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

How To Get Your Fruit Fix On

Summer is almost here (well, it’s almost a month away so that counts, right?) and summer is peak fruit season. Consuming at least two or more servings of fruit a day provides you with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a healthy source of carbohydrates, but many people are so used to eating cereal or eggs for breakfast, and having cake or cookies for dessert, when fruit would be a healthier option.

Depending on where you live, different types and varieties of fruit may be in season during the summer, however, in most supermarkets and health food stores you can find fruit staples like oranges, bananas, apples, pears, and typically berries like strawberries and blueberries. If you’re lucky, you might also find mangos, papayas, and kiwis. During the summer months in the northeast, plums, peaches, and nectarines are all in season along with several different varieties of melons.

When thinking about ways to eat fruit, think out of the box! Fruit can be puréed and used in place of oil or eggs in muffin batter, juiced or blended into a smoothie, or added to accent a savory dish! Here are some other ways to enjoy fruit while getting a variety of vitamins and other nutrients.

 

Deconstructed Fruit Salads

Arrange fruit (and nuts, for a source of protein and healthy fats) on a plate and have a feast for your mouth and eyes. Children may especially be fond of these dishes due to the shapes and colors. For a fun activity, ask kids to describe the flavor and texture of each different type of fruit.

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Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Nutella-like spread, or similar nut butter pairs well with apples and bananas!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

Citrus fruit salad is not only fun to eat but visually appealing as well!

 

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

Pair sliced fruit along with a whole grain product, like a berry-oat muffin, oatmeal, or whole-grain cereal.

 

Smoothies & Juices

For smoothies, use a banana, soy yogurt, or low-fat yogurt, along with any other fruit you enjoy to create a quick yet filling breakfast or snack!

For juices, sneak in some veggies, like carrots or beets, in with your fruit for an extra-nutritious beverage!


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Add to Savory Dishes

Try adding apples, citrus fruits, or mangoes to rice dishes, salads, or meals involving beans. I’ve found that fruit goes well with asian-inspired meals, especially with teriyaki sauce.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Kale salad with oranges, topped with pear dressing makes a vitamin A and vitamin C-rich meal.

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

Sliced mango added to a bean salad topped with various veggies and teriyaki sauce is one idea for a fruit-infused main course

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

For a crunchy meal, shred jicama (a root vegetable) or prepare brown rice, and add oranges, kale, bell pepper, and top with hot sauce for a variety of flavors and textures!

 

Get creative with fruit and always try new foods, new dishes, and experiment in the kitchen! If you enjoyed the pictures in this post, feel free to follow me on instagram @vitaminvalentine for even more creative visuals of healthy food and recipes!

-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

What You Need to Know Before Going Vegan

Have you ever thought about going vegan? A vegan diet appeals to many people for different reasons, such as weight loss, religious beliefs, ethical concerns, or just improving the content of their diet in general. There’s no denying that a vegan diet which focuses on whole foods (rather than convenience foods) is a healthy one, but what do you need to know before you eliminate several food groups from your diet?

Fortunately for you, I have much experience on this subject because I became a vegan as a teen and learned so much about veganism and about nutrition in general. In fact, I would consider my experience as a vegan as one of the factors that led me to go back to school to study nutrition.

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One of the most helpful books on transitioning to a vegan diet.

First off, what is a vegan? A vegan is someone who does not consume any animal products whatsoever (so, that means no meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and some also consider honey to be an animal product, although some vegans will consume honey).

What does a vegan eat?

A healthy vegan diet will consist of whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats, and the occasional vegan treat. Whole grains can come in form of eating the actual whole grain (brown rice, barley, quinoa and so on) or consuming products made from 100% whole grains (whole grain pasta, whole or sprouted grain bread, etc.). Legumes (or beans) include garbanzo beans (also referred to as chickpeas), black beans, pinto beans, etc., and also soy. Soy can be made into many different products, including tofu, tempeh (fermented soy, which kind of tastes like mushrooms, in my opinion), soymilk, veggie burgers, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and the list goes on. Some concerns about soy include its phytoestrogen content, which some scientists postulate could mimic the role of estrogen in humans, although the verdict is still out. I’d recommend eating soy in moderation, due to the mixed research findings behind it. Vegetables and fruit are a staple in the vegan diet and can be consumed in any way imaginable. A vegan diet typically contains high amounts of vitamin C, fiber, and phytochemicals because of this.  Healthy fats in the vegan diet come from using plant oils, like olive and coconut oil. Nuts provide healthy fats along with some protein and fiber. Walnuts, in particular, contain the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential and not consumed nearly enough in a typical American diet.  Due to the lack of animal products, the vegan diet can lead to deficiencies in some nutrients, which leads me to discuss the next issue…

Protein Needs and B-12 Supplementation

Vegan sources of protein

Vegan sources of protein

Meat, eggs, and dairy contain the highest amount of bioavailable protein (protein that is most easily absorbed and used by the human body). Without animal products, protein consumption is usually less, but there are ways to achieve an adequate protein intake on a vegan diet. Protein needs vary by sex, age, weight, and activity level. A rough estimate for an average person, is 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, (to calculate your weight in kg, divide pounds by 2.2). Protein needs will be higher in athletes, people recovering from illness, and those who are trying to build muscle mass. Sources of vegan protein include beans, plant protein powders (soy protein, pea protein, hemp protein, and a few others), and nuts. One issue with vegan protein is that beans and nuts lack certain essential amino acids (Amino acids are the building blocks of protein).  One way to achieve a complete vegan protein is to combine beans/nuts with whole grains. This combination provides all the necessary amino acids. This is actually a common practice in many societies around the world (Latin American cuisine typically combines rice and beans in many dishes, for example).

