Monday, November 23, 2015

On being more than thankful

I don't know about you, but my heart has been hurting so much the past few weeks. I went into my waitressing shift two Friday nights ago in absolute shock, as I read the beginning reports of what was happening in Paris on my phone. I got home around midnight and sat on the couch alone, watching the news, balling my eyes out. And not only was I sad, but I was scared. I know we are told to not be fearful because that is what "they" want, but I couldn't help it. What happened in Paris, could happen anywhere.

Ten years ago, at this time, I was studying abroad in Paris. I lived in the 11th arrondissement, near the Bastille, and a quick hop, skip, and metro ride to the Marais district. I formed some wonderful friendships in Paris, and we all loved exploring the city together. We got into some trouble too (nothing too crazy), but isn't that what living is about? Of course, all our favorite memories of that time involve food. Grabbing falafels on our school lunch break at L'As du Falafel in the Marais, getting a fresh Nutella crepe at 3am from a street vendor, or stopping at the bakery near school to grab a meat and butter sandwich on a fresh baguette (don't knock it until you try it). All these memories have been rushing through my head these past few weeks. I can't help but watch the news coverage and listen to NPR constantly and feel sick to my stomach thinking about the people involved.

Me, circa 2005, at the real Moulin Rouge

As Thanksgiving is this week, I have been thinking a lot about how this time of year, it is inevitable to think about what we are thankful for. And that's great. And of course, I know we should find something to be thankful for every day, and I think many of us do. However, I wonder if we can shift this idea slightly. Rather, instead of just being thankful, can we commit to showing a little more empathy and compassion towards others on a day to day basis? 

This idea stems from a lot of different things that have been going on in my life for the past year and a half. My transition back to school for a career change has been life-changing in many ways, whether it be living off of cash tips, going from a professional position of leadership to becoming a volunteer, to scrubbing end caps at midnight on a Sunday. There have been times where I have been so over it, and even more times where I've felt very humbled by my experiences, especially my volunteer work at the Veterans Hospital. I've realized this past year and a half, I've been more conscious about the person I want to be. Not the dietitian I want to be, but the person I want to be. I'm constantly trying to self-improve, because at the end of the day, I want to be proud of who I am and also, always remember to treat others with compassion and empathy. The latter, is harder to do sometimes, if I'm really being honest.

So, on this week of giving thanks, can you take it up a notch? Can you show thanks? 

Let's create a better world, filled with good people. 

Let's fill our hearts up with joy, compassion, and empathy for the fellow human. If that is not healthy, I don't know what is. 

Let us be thankful on Thanksgiving, fill our bellies with pie, and laugh. And let us show how thankful we are for this life through our actions of kindness and patience towards others. Because if the events of the past two weeks have reinforced anything in me, it's that this life, is indeed very precious.

Rodin's Le Penseur, from my favorite museum in the world

Monday, October 26, 2015

From a Belated 30th Birthday, 30 Things I've Learned

On Saturday, October 17th, I turned 30 years young. 

I was born 11 minutes after midnight. 11 minutes late. I was due on October 16th. Which is probably why, to this day, I hate being late. This year, at 12:11am, I was closing checks after a long, Friday night waitressing shift. But honestly, it turned out to be the loveliest of birthdays once I got home and crawled into bed. A morning run, brunch with my big sister, an afternoon nap that felt extremely luxurious, and dinner with Brent. 

This past year has been especially life-changing. In tradition with years past, here are 30 things I've the past 30 years.

1. Never stop learning. I really do feel like a sponge right now. I am trying to soak up all the information I am learning in school, while also trying to find time to think critically about this information I am being given.

Look Mom! I made a thickened starch paste (lemon curd) and wrote a lab report on it!

2. Just when you think you know something, you realize - you know nothing. And then there's this. Many mornings I wake up and think to myself, there is so much more I need and want to know. I may know my flashcards, but that will never be enough. This feeling of knowing nothing is what makes me want to commit to a life filled with learning. Slash never go back to school again. Slash maybe get my Masters someday. Just not today.

3. Pay it forward. This is my life's motto right now. I think about a fellow student who graduated from my program last year, and has graciously taken her time to answer my random dietetics questions throughout the past few months. I think about Karen, a wonderful RD and mentor who allows me to volunteer for her, but also, to observe her motivating people in her weight-loss support groups. I think about a new friend I met who recently became an RD, and how she has taken her own time to give me advice. I am so grateful for people who are so generous with their precious time. Everyday, I remind myself to pay it forward. Whether that be helping another student by sharing notes, giving a friend a ride home, or sharing snacks. I am so grateful.

4. Take care of yourself. <-----This was the best advice I got from a former student on how to survive this traditionally difficult time during the RD program.

5. Take care of your loved ones, too. 

6. Cultivate joy every day. For me, I find one thing, at least, every day to look forward to. This is most important to remember on those days when you feeling like nothin' is going your way. Sometimes it's a walk to a coffee shop, fresh flowers I've bought, or an exercise class. On the weekends, it's usually FaceTiming with our adorable two nieces. Brent and I have been FaceTiming with them once a week for over the past year, and it brings me so much joy to watch them grow and develop personalities. 
Walking Lands-End with my amazing Mom

7. Have people to get weird with. I love my fiancé for so many reasons. We can make each other laugh hard even when we're just doing nothing in our tiny apartment. The other day, we attempted the dirty dancing lift in our living room. I have no idea why, but it just happened. That's love, folks. 

