Vegan Carrot Cake Smoothie

Since I’ve been feeling better, I’ve been back in the kitchen experimenting with recipes. My most recent hit was this vegan, gluten-free carrot cake muffin topped with creamy cashew icing. If you haven’t already tried it, you totally should!

It’s been a while since I posted a new smoothie recipe, but since I was already tinkering with the ingredient profile for carrot cake, I thought I’d try coming up with a carrot cake smoothie.

Some recipes come together easily, and after one or two attempts, it ends up tasting good. This smoothie took about six attempts before I came up with something that I really liked! I have to give a shout out to my friend, Kat Downs, who writes the awesome blog, Crunchy Kat, for being willing to be a recipe tester for me! She will be featured in my next blog post, so I’m really excited for you guys to meet her.

In the meantime, give this tasty carrot cake smoothie recipe a try. You might be surprised to find that it contains a secret ingredient you won’t even taste that will give you an extra serving of vegetables. When I think of upgrading what I¬†eat, this is one of the easiest ways to do it!

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Vegan Carrot Cake Smoothie

If you like all the flavors of carrot cake as much as I do, you're going to love this creamy, dreamy smoothie!

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews
  • 1 Medjool date pit removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 piece frozen or fresh pineapple Trust me, this makes a difference!
  • 1 frozen banana

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients through almond milk to the blender and blend until smooth.

  2. Add frozen fruit and blend until creamy. 

Recipe Notes

For some reason, I find that the smoothie turns out a bit creamier when you combine all ingredients besides the frozen fruit FIRST and then add it, but you can totally just blend everything at once. That's just my preference ūüôā

Vegan Carrot Cake Muffins {Gluten-Free}

Carrot cake is my JAM.

I love everything about it. From the moist texture of the cake with a hint of spice and a crunch of walnuts to the rich and creamy icing, carrot cake is in a league of its own. I always have a piece¬†on my birthday! My go to place¬†for gluten-free, dairy-free carrot cake is¬†Great Sage, a vegan¬†restaurant in the little town of Clarksville, Maryland. It’s one of our top¬†places to eat, and the staff there are wonderful, too! You should definitely check it out, if you haven’t been already.

Speaking of plant-based food, I recently discovered an AMAZING blueberry muffin recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Since it turned out so well, I figured I would use the same base and then tinker with the other ingredients to make a carrot cake muffin version.

And that’s exactly what happened! After three attempts at combining ingredients in just the right way, I came up with a winner.

This recipe is vegan and gluten-free and can be made nut-free if you use a different type of yogurt. I opted to use my favorite dairy-free yogurt made by Forager Project, which I reviewed earlier this year in this post. You can easily make your own oat flour by grinding up gluten-free rolled oats in your food processor until they reach a fine texture. I added some spices to enhance the flavor and jazz them up a bit.

I’m happy to report that they turned out tasting great! Bill gave them two thumbs up, and they were a hit at a brunch I brought them to this weekend. They are great for breakfast with a little smear of nut butter, or you can enjoy them with one of my favorite blogger’s creamy cashew icing. I HIGHLY recommend doing that!

 

OPTIONAL but recommended: Top these muffins with a smear of this delicious creamy cashew icing from the Detoxinista!

Print

Vegan Carrot Cake Muffins

These gluten-free, vegan muffins are moist, flavorful and perfect for breakfast, a snack or dessert!

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 12 muffins
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups oat flour process rolled oats in a food processor until fine
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy plain yogurt I used Forager Project's unsweetened plain cashewgurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1/3 cup walnuts chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

  2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk, applesauce, yogurt, and vanilla and whisk them together before mixing everything in the bowl together, until just combined. Fold in the carrots, raisins, pineapple, and walnuts until just combined.

  3. In a silicone muffin pan or regular muffin pan lined with silicone liners, use an ice cream scoop to scoop muffin mix into each slot. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Don't over bake, or they will become dry.

What We Eat: A Peek at Our Weekly Menu

I’ve had people ask time and time again what a typical week of eating looks like for me and Bill. Every week is different, but I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what last week and the upcoming week consisted of for our meals.

I tend to make a combination of my own recipes from this blog and often look to the Nourishing Meals Cookbook, The Undiet Cookbook,¬†Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook or one of Rebecca Katz’s many healing cookbooks, with a recent focus on The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook.¬†

We pretty much follow Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Sometimes I’m a little off on the “not too much” part, if I’m being completely honest, but we prioritize eating real food made from ingredients we recognize and can pronounce. The vast majority of¬†what we eat, especially for me, consists of plant-based foods like veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and we load up on herbs and spices for flavor. I do eat some animal proteins a couple of times a week, usually wild caught fish or pasture-raised chicken or eggs.

