New in Review: Fear Foods

I know some people don’t like the term ‘fear foods’. I know we shouldn’t be giving food so much power and control over our lives. But for me, fear foods are just that  — foods I’m still scared of in one way or another, but when I use them to challenge myself, I can take away some of that power.

The thing about my particular list of fear foods is that it’s changed a lot over the years. During the worst of my initial round of ED, I was scared to death of anything with fat in it. I subsisted on black beans, white rice and sugar-free Jell-O. At the beginning of my recovery, there were times that I feared almost any food my parents had me eat, since it took away my control. I remember throwing an apple across the room in anger. It shocks me now that I could be scared of an apple. Other foods have come and gone on my list. I still have fear foods to this day. Today, it’s mostly things I’ve deemed less than ‘clean’. Any added sugar, products with added oils other than coconut or olive oil, preservatives and the biggie for me, gluten and most grains. I eat gluten free not because I’ve been diagnosed with celiac or because I feel better without gluten (though generally I do) but because it’s become a fear of mine.

So for this edition of New in Review, I’m tackling a few fear foods. I can’t promise to take on the biggies but I did try some new-to-me things that still scare me to the point that it took me a few days after buying them to bite the bullet and just eat them.

  • Califia Farms Watermelon Ginger Lime Agua Fresca
Mmm, watermelon.

Mmm, watermelon.

After posting about this a few weeks ago, I honestly thought I’d never get the chance to try it out. But the Whole Foods here is pretty good about stocking new products. So when I spotted this, I knew I had to try it. Of course, I scanned the ingredient list and my heart sank a little when I saw cane sugar on the label. I guess I figured it was 100% fruit juice. Sadly, no, but luckily sugar is 4th on the short ingredient list.

Enough about my clean eating rant. I know you all want to know about the taste. It’s basically like eating a ripe, ice cold watermelon. There’s a little hint of ginger and lime, but the watermelon is the big star. And it’s definitely sweet, so I like to mix just a bit of it with water and shake it up with ice.

Pros: tasty, simple ingredients

Cons: added sugar

  • O’Dough’s Bagel Thins (sprouted whole grain flax)
Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein 'frosting' and berries.

Bagel thins topped with coconut butter and stevia chocolate chips. Side of Sunwarrior protein ‘frosting’ and berries.

Let me just start out by saying bagels are one of my biggest fear foods. I think the last time I ate a legit bagel was during my freshman year of college. I used to occasionally go to the bagel place in the student center and order a plain blueberry bagel, and eat half of it. I was still terrified of bagels then, but not nearly as much as I am now.

When I saw these at Sprouts, I knew I couldn’t pass them up. First of all, they’re gluten free AND vegan. It’s hard to find bread products that are both. Most have egg in them or other questionable ingredients. These are pretty standard, and healthy. And second of all, they’re bagel thins. I know I wouldn’t be able to get myself to eat a full-size bagel, but getting bagel thins means I can eat a whole bagel in one sitting. Disclaimer: it still took me three days from when I bought them to actually try them. So…the fear is still there.

As for the actual product, I’m on the fence. It toasted up well and is doughy without being overwhelming or too chewy. But the taste is off. For some reason, it has a slight fishy smell and taste, maybe from the flax, but I’m not really sensitive to the flavor of flax. It tastes fine when it’s topped with something, but I don’t think I’d buy these again because of that.

Pros: gluten free and vegan, 100 calories per whole bagel

Cons: weird flavor, they’re made with soy flour (I generally avoid soy) and have a little added sugar

  • The Gluten Free Bistro pizza crust
I love me some (gluten free, vegan) pizza.

I love me some (gluten free, vegan, homemade) pizza.

I already loved TGFB products before I tried this one. I’ve used their frozen dough to make pizza crust and cinnamon rolls, and it’s got a great texture and flavor. But I’d never seen their pre-made crust until a few weeks ago. This is yet another Whole Foods find, but if you check their website, they do sell them at other natural foods stores, and apparently some pizza places use their crust.

I’m a total pizza snob. You wouldn’t think a clean eating vegan would love pizza, right? Well, in my case, you’d be wrong. I skip the Daiya and other fake cheeses in favor of plenty of fresh veggie toppings. And when possible, I go for gluten free crust. TGFB’s crust is definitely the healthiest GF+vegan crust ever. It’s made of a mix of 4 GF flours (brown rice, sorghum, buckwheat and coconut) which adds a nice hearty flavor, tapioca starch, unsweetened applesauce, yeast, sugar (just to activate the yeast), xanthan gum, olive oil and garlic salt. No eggs or weird stabilizers needed!

