Self-Care Tips During Times of Stress

It’s been several months since I last wrote a blog post due to having a busy schedule right now. I intended on sharing a recipe or something strictly food-related for this post, but since the coronavirus is a huge concern of everyone I know (including myself), I’ve decided to share some basic self-care tips that may help others feel more at peace during this time of chaos.

On a personal note, several months ago I was started a full time position as a clinical dietitian in a busy county hospital, while still keeping my per diem job at a smaller hospital…and continuing to see a few private nutrition counseling clients…and also teaching a yoga class or two. So, it’s been a crazy few months. I never expected to be working in healthcare during a worldwide pandemic, but here I am. I’m anxious about the situation, and judging by the dearth of toilet paper and non-perishables at several grocery stores I’ve visited, I’m not the only one who is feeling this way. I do think that during times of stress, it’s important to practice skills that can help with anxiety. So, here are my tips:

  • Practice social distancing, but shift your perspective

COVID-19 is highly contagious, and according to the most recent findings, one person infects 2 to 2.5 others on average without preventative measures. A major preventative measure is to self-isolate, even if you don’t have the virus. Instead of feeling a sense of panic, shift your perspective to viewing this as a collective act of cooperation to protect others. Total self-isolation may not be possible for those who work in healthcare, but social distancing (or avoiding other people whenever possible) can be done whenever possible if you don’t work in healthcare.

  • Take the CDC’s advice seriously but also take breaks from constantly consuming news about COVID-19

You don’t have to turn a blind eye to the reality of the situation, but constantly consuming information about the pandemic can lead to more anxiety/stress. Instead, try to block out 10-15 minutes of your day to read about current events and when you’re done, do something completely unrelated (like listen to music, go for a walk, call/text your family/friends and talk about a different topic) to avoid ruminating on anything that may cause you stress.

  • Spend your free time on new (or old) hobbies

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, now can be the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with a hobby or project that you haven’t had the time for to offer some distraction. Read books that you may have collected over the years but never got around to, do something creative, spend time in nature, take a bath or hot shower. Although it might seem tempting to use this time to “treat yo’self” to mindless online purchases, keep in mind that the best forms of self-care are usually free.

  • Try to eat healthy, avoid hoarding processed food, and try not to use food to cope with stress

There are no proven supplements or any specific way of eating to avoid getting sick with a virus, including COVID-19, but consuming a healthy diet rich in whole,unprocessed food is one way to keep your immune system strong. Feeling a sense of scarcity and panic when food shopping may make you feel like you need to stock up on snacks, frozen dinners, and other convenience foods. Turning to food during times of stress is normal, but when it becomes a habit, it can have longterm negative consequences. By buying highly processed, palatable food, you might feel more tempted to overindulge, especially if its available during times of stress, so I recommend avoiding buying these foods all together (or purchase in small quantities). Instead of using food for comfort, seek out healthy staples, like whole grains, canned/bagged beans, frozen veggies- or buy fresh (which can be frozen) so that you can prepare easy meals at home. Try doing your food shopping online if options are limited in stores. Experiment with recipes using food that you already have.

Let me know if you found any of these tips helpful and feel free to connect with me via Instagram @ theveganrd

-Jess

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Almond Treats

October is here and I am happy!  October is my favorite month because I love fall, halloween, and everything pumpkin spice flavored/scented. To celebrate the start of fall, yesterday I made raw vegan pumpkin spice almond treats. These almond treats have all the sweet flavors of fall and are full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin E.  I made this and ate 2 for breakfast along with pumpkin spice banana nicecream (frozen bananas, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice flavors) but you can eat them as is for a snack or dessert.

Pumpkin Spice Almond Treatsimg_0907

Ingredients:

  • 10 pitted, medjool dates
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground vanilla bean or vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • optional- you can also add 1 tbsp. pumpkin spice “butter” spread from Trader Joe’s (its vegan!) and adds a bit more sweetness

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until the mixture is sticky and moldable
  • Mold into balls, bars, or squares and enjoy or refrigerate. These treats taste best at room temperature, so when you’re ready to enjoy them, take them out of the fridge 30 minutes-1 hour before.

P.S.- to make the pumpkin spice nicecream, see my earlier post on “the best vegan breakfast” and combine frozen bananas and canned pumpkin puree in a food processsor. Add the spice mixture above (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger) and enjoy.

-Jess

 

Rest and a Fresh Recipe

Have you ever changed your diet and felt amazing…only to go back to how you were eating and feeling before?  It can be hard to stick with eating healthy, even if we feel the benefits.  I often wonder why this is, and I’ve noticed that for me I’m a creature of habit and habits are hard to change, especially when you’ve been doing something or eating something for so long.