8. Invest in exercise that makes you feel happy and healthy. For the past few months, I've been enjoying a little more cardio and strength training, and I am officially obsessed with Barry's Bootcamp in SF. I know my yoga practice will always be with me, but it's felt wonderful to take Barry's classes. As I began Fall semester, I made a commitment to myself that I would prioritize exercise for well-being and stress-management. Though this is challenging at times, given my hectic schedule, I am fairly certain my workouts are responsible for keeping me sane and energized. And, I fall fast asleep every night.

9. Let thy freezer be thy friend. I hate wasting food, which is why I love my freezer. Currently, my freezer is taking good care of some end of the summer organic Strawberries, pumpkin puree, and lots of soup leftovers. I freeze the soups in bags - when I'm ready to eat one, I take it out of the bag, put it on the stove, and heat it up slowly. 

10. You are more capable than you think. Truly.

11. FaceTime is a good time. When Brent and I got engaged, we FaceTimed my Mom. She was beaming, and it was honestly one of the happiest moments of my life thus far. Sometimes, technology just does it right.

12. You can't do everything. I'm still working on saying no

13. Find the good in the challenge. 

14. Always a have a firm handshake. Seriously though - nothing worse than a loose handshake.

15. Be an active listener. 

16. Please be nice to your server. 

17. But in turn, be nice to your customers. The restaurant I serve at has a wonderful customer base. However, sometimes, there may be someone who comes into the restaurant and isn't the friendliest. It happens. So, when it does, I remember that I don't know what this person is going through. Perhaps they just lost their job or lost a loved one. Show compassion, always.

18. Good manners never go out of style. Always say please and thank you! 

19. And neither does the Vitamix.

20. Celebrate food with good friends, often.

21. Don't apologize for everything. I do this. A lot. I apologize for things and situations which are often out of my control. 

22. You'll never regret a workout, especially if it's a workout you love. As I mentioned above, I have been on a Barry's Bootcamp kick the past few months. It's just what my body and mind are craving. In fact, I love it so much, I have had no trouble waking up at 5:20am to get to a 6am bootcamp. The endorphins are so worth it.

23. Don't compete with others; it will not serve you. In fact, I am pretty sure this will cripple you.

24. Enjoy the quiet moments. 

25. Give yourself a little time each day to zone out. I like to take a few minutes to stretch while watching TV, do a headstand, or watch a little TV to give my brain a break.

26. When you need help, ask for it. If you have trouble with this, start trying to do it now. 

27. Be present. Get off your phone. Enjoy whatever moment you are having. Quiet your mind, and be present. 

28. Love fiercely. This guy - need I say more? I am so lucky. 

29. Show up. How are you going to show up today? I love when my yoga teachers ask this during class. Are you going to approach this day you've been given with fear and dread? Or are you going to make this day wonderful?

30. Pay it forward. This is worth repeating.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Little Life Update

Oh, hello.

Nice to be in this little ole blog space again. I keep meaning to write, and then, well, life gets in the way. In mostly very good ways. I finished my six-week intensive Anatomy + Lab course (honestly, the worst idea ever - do not recommend Summer school, ever), and for the past three weeks, I've been refusing to think about school. In fact, when someone mentions the word, I actually shake my head.

I have so many ideas for posts I want to write...posts I've been dreaming up all Summer. But I figured I'd start with a life update. A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

Some endorphins:

It's been just over a year since I quit my corporate, pharmaceutical marketing job and entered into life, full-time as a student. And though I have never looked back on my decision to pursue my passion for a career, this past year has been a challenging transition. Being a full-time student, studying, volunteering, waitressing, sleeping, breathing, and eating, didn't leave much time for ME. So, I decided to take the month of August and treat myself. And I don't mean with lots of desserts. I wanted to get back into shape and feel really energized and strong. Truthfully, I wanted to feel more like myself again - mentally. So, I bought a month-long Flex Academy to Barry's Bootcamp in San Francisco. That means, working out at Barry's 5 times a week for a month. If you're not familiar with Barry's, you can learn more about it here. To sum it up, it's an hour workout alternating between HIIT treadmill intervals and strength training. The workout is accompanied by awesome music and motivating, often hilarious instructors. I'm in my third week and look forward to going every day. Simply put, I feel great. I am all about listening to my body, and by the end of Summer school, my mind and body were begging me for a structured, butt-kicking workout. Honestly, as a student I thought I'd feel guilty for spending so much money for workouts. After two days of bootcamp, I realized, it was the best investment I'd made in a long time.

Some yoga, too:

Did you know that I danced (ballet, modern, jazz) from age 4 to 20? One of the best parts of dancing in a company was forming life long bonds with my fellow dancers. I was lucky enough last week to go to Equinox (Pine Street, SF) and take a yoga class taught by Alexa Silvaggio, who just moved from NYC to SF. We grew up dancing together, naturally. Her class was the perfect hour-long flow, and she had me cracking up quite a bit. I went with another childhood dance friend and it was so fun to all reconnect and laugh together.

All the Summer foods:

I am extremely excited that I am no longer waitressing Sunday mornings because now I can go to my favorite Farmers Market. For me, strolling through the Farmers Market feels pretty darn zen. I always feel so inspired by all the goodies there. Thank you so much, Farmers!