The taste and texture are the best too. I much prefer thin crusts, and this one is thin while still being doughy and soft. It tastes a bit like sourdough, but it blends well with all toppings. And it reheats well the next day in the oven!

Pros: minimal ingredients, whole grain and gluten free, tastes incredible

Cons: a little expensive for just a crust

As for how I’m tackling these fear foods, the verdict is mixed. I used the pizza crust this weekend and got three solid dinners out of it. The juice I bought two weeks ago, and I’ve gotten about 1/4 of the way through it. And I’ve eaten one bagel thin so far…hopefully I can get myself to finish the rest. Luckily, they’re frozen so I don’t have to worry about them going bad before I can finish them. But I’d prefer not to toss them out  — I’ve already done that with far too many things in the past!

Do you have any ‘fear foods’? 

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New in Review: Chai & Chocolate

I have a problem. A problem with starting too many post series that I never stick to. I did keep my College Vegan on a Budget series going for several months and obviously I can’t go back to it now as a post-grad. But several other series I had big plans for died an early death.

I’m hoping I can keep this one going for awhile. See, I like product review posts a lot. I read them when I spot a new product on the shelves and I’m wondering if it’s worth a purchase, or if I just bought something and want to see what other people think. Either way, I think they’re informative and fun, so I wanted to bring something like that to AlmostVegGirlie.

I’m calling this new series New in Review, and it will be my honest thoughts about products (not just food!) that I’ve recently tried. Everything I post will be products I bought myself, so no sponsored posts here. And I hope you find them to be interesting!

  • Quinn Kale & Sea Salt popcorn

2014-04-15 16.32.32

I spotted this at Whole Foods, and even though I eat grain free a lot of the time by default, I’ve been craving popcorn lately. Plus it’s gluten free and sounded interesting, so I bought it. When I opened the bag, I was surprised to see that the popcorn was green. Like spinach green. I love all things green, though, so it didn’t scare me away, though some picky people might be thrown off by it. But then, it is made with dried organic kale (and carrot), so it’s basically like salad 😉 

The ingredients list is stellar–non-gmo popcorn kernels (corn is a heavily GM product so non-gmo is important), sunflower oil (healthier than most veggie oils, though coconut oil is best), dried organic kale and carrot (seriously, veggies in popcorn is incredible), sea salt, onion powder and garlic powder. That’s it…just popcorn and spices and a little oil. The best part is how tasty this popcorn is. It’s got a slight veggie flavor but not overpowering, with the perfect amount of saltiness and tang from the spices. And it’s a little addicting, but in a good way, because one serving of popcorn (4 cups) is 150 calories.

Pros: organic/non-gmo, clean ingredients, good flavor

Cons: I wish there was more popcorn!

  • Maybelline Volum’ Express Mega Plush mascara

2014-04-15 16.33.47

I’ve been partial to Maybelline mascaras since I discovered their Illegal Length mascara. My lashes are fairly voluminous, so I’m mostly looking to add length and darkness. I like Maybelline’s mascaras because they last a long time (I use it daily) and are fairly inexpensive and available at regular stores like Target.

This mascara is gel mousse, so the texture is a bit different, but it doesn’t clump at all. It also has a flexible brush, which makes it easier to apply. I prefer washable mascaras so I haven’t tried the waterproof kind, but the washable one is easily removable with soap+water or makeup wipes but it doesn’t smudge either.

Pros: inexpensive ($7 ish for a tube), goes on smoothly, feels light

Cons: I wish it added length as well as volume

  • Fearless Chocolate

2014-04-15 16.33.18

This is officially my go-to chocolate brand now! So far, I’ve tried 4 flavors: Superfruit, Green Tea Mint, Exploding Coconuts, and Super Seeds Crunch. All of them are good, but the Exploding Coconuts is my favorite so far. It’s got great little chunks of coconut in it! Though I can’t wait to find their new coffee flavor–I love coffee+chocolate!

