Vegan Salad Round-up

Salads are the easiest way to get in a ton of delicious veggies. They’re generally low in calories but  high in so many essential nutrients among other awesome things, like protein, fiber, & antioxidants, depending on the ingredients you choose to use. Being so versatile and easy to put together, salads are the ultimate health food. And they don’t have to be boring!

For instance, check out this colorful beet salad with carrot, quinoa, and spinach, made by Cookie + Kate:

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If this grilled avocado & romaine caesar salad made by Blissful Basil doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will:

 

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Ever have a Thai inspired salad? This one won’t disappoint you! Pinch of Yum’s chopped thai salad with ginger sesame dressing. YUM:

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Sometimes less is more. Like this simple avocado and tomato salad from Foodie Crush:

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It’s time to impress you friends and family with this shredded kale and Brussel sprout salad with lemon dressing, made by Just A Taste:

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Then there is this idea that I frequently do, where I add Gardein meat over my salad. This one has mixed + romain lettuce, navy beans, grape tomatoes, broccoli, onion, and crispy chicken with Whole Food’s garlic and tahini dressing:

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Why you should reconsider your coffee brand.

I’m sitting here on this gorgeous Saturday morning taking my first couple sips of hot coffee. If you’re a coffee lover like me, you know that bliss. There’s nothing like the smell and taste of hot coffee on a Saturday morning. But I had to travel all the way to Whole Foods in order to get organic, fair trade coffee grounds. [This weekend I am house sitting Taylor’s parents house and they do not have organic coffee. So yes, I traveled all the way to Whole Foods just to get some.]

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After being a loyal customer to Grounds for Change for almost two years now, it’s difficult to accept anything less. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I won’t have some Starbucks or something else once in a while (by the way today I purchased Allegro’s organic fair trade coffee from Whole Foods: this flavor). But I’m really passionate about supporting organic, fair trade, shade grown, and carbon free coffee. What makes the difference between the quality of coffee depends on it’s production and growing process; literally before it reaches your cup is what matters the most.

Grounds for Change is a sustainable business, and when food production is sustainable, it “preserves the land’s capacity to grow and nourish food into the future. Sustainable agriculture does not damage the environment or harm human health, and offers a safe work environment and a fair wage to the farmer, supporting and enhancing rural life. Because sustainable farmers see nature as an ally rather an obstacle, they are able to produce more wholesome food using less fossil fuel, thus contributing less to climate change. Unlike industrial farming, sustainable farming does not rely on synthetic pesticides, artificial hormones, or routine use of antibiotics.”1

What contributes to their sustainability is producing coffee that is fair trade and organic certified, carbon free, and shade grown.

Fair trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), fair trade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers, and enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.2

Certified organic coffee is grown by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality. Grounds for Change coffee is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, thereby assuring the health of the soil, the forest and the farmers.3

Shade grown: Traditionally, coffee was shade-grown on biodiverse farms, which preserved animal and bird habitats, but the demand for coffee has fueled the creation of “sun grown” monoculture plantations, which means a number of bad things for the environment, including clear cutting of native forests and intensive fertilizer and pesticide use.4 In addition, Rainforest Alliance certification is focused on the ecological effects of coffee-growing – their major goals are protection of biodiversity and stopping deforestation.

Carbon free certified: Grounds for Change utilizes Carbonfund.org’s reforestation program to offset the complete carbon dioxide footprint of their coffee production.

Overall, I urge you to look beyond just taste when you decide on a coffee brand. I discovered Grounds for Change when I started making French Press coffee at home and sought out organic coffee. But this company goes beyond organic; I fell in love with their philosophy and became a dedicated customer immediately. If you are currently purchasing a conventional brand, please reconsider! As you can see, your purchasing decisions have an impact on the Earth & environment, our health, and farmers around the world.  You’re supporting so many awesome things when you purchase sustainable coffee. If you want to switch up your coffee brand, your best bet is to research and look into the coffee brand online so you can read about their philosophy and production practices. Then you can make an informed purchasing decision. [Hint: look for brands who really emphasize their sustainable practices!] Although some small farmers are simply not financially capable of the certification labels, consider purchasing a coffee brand that has the certifications listed in this article.

  1. http://www.sustainabletable.org/1117/welcome-to-sustainable-table
  2. http://www.sustainabletable.org/944/these-labels-are-so-confusing
  3. http://www.groundsforchange.com/learn/organic.php?
  4. http://www.gracelinks.org/blog/6034/real-food-right-now-and-how-to-cook-it-coffee

Note: I was not asked to write this post and I am not being paid for it either. This post is out of sincere loyalty to Grounds for Change + all other coffee producers who support sustainable practices. 🙂

 

What it’s like to be an imperfect vegan.

Perfection. Why is everyone always trying to be perfect? We all know it really doesn’t exist, because perfection lies in the eye of the beholder. You might think that statue is perfect, but he might think it’s flawed. I might think the weather is perfect, but you wish it were a bit cooler. Your definition and your values of perfect doesn’t match my own or anyone else’s for that matter.
Perfection sets the bar so high but also sets us up for failure. Why do we set such high standards that are going to be legitimately impossible to obtain. We don’t do that to our children, do we? We aren’t looking for perfection from them, just that they are trying their hardest. This is part of being a parent. Teaching them to try their hardest but also teaching them that shit happens and we are all made of flaws and imperfections. When does this idea get thrown out the window? (Obviously there are parents out there who expect perfection from their children, and here is another example on definition of perfection. I think that’s bad parenting but they think they’re doing well. Im right they’re wrong, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 )
So when do we become so hard on ourselves? Maybe it’s when we realize there are people watching. Or at least, we think they’re watching. And sometimes they really are. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a vegan blatantly disregard another persons feelings and actions because they are not 100% vegan. And honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a vegan, a paleo lover, or a gluten-free die hard. They all think their way of living is perfect and everyone else is doing it all wrong. Now first of all I have to say that as a future registered dietitian, I do know a lot about diets and how the body works. And I also know how to sift through the research in order to understand if a diet is healthy or not (because there are some absolutely ludicrous diets out there, that are absolute bullshit: we’ll save those for another post). So not to sound pretentious, but compared to the average person, I’d like to think I know a little more about what’s best for each of us in terms of food, because I spend literally all my time reading and learning about nutrition and the body. That being said, I am still learning and I am certainly not perfect (there’s that word again!).
But that’s not the point. The point is that as a future healthcare professional, I understand how hard it is to follow a certain diet and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We each have so many things going on in our lives, and no two people are alike. My goal as a future RD is to demonstrate that health is about trying your best, and this realization is also healthy in terms of mental health. As soon as we realize we are just trying our best, it’s like lifting a weight off our shoulders. And as soon as you realize your “perfect” diet might not be perfect for everyone else, it also frees your mind of negativity.
I’ve had some practice over the years in realizing that I’m only setting myself up for failure if I expect to be a perfect vegan. I want to do what I think is best for me, I want to try my hardest, and I want to inspire others to do the same. This is my definition of being a great registered dietitian as well. You wouldn’t expect your clients to be perfect, so don’t do it to yourself either.
I often try my boyfriend’s food, which is rarely vegan. We live together, and although he rarely buys meat or seafood, there is almost always eggs or cheese in the house. We both love food and he is not vegan. Our relationship is so much more than my personal choices. He is proud of himself for making a delicious egg and cheese sandwich, or making a balsamic mozzarella panini. He made rigatoni for the first time a couple weeks ago, and dare I say it, it was delicious. I don’t think he would mind if I had not had tried it (by the way, there is a difference between tasting and eating), but there is so much more to me than a vegan diet. The food that goes into my mouth 99% of the time is 100% vegan. I leave that small percentage open for the times a friend or family member makes a recipe and I want to have that experience with them. My love for animals, my hate against corporate greed and animal cruelty, they determine the way I chose to eat 99% of my meals and the way I want to live my life. This is my idea of perfection. What makes me, well, me….is that I also have a love for food and nutrition, experimenting with certain food components, and trying to understand how I can balance it all and demonstrate to future clients that it’s not about being perfect. Being vegan takes practice, and I am still trying to find that perfect way to meet my personal health needs. My credibility is literally thrown out the door the moment I expect myself to be perfect though. I have seen other vegans strive for perfection that it has made me literally want to do the opposite. Literally, the opposite! How can I balance my diet with the real world, so that I can show others to do the same? I’m sure as hell not going to learn anything by trying to fit another person’s definition of perfect.
I’m what you call a plant-pusher. I will forever advocate the benefits of whole, unprocessed foods, but I will never expect another person should necessarily be vegan. What bothers me is when another vegan berates someone else for eating meat, or eating meat even once a month, or maybe even owning a leather couch (I know that’s really random, but there are people out there who will find something wrong with you, even if it’s through your furniture, I promise). First of all it’s none of your business. Remember what I said about realizing your own diet may not work for everyone else? That sense of entitlement, that sense of being able to criticize another human being for being less than perfect, it says a whole lot more about you that it does about them. That’s for damn sure. Doesn’t it make more sense to be encouraging or to lead by example? Show others how a vegan diet has benefited you. Show them how you lost a bunch of weight or your cholesterol levels improved.
Second of all, show the world how you are a happier person inside because you are doing the right thing. It’s no secret that animal cruelty is not cool, that global warming is a real thing, and that corporate greed is evil. When you decide to acknowledge this, that is an achievement in itself, because some people choose to ignore it. And by being a vegan (whether is ethical vegan, vegan on the weekends, vegan until 6PM) it just makes you feel proud. You never know when someone who is just starting out a vegan diet on the weekends will become a diehard vegan in a few months or years later…better late than never? But listen, you don’t come off as a happy, positive person as soon as you criticize another individual for their choices (unless of course, they are into animal cruelty, in that case criticize all you want) I can say that since being vegan (almost 4 years now), I am happier, and I am satisfied with my choices, even if that means tasting my boyfriend’s non-vegan food.
So what is it like to be an imperfect vegan? It actually feels really good. The realization that perfect will never exist sheds a whole new light on the world. I’m one step closer to reaching my true goals, and that’s inspiring others to just want to eat healthier, to take their health seriously (we are not immortal my friends!), and not to strive for perfection. And if you’re a vegan reading this, don’t expect yourself, or anyone else, to be perfect. The fact that you are vegan or even considering to be vegan is amazing. Find comfort in your own actions, not in others!

Vegan Ranch Dressing

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Vegan Ranch Dressing

  • 8 tbsp mixture of raw cashews/sunflower seeds (a little more cashews than sunflower seeds though, like 6 tbsp cashews and 2 tbsp sunflower seeds)
  • 6 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 4 tbsp dairy free, unflavored milk (I use enriched, original, Rice milk)
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp onion power
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dill depending on your preferences (recommend fresh)
  • Fresh chopped parsley, about a few tbsp (if you don’t have fresh, use 1/4 tsp of dried; but I recommend fresh!)
  • 1/4 salt & pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a high speed blender or food processor except the fresh parsley (and dill if using fresh), and blend until smooth. *This recipe used to be for only one serving, but I adjusted it to make two. I no longer have to stop the blender frequently to scoop down the sides!

Remember I am still in the process of perfecting this recipe!! So please try it out and let me know of any recommendations you have.

My favorite salad mix using ranch dressing is mixed lettuce with romaine, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, sliced red onions, hemp seeds, and sometimes chopped celery, avocado, and croutons.

 

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Conscious Bite Out: a volunteer’s perspective

Last night I volunteered at an exclusive event called Conscious Bite Out in Wynwood, Miami. The event took place in an enchanting, modern spot called The Sacred Space Miami, with dimmed lights, tea candles and spider green flowers delicately placed everywhere. It really was such a gorgeous ambiance that fit the theme of the event. This four course, wine paired dinner was completely vegan and served over 50 like-hearted people who were all passionate about the benefits of a plant-based diet yet wanted to have a great time. Originally I wanted to attend the event myself but it was a little bit too pricey for my graduate-student-wallet, and when I received an e-mail seeking volunteers, there was no question I would like to help!

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photo // @pamelawasabi

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photo // @carolina

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photo // @pamelawasabi

The event started with Veev Organic cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, which was followed by the four course dinner that sat in a dining room with a huge communal table full of tea candles and the green spider flowers. It really was gorgeous! The chefs of the event were Massimiliano Lozzi from Full Bloom on Miami Beach, acclaimed chef and educator Pamela Wasabi, and Diego Tosoni from Love Life Wellness.

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Although the coordinators of the event were professional, they were also super kind and friendly. The volunteers were allowed to try the food and even enjoy the cocktails and wine. My favorite part was obviously being able to try the food (every single person at the event was an acclaimed foodie), my favorite being one of the hors d’oeuvres: black peppercorn cherry nut cheese, with smoked black lentil and pomegranate on a raw rosemary crisp (pictured above). That little killer was packed full of deliciousness.

I was able to meet so many wonderful people both attending the dinner and those who were volunteering/working that held similar beliefs in the power of a plant-based diet. Being able to enjoy this event behind the scenes was totally worth it and I hope to volunteer for the next one.


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PASSED HORS D’OEURVES

  • Black peppercorn cherry nut cheese, rosemary crisp, smoked black lentil, pomegranate
  • Wild porcini mushroom cauliflower risotto, woodchard asparagus, on a cream of vegetable reduction
  • Capresa bite infused with sweet onion balsamic reduction, basil arugula pesto

FIRST COURSE

  • Raw living sushi roll, ginger, wasabi pate, mango chili sause, sprouts

SECOND COURSE

  • Crispy green kale & rainbow heirloom carrot strudel, ‘cream cheese’, wild flowers

THIRD COURSE

  • Red beet ‘pappardelle, purple asparagus, oyster mushrooms, grape tomatoes, cream sauce, fresh herbs

FOURTH COURSE

  • Hazelnut waffle, rosehip cream, black fig and liquorish ice cream, dark chocolate, rum

“Why do We do what we do? Because We believe that by creating awareness about our food choices, to the community and to our local Chefs, can inspire and support a change that is not only much needed for everyone’s health but also the environment. The future depends on us…” – Conscious Bite Out

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 Till next time, <3

What I learned about Leaky Gut

Last week I watched a webinar about leaky gut with Dr. Josh Axe. It was super interesting (nutrition nerd alert), & I made sure to take notes in order to simplify this very interesting topic for you that I know everyone else is so curious about! 😉

First of all, what is leaky gut? Leaky gut is referred to as intestinal permeability. Okay, now I know what you’re thinking…

What the heck does intestinal permeability mean? Our gut is meant to be semipermeable, meaning the lining of our intestines allow certain substances to pass through, and not others. Permeable on the other hand, is letting all substances to essentially pass through the gut and into the rest of the body AKA the bloodstream. Leaky gut = intestinal permeability = letting all substances pass through.

The next question is…. is this a problem? Well, what if the gut leaks EVERYTHING into the rest of the body or bloodstream? The membrane of our gut usually prevents toxins, bacteria, yeast, and other large molecules of food (such as undigested food like proteins, including wheat, which is a protein) from passing through the barrier. But when these things are able to pass through the gut, they have consistently shown to  trigger autoimmune reactions and cause mild to severe health problems. Some believe that EVERY health problem begins in the gut and whether the gut is functioning properly or not. This includes whether the semipermeable membrane is doing its proper job. After all, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut.

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

According to Dr. Axe’s webinar, a leaky gut affects the whole body, everything from the skin, thyroid, colon, adrenals, joints, sinuses, mouth, brain, etc. It is the root cause of food intolerance, immune system complications, inflammation, and autoimmunity.

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Photo // Dr. Axe

Dr. Axe also claims that the leaky gut triggers include:

  • GMO foods, which might potentially kill the good bacteria in the gut
  • Antibiotics, which he refers to as “ABombs”
  • Gluten, for those with gluten sensitivity, which is not broken down properly and may cause inflammation
  • Processed sugar, which feeds yeast in the body, causes candida yeast overgrowth
  • Conventional dairy. dairy (and meat) these days frequently contain antibiotics, hormones, and other harmful substances due to the common farming agricultural practices.
  • Food sensitivities or allergies (leaky gut can essentially cause food sensitivities or allergies, but if you genuinely have a food sensitivity or allergy and continue to eat the food, it will cause leaky gut. For example if you have Celiac and continue to eat wheat, it may cause leaky gut, but leaky gut does NOT cause celiac)

*Not apart of this webinar, but according to Michael Gregor, M.D., (see video here): animal fat causes the gut lining to become leaky and contributes to the breakdown of intestinal barrier. Studies showed that the bloodstream became abundant in edotoxins (bacterial toxin) following a high animal fat meal (I think the meal was McDonadls sausage and egg McMuffins), which causes inflammation and the immune system going abrupt. These endotoxins come from the gut!

Dr. Axe’s 5 steps to heal leaky gut:

  1. Know your gut type (he did not go into detail about gut types)
  2. Remove inflammatory food triggers, which is different for everyone
  3. Nourish your gut lining with key nutrients
  4. Treat specific organs with supplements
  5. Rebalance microbes and probiotics

Not but not least, his top healing foods include:

  • Bone broth. Contains proline, glycine, and L-glutamine. These amino acids are abundant in bone broth, but they are also found is many foods, including a plant-based foods. They are also not essential amino acids, which means they can be produced by the body. Just a little side note: When we get sick, chicken noodle soup is the go-to, right? But back in the day chicken noodle soup was very different than chicken noodle soup today. Today, chicken noodle soup has processed chicken, or chicken that was pumped with antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed a grain diet. What the chicken eats and the antibiotics/hormones they receive are most definitely translated to the food product you are eating. Not to mention the noodles in chicken noodle soup, which is processed grain, ultimately devoid of any nutrients the grain originally had. Can you tell I am totally against the “chicken noodle soup cure”? Chicken noodle soup today does not equal chicken noodle soup hundreds of years ago, which was essentially “bone broth.” The point is, while proline, glycine, and l-gutamine are important amino acids (as are ALL amino acids), they can be obtained from a varied diet based on healthy, whole foods. You don’t need to go out and make some bone broth in order to get them, although there are some people who might benefit from a bone broth concoction depending on their health condition and needs.
  • Coconut oil. According to Dr. Axe, coconut oil kills of yeast, especially for those with “candida gut.” I need to do more information seeking on this.
  • Sauerkraut & fermented veggies. These are very good prebiotics (food for probiotics that live in the gut).
  • Goats milk, kefir. These are probiotics. *To understand the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, check out my previous article on the topic.
  • Blueberries. Which contain resveratrol, flavanoids, and other antioxidants, and lower in sugar compared to other fruits. (Okay, in my opinion, blueberries are definitely great for you but as are ALL fruits. Don’t just eat blueberries and think you’re doing yourself a favor. A diet including all fruit, which contains many different antioxidants and phytochemicals is ALWAYS the best idea.).
  • Orange/yellow foods. Especially squash family.

+ Supplements. Varies greatly per person, but Dr. Axe recommends:

  • Probiotics. 50 billion IU/daily. (Need to say SBO – soil based organisms & food based strains)
  • Digestive enzymes. These help break down food and gives the gut a rest, especially when consumed with meat or starch products.
  • Adaptogenic herbs. He mentions Ginseng, Ashwagandha, and Licorice root.
  • L-Glutamine. He claims this amino acid supplements is a “band-aid” for the gut lining and helps repair the small intestine.

Supplements should only be taken after you have seen a health professional!

To wrap up, I just want to clarify that this article is based off of the webinar from Dr. Josh Axe. These are not necessarily my opinions, although I did include my opinion where I felt it was needed. I just wanted to share my notes with you. I do think leaky gut is very real and such a major contributor to disease and health complications. This is why I consistently recommend a diet based on whole foods, because a diet based on whole foods will contain all the essential nutrients for a proper functioning gut!

// Visit my Facebook page for frequent recipe posts and articles!

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Recipe Feature: “Faux-fredo”

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Healthy Recipe Ecstasy: Garlicky White Bean Pasta Faux-Fredo with Kale Pesto

There comes a time every few weeks where veggies start to run out in the fridge. Instead of running out to the grocery store immediately, I get creative with the pantry, usually using “processed carbs,” such as pasta. Everyone loves pasta, right? I just make sure to use whole grain, whole wheat, quinoa pasta or some other grain pasta, and sometimes I switch it up with a gluten-free kind. The key is sticking to the “healthier” options most of the time (and that doesn’t mean completely cutting out white pasta either, we live in the real world people). The point is trying your best, not trying to be perfect.

Anyway, I had little vegetables left in the fridge and I haven’t had pasta in quite a few days, so I knew pasta was on the dinner menu. But I was craving something creamy, and not tomato based. It didn’t take me long to stumble upon this recipe: Garlicky White Bean Pasta “Faux-Fredo” with Kale Pesto, made by Healthy Recipe Ecstasy. It sounded perfect, except I didn’t have any white beans! But I had tofu and cashews… the perfect substitutes for white beans and to obtain that “creamy” flavor. I’ll make sure to try this recipe again with white beans. Another change I made was adding basil to the kale pesto, because to me, pesto without basil and is like, pizza without dough. You need basil.

Well, I wanted to share this recipe because of how delicious and easy it was to make. I’m a huge fan of recipes that are easy, delicious, AND healthy. This creamy pasta seriously hit the spot, and I highly recommend it! Thank you Healthy Recipe Ecstasy!!

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