Grab those Shishito and Padron peppers before the season ends!

I plan to eat my weight in Padron and Shishito peppers until they get too spicy (meaning, end of season). I came up with a genius snack last night...sauteed Padron and Shishitos with sea salt and pepper + Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce (for dipping). For the past two weeks, I have made a big batch of Marla's sauce. I basically put it on everything...eggs, chicken, veggies. Please make it immediately before the oh so sweet tomato season ends. 

Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes + Zebra tomatoes for Marla's Raw Tomato Sauce

A lot of waitressing:

The last two weeks of my precious, too short Summer break have unfortunately been spent working nearly every day. Even though my feet are pretty achey by the end of each serving shift, I am very grateful to work with wonderful people at a restaurant that serves fresh, seasonal food. They make veggies taste so good. (PS, I instagram my staff meals...follow me here!).

Romano Beans "Stracotto" with pancetta & tomatoes (obsessed) + Spigiarello with garlic, chili, & lemon

My heart:

And, my heart is feeling pretty full these days. In late Spring, Brent (and I) gained a new baby niece. In late Spring, Brent and I also lost someone unexpectedly. It's been a horrible situation that has forced me to squeeze my closest loved ones a little tighter. And it's very hard to not worry incessantly about everyone and everything. We became godparents to that precious Spring baby, Jensen, last month. Every time we are with baby Jensen, and her big sister, it's a gentle reminder of unconditional love, joy, and innocence. ... [Insert Circle of Life music]

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The 3 Things I Look at When Reading Food Nutrition Labels

I was at Trader Joes this past weekend, and stumbled across some Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins. I turned them over to read the label, and started laughing...

One, because I am a nerd.

And two, because, the first ingredient listed on the nutrition label was Cane Sugar...aka...Sugar.

This got me thinking about how I approach food nutrition labels. While I would love to shop at the Farmer's Market every week, I can't make it happen with my work schedule. I shop a lot at Trader Joe's for affordable staples (hello, raw almond butter!) and Whole Foods when I can (because it is dangerously located across the street from our apartment). 

I love grocery shopping, which is good for my boyfriend, who loathes it. Our grocery staples typically include coffee (priorities), eggs, chicken sausage, coconut water, greens, sweet potatoes, an assortment of nut butters, plantain chips (Brent is addicted), frozen fruit for smoothies, dried mango, larabars (trying to qualm my post-work late-night snacking), chocolate (#keepitreal), and more veggies.

I thought it'd be interesting to go over what I look for when I read labels; this isn't meant to be pointing out right and wrong or be exhaustive, but rather, highlight which aspects of food labels I pay attention to. 

1. The first thing I look at is the wording on the front label:

  • Is it organic? I really try to buy mostly organic, but if I am being honest, this does not happen 100% of the time. Here are some things I will not compromise on, however, meaning, I always buy organic:
    • Coffee - I love this one from TJs
    • Frozen and fresh berries
    • Apples
    • Frozen and fresh greens
    • Sweet potatoes, carrots, and other root veggies
    • Brown rice and quinoa (the primary grains we eat...when we aren't too lazy to cook them)
    • And finally, eggs: first and foremost, I buy pastured, free-range eggs. I always laugh when I see "vegetarian fed diet" Chickens ARE NOT vegetarians; they eat bugs! As they should. So don't be fooled by the label of "Fed a 100% vegetarian diet." 
  • When in doubt, this list of the Dirty Dozen, compiled by the Environmental Working Group, is incredibly helpful if you are trying to prioritize which foods to buy organic, and which to buy conventional. I love the EWG, as they provide wonderful, resourceful information for consumers, and recognize that many people cannot afford to buy all organic products.
  • If I am shopping at the Farmers Market, and notice that the farmers do not have a USDA Organic Seal, I simply ask the farmers if they spray their crops. The reason I do this is because becoming USDA Organic is a long, expensive process, that takes years for farmers to obtain; many small farms cannot afford to do so. If a farmer is selling beautiful, sweet strawberries, and tells me he or she doesn't spray them, I'm going to buy them! 

2. The second thing I look at is the list of ingredients, in their respective order: I don't buy a ton of processed food, but of the processed food I do buy, I pay attention to the order of the ingredients. Per the Food and Drug Administration guidelines, the ingredients on a food label must be listed in order of amount, with the most starting first. This is why I laughed when I saw cane sugar as the first ingredient on the so-called 'healthy' blueberry muffins. Here are a few of the ingredients I am noticing tend to show up on many labels, as of lately:

  • Corn / Canola / Soybean oils: These are processed, cheap-to-use, refined oils, rich in omega 6 fats. Now, we need both omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats in our diet. However, Americans tend to consume way too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 fats, and this unbalanced ratio can lead to inflammation. I will occasionally buy products with corn or canola oil, but very rarely. Instead, I try to focus on eating healthy, balanced, fatty foods, like grass fed butter, avocados, nuts, seeds, and flax (which I strongly prefer to Chia...I know, I am weird). 
  • Carageenan: Carageenan is actually extracted from seaweed, and is used as a thickener in food products. You'll often see it listed on the food labels in products such as non-dairy milks, yogurt, or ice cream. There is a lot of controversy on the safety of carageenan as a dietary ingredient, especially because it has been associated with gut health issues. I like this article, by Chris Kresser, on the subject. Of course, this is one of the reasons why I love to make my own almond milk. But right now, I got 24 hours of summer school + 25 hours of work per week so...ain't nobody got time for that.
  • Yellow 5, Red 40, aka Fake Colorings/Food Dyes: This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a nutrition professional! I absolutely hate when I see a food label (or even, supplement label) that has fake coloring listed as an ingredient. Honestly, what is the point? If the food tastes good, shouldn't that be what matters? Who cares if it is bright red or yellow?  Did you know that the European Union has regulations on these food dyes, but the US doesn't? Food dyes are linked to a number of health issues, and thus, I avoid them, as I feel they are unnecessary. The Center for Science in The Public Interest did a lengthy report on the use of food dyes, which you can find here.