Fearless Chocolate has one of the simplest ingredients list of any chocolate brand. They’re soy free (no soy lecithin, which is hard to find in chocolate), gluten free, vegan and certified organic & fair trade. Best of all, they’re made with raw cacao instead of cocoa butter, making them purely chocolate, and organic cane sugar is the last ingredient, so the bars aren’t too sweet.

Pros: Basically everything I’m looking for in dark chocolate

Cons: I didn’t love the mint flavor as much as I thought I would, a little pricey

  •  Trader Joes Spiced Chai Tea

2014-04-15 16.33.07

 

I went to Trader Joes for the first time about a month ago, and while I’ve already finished off most of the things I’ve bought, I’ve still got plenty of pink sea salt and this chai tea left.

With the warm days we’ve been having lately, I decided to use these tea bags to make iced tea over the weekend. I cold-brewed them in a pitcher for 10 minutes or so, and then taste-tested. This tea has a great, complex spiced flavor but it isn’t too bold. It also pairs well mixed with a bit of stevia and some coconut-almond milk over ice.

Pros: budget friendly, good flavor

Cons: No TJs near me anymore so I can’t buy more 😦

  • Kevita Probiotic Drinks

2014-04-15 16.31.59

I still haven’t gotten on the kombucha train, but I loooooove Kevita! It’s a little fizzy, sweetened with stevia and comes in a bunch of tasty flavors (I’ve tried the lemon cayenne, strawberry acai coconut, mango coconut & mojita lime mint).

This stuff is about the same price as GT Kombucha (though generally cheaper at Sprouts and Whole Foods when on sale) and it boasts the same probiotic qualities. But there’s no weird aftertaste or floaties that come with some kombuchas. Plus it’s organic and made with reverse osmosis water. It’s almost like a light, refreshing soda but so much better for you and won’t make you all bloated like diet soda does.

My new favorite flavor is the lemon cayenne cleanse–it tastes like lemonade!

Pros: tasty, health benefits, lots of flavors

Cons: a bit expensive when not on sale

What new products have you tried lately? 

Meal Prep Monday

Remember my ‘vegan on a budget’ posts from last year and earlier this year? I was planning on bringing them back once school started back up in the fall but it’s been…3 months since school started and I haven’t done one of those posts yet. Oops. Anyways, it’s a little late to do them again now since I only have 4 more weeks left, including finals! Crazy talk.

I’ve still been keeping up with my grocery budgeting and meal prepping, though, and I wanted to showcase a little of that, especially because I did a LOT of it this weekend. I managed to spend under $70 total for the week at 3 different grocery stores, which is way better than I was doing last semester, and I’ve been loving my long weekends (I only have classes Monday through Thursday, so 3 days weekends every week for this girl…enjoying them while they last!) because they give me plenty of time to go shopping and get my food prep done for the week. Taking an almost full course load means that I don’t have a ton of time during the week to do this, so it’s a blessing to have 3 days to catch up on stuff, including prepping my meals.

Anyways, here’s what I’ve been up to in the kitchen lately!

Groceries

Sprouts and Natural Grocers mini-haul.

Sprouts and Natural Grocers mini-haul.

I wasn’t planning on going to Sprouts this weekend, but when my friend said she needed to swing by there for a few things, I decided to tag along. I ended up getting some cheap organic Pink Lady apples (my favorite kind), Ataulfo mangoes (also my favorite) and Medjool dates. All for under $10. Afterwards I stopped at Natural Grocers, mostly because they’re the only store in my area that carries black bean pasta, which is a new high-protein staple for me. Unfortunately, they were all out but I still ended up buying a few things I needed wanted, like my favorite Hail Merry miracle tart, xylitol-sweetened gum, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seed butter–for under $15.

Whole Foods produce...

Whole Foods produce…

...and pantry staples.

…and pantry staples.

Whole Foods is a given, but luckily it hasn’t been a budget breaker lately. I’ve been able to spend under $50 there consistently if I also shop at another store, and I only spend around $60 if that’s the only place I shop for the week. I can’t complain! This week I bought two more expensive items (the stevia-sweetened chocolate chips and Skinnycrisps) but the chocolate chips were on sale and the Skinnycrisps I hadn’t had in months and I wanted to bring them home to have over Thanksgiving break. I was planning on buying Tessemae’s BBQ sauce (sweetened only with dates!) so I could make this ‘pulled’ BBQ cauliflower but they were all out so I just had to nix that recipe for this week. As usual, I got a ton of produce (bananas, pomegranates and persimmons on sale, romaine hearts, lime, cilantro, Hannah yams) and some other things I needed for recipes like organic peanuts from the bulk section (on sale!), raisins and yeast. And of course, a few Larabars for quick snacks during the week. This was all just under $45, score!

