Easy Peasy Salad with Quinoa – Guest Post

Today’s post is a guest post by Caroline Mackey. Caroline was one of the most supportive people when my husband had his major flare up with arthritis due to Crohn’s/colitis. She has transformed her body from sick to healthy, learning how to make this change in a sustainable way and reliving her body from chronic pain through food.

Your lovely blog host and I have bonded over the years in our mutual quest for living a healthy, happy lifestyle. For me, being healthy has been a lifelong struggle. When I was in grade school I had an accident where I broke my back, which left me much less mobile and active. Over the years following, my weight crept up and up, and by high school I was an obese teenager. This continued throughout university and into my 20’s. And like many others out there, I tried many, many times to lose weight and get healthy. I would start, make an effort, fail and fall off the wagon. This cycle was repeated more times than I care
to count, and each time it was harder and harder to put myself back on track.

The breaking point for me was about six years ago. I was a workaholic, stressed beyond the max with personal and work challenges, and I got a really bad stomach flu. Or at least that’s what I thought. I went to the doctor, it did not get better, and I kept going back again and again. After several weeks with this, I woke up one morning, opened my eyes, and it was hazy. Blinking did not help – my sight was going. Needless to say my body had gotten pretty deteriorated and this was the last straw; I ended up in the hospital. I was ultimately diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Suddenly, taking care of myself had become a
lot more important.

I distinctly remember being given the diagnosis by the doctor, and him telling me to look it up online for information. Seriously? Look it up online? Looking back, this is really where the journey to me getting healthy started. It was my first inkling that the medical community, while helpful in certain contexts, was not going to be the best or only resource for me. I ended up on a treatment that managed my stomach symptoms, but I was constantly in joint pain. It was hard to walk, and everything hurt all over all the
time. And the doctors ultimately said I just needed to take pills to manage the pain.

This is where I made a decision to take control of my life and my health. Being a slave to pain pills for the rest of my life was NOT an acceptable answer for me. I had heard through a friend about a naturopathic doctor*, who had significantly helped improve symptoms for someone who had been quite ill. So I thought, why not, I’ll give it a try. From the very first meeting, it was an eye-opening experience. She went over all areas of my life, health, medical and family history and stress factors. It was an incredible, inclusive look at everything that had impacted my life up to that point. We determined I had a high
sensitivity to wheat/gluten and dairy, and so to begin, I eliminated all of those from my diet completely.

Let me be clear – I was still highly skeptical about this whole process. Could changing what I eat and a few vitamins/supplements really make me feel better? At first, I just noticed I started to feel more rested when I woke up in the morning. Then slowly, over time, the joint pain started to diminish. Within a few months, it was no longer constant. No more pain pills. I started to walk for some exercise. And oh, it felt so good to get out and get moving. Between the steroids I had been on and the inactivity from my symptoms, I was very heavy, the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. So it was a struggle. As a few more months went by, things continued to improve significantly. With a friend, I slowly started to try
jogging. We did 2 minutes of walking and 30 seconds of jogging to start. And boy, that was the longest 30 seconds of my life!

I also slowly figured out how to make healthy food and lifestyle choices that worked for me. I remember the first time I went into a ‘health food’ store. I felt so uncomfortable and out of place. I had no clue what to do, where to look and certainly no idea what to buy. I’ve learned over the years not to be intimidated by those places, and to figure out what foods are reasonable for me to eat and incorporate in both my diet and budget.

Today, I am stronger, feel better and am more fit than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m running a half marathon next month, and with more than 100 pounds off, my goal weight is in sight. But the most important thing that’s happened through all of this is that I’ve learned to take control of my health – to never be complacent, ask questions and learn, and to never give up. Being healthy is not always easy, you don’t always succeed, and that’s ok. The most important thing is just to keep at it, lean on the people close to you when you’re having a tough time, and remind yourself why it’s so important. And healthy living does not mean a boring, restricted life with no fun or flavor. I have learned to look at what other people have done to become more healthy, find bits that work for you, and throw out the rest. If it’s not enjoyable or practical for you and your lifestyle there’s no way you’re going to do it. Every small change helps, makes you feel better, and will lead to bigger changes over time. None of this happened for me overnight, and I will always be learning new things about how to live a healthy life. Real, lifelong change takes time – I had to learn not to be discouraged by the rough patches and embrace all the good in my life, which always far outweighs the bad.

Easy Peasy Salad with Quinoa
One of my favorite healthy food discoveries is quinoa. Once I realized how easy it was to make, how healthy it is for you (it’s FULL of protein!) and how easy it was to incorporate in meals, I have been using it ever since. This recipe’s ingredients are completely flexible and interchangeable with whatever you happen to have available and what you like to eat. Tip: As meal prep for the week, I always make a big batch of quinoa and boil some eggs on the weekend, and store them in the fridge for the week. Then this is a super fast – under 5 minutes! – meal on any weeknight.
Serves: 2 for a meal, 4 as a side dish
  • 2 large heaping handfuls of mixed greens (any greens you want – and if you don’t have access to mixed greens, romaine lettuce is fine. Just stay away from iceberg it does not have much helpful nutrients in it).
  • A handful of nuts, roughly chopped – try raw cashews or almonds
  • A handful of seeds – try pumpkin or sunflower
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 – 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 – 2 ounces of cheese – any kind you want; I enjoy an old cheddar or some shaved parmesan
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 granny smith apple, chopped (use any kind of apple but granny smith’s work well due to their tartness)
  • Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  1. Cook quinoa. Place 1 cup water in pot in stove, add quinoa and let simmer until all water is gone. For extra flavor instead of water use chicken or vegetable stock – I always do! Once cooked, take off heat and set aside to cool.
  2. If desired, toast nuts in oven for extra falvour
  3. Throw all ingredients in a bowl, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and toss. Leave out the egg/cheese to make it dairy free and up the amount of quinoa.

*If you’re in the Toronto area and are interested in a naturopath, learn more about mine here: http://www.annapurnanaturopathic.com

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