Relaxing and Running

Greetings readers!  It’s been a little while since I last wrote a blog post.  May was a pretty busy month for me because I graduated with two degrees!  I officially have a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nutrition!  Graduating was such a huge accomplishment and a proud moment.  School has been a big part of my life for the past several years, so it feels a little weird to not be in class right now.  In September, I start the dietetic internship in order to become a Registered Dietitian, and I’ll have to take classes as a component of the program, so I should feel like my normal “academic” self in the fall.

Lately I’ve been relaxing as well getting back to some of my favorite activities that I didn’t have as much time to do this past year.  One of these activities is running.  I started running for fun and fitness in high school and it became a major stress reliever, until I got injured when I was 17.  I took a break from running and then started up again in my early 20’s, but this past year, doing cardio wasn’t my first priority.  Now that I have more free time, I’ve been running outside a bunch and going for trail runs, which I love because trail runs are challenging and I get to be surrounded by the beauty of nature.

A few weekends ago I even did a 5k race in a nature preserve with some friends, but it was definitely not my best race time!  The weather that day was 90+ heat and the humidity was high but it was fun, and that’s all that counts.

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Before the race started 

In addition to relaxing and running, I’ve also been cooking a ton and taking advantage of the farmers market season by using locally grown fruits and veggies in as many meals and snacks as possible.  If you want to see more details on my running hobby or my food creations, follow my instagram account @vitaminvalentine or keep checking my blog, as I intend to share a delicious recipe or two in the coming weeks.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my update!

-Jess

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Island Inspiration

A few weeks ago I was spending some time scrolling through Instagram and I stumbled upon a Caribbean chef’s delicious food creations.  The flavors seemed to permeate through my phone screen, as I could almost taste the delicious dishes pictured in his photos.  I was also reminded of my childhood trips to Jamaica and how much I loved trying new things and exploring with my tastebuds.  I felt inspired to recreate some plant-based versions of what I saw on my screen and remembered from my past travels.  I headed to the closest ethnic market and picked up a bunch of exotic fruit and vegetables.  It was time to get cooking!

At the ethnic market, I bought up some yuca (a starchy root vegetable), plantains (similar to bananas but higher in starch and not as sweet), some brown rice, pinto beans, canned peas, green tomatillos (similar to tomatoes), and pre-seasoned barbecued jackfruit (jackfruit is a delicious, bubblegum-tasting fruit).

To cook the yuca, I first peeled it, cut it in half, and then boiled it for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.  Then I let it sauté with some onions and tomatillos in a skillet.  In a separate skillet, I sautéed the plantain with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.  The rice and beans were super easy to make (I cooked the rice according to the package but used vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor, and then added canned pinto beans and canned peas).  The jackfruit came already seasoned so I just heated it up for a minute or two.

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Although this meal is very high in carbohydrates, it’s also high in fiber.  This meal was so tasty and it was so fun to work with new flavors.  I’m looking forward to my next cooking inspiration, so if you have a delicious, unique meal or cuisine you’d like to share, leave a comment of connect with me via Facebook or Instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess

Busy yet balanced

February has been a busy month for me, but one of my goals is to write more on Vitamin Valentine.  This month has been filled with school assignments (I’m working on my master’s thesis) and some very exciting (yet nerve-racking) professional developments.  I submitted my dietetic internship applications this month and I’m hoping to get accepted into an internship.  If you’re new to my blog, I’ve been working on a B.S./M.S. in Nutrition for the past four years in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD).  It’s extremely competitive to get into a dietetic internship (DI) and completing the DI is a requirement of the education and training to become an RD, so I’m hoping I match.  Nutrition is my passion and I hope to get into an internship in order to gain the knowledge necessary to help people.  Registered Dietitians are truly the experts in the nutrition field because of the training and education they receive.  I’ve dreamt of becoming an RD for so long, so wish me luck!

Because I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve been finding ways to save time when it comes to preparing healthy food.  Sometimes I make a big batch of food and eat the same thing for lunch for a few days during the week, and other times I try to mix it up.  Either way, I try to stick with the same formula for making my meals as balanced and colorful as possible.  I try to include at least two veggies, a source of protein, and a healthy fat.  Sometimes I’ll also add some whole grains, but today I skipped that component.  For a “side dish” or snack, I usually stick to fruit or a protein bar.  Lunch today was so colorful and delicious.  It consisted of a purple potato on top of collard greens, 1/2 a medium avocado, some cherry tomatoes, and a serving of hummus.  For my snacks, I had a fruit salad (sliced papaya, kiwi, and pineapple) and a gomacro bar (a vegan protein bar).  I also took an apple with me but I decided to save it for another time.

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Delicious, colorful, and easy!

It took me about 10 minutes in total to prepare this.  Instead of baking the potato, I put it in the microwave, which saves a lot of time.  I love preparing my meals ahead of time like this, especially because when I’m hungry at work it’s so tempting to go out and buy something.  Do you have any ways to save time or money while staying healthy?  Feel free to share below, or connect with me via facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine

-Jess

Authenticity, Compassion, and Omega 3’s

Have you ever felt morally conflicted?  I have, and today I’m sharing why.  If you’ve been following my blog or instagram page for a while, you may have noticed that I try to follow a plant-based/vegan lifestyle.  I say “try” because I’m human and I’m not perfect.  As you’ll read below, I’ve had moments when I’m not 100% vegan.  I still wear my old leather shoes and belts, but I no longer buy these items.  I do this because I personally do not want to contribute to violence and pain in this world, but I understand people may have other beliefs when it comes to what they do.

A few months ago, I started having intense cravings for meat, poultry, and fish.  This is not a new occurrence for me.  I became a vegan at age 15, and honestly, I’ve taken a few short breaks in the 12 years since then due to health issues and intense cravings that were related to anemia and B-vitamin deficiencies (pro-tip: take your vitamins).  The most recent series of cravings motivated me to pay closer attention to my diet.  Even as someone who (almost) has their Master’s in Nutrition, I still have to remind myself what balanced eating looks like.

I tried adding more protein to each meal, but the cravings persisted.  I tried going outside more too, because I tend to get low in vitamin D during the winter, but I still craved salmon constantly.  Every time I really wanted a piece of chicken or fish, I reminded myself of the torture animals face, so instead I would buy beans, tofu, veggies, and some form of carb…followed by another carb because I wasn’t really satisfied and I found myself overeating on desserts (vegan muffins, vegan cookies, etc.).

Finally, sometime in the past two weeks, I decided to just eat a piece of chicken.  It tasted delicious, I felt satisfied, but I did not sit right with my morals.  I brushed it off, and tried to convince myself to listen to my body.  This worked, and a few days later, I ate a wrap containing meat and cheese at Whole Foods Market.  However, this time something felt so different.  In all my years of being a vegan, it was really mostly for my own health.  I felt it was easier to not overeat on a vegan diet, especially because all my “trigger foods” used to be dairy-based (ice cream, froyo, cheese, and baked goods, the latter of which you can find all sorts of vegan versions).  Over the past year or so, I’ve become more aware of how eating affects the environment and the animals I love.

This most recent fall-off-the-wagon made me realize some important things.  First of all, it’s important to eat a balanced diet.  If something feels off, it probably is.  If you’re constantly craving something, it may be a sign that you’re deficient in a nutrient.  I realized I’m really lacking in omega 3’s (an essential fatty acid found in fish, but also found in plant sources such as flax oil and chia seeds).  I’m also sensitive to some of the proteins I was eating, especially large amounts of legumes eaten in one sitting.  I realized that it’s important not to judge yourself, and to not judge others.  I felt an immense sense of guilt when I was eating chicken, and I felt equally guilty after I overate on vegan junk-food when I couldn’t seem to satisfy my hunger and cravings.  No one is perfect.  We do enough self-criticizing that I would hope I don’t face criticism from vegans and animal-rights activists.  I learned from this recent experience what is important to me and that is my health, the planet, and living in accordance with my values. Because of this, I’m making it my mission to plan out my meals more carefully, supplement my diet with a vitamin/mineral supplement, take an omega-3 supplement, and try to eliminate foods that don’t agree with me.  I don’t plan on ending my veganism, in contrast, I’m really interested and excited to develop a more nutrient-dense, plant-based way of eating using the knowledge I’ve gained from my nutrition classes.

I hope to help people who have struggled with similar issues.  I also hope to spread a message that even adding more plant-based foods and eating less meat is great and something to be proud of.  Have you gone through a similar experience when it comes to veganism or any issue related to how you eat and how you feel?  Feel free to comment, email me, or connect on facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine.

-Jess

My favorite breakfast/treat

Fall is almost here but I’m relishing these last days of summer.  This summer, my favorite breakfast/snack/dessert was banana ice cream.  At this point, if you follow any vegan instagram accounts, I’m sure you’ve heard of banana ice cream (also called “nice cream”.)  This delicious frozen treat is made by freezing a few bananas and then blending the frozen ‘nanas with a little liquid (almond milk, coconut water, water, etc.) in a food processor.

I’m obsessed with eating banana ice cream for breakfast and trying different variations.  I love how simple it is to whip up a bowl of nice cream and I love how healthy and filling it is.  The trick is to only use a few bananas (you don’t need to eat 10 bananas at a time contrary to what fad diets might say) and and 3/4-1 cup. of another frozen fruit (if you want more flavor than just banana).  For toppings, I like using a sprinkle of oats or granola, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or a table spoon of peanut or almond butter.  You can also add protein powder into the food processor if you’re looking for a post-workout meal or snack.

I’m sharing the nice cream creation I made this morning below.  What is your favorite way to eat nice cream?   If you’re looking for some ideas on how to make this deliciously healthy meal, be sure to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for more nice cream recipes and daily food inspiration 🙂

Chocolate Peanut Butter Nice Cream

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Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen peeled bananas (I usually just break the bananas into 2-3 pieces each before freezing)
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (100% cocoa powder is usually vegan. I buy this at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain cereal
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. vegan chocolate chips (I buy these at Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

  • Blend frozen bananas, coconut water, and unsweetened cocoa powder together until creamy (about ~3 minutes).
  • Scoop out nice cream and transfer to a bowl.
  • Top with cereal, peanut butter, and chocolate chips
  • Enjoy and eat up, this can melt fast in warm weather!

-Jess

Staycation Fun

This week I took a vacation from work.  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.

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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