Meals

Some of these things I made before I did my grocery shopping, so I was kinda using up some things and getting creative. I ran out of nut butter on Wednesday I think so that was fun trying to find other fat sources in my pantry. It was nice to finally restock and have more fruit and snack-y stuff again.

Raw protein bowl for breakfast on Saturday. Garden of Life RAW Marley coffee protein powder+coconut flour+almond milk base, topped with homemade raw coconut 'bacon', pomegranate seeds and a little chia ginger rawnola.

Raw protein bowl for breakfast on Saturday. Garden of Life RAW Marley coffee protein powder+coconut flour+almond milk base, topped with homemade raw coconut ‘bacon’, pomegranate seeds and a little chia ginger rawnola.

I already plowed through one of the Garden of Life protein powder tubs my dad bought me late last month and I’m onto the second. I definitely recommend this brand, especially their new coffee flavor (it’s only available at Whole Foods right now, though)–decent consistency, especially mixed with coconut flour, and great stats for a raw protein powder.

Lettuce wraps...for breakfast?

Lettuce wraps…for breakfast?

This was another recent breakfast, when I ran out of bananas so I couldn’t have my usual banana ‘softserve’, which is what I have like 90% of the time. Instead, I took some romaine hearts and filled them with dates, raisins and the last of my PB. The date/lettuce combo is seriously killer! I know it sounds weird, but it’s really good. I also had some Garden of Life protein powder mixed with almond milk on the side.

Salad with romaine, leftover black bean spaghetti, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and sauerkraut.

Salad with romaine, leftover black bean spaghetti, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds and sauerkraut.

Random black bean and kelp noodle bowl with cauliflower, sauerkraut and homemade pumpkin curry sauce.

Random black bean and kelp noodle bowl with cauliflower, sauerkraut and homemade pumpkin curry sauce.

Before my grocery trips this weekend, my lunches were getting pretty random. I was basically throwing together some leftovers, like the black bean noodles and pumpkin curry sauce, with some add-ins like pomegranate seeds and sauerkraut. These lunches were actually really tasty and filling–I just love the sweet and salty combos!

Oh She Glows' Thai veggie burger on top of spinach, topped with sunflower seed butter+aminos, peanuts, cilantro and mango. Side of roasted cauliflower.

Oh She Glows’ Thai sweet potato veggie burger on top of spinach, topped with sunflower seed butter+coconut aminos, peanuts, cilantro and mango. Side of roasted cauliflower.

Finally a more put-together meal! This was my take on Angela’s Thai-style veggie burger. I made a few changes to it though–I nixed the oats in favor of almond flour to make it grain free, I didn’t really measure anything, I only added in the spices/veggies that I had on hand like curry powder and cilantro and I topped mine with a sunflower seed butter sauce. These were pretty crumbly, but the flavor was spot-on and definitely the best homemade veggie burger I’ve ever had! I’m looking forward to leftovers all week..

Pomegranate seeds are well worth the work and the mess.

Pomegranate seeds are well worth the work and the mess.

Sometimes simple desserts are the best. Like these stevia-sweetened chocolate fruit & nut clusters.

Sometimes simple desserts are the best. Like these stevia-sweetened chocolate fruit & nut clusters.

As for the rest of meal prep, I cut up and stored the 2 organic pomegranates I scored at Whole Foods for just $2.50 (they were on sale 4 for $5)–always messy work but I’m obsessed with pomegranates so it’s all good–made another batch of homemade sweet potato fries out of one of the Hannah yams I bought, made some more PB&J bites and some healthy ‘rice krispies’ (cacao brown rice cereal made with coconut sugar+sunflower seed butter+1 tbsp maple syrup+1 scoop protein powder+some almond milk made into bars) to use up some brown rice cereal I had and I also made the chocolate-covered fruit and nut clusters above. It’s so simple it doesn’t even really need a recipe, and I have no idea where I came up with it, but it’s basically raw mixed nuts (mine were from Whole Foods) and raisins topped with the Lily’s stevia-sweetened dark chocolate chips and set in the freezer to harden. I used the stevia chocolate so these would be sugar free, but feel free to use whatever dark chocolate you have on hand. These are really good, and they’d be the perfect simple holiday dessert, maybe made more festive with dried cranberries instead of raisins and peppermint-flavored dark chocolate?

