New Year with the Roosters

A farmer at work in the fields

How many of us have gone on holiday and come back feeling drained, requiring a vacation from our vacation?  Or have felt less healthy than before we left?  If you can often say yes, then maybe it’s time to go on a healthy retreat.

This Chinese New Year, I went on vacation with a tour group called M2adventure Shanghai.  I was looking for a chance to get away from the bright lights, the pollution and the concrete jungle for a few days.  I figured a technology detox, and a WeChat detox, was also in order.  My CNY adventure to a tiny (and I mean tiny) mountain village near Taizhou city in Zhejiang province was just what I needed.

View of a Chinese mountain village

My group of intrepid explorers (!) arrived at the base of a mountain where we disembarked from our comfortable bus.  We then had to climb 2-3 hours to make it to the village as it is not accessible by car.  There was no-one selling anything along the trail and during our ascent we saw no-one but the people in our group.  The mountain air was clean and fresh; I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my whole life.  We spent our days hiking and exploring nature.  We relaxed at night by talking, singing (and dancing!) around a bonfire.

I must of course tell you about the food!  It was fresh, organic and harvested straight from the mountain.  The farm technology consisted of little more than an ox.  Everything tasted better than the food I have had anywhere in China (except for Chongming Island).  The food was light with minimal spices and oils but still big on flavor.  Some of the meals featured a little too much salt for my tastes but otherwise it was very healthy.  We were served around 12 different types of veggies alone at every evening meal!  I attended a dumpling and tofu making class and even watched an 80 year old lady collect root vegetables from the top of a waterfall!  Our Chinese hosts seemed driven to feed all of us constantly, as if we would never eat again.  We stuffed our faces at every meal but the hiking meant that we needed these extra calories.  Our hosts had their own beehives, providing a fresh source of beautiful honey.  The village also had loads of cows, pigs, and tons of chickens.  It was great spending the Chinese New Year of the Rooster surrounded by roosters!

Fresh vegetables in the countryside

All in all it was a great chance to really see China and return to Shanghai refreshed and happy to be back to civilization.  Do you think a trip like this isn’t for you because of kids or because of fitness levels?  Not true! M2adventure, and other Shanghai based tour groups, have trips suitable for bringing the kids along.  They can also cater to different fitness levels.  The trips are also very good value.  They range from around 800 to 1500 RMB for the budget savvy.  Please be warned that luxury accommodations are not part of the package for the tours.  Just to give you an idea, our group had to poop sitting on a log in a “bathroom” with no door, next to a cow!  You are sure to make lots of memories and come home with some interesting stories.

Until the next time, Eat Well Shanghai!  😉  – Jessica W.

Taking the Vegan Challenge

 

Are you up to the challenge?
Are you up to the challenge?

Starting this February 11th 2017, with a launch party at Happy Buddha, the Shanghai “21 day vegan challenge” begins! (see link at the end of the post.)  For anyone who has wanted to try a vegan diet, Happy Buddha, Saucepan, Veggie Lovers and Veggie Dorm have joined forces with VeganFiesta to create this great event!  If you are inclined to drool over a delicious cheese board or juicy steak, unsure of how you will find the willpower not to eat them, you are sure to find lots of support from fellow challenge members.  There are also activities every day from cooking classes to workouts.  Too tired to make your own vegan food?  Then order a vegan meal from one of the multiple partners at a discount or buy a week long meal plan from Better Bentos.  I will be trying this challenge; although I can’t promise I’ll make it through to the end!  I will be contributing to the challenge by giving a nutrition class at Hunter Gatherer on the evening of February 23rd.  The class will focus on healthy vegan eating patterns, to ensure those participating get all of their proper nutrients.
I have heard some debate over whether or not vegans can get all the nutrients they need.  They absolutely can if they eat the right plant sources.  B12 is an exception but it can be obtained through fortified foods or nutritional yeast, check out this great vegetarian resource here.  Vegetarians and vegans tend to have an overall lower cancer rate than the general population as well as a lower BMI.  Conversely, just because someone is vegan does not automatically mean they are eating healthy.  Sugars, oils and certain processed “junk foods” can be vegan.  So remember, no matter what diet you choose, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is best for optimal health.
Until the next time, wishing you and your family good fortune in this New Year of the Rooster!

Eat Well Shanghai! – Jessica W.

