Late Summer Yoga Series

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Om Shanti!  I’m so excited to announce that I’m going to be holding donation-based yoga sessions at some of my favorite outdoor locations on Long Island this late summer (August and September).  I was inspired to teach these yoga sessions because during my “staycation” (see my earlier blog post in August) I spent a lot of time meditating on what makes me happy. The easiest way to spread love and joy is by sharing what makes you feel good. When you feel good, others feel good, and I love sharing how amazing yoga is for the mind, body, and soul. The following dates and locations are when and where I’ll be holding these sessions.  For  more info you can contact me via phone or email (see my “contact”) page or through the Vitamin Valentine Facebook page.

Late Summer Yoga Series

Sunday, August 21. 6 PM- Soundside Beach Park, Bayville, NY- (Must have Bayville sticker on car, or carpool with someone who has this). Come wind down and enjoy the practice of Yin Yoga, which focuses on slow, reclining, passive postures and meditation. During this class, we will meditate on the meaning of the full moon as the summer winds down and our bodies do too.

Sunday, August 28. 5 PM- Gerry Park, Roslyn, NY- Come move your body and strengthen with each stretch in this invigorating vinyasa flow class. The perfect end to the weekend to get you energized for the week ahead. Space is limited to 10 people, so call or email ahead of time (516.233.0025, or vitaminvalentineblog@gmail.com).

Sunday, September 4. 5 PM- Lafayette Beach, Long Beach, NY- Get in touch with the energy of your body as we strengthen and stretch through a series of poses while watching the ebb and flow of beach waves. Class will end with a guided meditation to lead your mind to a far away place as your body relaxes on the sand of the shore.

Sunday, September 18. 5 PM- Bar Beach, North Hempstead, NY- Come meditate and relax as we say goodbye to summer and welcome fall during this slow, flowing yogic trance. This class will be focused on meditating with some basic yoga poses. Space is limited, so call or email ahead of time.

I hope to see you there. Namaste:)

-Jess

Staycation Fun

This week I took a vacation from work. In addition to providing nutrition counseling and teaching yoga through Vitamin Valentine, I also have a full-time job as a clinical nutritionist. Although I find my work fulfilling and rewarding, everyone needs a vacation and I’m no exception.  I thought about going somewhere during my time off, but sometimes I find traveling more stressful than it is relaxing so I decided to make this vacation a “stay-cation”.

This past week I’ve been going to the beach and spending a lot of time meditating, which is something that I need to consistently do in order to reap the benefits. I went to a group meditation led by a gifted healer which was so special and really made this vacation even more relaxing.

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Went to one of my favorite cafes and enjoyed a delicious smoothie and a good read

I also took a few day trips to my favorite towns on Long Island and ate at my favorite vegan restaurants (I might write a separate blog post on that!).  This past week I also explored some nature preserves, attended a powwow, and visited a farm that I used to work at many summers ago.

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This preserve (Norman J. Levy Preserve) was built on what used to be a garbage dump. The high point where I took the photo from used to be a giant pile of garbage and now is home to native species of grass, small trees, insects, animals and birds.

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A picture of the farm I used to work at! I actually worked with the animals but I would love to get my hands dirty working with some fresh produce!

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A photo of one of the highlights from the powwow.  Group dancing to drums and hymns of Native American tribes made this a magical experience. 

While I was relaxing on the beach this week, I decided that I was going to stop drinking coffee for the remainder of my vacation (and hopefully keep this up when I go back to work).  I made this decision because I notice sometimes when I drink too much coffee (which can be as little as 1-2 cups per day), I feel really anxious in my stomach– like an annoying, uncertain gut feeling related to nothing in particular which lasts about an hour or two after I’ve overdone it with the coffee.  I’ve written about my history of insomnia and sleep disturbances and I know that having any caffeine affects my sleep cycle greatly. I’m hoping that I can keep my cravings for coffee at bay. Tonight my plans include going to a coffee house, so this should be interesting. I’ll give an update soon along with some more info on my favorite vegan restaurants. For more personal updates and (almost) daily food pictures, you can follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine:)

-Jess

Peanut Butter and Jam Overnight Oats

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love overnight oats (check out my other overnight oats recipes here and here). I love overnight oats because prepping them the night before saves time in the morning, which means more sleep and therefore, more happiness. I also love eating overnight oats during the summer because I eat mine cold and its makes for the perfect summer breakfast. I decided to add peanut butter and jam to my oats a few days ago and I think I’m officially in love with this combo. To add some extra nutrition (fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals), I also added blueberries, strawberries and a few cherries. Here’s the how-to on creating a delicious PB and J oat-filled breakfast.

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats, use gluten free oats if you’re following a GF diet
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, add a little more liquid for less thick oats
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 4 cherries, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 5 strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. of your favorite jam or preserves

To Prep (do this the night before you plan on eating the oats)

  • Measure all ingredients
  • In a bowl or mason jar, mix together oats, vanilla extract, almond milk, and stir in peanut butter
  • Add the layer of fruit
  • Refrigerate for about 8 hours or longer
  • Top with your favorite jam or preserves and enjoy (no need to heat)

I hope you love these oats as much as I do. If you love this recipe, follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for more delicious food creations.

 

-Jess

Last Minute Banana Chocolate Chip Brownies

Happy 4th of July! I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post today but I whipped up these amazing brownies to bring to a barbecue and I had to share. If you’re looking for an easy, quick dessert to bring to a gathering, try these delectable bites of bliss. This recipe requires having a few very ripe bananas (like the stage before they turn brown) on hand. If you don’t have bananas, try an equal amount of apple sauce or dairy-free yogurt.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I always use whole grain flour for extra fiber in my baked goods, but if you don’t have it, all-purpose flour will also work)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use trader joe’s brand)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil or almond oil (or you can use vegetable or canola oil if you have those instead)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips (I use trader joe’s dark chocolate chips which happen to be vegan)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, measure and mix all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder)
  • In another bowl, measure and mix wet ingredients (maple syrup/agave, mashed bananas, almond/soy milk, vanilla extract, oil).
  • Mix the wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  • Spray a 9×12 baking pan with non-stick spray, pour batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes
  • Allow to cool and then cut and share with family and friends!

 

Enjoy these chocolatey treats and have a great 4th of July!

-Jess

Some Updates and Happy Fourth of July!

I’m writing this post a little early because I know tomorrow I’ll be celebrating with family and friends.  It’s been over a month since I last posted and I completely forgot to post my June blog entry because June was a busy month for me.  June is a special month for Vitamin Valentine, because my first blog entry was in June of 2013.  When I first started writing VV, I mainly shared things that I was learning in my classes.  This summer is the first summer that I’m not taking any classes so I’ll be writing more personal things and continue to share my amazingly delicious and nutritious recipes.

So what else have I been doing instead of posting my usual entries?  Lately I’ve been going to the gym more often (yay!), but also not doing as much daily yoga as I would have liked (not so yay).  I probably only did yoga 2 times/week every week in June which may sound decent, but daily yoga and meditation really helps keep me grounded.  My goal for July is to get back to doing yoga on a daily basis.  To help me stay motivated, I bought a really funky planner that I’m loving right now. It’s called the Happy Planner.  It’s filled with inspirational quotes, places to track goals and to-do lists, and it’s super colorful which is always fun.

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My planner and one of my favorite breakfasts (a whole grain bagel, almond butter, and banana)

For the fourth of july, I’ll be spending the day outdoors and hopefully I can do some yoga on the beach.  I hope you have a great fourth of july:)

-Jess

A Calorie Conundrum

Calorie counting is one of my favorite topics to discuss. I’ve written a little about my experience with calorie counting apps (like myfitnesspal) back in 2013 (you can read that blog post here.)  I’ve decided to revisit the topic of calorie counting because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and for some, calorie counting can turn into an obsession, leading to anxiety, depression, and symptoms of eating disorders.

Counting calorie intake isn’t all bad. For some, tracking calorie intake can be helpful, especially to those who are beginning to change their diets and want to see where the bulk of their calories comes from. Counting calories can be a good strategy for those who are just learning about nutrition, as the calorie is the most basic element of a nutrition fact label.

For others, calorie counting can be associated with needing control over something. Dieting can be a way to achieve a goal so rigidly that other aspects of life are ignored. I myself have an interesting history with counting calories. I first started counting calories when I was 15 and decided to go on a diet. I didn’t have a clue how many calories I should be eating, so I just settled on 1,500 as my daily goal. Weeks passed and I lost weight, but I continued to drop my calorie count each month, until I was eating around 200 calories a day. I dropped down to just below 90 lbs in several months (I’m 5’6″). Obviously, I was suffering from a severe eating disorder; counting calories wasn’t the cause, but it definitely became a part of my obsession to change my body in hopes of achieving happiness.

When I decided to get help, counting calories was actually a component of my treatment. I was encouraged to record everything I ate and how much in order to meet a certain amount of calories to gain weight each week. But I didn’t gain much weight for a while and I didn’t feel like I was recovering. I was still obsessed with calories! I started to become really frustrated and depressed and eventually my weight went up, up, up and it felt completely out of my control despite recording everything I was eating. My disordered eating lasted years. 

It took me a really long time to realize that any external influence over our eating, whether it’s tracking calories, eating a certain amount of food to gain or lose weight, eating huge portions to build muscles, eating tiny portions to get thin, etc. can be obsessive and can be the opposite of what health is. My mental health improved when I began to listen to my own body. My total health (emotional, mental, physical, etc.) improved when I stopped looking to others to tell me what’s best for my body. After much time, I realized the same can be applied to life in general. No one can tell you what’s best for you, because no one is you! I became so fixated on what was outside of me, that I learned to completely ignore my own hunger, fullness, wants, needs, likes, and dislikes.

So, what changed? Like I said, I learned to listen to myself. No calorie listing could ever tell me how hungry I was during lunch and how much I should actually eat to comfortably satiate my hunger. I would be lying if I wrote that I am completely free of counting calories. Every now and then I record what I eat just to get a basic feel of how many calories I’m eating. Sometimes I ask my friends how many calories do they think is in our meals while eating out. I then realize how annoying I must sound and resolve to become less fixated on calories and to just enjoy my food. I’ve found that it can be helpful to record how hungry and full you are before and after a meal instead of recording the calorie amounts in food, so I sometimes do that in place of writing down exact calories and macronutrients. Sometimes I write down what I eat without recording calories. Most days I do have a basic knowledge of (roughly) how many calories without needing to record every single calorie, which is what became so obsessive for me.

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No calorie counts here, but I do like to know how I’m eating. Side note: On this particular Saturday, I was really feelin Whole Foods

I no longer struggle with an eating disorder, nor do I struggle with my weight. I accept myself fully, despite knowing that I’m flawed. I sometimes feel fat, I don’t let my thoughts control what I do on my “fat days”. Some days I know I eat a ton, I don’t step on the scale and berate myself afterwards, which I used to do after I went above my “calorie limit” defined by apps and calorie trackers. To me, that is huge progress!

Letting go of obsessively counting calories wasn’t the “cure” but letting go of constantly trying to meet an external value of what I should eat was. You may not have the same opinion of calorie counting. Perhaps counting calories has been immensely helpful in losing or gaining weight. For myself, I don’t mind having a rough estimate, but relying on my own eating intuition has been far more helpful.

My experience isn’t unique. As a nutritionist and student of nutrition, many of my peers have learned to let go of rigid calorie counting. It helps that as nutritionists, we have a great amount of knowledge of food and nutrients and can be healthy eaters without having to know the exact calorie amounts in our food (to be honest, we pretty much know how many calories are in a lot of foods out of sheer habit). When I’m counseling someone or sharing a recipe with someone who is just learning about healthy eating, I sometimes do share how many calories are in a certain food or recipe, especially if it’s a healthier version of a higher calorie recipe. I also encourage people to get familiar with what a calorie is, but to aim to eat the most nutrient-dense foods instead of focusing exclusively on calorie amounts. Above all,  I encourage people to eat mindfully, while educating people on eating fruits, vegetables, and smaller portions of sweets and treats. So, what are your thoughts on calorie counting? Do you use fitness/food tracking apps, and if so what are your experiences? Has calorie counting ever been obsessive for you? Feel free to comment, get in touch via facebook or instagram @ vitaminvalentine, or shoot me an email. I love hearing from other nutritionists, nutrition students, and nutrition enthusiasts.

-Jess

 

Kidney Bean Tacos for a Cause

Can we just taco ’bout how good Mexican food is? I love using Mexican flavors in my cooking, especially when I want to make something healthy taste amazingly flavorful and spicy. I’ve been wanting to make vegan tacos for a while and I’ve also wanted to share a recipe using kidney beans because one of my friends is involved with raising funds for the National Kidney Foundation’s kidney walk on May 22nd on Long Island and what better way to show my support for raising awareness for kidney disease than with a little play on words (for the record, I’ll be at the kidney walk too and if you live on Long Island, come support by walking!). For more info on the kidney walk and kidney disease, please follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine where I’ll have a link to register for the walk.

Although this recipe was specifically made using kidney beans, if you don’t have any, you can substitute black beans, pinto beans, or whatever you have in stock. If you’re not a fan of tofu, you can use seitan, tempeh, or whatever you’d like.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 can kidney beans, or 3/4 cup dry kidney beans
  • 5 oz. extra firm tofu (or substitute with another protein)
  • 4 small soft-shell corn tortillas (I bought the ones I used at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder (regular)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. oil (for the pan)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil as dressing
  • salsa, pico de gallo (I bought two varieties at TJ’s, but if you have a salsa recipe you like, feel free to use that)
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes or sliced grape tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. red onion, diced

Directions

  • Drain the beans and press the excess water out of the tofu. Slice tofu into smaller pieces
  • Dice red onions
  • In a saute pan, add 2 tsp. oil and add onions and tofu. Add in spices (chili powders, garlic powder) and lime juice as the tofu and onions simmer on low heat
  • Add beans as tofu starts to brown
  • As the tofu and beans cook, in a bowl, massage olive oil onto the kale
  • To the bowl of kale, add cilantro, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt
  • Slice the avocado
  • Microwave (or if you really want to be authentic, steam) the taco shells for ~30 seconds
  • Remove the bean and tofu mixture from the stove when all the lime juice is absorbed and beans and tofu are lightly coated with spices
  • Place the taco shells on plates
  • Add the beans and tofu, then add the kale salad mixture
  • Top with sliced avocado and salsas of your preference
  • Enjoy with some corn tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole:)

-Jess

Peachy Keen Protein Dream Smoothie

If you’ve been following my facebook or instagram pages, you are well aware of my love of smoothies. I love experimenting with flavors and combinations to create healthy and delicious smoothies. I’m a big fan of smoothies because they don’t weigh me down yet they can be very filling. I like eating oatmeal for breakfast, but lately I’ve been craving something a little lighter and a smoothie really does the trick. This smoothie recipe is packed with fiber, antioxidants, and protein. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:)

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  • 1 frozen banana, in chunks
  • 1 cup frozen sliced peaches (or use fresh, just make sure they’re ripe)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop Garden of Life Raw protein-vanilla (or use your favorite vegan {or not} protein powder)
  • a little water if necessary

Measure ingredients and add to a blender. Blend well until smooth. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert, or anytime.

-Jess

Spring Super Smoothie

Today is the first day of spring and I’m excited! I love spring because it signifies new beginnings. As you go through your day today, try to meditate on what it is you’d like to start doing today, this week, this month, this season, or even this year. Now is a great time to dive into some exciting plans to improve your life.

For me personally, I’m going to try to eat more greens everyday. Even though I do eat vegetables every day, I’ve noticed that I could incorporate more nutrient-dense greens into my favorite meals. To get started on my new goal, I’ve created a deliciously healthy smoothie packed with nutrition. This is a green smoothie similar to what I’ve posted in much earlier blog posts but with a few twists. Feel free to try this smoothie and give me some feedback because I love hearing from my readers! You can email me, write a comment, or get in touch via facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine:)

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  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup frozen or fresh mango
  • 6 oz. plain So Delicious Greek Coconut Yogurt (this is my favorite non-dairy yogurt because it has extra fiber and a unique texture that is great for smoothies, but if you prefer a different kind, use whatever you’d like)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almondmilk
  • 1 tsp. spirulina powder (optional)

Cut and prepare fruits and kale. Measure almond milk and other ingredients. Add all to a blender and blend well until liquified. This smoothie is on the thick side, so if you want, you can add water or a little more almond milk. This can either serve one or two people depending on how hungry you are. Enjoy and keep in mind: what can you start doing today?

-Jess

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Happy Friday! This work week ended with a generous helping of delicious vegan chocolate chunk cookies for me and my coworkers. When I’m not writing about food or managing Vitamin Valentine, I’m working a full-time job as a community nutritionist for a nonprofit organization. At our office this week we celebrated the month of march (which also happens to be national nutrition month) with healthy baked goods. Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy baked good. Although I wouldn’t advise anyone to go on a diet consisting of only muffins, cookies, or cupcakes, baked goods can be made a little healthier with a few simple substitutions. I try to use whole wheat or whole grain pastry flour in place of white flour, which adds a little more fiber and b-vitamins. Using applesauce and almond milk in place of large amounts of oil or butter also helps cut down on calories and fat. There are many other ways to make ordinary cookies a little healthier with some creativity. These vegan chocolate chunk cookies were a big hit and I hope you enjoy them too! Each cookie clocks in at just under 150 calories and makes around 14-16 large, fluffy cookies.

Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar (unpacked)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup Earth Balance buttery spread (or, use 1/2 cup coconut oil)- softened
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life vegan semi-sweet chocolate mega chunks

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and then put a sheet of parchment paper on top
  • In a large bowl, mix softened earth balance or coconut oil with brown and white sugars, add vanilla extract. Mix with a spoon until uniform in consistency.
  • In a separate bowl, add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together until mixed
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then add the almond milk and apple sauce and mix
  • Add the chocolate chunks and mix well
  • Using your hands, mold the dough into balls and then flatten. This recipe will make about 14-16 medium-large cookies, or 20-24 smaller cookies
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. For larger cookies, time may be longer.
  • Allow to cool, share with your friends, family, or coworkers, and enjoy:)

-Jess