Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inside a Gluten-Free Vegan Shopping Bag

More times than not, the initial response to my being vegan is "But what do you eat?" Usually, I'll say something vague and slightly off-kilter, typically along the lines of "The same things you do, just vegan." This is usually followed with concern for my protein intake, confusion as to whether or not I eat fish and chicken, and/or a defensive remark that regards veganism as "expensive" or "too hard."

Well, my fine veggie folk, I introduce you to my recent shopping trip. Once a Whole Foods fanatic, I was suddenly transformed by the experience that was Trader Joe's (also know to city hipster folk as "TJ's"). It's plethora of deliciously innovative dishes and internationally-inspired products, fresh and organic produce, and dedication to the ethical treatment of its workers and sources alike, TJ's has completely changed what it means to eat and live well. Regardless of my TJ's obsession, here's a little answer to that FAQ so often faced by gluten free-ers, vegetarians, and vegans alike.

The loot:
Kalamata olives
Coconut water
Snap Pea Crisps (GET THEM, they are crunchy and salty and DIVINE!)
Brown rice
Raw almond butter (The BEST on morning gluten-free toast)
Black bean soup
Frozen fruit layer bars
Taco seasoning
Chocolate hemp protein
Brown rice bread
Dried unsweetened mango slices
Organic gala apples
Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Tomatoes (I am completely faithful in the "on the vine" varieties)
Extra firm tofu (For tofu scrambles, salads, and stir-fry!)
Fresh herbs
Organic raspberries
Lemons and limes
Baby spinach
Baby bella sliced mushrooms
Green apple slices (My favorite cure for the afternoon graze-fest)
Red bell peppers

All this, my good friends...for less than $100. You heard (read?) right, NOT EVEN ONE HUNDRED BUCKS for weeks worth of delicious, nutritious, earth and body-friendly groceries! Let me know when you're hungry, I'm slated for some domesticity in the kitchen. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm in love...

...with a protein bar.

Yeah, I said it. I think I've found true love in a cute little chocolate-y, crispy protein bar. Why, you ask? What hath made my adoration so sweet? Here's the top five reasons the NuGo Free Protein Bar is my new favorite hobby:
1. It's gluten-free
It's the first thing you'll notice when you read the label. Big bold letters in all caps, the package-version of internet screaming, perhaps attempting to yell "I'M GLUTEN-FREE AND CELIAC DISEASE-FRIENDLY AND I WON'T SPIKE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR OR MAKE YOUR TUMMY HURT!" But he's not showy, he keeps it subtle and just opts for the capital letters. Adorable.

2. It's vegan
Also on the label, this puppy's not after yours. Free of animal ingredients and by-products, this protein bar is a key example of responsible, green eating. Go veg!

3. It's balanced
I'm pretty biased for a particular brand of protein bar. After an afternoon of comparing the labels of every protein bar at my local Whole Foods, it was an easy win for my regular morning go-to. Naturally, I decided to compare this new protein bar to my typical rendezvous and couldn't believe that it was lower in fat ratio, higher in fiber, lower in sodium and sugar, AND higher in protein. Looks like breaking up isn't so hard to do.

4. It comes in flavors like Dark Chocolate Crunch, Dark Chocolate Trail Mix, and Carrot Cake
Variety is the spice of life...and when it comes to my men, I do enjoy them dark, rich, and easy on the eyes.

5. It's $1.59...
This is one date I won't feel badly about paying for.

Check out NuGo Nutrition Bars at a local supermarket or health foods store near you! I promise, there's enough of him to go around. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yummy alert: Vega

Ah, protein powder - the long-adored supplement for any athlete's workout plan. While you may taste grainy and chalky, we all know that you're good for us, at least that's what we think. Granted, your chocolate flavor taste more like chalk than chocolate, your strawberry tastes like sweetened cardboard, and your snack bars are not exactly anyone's favorite go-to. But you're good for our muscles, they say, so I guess until someone comes up with something better, we'll be forced to choke you down every day.
Well, folks, someone has come up with something better! That something is known as Vega, pioneered by a someone by the name of Brendan Brazier, a professional Ironman and triathlete, not to mention a best-selling author. Oh, and did I mention that he's vegan? Yup, believe it or not, Brendan follows a plant-based food regimen that allows him the energy to compete in some of the most grueling competitions known to man...and for a living.

