Self-Care Tips During Times of Stress

It’s been several months since I last wrote a blog post due to having a busy schedule right now. I intended on sharing a recipe or something strictly food-related for this post, but since the coronavirus is a huge concern of everyone I know (including myself), I’ve decided to share some basic self-care tips that may help others feel more at peace during this time of chaos.

On a personal note, several months ago I was started a full time position as a clinical dietitian in a busy county hospital, while still keeping my per diem job at a smaller hospital…and continuing to see a few private nutrition counseling clients…and also teaching a yoga class or two. So, it’s been a crazy few months. I never expected to be working in healthcare during a worldwide pandemic, but here I am. I’m anxious about the situation, and judging by the dearth of toilet paper and non-perishables at several grocery stores I’ve visited, I’m not the only one who is feeling this way. I do think that during times of stress, it’s important to practice skills that can help with anxiety. So, here are my tips:

  • Practice social distancing, but shift your perspective

COVID-19 is highly contagious, and according to the most recent findings, one person infects 2 to 2.5 others on average without preventative measures. A major preventative measure is to self-isolate, even if you don’t have the virus. Instead of feeling a sense of panic, shift your perspective to viewing this as a collective act of cooperation to protect others. Total self-isolation may not be possible for those who work in healthcare, but social distancing (or avoiding other people whenever possible) can be done whenever possible if you don’t work in healthcare.

  • Take the CDC’s advice seriously but also take breaks from constantly consuming news about COVID-19

You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the reality of the situation, but constantly consuming information about the pandemic can lead to more anxiety/stress. Instead, try to block out 10-15 minutes of your day to read about current events and when you’re done, do something completely unrelated (like listen to music, go for a walk, call/text your family/friends and talk about a different topic) to avoid ruminating on anything that may cause you stress.

  • Spend your free time on new (or old) hobbies

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, now can be the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with a hobby or project that you haven’t had the time for to offer some distraction. Read books that you may have collected over the years but never got around to, do something creative, spend time in nature, take a bath or hot shower. Although it might seem tempting to use this time to “treat yo’self” to mindless online purchases, keep in mind that the best forms of self-care are usually free.

  • Try to eat healthy, avoid hoarding processed food, and try not to use food to cope with stress

There are no proven supplements or any specific way of eating to avoid getting sick with a virus, including COVID-19, but consuming a healthy diet rich in whole,unprocessed food is one way to keep your immune system strong. Feeling a sense of scarcity and panic when food shopping may make you feel like you need to stock up on snacks, frozen dinners, and other convenience foods. Turning to food during times of stress is normal, but when it becomes a habit, it can have longterm negative consequences. By buying highly processed, palatable food, you might feel more tempted to overindulge, especially if its available during times of stress, so I recommend avoiding buying these foods all together (or purchase in small quantities). Instead of using food for comfort, seek out healthy staples, like whole grains, canned/bagged beans, frozen veggies- or buy fresh (which can be frozen) so that you can prepare easy meals at home. Try doing your food shopping online if options are limited in stores. Experiment with recipes using food that you already have.

Let me know if you found any of these tips helpful and feel free to connect with me via Instagram @ theveganrd

-Jess

 

 

 

 

High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

As the weather gets colder, I crave savory, comforting foods, and I know I’m not alone. Whether I’m talking to my own clients seeking help with their plant-based diets or working at my other job (as a clinical dietitian) the general consensus that I’ve found is that cold weather = cravings for comfort food. It makes sense that most people seem to crave heavier meals and carbs in the winter. Limited sunlight means that serotonin production can be decreased causing low mood and cravings for simple carbs. While carbohydrates will improve your mood temporarily, I wouldn’t use this as an excuse to eat a bunch of cookies or a huge serving of mashed potatoes, because that good feeling will only be temporary. In order for your body to naturally produce serotonin and reap the benefits, you need protein. Specifically, protein foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. High amounts of tryptophan can be found in tofu, lentils, and beans (it’s also found in non-vegan sources like turkey, eggs, and cheese).

Along with the scientific reasons of why I’m sharing this recipe, I also just love getting nostalgic about food. Growing up, the months of November and December were filled with delicious home-cooked meals that my mom and grandma would make. Being Italian and Jewish (interesting combo, I know), I learned how to make a variety of holiday foods. Lasagna was one of my favorite foods to enjoy around this time of year, and since I love recreating vegan versions of my favorite meals, I decided to share the recipe for this lasagna with a healthy plant-based twist.