I mentioned in early August that I was taking a break from drinking coffee.  I quit coffee cold turkey and was coffee-free for over 35 days until I decided to indulge in an iced coffee. For the next week, I was drinking about a cup of coffee in the AM.  I also got on average about 4 hours of sleep each night that I had drank coffee in the morning.  Although caffeine shouldn’t affect my sleep so much, it does and I came to the conclusion that I’ve become extremely sensitive to caffeine and (for me) it just isn’t worth it any more.

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Of course I documented my iced coffee indulgence!

I’m happy I realized coffee was affecting me in a negative way instead of drinking even more coffee to make up for lack of sleep, which is something I used to do on a daily basis.  I’m also happy to share what I learned during this self-realization coffee experiment: don’t beat yourself up!  If you slip up on a health goal, diet, or exercise routine, etc., instead of berating yourself and feeling like poo, simply note the difference in how you physically, mentally, and emotionally feel when you’re doing something good for yourself vs. how you feel when you do something that doesn’t benefit your overall health.  Then, decide which feelings you’d rather feel.  In my case, if I kept drinking coffee, I’d probably feel energized for a few hours, but ultimately miss out on sleep and feel really tired at work, in class, and during my free time.

Being coffee-free also made me realize the importance of eating energizing foods.  I pride myself on practicing what I preach, but sometimes quick convenience foods are an easy option that I rely on.  These foods are ok in a pinch, but real, wholesome, unprocessed foods provide so much more.  I’ve decided to share a delicious meal filled with fresh veggies that I made recently.  It took me about 10 minutes to make the entire meal and it’s packed with fiber, lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and deliciousness.

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato-“Cheez” Sauce

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Ingredients (serves 1-2):

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes (or use about 1-1.5 cups of ripe cherry tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 5 kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

Directions: * you will need a food processor and a vegetable spiralizer (or buy spiralized zucchini at a supermarket)

  • Spiralize the zucchini into spaghetti-shaped noodles and set in a bowl or plate
  • Using a food processor, blend the tomatoes, spices, cashews, and olives together for about 3-5 minutes, or until a sauce consistency appears
  • Top the noodles with the sauce and use whatever garnish appeals to you
  • Enjoy, and take care of yourself!

 

-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.

Peanut Butter and Jam Overnight OatsIMG_0156

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

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.

Kidney Bean Tacos (serves 2)FullSizeRender-16

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 🙂

Peachy Keen Protein Dream SmoothieIMG_8923

  • 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

I’m a Yoga Teacher!

The title says it all! Last weekend I taught my first big group yoga class held at a yoga studio. It was an amazing day :). My friends and some family were there plus a few other people who just wanted to donate to a wonderful cause while experiencing the amazing joys and benefits of yoga. All of the proceeds of this donation-based yoga class will go to God’s Love We Deliver, a charity that prepares and delivers nutritious meals to critically ill individuals in the NY-Metro Area.

This class was so special to me because of what I chose to focus on: limitless love, or put another way, unconditional love for oneself and others. The weeks leading up to this yoga class were kind of stressful. From december to early february I was suffering with a cough that didn’t seem get better with rest, fluids, lots of vitamin C, and a big dose of antibiotics. I hate being sick, so it was stressful and annoying to be dealing with an illness. Then a few weeks before the original date of my yoga class we had a big snow storm so the class had to be rescheduled. Then, the rescheduled date had to be rescheduled for other reasons, so I was getting frustrated. I was also getting frustrated with other people who had no control over any of these situations. The night before the class, I meditated on what I’ve learned from practicing yoga and what I wish to share through my practice and teaching.

 I realized before my yoga class that sometimes we get so caught up in things we can’t control and get angry, annoyed, and frustrated, but holding onto those negative feelings just makes things worse. I realized that all of the events leading up to this class were actually showing me that I needed to focus on the message of my yoga practice: limitless love for all things and people, especially when things don’t go as planned. 

The stress leading up to the class wasn’t so bad because it made me realize the importance of acceptance. It ended up being an amazing experience and I think everyone in the class felt the same. The feedback I received from the class made me so proud and I realized how much I absolutely love teaching yoga. I can’t wait to teach more and I’m excited for the weather to get warmer because I have big plans that combine nature + yoga (my favorite things besides cooking nutritious and delicious things!)  If you’re interested in learning more about the yoga sessions I provide, click the “services offered” tab above. I hope to hear back so that I can share my passion and spread the love with yoga.

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Me and my sister with our post-yoga glow 

Namaste,

Jess