Here’s a thing we’d like to do: Challenge you guys—again—but this time it’s going to be all about food. We’re bringing back an early idea we launched here but never initiated as a formal challenge because this blog was just a baby then, and we hadn’t started our Challenge series yet.

Get excited: This is one is fun, easy, and rewards you with glowing skin.

A while back, a friend mentioned a study he’d seen showing that Japanese farmers who ate on average 20 fruits and vegetables a day were in significantly better health than those who ate just 10, even when controlling for other factors. They lived longer, had fewer health events and felt better. We’d wager they looked pretty good too.

Intuitively this makes sense, and it’s partly why we devoted two chapters in the book to food and lifestyle. We’re big believers in the idea that you can’t just slather on products and expect to look your best. You also need to eat avocados, drink plenty of water, sleep a lot, have sex, have fun, exercise and commit to relaxation in some form or another (preferably the sober kind, at least some of the time).

We’ve been talking a bit about resolutions here, and we’ve been (mostly) keeping up our Meatless Monday Inspiration posts, so how about we put those two together and eat more veggies! And fruit.

And we’re making it easy. A bite of anything that contains a fruit of vegetable, even if somewhat adulterated, counts for one point.

Half an apple counts, and so does the garlic you crushed into your pasta sauce*. And, like, if you eat a greek yogurt with the gooey raspberries at the bottom, well, ew, but that counts! Even better would be yogurt with whole raspberries, but that’s the thing with this challenge: You can fake it to make it. Cool? Great.

Now who’s in?

Some rules: Don’t cheat.

Instructions: For seven consecutive days, consume at least 10 different fruits or vegetables per day. Ten total: You decide how many of those you want to be fruits and vegetables. Then write us an email at nomoredirtylooks (at) gmail (dot) com with NOMNOM in the subject line, and include your first name and location, written thusly “Siobhan, Brooklyn, NY” and a brief description of how you felt at the end of your seven days. Send this to us by the end of the day Wednesday, January 18th.

Prize: We’re still working on a prize, but it’ll be awesome as always. Stay tuned. We’ll post when we have it locked and loaded.

Special favor: Help us make sure this awesome. Tell your friends on Twitter, Facebook, at the gym or at the bar. Friend usfollow us, and then RT us, or whatever. Spread the word!

The reason for the challenge: See above. It’s healthy. You’ll glow. And you’ll feel better. Also, when you turn life into a summer camp challenge, and you do it with other people, it’s way more fun.

Good luck! Share your clever veggie- and fruit-loading tips in the comments. Ten is a lot, but it’s not that hard. Bon appetit!

* Yes, we know there’s some debate about whether or not garlic is actually a vegetable, but we’re not sticklers here…and it’s good for you!

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I mentioned the pesto in passing last week and since I’ve made this dish three times in the last two weeks, for different people and to pretty rave responses, I thought I would share.

First, a word about pesto. EVERYYYYYTHING can be turned into pesto, or perhaps the better way to say it is, pesto can be made out of anything. I’ve made pesto out of every herb under the sun—humble parsley is surprisingly tasty—and they basically all work. Like last night, for instance, I made pesto out of dill and put it on some veggies and halibut, with a little white wine, dijon, olive oil and parm, and holy smokes was it good. It’s hard to mess it up. But this particular pesto is my current favorite, and garlic scapes are cheap at the market right now in the northeast, so here you go.

1/4 lb. of sweet peas, fresh or frozen (ha, “1/4 lb.” I have no idea how much I use; just eyeball it—you want a bunch of peas)

1/2 bunch of asparagus (but maybe just make it all; cooked, it keeps well in the fridge for two days)

a fistful of garlic scapes

a lemon

1 tbsp Red Star nutritional yeast

fresh pepper

good olive oil

salt (gonna fly my pretentious flag and tell you all I live for Maldon)

1 cup fresh arugula, packed but not crushed

brown rice pasta (or real pasta if you are unafflicted)

—Bring water to a boil and throw in your scapes. After about two or three minutes, remove the scapes and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking more.

—Throw your asparagus into the hot water left over from the scapes so as to not waste water, but also because you now have delicious garlic water you won’t want to toss. Remove the spears once they start to get nice and green but not mushy, about 4 minutes.