My husband¬†Bill’s German heritage demands a higher animal protein ratio than what I eat. He just feels better eating a bit more of it than me! That’s why I’m such a huge advocate of listening to your body and paying attention to what gives you energy and what takes it away. I encourage you to experiment with different foods to see which ones make you feel best. For more on my philosophy around food and eating, check out this recent post.

Okay, now let’s get back to the food. Want to know what a week of breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like for us? Check out the list below!

Breakfast

Because I’m on a healing foods protocol through my nutritionist, as I’m restoring my body from Epstein-Barr Virus, I’m not eating certain things that Bill eats on a regular basis, like eggs. He¬†loves making breakfast and puts in a lot of work each morning. A typical breakfast for him consists of roasted sweet potatoes, saut√©ed onions and tomatoes or peppers, and an egg, usually served on or with a Swapple, which is one of my favorite freezer staples¬†as well. We also like Bilinski’s casing-free, real food chicken sausage, especially the kale balsamic version!

I usually have a smoothie because it’s the easiest way to pack a lot of goodness into one glass (or smoothie bowl!). I’ve been opting for blueberries as my main fruit because of how antioxidant-packed they are. I alternate which fats I use, including coconut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and avocado. I usually throw in a handful of baby spinach or baby kale and round out everything with a scoop of protein powder or an extra sprinkle of hemp seeds.

I’ll have to share the smoothie I’ve been making lately, so you¬†have the recipe, but this Blueberry Blast¬†Smoothie is pretty similar!

I absolutely LOVE the Oat Berry Yogurt Muffin recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook¬†and have been serving that with Trader Joe’s mixed nut butter. I also tried the Detoxinista’s Vegan Almond Flour Banana Bread. It’s RICH and pretty hearty, since it’s made with almonds as the base, but I really liked the flavors!

Lunch & Dinner

To be honest, lunch and dinner don’t look that different for us. I almost always have a big salad for lunch as my base and often¬†serve up leftovers from dinner for lunch because it makes things easier and saves us time. I’m a big advocate of making grain or salad bowls, which basically consists of throwing together some cooked and raw veggies (focus on leafy greens!), some source of protein (usually beans), something crunchy like nuts or seeds, and a grain like quinoa or brown rice if I’m making a grain bowl. I top it all off with a dressing¬†and toss everything together.

As much as I love to cook, sometimes I need something nourishing when I haven’t planned ahead and packed. When I’m on the go, some of my favorite places to hit up are Stall11 at RHouse, sweetgreen, Harmony Bakery, the Naked Lunch Cafe, and Whole Foods Market hot bar and salad bar. I link to all of those places and¬†others in my healthy foodie dining guide to Baltimore.

Here’s what we’ve been cooking up lately!

That’s a look at some of what we’ve been cooking up in our kitchen lately. We stick with some of our favorite familiar staples and try a few new ones here and there.

How about you? What’s on your menu? Try anything new lately? Feel free to¬†share in the comments below! I love trying new recipes ūüôā

Mediterranean Spring Salad with Easy Avocado Dressing

As someone who used to hate salads and didn’t eat them until midway through college, I’ve come to love them and enjoy them as a regular part of my meals. What I love about salads is how many nutrients and colors you can mix together at one time and how versatile they are!

I tend to put my salads together based on whatever I happen to have in the fridge at the time.¬†I start with a base of greens, add in chopped or shredded veggies, toss in some source of protein, and add something crunchy like nuts or seeds…or in this case – crunchy Mediterranean veggie patties!

Most veggie burgers I’ve tried have been pretty nasty and full of ingredients that I wouldn’t find in my pantry, so I stayed away from them for most of my life.

That was true until I tried Hilary’s Eat Well Burgers at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore in 2015.

I’ve been a huge fan ever since, and we always have them stocked in our freezer. What I love about these burgers is that they are free from gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, and eggs, and they are made with real food ingredients – nothing weird. Oh, and their taste and texture are SO good! I’ve even heard someone describe them as a healthier hush puppy.

They have a bunch of different varieties of burgers, including the following: Root Veggie, Hemp & Greens, Adzuki Bean, Kimchi, Curry, Spicy Thai, Black Bean, and the “World’s Best Veggie Burger” Original flavor, which is their best seller. We buy them at MOMs Organic Market and Wegmans. To find where they are sold near you, click the Find It Here Link beneath the product on this page.

The dressing came to be when I opened my fridge and saw an avocado and a lemon and decided to put them together to see what would happen. It was a success!

This salad is packed with anti-inflammatory, nourishing, plant-powered ingredients and is full of flavor and a variety of textures to keep your taste buds and your tummy happy ūüôā

Mediterranean Spring Salad with Avocado Dressing

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad
6 cups leafy greens (I used a greens and radicchio blend)
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli or other sprouts
1 small handful fresh basil, chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 mini Hilary’s Eat Well Mediterranean veggie burger patties, cooked according to package instructions

Dressing
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
Flesh of 1 avocado
1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/4 tsp plus a pinch sea salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Toss all salad ingredients together in a bowl and set aside, except burgers.
2. In a mini food processor, pulse the garlic until finely minced then add remaining dressing ingredients and process¬†until smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides and repeat. Alternatively, you can try to mash the avocado and whisk ingredients in a small mixing bowl by hand, but it won’t be as smooth.
3. Toss¬†dressing with¬†salad (it’ll be thick) and top with veggie burgers. Feel free to chop them up to the size of croutons!

3 Beautiful Smoothie Bowl Recipes to Try

I’ve been a fan of smoothies for years because of how many nutrients you can pack into one meal. But I’ve also noticed something you may find to be true as well.

I tend to drink them fast. Like, under two minutes fast.

That’s a lot of food entering your stomach at an unnaturally fast rate, which can lead to things like bloating, gas, indigestion, and overeating.¬†You can drink fruits and vegetables at a rate of about two cups per minute when you get them through a smoothie. This can¬†undermine your body’s capacity to recognize that you’re full because the body needs about 20 minutes to register that you’re satiated once you start eating.

So, what’s one idea for slowing down your smoothie drinking pace?

Put it in a bowl!

Yup, make a smoothie bowl.

It’s not that complicated either. All you’re really doing is using slightly less liquid (1/4-1/2 cup less than usual), so you end up with a thicker consistency that can be poured into a bowl instead of into a glass. It’s also important to use thickening ingredients like chia seeds, avocado, frozen banana, soaked raw cashews, and even peeled zucchini to reach your desired consistency.

Now, I do have a few words of caution and something you’ll want to keep in mind when going this route. Smoothie bowls are often topped with heaps of¬†granola, honey, maple syrup, nuts, a whole banana, etc., which makes for a pretty picture. But, on top of all of the ingredients that are already in a smoothie, this can be overkill, so use your toppings sparingly. Try not to overdo it. Notice how your body feels and adjust accordingly! Less is more ūüôā

Check out the three smoothie bowl recipes below that I’ve previously posted on my¬†instagram¬†page. If you’re looking for even more smoothie bowl inspiration, here is a list of nine smoothie bowls from Greatist and 11 from Buzzfeed!

Berry Good Smoothie Bowl 

Ingredients

1 tsp flax seeds or flax meal
2 teaspoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon coconut butter (optional but tasty!)
1 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract
1/2 tsp raw honey
1 cup baby spinach
1-1.5 cups almond milk (start with one cup for a thicker bowl)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries

Directions: Blend all ingredients, except the berries, in a high-speed blender for about 15-20 seconds. Then, add berries and blend until smooth, adding additional almond milk, as needed, until it reaches your desired thickness. Pour into a bowl and top with additional berries and a sprinkle of hemp seeds.

Shrek Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen pineapple
1 tsp fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 small avocado
1 cup baby spinach
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (I like Vital Proteins and Bulletproof Collagen Protein because they are flavorless!)
1/2 tsp raw honey
1-1.5 cups water (start with 1 cup and add more as needed)

Directions: Blend everything together until you reach a smooth, thick consistency. Pour into bowl, sprinkle with shredded coconut, and serve with a spoon!

Berry Chocolate Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

1 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries and raspberries)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1.5 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Medjool date, pitted
1 scoop unflavored protein powder (I used Vital Proteins)

1 – 1.5 cups dairy-free milk (start with 1 cup and add more 1/4 cup at a time)

Directions: Put everything in a blender and blend for about a minute or until smooth. Pour into bowl and sprinkle with goji berries and cacao nibs.

So, what about you? Are you a fan of smoothie bowls? Do you have any favorite recipes? Feel free to share them below!

My Food Philosophy: What Matters Most

Are you paleo? Vegan? Gluten-free? What diet are you on?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked questions about what “diet” I follow. I get it. It can be tempting to categorize ourselves and to label the way we eat.

We have a desire to know “the way” and what the right answer is when it comes to what we “should” be eating. But I’m not a huge fan of labels. They can be¬†limiting, restrictive, and isolating.

If I had to describe the type¬†of food I eat, I would say it is colorful, mostly plant-based, with a focus on whole, real ingredients that I can pronounce. I eat to feel good, not just for the next five minutes, but for as long as possible. I’ve found that gluten and dairy-based foods don’t make my body¬†feel good, so I don’t eat them. I prioritize the quality of my food and want to know where it comes from and whom my purchase impacts.

But I’m not “on a diet,” and I don’t eat this way to prove anything to anyone.

A few years ago,¬†I interviewed¬†a local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Kristapps Paddock, and I’ll never forget what he said.

Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that’s accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.

Isn’t that true of most diets?

We don’t question them. We accept them as truth because some celebrity, health expert, or friend told us so.

Unfortunately, this has brought us to a place of not questioning things, not asking why, not getting curious. We don’t stop to notice if they are working for us. One of the most helpful and transformational things we can do when it comes to what we eat is to question everything. To get curious. To pay attention to our body’s signals.

We know more than we’ve ever known about food and nutrition, but there is still so much more to learn that it doesn’t make sense for us to be polarizing when it comes to eating. It drives a lot of people away from conversations about nutrition. While the same general principles are universal¬†(i.e., eat food, not too much, lots of plants), the nuances may not be. Everybody is different, so what’s most important is that we get curious about what works for US (not our neighbor, co-worker, friend or family member).

So, instead of adopting¬†a¬†dogmatic attitude¬†toward eating, I have a¬†food philosophy. It captures my approach to eating, the mindset I have around food, and what I believe to be true. It communicates what I’m about and how I want to think and feel when it comes to food.

It’s not irrefutable. It’s not scientific. It’s not the only way.

It’s empowering. It’s clarifying. It reminds me of what is true for me and my body. It’s what I’ve come to learn works best for me.

As you read it, I invite you think about which parts resonate with you. If anything does, try to hold on to that idea and let it guide the eating choices you make this week. If you want to take it to another level, try coming up with your own version of a food philosophy!

My Food Philosophy

I believe food matters.
I believe my body matters.
I believe I matter.
I believe I’m more than a number.
More than a dress size, calorie count, or scale reading.
I believe in being curious about what I eat and noticing, without judging, how food affects me.
I believe in connecting with my food, how it makes me feel, where it comes from and the impact it has beyond my plate.
I believe food is a way to connect with my body, my community, and my purpose.
I believe in slowing down and savoring food, noticing its textures, aromas, and beauty; pausing to express gratitude for the beauty on my plate.
I believe in enjoying food without anxiety, guilt, shame or judgment.
I believe in elevating the quality of my food and eating the highest quality available.
I believe in upgrading my diet to crowd out whatever is not working for me.
I believe in eating food that tastes good AND makes me feel good.
I believe in being open to exploring and trying new foods.
I believe food is inherently amoral (neither “good” nor “bad”).
I believe I am responsible for my eating choices.
If I’m going to eat it, I¬†own it (I’m not “cheating”).
I believe having energy,¬†glowing skin, a strong immune system and a positive mood are signs that I’m giving my body what it¬†needs.
I believe in fueling and nourishing my body with whole, vibrant, healing food, so I can feel alive and energized and fulfill my purpose here on earth.
But I believe food is only part of the puzzle when it comes to being our best selves.
Food matters, but there is more to living well than eating well.
Friendships, community, connection.
Peace, patience, kindness.
Faith, grace, joy.
Love.

8 Tips for Eating Healthy on the Go

Would you be shocked to hear that almost 20% of meals eaten in the U.S. are eaten in the car?

Sometimes, when I share this statistic, people are surprised it’s not higher, but notice the word MEALS. We’re not talking about the occasional snack or latte. One out of every five meals eaten in this country are eaten in the car while we’re¬†driving.

It’s as though we’ve made food one of our last priorities, settling for what is convenient above all else. In doing so, we’re bypassing the power of digestion by rushing through meals at the same time we’re operating a vehicle. We’re making quick feel-good food choices when we eat away from home, not realizing that we could just as easily pick a nourishing meal that tastes delicious.

I’m here to help. Because I’ve learned how to do it, no matter where I am. My hope is that applying these ideas will boost your confidence in making choices that nourish your body and brain and don’t break the bank. You’ll be able to walk away from the table feeling satisfied instead of stuffed.

It’s totally possible to eat well, even when you’re on the go as often as I am. Here are my top tips for how to make it happen no matter how busy your life is or where you’re traveling.

1) Become a Menu Detective

Restaurants use lots of creative language to get us to order certain items off the menu. But we can outsmart them if we know what those words mean. Take a look at the two lists below. One contains words that describe foods I do my best to avoid because of how I feel after eating them (not good) and the other is packed with adjectives that I opt for when I’m making a selection off the menu.

Eat This: Roasted, Baked, Braised, Steamed, Poached, Broiled, Grilled, Pan-Seared, Sautéed (ask for less oil), Stir-Fried (ask for less oil)

Not That: Creamed, Fried, Smothered, Tempura, Crispy, Breaded, Charred

If you see a menu item prepared using one of the “Not That” options, ask your server if they can prepare it using one of the “Eat This” options above. If the food is fresh, there should not be any reason why they can’t accommodate your request.

2) Plan Ahead and Pack

Did you know that if you pack your lunch every work day and you work for 30 years, you would save $112,000?

That’s A LOT OF MONEY.

Remember back in grade school when you had a lunchbox and a thermos? They make them for adults! You can buy an inexpensive lunchbox at Target, Home Goods or on Amazon, among other places. I also bought a thermos that I use to put reheated leftovers in to keep them warm until lunchtime. I also pack smoothies, and the thermos keeps them cold for several hours as well.

This is the thermos I have. I like it because it has a folding spoon built into the lid!

Here are some ideas for what to pack in your lunchbox:

  • Oatmeal with berries and nut butter
  • Overnight oats like these three recipes from my blog
  • Smoothies (thermoses keep food cold, too!)
  • Leftover soups, stews, chilis (this is our #1 go to)
  • Mason jar salads like this one
  • Canned wild caught salmon with brown rice and sugar snap peas or served on top of a salad
  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store served with a salad and quick cooking brown rice
  • Bean/lentil and rice blends from Eden Organics (sold at MOMs Organic Market, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Target). I like to add in some saut√©ed spinach
  • This simple Chipotle-style burrito bowl

3) Snack Smart

I also like to have snacks on hand for when I haven’t planned meals and need something to sustain me between meals. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fresh veggies with hummus, guacamole, almond butter (cut up celery & carrots and put in glass baking dish with water in fridge, swap water after 1 week = fresh veggies for 2 weeks)
  • Fruit: apples, clementines, pears, grapes; apples or pears with almond butter / peanut butter /¬†sunflower seed butter squeeze packets
  • Trail mix like this recipe
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • Crispy roasted chickpeas (brands like The Good Bean, Chickpeatos, Saffron Road, Biena)
  • Forager Project yogurt topped with Purely Elizabeth¬†granola
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers pretzel sticks or crackers with Wholly Guacamole packets, nut or seed butter, or hummus
  • Some of my favorite brands of bars that use whole, real ingredients¬†are Ever Bar, KIND (opt for 6 grams or less of sugar), Soul Sprout, Paleo Krunch, Rx Bars, Hemp Heart Bar. Ideally you want less than 10 grams of sugar along with some fiber and protein. My hubby’s faves are Epic Bars and Mighty Bars.

4) Know Where to Go

When you’re on the road and need to stop or are meeting someone for a meal, knowing where to go is half the battle. It sets you up for success to go to a place¬†that serves nourishing food. I¬†intentionally seek places that are farm to table or that prioritize using fresh ingredients.¬†¬†You can use the apps in Tip #5, but the ideas below should help you, too.

  • Hit up the salad bar or ‚Äúto go‚ÄĚ counter at a grocery store. Try¬†Whole Foods Market (especially Health Starts Here options), Wegmans or Harris Teeter ($4, $6, $8, $10 meals). If we can find a Whole Foods while on the road, we know we’re golden.
  • Go global and try Indian, Thai, Greek or Mexican food. Other cultures tend to eat more colorfully than we do in the U.S. They also are much more liberal with flavorful herbs and spices, which can enhance a dish. As a gluten-free, dairy-free eater, I find that Indian or Middle Eastern restaurants are packed with lots of options I can enjoy!
  • Pick a place that lets you customize your order and fill your plate with lots of veggies. Try places like sweetgreen, Cava Grill, Chipotle, Qdoba, Roti, Chop’t, freshii, Baja Fresh, and Nalley Fresh.
  • Starbucks is my go to breakfast place because I can get steel-cut oatmeal with nuts. I sprinkle some cinnamon on it and often travel with packets of almond butter or sunflower seed butter that I squeeze and stir in to the oatmeal to make it creamier and heartier.

If you’re in the Baltimore area, check out my healthy Baltimore¬†dining guide, which sums up my top places to eat in my hometown!

5) There’s An App for That!

When I’m traveling and don’t know where to go to find a healthy meal, I use a few apps on my phone. I wrote about each of them in this blog post, but thought I’d mention them while we’re here:

  1. Happy Cow
  2. yelp!
  3. Food Tripping
  4. Healthy Out
  5. Eat Well Guide

I¬†highlighted the two I use most often. Happy Cow is great because it highlights plant-based options, which is how I eat, but yelp! is often more inclusive. When I’m searching in yelp!, I use words like¬†“vegan, gluten-free, farm to table, organic, healthy” to find places that will align with my eating preferences.

6) Modify the Menu

Yup. Be that person.

The way I look at it, it’s your money and your body, so you can decide what you eat, so you feel the way you want to feel,¬†even if you’re not cooking it yourself.

I look at the menu as a list of everything that is back in the kitchen. If I see a dish that has a side I don’t want but see another dish with one that I do (maybe roasted Brussels sprouts instead of mashed potatoes?), then I politely and graciously ask the server if they can swap them out.

Sometimes I create a meal from scratch using a variety of ingredients on the menu. I make sure I tip the server a bit extra and ask them to thank the chef. Almost every time, my request has been accommodated.

Remember, it’s YOUR body and YOUR money. Ask for what you want. The worst thing they will say is, “No.”

7) Upgrade Your Order

No matter where I am, I try to keep a simple formula in mind when deciding what to eat: 50% veggies; 25% starchy veg or whole grain; 25% protein (plant-based or animal). It helps me pick meals that are colorful and packed with antioxidant-rich foods. This plate from my health coach training¬†is¬†a visual of that. I opt for half the plate veggies vs. fruit, as most restaurants don’t serve my prefered fruit (berries)¬†with meals.

Image from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Here are a few additional tips to help you upgrade the quality of your meal and make it more nourishing:

  1. Hold the bread. Ask for raw veggies instead. You are better than the cold, stale dinner roll!
  2. Start with a salad or broth-based soup
  3. Load up on veggies and ask to swap your starchy side dish for an additional side of veggies. Roasted veggies are my favorite!
  4. Ask for a veggie side dish as your appetizer. Roasted Brussels sprouts, anyone?
  5. Ask for vinaigrette on the side. See if they will give you lemon juice, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and olive oil so you can make your own
  6. Add as many veggies as possible to a sandwich or burger and forego at least half of the bun. Lettuce wraps are all the rage these days!
  7. Make the best choices for condiments. Opt for things like guacamole, mustard, salsa, hummus, tahini, and chimichurri.

8) Be the Anchor

In his book, Eat Move Sleep, lifestyle expert Tom Rath shares a simple tip that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

The first person to announce what he or she is ordering sets the anchor for the entire group. If the first person ordering chooses a healthy option, it puts a little pressure on everyone else to do the same.

If you’re committed to nourishing your body with what you eat, be the first one to order when you go out to eat. Your decision will influence the rest of the people at your table. Maybe there are other people you’re dining with who were tempted to get a cheeseburger and fries. When they hear you place your order, they give it a second thought and instead order something that will nourish them and make them feel good for more than 10 minutes they’re eating it.

I typically look up the menu ahead of time¬†if I’m going to a place I’ve¬†never been. That way, I don’t even have to look at the menu when it comes and be tempted by something other than what I know what will make my body feel its best (and taste good, too!).

Give it a try the next time you go out to eat; be the anchor!

And, that’s a wrap! I hope those tips give you some ideas for how to better nourish your busy lifestyle no matter where you are.

Which one stuck with you the most? I love hearing from you!

Coconut Chocolate Brownie Bites {Paleo, Vegan}

It’s been a while since I’ve poster¬†a new no-bake bite recipe for you to try, so I’m excited to share today’s recipe for coconut chocolate brownie bites!

A few weeks ago, I was at a women in business event¬†with a group of consultants, human resources professionals and business owners. Before the session, Susan, a friend and fan who attends my cooking classes in the community, walked in. She was¬†holding a bag¬†of Emmy’s Cookies that she had bought at Starbucks that morning. Knowing what I do, she came up to me and said, “These are so expensive! I bet you know how to make them at home!”

Since I’m always up for a challenge, I started experimenting! What I’m sharing with you today is the final outcome of playing in the kitchen to come up with my own version of those chocolate coconut no-bake cookies.¬†Like most of my no-bake bites, they start with a base of nuts and dates. They’re a great option for a snack or a sweet treat and are perfect for someone who is on the go (kids love them, too!).

I had a few coworkers sample them today for me to give me feedback, and everyone loved the sweet and salty combo paired with the rich chocolatey taste. As someone who used to h-a-t-e coconut anything, I really love these, and so does my husband, who¬†isn’t much of a coconut fan either.

One of the fun,¬†new things I’ve started doing with no-bake recipes like this is experimenting with vanilla powder instead of vanilla extract. I find that the taste isn’t as bitter, but you can totally use vanilla extract in this recipe if you prefer. ¬†If you use the powder, it’s a 1-1 substitution for the extract. I buy the Nielsen-Massey brand of vanilla powder at MOMs Organic Market. Most natural food stores and Whole Foods carry vanilla powder, in case you’re interested!

I have a feeling these are going to become one of your new favorites, so let me know if you give them a try ūüôā They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, paleo, and raw, in case that helps you decide!

Coconut Chocolate Brownie Bites

Yield: ~24 bites

Ingredients

2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/3 cups Medjool dates, pits removed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla powder
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Directions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, process walnuts and salt for about 15 seconds. Add cacao powder and pulse to combine.
  2. Add dates, vanilla, and maple syrup, and process until a dough begins to form.
  3. Add coconut and pulse several times until just combined. Shape into 1-inch balls and roll between your palms. Toss balls in shredded coconut (optional) and store in a glass container in your fridge.

14 Valentine’s Day Sweet Treat Recipes {Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free}

Bill and I¬†love holidays and find ways to make¬†them special. My family always did that growing up, so it’s a tradition I’ve carried into my marriage.

This past week, I thought it would be neat to buy a card and a treat for Bill for each day leading up to Valentine’s Day.

I put a card and a treat in a brown paper bag with “Happy <3 Week” written on it and put it in his backpack each day.

heartweek

It was fun for me to do and I know it will be at least one bright spot in the midst of his hectic days as an elementary school phys ed teacher.¬†I’m not sure what he has planned for this weekend, but I’m looking forward to it!

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, one thing is for sure – BOTH of us love chocolate.

We are fans and followers of our favorite Baltimore-based chocolatier, Jinji, and know that Valentine’s Day is not complete unless we are eating some of her amazingly delicious chocolate creations. It’s seriously the purest, richest chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

truffles

Truffles galore! They’re always so creative and decadent.

If you can’t make it out to your favorite chocolate shop, or you just want to make a delicious sweet treat at home,¬†try one of these 14 Valentine’s Day-worthy recipes below.

They are all dairy-free, gluten-free, and made without refined sugar. Many of them are paleo-friendly as well, so give at least one of them a try!Vday Collage.jpg

The first recipe holds a special place in my heart because dark chocolate caramels are pretty much the best thing ever.

Homemade Rolos by oh she glows

homemade-rolos-7159.jpg

Photo Credit: Angela Liddon. Used with permission.

Oatmeal Heart Cookies by Nourishing Meals

oat heart cookies71

Photo Credit: Nourishing Meals. Used with permission.

Sweet & Salty Super Food Chocolate Bark by RNK

Superfood Bark

Cherry Dark Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Cookies by RNK

cherry choco chip cookies

Two Layer Raw Chocolate Brownies by oh she glows

Brownies.JPG

Photo credit: Angela Liddon. Used with permission.

Cacao Mousse & Raspberry Parfaits by Begin Within Nutrition

mousse

Photo Credit: Begin Within Nutrition. Used with permission.

Cherry Chocolate Brownie Bites by RNK

cherry choco bites

Seductive Raw Chocolate Walnut Fudge by oh she glows

fudge2.jpg

Photo Credit: Angela Liddon. Used with permission.

Easy Strawberry Cheesecake by Kasia Kines (my nutritionist!)

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles by RNK

Dark Chocolate Berry Cups by Yuri Elkaim

Healthy Valentines Berry Cups

Photo Credit: Yuri Elkaim. Used with permission.

Peanut Better Balls by oh she glows

PB Balls.JPG

Photo Credit: Angela Liddon. Used with permission.

Mint Chocolate Crunch Bliss Balls by RNK

Mint Chocolate Chip Bliss Balls

Peanut Butter Cup Pie by The Detoxinista

no bake

What are your favorite sweet treat recipes?

Feel free to leave a comment below and share!

 

6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

It‚Äôs that time of year again…cold and flu season.

It’s funny how the flu is the only illness that gets a whole season named after it, isn’t it?

What changes this time of year that increases our susceptibility to getting sick? Are colds and the flu inevitable, or can they be prevented?

As someone who used to come down with bronchitis, sore throats, and sinus congestion multiple times a year, I know how inconvenient and uncomfortable being sick is. Over the past few¬†years,¬†the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle and diet boosted my immune system, so I rarely got¬†sick and felt¬†better than ever. Even my¬†husband, an elementary school phys ed teacher, who is exposed to countless sick kids every day, stays well, too.

I can usually get through this time of year without getting sick, but this winter has been a tough one for me. I got sick – sore throat, feeling totally run down, and a bit feverish. Not the full-blown flu, but I felt pretty crappy. I am the worst patient and hate being sick! But my body was sending me a message that I wasn’t taking care of it, so I got run down as a result.

Looking back, I can attribute my weakened immune system to NOT doing all of the things I’ve outlined below on a consistent basis.¬†When I’m following these steps, I don’t get sick. My immune system is strong and fights for me.

So, what are the secrets of those who stay well? ¬†What if we could naturally boost our immune system, so we could¬†thrive through instead of simply survive this time of year? Can we do more to protect ourselves than solely relying on the flu shot and a bottle of hand sanitizer? Most of the medications we take just suppress symptoms but don’t get to the root of why we’re sick. They also interfere with our body’s natural healing process. And we all know washing our hands is certainly important, but…

We can do better.

Here are six tried and true steps you can take to supercharge your immune system and stay well in the winter.

1) Catch Some Zs

Lack of sleep (usually staying up to late) is the #1 trigger for me to get sick.

Though not the most glamorous piece of guidance, getting adequate, quality sleep is one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system. Our body uses sleep as a time to rest, repair and restore itself, so when we shortchange ourselves, we compromise our body’s ability to fight back. Sleep disturbances not only reduce our immune response but have also been linked to increased susceptibly to the common cold. One of the best things we can do if we start to feel like we’re coming down with something is to prioritize sleep and get a few extra hours of shut-eye.

Since millions of people have trouble sleeping, try one of these tips to better sleep:

  1. Check out The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus’s book, The Power of When, to understand how to optimize your daily activities and sleep based on what he calls your “chronotype.”¬†Click this link to take a quick quiz to identify¬†YOUR chronotype.
  2. Set your phone to Night Shift¬†to reduce exposure to stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, go into Settings — Display & Brightness — Night Shift. I have mine set to turn on at sunset and turn off at sunrise.
  3. Take a warm bubble bath or lavender epsom salt bath. Taking a bath before bed raises our core body temperature. Stepping out of the bath drops our temperature, which stimulates the release of sleep-promoting compounds. The magnesium in the epsom salts have a calming, anti-anxiety effect, too.
  4. Set your room temperature to 65F. You know how hard it is to sleep in a room that is too warm. A cooler temperature promotes better sleep.
  5. Use the Calm app to find a soothing meditation or relaxing adult bedtime story to prepare you for rest.

2) Begin with the Gut

They might look like Cheetos, but these puffy tubes are actually bacteria. Did you know that bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10:1? That’s right. We’re mostly bacteria.

Because 70-80% of our immune cells are located in and around our digestive system, one of the first places we should focus on to boost our immunity is our ‚Äúgut.‚ÄĚ The bacteria in our gut play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of our immune system and our Western diet, rich in processed packaged foods, and the overutilization¬†of antibiotics has been linked to gut dysfunction and imbalances in our gut bacteria.¬†

Increasing our consumption of prebiotics and probiotics is one way we can boost our digestive health and, therefore, our overall health. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that feed probiotic bacteria. Sources of prebiotic foods include buckwheat, chicory, burdock root, onions, garlic, asparagus, green tea, and blueberries, to name a few. We also want to increase consumption of traditional probiotic-rich foods like miso, natto, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir to promote a healthy gut.

Another option is to take a probiotic supplement. If you do, make sure you go with one that is high quality and proven effective. This review of the top probiotic supplements should help you.

3) Supplement with Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a powerful immune system regulator. Some experts even suggest that the collective reduction in sun strength and exposure (one of our primary sources of vitamin D) this time of year is what sets most of us up for reduced immunity. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to increased susceptibility to infection, colds and the flu, and many Americans are deficient in this immune-boosting nutrient. 

 The best form to take is vitamin D3. Most supplements are D2, so make sure you check and get D3. Recommendations vary, although the Vitamin D Council suggests 1,000 IUs (international units) for children and 5,000 IUs for adults daily. Vitacost is a great resource for supplements, including D3.

See your doctor to have your vitamin D level checked. It should be at least 30 ng/ml and closer to 50 ng/ml or more for optimal health and cancer prevention. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it should be consumed with some source of fat for optimal absorption. Check out the chart below from the Vitamin D council.

4) Eat Your G-BOMBS

Chronic stress depletes our body of nutrients, so upgrading our nutrition to support our body is especially critical during this time. All of us have heard about the importance of having a colorful diet, but this catchy acronym from Dr. Joel Fuhrman puts a new spin on that age-old advice.

G-BOMBS stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. I’ve written in more detail about them here. These nutrient-dense foods are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work together to supercharge our immune system. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have antiviral and¬†immune-boosting properties.¬†

Compounds from onions and other members of the allium vegetable family, like garlic, leeks, shallots and scallions thin mucus and have been found to have anti-asthmatic and antibiotic effects. Beans are rich in prebiotic fiber that helps feed the good bacteria in our digestive system. I eat beans almost every day. Believe it or not, mushrooms are also a significant immune booster and have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. For more about the power of mushrooms, check out the TEDTalk below.

Whether you enjoy them in salads, smoothies, soups, stews, stocks, steamed or sautéed, eat your G-BOMBS to boost your immunity. Most recipes on this blog are packed full of G-BOMBS. Here are a few GBOMBS-rich soup recipes.

5) Chill Out

This time of year is characterized by heightened levels of stress from travel, holiday shopping, reduced exercise, increases in consumption of alcohol and sugar-laden foods, family get-togethers, time management, and, for many, holiday blues and depression. Do what you can to increase your resiliency to stressors because stress significantly suppresses our immune function.

If you want to thrive through the winter, make time for relaxation and fun, whether it takes the form of meditation, yoga, massage, a mani/pedi, dancing, taking a day off from work, a soothing epsom salt bath or calling a friend, going on a date, playing a game, or spending time in nature, even if it is chilly outside.

You can also just watch this video and search “laughing babies” on YouTube for instant stress relief!

6) Move Moderately

As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time moving. Moderate exercise may have a protective effect on the immune system, while excessive exercise and overtraining can depress our immune response.

I love this infographic from Precision Nutrition that gives all the details on exercising when you’re sick.

If you feel like you’re coming down with something, mild to moderate movement is the way to go. Try a dance class like tai chi, yoga, dancing, Nia,or go for a brisk walk, jog or indoor swim. My favorite place to take classes like this in Baltimore is Movement Lab.

So, there you have it! If you want to stay well this winter, thrive instead of survive, and feel the best you’ve ever felt, follow these tips to supercharge your immune system.

Is there anything I’m missing? Any tips you swear by that help you stay well? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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