Two specialty ingredients that I used in this recipe are Explore Cuisine brand of lentil lasagna sheets and Miyoko’s vegan mozzarella. I found the lasagna sheets at Whole Foods Market, but if your Whole Foods doesn’t carry this, you have a few options. You can custom order it from them (ask customer service, they’re so helpful!), try amazon prime, you can also order it from Amazon without amazon prime, or order in bulk directly from Explore Cuisine brand’s website. For the Miyoko’s mozz, I’ve seen this at a few different places (Whole Foods Market, Fairway Market in the NY-Metro region, I think I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s, and even smaller grocery stores will sometimes have it in stock). 

For the other ingredients, they’re all pretty basic, and you can find them in your local grocery store. This recipe packs 20 g of protein per serving, 6 g of fiber per serving, and is bursting with flavor. If you make it, let me know what you think!

High Protein, Gluten-Free, Vegan Lasagna

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Ingredients:

*you will need a pan for the stove, non-stick spray, a 9×9/square baking pan and tin foil for this recipe

  • 1 container (8 oz.) Explore Cuisine Organic Lentil Lasagna
  • 1 container (16 oz.) silken tofu
  • 25 oz. marinara pasta sauce (I didn’t make the sauce myself, I used Whole Foods brand)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, or 6 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 glove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. basil (I used dried, feel free to use fresh if you have)
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano (same as above)
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1-2 oz. miyoko’s vegan mozz

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  • Finely chop a clove of garlic and using 1 tsp. of olive oil, and heat on low-medium setting in a pan on the stove
  • Add spinach and cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes
  • Remove spinach + garlic from the stove and place on the side for later
  • Drain silken tofu by pressing down with a paper towel, remove the tofu from the container and continue pressing down with a paper towel. The tofu will be soft in consistency, so don’t worry about the slightly off-putting, shapeless consistency
  • Spray the 9×9 inch baking pan with non-stick oil spray or lightly grease the pan with additional oil (use vegetable/safflower oil instead of olive oil which has a low smoke-point)
  • Place 3 sheets of lasagna on the pan so that the pan is covered, next add a layer of tofu, and a sprinkle of dried herbs (oregano, basil), add a little nutritional yeast, add a thin layer of the spinach-garlic mixture. Cover in a generous amount of sauce.
  • Add the next layer by placing 3 lasagna sheets in the same order as above, and repeat the sequence so that you have multiple layers of lasagna sheet-tofu-herbs-spinach-sauce. The final layer should be of 3 lasagna sheets. Top this layer with a generous amount of sauce, add pieces of Miyoko’s cheese (you could also shred it using a cheese grater), and add additional herbs/nutritional yeast if desired
  • Use a sheet of tin foil to cover the top of the pan, making sure the tin foil does not come into contact with the lasagna. This ensures moisture is locked in, without this, you may find that the top of your lasagna is dried out
  • Place in the oven and bake @ 375º for 40-45 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into 4 squares
  • Enjoy! Save the remaining by covering completely and store in the fridge for up to 4 days

Nutrition facts per serving (recipe makes 4 servings): 320 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 48 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 20 g protein, 15.5% DV calcium, 37% DV iron, 565 mg potassium, 126.8% DV vitamin A, 39% DV vitamin C.

Liked this recipe? Comment below that you tried it. For more ideas, follow me on instagram @ theveganrd

-Jess

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

October is my favorite month for many reasons: crisp fall weather, apple picking, and delicious pumpkin-flavored recipes! It’s also the month I met my fiance and the month we got engaged three years later (in the same pumpkin patch as one of our first dates), so October holds a very special place in my heart 🙂

Every year I like to experiment in the kitchen with fall-flavored recipes. Call me basic, but I like using pumpkin/pumpkin spice in my fall recipes because it’s such a good flavor and pumpkin is actually a nutrient powerhouse! Pureed pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A (great for skin & eye health) and fiber (nature’s laxative–besides coffee). Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and copper–which are involved in hormonal health and can help with PMS symptoms.

