Is the Vegan Lifestyle the Right Move for You?

I’m back!!!! Its been like 10 years since I last wrote a blog (ok so maybe only a couple months), but I’m excited to be blogging again! My team and I have been busy building the ultimate community for those of you looking for ongoing support, tools, and resources for making the transition to more plant based eating…check it out HERE!

I wanted to get back in the blogging game with why I decided to make this transition to plant based eating and some things I have experienced since making this change about 1 year ago. I feel like when I say that that is sounds so miniscule compared to other people I know, but I am proud to announce that I will officially be 1 year vegan next month! 1 year protecting our earth and our fellow animals will be in the books! Yay! And I must admit this has been such an incredible and life-changing experience. Reason being, veganism goes so far beyond what you put in your mouth. It’s a total lifestyle change that encompasses how you think, act, feel not only about what you eat, but about yourself and others around you. You are optimizing your health, while sustaining the environment (I don’t know about you, but I like trees), and protecting ALL living creatures on this earth.

When first making the switch, I was confident in my decision, but at the same time felt a little weird telling my friends and family. I got a lot questions, mostly being “where do you get your protein from?”, but the further I got in my journey the more I noticed how many people were supportive of this lifestyle, or looking to make the transition just like me! I sought out Facebook groups and other ways to connect with people living this lifestyle, and ended up being introduced to some of the most passionate and driven people I ever met.

The physical part was incredible too. Being a working mom of two young boys, I was frequently feeling tired and burnt out. But that’s totally normal for a mom of young kids right? To an extent I guess. But I can’t even describe the incredible surge in my energy level I almost immediately noticed. And I want to point out I don’t drink a drop of caffeine either. Never have, never will. Favorable changes in my body were more noticeable as well. I started to slim down around my waist without even trying, and I visually have more muscle tone than I’ve had since high school (that was 15 years ago now!). And the best part….my skin cleared up and literally glows now! I have always struggled with my skin, and who knew all I had to do was to stop eating animal products! My family has been on board as well, which is really great. I will admit my husband still will eat meat from time to time, as well as my children, but this is still fairly new to them, and we are all making strides towards healthier living every day.

So why did I decide to make this transition? As I mentioned above, I was tired ALL the time, and starting feeling unmotivated about work, cooking, and playing with my children. I was also seeking out a specialty area in my health coaching business. What was it that I could provide to clients that would give them the long term, desirable, sustainable, results they were looking for? Well the answer to all the above was plant based eating.

This switch has been a great one for me, and I thank everyone who has helped me grow and change within the vegan and plant based community. But you have to decide what’s right for you. If you are looking for some guidance to determine if this is the right path for you, then we would love to have you part of the RadVegan REAL Community! Hey, what have you got to lose?

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Coconut Oil: Healthy or Not Healthy, That is the Question

When all the claims came out about coconut oil being healthy, I must admit I was a bit confused. In college, my fellow dietitian classmates and I were taught that the fat in coconut oil was the type that was the “bad” fat. Yes, that was about 10 years ago, and things do change. But did the type of fat in coconut oil change, making it now healthy for you?

What are the types of fats?

To paint a clearer picture about fat, there are 2 kinds: unsaturated and saturated. Unsaturated fat is the “good” fat found in oils, nuts, and avocados. Saturated fat is the “bad” fat found in butter, dairy, meat, and tropical oils, such as coconut. High saturated fat intake is associated with increasing LDL levels in our blood, which clogs our arteries, and increases our risk of heart disease.

So why would the saturated fat in coconut oil be any different?

There have been many claims made that coconut oil can help decrease belly fat, boost brain function, and reduce hunger, among other things. The truth however, is that the research these claims are based off of is controversial. For a food that is 120 calories and 12 grams of fat for 1 TBSP, it is hard to believe that consuming coconut oil on a regular basis will slim your midsection. Adding more calorie dense foods to your diet hardly seems like a good plan for shedding the extra pounds and establishing lifelong healthy eating habits.

What about the MCTs?

MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) are a shorter chain fatty acid that is readily oxidized by the liver. Most of the health claims for coconut oil stem from their MCT content. Interestingly enough though, only about 15% of the saturated fat in coconut oil is MCTs, leaving the other 85% as mostly LDL raising saturated fatty acids.

Recommendations for coconut oil

Per the American Heart Association, based on a 2000 calorie per day diet, 5-6% of your calories should come from saturated fat, which equates to about 120 calories or 13 grams of saturated fat per day. If you recall from above, 1 TBSP of coconut oil contains about 12 grams of saturated fat. So, unless you are following a whole foods, plant based diet, you can expect to well exceed that number within a day through eating other saturated fat containing foods such as meat and dairy.

Conclusion

To sum things up, coconut oil should not be added to an unaltered, unhealthy eating plan, or eaten in excess, due to its high saturated fat content. If you are trying to shed those extra pounds or combat heart disease, its best to eat ALL oils in limited amounts, especially saturated fat containing oils such as coconut. For those healthy individuals, following a healthy eating plan, coconut oil could certainly be used from time-to-time to mix things up in the kitchen.

 Eating the coconut meat is a better option, because you will get the fiber and some protein as well, and not just the oil.

Eating the coconut meat is a better option, because you will get the fiber and some protein as well, and not just the oil.

Bangin Black Bean Chili

As the snow is falling hard (again) in Buffalo, I am sitting here wondering "and why do I continue to live here?" That's a joke of course. Buffalo really is a wonderful city, and the fact that we get to enjoy all 4 seasons is something that I definitely appreciate. I have had to shovel about 4 times within the past 24 hours though, which is not one of the highlights of the winter season. 

But along with the snow and cold comes those warm soups, stews, and chilis, that we have all grown to love. Except for my husband. He won't touch a bowl of soup. His reason is that when he was growing up, his Grandfather would throw all the leftovers that were going bad in a pot, heat it up, and make "soup" for everyone to eat. Kinda funny, but that was like 25 years ago, Mike. Get over it! Just kidding, love you hunny!

Anyways, I LOVE soups, stews, and chilis! What is easier than throwing a bunch of veggies and beans in a crockpot and letting it cook by itself for a few hours? Crockpots are by far one of the best inventions ever. Most of us associate crock pots with throwing in a beef roast or some pulled pork, but it works just the same for plant based recipes. I made my first black bean chili the other day, and just had to share, because it turned out magnificent! (I usually don't make chili because no one else in my house will eat it, but I figured screw it! I'm going to make what I want for a change!)

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Bangin Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped onion

1 2/3 cups chopped bell peppers (I used yellow and red)

6 medium garlic cloves, chopped

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more or less depending on how spicy you want the chili)

3 15-16oz cans of black beans with 1/2 cup liquid reserved (I used 5 1/4 cups dry black beans that I had pre-cooked, and saved 1/2 cup of the cooking water)

1 16oz can of tomato sauce

Put all ingredients in a crock pot and mix well to coat beans. Cover and simmer on low for 4-6 hours.

Serve plain, or over brown rice or quinoa, and top with cilantro, non-dairy cheese or sour cream, or chopped green onions

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Still Sloppy Joe's

There is no doubt that we have more than just a few comfort staples in the Standard American Diet, but the thing that I have discovered about plant based eating is that you don't have to sacrifice those comfort foods for just eating beans and lettuce everyday. In fact, I can't even keep up with all the AMAZING plant based recipes that are out there. Who knew veggies could be so versatile!! 

So I need to go grocery shopping like there's no tomorrow, but I still managed to whip up this American classic last night. Vegan Sloppy Joe! I have made it a couple times now, and the way it looks and tastes so much like the "real" Sloppy Joe still floors me. And the very best part...it's not from a can! I was always a little iffy about the canned stuff, but I just ate it just because I guess. You might be thinking, "Who the heck has time to make vegan Sloppy Joe from scratch?", but it really was pretty easy and quick! 

Even though my house is like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboards over here, I always try to keep some commonly used plant based ingredients on hand, such as tomato paste, green lentils, tamari, pure maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar. There are of course others, but those are just a few examples. So no more suspense! Here it is:

Vegan Sloppy Joe

Ingredients:

3 cups water, plus 1-2 Tbsp divided

1 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced red pepper (I actually only had yellow peppers on hand, and even though this recipe calls for red, it still came out great!)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp garlic powder or 1 garlic clove

1/2 cup uncooked steel cut oats

1/2 cup dried green lentils, and 1/4 cup dried red lentils (or just use 3/4 dried green lentils)

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

2 tsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

Add 1-2 Tbsp water to pot over high heat, and add onion, pepper, salt, and garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes, decrease heat to medium, then add oats and stir mixture to coat oats.

