Your website, sarajanemercer.com, is all about “Clean, Pure and Simple” living. Can you tell us a bit more about what this means to you?
Clean, Pure and Simple is all about healthy living you can indulge in every day. I believe that taking the best possible care of ourselves inside and out should not be hard, or saved for specific times. It is important to me to teach people that anyone can be healthy, and that everyone deserves to be. From easy, plant based recipes to healthy beauty tips, to my favorite finds I hope that my site will help inspire people to make healthy choices a fun part of their everyday routine!
What lead you to start your Clean Pure and Simple website and blog?
I have always been interested in health, and healthy living. However, growing up in New York City I was given a lot of misinformation about how to look and feel your best. From cabbage soup diets, to calorie restriction you name it I had given it a chance before I was even 18. As I became an adult and got to know my body better I slowly learned that the only way to be truly healthy was to eat a diet rich in plants and free of processed junk. I started experimenting in the kitchen and developing some favorites recipes that both tasted great and made me feel great. My friends started to ask me for cooking and health advice so I stared monthly cooking class parties in my apartment. These parties became so popular that I decided to start my blog in order to share my tips with a wider audience.
As a health coach what are some of the myths about food that you have heard from clients you work with?
Everyone has his or her own baggage surrounding heath and wellness. From a young age we are told what to eat, how to eat, and when we are eating too much. Often times the information we have been raised on is partially or wholly false. One myth I hear often is that it is difficult to get enough protein on a vegan or plant based diet. People do not always realize that our protein can come from nuts, dark leafy greens and legumes amongst other sources. Also, there is a very common misconception about the amount of protein a person needs daily. In fact, it is much less than you think.
The other myth I hear the most is that cow’s milk is necessary for good health. It is not. Cow’s milk is for baby cows just like breast milk is for baby humans. Not only is cow’s milk usually loaded with antibiotics and hormones, it is also incredibly mucus forming and inflammatory. Alternative milks such as almond or coconut milk are a must better option.
Did you always eat a healthy diet or was there some event that helped kick start a lifestyle change?
I had always thought I was fairly healthy. However, for most of my life my idea of healthy was veggie burgers, packaged low calorie “food”, diet sodas and fat free frozen yogurt. I certainly always liked vegetables but they were by no means the center of my diet growing up. I went through a vegetarian/pescatarian phase for about 10 years in my late teens and early twenties, but I was misguided and ate a large amount of processed soy products and other vegetarian packaged food. In my mid twenties, I started to become more away about what truly was and was not good for my body. I had read a lot about gluten allergies and although I did not show any major symptoms I decided to eliminate it from my diet for a while. I found that after a few days I did not miss it at all. From there I slowly began to tweak my diet and cut out the less than ideal components such as processed food and dairy. It wasn’t until I got engaged that I really decided to take my health to the next level. Like every bride I wanted to look my best at my wedding. I started attempting various juice cleanses but the change was too dramatic for me and I could never complete them. It was then that I began studying and reading about the benefits of a plant-based diet, proper food combining, and detoxifying the body. I continued to experiment with my own diet until I found what worked best for me and made me feel truly healthful.
What advice would you give to someone who is contemplating a plant-based diet but has no idea where to start?
I always suggest that people first focus on adding plants into their diets as opposed to taking other things out. The best way to start is to try and incorporate greens into every meal. That could mean a green smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and another salad or gently cooked greens with you dinner. Greens are simply fantastic for the body and I find that most people grow to love and even crave them. After that I would suggest making at least one meal a day entirely plant based. If this is too extreme an idea for dinner start with breakfast or lunch instead. Instead of an omelet for breakfast have a filling smoothie with almond milk, avocado, spinach and any fruit of your choosing. For lunch have a big salad topped with half an avocado. If you start slowly adding greens into your diet eventually there will be no room for the foods that are not contributing to your health!
People often worry that they wont get enough protein in a plant -based diet. What are a few of your favorite sources of protein?
This is the most common question I get asked. First of all I want to clear up the myth that humans need a huge amount of protein daily. We do not. The average human needs about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So for a 115 lb person that would mean about 42 grams of protein per day. Eating too much protein can actually be harmful and can put stress on your kidneys. Getting enough protein from plant sources is easy. For example an avocado has 10 grams of protein and a cup of spinach has five grams. So eat a large spinach salad with avocado and you are already about a third of the way there! Other favorites plant based protein sources of mine are almonds, cashews, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and sesame seeds. I personally do not eat grains but they are excellent plant-based protein sources.
What are some of your healthy go to snacks?
I adore guacamole and raw vegetables. I always have a container of guacamole in my fridge and various vegetables such as baby carrots, jicama and cucumber to dip in it. I also love green olives. For a more substantial on the go snack I usually turn to Go Raw Super Cookies, or Larabars.
What is the first food and or drink that you reach for to start your day?
First thing in the morning I have a large glass of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice and a few drops of Stevia. This helps alkalize my body and set me up for the rest of my day. After my morning workout I always drink two large fresh pressed green juices, usually about 32 oz total.
Are there any specific kitchen tools that you would recommend having on hand for healthy cooking?
Yes, there are a few basics that will really help you in the kitchen. A Vitamix, is key to any plant-based diet. I use mine about five times a day to make smoothies, salad dressings, sauces etc. They are a bit of an investment up front but will outlast and out perform any other blender.
A good sharp chef’s knife is also very important. They is no need to have a whole set of fancy knives. If you have one very good, very sharp knife such as a Shun or a Santoku ceramic knife (my personal favorite) you will be more than equipped for chopping lots of vegetables.
If you find that you do a lot of cooking I would suggest getting a good food processor for making pestos, nut butters, tapenades and more.
Finally, a good set of cookware is key. Avoid non-stick pans as the coating is toxic and can leech into your food. Stainless steel or cast iron pans are much better options.
What veggie or vegan ingredients or products have you discovered that you can’t live without?
Avocados! I don’t know if this is much of a discovery but I would be lost without avocados. They are an incredible source of healthy, plant-based fat. I add them to my salads, green smoothies, and desserts and of course eat them in guacamole.
I also adore and eat a ton of kale. Kale is a great source of fiber, iron and antioxidants. It really is a wonder green. I always have kale in my green juice. Kale is also great in green smoothies, massaged kale salads and gently sautéed or steamed.
And just for fun…who inspires you?
So many people inspire me! I am deeply inspired by Kris Carr. Her books are a must read for everyone, not just those who have cancer or who have a loved one with cancer. Her approach to healing and living with cancer through the wonders of a plant-based diet is truly amazing.