This year I made one of my best fall recipes yet and I’m super excited to share it with you. It uses whole wheat flour, and maple syrup for sweetness. Due to the moisture content, there’s no need for oil, so it contains less calories and fat than other recipes. As always, it’s vegan, and can be made gluten free if you use gluten free flour instead of whole wheat.

To step up the decadent factor, I added dark chocolate chunks–but if you prefer to keep this pumpkin flavored recipe more traditional, you can omit the chocolate chunks. Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Spice Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used Whole Foods Market 365 brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice mix (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc.)–I found this at Whole Foods Market
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbsp. ground flax + 3 tbsp. warm water (to make a flax “egg”)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Whole Foods market 365 brand, which according to the label, contains no animal products)

Directions:

  • Measure out all ingredients
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.
  • Lightly grease a 9×9 pan, or use parchment paper if you prefer
  • To make a flax “egg”, combine ground flax + warm water; mix and set aside
  • Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices) in a large bowl
  • Combine wet ingredients (pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, maple syrup) in another bowl, mix well, and then add the flax “egg” into the mixture. Mix.
  • Add wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is uniform
  • Pour mixture into the pan and bake at 350º for 40-50 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes
  • Cut into squares and enjoy!

 

Are you looking to improve your health and satisfy your hunger with delicious plant-based food and personalized nutrition counseling? Lets work together! (see my work with me page). Not ready for that yet? Lets keep in touch! Follow me on Instagram @ theveganrd and let’s connect on Facebook at the Vitamin Valentine page for my latest recipes and nutrition tips.

-Jess

My Favorite Vegan-Friendly Dining Locations

Greetings! It’s been a few months since I last wrote a blog post. Sometimes I find it easier to post recipes/general nutrition tips on social media (mostly on Instagram) rather than in blog format, but when it comes to covering personal topics, I like writing my thoughts here. On that note, this past summer, my fiance and I made it a point to deviate from our usual date-location (Whole Foods Market salad bar/hot bar) to try as many restaurants as possible.

Since a lot of my readers and most of my clients are from Long Island, I thought I would share some of my favorite vegan (and vegan-friendly) restaurants/cafes/eateries. If you’re not from Long Island, consider this a simple veg-friendly guide if you ever travel here! Keep in mind, these are my opinions and I completely made up these categories for fun.

Best Summer Dining

I love The Purple Elephant (Northport, NY) for the outdoor seating overlooking Northport harbor, and for a menu that suits both vegans and non-vegans.

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Vegan nachos that we had as an appetizer

This Costa Rican restaurant features traditional South American food, with a fresh, plant-based approach. My favorite dishes here are the burnt ends enchiladas and the rainforest burger + yucca fries. I also love their kombucha on tap! Make sure you make a reservation here as it gets busy and it’s kinda on the smaller side.

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Rainforest burger with yucca fries

Best Quick/Grab-and-Go Food

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Tofu + Fresh Veggies in a whole wheat wrap

Sometimes (—actually, oftentimes) I want food and I don’t want to wait. Organic Krush (Woodbury, NY) fulfills my needs for quick, healthy food, plus it’s right next to a great yoga studio (and the menu caters to those seeking light, balanced food). I love their overnight oats, smoothies, and wraps. They cater to both vegans and non-vegans. This location is pretty small (no reservations- it’s casual dining) and it’s great for “grab and go” type of meals.

Best Healthy Food

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Enjoying one of my faves (open-faced veggie burger)

When I think of dining out, I don’t necessarily think of healthy food. A lot of restaurants claim to be healthy, but the actual food comes out greasy and causes that heavy, bloated feeling afterwards. I love Bee Organic (two locations- Huntington & Great Neck) because the food tastes super fresh and everything is 100% organic. I recommend the fresh juices, smoothies, and open-faced sandwiches (vegan + non-vegan options). I also love their buddha bowl (add tempeh or tofu!) which is filling but won’t weigh you down with regret or indigestion.

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Buddha bowl with tempeh

Best Date Night Location

I’ve heard great things about Tula Kitchen (Bayshore, NY) and I wasn’t disappointed when I went there for the first time this summer. I really love the ambiance here and the menu has so many delicious creations. This is a restaurant that caters to both vegans and non-vegans seeking a real-food approach to dining. I love their vegan tofu crab cakes, falafel, and their “summer lovin” dish which is basically just a bunch of vegetables roasted to perfection over forbidden rice topped with the most amazing miso dressing. Sometimes simple is best and Tula Kitchen definitely proves this! I don’t have any photos of food from this location–but I’m using this as an excuse to go back soon!

Best Desserts

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I’ll take one of each, thanks.

If you’re a vegan on Long Island, there’s a good chance you’ve been to the Witches Brew (West Hempstead, NY). This was my #1 hangout during college when the menu was limited to coffee/tea beverages, desserts, and some snacks, but in the past few years, they’ve upgraded their menu to offer tons of vegan dishes and now their dessert options are extensive. I love trying a new dessert each time I come. I highly recommend the vegan rainbow cookie cake, vegan strawberry cheesecake, and the vegan brownie with a side of vanilla soy ice cream.

 

I can probably think of a few other restaurants that I’ve enjoyed, but I really wanted to focus on places that have a vegan focus, and I honestly haven’t tried all of the vegan places on Long Island, so perhaps I’ll be adding to this list in the future. In the meantime, I would love for others to share their favorite veg-friendly locations (in NY, or elsewhere) so feel free to comment here or on Instagram @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

Secret Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars (Vegan + Gluten Free!)

I love a good protein bar, but I don’t love paying up to $3 for a single serving bar that’s often lacking in wholesome ingredients. This weekend I made my own protein bar that tastes like peanut butter cookie dough–and is packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fats. My version of the perfect protein bar uses Vega brand protein powder, and chickpea flour (the “secret” ingredient–clearly I’m not good at keeping secrets for long!). Let me know what you think if you try the recipe.

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Vegan/Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand) Note: You can also use oat flour, which I’ve made too, if you prefer a more mild flavor
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 cup natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Directions:

Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together in a large bowl, use your hands to mold into a dough. Line a pan/cooking tin with parchment paper and mold the dough into a layer. Then, using your hands, place the chocolate chips into the dough, pressing down so the chocolate chips become embedded in the mixture. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, cut into squares, or rectangles and enjoy! I loved cutting these into tiny squares and putting them on PB toast and in my morning almond milk yogurt.

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Nutrition facts per serving (makes 18 squares): 141 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

-Jess

Quick and Easy Thai-Inspired Curry

Lately I’ve had limited time and I find myself getting bored with my go-to quick and easy recipes. I noticed that I had been making a lot of veggie-filled pasta dishes and nutrient-dense salads, which are delicious and healthy, but can get repetitive. My food rut led me to create this super-flavorful thai-inspired dish that took me ~30 minutes to prepare. It makes about 4 servings and keeps well–which is important, because after a long, busy day, there’s something so satisfying about coming home to a meal already prepared (just re-heat for ~3 minutes in the microwave). What I love about this dish is how warming and filling it is, making it perfect for cold winter evenings when you crave a hearty meal. Each serving packs a punch of plant-based protein, 116% of daily value of vitamin A, and about 40% of daily calcium requirements. One thing to note about this recipe is that the measurements for the spices are estimated, as I tend to improvise as I go. Feel free adjust the spices as you see fit.

Thai-Inspired Curry with Tofu + Veggies

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking basmati brown rice (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 container of Trader Joe’s “Harvest Hodgepodge” frozen veggies- or use a frozen (or fresh) veggie combination of your choice
  • 2 cups unsweetened, unflavored coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 block of firm, organic tofu
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce/tamari/or coconut aminos
  • 2-3 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2- 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (use less if you prefer less spice)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 oz. cashews

Directions:

  • For the rice- measure 1 cup cup quick-cooking brown basmati rice and 2.5 cups water and heat in a pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
  • As the rice cooks, remove tofu from its container and press out all liquid using a paper towel and a slightly heavy object on top of this (I usually use a book, or if you have a tofu press- use that)
  • While the tofu drains, heat the onion, garlic, and celery in a skillet (I use non-stick pans which don’t require oil)
  • Add frozen veggies to the skillet and allow to cook, adding ~1 tbsp. of soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos)
  • Add 2 cups of coconut milk, lime juice, and some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder to the veggies and allow to cook on low heat
  • While the veggies are cooking, cut the tofu into squares and add some of the curry powder, ground ginger, and chili powder. Heat the spiced tofu in another skillet until the tofu is lightly browned, stirring occasionally
  • After the tofu has cooked, add it to the skillet with the veggies + coconut milk. Add any additional spices (if desired), and then add the cashews
  • Stir for a few minutes, allow to cool
  • Enjoy this delicious dish with the side of rice prepared in the first step

Let me know how you like this recipe by commenting on my latest Instagram post or by letting me know below. I love getting feedback on quick and easy recipes!

-Jess

 

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post and I’m excited to share why. I’m currently employed full-time during the week as a dietitian at a rehab center, working weekends as a dietitian at a hospital, AND managing to provide nutrition counseling to private clients through Vitamin Valentine Wellness–so I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I used to. Although I’m super busy, I’m also happy to be getting so much experience as a new dietitian.

Having limited free time made me realize that I really need to prioritize self-care and focus on activities that help me unwind. One thing that’s always helped me relax is baking. I love creating healthy baked goods that I can indulge in (healthily) after a busy day. The following recipe not only satisfies my craving for chocolate, but also packs a punch of protein, potassium, and fiber. Let me know how you like this recipe if you try it and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Instagram page @vitaminvalentine.

Chocolate Chip Protein Banana Bread

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)- if you don’t have this flour or can’t find it, feel free to swap it out for whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or your favorite gluten free baking mix
  • 3 scoops Vega Vanilla Protein Powder (or your favorite plant-based protein powder)
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 6 oz. Kite Hill unsweetened greek-style almond yogurt (or use your favorite plant-based, dairy-free yogurt)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 370°F. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, protein powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another mixing bowl, combine mashed bananas, almond milk, almond yogurt, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, then add chocolate chips. Mix well until contents are uniform. Using non-stick spray, spray a 9×11 brownie tin or baking pan of your choice. Scoop out batter into the pan. Bake at 370°F for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut into squares (this recipe made 20 squares me for). Enjoy!

Taking a Coffee Break

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Today I’m sharing my on-and-off again relationship with my first love–a powerful elixir named coffee! Coffee and I go way back. I think my love of coffee began sometime in high school and ever since then, I’ve been hooked. In college, I craved the “peppy” feeling that coffee would give me as I studied throughout the night and I loved hanging out in coffee shops near my school (shoutout to The Witches Brew + The Cup on Long Island for fueling my first degree!). Any time I started the day without my daily fix, I would be plagued with debilitating headaches. I realized sometime in my twenties that I was completely dependent on caffeine to get through the day so one summer I attempted to quit coffee cold turkey, and I was actually successful for 45 days! Then I decided to indulge in an iced coffee and it was all downhill from there. I’m exaggerating, but my coffee habit picked up right where it left off.

Coffee is known to be addictive. It’s the most widely available and used stimulant out there, but just because many people are dependent on coffee doesn’t mean it’s bad. Coffee has many benefits and it happens to be a powerful antioxidant that may be useful in preventing some forms of diseases and cancer. Regular coffee drinkers may have a decreased risk of diabetes (just hold the cream & sugar), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancers of the liver and colon.

I’m definitely not anti-coffee, but this summer while I was studying for the RD exam I realized I don’t LOVE coffee like I used to. Ever since I started drinking coffee (over 10 years now), my sleep has been affected. I know coffee can make me anxious at times, but in the past, the energetic coffee buzz was worth it. What changed for me recently was realizing that I actually don’t like that jittery, peppy feeling anymore. As I was driving to take the test, I stopped at Starbucks for my daily ritual, but I was so nervous that I took one sip of coffee and decided that would be my last sip for a while. I couldn’t bare to be any more anxious than I already was.

It’s now been over a week since I had regular coffee (I did drink decaf for the first 3 days) and I feel surprisingly…normal. I didn’t experience any caffeine-withdrawal headaches but I was nauseas for the first few days, which I wasn’t expecting. I think I avoided having headaches by drinking a ton of water and taking naps when needed. I’m not sure how long I’ll be coffee-free. Unlike previous attempts at ditching the bean, I don’t feel like I need to eliminate coffee due to an actual addiction, I’m just kind of over it.

Are you a regular coffee drinker or do you prefer something else? Let me know! I love hearing about other peoples’ views on my (former favorite) caffeine-bean 🙂

-Jess

Jessie, the RDN!

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Greetings! It’s been a little while since I last posted, and for good reason–I’ve spent the past two months studying for the RD exam and now I can happily say I’M OFFICIALLY A REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST! When I saw the words “Congratulations! You’ve passed the credentialing exam” I was in disbelief. Despite feeling prepared prior to the test, I just couldn’t believe that all my hard work over the past several years had finally paid off. It was such an amazing feeling and I don’t even think it’s fully hit me yet that I’m actually an RDN!

Studying for these past few months was probably one of the most stressful times of my life, because the exam covers EVERYTHING in dietetics that a DPD program and internship encompass but the exam itself is only 125-145 questions. So, there’s a whole bunch of material that candidates need to review, conceptualize, and memorize, but you never know which topic(s) will actually show up on your exam.

Studying was also stressful for me because I have a tendency to overdo things and I studied anywhere from 5-10 hours/day, 6 days a week, for 2 months. My actual studying strategy was first attending the Jean Inman review seminar (a 2-day review course) and then studying the Inman guide like it was the bible (I’m pretty sure I have the entire guide memorized at this point). In order to retain things, I need to write them down (more than once), so I would copy down any important points from the guide and write them in a notebook, and then make flashcards. When I was finished studying a topic/domain, I would complete 10-25 questions, and then focus on the things I got wrong. I tried to understand the WHY behind each topic and really focused on learning the concepts of the material in the study guide. One thing that I noticed while studying is that some of the questions are purely common sense, and others want you to really think and use critical thinking skills. Of course, there are those topics that you just have to memorize (like temperatures, drug-nutrient interactions, BMI categories, etc.). There were some topics that I felt I needed more background info on so I used several of my nutrition textbooks from over the years and also used an app called Pocketprep ($20–so worth it!) which really helped with providing additional practice questions and explanations. Three days before the test, I also found additional study materials online and focused on test-taking strategies because I could already feel my nerves taking over.

There’s no definitive “right” way to study for the RD exam, but I don’t think one needs to study as much as I did–especially because most of the material I studied wasn’t on the test, and stressing myself out by spending all of my free time studying made me anxious. I didn’t realize this fully until the night before the exam when I decided to take a relaxing bath set to spa music and thought to myself ‘hmm I should have really been doing this all along’.  My advice to anyone who has yet to take their RD exam or is making another attempt is to RELAX, especially by making the time to put your books away and do something that feels good to you.

Now that I’m officially an RD (RDN, the two terms are interchangeable), I’m so excited for the future! I’ll be posting more updates later in the week, so check back soon and if you have questions about how to study for the RD exam, or want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

-Jessie Valentine, M.S., RDN!!!!

Baked Carrot-Raisin Oatmeal

This week was the start of my renal rotation and I’m learning a ton.  I really like working with this population and learning all about dialysis and end-stage renal disease…but this rotation is a little far from my house so I’ve been having to do some extra planning when it comes to making my mornings run smooth.

To make my life a little simpler, I’ve been eating a delicious, healthy, and wholesome breakfast on the go of baked oatmeal that I prep ahead, which saves some time in the morning.  Baked oatmeal has all the benefits of regular oatmeal, and it tastes like a delicious baked good (yum!).

For this recipe, I wanted to use some of the veggies in my fridge so I added carrots, and I got even more creative by adding raisins, pumpkin spice seasoning, and vanilla protein powder.  The full recipe for this whole grain breakfast is easy to prepare and will keep you full for hours, and if you’re feeling adventurous you could eat in your car as you sit in standstill traffic (but maybe don’t do this, because you should always pay attention to the road)  🙂

Baked Carrot-Raisin Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)photo (2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry, old fashioned oats
  • 2 scoops of your favorite protein powder (I use Vega Sport Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin spice seasoning or use cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed + 2 tbsp. warm water (to make a “vegan egg”)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F
  • Measure oats, protein powder, and spices and mix together in a large mixing bowl
  • In another mixing bowl, measure and mix the apple sauce, vanilla extract, almond milk, carrots, and raisins together
  • In a small cup, create a “vegan egg” (a binder) by mixing 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp. warm water
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix in the “vegan egg”
  • Using nonstick spray or a brush with oil, oil a 9×9 baking pan and spread the mixture onto the pan
  • Bake for 45 minutes at 375°F
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, divide into four servings, and enjoy

I’ve been eating this delicious creation with dairy-free plain yogurt and a tbsp. of my favorite nut butter(s).  Feel free to let me know how you like this recipe.

-Jess