Next add 3 cups water, lentils, tomato paste, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and Worcestershire sauce.

Bring mixture to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 40 minutes (lentils will be softened and most of liquid will be absorbed), stirring halfway through. 

Eat alone or on a bun, and enjoy!

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Healthy Cookies

I can't believe it's the Holidays already! I know we all say it every year, but the months just seem to fly by. I have never been a cold weather person. I much prefer sweating over freezing. But with that said, it definitely is not the same this time of year without a little snow. I think I mentioned in my last post how my oldest son LOVES the snow. And I would be a horrible doggie mom if I didn't mention that my rottweiler loves the snow more than any animal I've ever met. The first thing he does when he goes outside is flops down and rolls around on his back for 5 minutes. Then he buries his ball, and tries to find it. It's pretty entertaining to watch.

The one thing I think we can all relate to this time of year is the abundance of food, especially Christmas cookies. Not sure if this makes me a bad mom, but I haven't yet gotten into the cookie making tradition. I was never one to keep many sweets in the house, and I know if I make cookies I will eat them, and probably most of them. Also, my kitchen is tiny.  I don't know where the heck I would prepare and then store all those cookies! Of course I would give some away, but I'm not putting in all that hard work to not enjoy any of them myself! My son and I did attempt to put a gingerbread house together, but it turned out to be a total disaster. I just ended up indulging on all the gingerbread, while he ate the candy.

It's no secret that there is so many temptations around this year, so it may be difficult to stay on track with healthy eating. While maintaining an overall healthy eating pattern is of course important, it is equally important to enjoy this time of year with family and friends. Food is the centerpiece of most activities, and it is possible to stay sensible and socialize with loved ones, while not being paranoid about over-indulging. And if you do tend to go a little over-board, its ok, we are all human. 

My main reason for writing this blog, is to share with you a recipe that I have had for a while now. One of the main things I've learned more about after becoming a plant based eater, is how to sweeten things without always adding regular old cane sugar. Other great sweeteners are: over-ripe bananas, applesauce, dates, coconut sugar, and pure maple syrup. Luckily this recipe I already had on hand fits the bill! So here it is; so simple and delicious. Enjoy!

Healthy Cookies

Ingredients: 

3 overripe mashed bananas
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups uncooked oats
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup raisins or dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Roll into cookie shape balls, and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool. It's that simple!

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Would love to hear your comments/thoughts about these cookies, so please share once you've tried!

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy Holiday season! 

I Can't Believe It's Not Cheese

So, the snow is starting to fall in Buffalo. Yes it is an inevitable circumstance every year, but somehow I'm just never ready for it. I have never been one to get involved in outdoor winter sports, or even just making snow angels in the yard lol. For me the hotter the better! I do have an ambition to one day move somewhere warm, but for now I guess I'm stuck with snow, ice, and cold. It's funny because my oldest son adores the outside, especially the snow! He's actually been out twice today so far and it's only 1:30pm! 

For today's post, with the cold winter now here, I thought it seemed fit to focus on comfort foods. Comfort foods hold a special place in all our hearts, whether it be sipping on chicken soup when you're sick, or scarfing down some mashed potatoes and gravy at those Holiday dinners. But today I would like to hone in on one of my all time favs...Mac and Cheese!

With being vegan now, a traditional mac and cheese recipe is one that no longer fits the bill. I could never get the right consistency for the cheese sauce anyways, so I'm probably better off. But lucky for me (and all of you because it's absolutely delicious), I found a vegan mac and cheese recipe that is AMAZING! And you are never going to believe what the "cheese" sauce is made out of!

Vegan Mac and "Cheese"

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Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato (if you can find one that's medium! I swear every time I go to the grocery store I can only find ones that could feed a family of 20!)

2 medium carrots, unpeeled

1 medium onion (after roasting it will have a wonderful mellow flavor)

1/3 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)

1/2 Tbsp mellow miso

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 large garlic clove

2 cups un-sweetended, nondairy milk

3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup water

4 1/2 cups uncooked pasta (my favorite is brown rice elbow noodles)

Prepare Vegetables: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash carrots, sweet potato, and onion leaving skins intact. Place vegetables on lined baking sheet and bake until softened (about 1 hour). Remove from oven and let cool a little while preparing sauce. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Prepare Sauce: Start to boil noodles while preparing sauce. In a blender add all ingredients from cashews through garlic clove, and 1 cup of milk, and blend until smooth. Peel the sweet potato and onion; do not peel carrot. Add veggies, other cup of milk and water, and blend again until smooth. 

Pour sauce into 9x13 baking dish, then add noodles and stir until pasta well coated. Cover and bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil and bake for additional 5 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

 I added some frozen peas to mine for a little protein boost

I added some frozen peas to mine for a little protein boost

For an extra flare, trying adding a crumb topping of 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup almond meal before baking.

This recipe make PLENTY, so I always end up freezing a good portion for later use : ) And you know with being a busy Mama, how I love to have stuff on hand!

 

 

 

What Motivates You?

Hello Everyone! Doesn't it feel like when things can't get any worse, they do? Or when you finally get ahead, you have to take 2 steps backwards? Yah, story of my life. I actually read a quote the other day on Facebook, and it said:

"When things feel like they are falling apart, they are actually falling into place"

Wow. Never thought of it like that.

I think this goes along nicely with what I wanted to touch on in this blog post. When I was first starting my business, I was ALWAYS working, mostly just because I was trying to figure everything out. I was spending less time with my family, or even just less time paying attention to my family! I started to feel stressed and overwhelmed, and felt like I was "falling apart". But what I didn't realize, was that everything I was doing was actually leading me to place where I could spend more time with family, and doing the things I love. 

I took a step back and reflected on what was really important in my life, and why it is I do what do. I bought a couple books on Mindfulness, started to meditate here and there, and really starting be more present in the moment. What I realized was that my 2 boys are what I truly live for in this world. They are what motivates me everyday, and the reason I continue to live a healthy lifestyle. I want to be around for my children as long as I can be, and show them that living a healthy lifestyle is well worth it. So when I felt like I was falling apart, second guessing if starting my own business was right for me, I was actually creating a more "in the moment" mindset that I have never had before, which has led me to much greater happiness.

The reason for me saying this isn't so that you go out and start your own business, but for you to realize that when you start to struggle with barriers on a new life journey, such as creating a healthier lifestyle, that it's natural to take the easy way out and fall back into old habits. When you come to a road block on your journey to better health, just bring to mind what motivates you, what is your "why" for doing what you are doing. That you are not "falling apart" or failing, but yet realizing that this is only helping you learn how to over come obstacles to achieving and maintaining a long term healthy lifestyle. You will find greater happiness in the end : )

Have a wonderful day!

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Photo credit: Portraits by Jenna

5 Need-to-Know Tips for Keeping You Sensible on Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving already? What!? My how time sure flies! This will be my first Thanksgiving as a "non-meat eater", and the thought of not eating turkey on Thanksgiving is still so foreign to me. Growing up, we are subconsciously taught that turkey is the center of this holiday feast, so it will be interesting to see how I handle myself when I'm in the moment tomorrow sitting around the table with all my meat-eating relatives. I will admit though, that I don't really miss eating meat at all, so I'm pretty certain I will be able to stick with my usual plant based eating pattern.

This week's blog post is written by my dietetic intern, Rachael, who just happens to be vegetarian! What are the chances! She has put together some great tips that I know you guys will love, for helping you stay sensible during the big feast. Check out her post below!

 

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, it marks the beginning of yet another fun and food filled holiday season! The weather just keeps getting colder up here in the northeast and the days are growing shorter and shorter. For me, this season screams warm mugs of tea, big batches of homemade bean and lentil soups, and of course, many nourishing holiday meals. Since becoming a vegetarian about six years ago, I have lots of experience finding those vegetables at every holiday meal, no matter where I end up! My Thanksgiving favorites are things like roasted squash and sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil and tons of spices, roasted root vegetables like carrots, beets, and parsnips, and a new favorite this season is a plant based shepherd’s pie with a creamy and dreamy sweet potato topping. If you ask me, Thanksgiving does not have to be centered on turkey, you can always find tons of colorful veggies to fill up your plate.

This year is going to be my first year not spending the holidays with my family, instead I’ll be spending it with my boyfriend’s family. A little tip I always use when I’m unsure about the amount of plant based options available at the meal is to offer to bring a side dish or an appetizer. You can always count on the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and of course, dessert, but there is always room for more veggies! This year I am bringing a veggie tray of my choice with a little hummus for dipping. That being said, even if you are not bringing a dish to the meal, there is always the option to choose a vegetable (or maybe even twoJ) at your Thanksgiving meal. Of course, there is always going to be room for a piece of your favorite pie and a scoop of those mashed potatoes, but staying focused on the veggies always helps me fill up on mostly good stuff!

Here are my 5 tips for staying healthy on Thanksgiving while still enjoying the special time with family and friends!

1.       Don’t skip breakfast or lunch before your Thanksgiving meal! Treat the day as a normal day and don’t show up to the big meal totally famished. If you keep your eating mostly normal throughout the day, you will be less likely to eat way too much at Thanksgiving dinner.

2.       Fill your plate up with vegetables! Make at least half of your plate vegetables and leave the other half for a small portion of all the other goodies you want to try. Try to keep one quarter of the plate for turkey and one quarter for your choice of starches.

3.       Eat slowly! Try to focus on really chewing your food and engaging in conversation with others. The slower you eat your food, the slower you will finish your plate. This is a great way to both eat less and really focus on enjoying the deliciousness of the meal.

4.       Drink water! Instead of going for that soda, or apple cider, or juice, or alcoholic beverage, stick to a glass of water. Water is a zero-calorie drink and it is way better to save those calories for the food.

5.       Keep dessert in its place! Fill up on your meal first and choose your dessert mindfully. Even if there are what seems like 1 million desserts to choose from, try to stick to that one (or two) choices that excite you and that you don’t get to have very often. If you cut the piece of pie in half and take the time to enjoy each bite you will feel satisfied with way less dessert.

I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving and hope these tips motivate you to stay in control of your plate!


About Rachael

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Rachael is a graduate dietetics student with only a couple months left until graduation. She has an undergraduate degree in human development and education and is excited to see where she ends up as a future dietitian. Rachael has learned a lot working with Emily for the past month and is hoping to have her own food and nutrition blog in the near future! In between clinical rotations and thesis work, Rachael loves cooking new recipes and being outside.

 

 

Best. Hummus. Ever.

I just made pumpkin hummus for the first time and HAD to share! It was by far the best hummus I have ever had! I mean, maybe that it is home-made has something to do with it too haha. It amazes me how making stuff at home is SOOO much better than all that processed stuff you buy in the store is. Even a healthy food like hummus is so much more incredibly delicious when you make it in your own kitchen. And so easy! And if you don't know by now, easy is key for me with my 2 energizer bunny boys running around. 

You will see many flavors of hummus around, but traditional hummus usually consists of chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), tahini, and garlic. Chickpeas are legumes, and are loaded with fiber, iron and protein. If you don't like them on a salad, don't let that scare you away from hummus! Tahini is an ingredient you may be a little more unfamiliar with. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. It can be a little bitter on its own, so mixing it in recipes is usually the way to go. And then there's garlic! One of my absolute favorite flavorings! Garlic not only tastes great, but has been shown to promote heart health, and protect us against certain cancers and even the common cold.

So here it is, the best hummus ever!

Pumpkin Hummus

Ingredients: 

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp tahini

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp pure maple syrup

Puree all ingredients in a large food processor. Serve with veggies, tortilla chips, or spread on a wrap!

Thankfully this recipe makes plenty to share! Enjoy!

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Check out the VRG!

Over the summer, I attended an event in Buffalo called VegFest. The timing could not be more perfect as this was the time when I was starting my transition to an all plant based diet. The purpose of the event is to provide people (vegan or not) with information on vegan products, food, and plant based resources. As I was wondering around (it was so nice not to have to worry about chasing 2 screaming kids around), I came across a table for the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG).

The VRG is is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and veganism and the interrelated issues of health, nutrition, ecology, ethics, and world hunger (definition adapted from VRG.org). This was my first time hearing about this organization, and now I can't imagine not being without this valuable resource!

I have now volunteered for them a few times, by writing blog posts and reviewing restaurants that carry plant based food items, so I wanted to share my latest guest blog post-Staying Vegan During Your Hospital Stay! It gives a great overview of how to stick to your vegan foods should you have to be admitted to a hospital. And while you're on the site, check out the abundance of info they have to offer! And when you decide to transition to a plant based diet, I'll be waiting to work with you ; ) Short blog post I know, but don't worry, more good stuff to come next week!