—If your peas are frozen, do those in a separate pot. The secret to cooking frozen peas? Put them in water before it boils. Once it reaches a boil, you’re done. Turn off the heat immediately, strain and run under cold water, and you will have perfect little peas.

—In a food processor, blender, or a deep bowl with a hand blender combine your scapes with 1/4 cup of good olive oil or more, the juice of one lemon, your fresh arugula, salt and pepper to taste, and some nutritional yeast (or parmesan, if you’re feeling fancy and aren’t vegan). Blend until smooth but no longer.

—I like my veggies to be room temperature when I put them on pasta, so this is when I make my pasta. The fresh noodles will heat up the veggies just enough.

—Cook whatever pasta you like.

—Once done, fold in the pesto and then the peas GENTLY. Add the asparagus at the very end so it doesn’t break up.

—Top with as much cheese or Red Star as you like (and if you’re like me, you like a lot).

C’est tout! What have you made pesto out of? Share, share.

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In case you missed the memo, refined sugar is really, really bad for you.

This post from yesterday’s Lifehacker does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of how sugar reacts in the body and brain. If you’re up for an even deeper look, read the killer (pun intended!) New York Times Magazine cover story from last month, and check out this video of Dr. Lustig—who Siobhan saw speak last month at the Dr. Weil conference in SF—and see for yourself that it’s the devil.

But man does it taste good. Sweets are also tied into all kinds of comfort-and-reward-do-my-parents-love-me stuff left over from childhood. Of course, it’s ok to splurge on a sugary treat here and there, but I’m gonna get bold and say that I’ve concocted a dessert you could enjoy every day if you’d like to. And, by total happy accident, it tastes a lot like a grownup version of a McDonald’s Sundae.

In fact, if I was Bethenny Frankel I’d be calling this the Skinny Sundae and selling it to someone for a cool 100 mill. But what makes this treat so amazing is not its lack of calories (we know better than to equate low calorie with healthy, right?) but its significant lack of sugar along with its surprising nutritional density.

Here’s how you make it.

Mix:

—3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt (I used the Fage 2% — feel free to try a sugar-free vegan alternative but make sure that its THICK.)

—1 tbsp vanilla extract

—Stevia to taste (Stevia is a natural sweetener made from a plant. You can get it anywhere now, and it has no glycemic impact and no creepy chems.)

—Stir in 1 tsp of organic crunchy salted peanut butter (I used one from Trader Joe’s—whatever you use, it’s gotta be crunchy and salty. I know you can’t see them in the picture—I’m not going to win any food photography awards—but those little crunches are the best part.)

Drizzle with:

—1 tsp of maple syrup (I’m using a can I smuggled home from my last visit to Quebec. It’s been in my fridge for a while and it’s nice and thick.)

To do the chocolate version drizzle instead with a melted square or two of high-quality dark chocolate. I bet raw honey would be yummy too, but not any kind of McDonald’s equivalent.

I just can’t tell you how delicious this is!

Here’s why it works: Stevia on its own has a bit of an aftertaste that takes getting used to, but that’s fully masked by the delicious flavors of vanilla, peanuts and maple syrup. And even though it’s only a teaspoon of syrup, it feels like plenty (look at the picture!) and having that real sugar in there is key to making the experience satisfying—that, along with the salty crunch of the peanut butter and the creaminess of the yogurt make it hit all of the right dessert notes.

Now let’s do a health comparison!

McDonald’s Caramel Sundae with Peanuts: 385 calories, 11.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, 160mg sodium, 62 carbs, and…. 44 GRAMS OF SUGAR.

Our Sundae (roughly the same size): 177 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 19.5 grams of protein (!!), 67.5mg of sodium, 12 carbs and… 11 GRAMS OF SUGAR.

Ow math—but clearly worth it! That’s a lot of protein, and not a lot of sugar, for something that tastes a little bit like heaven. K, this post is officially as random as my vegan cappucino one (btw, I still use coconut milk in my coffee).

Do you have any amazing lower-sugar dessert recipes to share? Bring it!

It turns out that Popeye was onto something: Besides providing the body with protein, iron, powerful antioxidants, and a natural glow, spinach may also benefit muscle building. So much for the puny-vegetarian stereotype!

And since it’s such a health superstar, we’re going to tell you how to incorporate it into your diet without having to think too much about it. Here’s why.