So what's the deal? Vega products are "100% plant-based, dairy, gluten and soy free and contain no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners." Sounds too good to be true, no? It must taste like pureed house plants, si? Au contraire, my good friend, this business is legit! The pom-berry tastes like berry, the vanilla tastes like dessert, and my goodness, THE CHOCOLATE TASTES LIKE CHOCOLATE! If Willy Wonka asked Brendan for a snozberry flavor, it'd probably taste like snozberry, too.

Vega offers a variety of products including meal replacement powders (pop 'em in your shaker bottle and you're good to go), smoothie boosts, antioxidant oils and protein bars. Just recently, Vega debuted the new Vega Sport line, a complete line of powders, drink mixes, bars and gels to help you get the most out of your favorite workout routine. Thanks to Vega Sport, you'll never have to reach for the cheap, additive-packed sports lines again!

So forget the icky-tasting, artificially-sweetened conventional protein powders and opt for something good for your wallet, your planet, and your earth. With Vega, not only can you feel good about the company and product you're supporting...but you'll never have to sacrifice your diet for a chocolate craving again.

P.S. Check out Brendan Brazier's Thrive series - Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide, Thrive Fitness: The Vegan-Based Training Program, The Thrive Diet, and Thrive Foods: Whole Foods to Thrive, all in bookstores now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's

For the first time ever in history, there are more people on earth living in urban areas than rural. Translation: we're living (just enough) for the city! But seriously, this means a shift in how our world is working. It's not a recent phenomenon that we no longer live on the land from which we harvest our food, but now, we're not even living on the land at all. We're living in cities, in skyscrapers, buying our produce from a display and never thinking twice about who's growing our grapes or raising our beef.

Now for some number crunching: There are over 300 million people living in the United States, all of which need to eat in order to survive (shocking, I know). Nationwide, there are currently 210,000 full-time farmers. That's 1 farmer for every 1,429 people. And considering the majority of farms fall between 1 and 99 acres, that doesn't leave much room for expansion, especially following the trend of our growth in population that undoubtedly will need to be housed and attended to. The trick, then, must be a restructuring of our conventional idea of a farm, where instead of building out, we build up.
Urban agriculture is a concept only recently invading the headlines and spurring up conversation between economists, engineers, city planners, architects, and farmers alike. And what a conversation has resulted! Suddenly, we have a means of educating the public about where their food comes from, the space to allot community gardens and gathering places, and a system of efficiently and effectively investing our money back into our own local economies. These designs for rooftop and skyscraper farms are far from unsightly, too...check out this design by acclaimed architect Pierre Sartoux:

Think about it. If so many of us desire the glamorous life of the city and the country is in dire need of a refocus on farming, why not combine the two? By supporting urban agriculture initiatives, we are supporting our own self-reliancy by creating jobs, creating informed and knowledgeable citizens, and creating revenue that goes right back into our own soil (pun totally intended)!

In the same way our farmers nourish the seeds they plant, however, we must continue to explore the ideas of "sky squash" and "above-ground gardens." One fabulous way to do so is by buying locally and getting to know the area farmers so as to foster the relationships that will build this idea from the ground up. Only then are we able to see these ideas come to true fruition and only then will we reap those super-delicious-and-nutritious benefits.

And hey, I don't think anyone would mind if one day Jack started climbing a beanstalk that sprouted right out of the Sears Tower. :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring cleaning: refreshing my eating habits

Alright, I'll admit it - I've been a bad girl...a very, very bad girl. Whether it's downing delivery Thai food at 1 am or shoveling loads of (delicious) vegan pizza in my mouth in the afternoon, my health and fitness smarts have been abused and somewhat forgotten. Last school session, I was pulling sixty-hour work weeks, interning, volunteering, and attending school full-time, all while retaining some semblance of a normal social life. And this meant a lot of racing around, a lot of late nights...and a lot of eating.

There's a secret, though! You can eat a whole bunch if you opt for healthy fare - you know, that stuff your mom always used to tell you would help you grow, things like dark, leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, and the ever-wonderous KALE), vivacious vegetables (think color in peppers, zucchini, squash), sweet fruit (as "normal" as strawberries and bananas and as outrageous as kumquat and starfruit), and, of course, lots of lean proteins like quinoa, tofu, lentils, and beans!