Do you like to do meal prep on the weekends? What are some of your recent favorite food finds?

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The Ashley Diet

I’ve never been one of those people who believes there’s one ‘perfect’ diet out there that works for everyone. I know I talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet a lot, but that’s because it works for ME, right now. If paleo works for you, or being a pescatarian, or omnivore or whatever, that’s great!

The one thing that bugs me, though, is when people really try to push their diet on other people. It happens a lot within the vegan community, I’ve noticed. The majority of people I follow on Instagram are vegans, especially LFRVs, and some of the commenters on their posts are super pushy about how not only how veganism is the only way to eat, but that you can only eat high carb raw vegan, or eat no added oils, etc. And then, of course, there’s pressure from the Internet as well, like how sugar is a toxin and how salt is bad for you (oh, wait, maybe it isn’t) and all of this conflicting advice can make your head spin.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to listen to all of that. What foods make YOU feel your best? You don’t have to eat to fit within a certain label or category if that doesn’t work for you. For example, I eat local raw honey. A lot of strict vegans shun other vegans who eat honey. According to my nutrition class, honey IS technically vegan because it’s not a product of animal metabolism (such as cow’s milk) but rather a waste product of bees. I classify myself as a vegan, to make it easier to describe how I eat, but eating honey probably makes me a plant-based eater, rather than vegan. I honestly don’t care, because I like honey, and I believe it’s a lot more nutritious than the common vegan alternative, agave.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

This bar has honey in it, but I still like it.

What else do I eat that other groups say is ‘bad’? I’m a big proponent of extra virgin coconut oil–after years of fearing the saturated fat in coconuts, I’ve finally seen the light and realized that coconut oil is one of the best oils to include in your diet. I also eat plenty of other plant-based fats, like nuts, seeds and avocados, that LFRVs would tell me is toxic and horrible for my digestion. Well, after eating a low fat diet for years in fear of fat of all kinds, I’m not going back to that way of eating again. Including a moderate amount of fats in my diet keeps me satiated, as well as keeping my skin and hair healthy. I use sea salt in moderation–I don’t generally buy many packaged foods, and those that are are fairly low in sodium anyway, so I don’t feel bad about adding salt to my homemade guacamole to amp up the flavor, along with spices. Some raw vegans completely eschew spices, even salt-free spices! I love my spices, and I think they can really add depth to a dish.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Roasted butternut squash and Hannah yam with plenty of spices.

Don’t even get me started on the topic of sugar. I do believe that processed sugar has no place in our diets, but if you like to enjoy sugary desserts on occasion, go for it! When I want to satisfy my sweet tooth, I stick with more natural sugars, like dates, maple syrup and stevia. I eat at least 3-4 servings of fruit per day and I’m a total fruit lover–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying fruit. I know most of the sugar I consume in a day comes through fruit but sometimes, a girl’s gotta have a Hail Merry raw tart sweetened with maple syrup–and that’s okay! Most of the ‘sweet’ food I consume is either naturally sweet (like fruit) or sweetened with stevia, so I definitely don’t feel bad when I choose to make a dessert with raw honey or maple syrup…or even when I indulge in a delicious vegan cupcake from a restaurant. The point is, consume sugar in moderation and choose more natural sources and you’ll be fine!

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

A chocolate peanut butter vegan cupcake from my favorite restaurant. This was naturally sweetened, but still amazing.

I also don’t feel the pressure to eat certain foods, or brands, unless I genuinely like them. For instance, I tried to get on the kabocha squash bandwagon…it just doesn’t do it for me! I much prefer butternut squash and yams, and that’s okay. I LOVE romaine lettuce and baby spinach and eat them daily, and I eat at least one banana a day (usually in the form of banana softserve) and I like pumpkin but I don’t put it in allthethings. I’ve never tried a Quest bar, and I don’t like oats and that’s okay! I have a slight obsession with Larabars and I go through dates and dried figs and raisins like it’s my job. I actually prefer kelp noodles to regular pasta, and I try to avoid wheat, but sometimes I just need a locally-sourced veggie-filled pizza from one of my favorite restaurants. I’m sketched out by kombucha and I include clean, plant-based protein powders (like Sunwarrior and Amazing Meal) in my regular food rotation even though they aren’t considered real food by lots of people.

