In today’s age of constant advancement and achievement, one of the most radical things we can do is stop the momentum of our lives and take care of ourselves. However, especially as women, this can be challenging. If we’re not fighting the good fight in the workplace (or should we say rat race), we’re often run ragged from managing households and shuffling kids from dance or hockey to school to piano lessons or playdates and everything in between. Some of us are doing both.

At the same time, we’re trying so darn hard to keep up with the image of the fit and healthy woman with stress under control, hair in place and glowing skin -- basically the view of female health that advertisers sell as the goal. This means reading labels, analyzing our food choices, and doing the best we can to avoid the pitfalls of fast or convenient food laden with chemicals, preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics. Companies entice us with labels such as "natural," "organic" or non-GMO and yes, even vegan.

While it’s true that there are numerous health benefits to transitioning to a plant-based diet (not to mention the benefits to our earth and environment), remember, a vegan Oreo isn’t any healthier for you than a non-vegan Oreo! In fact, it's quite easy to be an unhealthy vegan.
One way to avoid the downside of any specific dietary choice, vegan, plant-leaning or vegetarian, is to take the time to prepare your own meals. A home-cooked meal is often the last thing on our minds after a hectic or stressful workday, and may even conjure up soulless supermarkets and an evening that ends with dishes piled up in the sink, both of which can take us away from meaningful things like reading our kids to sleep or finishing off our emails.

However, what if we thought of cooking as a form of self-care? Instead of another task to check off our to-do list, what if cooking became a devotional practice; a way of honoring our bodies and nourishing our souls? Could this change our relationship with what we put in your mouths? While it may take a bit more time to shop for fresh produce (though now you can order groceries from Instacart or Amazon) the truth is that preparing our own meals and snacks, is as worthwhile as getting to yoga class. I can’t think of time better spent.

Carefully choosing and preparing our food with love is a way to honor the divine piece of magic that is our body. Often times I will chant or sing some good old country tunes – depending on my mood – as I chop vegetables. Sundays are my days to prep for the week. I prepare spices, slice vegetables and make sure I have some staples on hand, such as vegetable stock, healthy oils (coconut and olive oils are two preferred vegan options), and good grains. I always keep a ball glass jar full of basmati rice and split mung beans for kitchari so, at the very least, I can whip up a healthy, nutritious meal. Sweet potatoes and kelp noodles are also a staple in my kitchen.

Remember, a home-cooked meal does not have to mean hours in the kitchen. Roasting vegetables and tossing them with some grains and a drizzle of olive oil and avocado is a simple dish that will satisfy your taste buds and your belly. You can save some veggies and toss them into a salad for lunch the next day. Soups and stews are wonderful to prepare on the weekend and freeze for easy meals later in the week or later in the month! The options are endless.

Taking time to pick and prepare our own food helps us cultivate a deeper connection not only with our own bodies but also with our very source of sustenance –- Mother Earth. In particular, a plant-based diet helps us gather the energy of the sun that has been harbored all season in vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Mama Earth gives us root vegetables in fall and winter to help keep us warm and grounded, preparing us for the long cold days ahead. And she offers up her vibrant, cleansing foods as we enter spring to help us detoxify and lighten our loads as we transition to warmer days. It may even lead to weight loss if that's a goal since when you eat what you cook, you know exactly what goes into your meal and you can avoid any unwanted excess oils, fats, calories or sugars.

I will always argue that how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Is food something you truly take pleasure in? Or do you scarf it down without awareness of how the energy in food can shift your own energy? Do you take in your food with gratitude or is it just a mindless toss of calories into the mouth? How often do you eat in the company of others enjoying companionship and fulfilling conversation? Or is eating a lonely experience for you? Take some time to inquire about your own relationship with food and its preparation. Ideally, your food is nourishing you in all ways – body, mind, and soul.

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