3. The third thing I look at is the amount of grams and types of sugar:

  • Agave 
  • Cane Sugar
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Beet Sugar
  • Date Sugar
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Organic Raw Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Maple Syrup

  • These are all common names for sugar, just a few. Organic or natural or not - they are all sugars. Sugar is a controversial topic. And I think that the food industry is picking up on that, obviously, and trying to market products made with sugars such as maple syrup or brown rice syrup, as health foods. Don't get me wrong, I love maple syrup and I love dessert. But in the end, it's sugar too. 
  • I also wrote a post about making sure you watch out for overloading your 'green' smoothies with sugar. You can read it here.
  • It is especially important to pay attention to the amount of sugar when buying things such as yogurt/greek yogurt, nut milks, and so-called 'green juices.' I think that 20 grams of sugar in a small serving of yogurt is way too much. Here is the nutrition label for a Green Juice, marketed with the label "No Sugar Added."
  • Um...28 grams of sugar x 2 servings = 56 grams of sugar for a so-called green juice. Think about it: would you really eat 2 3/4 apples + 1/2 of a banana + 1/3 of a kiwi + 1/3 of a mango + a bite of pineapple in one sitting? Frankly, I would rather just eat 1 apple with some almond butter, and call it a day.

So, those are the top 3 things I look at when I read a nutrition label. 

Now you tell me, how do you look at food nutrition labels? Which things are most important to you?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Journey to Become an RD: 7 Things I Learned In My First Year of My Dietetics Program

And just like that, it's done. 

It's been two weeks since I finished my first year of my two-year Dietetics program, or as I like to call it, RD-school. And honestly, it's taken two weeks to de-stress and decompress into Summer.

I wish I could say the first year went by fast, but this past semester went by painfully slow. Lots of group projects, never-ending rounds of midterms (damn you, semester system), and lots of biochemistry studying. 

My dining room wall art of metabolic pathways...

But, nonetheless, I am done. Free. Ready for a Summer with a tad more free time.

Reflection is a good thing, right? Here are 7 things I learned in my first year of RD School:

1. I am capable.  When I first pondered going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, I was deeply intimidated by the amount of science required in RD programs: chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, advanced medical nutrition, etc...I feared the worse, told myself I would probably barely get through, and that maybe going into science just wouldn't be for me. However, I made it through all these classes; I enjoyed biochemistry the most, as I got to learn about carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism (the latter, of which, is my favorite, obviously. Because fats are delicious). 

2. Negative energy is not cool and will not serve you: During my first semester, I was shocked by how much negative energy I encountered, specifically regarding how competitive internship programs are for dietetics. To obtain your RD license, you must complete an accredited internship that lasts anywhere from 6 to 12 months; you do the internship after you complete the 2-year schooling. Although these are all over the country, there aren't enough to meet demand. For example, 150 people may apply to one program, which has only 8 spots. I let this negative energy consume me for the first few months and it started to eat away at me. I did not like the person I was becoming. It's been a process, but I have been actively working on staying positive throughout the program, and not letting the negative energy get to me.

3. I learned a lot about mass food production and food safety. I also learned how to torch a damn good creme brûlée. A large part of the curriculum for dietetics is learning how to run a safe kitchen. Think about it! RDs work in schools, hospitals, cafeterias, and food safety is a huge issue. I'm sure you've all heard about the numerous product recalls over the past few months - one that comes to mind is the Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. For one of my classes, we had to spend three hours a week in the back of a teaching kitchen at our school, preparing a 3-course lunch for faculty. As a Type A person, I definitely prefer to cook freely in my own kitchen. But my school friends and I found ways to make this experience more enjoyable.

Creepy creme brûlée face

4. I was humbled as I learned (or rather, re-learned), to live in a very expensive city on a very limited budget. I was lucky to find a waitressing job that is close to my apartment as well as lucrative in terms of tips. My loans cover my tuition and books, so I pay all living expenses off of my tips; trust me, it's nuts. Adjusting to my new budget has been quite the process and is a constant struggle; this has meant, no shopping, no Lululemon (my fave), minimal meals out, limited travel, and picking up waitressing shifts whenever I can.  I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who takes me out to delicious, nice dinners, and treats me wonderfully. But this whole budget adjustment has been quite humbling. I remind myself, a lot, that it's temporary.

5. Remember to laugh when shit gets weird ----> shit will get weird. I made a few wonderful friends through my program. The peer support is critical to well-being.

