Meet Maya Oaks

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Forward by Yuki Kotani

Maya Oaks is one of our amazing and dedicated Board of Directors.  She has provided guidance for the organization and has used her knowledge in social work and program development to create and implement our Grant Program.  This program provides financial assistance to heart patients and their families.

Maya brings the energy and passion necessary for Harboring Hearts to grow.

Thank you Maya for your support and hard work.  Read below to learn more about our amazing board member.

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Name – Maya Oaks

Current Occupation – Civil Servant, Office of Head Start/Administration for Children and Families

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I connected to Harboring Hearts through a group named Palindrome Advisors, which links industry leaders to nonprofit organizations. When I first sat down to speak with the co-founders, I was struck by their passion and was excited to be part of a rapidly growing organization. I’ve also seen firsthand the impact chronic disease can have on patients, families and friends, and know that the support and resources provided by Harboring Hearts are crucial.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – It’s tough, to be sure! When you’re thinking about both careers and volunteering, I think the key is to find organizations, people and causes that inspire you. If you love what you do, it won’t really feel like it’s a difficult balance. I also have had to be pretty realistic about what I can and can’t do, and to tell myself that there are only so many hours in any given day!

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – There are two experiences in my adult life that have really shaped the work I pursue today: building HIV/AIDS awareness in a remote village in Tanzania and working with adolescents in New York City’s juvenile justice system. While on the surface these experiences appear to be radically different, both of them were integral in shaping the way I approach working with undeserved and underrepresented populations. In both places, I encountered people who taught me so much more than I ever could have imagined.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – I’m relatively new to Harboring Hearts and am looking forward to cultivating many more memories in the year to come! However, my favorite memory thus far is probably the first Board meeting I attended, when the passion and dedication of all those connected to the organization became even more evident to me.

Maya’s Favorites

  • Favorite City? It’s a tie between three cities for three very different reasons: New York (for its diversity), San Francisco (for its strong activist tendencies) and Paris (for its beauty and general joie de vivre).
  • Favorite Food? My mom’s Burmese chicken curry.
  • Favorite Activity? Exploring new places – whether a new park, museum, neighborhood, city, country, or continent.
  • Favorite Music?  Depends entirely on my mood, although I love pretty much every genre. Right now, the Wicked soundtrack seems to be running through my head…
  • Favorite Museum? The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
  • Favorite Travel Destination? That’s like asking a child to pick his favorite toy at FAO Schwarz! But if I had to choose, I would probably say Tanzania and other countries in the East Africa region.
  • Favorite Book? The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • Favorite Movie? Another hard category! Like music, it depends entirely on my mood. I recently watched Marley and Me, which I think is an especially poignant movie for anyone who grew up with a labrador retriever.

Meet Peter Christodoulou

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Forward by Yuki Kotani

As our Spring Gala fast approaches, we want to recognize people who have been essential to ensuring that the event would be a success.  For the second time, we are holding another exciting event at the Rubin Museum of Art and we want to thank Peter Christodoulou for securing us the venue.  The museum is beautiful with amazing Tibetan and Himalayan art work.  The peaceful yet trendy ambience has been one of the best venue choices for Harboring Hearts.

We want to thank Peter for his continued support and dedication to the organization.  Please read about our amazing volunteer, Peter Christodoulou. 

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Name – Peter Christodoulou

Current Occupation – Finance, specifically Asset Management at Credit Suisse

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I have been friends with Michelle Javian, one of the co-founders of Harboring Hearts, ever since I met her at the airport. We were both returning from vacation in Greece, and we shared a few common connections which we discovered while waiting in the taxi line! We continued to stay in touch, and as I discovered Harboring Hearts I immediately took an interest in the organization’s mission and helping out any way I could.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – My career keeps me quite busy, but helping Harboring Hearts has always been a rewarding experience and it has never been hard to find time to help (especially given how fun Harboring Hearts events are!). I am generally most useful with event hosting and planning, and I am always able to catch up after regular working hours or when my work load is low.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience?  – My greatest inspiration is watching other people with the drive to succeed, specifically in watching others who manage challenging projects from an idea all the way to completion. I see this in colleagues, my closest friends, my fiancée, and my family. I’ve also seen such drive from the volunteers at Harboring Hearts, and it is this drive which is part of the reason I am involved with the organization. Having seen multiple fundraising events worked on by volunteers who truly feel motivated by the organization’s mission, I am myself motivated to make each and every event even better.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – I have been a member of the host committee for various Harboring Hearts events. My favorite was the first event at the Rubin Museum since I helped secure the venue. The space and the turn out made for a fantastic and successful night!

