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 @theveganrd

-Jess

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!!!!

Oh, mega delicious chai spice walnut butter

Lately I’ve been noticing persistent, intense cravings for food that I don’t normally eat (salmon, greek yogurt, eggs, chicken).  Whenever I’ve had these cravings in the past, I would feel really conflicted because I have deep compassion for animals and all beings, and yet I’m a firm believer that cravings for groups of food (in my case, animal-based proteins) may be a sign of deficiency in one’s diet.  My most recent craving for salmon has been going on for a few months.  In the past, there were a  few times where my non-vegan cravings were so intense that I *may* have indulged in some non-vegan food, which led to confusion about my own veganism and a lot of self-judgment.  Recently, I’ve been feeling confused because I take a vitamin with algal-based omega 3’s so I feel like I take in enough of this essential fatty acid to keep fish cravings away.

I value authenticity and this includes my blog and my social media.  I sometimes really struggle with honoring my body’s non-junk food cravings and being true to my personal ethics of not harming others (animals included).  For the past few years (typically in the winter months), I find my body (or mind?) particularly craves heavier protein (from animal sources) and I proceed to spend months vacillating between staying true to my values and rationalizing why I should indulge in my persistent cravings.  I also spend time and effort doing research on the best sources of plant-based protein and amino acids, and make an effort to include at least 50-60 grams of protein each day (which based on my weight and activity level meets the recommended requirements–but may not be enough based on lab work and other symptoms).

There are so many reasons why veganism is important to me, to name a few:  I don’t want to participate in the mistreatment/abuse/slaughter of innocent animals, concerns about the environment and the sustainability of our current factory-farming system, my religious/spiritual beliefs of ahimsa (sanskrit for “do no harm to others”), health reasons, and the fact that I was never much of a meat-eater as a child, I became a vegan at 15, and it just kind of became my natural way of eating.

As a nutrition professional, someone with a master’s degree in nutrition, and a soon to be registered dietitian, if someone came to me stating that they had persistent cravings for certain foods (not junk foods, but foods with actual nutrients), I would examine their diet, and then make recommendations.  I would also check their blood work (if available), and ask them if they had any symptoms of a nutrient deficiency (fatigue, slow healing, light-headedness, hair loss, brittle nails, etc.).  I would never force my own personal beliefs on someone, as most people aren’t vegan, and a sure-fire way to make people defensive is to press your beliefs on someone.  I would probably recommend that this hypothetical client/patient include more protein in their diet (I would first recommend plant-based protein but if they wanted an animal-based protein, I can’t pressure them to be vegan/vegetarian).

I’m not one of my clients/patients, but I have been taking my own advice and eating more protein; however, the idea to just eat what I crave (animal based protein) is met with feelings of guilt and confusion.  It seems like this conundrum might just be a part of my life that I’ll have to deal with as both an empathetic person,  as someone who is well-versed in nutrition, and as someone who believes in honoring body, mind, and soul.

Because the craving for salmon is so specific, and because I know so much about nutrition, I’m thinking that maybe my vitamin with omega 3’s isn’t enough.  I’ve started including more whole food-based sources of omega 3’s that aren’t from a supplement.  One delicious source of omega 3 fatty acids are walnuts.  I was never a huge fan of walnuts, but I do love nut-butters, so I decided to see if I could make a walnut butter, and I was impressed about how it came out.  Below is the recipe for my walnut butter creation.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw walnuts (I used 365 Whole Foods Market brand)
  • 1 tbsp. organic virgin coconut oil (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2-4 tbsp. chai tea (I used pre-made tea from Oregon Spice brand)
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. Vermont maple syrup

Directions:

Measure ingredients and mix until blended smooth in a food processor.  Enjoy, or store in the fridge.  To soften, microwave for 45 seconds.

This nut butter makes a delicious addition to oatmeal and tastes amazing on toast.  I had it mixed with dairy free cashew yogurt + jam and topped it on my favorite sprouted grain toast.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Have you ever experienced persistent cravings for a particular food/group of food?  How did you deal with it? Are you a vegan/vegetarian who struggles with a similar issue?  Feel free to share or comment on this post or through my instagram account @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

A moment to breathe

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Ah…that is my sigh of relief because I’m officially on “vacation” from my internship rotations for the next two weeks.  Yesterday was the last day of my community rotation.  If you read my last post, I’ve been working with the senior population, mostly in the scope of the meals-on-wheels program and other community programs for senior citizens.  I didn’t know what to expect of my community rotation.  Before I got into the dietetic internship, I worked in community nutrition as a nutritionist for the Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program, so I did have some experience in public health but clearly the WIC program is quite different than a program for senior citizens.  Anyway, my community rotation was fantastic.  I loved working with seniors and sharing nutrition knowledge.  If you read my last post, this rotation involved some public speaking along with making healthy baked goods to share with individuals at senior community centers, which was fun!  During this rotation, I had an amazing preceptor that truly wants interns to succeed and learn from each rotation which made it an overall positive experience.

I’m looking forward to this little break from the internship.  I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to devote to yoga, painting, running, taking long walks outside (my vitamin D levels are probably so low right now, thanks to winter), and just enjoying the holiday season.  I hope you have time to reconnect with yourself, too.

-Jess

Fall-ing into place

October was such a crazy month, that I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post, so consider this post an extended update.  In addition to starting another rotation of the dietetic internship (DI), I moved into a new apartment in October.  Needless to say, I’ve been a very busy girl these past few months!

I’ll start by sharing some updates about my latest rotations.  I’ve been interning in a long term care facility for the past two months.  My experience at this facility has been divided into two parts:  institutional food service management and clinical long term care.  The food service management rotation was surprisingly fun.  It takes a lot of work and organization to oversee the management of a food service department, especially in a residential/long term care facility.  I learned about forecasting, budgeting, purchasing, and how food is stored and prepared in this facility.  I also got to know the food service staff and presented an inservice on food sanitation and teamwork, which are essential in a food service kitchen.

My second rotation at this same facility has been in the clinical area.  I’ve been working on nutrition assessments of residents in long term care (LTC) while getting to know the residents, their health conditions, and and how to address health problems using evidence-based nutrition interventions.  I’ve found the clinical aspect of this rotation to be a little more challenging than food service, mostly because assessments need to be written in a very particular way and I’m still finding my voice when it comes to making recommendations and writing evaluations.  My advice to anyone else going into a clinical rotation of the DI is to learn from each preceptor and try to see everything as a learning experience, especially if you don’t have much clinical experience prior to starting the internship.

Like I mentioned above, October was super busy due to transitioning from one rotation to the next, all while moving my life into a U-Haul and changing homes.  I absolutely love my new apartment– it’s so roomy, light, and has such a great energy about it.  Growing up, I wanted to be an architect or an interior designer, so I’m having a lot of fun trying to make the best use of space and decorating (on a budget!).

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My new room 🙂

I’m hoping the rest of November will be a little more calm now that I’m settled into my new home and in December, I’ll get a short break from the internship (which is definitely welcomed, because every intern needs a break now and then!).  I’m looking forward to sharing more updates and info when I start my next rotation 🙂

-Jess

Diary of a Dietetic Intern

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My life right now summed up in a picture- Dietetics Manuals, case studies, and healthy brain fuel!

Hello again readers!  I’m so excited to write this post/update as an RD-to-be/Dietetic Intern!  My Dietetic Internship (DI) officially started a few weeks ago with a two-week orientation that was jam-packed with projects, assignments, and learning all about what’s to come during the internship.  In case you’re reading my blog for the first time, I’m currently a Dietetic Intern and on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).  The process of getting accepted into an internship was extremely competitive (my internship has an 11.8% acceptance rate!).  Not only was the application process competitive, but it was also stress-inducing, and time-consuming because I was working on my master’s thesis and working full time as I applied, so I’m elated that I even get to call myself a Dietetic Intern.  Still confused as to what the DI entails?  The DI is a commitment of supervised practice in a variety of rotations, such as clinical/hospital settings, long-term care, community nutrition organizations, renal/dialysis centers, and specific areas of nutrition/dietetics in order to train graduates to enter the field as health professionals (Registered Dietitians/Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists).

I started my first rotation this week at a Long Term Care facility gaining experience in institutional food service management.  It’s been so interesting to learn about food service management and how much work goes into budgeting a menu, planning, overseeing a kitchen, and keeping guests happy.

While I’m not going to share too much details about the specifics about what I’ve been doing while in the internship, I will share how I’ve been managing my time/stress levels and trying to remain sane outside of the DI.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love running and yoga, so I’ve been making it a point to continue doing these things to manage stress and keep fit during this crazy process.  I’ve also been sticking to a food budget and meal planning for myself (…or trying to) because the DI is an unpaid program and a girl’s gotta eat, but also watch her wallet (and waist!).

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Trail running is my go-to stress relieving activity (and how cool are my tie-dye socks?!)

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A typical lunch on the go during this crazy time- Wasa bread sandwiches, raw veggies + hummus, and a fresh, crunchy apple

One thing that really stood out to me during orientation before the rotations actually started was some advice from the DI director– she advised us all to practice self-care in order to help us de-stress.  I really believe self-care and relaxation are so vital to health.  I also think it’s important to make time for friends, relationships, and family, especially because life is so much more than just school + professional commitments.  A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I went apple picking and it was such a a nice way to spend the day while enjoying the outdoors and getting some delicious, locally-grown fruit.  How do you stay sane during busy/stressful times?  I hope whatever  you’re working towards also brings you happiness and (some) time to relax.  I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated throughout the internship, so stop by soon for another post 🙂

 

-Jess