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

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.

Rules of the Road for Eating Well in Shanghai


3-IMG_1482As mentioned by Margaret in her previous post, I am new to Shanghai. My perspective is just that, someone new to an area trying to understand the lay of the land and how to function in a new environment. This includes how to eat healthily. Unfortunately, there is more to healthy eating than just consuming fruits and vegetables. If only it were that easy. There are a few simple rules I live by.

  1. Make healthy eating a priority.
    • Make a plan for eating well for the week. Schedule time for shopping and preparing meals at home.
  2. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  3. Minimize processed foods (pre-made, pre-packaged etc.).
  4. Make your own meals and limit use of take-out.

They seem simple enough, but sometimes the execution is far more difficult than the plan. There are additional challenges to healthy and safe eating when living in Shanghai.  I have been asked by many people who are new to the city, “How do I avoid all the sugar and oil?” People often say it is difficult to get back on track with the healthy eating habits they had in their home country. I certainly feel their pain. Perhaps something can be learned from my trial and error as a newbie.  In my time here, I have created a few extra rules for eating well in Shanghai.

  1. Don’t go Sherpa crazy.
    • A busy expat lifestyle combined with lack of local knowledge makes a nightly call to Sherpa a very attractive option. When you allow others to prepare your food, you lose control of quality of ingredients, portion sizes, oil quantities etc.
  2. Map out where and when to get groceries.
    • It’s likely that, unlike at home, you will not meet all your grocery needs in 1 shop. Do your research, identify the best places for your healthy and safe food requirements and make time to go shopping.  There are also some great online resources for food shopping in Shanghai.  Do what is right for you, what is right for your schedule.
  3. Use local fruits and vegetables.
    • Make use of the wide array of produce including lotus roots, bitter melons, and oyster mushrooms etc. that are freely available in your local store.

The number one reason I am given for not eating healthily is a lack of time. But who has tons of time? So much time they cannot fathom what to do?  No one in Shanghai yet! However, healthy eating should be a priority because it is so important. Achieving and doing everything else in life is that much easier when you feel energized and healthy. Understandably, starting a new routine can be extremely difficult. I had an entire lunch of Pocky Sticks one day (OK, maybe two days!).  I had no routine at the time. I have since made it my mission to make simple, inexpensive and quick meals that include local vegetables and fruits. In my future posts I will share my cooking and Shanghai food related adventures.

In the meantime – Eat Well Shanghai! –

Jessica W.