The Daily is reporting on a new(ish) study published in Cell Metabolism which showed that eating spinach may help muscles work more efficiently during exercise. Apparently the inorganic nitrate found in spinach does this by fueling mitochondria—the little engines in our cells that could—with more energy on less oxygen. The lead scientist on the study, Dr. Eddie Weitzberg, compared it to being able to run a car on less fuel but at the same speed.

Whether or not you’re taking the GOOD 30-day challenge or did our own Vegan For a Week Challenge (and have been following our Meatless Monday recipe series), eating more spinach is a great idea. Its mild flavor makes it one of the most versatile super foods, and it pairs easilt with (or hidden in) just about anything. Because you can buy it frozen it’s also convenient and affordable.

Here are a few no-brainer ways to add it to a meal:

Hidden in smoothies: You can load a smoothie with spinach and still have it taste like vanilla ice cream—it’s truly an incredible trick for anyone who thinks they hate veggies (if you’re dealing with a finicky kid—or as I was, a finicky man—just add blueberries to hide the color). Smoothies are also a happy home for spinach because the iron is more readily absorbed with vitamin C, which is found abundantly in fruits. Go for strawberries right now—they have a ton of C and they’re in season (at least in California).

In omelettes: Whether you want to power up at breakfast, or make a lazy dinner, adding spinach to an omelette will take it to the next level. I like doing a Greek-inspired fast frittata with olive oil, onion and feta. Just saute the onions in a pan that can go in the oven, then add the spinach and let it cook down for a minute. Then pour in your eggs and let that sit until it looks like the bottom half is cooked; then sprinkle it with feta, salt and pepper and throw it in the oven under the broiler. When the eggs brown at the edges and the feta bubbles you’re done. Takes ten minutes, tastes gourmet.

With pasta or on pizza: It really doesn’t matter whether you like a red sauce, a cream sauce, or a simple olive oil drizzle on your pasta or pizza—spinach pairs with all. You can easily add it to something store bought but a recent taste triumph at my house involved frozen peas and spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic in a pan. To that I added the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s (cooked of course), some red chili flakes, lemon juice and lots of salt and pepper. If you’re vegan you’re done (or you can add some nutritional yeast to taste). If you like cheese, throw in some parmesan. If you want meat in there, prosciutto works great.

As a side: This is basically the same as above but without the pasta. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan with some chopped garlic and saute your spinach for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a squeeze of lemon juice (for both flavor and some vitamin C).

In a salad: Spinach can be added to just about any salad—from a caesar to a chopped to a simple olive oil and vinegar variety. I like making a good vegan caesar dressing with the following: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs vegenaise, 1 tsp dijon, juice of a lemon, 1 tbs of capers (if you like them), 1 tsp of nutritional yeast (if you have it/like it), and salt and pepper to taste. (Note: if you use the capers you may not need the salt, taste it first.) Do a romaine and fresh spinach mix and add anything you like to it: You can go traditional with croutons and parmesan, or make it more of a mixed vegetable salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Ok, your turn! What’s your favorite way to use this muscle-building age-fighter?

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22

10 Healthy Ways to Help a Hangover

While it’s not something I’m proud of, I’ve got plenty of hangovers under my belt. See, despite all of my healthy practices—yoga, deep breathing, clean cosmetics, brown rice and kale eating—I’m just not that great at saying no to that third or fourth drink once I get going. Bless those of you who are—and damn those of you who are immune to hangovers altogether! Apparently you exist, and you are lucky. But while I am working on my to-don’t list (new rule: don’t drink before dinner!), I’ve also concluded that the only thing worse than a hangover is the guilt and self-loathing that can come with it.

And where does that take most of us? Why, straight to the couch with a big bag of chips or some other crap we’re craving that can leave us feeling worse than before as we try desperately to fill that hangover hole in our hearts. This got us thinking: Short of avoiding hangovers altogether (genius!), there has to be a more holistic approach to dealing with them when they happen. So, since we know there are no silver bullets for too much booze anyways, here are our top ten healthy tips for healing after a night of hard partying.

Got any to add?

P.S. Have a great holiday weekend, don’t drink too-too much, and we’ll be back with an awesome deal from NuboNau next Friday.