6. I am interested in new aspects of nutrition that I never thought I would be interested in. I took a nutrition class called "Nutrition in the Life Cycle" which went over nutrition needs and conditions from pre-conception all the way into elderly populations. I never thought I would be so interested in things like breastfeeding, but I found the research on it fascinating. Then again, I am obsessed with learning about gut health and autoimmune diseases. I even wrote a research paper of Ulcerative Colitis, the role of the gut microbiota, and the possible treatment with fecal transplants (poop is fascinating); cool stuff, for sure.

7. My time is precious. If you want to do well, you have to fully commit, and make sacrifices...aka say NO: I hate saying no to people. I let guilt consume me. But, I've had to say no to a lot over the past year, whether it be for financial reasons or time-management reasons. The RD program is not just school; it's volunteering, lots of studying, and for me, working too. I prioritized my studies, and in the end, I am proud of my grades from this first year. 

It has been, by far, the most challenging yet rewarding year of my life. 

Even throughout all the stress, late nights studying, long hours waitressing, missing out on social events, bloodshot eyes (yes, I actually popped a blood vessel in my eye three weeks ago from too much screen-time), it was worth it. 

I recently saw a bunch of old coworkers from my advertising days, and they asked me "are you happy?" I've been asked this question a lot this past year, and my answer has and continues to be "I've never been so stressed, but so happy. I've never looked back." 

PS: If you are interested in reading more about my journey to become an RD, please check out these:

A Big, Scary, and Exciting Life Change
Journey to Become an RD: My First Week of School
Journey to Become an RD: The Second Semester

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

It's About So Much More Than Food.

I love holistic health. Not just the idea of it, but I truly love trying to live holistically. 

It's freaking hard. 

There are days where I feel energized, giddy off of endorphins, and not too stressed. I eat delicious, real food. Maybe some really good chocolate. I put not-so-toxic lotion on my face and love the smell. I feel proud of what I've accomplished and where I am going. I feel lucky to be a member of my small family of strong, independent, and perseverant women. I feel proud of my relationship with my boyfriend, and lovingly supported. And I feel very, very grateful for friends that make me smile and feel silly, but also, protected. 

Then there are days like yesterday. I felt constantly distracted, trapped by my own self-pressure, and I just felt down. I was hungry, but nothing sounded good. I was cranky. My life is not hard! I'm just being honest. I questioned myself, constantly, and at times, sent myself into a downward spiral of worrying. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am The Queen of worrying. My Mom still tells me to this day, if I could be a professional worrier, I'd be a billionaire. I'm that good. I'll worry for me, and for you, and your family, too. 

Sometimes I think I'm going to start writing about something, and it turns into something else. 

Sometimes, there is wine involved. 

This is one of those times. 

I was going to write a post on learning to say no. Something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Something I am struggling with. I can write that post another time. With another glass of wine.

What I want to really say, I think, is that health is so much more than what we eat and how much we exercise. In school, I am learning a lot about physiology, diseases, nutrition of foods, and different diets. I know this scientific foundation will be very important to me once I begin my career as a Dietitian. However, deep down, I really believe in holistic health, which is something I know can't and won't really be taught at RD school. This is also why I'm so grateful for my education at Bauman College and experience? At least thus far. (I feel weird writing that...#thisisalmostthirty).

But really, you say you want to improve your health. OK. Well, I don't think you can simply look at your diet or exercise routine. 4 spin classes a week and lots of kale is not the solution. You've got to look at the whole picture, all the puzzle pieces. They all work together, though sometimes, you can't really figure out how. Or why. Or maybe you just don't want to know. Maybe you start with diet, and go from there.

Are you eating foods that make you feel good and energized?
If you're eating foods that make you feel bad, why are you eating them?
Are you feeling anxious and stressed? If so, why? 
What makes you feel really good?
How are you sleeping? 
Do you have supportive, nurturing relationships in your life? 
Are you proud of who you are? Do you care?
Do you spread love and positivity? Do you care?
Do you feel better when you exercise?
Do you remind yourself about what you are grateful for?

It's about so much more than food. 

It's about puppies. I spy Abby!

Approaching health holistically is not easy. Rather, for me at least, it's a seemingly life-long sort of challenge. I mean lets get real, I am choosing to make a career out of it. I am constantly reminded that not everything will be in place all at once. There may never be a time where everything is perfect in your life. Or you are perfectly satisfied. Or you feel perfectly aligned.

But being able to adapt to change, express emotion, show compassion, make conscious choices to nourish your body, mind, and your soul, and love others - if that doesn't make you 'healthy,' well then. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree. 

It's about so much more than food. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My 5 Favorite Snacks Right Now

I've always been a snacker, especially during the day. I love a good, big breakfast, and a big, hot dinner, but lunch? No way. I'm not a lunch person at all. I'd much rather snack during the day. All day. Every day. 

This semester, Tuesdays are my longest days. I wake up around 6:30am, head to school for class at 8am, and have classes back to back until 7pm. I have a 45-minute break at 1:15 to 2:15pm, which I usually use to eat, print stuff out, and check email. I know, riveting...

So, on Tuesdays, I pack all the snacks I can get my hands on. I try to keep them pretty healthy because frankly, I need all the energy and nourishment I can get to stay awake (and alert) throughout the day.

I think we all tend to go through phases with food. Am I right? I find a recipe I love, make it over and over again, retire it for a few months, and then resurrect it again, only to remember how much I loved it in the first place. Cough, this 10-spice soup, cough, cough. I think this philosophy applies to snacks as well. 

