimes you just have to have some Chocolate!  This green smoothie is a great way to quell your worst chocolate cravings AND have your body thank you!

Chocolate Decadence:

3 large handfuls spinach, romaine or leaf lettuce
1 apple, core removed
1 cup almond milk
2 Tbsp cacao powder (raw, if you can get it), or carob powder (if you prefer).
2 Tbsp raw hemp seeds or raw cashews, or 1/2 avocado
2 to 4 dried dates (pits removed; soaked in water for 30-60 mins to soften).

Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

Optional Additions to Chocolate Decadence:
1.  Add 2 Tbsp natural almond or peanut butter for a “reese’s cup” version.
2.  Add 2 to 4 drops peppermint extract for a “peppermint patty” version.
3.  Add 1/2 cup cherries for a “chocolate covered cherries” version.
4.  Add 1 banana for a “chocolate covered banana” version.

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Apple Pie Smoothie

Recipe (vegan, gluten-free, no added sugar)

If you’ve been enjoying apple season like I have, try this green smoothie that is a new twist on an old favorite….

Ain’t Your Grandma’s Apple Pie:
2 apples, cores removed
2 handfuls kale, spinach or other greens
1/4 cup raisins
1/8 cup almonds (about 6 to 8 almonds)
1 tsp hemp seeds or chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp apple pie spice or sprinkle of cloves
1 cup water

Put all ingredients into a good blender and blend until smooth.  Add more water if it is too thick.

In Oriental Medicine, apples are said to benefit the stomach, spleen and lung.  They stimulate the appetite, relieve diarrhea, clear heat, and moistens the lung.

They are also medicinal for the liver and gall bladder, to help thin bile that is too sludgy, and to help soften cholesterol-based gall stones.

Apples contain calcium, potassium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, Vitamins A, C, and B1 and B2, niacin, fiber and flavones.


Everything Cookies

Recipe (Vegan, no refined sugar, low fat, can be made gluten-free)

When you just need a cookie, these are the favorite around our house.  We don’t make them often, because we avoid sugar, flour and oil.  But I adapted this recipe to reduce the amount of oil needed, and to replace the white sugar.  This is taken from several cookie recipes in the book, “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

Everything Cookies (adapted by Dawn):

1 very ripe banana, medium
1/6 cup canola oil
1/6 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/6 cup dark agave nectar (raw)
1/6 cup brown rice syrup
2 Tbsp Xylitol natural sweetener
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, or gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free oats if you prefer)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease two baking sheets.

2.  In a mixing bowl, mash the banana well.  You can use a fork or your hands.  Add the oil, applesauce, agave, brown rice syrup, and xylitol and mix with a strong fork.  Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  Add the oatmeal, walnuts, cranberries and chocolate chips and mix well.  It is actually good to use your hands for mixing when using oats, to make sure the oats get nice and moist. If the dough is very slippery, add a few extra tablespoons of flour – it really depends on how big your banana was.

3.  Scoop the dough into scant 1/4 cup portions (a floured 1/4 cup measuring cup works well for this), and place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  If they want to fall apart, just press them together with your hands.

4.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

(for an even lower-fat, lower-sugar cookie, skip the chocolate chips).



Awesome Asian Kale Salad

Recipe (vegan, sugar-free & gluten-free)

I have made this salad several times, doubling the recipe, and taken it to parties.  Amazingly, even though most people would say they don’t like kale, (especially raw kale), this salad is completely devoured within an hour of setting it out.  And many people demand to know the recipe.  So, here it is…


1 bunch kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and shredded
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1.5 Tbsp sesame or canola oil
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Aminos (you can use Tamari or Soy Sauce instead, if you prefer).
1.75 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or brown rice vinegar)

1. Combine kale, carrots, and bell pepper in large bowl.
2. Prepare the dressing.  In  a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and marinate for at least 1 hour.  The longer the salad marinates, the stronger the dressing flavors will be, and the softer the kale leaves will become.
4.  Toss with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds before serving.

(Note:  if you really want the kale leaves to be soft, you can get your hands into the mix, and massage each leaf with the dressing, being sure each surface is well coated, before leaving it to marinate).


Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Plant-Based Meal Ideas

As I teach my patients the benefits of a more plant-based diet, many are at a loss for how to create plant-based meals.  Below are some meal suggestions that may make this transition easier.

For health, we need to increase vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, fiber and water, and to decrease processed foods, refined grains, sugars, animal products, dairy, hydrogenated oils (ie. trans fats), excess salt, artificial sweeteners and chemical additives/preservatives.  So, be sure to read labels to avoid these unnecessary ingredients.