I used to feel the need to fit in with bloggers, Instagrammers and the people around me in terms of what I ate. But now, I’ve finally found what works for me and I don’t really care what the newest food trend is. I eat the things that make me my healthiest and happiest, and I’ll let you eat what makes you happy and healthy. Don’t feel pressured to eat something just because so-and-so does, or to stop eating something because some article tells you it’s bad. Do your own research, figure out what works for you, and just eat. 

Do you conform to a certain diet or just eat what works for you? 

 

#hashtagdisordered

You wake up, make breakfast and sit down at the table, smartphone in hand and you start scrolling through your Instagram feed, checking out all the pretty nature snapshots and drool-worthy food pics. You start clicking on the usernames of people liking the photos of those you follow–why not find some new people to follow? But not everything you find is so great. There are a lot of headless ab shots with comments like “I wish I had your body girly!”, and Quest bars galore and hashtags like #carbsafterdark and #iifym. Suddenly, you’re rethinking the bowl of oats you made for breakfast and wondering if you should start pouring Walden Farms chocolate syrup on everything you eat.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn't real.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn’t real.

This is a situation I’ve personally encountered several times on Instagram, and sadly, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be ending any time soon. Instagram has become a new place for disordered habits to flourish, all under the guise of being ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ and ‘intuitive’. Many of the girls (and guys, too) who post these questionable pics are often recovering from an eating disorder, or are trying to hide disordered eating. Some of them may have lost a substantial amount of weight by eating healthy, but may have taken it too far and are now too small for their body type and are clinging to certain foods in fear of any weight gain. Some are trying hard to recover from anorexia, but are becoming orthorexic instead, or trying out ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ and still trying to maintain control over the food they eat. Many of them are probably way more insecure than they come across in their smiling pictures, and maybe scared too.

Other than some of the pictures themselves, one aspect of Instagram that bothers me is certain hashtags. One I’ve come across lately is #carbsafterdark. I suppose it’s meant to show people that said user isn’t afraid of carbs, but all it really shows is that they actually are and often don’t know what carbs are. For instance, I saw this hashtag on a photo of Arctic Zero, the popular low-calorie ice cream substitute. I read the nutrition facts of Arctic Zero, and it has exactly 7 grams of carbs per serving, 2 grams of which is fiber. Ummmm, not so high in carbs! When I think of carbs, I think of oats, cereal, bananas, dates–all healthy, just more carbs than a fake ice cream. Just to be clear, I think it’s GREAT to eat carbs after dark, just don’t claim to be doing so unless you’re actually eating a decent source of carbs. I eat #carbsafterdark pretty much every night, in the form of banana softserve, but I don’t go around bragging about it because I don’t fear carbs anymore (at least most of them) and I think that’s why a lot of people use this hashtag, because they do still fear carbs.

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I'm such a rebel...

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I’m such a rebel…

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but another thing that bugs me is when people claim to be eating ‘clean’ but post Quest bars, low carb tortillas (again with the carb fear!), Walden Farms and other fake shit. Listen, I’m not trying to be holier than thou, but clean eating to me means eating real foods. I’m not saying you can’t eat these things if you truly like them, but don’t call them clean. Some of these things are the furthest thing from actual food and you’d be way better off eating the real thing (like real maple syrup instead of sugar-free no-calorie pancake syrup). It all comes down to a fear of calories, fat and carbs that a lot of fitness IGers have. I know it’s hard to believe, but real sugar (in moderation, of course) won’t kill you. Especially more natural forms, like honey, dates, fruit, etc. You can eat those things and not gain a ton of weight! It’s all about balance.