Have some miso soup with your eggs. This is totally a thing in Japan. Miso soup replaces a lot of things our bodies need to feel better: water, sodium, and other nutrients depleted by the diuretic effects of the alcohol. Because it’s a fermented food that contains healthy bacteria, miso can also aid with digestion. Too much alcohol is known to disrupt the stomach’s lining and can often result in unpleasant digestive side effects—let’s leave it at that. Oh and the cysteine in eggs breaks down the hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde—so they really are a good breakfast choice post-boozing (and don’t skip the yellows).

Take a handful of omega 3s—and then repeat. There’s not much omegas aren’t good for. Take them when you get home; take them when you wake up; take them take them take them. Alcohol causes inflammation (which is at the root of most health problems), and Omegas are proven to fight that inflammation a serious way. They will also help combat some of the unpleasant side effects of alcohol on your face—like dry, aggro, blotchy skin. Just trust us on this one.

Drink kombucha tea. Yeah, the weird stuff with the floaties at the bottom that actually can contain a bit of alcohol itself. Maybe it’s a hair-of-the-dog thing, but kombucha absolutely makes us feel better when we have a hangover. Again, it’s fermented, which means it’s really good for your sad little tummy. And if you don’t believe us just ask more seasoned hangover experts like Lindsay Lohan and the ladies at Jezebel.

Have sex or a just good cuddle. We’ve said it lots of times: Physical contact releases oxytocin and other happy-making hormones. And feeling cuddly and warm about the world beats out feeling glum and self-punishing. The trick is you have to do it with someone you like because, most of the time time, sex with someone you dont like is probably not going to help anything—and definitely not your hangover.

Get some body work. If there’s no one to curl up with at the moment, try a professional. Actually, try a professional anyways. I always forget this one, but a good massage makes a planet of difference. Maybe that’s because massage also releases happy hormones, or that one massage is proven to seriously boost your immune system with more white blood cells.

Try some hydrotherapy. One of my favorite activities—hungover or not—is hitting up a Korean spa here in Los Angeles. While these spas offer great massages and scrubs, I usually just pay the minimum to enjoy their hot and cold tubs, steam rooms and saunas. The act of going from hot water to cold water, and back again, is so rejuvenating. It increases circulation and toxin elimination—some even believe that immersion in cold water gives a kick to the old immune system, which has some scientific support in human and animal studies (though it definitely needs more research). If you have a bath and a shower at home, you can duplicate the spa experience. A few drops of eucalyptus oil into the cold bath is a nice touch—or make the bath hot and the shower cold. Very important: Because this process will also make you sweat, you must HYDRATE. Make a little lemon or cucumber water to feel extra spa-y and kind to yourself.

Do some exercise—but just a little bit! The camps are divided on this, but here’s our take: If exercise makes you feel better then you should do it. Again though, hydration is key here, and it is important that you not overdo it. Exercise increases circulation, helps elimination, and releases a cocktail of mood-boosting hormones. The few times I’ve forced myself to do it with a hangover, it’s totally helped. From a psychological point of view, if you’re a bit of a type A, it will also let you feel more OK about taking the rest of the day to chill (which we encourage).

Have a banana/blueberry/kale/lemon smoothie. Antioxidants. Potassium. Natural sugars. Vitamins. Digestive enzymes. These are things that actually really help heal a hangover! Get thee to a green smoothie—it has to be made fresh though, not those plastic bottles of green stuff next to juice in the grocery store.

Drink coconut water from a coconut. We all know by now that coconut water is nature’s Gatorade—just way better. According to this TIME piece, it has the same five electrolytes found in human blood; that sports drink we just mentioned only has two. Pshaw. Also, it’s been used in medical emergencies. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had hangovers that could almost qualify. We advocate getting a real green coconut if you can—many healthfood stores offer them with a straw—because whole foods are always better, right Mr. Pollan?

Enjoy your hangover. Come again? That’s right, you heard me. There are some great reasons to have a hangover: You needed a break anyways. You haven’t taken a sick day in months. You can’t remember the last time you watched daytime television. There’s nothing you have to do that can’t wait until tomorrow. You still haven’t watched Country Strong. Sundays are for rest anyways. Nothing important ever happens on a Tuesday. In other words: Let yourself off the hook. Besides, the only person mad at your hangover is you.

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