Another issue with the vegan diet is the lack of B-12, which is only found in animal products. Vegans must supplement their diets with vitamin B-12 or else they will run into health problems, such as lack of energy, pernicious anemia, and nerve damage if the deficiency is long-term and extreme. In my own experience, I went a few months without B-12 supplementation and experienced a constant tingling sensation in my left arm and chest which was scary and forced me to become better educated about my diet as a vegan. Once I began supplementation, my health returned to normal but I can’t stress how important it is to supplement if you are a vegan!

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It's not necessary to have mega-doses of B-vitamins, but most supplements go above and beyond to ensure you're getting adequate amounts.

It’s not necessary to have mega-doses of B-vitamins, but most supplements go above and beyond to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts.

Calcium Concerns

In addition to making sure that you get adequate protein and vitamin B-12, Calcium can also be an issue in the vegan diet. Most Americans get their calcium through consuming dairy products. In the vegan diet, calcium can be found in fortified soymilk, almond milk, rice milk, or other imitation milks. Tofu, spinach, kale, and fortified orange juice are also good sources of Calcium. Most women, both vegan and not, don’t meet the RDA For calcium (around 1200 mg is needed), so if that is a concern for you, you can also take calcium supplements.

Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Hopefully the things to consider before becoming a vegan haven’t scared you off yet. Despite needing to plan a little more on the vegan diet, it still has many benefits such as

  • Vegans typically have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and weigh less than meat-eaters
  • A diet based on whole grains, fruits, and veggies provides ample fiber and is rich in certain vitamins and minerals.
  • Higher consumption of vegetables and fruits is strongly associated with lower risk of cancer
  • Low-fat vegan/vegetarian diets are useful for people with heart disease and diabetes.
  • Lower consumption of saturated fats and little trans-fat intake is correlated with better heart health (saturated fats are highest in animal foods)
  • Increased fiber consumption leads to better digestive health (the less time your digested food is just sitting in your lower large intestine, the better).

Other benefits of a vegan diet can be found in the book “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda David and Vesanto Melina shown above.

My own take on the Vegan Diet and what you can learn from my experience

I became a vegan at the age of 15 and my reasons for doing so ranged from my love of animals to vanity. Looking back, I wish I was better educated about what makes up a healthy vegan diet instead of trying to do it on my own, especially at a young age where the desire to be thin can overtake any intention of good health. If you’re considering a vegan diet, do so because you genuinely want to live a healthier, more compassionate life, not because you want to lose weight and think veganism is the way to go. Truthfully, you may lose weight, but you shouldn’t make that your focus because it’s not sustainable and the goal of any diet should be overall health improvement. More health issues are created when we shift our focus towards immediate physical results rather than long-term health.  That being said, I do believe the vegan diet is a very healthy one when it is properly planned and supplemented with the necessary vitamins and minerals. Veganism can be fun and exciting because you constantly find new ways to reinvent favorite recipes. More restaurants are offering vegan options and stores are selling more meat-alternative products.

To be a vegan means that you have compassion for all living creatures and that you value your health, and that is something to proud of.

Lastly, for anyone who is seriously considering a vegan diet, this is a sample of what an adequately planned day could look like. This plan provides 2,200 calories (which is ideal for an active adult female looking to maintain their weight). The macronutrient breakdown is 49% carbs, 33% fat, and 18% protein.  Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron all exceed recommended values which just goes to show how easy it is to have a nutrient-dense vegan diet.

Breakfast:

Green Smoothie (1 cup spinach, 1 cup unsweetened fortified almond milk, ½ banana, 1 cup berries of your choice), ice (alternatively, you could use frozen berries and omit the ice).

1 slice of sprouted grain bread with 1 tbsp. peanut butter topped with the remaining banana

B-Vitamin Complex or  B-12 Supplement (take with food)

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Lunch:

Veggie burger with spinach and salsa in a whole wheat wrap, kale salad consisting of chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots, 2 tbsp. cilantro dressing (or dressing of your choice).

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Snack:

Apple and Protein Bar (Clif Builder bar provides the most vegan protein out of all the vegan protein bars I’ve looked at).

Dinner:

Falafel (chickpeas, onions, and spices ground, molded, and sautéed in olive oil) over ¾ cup bulgar (a type of whole grain) or quinoa with veggies of your choice, 2 tbsp. tahini sauce,  ½ a whole wheat pita with 2 tbsp. hummus

Post Workout Snack:

1 cup soymilk with a scoop of vegan protein powder

Recommended Reading:

For more information on veganism, I encourage you to read the book, “Becoming Vegan” by Brenda Davis, R.D., and Vesanto Melina, R.D. If you need ideas of recipes, the picture below shows some of my favorite cookbooks and recipe sources.

Obviously, they've been used many times (pretend you don't see the grimy book edges).

Clockwise LR- The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas, VegNews Magazine, Fresh & Fast Vegan Pleasures by Amanda Grant, Vegan With A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

-Jess