So, without further ado, here are some simple, fast (key word here) snacks I am loving right now! These take very minimal prep and are totally not glamorous. Because on Tuesdays, I aint got time for that. Get in my belly!

1. Prosciutto wrapped Bosc Pears: My boyfriend loves pears so I always try to keep them around. I love the brown Bosc pears because they are crunchy and sweet. I take a few slices of prosciutto and wrap them around slices of pear for the perfect sweet + salty snack. Plus, the prosciutto gives the snack some good ole fat for staying power. #Passionateaboutpork anyone?

2. Raw Carrots with Salted Almond Butter: I've been loving the colorful, organic carrots lately from Trader Joes. Though I feel a bit like a horse when I eat them (truly), I absolutely love dipping them in salted almond butter. It is the strangest combination, but it works, I promise. The crunchy carrots with the smooth, salty almond butter. Just do it. 

3. Toast with Salted Butter + Hardboiled Egg: I almost always keep a bunch of hardboiled eggs in our refrigerator for the busy week. I'm all about trying to make a snack that has carbs, protein, and fat, and this snack fits that bill perfectly. I take a slice of toast (usually gluten-free, but a sprouted grain toast would work well too), slather on some Kerrygold salted butter, and then chop a hardboiled egg and put it on top. Extra points if you add some black pepper and sea salt. I like this snack before a workout. My motto has always been, when in doubt, put an egg on it!

4. Cinnamon-Vanilla Flax Milkshake: I have been loving this 'milkshake' lately! I've been using my original recipe, but adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder to give it a bit richer of flavor. It is so, so good! The healthy fats from the flax + nut butter really help keep me full. In fact, as I write this post, I am enjoying this milkshake.

5. Dried Mango: So, this isn't the most well-balanced snack, but it's delicious and helps to satisfy my craving for sweets. I love keeping organic dried mango in my cupboard, work bag, and backpack. It keeps for a long time, is chewy, and sweet. 

I am always, always in need of more snack ideas though, so please comment and tell me: what are your favorite snacks right now?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Journey to Become an RD: The Second Semester

If you had told me 5 or 10 years ago that I'd be taking a biochemistry class, I would have been pretty concerned about your mental state. 

Attempting to understand DNA replication and protein synthesis...

Well, here we are. 2015, and I am in fact, sitting in a biochemistry class. At 8:10am every Tuesday and Thursday morning, to be exact. It is most definitely one of the most challenging courses I have taken, thus far. Sometimes I cannot believe I am entering a career that requires such a strong science base. It's not that I think I can't get through it, but rather, I just never thought of myself as going into a field of science. The Registered Dietitian (RD) curriculum is mentally exhausting at times, but I also really enjoy the challenges.

This semester, I am taking the following classes, totaling 12 units:

Sustainability in the Textile, Housing, and Food Industries (my one and only elective)
Nutrition in the Life Cycle
Management of Quantity Food Purchasing and Production (with lab, which is working in the back of a teaching kitchen)

I am grateful that I have excellent teachers, all around. My Biochemistry Professor in particular, though very tough, is young and committed to ensuring that we really do learn. One of my other teachers, who is a fellow RD, is legally blind. She has the best sense of humor, constantly telling us relatable stories about working in the food industry, as well as her own journey to become an RD. I find inspiration in her patience with herself, her perseverance, and also, her wonderful sense of humor.

I think what I am most excited about, this semester, is that I have gotten through the transition state. I realized it took me a good four months to figure out my new life as a student. And now, I have my routine (mostly) down. I've got my volunteer jobs in place, my job-job in place, and my school schedule confirmed. I understand how to live, financially, as a student. And though that is the least-fun part, I am making it work. 

I have also realized a lot about humility and my own ego. It has felt both a little odd and a little freeing to go from working a full-time job, where I had a lot of responsibility, was compensated, and assumed a leadership role, to assuming volunteer positions where I am, well, a volunteer. It's different. In all honesty, at times, I have found myself feeling a little insecure, that, here I am, 29 years old, and a volunteer. I'm not sure if I can articulate these feelings any other way. Therefore, I remind myself, to 1) Be kind to myself and 2) This is all part of the journey towards becoming an RD. 

Because, sometimes, to move forward in your life, you have to go backwards. Start from the bottom. And work (or volunteer) your way back up. 

You can find other posts about my Journey to Become an RD here:

Journey to Become an RD: My First Week of School 
Journey to Become an RD: The First Month and My Biggest Challenge

Friday, February 13, 2015

Confessions + Coffee

My favorite part of the day is the morning. Specifically, the first few sips of freshly made coffee. It's my time to think, mentally plan for my day, and listen to The Today Show (of course). Sometimes, because I live with my boyfriend, I am forced to listen to Morning Drive. For all of you non-golf fanatics, this is also known as the quietest morning show, ever. On the Golf Channel. Because apparently, there IS a golf channel. If I had it my way, there would be a 'Ballet Channel.' But no. Admittedly, I usually get my way with this one and get to watch The Today Show. It makes me think of my childhood, growing up, and always hearing my Mom already awake watching it. 

Speaking of coffee, one of the ways I save money as a student is most always making my own coffee. Right now, I am loving this brand from Trader Joes. I love that it is Fair Trade and organic. Also, I love that it is $7. I make my coffee by brewing hot water in my tea kettle, then pouring the hot water over the coffee in a single filter. Super smooth.