So why did I fall off my little health-conscious bandwagon? Simply put, I just got lazy. It happens, you become so caught up in dominating that final exam or making it through a nine-hour shift with the highest sales that you leave your health by the wayside...and often times, your sanity, too. Too often we forget that food might be our medicine, a sort of natural healing from the inside-out that helps us to feel as great as we look!

To help keep myself focused and on track, I've devised a little "clean" diet to match my recently-overhauled apartment. With spring cleaning becoming a predominant theme these few weeks and summer just around the corner (say YES to beach bod!), there's no better time to revamp your eating and fitness routine...kick out the old BLAH and say hello to the new BEAUTIFUL!

The Beautiful Life plan:
-Vegan, no animal by-products, including meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs
-Gluten-free, avoiding wheat, vegetarian meat replacements, and barley
-Limited corn and soy and exclusively organic
-No carbonated drinks or sodas; no artificial sweeteners, limited caffeine
-No potatoes or difficult-to-digest starches
-No alcohol...I'm in college, no need to explain this one!
-Lots of fresh veggies, fruit, and protein!

The most important of this aspect of "the beautiful life" is flexibility and moderation, an ability to modify, add/change or completely remove any of the elements, only striving to achieve a greater appreciation for my super fabulous bod and what it can do, especially when I treat it well and reward it for all its hard work with the fuel that will let it work harder! So hasta la vista to that blah bod and let's cheers to the BEAUTIFUL!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Making the grade: why college is ruining your bod

It's 2:30 am. You've got class at in seven hours and haven't managed to crank out those ten pages worth of film analysis that's due. In the past few hours, you've managed to watch four episodes of Jersey Shore, down a few Monsters, text every person in your phone you haven't heard from in months, and create quite the concoction of PB&J and Ramen...twice. Sound familiar? Yup, good ole college. He's our best friend and worst enemy. But what's the deal, anyway? Take a look at the top reasons why higher education is leading you to a higher number on the scale.

1. Five-star dining...aka student center food
Variety is the spice of life, and you won't find it here, unless you consider variety "fried and fried." The catch to campus dining is that the food is cheap and stuffs you up, but only in exchange for an atrocious amount of empty calories, carbs, and fat. Word on the street is that some of these frozen-and-fried delights are actually beefed up with a special ingredient to make you want to eat more. Um, ew.

2. All-nighters
Coffee, check. Case of Red Bull, check. Caffeine pills, double check. Face it - when it's crunch time, sleep's the first to go. Every college kid has done it and every college kid probably always will at some point in their career, but late-night cram sessions only leave you dragging in the AM and devoid of the energy you need to get through that final. Plus, avoiding your body's calls for sleep plays a nasty game with your natural circadian rhythm that regulates--you guessed it--tomorrow night's hunger pangs. And hey, no one likes extra baggage...especially when it's under your eyes!

3. Thirsty Thursday
$1 domestics and $4 shots may work wonders for your tiny bank account, but don't forget the havoc binge drinking wreaks on your system. Booze, especially beer and mixed cocktails, is loaded with carbs and sugar that does nothing for you. Take it easy on the PBR and you'll be thankful in the morning.

College is stressful! Between classes, jobs, internships, dating, networking, homework, and, oh yeah, that thing called "real life," it can be hard to find a comfortable balance between assignments and afterparties. Stress truly takes it's toll, however, through a little stress hormone called "cortisol" that helps to regulate metabolism, blood flow, and blood sugar. Keeping yourself in panic mode 24/7 causes a crazy release of this hormone, eventually leading to a rollercoaster ride of emotional eating, shifts in energy, and an overworked heart. The worst part about this ride? Instead of coming down from that high point to a smooth stop, your coaster car just crashes straight into the ground. Yipes!

So what can we do to keep control without going insane? A few things: Take a breather. Sleep. Try the salad bar. Watch the caffeine intake. Sip water in between drinks. Even more so, don't be afraid to take a personal day! Learn to manage your time so that your health isn't sacrificed for that diploma, but instead so you arrive to graduation day glowing and beautiful. Don't forget that it's your responsibility to keep yourself healthy and happy, and while it may be a bumpy road on the way to Big Kid-dom, there's definitely nothing stopping you from having the ride of your life.