Link to 21 Day Vegan Challenge

Pumpkins and Pesto

The Green Storm Organic Christmas Market
The Green Storm Organic Christmas Market

Shanghai has many health related food markets and events; they are a great way to promote good health, meet like-minded people, and discover great foods.  Look out for them if you are on a mission to improve your health or to locate healthy and safe food suppliers.  These markets are often free or inexpensive.

I recently spoke at the Green Storm Organic Christmas Market in Xintiandi, organized by the good people at O³.  It was a really great event with loads of good nutrition information as well as some knowledgeable and enthusiastic organic food suppliers.

I purchased some lovingly prepared products including a jar of fermented mixed vegetables, kale pesto and non-dairy pumpkin soup.  The mixed veg and kale pesto are homemade products unavailable in stores.  These foods are so beneficial to your health as well as being delicious!

Fermented mixed vegetables are a non-dairy probiotic.  Probiotics are live “good” bacteria such as those naturally found in your gut.  These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. According to Kristi King of the United States Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they can boost immunity and overall health, especially gastrointestinal health.  Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance and more.  However, effects can vary from person to person.

Kale Pesto, lovingly prepared with Italian flair
Kale Pesto, lovingly prepared with Italian flair

The vegan Kale Pesto is a great source of vitamins A, K, and C.  It is loaded with garlic which is considered a prebiotic.  It also contains olive oil with monounsaturated fat and cashews which are high in copper, magnesium, iron, and B-6.  Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food components that are linked to promoting the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut.  Prebiotics may improve gastrointestinal health as well as enhancing calcium absorption.

The pumpkins in the Pumpkin Soup are full of vitamin A, fiber and a healthy dose of vitamin C. Pumpkin also contains the important antioxidant beta-carotene, linked to vitamin A production in the body.

Events like the Organic Christmas Market, and other events held throughout the year, are a great place to meet fun and enthusiastic foodies.  The market brought together a diverse range of locals and expats in a lively atmosphere for a common purpose; eating well in Shanghai!  I look forward to attending other events and perhaps you do too!

In the meantime, Eat Well Shanghai – Jessica W.

Eat Well for Winter

I associate holidays and other times of the year with delicious in-season produce that I am excited to see on my plate.  In the US, I look forward to the spring asparagus, summer cherries, and autumn squash varieties.  Eating seasonal produce provides us with the freshest and healthiest foods to protect our bodies during the cold and flu season.  Eating seasonal vegetables and fruits is also environmentally friendly as it reduces the miles from farm to table.  Lastly, it helps to support local providers like Rosa Grange Farm in my previous blog post.

Colorful fruits and vegetables
Colorful fruits and vegetables

Eating local produce will ensure that a variety of nutrient-dense, colorful foods ends up on our meal plate. The yellow, orange, red, white and deep green colors of fall and winter can provide the nutrition needed to avoid racking up the sick days.  We all know  people who swear by tonics or supplements that act as a cure-all remedy.  A magic potion would be amazing, but society has yet to invent one (if you find it, please let me know!).  While there are many factors at work and many approaches to get through flu season unscathed, eating well and sleeping well, together with exercise and stress reduction will always help.

While we may be familiar with what’s seasonal at home, what about seasonal produce here in Shanghai?  Look for these foods at the market or in your online store to help keep your defenses up against cold or flu during the coming months.  Add a variety, to ensure you are getting the required vitamins A, C & E, folate (folic acid) and antioxidants.

Fall

Fall Fruits: Grapes, Apples, Pomegranates, Dates, Pears, Guava.

Fall Vegetables: Potato, Okra, Taro, Chinese yam, Winter Melon, Indian bean, Snap Peas.

Fall Nuts / Spices: Chestnuts, Almonds, Ginger.

Winter

Winter Fruits: Grapefruit, Pumpkins, Passion fruit, Tangerines.

Winter Vegetables: Bok Choy, Yams, Cabbage, Carrots, Mushrooms, Leeks, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Turnips, Radish, Soybean, Chinese Pumpkin, Butternut Squash.

Winter Nuts/Spices: garlic, chestnuts.

All Seasons

All Varieties: Avocados, Lemons, Oranges, Cabbage, Lettuce (all leafy greens), Bananas, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Papayas, Parsnips, Rutabaga, Dragon Fruit, Bitter Melon, Daikon.

Be adventurous, expand your boundaries in the fruit and veg store……and Eat Well Shanghai! 😉

Jessica W.