Peter’s Favorites:

  • Favorite City? New York City
  • Favorite Food? Italian (especially spaghetti with pesto)
  • Favorite Activity? Travel
  • Favorite Music? Classic rock
  • Favorite Museum? Museum of Moving Image
  • Favorite Travel Destination? Greek islands
  • Favorite Movie? A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Striped Sea Bass Stuffed with Lemons, Bay Leaves, and Thyme

*Fast, Healthy and Divine.*

It is not easy to find a meal that is fast to make, healthy, and tastes absolutely divine. Given my passion for food and cooking, as well as, my background in medicine, and nutrition, part of my mission is to ‘dazzle’ the simple foods, in a subtle, savory, and yet healthy way.

Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which clinical studies, have
proven to decrease cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and triglycerides (lowering LDL, the ‘bad cholesterol’, and increasing HDL, the ‘good cholesterol’) . The lemons, herbs, tomatoes, and arugula salad also contain many vitamins, and minerals, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and numerous ‘healthy heart’ benefits. For example, potassium, found in these foods, is a mineral which plays a large role in treating high blood pressure. The health advantages are tremendous, and the fresh, light, heavenly flavor will transport you to that long sought-after seacoast; even if just for a bite or two 😉

This dish requires only a few key ingredients, and may easily be served within 25 minutes.

2 Servings:

2 1-pound sea bass (scaled and gutted)
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 tbs olive oil

*Directions*:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Season the fish with a sprinkle of *salt and pepper.
3) Insert a thyme spring; and a bay leaf.
4) Coat sea bass with olive oil, and *salt and pepper
5) Place fish on aluminum foil, and fold up all sides.
6) Transfer to oven and steam for approximately 20 minutes.

** Use of salt is optional; lemon is a good substitute. This is a low-fat, low-sodium meal. Adjust servings as necessary.

-Courtesy of Food & Wine.

-Please see below for more information on fish, and omega-3.

Meet Kristen Lohser

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Forward by Yuki Kotani

I met Kristen through Michelle at the beginning stages of Harboring Hearts.  She immediately extended her support to our cause and has continued to support us to this day.  She recently hosted a Brooks Brothers shopping event at a Long Island, NY mall where a percentage of the purchased goods were donated to Harboring Hearts.  Kristen’s giving nature is always on full display as she finds creative ways to help Harboring Hearts fulfill the mission of helping heart patients and their families.

Please read about our amazing volunteer, Kristen Lohser.  We thank you for believing in our organization and our mission.

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Name – Kristen Lohser

Current Occupation – Physician Assistant at North Shore Long Island Jewish

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – The co-founder, Michelle Javian has been my best friend since college. One day Michelle and I met for lunch and she told me about the idea and I knew with her heart and work ethic it would be successful. Knowing her desire for the charity to thrive was so motivating to me.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – It can be busy but with a career in healthcare helping the charity seems like an extension of my everyday and is very fulfilling.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience?  – I believe having multiple spine surgeries has been very influential. It has shaped me into a kind and compassionate health care provider. The struggles have taught me not to take anything too serious in life and to help those that are struggling with even bigger healthcare issues.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – My favorite memory was one of the golf outings. It was such a beautiful day and at the event everyone has so happy and having so much fun!  It was an opportunity to be with both my family and friends to help spread awareness of such an important mission.

Kristen’s Favorites:

  • Favorite City? Washington dc
  • Favorite Food? Pizza
  • Favorite Activity? Baking
  • Favorite Music? Coldplay
  • Favorite Museum? Smithsonian, The American History Museum
  • Favorite Travel Destination? Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Favorite Movie? Love Actually

Magic in the Kitchen

Forward by Yuki Kotani

We are very excited to introduce Shayla Frandsen, our event intern at Harboring Hearts.  She comes to us from Seattle and is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University.  She is currently studying at CUNY for a Masters in English Literature. 

Shayla plays a crucial role in our upcoming May 22nd Gala by assisting Michelle Javian and the event team in any way possible.  In addition, she has worn many different hats within the organization and she has been an invaluable part of Harboring Hearts.  We appreciate Shayla for sharing her story with us today.

I hope you enjoy her story and heart-healthy recipe!

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Have you ever been to a magic show? The only time I’ve ever been to an actual sit-down magic show in all its glory was when I was about eight or nine years old. It was held in the gym of an elementary school, and (if I remember correctly) I went with my friend and her family.

At one point during the show I was chosen to be a helper in the next trick. I walked up on stage, faced the audience, the magician had me wear a pair of yellow, oversized sunglasses—and that’s the end of what I remember. I can’t remember what trick the magician than did or what happened afterwards—you know how childhood memories go sometimes. Oh well.

In a way, cooking is a lot like magic. The stage is set: in a mixing bowl, pop in a dash of this, a teaspoon of that, close it up in the oven for a few minutes, wave your wand and voila! Chocolate cake. Voila! Warm banana bread. Voila! Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (a personal favorite of mine).

In her book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, Laura Schenone writes, “Women wield almost mystical strength in their kitchens . . . I have days in my very own kitchen when I am a high priestess of life. Steam rises up from my bubbling pots. Spices dance in their jars like spirits yearning to be set free . . . Outside my kitchen door people clamor with hunger, and I am the only one who can make things right” (page xv). Doesn’t that make cooking sound so…exciting? So magical? Yet sometimes I am so overwhelmed at the idea of cooking a delicious & heart-healthy meal for my husband & I that “magical” is the exact opposite way I am feeling.

It is no secret that cooking & eating heart-healthy food can require lots of time, money, and preparation. If you’re like me, it takes Internet research, advice from friends, and even Yelp to find those heart-healthy recipes or restaurants. Finding the time in your busy schedule to shop for and then cook these recipes is a magic trick unto itself. If you’re also like me, however, you’ve realized that it’s worth it. So take that extra bit of time to figure out how you can be the healthiest you can be, and then work up some magic in your kitchen!

Here is a recipe for grilled ginger salmon (I’m originally from Seattle, so what can I say? Salmon has an extra-special place in my heart!). This cold-water fish is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, meaning it is at the very top of the list of foods that are healthiest for your heart.

Grilled Ginger Salmon

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup orange juice

¼ cup honey

1 green onion, chopped

1 ½ lbs salmon fillets

Directions

1. In bowl, mix the first five ingredients.

2. Place onions in small bowl and chill until ready to use.

3. Gill salmon over medium coals for 10 minutes, turn and grill the other side for 10 minutes.

4. Brush with ginger sauce throughout grilling.

5. Place salmon on platter and sprinkle with onions.

 

 

 

February Food Blog: Vegetable pitas w/ white bean hummus

For Valentine’s Day, I was out with the Harboring Hearts team for a fundraiser at the Ainsworth – so the following day, I decided to cook my mom a (belated) heart-healthy V-day special.  Since I’ve been involved in Harboring Hearts, and February is heart month, I felt that the best way to show my mom I love her was by serving a dish that was as delicious as it was nutritious.


And it honestly was – I loved the way the freshly-made white-bean puree / ‘hummus’ gave it a layer of great flavor (instead of a fattening sauce), and it served as an extra dose of nutrition with the vegetables & nuts. Plus – it was so easy to make in the food processor!

Remember: even though February (Heart Month) is coming to a close, you can always show your loved ones that you care by making something heart-healthy & delicious! And don’t forget to remind them to take care of their hearts by getting routinely checked out.

For this dish, I googled what kinds of spices are used together in Mediterranean food and went from there.  Giving a bit of thought to nutrition for my health-conscious mom, rummaging through the fridge & pantry, and with a little inspiration from Food Network, I came up with this:


Vegetable pitas & white bean hummus


Whole wheat pita pockets


For the ‘hummus’:

 

1 (15-ounce) can white beans (cannellini) or chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 to 2 tablespoons water

handful of grated parmesan (can use manchego or pecorino romano cheese)

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper
(this is a slightly altered recipe from Food Network for white bean puree)


For the vegetables:


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped into quarters

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1/2 tsp thyme (add more to taste – didn’t actually measure it!)

1/2 tsp oregano (“)

fresh feta cheese, crumbled

dried cranberries (“craisins”)

Optional: handful mint, chopped

 

Directions:

 

Heat olive oil on big saute pan with pinch or two of black pepper.  Turn heat low to cook garlic till it releases its fragrance (under a minute), then add onions and cook for another minute.  Add peppers, cook for a couple minutes, watching it so it softens only slightly.  Add zucchini and cook till desired tenderness.  Add thyme, oregano, s&p, stir and add more to taste.  Add generous handful of craisins and stir.  Remove pan from heat and add crumbled feta (and mint if available) to the vegetables, stirring gently.

Combine the white beans, water, cheese, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes in a food processor (I used a blender) and puree until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil and process until fully incorporated and velvety. Season with pepper to taste. (also from Food Network)

Lightly toast the pitas in an oven/toaster.  Spoon in some hummus to coat the inside and then add vegetables. Add more hummus and mint to the top if desired, and enjoy! 🙂

 


Note: You can also see this post and more on my personal food blog, http://itsallfoodlove.blogspot.com.  Thanks! -Pareesha

 

 

Meet Erica Lynn Young

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

I have known Erica Young since our high school days of running 4x200s on our track & field team.  Since relocating to NYC, our bond has grown stronger as we connected over stories about our lives as an entrepreneur!

She has inspired me with her passion for her company/industry and her remarkable business acumen.  She has brought the same level of commitment to Harboring Hearts from creating the fundamental structure of our social media strategy to assisting with numerous events.

Thank you Erica for your continued support and for dedicating your time to Harboring Hearts.  Read below to learn more about our fabulous volunteer.

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Name – Erica Lynn Young

Current Occupation – Social Media and Higher Education Consultant and Founder of the soon to launch TruthandFashion.com

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – The Co-founder of HH, Yuki Kotani, has been a personal friend of mine before we both relocated to New York City.  When I heard about HH’s mission (to provide affordable, temporary housing for cardiac patients during a time of need) and the founder’s personal stories of dealing with heart disease, I knew I had to help.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – It is definitely not always easy.  Now that I am launching my second startup and my consulting work is starting to really take off, it seems to get harder and harder to find a balance.  The life of a NYC entrepreneur though means that you are incredibly motivated to accomplish your goals; it becomes almost an insatiable hunger.  There are certain time periods that are slower in consulting; I try to fill that time by giving back.  It is, in a way, how I say thank you for all of the blessings that I have had in my life.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – It is so hard to pick one person for this. I believe different stages of my life have been greatly inspired by different people, not solely one constant as life is always evolving and, especially in NYC, moves faster and faster.  I have been fortunate to have some great mentors and friends that have inspired me in so many ways.

I would say that my greatest inspiration is an idea; the idea that anything is achievable.  It is what keeps me dreaming, keeps me moving, keeps me thinking, keep me loving.  I am inspired by what people can do when they really put their minds to it.  I love reading stories about how people championed adversity in their own lives.  If you want a change, as Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – I have helped Harboring Hearts with their Masquerade Ball, Theory and Jessie James Shopping Events, and the Harboring Hearts Summer Fete.  I love looking back at these successful events knowing that are work has directly helped to support heart patients and their families in need.  Also, all of the HH volunteers are so ambitious and inspiring. They are a wonderful group of people to work with and really make planning these events such a joy.

Your Favorites:

  • Favorite city : New York for work, Paris for love, and Istanbul for adventure
  • Favorite food : Levain Cookies
  • Favorite activity: Playing Volleyball
  • Favorite music: My Florence and The Machine channel on Pandora
  • Favorite museum: MoMa
  • Favorite travel destination: The place I have not been.
  • Favorite book: Hard to pick one, but I have always loved “A Moveable Feast” by Earnest Hemingway as I read it at such poignant time.

Meatless Monday – Round 2

If you read my first post about Meatless Monday, the general theme of the day was HUNGER.  I couldn’t seem to eat enough to keep me going until the next meal.

After I posted my first Meatless Monday blog, I received amazing advice from Meatless Monday participants and my vegetarian friends.  This time around, I was better educated and better equipped to take on a meatless day!

Looking back on this past week, I had some interesting conversations with my friends regarding food choices for our health and for the environment.  One particular conversation about meat – well, fish to be exact – stood out to me.

I love fish from sushi grade tuna to baked salmon.  There have been numerous studies about the heart health benefits of eating fish such as reduced calories and omega-3s.  However, it has been difficult for me to find fish at grocery stores that have been raised in a sustainable environment. I can find other meat products that are raised using sustainable farming methods, so why not fish?

I discussed this conundrum with one of my friends and she later sent me a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium – Seafood Watch site.  This site provided me with in-depth information to answer my question and educated me for my next shopping trip to the grocery store. I learned that many of the world’s fisheries are in a decline and face issues such as over fishing and habitat damage. Even the use of fish farms can have negative impacts on the environment.

Now, I’m not saying I will eliminate fish out of my diet.  I will still continue to eat fish and take advantage of the omega-3s to benefit my heart.  However, to ensure the longevity of the ocean’s ecosystem while enjoying my meal, I will learn about what fish to eat so I can simultaneously improve my health and the environment’s health!  Please check out the website and let me know your thoughts.

Also, many of you emailed, tweeted and Facebook messaged me about participating in Meatless Monday.  Tell me about your experiences, send me recipes (I like to cook and bake) and/or share restaurant suggestions.

If you live in NYC and want to eat out for Meatless Monday, Michelle Javian (Co-Founder of Harboring Hearts) ordered from Sacred Chow last night.  They serve delicious vegan foods!

This is what I ate yesterday (January 30th, 2012):

Breakfast:

  • Rice cakes with almond butter
  • Greek yogurt with honey, oats and blueberries

Lunch:

  • Sautéed asparagus and brussel sprouts
  • Mashed cauliflower (This is my favorite alternative to mashed potatoes.)
  • Tomato and lentil soup with rice
  • Blue Print Green Juice

Snack:

  • Rice crackers wrapped in Japanese nori
  • Baby carrots with hummus

Dinner:

  • Shashuka with gluten-free bread

Meet Adam Foldes

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

Adam Foldes is a long-time friend of Michelle Javian and when he began volunteering for Harboring Hearts you could tell that he was there not only to support his friend, but also because he was passionate and driven by our mission.

Adam has volunteered for us in numerous capacities and he played a significant role in our Winter Cocktail event at the Rubin Museum of Art last February 2011.  He helped us devise the overall concept of the event, headed sub-committee groups and even contributed his writing skills to draft sponsorship letters.

Thank you Adam for your support and for dedicating your time to Harboring Hearts!  Read below to learn more about Adam.

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Name: Adam Foldes

Current Occupation: Creator/Author of Ava’s Adventures in the World (www.avasadventures.com)

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts?: Michelle Javian and I have been friends since our first years at Georgetown University. Though following very different paths, we always remained close before, during, and after Harboring Hearts came into being–and shared the hurdles and blessings that filled those years mentioned. I admired her willpower, vision, and dedication to the cause and families Harboring Hearts helped, and when I finally moved back to New York City in October 2010, it seemed a natural place to lend a hand in the capacities that I could. From there, it was easy to see that the people with whom Michelle had collaborated–Yuki Kotani, interns and general Harboring Hearts’ supporters–were an inspiring and motivating group of people to know and work with.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully?:  Balance? The difficult part of answering this question, is that sometimes I do not feel I achieve the balance that Harboring Hearts needs and deserves this year and always. I am always wishing I had 65 hour days; more time, and more time to offer. For the past several months, I have been developing Ava’s Adventures while concurrently working for another company as well–long days. At points, though, one must check back in and assess what is most important. Harboring Hearts is definitely a cause to which I will always be committed, despite how the tides of life may demand that I am further from that shoreline than I’d like to be. Even if it is just an hour a week, or 25 hours, it helps to be there–in a lot of ways. It is hard to believe that sometimes, and difficult to feel like you are really doing ‘enough’…but when Harboring Hearts, or other such organizations someone cares about, say they need help–they mean it. If 1,000 people gave 1 hour of help a week, it means the world to charities. Unfortunately, many of those 1,000 people (including me, at times) don’t know how true that is and allow feelings of guilt or inadequacy (of time availability) to skew the reality: Every hour counts, and makes a huge difference. When you remember that, an alarm goes off–and you find the hour, and balance just follows naturally after that.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience?:  I think loss, solitude, reading, friends, and my family have been the greatest inspiration in my career choices–and even deferrals–in life. Each of these areas present both challenges, and awareness, of who we are as people. For me, they each have been central, critical elements that have inspired my stepping back from the reality I am a part of to ask myself: “how do I want to be a part of that reality? Where do I fit, and what is it that I can offer?” Sometimes the obvious answer is not the right answer, so it is tiring; but you have to follow your heart and trust that your own experience and self-understanding will always be the only thing that stays with you forever: always growing with each step. Only you know that path before, for certain, so make sure to incorporate that into your choices so the path ahead is one of growth and awareness of that world around you on either side of the Road.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts?: My favorite memories about Harboring Hearts are the community events at NY-Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. They have been the few chances to see and hear the stories of families helped by Harboring Hearts, and also those families who are confronting the emotions, challenges, fears, and love they are feeling during their time of need.

Adam’s Favorites:

  • Favorite City – Paris and Athens
  • Favorite Food – Heart healthy, gluten-free, whole wheat crust pizza
  • Favorite Activity – Fitness
  • Favorite Music – Classical
  • Favorite Museum – Museo Botero (Bogota, Colombia) and the Tate Modern (London, UK)
  • Favorite Travel Destination – Greece, because I feel relaxed and at home and do not feel like I am traveling…yet come back completely rejuvenated and spiritually calm every time.
  • Favorite Book – Impossible to answer 🙂
  • Favorite Movie – Too many

My first “Meatless Monday” experience

Have you heard of “Meatless Monday”?

Meatless Monday is a NPO in association with John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Their mission is, “to help [us] reduce [our] meat consumption by 15% in order to improve [our] personal health and the health of the planet”.  They accomplish this initiative by encouraging others to remove meat from their diet for just one day a week.

Our intern, Pareesha, brought “Meatless Monday” to my attention last week and asked if I would go meatless for one day.  The answer was immediately, “Yes”.  As a co-founder of a heart organization and an avid heart health advocate on behalf of my organization and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women, I believe that I should practice what I advocate.

Well, yesterday was Monday, January 23, 2012 and I went meatless.

Before I get into my meatless experience, let me tell you a little about myself and my eating habits.  I am an omnivore, but I eat fairly healthy and I am very aware of the foods that I put in my body.  I continually educate myself on how to eat healthy and I am always on the hunt for healthy alternatives.

However, going meatless for a day was harder than I imagined. Maybe it was because I did not prepare my food before work and I had to find meatless yet filling dishes at restaurants.  I say filling because finding meatless options was not the challenge.  The challenge was finding food options that would keep my energy level up until the next meal.

I started the day with 2 rice cakes with peanut butter.  By 10:30am, I was starving!  I ate the baby carrots I packed for my mid-afternoon snack. By noon, I was starving again.  Trying to think on an empty stomach proved to be difficult but I was determined to find a meatless option that was not a salad.  I ended up ordering a delicious Mediterranean Shakshuka (a tomato, onion, pepper stew) at a nearby restaurant.  Yay, success!  By 3:00pm, I was starving…again!  I cursed myself for not ordering a side of rice with my lunch.  Well, next time I’ll do better.  I scrounged around my bag and found a KIND bar (a fruit and nut bar) and I devoured it. I then ran downstairs to a health food store and ordered a raw veggie juice to increase my vegetable intake for the day.

I thought dinner was going to be a challenge because I had made plans to grab dinner with friends I have not seen in awhile.  Luckily, the menu was diverse and I ate a boston bibb salad and a butternut squash pasta dish.

So, my first attempt at “Meatless Monday” was quite an adventure and a learning experience.  I know I will need to educate myself on meatless options for next week but I think it was a successful day.  I was able to engage in dialogue with my friends about what going meatless meant to me and I was able to sign up a few more people to join the movement!

So what does going meatless mean for me?

Going meatless, even just once a week, can reduce my risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  By not eating meat, I increased my fiber and vegetable intake in just one day.

What I learned through my experience is that reducing my risk of life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease just requires small and minor adjustments to my lifestyle.

Replace chicken with tofu.  Replace red meat with beans.  My fellow Go Red For Women sister, Gail Mates says it perfectly. “It’s about small simple changes that can save your life”.

The health benefits to reducing your meat intake are the most obvious reasons to participate in “Meatless Monday” but were you aware of the benefits to the environment?  Well, I was not aware that by cutting out meat, we can reduce our carbon footprint, minimize water usage and even reduce fossil fuel dependence.

I recognize that just one person reducing their meat intake will not affect our environment, but imagine if every single one of us cut out meat for just one day.  How would that affect your body?  How would that affect Earth?  How would that affect future generations?

I hope you would consider joining me and participate in “Meatless Monday”.  Tell me about your experiences!