Everyone has been asking me how school is going this semester, as I just started three weeks ago. I will write a Journey to Become an RD post, but my overall impression, thus far, is it is going to be a good semester. I have excellent teachers. I am completely terrified of my Biochemistry class, but relieved that I have a wonderful, young, eager Professor. Fingers crossed.

This stuff is easy, right? No.

I serve at a Southern Italian pizzeria three times a week, and am beyond grateful to have landed this job at this great joint just six blocks from my apartment. Last Sunday, I was carrying some wine glasses to a table when I slipped and fell backwards. I landed on my back and head on the floor, clenching the (now) broken wine glasses. My left hand, specifically my ring finger, got cut up so I went to the ER (workers comp), where they glued it back together. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but that doesn't mean I like to look at cuts or anything. Plus, I've never gotten stitches in my life. Poop? I can deal with that. Bloody cuts exposing flesh? I am definitely going into the right profession - so much respect for all nurses, doctor, and other health care professionals out there. I can barely look at my finger right now; it just freaks me out.

Beer tasting at staff meeting for work; I wish I liked beer.


It may be 70 degrees and sunny in San Francisco, but I am still loving the Oh She Glows 10 Spice Soup recipe. If you haven't made it yet, you are missing out. I will try not to bring it up on the blog again, but I am obsessed with it. It's rich and creamy, and made with a cashew cream that takes it

Finally, I am looking forward to a weekend of pure, good ole studying. I have my first big exam Tuesday morning. I am also looking forward to getting back on the yoga mat. Due to this little ole finger injury, my downward dogs have been compromised. Therefore, tomorrow, I am going to try to go back to yoga and I cannot wait. Yoga, study, work (without falling) will not be too bad this weekend. 

Until next any confessions you'd like to share?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cinnamon-Vanilla Flax Milkshake

It's not really a secret that I have a wicked sweet teeth. I love cookie dough. Chocolate. 

Now, I could go the rest of my life without eating cheese. I'd be fine. I know. Sweets, however? Nope. I'd choose chocolate over cheese, any day, every day. 

To this day, my Mom still makes the most incredible, decadent, delicious desserts. Now, we all know, too much sugar, too much cheese, too much wine...not so good. But this life is unpredictable and lovely, so I'm of the camp that believes in treating yourself to some delicious wine, cheese, or dessert every now and then. 

Now, I see a lot of recipes for "healthy desserts." I don't really know how I feel about them, to be honest. I usually think, go big or go home with dessert. I don't even like to mix fruit with my dessert! However, the other day, I had some homemade cinnamon almond milk I needed to use up in the fridge, so I concocted a smoothie that tasted kind of like dessert. But it's pretty healthy. So yeah, I don't know where I stand on healthy desserts. But what I do know, is this smoothie is tasty! It tastes like a legit milkshake. 

Frozen banana + cinnamon almond milk + a date + sunflower seed butter + flax seeds = a cinnamon-y, vanilla-y, nutty, creamy milkshake, full of healthy fats. 

Cinnamon-Vanilla Flax Milkshake
gluten-free, whole-30 friendly, paleo-friendly, vegan 

1/2 to 3/4 of a frozen banana
1 cup almond milk or coconut milk (I used homemade cinnamon almond milk, but if not using homemade, canned light coconut milk would work great)
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 heaping tablespoon sunflower seed butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 to 2 dates, based on your tastebuds for sweet 
Cocoa nibs, optional

Blend all ingredients and serve immediately; feel free to top with a spoonful of cocoa nibs. 

Some important notes to reiterate:
- Must use frozen banana 
- Must use cold milk of choice (coconut or almond)
- Highly recommend trying to make your own almond milk sometime. It's way easier and tastier than I thought it would be!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (gluten-free, paleo-friendly, whole 30-friendly)

I love making soup. 

Maybe it's something about the stirring, simmering, and anticipation of flavors to come. Or maybe it is also because I know whenever I make soup, I get leftovers. And right now, I'm all about quick, easy meals that are healthy and nourishing!

Last week, I was craving a soup made with some good ole organic white potatoes, which I had just bought. Once I remembered I had some spicy Italian sausage to use up, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: Spicy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup. 

This soup turned out more flavorful than I could have imagined! It's got some spice to it along with a rich tomato broth. I had a few bowls last week, and stored the rest of way for this week, knowing I'd be busy being back in school. Lets just say, I cannot wait to reheat some tomorrow night before I work!

A key component of this soup is the Italian sausage used, as it gives some extra spice. However, if you aren't passionate about pork like I am, you could also use ground turkey or chicken. 

Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (gluten-free, paleo, whole-30 friendly)

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 entire bulb garlic, chopped finely
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
1 can tomato paste (mine was 6 ounces)
2 to 3 Italian sausages
2 teaspoons oregano 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1.5 teaspoons basil 
A few sprinkles of red hot chili flakes (optional, this will make it spicy)
2 carrots, sliced
3 medium Russet potatoes, chopped (I left skins on - good fiber)
2 big handfuls kale, spinach, or your green of choice
4 cups chicken or beef broth
2 bay leafs

1. In a soup pan, heat the olive oil and garlic for 4 minutes; let that garlic sweat it out! Then, add in the chopped onions and sauté over medium heat, stirring, until the onions become translucent (about 5 minutes). 

2. Add in the tomato paste, Italian sausages, and all the spices. Stir for 5 or so minutes. 

3. Then, add in the vegetables and broth. Place two bay leaves in the soup. Put a lid on the pan and bring the soup to a boil. Then, simmer for 25 minutes, or until potato chunks can easily be pierced through. 

4. Serve immediately. Warm your tummy and your soul.

*To freeze, I recommend using plastic baggies that get frozen flat. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things

I've had a little more time to myself lately. While I savor every second of my last week of Winter break, I thought I'd reflect on some of my favorite things that have been in my life in the past five weeks. Most involve food - of course. 

Serial podcast: I saved the Serial podcast for my two roundtrip drives to and from San Luis Obispo (SLO) over my break. I gave my dear friend Michelle a ride down to SLO and she initially got me hooked on the series, as she had already listened to all of them. I listened, she re-listened, and by episode 3 I was screaming "What about Don!?" and "I don't like Jay" and "This is so weird." Michelle was a good sport. All in all, this is what I think about the case: Jay is sketchy, Adnan is likable in many instances, and what about Don? As my co-worker said, how convenient that he had his Mom to confirm his alibi. Oh, I just don't know!

This soup from Oh She Glows: This is hands down one of my favorite soup recipes. I always put in whichever vegetables I have on hand and omit the beans (I am not a big bean person). I haven't experimented with freezing it yet because it always gets eaten in two or three days. The "cashew cream" takes it over the top. This picture is horrible but I promise you, this soup is amazing.

Making my own almond milk: Making my own nut milk was something I had convinced myself, for some reason, was going to be ridiculously laborious. I kept telling myself I'd learn how to make my own almond milk on my break. Well, I finally did and it is super easy. Also, unless I am in a real pinch, I am pretty sure I won't be purchasing any store's almond milk. Homemade is just too tasty, and I add lots of spices to mine. It's almost like dessert!

These wonderful movies: My mom, sister, boyfriend, and I all love going to the movies. I still have a few movies from this Winter that I want to see, however, my favorites thus far include Wild, The Imitation Game, Selma, and Unbroken. I cried many ugly tears throughout each of these movies, all of which, were based on true stories. We also saw American Sniper last weekend, which left me speechless. 

Ancestral RD podcasts: I've followed Laura and Kelsey ever since they started contributing on Chris Kresser's site a few years back. They are young, ambitious, really freaking smart Registered Dietitians who practice very holistically. Their immense knowledge inspires me constantly to keep learning. I totally dork out listening to their helpful podcasts. Some of my favorites so far have been about how to become a real food RD, adrenal fatigue, and curing SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). 

This soup: All day, I couldn't stop thinking about a soup with Italian Sausage and white (not sweet!) potatoes. So, after yoga (again, predictable), I whipped up this soup in around an hour. I plan to share the recipe on the blog soon! It's hearty, healthy, and a little spicy. It's gluten-free, paleo and whole 30 friendly, and will warm you right up. I feel so calm creating soup recipes and can't wait to share this one with you.

What are some things making you smile right now?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spicy Stuffed Bell Peppers (Gluten-free, Paleo, Whole 30-friendly)

I think I am going a little nuts being on Winter break...still. I am trying to sleep, slow down, and cherish this freedom, but as someone who is so accustomed to a busy schedule, I am going a little stir crazy. 

However, in my last two weeks of break, I have decided I want to dedicate a little more time to cooking up some new recipes in the kitchen, as once school starts, I have a feeling biochemistry will be taking over my life. So, last night, after a lovely yoga class (I am so predictable), I whipped up a delicious, easy dinner of stuffed bell peppers.  

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I have been doing Whole 30 this month. That probably deserves a blog post on its own, but I created this recipe because I was getting bored with everything else I was eating for dinner. This recipe is easy, makes leftovers, and can use ground turkey, bison, or beef. I picked up most all the ingredients at Trader Joes too!

Spicy Stuffed Bell Peppers 
Gluten-free, Paleo, Whole-30 friendly
Serves 3 

2 to 4 bell peppers, sliced in half and de-seeded (if you use 2, you'll have turkey mixture left over which is delicious! If you use 4, you'll likely use all the turkey mixture)
1 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound ground turkey (I like my turkey to not be the 99% fat free version...more fat equals more flavor)
1/2 pack Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning Mix
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green zucchini, chopped
4 ounce can of green chills (I used hot!)
6 ounces of tomato paste (can omit)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a baking dish, place each bell pepper half face down. Put in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes so they become more soft. 

2. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes to get that fragrant garlic smell. Add in the chopped onion, zucchini, and sauté for 5 more minutes. Then, add in the ground turkey, chills, tomato paste, and half of the Trader Joes seasoning mix. Cook until the turkey is done. 
*I think half is plenty, but you can add in more at the end if you prefer heavily-spiced flavor.

3. Remove the bell peppers from the oven and turn over. Spoon the turkey mixture into each pepper, packing it down. Place the stuffed peppers back into the oven for 10 more minutes at 400 degrees. 

4. Remove and eat immediately. You can top with your favorite salsa or some avocado slices. These are packed full of flavor!

I hope you try this easy recipe and love it as much as my boyfriend and I did!