See how many different colors of vegetables/fruits you can get into one meal.  Eat a rainbow variety of whole foods daily, with at least one green veggie during at least 2 meals per day.  And have fun creating new, tasty dishes!


High-fiber, low-sugar cereal with milk alternative (like soy milk, rice milk, almond milk or coconut milk) and fresh or dried fruit (like grapes, peaches, berries, raisins, prunes, figs) and/or nuts.

Whole grain cooked cereal (like slow-cooked [not instant] oatmeal, brown rice, oat bran, creamy buckwheat or rice bran cereal) with fresh or dried fruit and/or nuts.  With or without milk alternative.

Congee.  (see Easy to Digest Foods post).  This is a thin porridge used in China as a breakfast.  You can make it from 1 part any whole grain, cooked overnight in a crock pot with 5 parts water.  You can add fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices to give it interest.

100% whole grain bread/toast with natural peanut (or almond) butter and/or low-sugar jam, unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey. (no artificial sweeteners).

100% whole grain pancakes with unsweetened applesauce topping, or raw local honey, and fresh fruit.

Fruit smoothie from the blender.  Example: 1 banana, 1 cup berries, 2 large handfuls spinach, 1 cup water. You will only taste the fruit, but will also get the benefits of the greens!   (There are hundreds of smoothie recipes online. The best choices are “green smoothies” which contain green veggies, but taste like fruit.  See Green Smoothie Post and Green Smoothie Recipes for more info. )

Green Puddings – similar to green smoothies, but made with less liquid and are poured over fresh fruit and nuts.  (See Green Pudding Recipes).

Leftovers from dinner.


Salad with lots of fresh vegetables, and perhaps fresh or dried fruits, seeds or nuts.  Choose a non-dairy based salad dressing like a vinaigrette, a ginger dressing, a lemon-tahini dressing, hummus, salsa, guacamole or just squeeze of lemon.

100% whole grain bread, pita, flatbread or tortilla, or soft corn tortilla with any combo of vegetables, beans, guacamole, hummus, salsa, tabouleh, or veggie burger patty.

Make pizza from 100% whole grain bread, pita, or flatbread, with marinara sauce and chopped vegetables, dried Italian herb seasoning and optional cheese alternative (soy, rice or almond).

Soup with a vegetable broth, tomato base, or bean base, such as minestrone, vegetable, black bean soup, vegetable barley, lentil soup, squash soup, vegetarian chili, etc.

Baked potato or sweet potato, or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon on the sweet potato or squash.)

Steamed or sauteed vegetables with garlic and spices, by themselves, or served over brown rice, millet, or quinoa, or wrapped inside of a whole grain tortilla, pita or soft corn tortilla.

Brown rice, millet, or quinoa with any combo of beans or vegetables, and any variety of non-dairy sauce such as salsa, tomato marinara sauce, curry sauce or Oriental style tamari, teriaki, or Bragg’s Aminos.

Pasta made from whole grain, corn, quinoa or brown rice with marinara sauce, steamed or roasted vegetables, or chopped fresh vegetables.  Wilted spinach is an nice addition to warm pasta dishes as well.


Fresh whole fruit  – apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, plums, prunes, figs, etc.  Dip fresh cut fruit in peanut or almond butter.

Nuts: like walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.  (Avoid those with excess salt or flavorings.)

Fresh cut cucumbers, celery, bell peppers or carrots dipped in hummus, guacamole, natural peanut butter or almond butter.  Apples with peanut/almond butter and cinnamon.

Natural tortilla chips (baked, not fried), with salsa, hummus, beans or guacamole.

100% whole grain bread/toast with natural peanut butter and low-sugar jam, unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey (no artificial sweeteners).

Baked potato or sweet potato, or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon & honey on the sweet potato or squash.)

Smoothie or pudding from the blender (See Breakfast options).


Purified water  (drink 2 to 3 quarts daily, depending on your size and activity level).

Non- Caffeinated Herbal Tea or Red Tea (this counts as part of your purified water intake).

Green or White Tea (home brewed, not pre-made).

Black Tea (home brewed, unsweetened, or sweeten it yourself with stevia, xylitol or honey. Limit to 2 cups daily).

Organic coffee (limit to 6 oz daily).  Organic decaf coffee (limit to 12 oz daily).  (Use soy, almond or coconut milk creamers).

Fresh squeezed fruit and/or veggie juices (no sugar added).  Dilute all juices with water to 50%-25% strength, to reduce the blood sugar spike reaction.  (It is better to eat the whole fruit or veggie!)

If you drink alcohol, limit to 2 or 3 drinks per week.  (The best choice for most people is red wine.)

FOR WEIGHT LOSS:  (in addition to the suggestions above…)

Eat more fibrous vegetables, greens, whole beans and fruits than grains, starchy vegetables, or potatoes.

Avoid all processed foods, such as breads, crackers, tortillas, nut butters, jams, cold cereals, veggie burgers, cheese alternatives and milk alternatives, etc.  Aim to eat foods only in their whole, natural state.

Avoid all sugars, sweeteners, alcohol and white flour products.

Avoid fats and oils in cooking, sauces and dressings.  Limit nuts to 1 oz. daily.  Limit avocadoes to 1/4 daily.

For more resources to learn about plant-based meal options read any of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books, and see the Educational page on Nutrition on this blog.

Happy Eating!

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Nutrition, Part 3: Animal Foods in the Diet

excerpts published in Tampa Bay Wellness, June 2011

Nutrition, Part 2 discussed Nutrition from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) viewpoint.  The TCM recommended diet is: Whole foods with about 80-90% of the diet as vegetables, cooked whole grains and beans/legumes; 5-10% fruit and nuts, and 5% animal-based foods.

Animal-based foods in TCM:

The TCM recommended diet includes small amounts of animal-based foods. They are not the central part of any meal; instead, they are an occasional accent in meals that are vegetable and whole-grain based. Why so little? Because animal-based foods are rich and heavy, and according to TCM, this makes them likely to promote pathogenic Dampness-formation in the body, contributing to a myriad of diseases. (See Part 2 for explanation of Dampness).

But, animal-based foods are not entirely excluded from the TCM diet, because it is thought that, in small amounts, they help build more Qi and Blood in the body. The TCM diet is what I most often recommend; it is relatively easy to implement, and it is far superior to the standard American eating pattern, so the majority of those who adopt it experience marked health improvements.

However, for myself, my family, and for those seeking a more profound level of health, who feel they are up to it, I part from TCM on the issue of animal foods, and prefer a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet, with no animal-based foods at all. This is due to 3 main health-related reasons:

  1. The poor Qi quality of animal-based foods: Current animal-rearing practices are so unhealthy that, in my opinion, the Qi in these products has been rendered more harmful than helpful.
  2. The latest research shows that animal-based foods contribute to several disease processes in the human body, including heart disease and cancer.
  3. Modern nutritional research has found that consuming animal-based food is unnecessary for good health.

Let’s explore these, one by one:

Reason 1: The Poor Qi Quality of Animal Foods:

Up until about 60 years ago, all animal food products were inherently organic, free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and grass-fed. Because food animals ate their natural diet of grass, meat was rich in omega-3 fats (which help reduce inflammation). They were also leaner and, from a TCM view, their meat had better Qi, because they lived much healthier and happier lives than their modern-day counterparts.

In stark contrast, the meat, dairy and eggs that are available today, as a result of being fed an unnatural diet of grain, sugar, soybeans and animal-byproducts are filled with omega-6 fats (which promote inflammation), have a higher percentage of saturated fat, and fewer beneficial elements.

Many livestock, poultry and egg-laying hens do not have access to fresh air or sunlight.  They are also kept in such large numbers, small cages, and close quarters that they lack the ability to stretch their limbs, turn around, or perform natural behaviors.  All of these conditions create physical and psychological abnormalities leading to disturbing aberrant behaviors toward themselves and each other.

These animals are also unable to move away from their own or each other’s excrement, creating hygiene problems. To combat the spread of infection, ranchers use frequent doses of antibiotics on all of their animals, sick or not, which contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria, and exposes people who consume meat and dairy to these antibiotics and super-bacteria.

Because meat and dairy producers make more money by increasing production volume and speed, food animals are treated with various growth hormones. We ingest these with their meat or dairy, and they wreak havoc with our bodies, including our endocrine (hormonal) systems.

These animals live very unnatural, unhealthy, and unhappy lives. In my opinion, the Qi coming from these foods cannot be healthy enough to benefit our own Qi, but instead places a burden on our health.

What about Organic, Grass-Fed or Free-Range?

While these are certainly better, there are some factors to consider. Hundreds of labels can be found in grocery aisles for “healthier” meat, eggs and dairy. It is difficult to know what they really mean. For example:

Several companies have created their own agencies to certify their meat organic, setting and breaking their own standards as they see fit. Even if the label says “USDA Certified Organic,” (no antibiotics or growth hormones), it doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed, free-range, or given the environment to perform natural behaviors.

Likewise, if the package says “grass-fed”, it doesn’t necessarily mean organic, free-range, or even that the animal was fed only grass. Many cattle start out on pasture for their first 6 – 12 months before spending the rest of their lives on a feedlot; some companies label this “grass-fed.”

With the exception of live poultry, the USDA has no regulations on the terms “free-range” or “cage-free,” so all egg, beef, pork, and lamb producers can use these labels freely.  The only requirement for “free-range” poultry is that it had access to outdoors for some unspecified amount of time (5 minutes qualifies) each day.

As you can see, no label addresses everything, and every label is subject to misinformation or misinterpretation.

If you do choose to eat meat, eggs or dairy, it is really best to find a local, organic farm/ranch that you can actually visit, to learn about their specific animal-rearing practices, so you know for sure what you are getting.

What about Seafood?

Farm-raised sea foods are also raised in overcrowded conditions, routinely medicated with antibiotics, and fed unnatural diets that change the balance of beneficial nutrients. In fact, farm-raised salmon are so unhealthy that their flesh is grey, so dye is injected to make them appear pink.  Even wild-caught seafood is risky, since nearly all fish-supporting waters are now contaminated with mercury, dioxins, and hundreds of other toxins from industrial pollution.

If you do choose to eat seafood, then wild-caught, smaller fish are the best choices.  Avoid the large species like tuna, swordfish, and shark, as their large size means they have had more time to collect more toxins in their tissues. Smaller fish like anchovies and sardines have lower concentrations of toxic elements.

Reason 2: Animal-based foods are harmful:

Research shows that eating animal-based foods, even in small amounts, contributes to many diseases common in Western culture, including heart disease and cancer. Here are just a few examples:

In his book, The China Study, which involved a 20-year long look at 6500 people from 65 counties across China, T. Colin Campbell, PhD states, “Consuming animal-based protein increases blood cholesterol levels.  Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol also raise blood cholesterol, although these nutrients are not as effective at doing this as is animal protein.” Also, “In rural China, animal protein intake averages only 7.1 gr/day whereas Americans average a whopping 70 gr/day….Even these small amounts of animal-based food in rural China raised the risk for Western diseases.”

Dr. Campbell also found, that casein, the most abundant protein in cow’s milk, is a strong promoter of cancer cells, in all stages of cancer development.

Dr. Neal Barnard reports on a Japanese study that women who follow meat-based diets are eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than women on a plant-based diet. Harvard studies show that regular meat consumption triples colon cancer risk while a Cambridge University study links dairy products to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Studies of the Seventh-day Adventists found that those who avoided meat altogether showed significant reductions in cancer risk as compared to those who ate modest amounts of meat.

Reason 3:  Animal-based foods are Unnecessary:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including…vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and….are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Dr. Benjamin Spock, in the latest edition of his world-famous book, Baby and Child Care, advocates a vegetarian diet for children, and no longer recommends dairy products after the age of 2. He says that children who grow up getting nutrition from plant foods rather than meats are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.

Good sources of amino acids (protein) are green and leafy vegetables (yes, really! Green plants provide protein to animals as muscular as bulls and horses). Protein is also abundant in beans (including soy), lentils, and nuts.  If you are a bodybuilder or otherwise require more protein, great vegan protein-shake powders made from pea, rice and hemp proteins can be found online and in most health-food stores.  Some recommended brands are Life Basics, Plant FusionVega, and Sunwarrior.

Rich sources of calcium are found in green and leafy vegetables (such as kale, collard greens, swiss chard, turnip greens), beans, dried figs, tofu and broccoli.

Rich sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, swiss chard and beet greens.  (In fact, my own blood iron levels increased when I switched to a vegan diet!)

Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and extracts of algae (the type most used in infant formulas, since it can be cultivated in clean fermentation tanks).  Other beneficial fats include avocados and nuts/seeds.

Lastly, I recommend taking a high quality multi-vitamin/mineral (whether you are vegan or not).  Crop soils have been greatly depleted, so most all of our food is much less nutritious than it used to be. A high-quality, plant food-based multivitamin will help ensure that you are not missing anything, including B-12. Recommended brands include New Chapter and Garden of Life.


While I greatly respect Traditional Chinese Medicine’s nutritional tenants, and use most of them in my clinic, my modern-day perspective has me conclude, for the reasons listed above, that animal foods are unnecessary, and actually dangerous (especially those that are available today) to optimal health. Instead, I prefer a whole-food, 100% plant-based diet.

Some people, though they have a desire to eat more plant-based, find it difficult to implement or maintain it at 100%.  If this is the case for you, please resist the temptation to feel that you have failed or could never do it.  Every plant-based meal you eat helps your body.  Just do the best you can, and stay positive.  Many people find that as they eat more plant-based meals, their tastes begin to change, such that they don’t really enjoy meat like they used to, and they actually start to crave vegetables.

If you have an interest in moving toward a plant-based diet and would like further guidance, check out the Plant-Based Nutrition books, websites and videos listed on the  Nutrition – Educational Resources and the Plant-based Meal Ideas pages on this blog.

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM