Nutrition Blog

Top Favorite Plant-Based Protein Supplements

When I started out on my vegan journey, it really helped when I had recommendations that provided me a foundation of where to start in terms of what supplements were the best.  I recently discovered that in 2018, a study was done on the major brands of plant based proteins and an alarming result was found:

From the Vivo Life Website:

“According to a 2018 study by Clean Label Project, alarming levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead have been found in some of the most popular protein products on the market. These included brands such as Sunwarrior, Vega, Garden of Life, Optimum Nutrition and Quest.”

What?!?!?!  I had not idea!

“Heavy metals find their way into protein powders when big brands grow ingredients on huge industrial farms with poor soil quality and heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They then skip the all important heavy metal checks to save their precious profit margins, resulting in protein powders that are potentially toxic to our health.”

Seeing this research made me even more determined to start taking control of the protein supplements that I am consuming.  So over the past 3-4 months, I’ve been trying some new brands that are heavy metal tested.

So, what are my favorite protein supplement brands now?
**Well, here they are, my top three so far:
1. Vedge Protein

25g of protein per serving

Certified organic

100% plant-based (with a base of Pea, Pumpkin, and Sunflower Seed Protein)

Complete Amino Acid Profile (BCAA) for building muscle

Non-GMO, Soy-free, Gluten-free

No Chalky Texture

Heavy Metal Tested

2. Vivo Life

25g of protein and 6g of BCAA per serving (with a base of Yellow Pea Protein and Cold Pressed Hemp Protein)

Added Tumeric extract to optimize recovery

100% Raw Plant-based Ingredients

Fermented Protein for optimal digestion

Non-GMO, Soy-free, Gluten-free

Heavy Metal Tested

3. Naked Vegan Protein Powders

27g of protein and 5.7g of BCAAper serving (base of Yellow Pea Protein)

Exclusively from Farms in the United States and Canada

No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors

Non-GMO, Soy-free, Gluten-free

Environmentally friendly farming practices

Heavy Metal Tested

**I will continually be adding to this list as I do more research and try more products.  I love learning about new optimal plant-based protein supplements for optimal performance.  I know there are so many amazing ones out there.  If you have a plant-based protein supplement that you love, please let me know by writing a comment on this post.  I would love to try it and add it to this list.


My Journey to Becoming Vegan and Gaining 30 Pounds on a Plant-Based Diet

People ask about my vegan journey all the time.  “How did you transition from eating meat to going completely plant-based?”  “How could you give up cheese?”  “Isn’t being vegan and gluten-free really hard, especially if you want to go out to eat?”  To be honest with you, my transition to going vegan was fairly easy.  But it was also difficult and honestly a little scary.  Here’s why:

So I grew up eating only chicken, fish, and turkey.  My mom was an avid health and fitness enthusiast.  She was also an aerobics instructor at one point.  Growing up, she would make my twin brother and I delicious healthy meals: our favorite was eggplant parmesan.  Instead of going to the local grocery store or bakery and buying a birthday cake, my mom would make our birthday cakes from scratch, substituting healthier ingredients for less healthy ones (i.e. replacing butter with applesauce, using less sugar, and adding hidden veggies into our desserts, etc.).  So that’s how I grew up.  In my house, we never had sweets like cakes and cookies, or even sodas.  Our refrigerator was stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and our freezer was absent of processed foods, packaged TV dinners, microwave meals, and frozen pizzas.

I had always admired my mom for her love of fitness nutrient-dense eating.  She was my role model.  In 2006, on a vacation to Colorado, my family and I went out to dinner and I made the conscious decision to order an entree of Ratatouille.  My parents were shocked!  But, for me, in that moment, I made the conscious decision to eat healthier.

Of course, if you know me, you know that I’m an over achiever.  So, I took “eating healthy” to the extreme, which actually wasn’t necessarily healthy.  I ate a lot of salads, a lot of steamed vegetables (which is all great!).  But I stayed away from oils, nuts, nut butters, salad dressings, and even chicken and fish had to be from the can because I hated eating the fatty parts that you get sometimes.  I was fixated on not eating really high caloric foods.  In hind-site, I realized that I was building a really negative mindset of food in my brain.  I started being aware of calories and portion sizes and only eating until I felt full.  Ultimately, this led me to not achieving my necessary caloric intake for the day and I lost a lot of weight.

Two years later, I’m a sophomore in high school, I started to not like the idea of eating animals.  when I saw a piece of chicken or fish, I immediately saw the live animal in my head.  Not to mention, I was also really intrigued with a vegetarian and vegan diet.  So, I asked my mom if I could go vegetarian.  She said, “yes, but don’t loose anymore weight.”  A few months later, what happened?  I lost a lot of weight.  (What the heck Collin?).  At 5’10”, my weight was 115 pounds.  Again, I took it to the extreme.  I ate a lot.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t like I wasn’t eating.  But everything I was eating was going right through me.  I was burning calories faster than I was taking them in.  I was eating a very well balanced diet, but not eating a lot of high caloric foods to maintain a healthy body weight.  I had no idea.  I look back at pictures of myself in high school and think, what was I thinking?  There was definitely something wrong.  I looked emaciated.  It was scary, and you know what?  I ignored the signs.  I was tired all the time and I would get dizzy spells from low blood sugar.  I didn’t think anything of it.

Beginning my junior year of high school, I started to develop digestion issues.  I saw several different doctors, some more radical than others.  One, told me to eat chicken, grits, and butter, and to take loads of digestive enzymes.  I obeyed the doctor’s orders.  But my stomach and digestive pains persisted.  Eventually, going into my senior year of high school, I went to a GI doctor and had some tests done.  There was nothing seriously wrong, thank goodness.  From all the tests, I looked completely healthy.  The doc did say that I may suffer from stress-induced IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  We also did a dairy and gluten intolerance test and both came out negative.  So what was wrong?  We still didn’t know.  Yes, I had IBS.  But how can I manage the symptoms and the pain?  My mom encouraged me to try going off gluten for a month and see if it helps.  She has several friends who have a high sensitivity to gluten and felt so much better going off of it completely.  At this point, I was desperate to try anything.  I just wanted to stop being in pain.  In 2011, the month of April, my senior year of high school  I went off gluten for the entire month.  What was the result by April 30th, you ask?  95% of my symptoms were completely gone!!!!  Intestinal cramps, gone!  Indigestion, gone!  Nausea, gone!  Stomach aches, gone!

That summer, I met with a nutritionist.  She said that my diet was really well-rounded.  However, as for my weight, I was almost borderline anorexic.  The nutritionist said that I eat really well, I simply just need to eat more.  The best way to do that was adding more higher calorie foods into my diet.  With my mom’s help in guiding me on my diet, I gained 20 pounds in one summer.  I exercised a lot and simply ate a lot of food.  I still maintained a healthy diet that consisted of fruits, vegetables, non-fat plain greek yogurt, plant-based protein powder, quinoa, grits, nuts, seeds, and canned chicken.  My mom helped me put together a plan where we basically added 500 calories to my diet each day.  Not that hard to do, with the help of avocados, nut butters, and salad dressings.  I would go to the gym with my mom at least 5 days a week, I would do mainly weight lifting and resistance training and some cardio, and by the end of that summer, I reached 125lbs.

 

Then college came around.  Long story short, my freshman year of college was a stressful time.  I got really sick with bronchitis and I found out that I was basically allergic to Chicago.  ha ha.  JK.  I was allergic to the midwest allergens.  Oh ya, and my IBS symptoms came back full force due to stress from my living situation, academic stress, and being away from family.  As you can imagine, trying to eat healthy in a college cafeteria can be a little tricky.  Add that to a very physically demanding BFA Musical Theatre academic schedule, and going to see a new GI doctor at least once a week at the University of Chicago, I ended up loosing all that weight that I had gained over the summer.  I was now 5’10 1/4″ weighing at 110 lbs.  Scary!

 

Freshman year of college photos:

CCPA Great American Songbook Showcase

So… here come my heroes.

Doing several months of research, I came across Brendan Brazier (one of the world’s leading authorities on plant-based performance nutrition) and Robert Cheeke (two-time vegan body building champion).  These two gentleman became my idols for living a plant-based lifestyle.  I read all of there books and I even met Brendan at a Q&A Discussion on Plant-Based Nutrition at Whole Foods in Chicago.  It was that day where my life truly changed for the better.

Once my freshman year of college was over, I immediately returned home and devised a plan (with the help of my mom) to start gaining weight and building lean muscle over the summer.  That summer, I used Brendan Brazier meal plan in his Thrive books and both Brendan’s and Robert Cheeke’s training and advice on building muscle on a plant-based diet to gain 30 pounds of muscle in one summer.

I returned to college for my sophomore year a healthy 130 pounds.  I was in the best shape of my life.  If you would have seen me for the first time ever, you would have thought, that kid looks like a lean skinny guy at first glance, but you would have had no idea the skeleton I was, the obstacle course I had to trudge through in the mud to get to that healthy 130lbs.  While it took me some time to get used to my body at the new weight (that is definitely a thing fam!), I was and looked so much healthier and I had muscles for arms!!!  It took me about a year to feel comfortable in my body.  I wasn’t used to the way my stomach looked 30 pounds heavier (my stomach does this indent thing near my belly button).  I wasn’t used to how hot I would get (I was always cold prior).  Or even, how quickly I would start sweating since my literal body temperature changed due to gaining more weight.  (Truly, things you would never think about).  In praises and delights, I felt like I had so much more energy and I wasn’t getting dizzy all of the time anymore.  This new body was a gift.

My journey now was to maintain that weight or continue to gain weight and build more muscle.  I opted for maintaining and leaning out.  I wanted to get used to the new body that I had built.  Again, trust me, I needed that time.  It definitely took me about 2 years for me to get used to my new body.  That’s right, I said it, 2 years!  After a year, I continued to eat a lot and workout a lot and build more muscle.  I got really into weight lifting and fitness in general.

Well, a few more years went by and by my senior year of college, I weighed in at 150 lbs.  150 lbs of lean plant-built muscle.  I have to say, I was extremely proud of myself.  I don’t think it was until I hit this weight, 150 pounds, where I actually felt good and comfortable in my body.  So, folks, that took about 3 years.  To see where I had been, a 110 pound 5′ 10″ kid, to now a 150 pound man in the best shape of his life and thriving!… How could you not be proud of yourself.  I was SOOOO proud of myself.

Now 6 years later, yes, I still have body images dysmorphia sometimes.  There are days where I wish I was more muscular or that my stomach was flatter (because it does this indent thing.  ha ha).  But I have to remind myself that I was literally a skeleton.  I had no muscle.  It all atrophied due to not having enough calories in me.  Now, I am thriving.  Right now, I will always be the lean, tall vegan guy.  And I’m okay with that because I know where I’ve been.  I know what I’ve accomplished.  I took my health back.

What next you ask?  Well, It’s been 6 years since my senior year of college.  My weight fluctuates now between 155 – 160 lbs.  I continue to exercise a lot and eat a lot.  And I manage my IBS symptoms as best I can.  Some days are harder than others.  But now I’m not so concerned about following a specific meal plan or fitness regimen.  I have learned over the years how much I need to be eating to maintain my weight.  It’s more intuitive now.  I’m more aware based on how I look, how my body feels and my energy level.  The body is an incredible machine.  It’s amazing what you can put your mind to.  Now, do I have washboard abs and guns of steel?  No.  I would love washboard abs and guns of steel, I mean, who wouldn’t?  I always remind myself that it’s about the process and everyone’s body is different.  But you know, that’s the next goal!

If you have any questions on how to build muscle on a plant-based diet, any questions on my vegan journey, or on building muscle in general, feel free to contact me using the contact page on my website.


Naked Greens!

Greens, Greens, Greens, Eat Your Greens!

Greens supplement powders have been on the market for some time now.  With our lives getting busier and busier, it seems like we are always on-the-go (especially us city-goers).  Supplements have become more prevalent because we need something quick and fast to gain the nutrients that we want without having to eat a large salad, for example.  “Which supplements are the best?” is an ever-changing question for me.  With more in-depth information on nutrition and new data coming out each year around how proper nutrition can increase your overall health and longevity, you may find that there is so much information out there to absorb and a lot of products that are basically all offering the same thing, while looking just a little bit different.

Why Should I Take a Greens Supplement?  

Some of you may be wondering, “why should I take a greens supplement?”  My answer: “Well, you don’t have to. You may not need it.”  If you eat plenty of various green vegetables and leafy greens, you are probably getting all the nutrients you need.  However, everyone’s bodies are different.   You may find that your body is not absorbing certain nutrients that are abundant in leafy greens like vitamins C, E, K, and B9, in addition to some powerful antioxidants such as lutein and beta-carotene.  Greens supplements are also a great source of fiber, can improve cardiovascular health, and boost your immunity.  Greens supplements provide you with a quick but nutrient packed dose of greens without having to eat 6 heads of lettuce, 1 sprig of collard greens, 2 sprigs of leafy kale, and a handful of sunflower sprouts.  If you are always on-the-go, a greens supplement may be just what you need for your busy lifestyle.

Collin, What Greens Supplement Is Your Favorite?

To be honest with you, I have tried a plethora of greens supplements and protein powders that contain added greens.  I’m always looking for ways to add vegetables into my diet.  Just check out my Sweet Potato – Carrot – Greens Pancakes.  What I came across was that many of these greens supplements contained way to much fiber in them.  I have a very sensitive digestive system while also suffering from IBS.  So I have to maintain a proper balance of fiber and starchy foods that provide some substance for my system.  So far, the one supplement that did not cause my gut to go into shock was Naked Greens by Naked Nutrition.  Truth be told, I would have never found out about this goldmine of a product, if it wasn’t for Naked Nutrition reaching out to me.

What is Naked Nutrition? 

Naked Nutrition is REAL food, REAL ingredients, FROM the earth.  Naked Nutrition is a performance supplement company that provides the purest ingredients to fuel your workout.

“We strip away all of the marketing and gimmicks that many companies use today. We sell products with only the purest ingredients.” – Naked Nutrition

“From Grass Fed-Whey Protein Powder to Pea Protein Powder to Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder, Naked Nutrition provides the purest supplements. Our proteins are loaded with essential amino acids and no artificial sweeteners or colors. Our commitment to offering the best protein powders and supplements extends to all our products including Powdered Peanut Butter, Casein Protein, Creatine Monohydrate and more.  No additives means your body gets more of what it needs and not what big agribusinesses use to pad their bottom line. Take your nutrition to the next level with Naked Nutrition.” – Naked Nutrition

After reading this, I was hooked.  If you know me, you obviously know why.

My First Week on Naked Greens:

Earlier this month, I was asked to try out Naked Nutrition’s brand new Naked Greens Powder.  After researching more about the company, I was so amazed at the quality of their product and the trust that quickly grabbed me solely from reading their website.  I could not wait to get my hands on their product and try it out for myself.  My first product to try was their Naked Greens which arrived on my doorstep a little over two weeks ago.  I decided to add Naked Greens consistently for one week and see how my body reacted.  Now, a little over a week later, I am so thrilled to say that Naked Greens is a game-changer!  With its simple and sleek packaging and blend of an assortment of leafy green vegetables, Naked Greens is now one of my favorite greens supplement products on the market.  I say this purely because this is the first greens supplement that does not “wreck” my digestive system.

Naked Greens

 

Naked Greens mixes well in water and other beverages like almond milk and oat milk.  It’s ingredients are all organically sourced and the taste is great.  If you are sensitive to the taste of greens powders, not to worry.  While it is a greens powder, the leafy greens taste is more of a subtle taste taste compared to some of its competitors.  Having a more subdued taste made it great when adding it to my favorite almond milk from Trader Joes.  I would forget that I added the greens powder.  By far, my favorite way to drink Naked Greens is adding it to my protein powder.  It adds a boost of nutrition post-workout. You can dress up this greens powder by adding it to you favorite beverage (for me, that’s almond milk and/or my protein powder), or even blend with your favorite fruits and superfoods.  Later this week, I want to add it to a homemade salad dressing or even soups to add an extra punch of nutrients.

Find out more ways to add Naked Greens into your food by clicking here.

Most importantly, why I love Naked Greens is because it is incredibly nutrient-dense.  My readers know how much I value and preach high-net gain foods.  Naked Greens passes the test.  Naked Greens contains six different organic vegetables and grasses along with an organic prebiotic, organic adaptogens, organic ginseng, and probiotics.  The goal of Naked Greens is to provide its customers with 2 servings of vegetables and grasses that detox the body, aid in healthy gut flora, boost the immune system, and reduce stress.
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The Naked Difference:

“Don’t let labels and big agribusiness fool you; additives are for their bottom line, not your health.” – Naked Nutrition

— Organic Greens Blend with Organic Broccoli, Organic Alfalfa Grass, Organic Kale, Organic Spinach, Organic Spirulina, and Organic Wheat Grass

— Organic Prebiotic, Organic Ashwagandha, Organic Panax Ginseng, and Probiotics.

— Vegan

— No Artificial Sweeteners, Flavors, or Colors

— Only 10 Ingredients

— GMO Free

— Soy Free and Gluten Free

— Dairy Free

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Specific Benefits of Naked Nutrition’s Naked Greens Powder that Blew Me Away!

Ashwagandha – a medicinal herb (a small shrub with yellow flowers) that has been used for over 3,000 years to help naturally relieves stress and anxiety.  How?  It’s an adaptogen.  Simply, an adaptogen helps your body manage stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body (aka the stress hormone).  When cortisol levels are high it can cause negative affects on the body, such as storing fat in the abdomen.  Ultimately,  lowering stress helps lower anxiety.  Ashwagandha can also improve thyroid health and sleep.

Panax Ginseng – aka Korean Ginseng, is a root.  It’s loaded with health benefits such as reducing the effects of testosterone related hair-loss, lowers stress levels, increases libido in woman, and may help cure erectile disfunction in men.  Because studies have shown that ginseng reduces inflammation in the body ginseng can help heal skin irritations (ex: acne) and can help improve arthritis.  Ginseng also aids in your energy level and focus AND it acts as an immune booster!

As always, please consult your health care provider before adding a new supplement into your diet. 

All that to say, there are so many products out there.  Do your research, as always.  If you want a good place to start, one small step forward to creating a healthier you, try a greens supplement, see how your body does.  You can’t go wrong with Naked Greens.

Acknowledgments

Whether or not you were looking for a new greens supplement to add to your diet or you wanted to expand your knowledge on the health benefits of adding more greens into your diet.  I’m glad you stopped by.  I even learned a lot while writing this.

I want to thank Naked Nutrition for not just creating an amazing product but for their pursuit in providing the highest quality ingredients and for their transparency as a company.  Their mission statement below could not be more true:

“At Naked Nutrition, we strive to help you meet your nutrition and fitness goals by being transparent about what we sell. That way you know exactly what’s going into your body, and what’s more important than that?”

I admire their work and look forward to building my relationship with them.

Be Happy. Be Healthy.

Collin


The Healthy Fats Guide

I have always been an advocate of understanding and knowing about healthy fats.  When I first started on my vegan journey, I did not know a lot of about fats, which ones were healthy, which ones were not, or even how much of my diet should consume fats.  Healthy Fats are so good for you.  However, some are not healthy to consume or even cook with.  Certain oils have a , which means it’s the temperature they can withstand before the heat changes the oils components But, there has been several controversies over what oils are healthy to eat AND cook with.  Well, I’m here to help your ease your worries.  I recently received information regarding the healthiest oils to eat with and cook with.

 

“Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to burn and smoke. When you cook with oil that’s been heated past its smoke point, you do more than impart a burnt flavour to foods. Beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals found in many unrefined oils are destroyed when the oil is overheated. Overheating also creates harmful free radicals.”

 

“The smoke point of cooking oils varies widely. In general, the more refined an oil, the higher its smoke point, because refining removes impurities and free fatty acids that can cause the oil to smoke.”

The Healthy Fats Guide

Fats to ONLY Eat Raw and Unprocessed:

(These oils are unsafe for cooking)

  • Almond Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Pine Nut Oil
  • Safflower/Sunflower Oil
  • Black Currant Seed
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil
  • Hazelnut Oil
  • Evening Primrose
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Walnut Oil
  • Hemp Oil
  • Rise Bran Oil

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Fats That Are The Safest For Cooking:

Vegan Fats:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Red Palm Oil

Animal-Based:

  • Beef Tallow
  • Ghee
  • Chicken Fat
  • Goose Fat
  • Duck Fat
  • Lamb Tallow
  • Lard

These oils are the best for frying baking, broiling, and roasting.  These fats in organic form is always better.  Butter is also safe for baking.

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Fats That Are Safer For Cooking:

  • Avocado Oil
  • Butter
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • Sesame Oil

These oils are best for quick stir-frys and light sautéing.  They are best and have the highest nutritional value when they are cold extracted and expeller-pressed.

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Fats That Are Unsafe for Human Consumption:

  • Canola Oil/Rapeseed Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Soybean/Vegetable Oil
  • Vegetable Shortening
  • Partially Hydrogenated Fats/Oils (all)

These oils are often from genetically modified seed; they contain high levels of pesticides; and are heated and extracted with toxic chemicals.  Partially Hydrogenated Oils are also known as Trans Fats.  A simple google search will tell you that Trans Fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol.  They also lower HDL cholesterol (which is the good cholesterol).  High LDL cholesterol in conjunction with low levels of HDL cholesterol can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries.  This can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.


5 Actions To Take To Naturally Boost Your Immune System

If you’re like me, you’re a little nervous to go back into normal society (once we are back to normal, which might take some time).  Why?  Because social distancing and thoroughly cleansing everything in our homes has most likely weakened our immune systems.  Not to fret, our immune systems will bounce back.  Here are some easy and helpful actions to take to help naturally boost your immune system:

Take Action:

1. Sleep – getting enough sleep will strengthen your immune system.  As you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines.  Some of these cytokines help promote sleep.  Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you are under stress.  Being sleep deprived will decrease the amount of cytokine proteins that are released, ultimately weakening your immunity.  Lack of sleep can also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  What?!?!  I know!  I didn’t know this until I started researching sleep.  On average, an adult should have 7 -8 good hours of sleep.  Personally, I need 10 hours of sleep.  I wake up often in the middle of the night, so 10 hours makes up for the time that I have to go back to bed and enter back into my Non-REM cycle.  REM sleep stands for Rapid Eye Movement.  According to Web MD, your body goes through a cycle of REM sleep and Non-REM sleep constantly while you are sleeping.  There are basically three stages.  1. Your eyes are closed but it is easy to wake you up.  This usually lasts about 5-10 minutes.  2. A light sleep.  This is the phase when your heart rate starts to slow down and your body temperature drops.  Your body is preparing itself for deep sleep.  3.  Deep Sleep.  It’s harder to wake someone out of deep sleep.  It is during this sleep where your body goes into repair mode.  Your body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.  But wait for it, you are in Non-REM (or your deepest sleep) only about 20% of your night’s sleep.  Crazy!  Then, there is REM Sleep.  REM sleep is the majority of your sleep at night.  It happens 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep, usually.  REM sleep happens in stages as you sleep.  Each stage lasts longer and longer (starting at the 10 minute mark and the final one may last up to an hour).  Your heart rate and breath quickens during this stage.  It’s also where you have the most dreams because your brain is extremely active during REM sleep.  Plus you have all that oxygen from your quickened breath.

 

2. Healthy Balance of Exercise – Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, taxes your body and depletes your immune system every time you workout.  This is natural and ultimately makes you a stronger and healthier person.  However, during a pandemic, make sure you are getting plenty of rest and recovery in.  Don’t continually tax your body too much or you might find yourself with a sore throat and no energy for two weeks (this happened to me during quarantine).  Don’t worry, the gains you made will come back.  Focus on your recovery, make sure you eat ample amounts of protein to sustain your muscle composition, and have a higher amounts of protein in your diet than carbohydrates.

 

3. Whole Plant Foods – Nutrient dense plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are filled with powerful antioxidants that can help you fight harmful pathogens (bacteria, virus or other microorganisms that cause disease).  Antioxidants help decrease inflammation in the body by fighting off free radicals in the body.  These free radicals can cause a lot of inflammation when they build up in your body at high levels.  So it’s important that our bodies have the tools to fight these compounds off.  I recently found out that, chronic inflammation in the body is linked to cases of certain cancers, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.  In addition, plant foods help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.  A plentiful and robust gut flora can improve your immunity and can help prevent harmful pathogens entering the body through the digestive track.

 

4. Eat Healthy Fats – There are some healthy fats that the body does not produce, so we must consume foods that contain these essential oils, i.e. omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.  Healthy fats such as those containing omega 3’s and 6’s help your body fight off pathogens by decreasing inflammation in the body.  Low inflammation is natural due to stress and injury.  However, as we now know, high levels of inflammation can suppress the immune system.  So add in those avocados, nuts, and flaxseed oils to your diet.

5. Limit Added Refined Sugars – Refined sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup etc.) break down your immune system.  How?  It “deactivates” the immune system cells that fight off bacteria.  This affect lasts a few hours after drinking a couple of sugary drinks (i.e. soda, monster, etc.) or having sweets like cake, pie, candy, and tarts.

 


6 Supplements That Help Boost the Immune System

If you’re like me, you are a bit anxious about going back into the “real world” now that restaurants, retail, and other stores are opening up after the Covid 19 Pandemic.  So, I’ve been researching and finding out ways to support my immune system, given that it’s been compromised having been quarantined inside for two months.  Some of these supplements I have been taking on a regular basis or occasionally, whenever I feel under-the-weather, for years.  Others, I more recently discovered their health benefits.  Pick and choose a handful if you like.  I hope these help you build up your immune system and feel a little more confident in the process of returning to normal.

Supplements that Help Boost the Immune System:

  1. Vitamin C – Vitamin C (also known as absorbic acid) is necessary for the body to repair all bodily tissues.  It’s recommended that you get 500 milligrams of Vitamin C per day in addition to eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.  I love the chewable Vitamin C tablets from Trader Joe’s.
  2. Vitamin D – The body doesn’t produce Vitamin D, so we must get it from an external source.  What is that source?  The sun!  While too much sun exposure can be dangerous and cause damage to skin leading to skin cancer, 15 minutes of sun a day can provide you with a healthy amount of Vitamin D.  However, if you are like me and you live in colder climates like, Chicago, New York, Canada, etc. you may need to add a Vitamin D supplement into your diet.  Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.  If the body doesn’t have enough Vitamin D, it may pull calcium away from the bone leaving bones brittle and weak.  I get my Vitamin D supplement from Vitacost.
  3. Oregano Oil – I’ve been adding more oregano oil into my diet since being quarantined due to a sore throat I got a couple weeks ago.  Oregano Oil helps boost the immune system.  How?  carvacrol and thymol.  Carvacrol is the main active compound in oregano oil and a type of antioxidant called phenol.  Thymol helps protect toxins and fights fungal infections.  Oregano also helps reduce inflammation!
  4. Barley Grass – Barley grass strengthens the immune system, alkalines the body, cleanses the body by getting rid of any toxins, increases energy, aids in digestion, and improves health of skin, hair and nails.  It’s also a great addition to your diet if you need to remove toxins or heavy metals out of the thyroid.  For example, if you have high levels of mercury in your blood.
  5. Hawaiian Spirulina – I love Spirulina!!!  Wait, but Collin?  What is Spirulina?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  It’s a typeof cyanobacteria (otherwise known as a type of blue-green algae).  It has loads of health benefits such as detoxing the body, it contains complete proteins (that has the full essential amino acid breakdown) , B1 & B2 Vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.  This is one powerful superfood that keeps your body healthy, provides the body with essential nutrients and rids your body of any toxins, which ultimately decreases inflammation in the body.
  6. Wellness Formula – Last, but certainly not least.  Wellness Formula is an herbal defense complex that helps support and strengthen the immune system.  It comes in pill, tablet, or liquid form.  Wellness formula contains garlic, echinacea, elderberry, and many other herbs that aid in supporting a healthy immune system.  I swear by this stuff whenever I am feeling like I’m getting sick.  It really does work.  Sometimes I can completely fight off a small illness purely by beginning to take Wellness Formula at the first signs of having symptoms.  I also like to take Wellness Formula before traveling.

 


My 7 Favorite Vegan Fitness Influencers on Instagram

When I first started implementing a plant-based diet, I wanted some role models.  Who doesn’t love a good role model, right?  When I went full-on vegan in 2012, the only vegan athletes/influencers I knew of were Brendan Brazier and Robert Cheeke.  Since 2012, Instagram was born.  It’s because of instagram, that I started to find incredible vegan athletes, body builders, influencers, and nutrition gurus to lean on for information and advice.  So here are my Top 7 Favorite Vegan Fitness Influencers on Instagram.  While there are so many vegan nutrition and fitness advocates out there, when I first started my vegan fitness journey, these were the individuals that I looked up to, gained information from and respected.  While I have only met Brendan in person, I hope I can meet all of these incredible humans one day to thank them.  Go follow them and give them some love!

Top 7 Favorite Vegan Fitness Influencers on Instagram:

  1. Derek Simnett (@simnettnutrition)
  2. Nimai Delgado (@nimai_delgado)
  3. Jon Venus (@jonvenus)
  4. Brendan Brazier (@brendanbrazier)
  5. Robert Cheeke (@robert.cheeke and @veganbodybuildingandfitness)
  6. Giacomo Marchese (@musclesbybrussels)
  7. Dani Taylor (@veganproteins)


Vegan vs. Vegetarian: Which One Is Right For You?

What is veganism?  Are there different categories of being vegan?  What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?  I’m sure one, if not all, of these questions have crossed your mind at one point.  I get these questions a lot when talking with people about my vegan diet.  In my own vegan journey, I have come across many forms of being vegan and vegetarian.  I have also explored different categories of vegan.  What I have listed below, is definitely not all of the categories for vegan and vegetarian diets.  But it’s a good majority of them.  So, to help, here is my breakdown of the different types of vegan diets, the difference between vegan and vegetarian, and what you can actually eat under these diets.  Before moving forward, I must tell you that I am not a dietician.  I do not know the life-long effects of these diets on the body (except for my own choice of being a gluten-free vegan), so reading and incorporating these diets into your lifestyle is at your own discretion and risk.  Now let’s get started.

Vegetarian 

Basic Vegetarian:

Vegetarians are individuals that elect to not eat any animal meats (or muscle tissues of an animal).  These include: chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc.).  Vegetarians do, however, eat products produced from an animal, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs.  This kind types of vegetarians can also be called ‘Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians.’  ‘Lacto’ meaning dairy and ‘Ovo’ meaning eggs.  I like to call this diet the “basic vegetarian diet.”

Vegetarian can be broken down even further.  The different types of vegetarianism are:

Lacto-Vegetarian

Lacto-Vegetarians do consume dairy but not eggs (or any products that are made with eggs like mayonnaise, certain breads or pastas, or cookies and other desserts).

Ovo-Vegetarian

Ovo-Vegetarians do consume eggs (or products made with eggs), but do not consume dairy (or products made with dairy).  These vegetarians also stay away from milk proteins (i.e. Casein).

*Pescetarian

Pescetarians choose to eat fish and no other animals.  Only fish.  Some Pescetarians choose to only eat fish because it provides them with essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (i.e. salmon).

*Pollotarian

Pollotarians only eat chicken and other poultry (ex: turkey).  Dairy and eggs are included in this diet.  However, red meats are not apart of a pollotarian diet.

*Growing up, I was brought up as a “Pollo-Pesce-Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian.”  I only ate chicken, turkey and fish (mainly tuna and salmon), eggs, and dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk, etc.).  I ate this way because this is how my parents ate.  My parents cannot digest “red meats,” we like to call them.  This is the reason why I tell most people that my journey to becoming vegan was much simpler than most because I was already a type of vegetarian.

It doesn’t stop there.  There are many different categories of vegan.  I myself have dabbled in several different categories of veganism on my own journey, such as plant-based vegan and raw vegan, in which I describe below.

Vegan

A vegan diet consists of eating NO animal meats or any products that come from an animal.  This includes, but is not limited to, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, or even honey.  This is the basic form of vegan.  The is made up primarily of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Ethical Vegan

Ethical Vegans are those who are concerned with the ethical well-being of animals.  So, their dietary choices and material good purchases respect this ideal.  Ethical Vegans do not eat animals or products that come from an animal, but this goes even further to electing not purchase or use any products that are made from an animal.  For example: leather, wool, and silk; or cosmetic products or even furniture that is made with a material that comes from an animal.  This could even go as far as not wanting to attend certain events that use animals for entertainment purposes, like circus’ and theatrical productions.

Plant-based Vegan

Plant-based Vegans eat produce that is not processed and directly from mother earth.  I like to describe the plant-based diet as eating foods that are in their purest form.  Ultimately, this diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and other foods that come directly from the ground or a plant.

Raw Vegan

Raw vegans only eat plant-based foods that are raw or not cooked over 118 degrees fahrenheit.  For my first few years as a vegan, I was mainly a raw plant-based vegan.  I would soak my nuts and make my own nut milks and cheeses, and I would sprout my grains and legumes.  Basically, you are eating food in its purest form.  In this pure and uncooked form, foods are in their most nutrient-dense form (the full amount of their vitamin and mineral intake).  When you cook food above 118 degrees, you end up cooking out some vital nutrients from the food.  A raw plant-based diet, in my opinion, is the most nutrient dense of all the vegan and vegetarian diets.

Fruitarian

Fruitarians are those who eat only fruits or foods that have fallen from a tree, i.e. nuts and seeds.  I came across a lot of Fruitarians when I was researching vegan diets when I first started.  I don’t know much about the health benefits of this diet, but I found it very interesting.  I’ve read about individuals who have cured their acne by adopting a fruitarian diet (with little to no fats).  This was mind-blowing to me.

Gluten-free Vegan

I am living proof of this diet!  It is possible.  It’s was much harder when I first started 9 years ago.  But now with so many people adopting the vegan lifestyle, there are so many more products that cater to those who are sensitive or allergic to gluten and so many more restaurants that cater to those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.  First off, what is gluten?  The Celiac Disease Foundation describes gluten as such, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat-berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.”  Not to worry though, there are many gluten substitutes that are absolutely delicious.

Gluten-free options:

  • Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Corn
  • Millet

Unfortunately, most vegan meat substitutes contain gluten, particularly seitan and tempeh.  But, there are a lot more gluten-free meat substitute options coming out in stores now a days, including gluten-free tempeh.  Just make sure you read the ingredients label carefully.

There are plenty more categories of vegan.  Trust me.  But, the categories I have described above are the one’s I’m most familiar with and have come across most often.  They say different types of veganism come and go, but I have a feeling these will always be the core categories.

 

 


10 Alternatives To Honey to Help Soothe A Sore Throat.

I was recently asked, “What are the best alternatives to honey to aid in healing a sore throat?”  This question took me by surprise because I forgot that honey is used a lot as a remedy when having a cold.  While some forms of honey have antibacterial properties, I know some vegans do not wish to keep honey in their diet.  That is perfectly okay.  As a vegan, I choose to eat honey for it’s antibacterial properties (Manuka Honey) and to help with my seasonal allergies (local honey and bee pollen).  For those of you who are looking for other alternatives to honey, I’ve got you covered.

Here are 10 Alternatives to Honey to help Soothe a Sore Throat:

1. Salt Water – A warm salt water gargle rinse is naturally cleansing (kills bacteria in the mouth/throat) and breaks down secretions in the throat.  Make a salt water solution by adding one tablespoon of salt in a tall glass of warm water.   Gargle a salt water solution morning and night until your sore throat symptoms subside.  If your throat get’s worse, call an advice nurse or go to your doctor and/or local walk-in clinic.

2. Chamomile Tea – This one was new for me.  Chamomile Tea is anti-inflammatory.  Studies have shown that breathing in the steam from chamomile tea can help aid in cold-like symptoms and relieve a sore throat.  Who would have thought?

3. Peppermint – We all love peppermint as the most popular way to freshen your breath.  We also love it in the winter in the form of Peppermint Mochas and Peppermint Bark at Starbucks.  But did you know that diluted peppermint oil sprays may also relieve sore throats?

4. Thieves – this amazing blend of essential oils (Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary) naturally kills germs!  You can also make hand sanitizer by blending it with some alcohol and lemon.  I recommend the thieves essential oil from Young Living.  This is what I use on a regular basis.  I love it!

5. Baking Soda Gargle – Adding baking soda to a salt water rinse can help kill bacteria and prevent yeast and fungi from growing.  Recommended application: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/8 teaspoon salt to a cup of warm water.

6. Marshmallow Root – It contains a mucus-like substance called Mucilage that coats and soothes the throat.  Consult your doctor before consuming marshmallow root.

7. Apple Cider Vinegar – Germs cannot live in the acidity of vinegar, which makes vinegar a natural disinfectant.  If you have a sore throat due to cold or cough, mix one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon salt.  Mix and dissolve in a glass of warm water and gargle gradually until solution is gone.

8. Garlic – Garlic also has natural antibacterial properties.  You may have heard of friends or family taking a teaspoon of garlic every day and rarely getting sick.  That’s because whole garlic contains an amino acid called alliin.  When the garlic clove is chopped or crushed, an enzyme, alliinase, is released.  These compounds are anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.  Taking a garlic supplement regularly can help increase your immune system to fight off contracting the common cold virus (or even the flu).  Garlic has many antimicrobial properties as well.  I personally have several friends who take a teaspoon of garlic a day and they RARELY get sick.  They swear by it.

9. Licorice Root – Licorice was new to me as well.  Apparently, it has similar properties to Aspirin, which is wild!  Either gargle or steep licorice root and experience some throat relief.  If you are pregnant, consult your doctor before consuming licorice root.

10. Lemon Water – I’ve always known drinking lemon water was good as a cleansing agent to clean your system of any toxins or impurities.  But it can also be used to aid in alleviating a cold.  Lemons contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that can help aid in reducing sore throat pain.  It also increases the amount of saliva you produce which will help moisten your mucous membranes.


Part 3: Top 6 Vegan Restaurants in Southern California

 

Many people ask me what my favorite vegan restaurants are or where I can easily eat out.  When I went to answer them, I realized that my answers varied depending on which city I was in.  I truly believe California has the best vegan food.  For me, veganism started on the west coast.  Growing up in Orange County, I was able to find my favorite restaurants that I loved and cherished, even to this very day.  It’s also, where I have seen the most growth and expansion in vegan culture and vegan dining.  Just google “vegan restaurants” and you will see a plethora of amazing restaurants to choose from.  But here are some of my true favorites.

My Top 6 Favorite Vegan Restaurants in Southern California:

  1. Cafe Gratitude
  2. 108 Degrees (Los Angeles)
  3. Seabirds Kitchen (Costa Mesa)
  4. Flower Child (vegan and vegetarian friendly)
  5. Native Foods
  6. Veggie Grill


Part 2: Top 7 Vegan Restaurants in NYC

Many people ask me what my favorite vegan restaurants are or where I can easily eat out.  When I went to answer them, I realized that my answers varied depending on which city I was in.  I recently moved to New York City last year.  Every city is different in terms of what they offer for vegans and vegetarians.  New York was no exception.  They had some restaurants that I was familiar with, and others that are unique to New York.  So, here is my part 2 of my 3 part series.  Part 2: My Top 7 Favorite Vegan Restaurants in New York City.

My Top 7 Favorite Vegan Restaurants in New York City:

  1. ABCV
  2. Peacefood Cafe
  3. Veggie Grill
  4. by Chloe
  5. Sweet Greens

All the the restaurants above, I love and return to regularly.  They are a mix of fine dining and casual quick and go.

There are still so many more restaurants I want to try out in the city.  My friends have also mentioned these two as delightful and delicious places to eat:

6. Beyond Sushi

7. Lady Bird


Part 1: Top 6 Vegan Restaurants in Chicago

 

Many people ask me what my favorite vegan restaurants are or where I can easily eat out.  When I went to answer them, my answers varied depending on which city I was in.  I spent 8 years living in the amazing city of Chicago.  Every city is different in terms of what they offer for vegans and vegetarians.  So here is my part 1 of 3 series.

My Top 6 Favorite Vegan Restaurants in Chicago:

  1. The Chicago Diner
  2. Native Foods
  3. Veggie Grill
  4. Chicago Raw
  5. True Food Kitchen (vegan and vegetarian friendly)
  6. Lyfe Kitchen (vegan and vegetarian friendly)

All of the above restaurants I love and went back to regularly during my time in Chicago.  The food is delicious, unique, and the atmosphere is special to each restaurant.  You will not be disappointed dropping by any of these amazing restaurants.

 


Every Vegan’s Rainbow Salad

Rainbow Salad

Eating clean and plant-based is not as confusing as you might think.  It actually can be very simple.  All you have to do is follow my 1 simple rule “Eat the Rainbow.”  I use this phrase every day when I’m making a salad.  All you have to do to make a nutrient-dense salad is pull all of the colorful fruits and vegetables out of your refrigerator and onto your counter.  Find a bowl and combine all of those ingredients together.  Piece of cake.  Here is a recipe to one of my salads that I used following this rule.  As you can see below, I don’t give you any “measurables” for this salad.  Why?  There’s really no need to when making a salad.  You can put as much or as little of each ingredient I put down below as you want.  In addition, sometimes, measuring ingredients puts a negative connotation in your mind around food.  I used to count calories and really think about portion size a lot.  Now, I don’t.  I listen to my body and keep my eating habits clean and plant-based.  I eat to fuel my body (to give me energy and to help me recover).  I make as small or as big of a salad as I want based off of the size bowl I want to use, and then I get creative and build a beautiful and satisfying masterpiece that I am excited to eat.  (Again, you can use as much or as little portions of these ingredients as you want.  But, if you want measurements to go by, I use about a handful of each ingredient.  I might use two or three handfuls of baby kale for this salad).  Remember, the possibilities of making a scrumptious and delicious salad are endless.  You can make it as small and simple or large and thrilling (with all of the “goodies” as I like to call it) as you want.

Every Vegan’s Rainbow Salad:

Ingredients:

*Baby Kale

*Shredded Carrots

*Organic Red Bell Pepper

*Organic Raspberries

*Organic Blueberries

*Cooked Quinoa

*Dried Cranberries

*Raw Cashews

*Optional: Add a Hi-Protein Veggie Patty from TJ’s

*Dressing: I used The Green Goddess Dressing from Trader Joe’s.  But you can use your favorite dressing of choice.

Procedure:

Put all ingredients together in a bowl.  Dress with your favorite salad dressing.  Toss.  Enjoy!

Rainbow Salad

 


5 Easy Ways to Build Strength for Runners

I love running!  Since our world has been put on quarantine, I have recently gotten back into running.  Over many years, I have gained tips and tricks on how to build your strength as a runner.  So here are my “5  Easy Ways To Build Your Strength For Runners.”

  1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race (aka. Walk). – If you have never run before in your life, I high recommend walking 3-4 miles at the start.  You will slowly build up your cardiovascular strength and you will be preparing your muscles for more intensity in the long run.  Hiking is another great option, esp. if you are hiking in an area with hills, this will really tax your heart and build cardiovascular strength without even starting to run yet.
  2. Intervals – This is a great way to build endurance.  Interval training is great for those trying to build strength and cardiovascular strength and it’s even great for advanced runners who want to add mileage.  Training intervals (i.e. run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes) will train your body to push through fatigue and muscle exhaustion.  You will build strength and soon you can add time such as: run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes OR run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes.  Slowly but surely, as you start to gain strength, you can lower the time you walk in your intervals (i.e.: run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes to run 10 minutes, walk 2 minutes).  You slowly decrease the time you are actively resting which will build up your stamina and endurance to run 5-6 miles easy or (if you are an advanced runner) to add on those extra miles, if training for long distance runs.
  3. Strengthen Your Lower Body – I cannot stress this enough because I have gotten injured because of having a weak lower body.  Strengthening your legs (quads, hamstrings, calves, and ankles) and strengthening your glutes and pelvic stability is crucial to maintaining good form and endurance as a runner.  Strong glutes will alleviate pressure from your quads and tension on your IT band which will lower your chances of having knee pain.  Lastly, strengthening your calf muscles will increase your power to push off of the ground and will also strengthen your achilles.  Strengthening is so important as an athlete for longevity.  Oh, and don’t forget your abs!  Strong abdominals are vital for maintaining proper form and will support your lower back from the impact of running.  Take it from me: I constantly need to be adamant on my lower body strength training.  Over the past few years, I have come to find that I have weak pelvic stability and glute stability causing back pain and knee pain.  I promise you, strengthening these areas will relieve unnecessary tension and you will feel so much stronger on your runs.
  4. Stretch – A proper cool down is so important after a long run.  Stretching helps release lactic acid in the muscles and lengthens the muscles which aids in recovery.  You’ll recover faster and feel stronger and more energized to run day after day if you have a proper cool down.  Drinking water also helps rid your body of lactic acid, which brings me to #5…
  5. Drink Water – Drinking plenty of water the day before a run, the morning of a run, during a run, and after a run will ensure that your muscles stay lubricated and functioning properly.  It will also decrease your likelihood of getting muscle cramps.  Lastly, proper hydration will prevent you from overheating and getting heat stroke (esp. if running outside in the heat).

Collin Sanderson Running


Top 10 “Grab and Go” Healthy Snacks for Performers

It’s Audition Season!!!!  And we all know what that means… sometimes 3 -4 auditions in a day.  When do you have time to eat?  Well, if you are vegan and gluten-free like me, it can be hard to keep your calorie intake up during a long day of auditioning  and taking class (while not being able to go home to make food).  I always have food on me (whether I have a backpack or a satchel with me).  Quick snacks that are high calorie are my go-to and higher calorie foods help me meet my daily caloric needs.  Let’s face it, eating out all the time is expensive!!!!  So having food with you is not only healthy for you, but it also helps your wallet.  So here are my Top 10 “Grab and Go” Healthy Snacks for Performers.  

  1. Go Macro Bars.  My favorite flavors are Protein Pleasure, Sunny Uplift, Everlasting Joy, Protein Purity, Blissful Daybreak, and Prolonged Power.
  2. Trader Joe’s Trail Mix (My favorites are: Go Raw Trek Mix,  Oh My! Omega Trek Mix, Simply Almonds, Cashews and Cranberries Trek Mix)
  3. Trader Joe’s Trail Nugget Pro Bars (Peanut Butter and Berry Flavors)
  4. Pack Protein Shakes and a shaker bottle in your bag.  (Brands: Vega, MRM Veggie Protein, and Garden of Life).
  5. Apples
  6. Trader Joe’s Dried Persimmons
  7. Trader Joe’s Dried Baby Pineapple
  8. Trader Joe’s Organic Dried Mango
  9. Trader Joe’s Beet Chips
  10. Trader Joe’s Plantain Chips

 


Banana Bread Energy Bar Recipe

If you love banana bread , like I do, you’ll love this Banana Bread Energy Bar Recipe.  It tastes just like the real thing!!!

Core Energy

Banana Nut Bread

Ingredients:

Dates

Bananas

Hemp Protein

Ground Flaxseeds

Quinoa

Buckwheat Flour

Walnuts

Cocoa Nibs

Vanilla

Cinnamon

 

Procedure:

Place all ingredients into a food processor.  Leave some of the walnuts for later.  Form into rectangular bars or into balls (power balls!).  Chop the walnuts you set aside and place in a bowl.  Roll the bars in the walnuts.  Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later.  Energy bars will last 3 months in the freezer.


Peanut Butter Energy Bar Recipe

Core Energy

Satisfy your Peanut Butter cravings with this Peanut Butter Energy Bars.

Ingredients:

Dates

Hemp Protein

Ground Flaxseeds

Quinoa

Peanut Butter

Buckwheat Flour

Vanilla

 

Procedure: 

Process everything in a blender.  Then form into rectangular bars or balls.  Eat immediately and Enjoy!  Or, wrap in saran wrap and place in the freezer for later.  Bars will last 3 months in the freezer.

 

 

 

 


Quick and Budget Friendly Vegan Meal

Wondering how to have a quick and easy vegan meal when you are out on contract?  Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of regional work and living out of hotels on contracts.  As some of you may know, there’s only so much you can do with a refrigerator and a microwave to create a delicious vegan meal.  I recently completed a contract up at The Fireside Theater doing “The Little Mermaid.”  While I don’t like to eat a large meal before a show, I would usually have a macro bar an hour before our half hour call.  Then, I would have a larger meal after my show.  My go-to/post show meal was always a simple veggie burger taco.

Ingredients: 

  1. Gluten-free Tortillas (corn, chickpea, brown rice, etc)
  2. Veggie Burger (I love Trader Joe’s Hi-Protein Veggie Burgers or Dr. Pregger’s Veggie Burgers)
  3. Hummus (I used Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Hummus)
  4. Optional: you can add vegan cheese on top (I love daiya cheese) and extra veggies.

Procedure:

  1. Warm tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds.
  2. Cook veggie burger in microwave until soft and warm (1-2 minutes)
  3. Assemble taco with half a burger in 2 tortillas.  Add hummus
  4. Add a side of carrots or any type of veggies.

This is a very simple recipe… but it’s great on a budget and living in a hotel room.  Quick & Easy.


BBQ Jackfruit Veggie Bowls

I love BBQ Jackfruit!  This is one of my favorite recipes: BBQ Jackfruit Veggie Bowls.

Jackfruit Bowl

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 cup steamed broccoli

1 cup steamed eggplant

1 cup steamed asparagus

1 cup caramelized onion

1/2 package of BBQ Jackfruit (I get the one from Whole Foods)

Procedure:

  1. Cook brown rice
  2. Steam Broccoli, eggplant, and asparagus
  3. In a pan, cook onion until translucent/caramelized
  4. In another pan, cook BBQ Jackfruit until warm.
  5. In a bowl, combine 1 cup brown rice, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup eggplant, 1 cup asparagus, 1 cup onion, and 1/2 package of BBQ Jackfruit.
  6. Enjoy!


Vegan & Gluten Free Zucchini Meatballs

I played around with this recipe while I was down in Florida on contract.  The result was delicious!  Enjoy these Vegan and Gluten-free Zucchini Meatballs.

Zucchini Meatballs

Ingredients:

3 large zucchini (grated)

1 cup gluten free oats

1/2 cup quinoa flour

1 flax egg (2 tbsp ground flaxseed & 2 tbsp water)

1 cup daiya cheese (mozzarella)

1 tbsp dried oregano

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat a sauté skillet over medium heat.  Add grated zucchini and cook until most of the water and moisture from the zucchini has evaporated (about 10 minutes).
  3. Strain zucchini in a strainer.  Try to get all of the excess water out.
  4. Add zucchini to a mixing bowl.
  5. Add gluten free oats, quinoa flour, flax egg, diaya cheese, and oregano to the bowl.
  6. Mix until well combined and the mixture become doughy.  The dough can be as finely mixed or as you’d like.  If you want it finely mixed, try adding the mixture to a food processor and processing it for a minute.
  7. Coat a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray.
  8. Scoop a large tablespoon of zucchini mixture and form into a ball and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat this step several times until you have used all of the zucchini mixture.
  9. Place the zucchini balls into the oven for 20 minutes or until they become golden brown.
  10. Once golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool.
  11. Enjoy with tomato sauce, zucchini pasta, regular pasta, etc.


Persimmon Apple Salad

I love Trader Joe’s Dried Persimmons!  So, naturally, I wanted to make a salad with dried persimmons as the highlight.  Here is my Persimmon Apple Salad:

Persimmon Salad

Ingredients:

1 large handful of spinach

1/4 cup dulse

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup chopped roasted brussels sprouts

1/2 apple, chopped

4 dried persimmon pieces, chopped

2 tbsp raw cashews

Procedure:

  1. In a large bowl add spinach, pulse, bell pepper, brussel sprouts, apple, and persimmons and cashews in a bowl.
  2. Mix with dressing of your choosing (I used something light.  I recommend a balsamic vinaigrette or apple vinaigrette).
  3. Serve.  Enjoy!

 


Persimmon Broccoli Quinoa Bowl

Persimmon Broccoli Quiona Bowl – Vegan & Gluten-free & Delicious!Persimmon Broccoli Quinoa Bowl

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 cup Trader Joe’s Broccoli Carrot Slaw Mix

1/2 cup diced persimmon

1/2 cup yellow bell pepper

1 /4 cup daiya cheese (mozzarella)

3 huge tbsp organic Thompson raisins

2 tbsp apple vinegarette

Dressing Ingredients:

1 /2 cup apple juice

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Procedure:

  1. In a jar, combine all of the dressing ingredients and shake well to combine.  Set aside.
  2. In a serving bowl, combine quinoa, broccoli carrot slaw mix, persimmons, yellow bell pepper, daiya cheese, and raisins.
  3. Add two tablespoons of dressing to quinoa bowl.  Mix well and serve.  Enjoy!

 


Raspberry Pancakes with Raw Almond Butter

Vegan & Gluten-free Raspberry Pancakes with Raw Almond Butter

Raspberry Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 soaked dates

1 cup raspberries

1 cup organic applesauce

1/2 cup gluten free flour (try quinoa flour or trader joe’s gluten free flour)

1/2 cup teff flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Procedure:

Pre-heat a non-stick skillet under medium heat.  Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until batter is smooth.  With an ice-cream scoop or 1/4 cup, ladle batter onto skillet.  Should be able to make 4 – 5 pancakes in one skillet.  Cook pancake on one side for about 5 minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then flip the pancakes and cook for another 5 minutes on the other side.  Depending on how hot your pan is, you may need to lower the heat and/or the pancakes may cook faster.  The idea is to cook the pancakes at a low temperature, preserving as much nutrients as possible.  Transfer cooked pancakes to a serving plate.  Top with raw almond butter.  Enjoy!

Makes 2 large servings or 4 small servings.

 


A Vegan Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Have you ever had a vegan thanksgiving before?  You should try it.  Here are some recipes for your vegan version of Cornbread and Apple Pie.  (inspiration from the Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine)

 

Vegan Sage CornbreadCornbread

Here’s a more traditional recipe that I came up with:

1 cup coarse or medium-grind yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup corn flour

1/4 cup starch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp ground flaxseed (flax meal) with 5 tbsp water

2 cups organic applesauce

1/4 cup 100% pure grade A maple syrup

Vegan Cornbread

 

PROCEDURE:

  1. CASHEW MILK: soak 1 cup of raw cashews over night.  In the morning, drain the cashews and rinse them off.  Place the soaked cashews in a blender.  Add agave and water.  Blend until smooth.  Strain the Cashew milk to catch any pulp.  (Save the pulp – it’s a great addition to pancakes or cereals).
  2. CORNBREAD: Preheat oven to 400 F/190 C degrees.  Coat loaf pan or 9-inch baking pan with coconut oil spray.  Whisk together cornmeal, corn flour, corn starch, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Combine the flax meal with water and it will immediately thicken.  Stir in applesauce, dry mixture and maple syrup.  May need to add more applesauce until the mixture becomes doughy.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake for 20 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on top and sides.
  5. Cool 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Raw Pear Pie (from Vegan Health and Fitness)

**this is not my original recipe.  Please go to Vegan Health and Fitness for the original recipe and for other delicious recipes as well.**

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

1 cup dates

3 cups oat flour (I used quinoa flour – – you could also try buckwheat flour)

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

**2 tbsp water

Filling:

5 medium sized pears

2 lemons

pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg

Maple Syrup

PROCEDURE:

  1. Blend all crust ingredients into a food processor (no maple syrup) until it becomes a crumble texture (**may need to add more water as needed)
  2. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate with coconut oil spray.  Make a patty and then press crust mixture onto plate.
  3. Thinly slice the pears and place in a bowl.  Cover the pears with lemon juice and make sure the juice is evenly distributed.
  4. Layer the pear slices in the pie crust in a spiral pattern.  Top each layer with a drizzle of maple syrup.  Sprinkle each layer with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Serve or bake:  If you are eating it raw, refrigerate for a couple of hours to get the crust to set up firm.  OR bake at 350 F/175 C until warm.

Vegan Raw Pear Pie


Jackfruit Tacos

Jackfruit Tacos are my go-to quick and easy meal.  Takes less than 10 minutes.

Jackfruit Tacos

Ingredients:

2 Corn Tortillas

Whole Foods BBQ Jackfruit (packaged)

Trader Joes’ Beet Hummus

1/2 Avocado

Procedure:

  1. Warm the Jackfruit in a pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes until it’s heated all the way through.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup broccoli slaw with 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of beet hummus.
  3. Add 2 – 3 heaping tablespoons of jackfruit onto 2 corn tortillas.
  4. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of broccoli slaw/beet hummus mixture to the tacos
  5. Top with sliced avocado
  6. Enjoy!

Serves 1

Jackfruit Tacos


Vegan Pumpkin Veggie Pizza

Vegan & Gluten-free Pumpkin Veggie Pizza

Pumpkin Veggie Pizza

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 cup canned organic pumpkin

1 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Veggie Toppings:

1/2 cup portobello mushroom (cubed)

1/2 cup asparagus (chopped)

1 cup brussel sprouts (quartered)

Balsamic Pumpkin Glaze:

2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbsp raw agave

2 tbsp canned organic pumpkin

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Combine all crust ingredients into a food processor until the mixture becomes a dough-like texture.
  3. Place the dough on a sprayed non-stick baking sheet.
  4. Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll out until the crust is about a quarter inch thick.
  5. Remove and discard plastic wrap.
  6. Add a light coating of Glaze to the Pizza dough.
  7. Add veggie toppings.
  8. Drizzle the rest of the glaze over the veggies (to desired amount of glaze.  You may have some glaze left over.  I used the rest of the glaze as a salad dressing).
  9. Place pizza in the oven for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove pizza from oven after 45 minutes.
  11. Cut into 4 pieces and serve.

Serves 4.

 


Vegan Pumpkin Chai Pancakes

I love Pumpkin and I love Chai.  So, of course, I put them together in my Vegan Pumpkin Chai Pancakes.

Pumpkin Chai Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa flour

1 oz can of organic pumpkin

1 scoop Vega One Vanilla Chai

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup water

Procedure:

  1. Mix all ingredients into a food processor until smooth
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.Pumpkin Chai Pancakes
  3. Add batter to pan at desired size.  (I put roughly 4 pancakes in one pan)
  4. Cook each side for
    about 5 minutes (may need to adjust the heat to low after the pan heats up for a while)
  5. Once golden brown on each side, remove from pan and place on a serving plate.
  6. Top with raw almond butter, raw tahini, or agave, raisins, and peaches.
  7. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chai Pancakes


Collin Sanderson’s Vegan Story

As I am reading this article by Robert Cheeke on “How to Build Muscle on A Plant Based Diet”, I feel called to share my story about becoming vegan.  As I may have mentioned before, I have been a vegan for 4 going on 5 years now.  At the start of my veganism I weighed 115 lbs. I grew up not eating red meat.  The only meat I ate was chicken, fish, and turkey.  And I’ve never CCPA Great American Songbook Showcasebeen much of a dairy person, so the only dairy I liked was non-fat plain greek yogurt.  Originally I went vegetarian when I was 16 years old during sophomore year of high school.  At the start of my vegetarianism I weighted 125 lbs at a height of 5’10”.  I was vegetarian for about 2 years and then was suffering from some digestive health issues and got down to weighing about 110 labs.  I went to a holistic doctor and personal trainer who told me I had to go back on eating meat and dairy (butter… which I hate!).  He basically told me my knowledge of what a healthy diet is was a lie.  So I went back on eating meat (but I only liked canned chicken), I tried eating butter (but I hated the taste so I didn’t eat it) . . . but I was still suffering from my digestive health issues.  So my mom told me to try going off gluten even though I was tested for gluten intolerance and it came out negative.  So I did and after a month 90% of my symptoms were gone.  Going into my freshman year of college when I was 18 years old, I decided to stop eating meat and dairy all together.  And then I became vegan.  So many people ask me if going vegan was hard.  It wasn’t because the only things I took out of my diet at the time of turning vegan were chicken and yogurt.  So my story, I guess, is simpler than most people.  Once getting out of the college dorms and doing more research on a plant-based diet (reading books by Brendan Brazier and Robert Cheeke), I was able to gain 30 lbs in a year and a half.  I went from weighing 115lbs at a height of 5’10” to now weighing 150 lbs at a height of 5’11”.  And since, I’ve been on a plant-baed/gluten free diet 100% of my digestive health problems are gone.  Veganism was initially a moral life choice, but it also soon became more than that: it’s the diet that my body functions most efficiently on.  Our bodies are all different.  What works for someone may not necessarily work for you.  It’s all about trial and

error and seeing what does.  If you’re reading this today, I pray that my story helps you.

 

Robert Cheeke’s Article: Click Here

 


NYC Vegan Food!!!

I was fortunate enough to go to NYC for my spring break in March.  I was a little concerned about what I was going to eat given my dietary restriction.  But let me tell you, I was incredibly surprised at how many healthy food restaurants, on-the-go places, and grocery markets their were!!  I was in heaven!!!  So here are a few of my favorites: Peacefood Cafe (gluten free cafe), The Organic Grill, DF Mavens (vegan ice cream, raw juices, smoothies, etc), Westerly Natural Market (similar to a Mother’s Market in California or a very small Whole Foods), V-life (a hole in the wall vegan place), Chop’d (SO GOOD!!!), and theirs a healthy smoothie, salad, breakfast stand in the middle of the food court in NYC’s Grand Central Station (I got a green smoothie there three mornings in a row!).


Vegan Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes

Here is another delicious recipe from the Vega Team (myvega.com)!  I just had to share.  These pancakes taste like a dessert!  You’ll feel like it’s dessert time rather than breakfast time… ha ha.

Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes

Ingredients: (makes about 12 pancakes)

1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour (I used amaranth flour)

1/2 cup Vega Sport Performance Protein, Vanilla (I used MRM Veggie Protein, Vanilla)

1/3 cup ground raw walnuts

1  tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp dried ground ginger (or fresh)

1 1/2 cups almond milk (I used homemade cashew milk)

1 cup pumpkin puree (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin)

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

Procedure:

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all of your dry ingredients (flour, Vega Protein Powder, ground walnuts, baking soda, spices).

2. In a separate bowl, mix together all of your wet ingredients (almond milk, pumpkin, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla).

3. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients and mix just until fully combined.

4. Start making your pancakes in a heated pan (medium heat).  Melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil and start to make your pancakes.  Or you can use coconut oil spray.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes with a dollop of Cashew Cream

 


Gingerbread Pancakes

Here’s another delicious recipe from the Vega Team at myvega.com 

Gingerbread Pancakes

Ingredients: (makes around 8 pancakes)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used homemade cashew milk)

2 tbsp blackstrap molasses (I didn’t have molasses at home so I used 2 tbsp of dark pure maple syrup)

1 cup gluten free flour (I used amaranth flour)

1 scoop Vega Sports Protein, Vanilla (or you can use any vegan plant-based vanilla protein powder)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger (I used 1 tsp fresh grated ginger)

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 Tbsp coconut oil

Optional Toppings: sliced banana, chopped nuts, maple or agave syrup

Procedure:

1. Whisk together non-dairy milk, applesauce, and molasses.  Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients.

3. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, mix until just combined.  Add more non-dairy milk if the batter appears too thick.  (I didn’t need to).

4. Melt coconut oil over a non-stick pan over medium heat, or use a griddle.

5. Add a quarter cup of the batter into the pan.  Flip once bubbles have formed and popped (approx. 2 min each side)

6. Top with fresh fruits, nuts, or syrup.  Enjoy!


Gingerbread Pancakes


Moroccan Salad

I recently found this website on the Vega Website.  It’s absolutely delicious!!  You can find more delicious vegan recipes on the vega website: http://myvega.com

This is a versatile and hearty salad that makes a great addition to a potluck, as the filling in kale wraps, or as a stand-alone dish.

Full of Moroccan spices and flavor, the dressing for this salad includes turmeric and ginger, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as tahini (made from sesame seeds), which contains iron. Parsley, rich in vitamin C, helps with absorption of iron as well as being a source of antioxidant support. Let your senses be carried away by the flavors, and your body will thank you for the nutrient rich feast!

 Ingredients

1/2 cup dried apricots and golden raisins (I used organic apricots and organic raisins)

1 cup warm water

1/3 – 1 cup room-temperature water

3 Tbsp Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil Blend (I used extra virgin olive oil)

1 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup tahini

1 cup minced parsley

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

 

Salad

3 cups raw zucchini, diced

3 cups cooked whole grains (choose from quinoa, barley, wild rice or wheat berries) (I used red quinoa)

1 cup of prepared dressing

1 cup minced parsley

 

Preparation

1. Soften the dried fruit for at least 30 minutes in the warm water (strain off the water when ready).

2. Dice the zucchini and mine the parsley, and add to a large mixing bowl with cooked grains.

3. For dressing , combine in a high power blender or food processor: 1/3 cup room temperature water, soaked dried fruit, Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil, vinegar, tahini, and spices.  Blend until the texture is a smooth consistency.  Add up to 2./3 cup remaining warm water if necessary to achieve desired consistency.  Tip: The dressing will be thick, almost like a paste.  This will help bind the grains and support the hearty texture of this salad.  You can save the leftover dressing for dipping vegetables, add to sandwiches, use as salad dressing, etc.

4. Garnish with additional fresh parsley before serving.

5. Keeps well in the fridge for 3 -4 days.

 


Vegan Buckwheat Sweet Potato Veggie Pizza

Love veggie pizza?  Try this recipe…

Vegan Pizza

Vegan Buckwheat Sweet Potato Veggie Pizza

Crust:

1 cup grated sweet potato

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp dried basil

Toppings:

Tomato Paste

1 sliced tomato

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 bell pepper, diced

1/2 zucchini, diced

1 carrot, grated

 

Procedure: Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray a large non-stick cookie sheet with coconut oil spray.

Crust Procedure: In a food processor, add grated sweet potato, buckwheat flour, chickpea flour, coconut oil, and basil.  Combine all ingredients till mixture becomes dough-like.  Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and roll dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick.

Tomato Sauce: Add the tomato sauce and spread over the top of the pizza.  Add the sliced tomatoes

Toppings: Add the rest of the toppings to the pizza.

Cook the pizza for 45 – 60 minutes, depending on how crispy you want the crust to be.

 


Vegan Sweet Potato Carrot & Greens Pancakes

 

I always try to add more greens and vegetables into my diet as possible.  But I know what your thinking . . . sweet potato, carrots, green?  In a pancake?  YUCK!!!

HOWEVER, there are SOOOOOOOOO  GOOD!!!!  In these delicious pancakes, you hardly taste the carrots and spinach at all.  All you taste is delicious sweet potato and cinnamon.

 

Recipe: Sweet Potato, Carrot and Greens Pancakes:

1 cup grated sweet potato (uncooked/raw)

2 cups homemade cashew milk

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup spinach (tightly packed)

1 large grated carrot

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Toppings of choice: raw almond butter (or any other raw nut butter), fruit, dates, etc.

Servings: Makes 4 servings

 

Procedure: Heat a non-stick pan on medium/low.  In a food processor process all ingredients.  Spray griddle with a non stick spray (I recommend Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray).  Using an ice cream scooper, spoon mixture onto the pan making about 4 pancakes in the pan.  Cook until edges are set, about 2 – 5 minutes (depending on your burners.  All burners are different).  Flip and cook until done.  Top pancakes with nut butter of choice (I used raw almond butter),  or toppings of choice (I put bananas and pears on mine).  Enjoy!!!

Vegan Pancakes

 


Hidden Veggies

Do you have the hardest time getting your kids to eat their vegetables? Or perhaps you dislike eating vegetables? Either way, I have some great tricks to sneak vegetables into meals so that your kids (and you) will never know they’re there. Ready?

1. SMOOTHIES: Add spinach and kale to your breakfast smoothies in the morning. The sugars from the fruit will mask the taste of the greens. Try also adding bell peppers (bell peppers are very sweet). They go great with strawberry banana smoothies (red bell pepper), mango smoothies (orange bell pepper), and banana smoothies (yellow bell peppers).

2. PANCAKES: Have you ever tried adding greens and vegetables to pancakes? (I know . . . it sounds crazy, but I do it ALL THE TIME). Adding spinach and kale to chocolate pancakes is a great way to add in greens to your diet (as well as protein). The chocolate masks the taste of the greens perfectly. And when blending the batter in a blender or food processor, the greens are broken up and the batter is smooth. Also, try adding carrots and bell peppers to sweet potato pancakes.

3. SAUCES: Another great way to incorporate more veggies is to add pureed carrots, bell peppers, and greens into sauces such as marinara sauces and pestos.

4: HUMMUS: I love adding vegetables into my homemade hummus. Depending on what type of hummus you want, play with recipes that include sweet potatoes, carrots, edamame, spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, bell peppers, etc. My favorites are:
– Sweet Potato Hummus (with pureed carrots)
– Spinach Edamame Hummus
– Red Bell Pepper Hummus (with pureed carrots)

3. JUICER: If you have a juicer, juice vegetables of your choice (i.e. spinach, kale, parsley, beets, carrots, bell peppers, etc) and use the vegetable juice as your liquid base for smoothies, sauces, salad dressings, and dips.


10 Top Plant-Based Proteins Sources

Being a vegan, I get asked the same question all the time: “Where do you get your protein?”  Well here are some of the few plant-based sources that contain protein as well as other powerful antioxidants and nutrients:

  1. Quinoa
  2. Hemp Seeds
  3. Pumpkin Seeds
  4. Chia Seeds
  5. Asparagus
  6. Chia Seeds
  7. Beans
  8. Broccoli
  9. Peas
  10. Lentils


Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes

Here’s a recipe I made up.  It’s delicious and provides you with sustainable energy for the rest of the day.

Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes

Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes 

2 Dates

2 Bananas

1 scoop Vega One Sports Protein – Vanilla

½ cup buckwheat flour

½ cup quinoa flour

1 ¾ cup water

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

6 green tea bags

Procedure: Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes

Pre-heat a pan (lightly sprayed with coconut oil spray) over medium heat.  Use an ice cream scooper transfer batter into pan to create pancakes.  Let pancakes cook on one side for about 5 min or until golden, then flip over and cook for another 5 min or until golden brown.

Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes

Transfer to a serving plate and top with raw almond butter and your favorite fruit.  Enjoy!

Banana Protein Green Tea Pancakes


Plant-Based Sources of Calcium

As a vegan, many people ask me where I get my calcium from.  It’s quite simple:

1. Broccoli

One cup of cooked broccoli provides 45-62 milligrams of calcium with an absorption rate of 50-60 percent.

2. Collard Greens, Kale, and Spinach

One cup of collard greens contains 266 milligrams of calcium.  Kale and Spinach are also very rich in calcium.  Try collard greens, kale, and spinach in fruit smoothies or add them into your favorite desserts (what did I say desserts?!?!  yes I did!)  Kale can be a surprise, nutritious, hidden ingredient in brownies, muffins and ice-cream.

3. White Beans and Navy Beans

White Beans have 161 milligrams per cup; navy beans, 126 mg.  However, the absorption rate for beans is substantially lower than broccoli, which means at 17 percent, for white beans, 38 mg are actually absorbed.  But nonetheless, the body still absorbs some calcium from them not to mention all of their protein.

4. Dried Figs

A serving of 10 dried figs delivers 140-269 milligrams of calcium.  No matter what food dishes you include these delicious figs in (cereals, salads, desserts, etc) your body will absorb 10-20 percent of its daily calcium requirement.

5. Butternut Squash 

Baked butternut squash dishes contain 84 milligrams of calcium per cup.  Try my Creamy Butternut Squash Soup recipe right below this post to get your calcium fix.

 


Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Want to know a fast way to make an incredibly delicious and creamy soup in just 10 minutes and without all the cream?  Try this simple recipe:

CREAMY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Serves 6.  1 serving = 1 cup soup.

Ingredients:

4 cups homemade cashew milk

1 large cooked and peeled butternut squash

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Half and core the butternut squash and place face down on a sprayed baking sheet.  Cook the squash in the oven for 1 hour or until the skin easily falls off.  Once cooked, take the squash out of the oven, take the skin off, and let cool.  In a high speed blender add cashew milk and butternut squash.  Blend until smooth and serve.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

 

If you’ve never made homemade Cashew Milk before, here’s a recipe that I created.

CASHEW MILK

2 cups soaked raw cashews

4 tbsp raw agave

7 cups filtered water

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender until smooth.

Raw Cashew Milk


High Net-Gain Nutrition

Clean Eating 101.  Learn how to eat clean and what clean eating really means.  Brendan Brazier (Vegan ironman triathlete and formulator of Vega) will take you through how to eat clean and transform your body from the inside out.

Brendan also has three books out and a fourth book on the way.  Brendan’s first book is THRIVE: a Vegan Nutrition Guide, his second book is THRIVE FITNESS, and his third book is THRIVE FOODS.  Lastly his fourth and most recent book is the THRIVE ENERGY COOKBOOK.  I currently have all three of his books and they are my bibles.  The knowledge, recipes, and meal plans within the books are so helpful.  I highly recommend them.

 


Vegan Banana Quinoa Pancakes

I created this pancake recipe a few days ago and it turned out really good. If you love bananas I have a feeling you are going to really like these pancakes. Based on the Thrive basics and fundamentals explained in, Vegan Ironman Triathlete and formulator of Vega, Brendan Brazier’s book Thrive, this recipe is very nutritious and very easy to make.

Banana Quinoa Pancakes

2 ripe bananas

2 dates

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup quinoa flakes

1/2 cup quinoa flour

2 tbsp Vega One Nutritional Shake – Natural Flavor

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Makes 2 large servings

Blend ingredients in a food processor. Once combined, heat a pan over medium heat and cook pancakes for 5 min each side. (It may take longer for the pancakes to cook because they are cooking at a lower temperature. Be patient, it’s so worth the wait).


Vegan Banana Chocolate Pancakes

I’m not a chocolate lover, but I LOVE these pancakes.  They are not too rich like eating a chocolate bar, but they are nutty with just the right amount of that chocolate taste to satisfy your chocolate fix.  These pancakes are from Brendan Brazier’s book “Thrive: the Vegan Nutrition Guide for Optimal Performance in Sports and Life.”  ”Designed with kids in mind, these pancakes are popular for weekday breakfasts.  Unlike traditional breakfasts that most children eat, these pancakes are packed with high-quality protein, essential fatty acids, and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals” – Brendan Brazier.  So if you have kids, I have no doubt that they will love these pancakes and will be begging for more.

Here is the recipe:

Banana Chocolate Pancakes

2 bananas

2 fresh or soaked dates

1 cup Popped Amaranth

1 cup homemade Chocolate Hemp Milk

1 cup water

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1/4 cup hemp protein

1/4 cup roasted carob powder

1/4 cup unsweetened carob chips (I used cocoa nibs.  Those will work too).

makes 2 large servings.

Pancake Procedure: In a food processor, process all ingredients until smooth.  Lightly oil a pan with coconut oil and heat over medium heat.  Pour in pancake batter to desired pancake size and cook for about 5 minutes or until bubbles begin to appear.  Flip and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.


Vegan Thanksgiving

Several people ask me what I eat for Thanksgiving.  ”Do you buy a Tofurkey?”  ”What exactly do you eat?”  ”It seems really hard to be a vegan.”  But the truth is… it’s super easy to be a vegan and to make food that you can eat.  All you need to do is think ahead.  Have a lot of recipe books and websites on hand, and have the patience and the discipline to prep and make your vegan dishes.
Funny thing, being vegan, I have never had a Tofurkey for Thanksgiving.  I know!  Weird huh?  But I’m not a fan of eating a lot of the imitation meat: tofu, seitan, tempeh.  If I do eat fake meat, it’s always usually tempeh and I only eat it when I got out to dinner at a vegan restaurant such as Native Foods or The Veggie Grill.  I don’t buy tempeh at the grocery store.  So tempeh is always a treat for me whenever I go out to dinner.  At home, I like to eat foods that are in it’s purest form and either raw or cooked at a very low temperature.

For Thanksgiving this year, I made my first ever, Raw Harvest Pumpkin Pie.  I’ve never made a dessert that I can eat on Thanksgiving before so I’m very excited to have this pie tonight and to have my family try it.  My sister liked it when she was helping me cook and doing taste testers, so that’s a very good sign.  Here is the recipe.

And the pie turned out so good!!!  Here are some pictures:

I also made a Vegan Cornbread.  Before I was vegan I remember my mom making me cornbread all the time.  It was one of my favorite meals accompanied with butternut squash soup.  I was browsing on the internet and Facebook one day and I found this recipe for Vegan Cornbread and I had to make it.  Here’s the link to the recipe: