Gut Health & Chili Mac!

What a title, right?! Friends, I’m currently listening to a podcast with Dr. Will Bulsiewics (@theguthealthmd/Dr. B) and Nimai Delgado (Body Builder and vegan diet advocate). I’ve been wanting to listen to this one for a while because I’ve had my fair share of gut health issues. As a child I suffered from pretty severe ear infections, like a lot of children do. The typical treatment for ear infections is antibiotics. We know now-20 years later-that antibiotics wreak havoc on our guts. That’s why, today, if you’re prescribed antibiotics you will likely also be told that incorporating a probiotic would be smart to counteract some of the damage that the antibiotics will likely do to your gut. My husband just got done with a course of antibiotics due to a sinus infection and that is exactly what his provider told him to do. However I”m not sure my parents were ever advised to do this or if we even had that type of information 25 years ago. So common sense tells me that after years of being prescribed antibiotics, my gut probably suffered to some degree. For me, this manifested in chronic constipation (gettin’ real here folks!).

Now I am not a doctor, however I do know that after literally a lifetime of chronic constipation the ONLY thing that has helped, and now solved this problem was changing my diet to center around plants. Dr. B is a big advocate for healing your gut through a plant based diet and I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to have a doctor speak truth to a problem I’ve lived with for the majority of my life. To know that I’m doing the best thing I possibly can be doing for my health and my gut is such a relief. Now I’m not just hanging my hat on the opinion of one doctor I found on instagram. I have my own doctors and have spoken to other professionals about these issues so I’m confident that the journey I’m on is the right one for me.

While we’re on the topic of damaging our bodies and our guts…in college I had an eating disorder. And to be completely honest I knew more women who were also struggling with their bodies/body image/eating disorders, then women who were not. Sadly, this is probably even more prevalent today then it was 10 years ago. I was binging and purging regularly. Prior to this, when I was still in high school I was restricting my food intake pretty dangerously. I remember a teacher/coach telling me how great I looked and how “in shape” I was getting. This of course only fueled my fire to eat less and less. Now again, I do not know the details of how this damaged my body or my gut, however I know that it certainly didn’t help and my digestive issues were the absolute worst they’d been during those 3 or so  years.

Since healing and moving on from this part of my life it’s been an uphill battle to heal my actual body. I can’t tell you how many people have scoffed at my dietary choices, thought it was just a phase, or questioned my sanity. And to be honest, like I note in my about section, at times it was just a phase. There have been a few times in the last decade or so where I’ve tried and failed to maintain this lifestyle. It wasn’t until I was 100% fed up with feeling TERRIBLE that I knew I wouldn’t be failing again. Y’all at its worst, I was only going to the bathroom once/week.  And that was the case for literally YEARS. I think about how much pain and discomfort I was in and just thinking, “Well this is just how it’s going to be”. I had made my peace with living in pain and with so much bloating and discomfort. It’s heartbreaking for me to think back on this. I remember watching a documentary on plant based lifestyles and thinking, “if only I had an allergy to meat and dairy it’d be so much easier”. Well at this point in my life, after listening to my body very carefully, that’s exactly how I view the foods I omit from my diet. I care much more about how I feel then eating any amount of fresh mozzarella cheese. Because here’s the thing friends, if you share any of this experience with me then you know this too:

The pain is not just in my gut. The pain manifested in bouts of anxiety, anger, and sadness.

I’m sharing all of this because I’m so passionate about what we put into our bodies and how powerful it can be for our health and how we feel. We have so much more control then we think we do. I think we often look for an instant solution to any problems we are faced with and being prescribed pills is the perfect solution. It requires very little change on our part, right? All we have to do is just a take a few extra pills per day? Cool! Sign me up! But eliminate cheese? UM NOPE. Why? Because IT’S HARD. I had these same feelings. I questioned how I would feel full without eating meat. I never thought I could live without a melt-y grilled cheese sandwich. It was hard. And sometimes it still is hard. But I do the hard work now to feel the absolute best I can for my children, for my husband, for my friends, and for my family. Simply put-IT’S WORTH IT! Plus I am not deprived AT ALL in what I eat. I am more than satisfied and eat the most delicious foods. I crave big giant salads with roasted veggies that are smothered in tahini. I look forward to my super-seed oatmeal and my green smoothies sweetened with dates!  AND vegan alternatives have come a LONG way so if I’m feeling like I want to indulge I would have no problem doing so thanks to brand like Field Roast, Ben & Jerry’s, Beyond Meat, OREO, etc.

PS. I would HIGHLY recommend listening to this podcast episode from Generation V. It is called Optimizing Gut Health with Dr. Will Bulsiewics.

Now on to FOOD! Who wants a recipe for the BEST Chili Mac!? Here you go friends. I hope you love it. And if you try it pleas tag me #plantpbasedplanner so I can see your creations and read your reviews!

You start with minimal, simple ingredients! Get all your ingredients prepped and ready to go so all you’ll have to do is throw it in the pot!

You start with minimal, simple ingredients! Get all your ingredients prepped and ready to go so all you’ll have to do is throw it in the pot!

Get ready for how amazing your kitchen is going to smell! Also use this recipe as a guide and add your own flare! Increase the spice with Chipotle Chili Powder or more jalapenos! Add beans, or tempeh, or soyrizo! This is th perfect dish to customize!

Get ready for how amazing your kitchen is going to smell! Also use this recipe as a guide and add your own flare! Increase the spice with Chipotle Chili Powder or more jalapenos! Add beans, or tempeh, or soyrizo! This is th perfect dish to customize!

I promise the end result will have you fighting yourself off seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths!? This Chili Mac heats up great for leftovers the next day!

I promise the end result will have you fighting yourself off seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths!? This Chili Mac heats up great for leftovers the next day!

The Best Vegan Chili Mac!

Hearty Chili Mac with the perfect amount of spice and creaminess to satisfy even the most hardcore plant based skeptics!

Makes: Serves 8-10

Name of image (title of post is fine)

Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup uncooked green or brown lentils
  • 12oz Gluten Free Pasta (like Banza)
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (and deseeded depending on your spice preference)
  • 2 TBS Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 3-4 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 14 oz can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Frozen Corn (optional)
  • 2 Cups Raw Unsalted Cashews
  • 1 cup Water
  • ¼ Cup Dijon Mustard
  • ½ Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Toppings: Cilantro, more chili powder, jalapeno, lime juice, avocado

Instructions:
  1. Begin by making your chili. Sautee your onions, peppers, and jalapeno in oil or water until softened.
  2. Add your spices and mix until fragrant.
  3. Add your tomatoes, lentils and broth, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook for about 20-25 minutes unitl lentils are cooked through.
  4. While your chili is simmering, boil your pasta water and cook your pasta.
  5. To make your sauce, simply combine all ingredients into a high-powered blender until creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
  6. When your chili is almost done, throw in your frozen corn and let it warm up.
  7. Combine your chili and mac n’ cheese and ENJOY! (A couple notes: Depending on your taste you may add more or less chili to your pasta. And hey worst case scenario you have tons of leftover Chili Mac AND Chili! What a problem to have, right?! You may also not choose to use all of the cheese sauce--if you have any extra sauce then use a little bit the next day to warm up any leftovers OR smother on a baked potato or steamed broccoli!)
Alix Yokabitus