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

Crunchy Kale and Nut Salad

If you live in New York, this past weekend you were most likely stuck indoors due to the snow. This past weekend during the blizzard, I was supposed to be teaching my first donation-based yoga class, but that just wasn’t going to happen due to the weather, so my yoga class has been rescheduled for next month. If you read my last post about yoga, you know how excited I am about teaching this class! Getting back to being stuck inside, one of my favorite ways to pass the time when stuck inside is to cook. Or in my case, un-cook. I love kale and I especially love kale salads. The following kale salad will satisfy a crunchy craving and supply a good dose of healthy fats and fiber. It’s vegan, and if you use gluten-free soy sauce (tamari or shoyu) it can also be gluten free.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a side dish, 2 if served as a main dish)

Salad

  • 4-5 cups kale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 a cucumber, diced
  • 1 carrot, shaved into slices or diced
  • 1/2 cup slivered raw almonds

Dressing (makes several servings, refrigerate and save remaining dressing)

  • 1/4 cup tahini (hulled sesame paste, can be found at most health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

 

Directions

  • For the salad, cut veggies and set kale in a large bowl. Massage olive oil onto kale using your hands so that the kale becomes softened. Add veggies and slivered almonds.
  • For the dressing, measure and whisk together ingredients in a large bowl until uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and mix with a large spoon. There will be a large amount of dressing leftover. Store the remaining dressing in a sealed cup or bowl and use within a few days.
  • Share with friends and enjoy!

 

-Jess

How to Make the Best Choices at the Salad Bar

My dad and I dined at my favorite salad bar (I discuss that below). In my container: kale, falafel, beets, and numerous other veggies!

My dad and I dined at my favorite salad bar (I discuss that below). In my container: kale, falafel, beets, and numerous other veggies!

If you’re like me, you love the freedom that making your own salad/assortment of hot foods involves. Depending on where you’re dining, salad bars may offer an array of healthy and not-so-healthy options, and it can be tempting to load up on those comfort food options (I think everyone can agree that french fries and mashed potatoes look so good!) How can you make the wisest choices when you have so many less healthy choices available? Here are some tips for navigating the self-service food set-up:

  • If available, choose a smaller size plate. Studies have shown that the size of your plate or bowl influences how much you’ll eat. Eating off a larger plate can lead to eating larger portions of food, and consuming more calories.
  • Make at least half of your plate greens. In general, the darker the green veggie, the more nutritious it is. Spinach, romaine, and kale, are all good choices. If possible opt for these over iceberg lettuce, which is all water and little nutrients.
  • Make your plate or container look appetizing by adding colorful veggies. Carrots, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, baby corn, are usually some common options offered.
  • Add a protein component. Some healthy options include beans and tofu. Try to keep the portion size to the size of deck of cards (about a half cup).
  • For dressing, your best bet is oil and vinegar. Although oil is high in calories, usually the oil provided will be olive oil, which has healthy fats that will help absorb the fat soluble vitamins in vegetables, such as vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
  • Since there will probably be less healthy options available, choose this item last and stick to a 1/4 cup portion.

I personally love dining at salad bars/hot food bars. In fact, I rarely go out to eat and instead I insist that my friends and family meet me at Whole Foods Market Salad Bar when they decide to treat me! What I love about Whole Foods Market Salad Bar are the many vegan options, which of course you’d expect at a salad bar because of the vegetables, but Whole Foods takes it a step further by offering different bean salads, grain salads, different types of tofu, and so much more. If you live near a Whole Foods Market, I encourage you to pick up a tray and make yourself a meal!

What are your strategies to navigating self-serve food bars? If you have a favorite salad bar restaurant or food place, do share by leaving a reply!

-Jess

Tips For Staying Healthy This Cold and Flu Season

As the holidays approach, we’re also entering peak sickness season.  I’ve spoken to several people who have fallen ill due to the flu, stomach viruses, and severe colds. Nutrition plays a big part of whether or not you get sick and the severity of symptoms. A poor diet has an influence on your immune system and if your diet is lacking in several vitamins and minerals, you might be more susceptible to illness.  Here are some ways you can prevent getting sick this winter:

  • Wash your hands, and do it frequently. I know this is a no-brainer, but it is really important for your hands to stay clean especially when illnesses are going around. If soap makes your hands feel dry and irritated, try keeping a small tube of moisturizer with you.  It’s also imperative to keep your hands, cookware, and utensils clean when you’re serving guests to prevent the spread of germs and disease during food preparation.
  • Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are great sources of Vitamin C. Although the research is mixed some studies claim that increased amounts of vitamin C can help prevent colds. Even if the research is lacking, eating more fruits and veggies can’t hurt.

    It's always best to get your vitamin C from fresh produce, but if you don't have access to fruits and veggies, you can try adding vitamin C through supplements (always read the label of supplements, because excess vitamin C can cause digestive issues).

    It’s always best to get your vitamin C from fresh produce, but if you don’t have access to fruits and veggies, you can try adding vitamin C through supplements (always read the label of supplements, because excess vitamin C can cause digestive issues).

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    one serving of kiwi and strawberries provides about 100% of the RDA for vitamin C

  • Make sure you’re getting enough zinc, especially if you’re suffering from a cold. Again, the research is not concrete at this point, but some studies show that sufficient zinc amounts can help shorten the duration of a cold. Animal foods (such as oysters and other seafood, lamb, and beef) are typically listed as the best sources of zinc, but if you’re a vegan/vegetarian, you’re in the luck because zinc can also be found in sunflower seeds and legumes. Zinc is often found in homeopathic cold remedies such as “Cold Eeze” and others, but the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is always through a nutritious diet.
  • Stay hydrated. Make sure that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. The standard is 8 cups (64 ounces) but water needs depend on your sex and body size. It’s especially important to stay hydrated if you do get sick and have stomach virus symptoms.
  • Rest. Although it might be tempting to go to every holiday party you’re invited to, if you’re sick, the best thing to do is stay home and rest. You’ll feel better quicker and you won’t run the risk of getting others sick.

Stay Well!

-Jess