The issue I have with all this is that a lot of young women, myself included, are really sensitive to these images. Even if there are good intentions behind the photo, that can get lost and make girls feel bad about themselves. For example, whenever I see super-ripped, 6 pack abs on Instagram (often on very young, thin girls still in high school), I wonder what I’m doing wrong because I don’t have defined abs. I still don’t have the most accurate body image, but I would consider myself pretty petite, and when women with abs are asked how they got their abs, they usually say “Abs are made in the kitchen” or “You have to eat clean!” I would also say that I eat fairly clean, maybe not as much protein as omnivores, but I eat very healthily so it bugs me that I’m not seeing the ab definition I crave. But here’s the catch: not everyone gets abs at the same weight as someone else. Some women can have ripped abs without much effort, while others struggle to get that definition, even at a low weight and body fat percentage. Everyone is different. So it’s dangerous to promote the message that if you get lean enough, or eat clean enough, you’ll magically look like the IG users you idolize. It just might not happen, and it might make you crazy unhealthy. It’s good to encourage healthy eating and fitness habits, but one thing doesn’t work for everyone, and one person’s body ideal may be unattainable to someone else.

My abs aren't perfect and I still wear bikinis.

My abs aren’t perfect and I still wear bikinis.

I want to point out that I’m not calling out anyone in particular. For the most part, the accounts I follow on Instagram are positive, promote a healthy body image and post delicious-looking and non-disordered food. As with everything though, we have to be aware that the content we post may be taken the wrong way by someone else. I know I may be a little too sensitive, and having struggled with an eating disorder, disordered eating and poor body image may have clouded my views on certain subjects, but it’s hard for me not to take these things personally when I still struggle with accepting the person I see in the mirror every day, and when I still deal with disordered eating. I think we all have to take responsibility for our own content, and also what we choose to view. Not everyone is going to be as responsible with what they post, but I think taking everything with a grain of salt and training ourselves to be less sensitive is the best step to take.

Do you ever see disordered content on Instagram? 

WIAW: New and Old

I’ve said it before, but I love trying new things. Sometimes too much, to the point that I shell out plenty of money for an interesting looking product, and while it usually turns out at least somewhat decent, sometimes it’s just too bad to eat. Like Incan berries, way too sour and bitter and hard…never again. But usually, trying new combinations turns out to be a successful experiment, and sometimes I even find new favorites. But you can’t deny the appeal of old favorites–they almost never disappoint!

Smoothie in a bowl for lunch. Spinach+peanut flour+chocolate Sunwarrior+1/4 avocado+shredded coconut+cacao nibs.

Smoothie in a bowl for lunch. Spinach+peanut flour+chocolate Sunwarrior+banana+1/4 avocado+shredded coconut+cacao nibs.

I’ve had green smoothies before, but never with avocado. I’ve heard how creamy smoothies get with added avocado so I figured I’d give it a try. I only used a little bit to make sure it didn’t taste too avocado-y and it was a great addition.

Grande unsweetened passion iced tea.

Grande unsweetened passion iced tea.

One of my favorite summer Starbucks ordered. My only complaint is that Starbucks doesn’t have stevia, but I usually just remember to bring my own.

Dinner: socca topped with homemade spicy guacamole and raw kimchi and southwestern kale chips, side of watermelon

Dinner: socca topped with homemade spicy guacamole and raw kimchi and southwestern kale chips, side of watermelon

Socca is a staple of mine, but I’ve usually eaten it in pizza or ‘omelette’ form. One night I was wanting guac but I didn’t have any corn tortillas so I decided to use socca as a protein-packed tortilla sub, and topped it with kimchi and kale chips too. Really random, but it was good enough to repeat a few days later.

Summery outfit. Dark grey crop top: American Eagle. Coral shorts: Hollister.

Summery outfit. Dark grey crop top: American Eagle. Coral shorts: Hollister.

It’s definitely been shorts weather around here. We don’t have A/C so my room is unbearable most days (it doesn’t help that it’s south-facing and upstairs) so even this outfit felt way too hot. But it’s perfect sunbathing weather.

New find in the frozen section at Whole Foods! GF and vegan chocolate chip walnut cookie.

New find in the frozen section at Whole Foods! GF and vegan chocolate chip walnut cookie.

I used to get the bakery-made vegan cookies from Whole Foods sometimes, but they were wheat-based and often gave me stomach issues. I was thrilled to find an option that was both gluten free AND vegan (harder to find than you’d think) and that is fairly clean and tastes delicious. The addition of almond extract really takes it over the top, and the texture is fantastic for being almond flour based.

Raw powerbowl. Chocolate sunwarrior 'pudding' topped with homemade cinnamon buckwheat rawnola, strawberries, cacao nibs, 1/2 banana bread Uber Larabar, coconut butter.

Raw powerbowl. Chocolate sunwarrior ‘pudding’ topped with homemade cinnamon buckwheat rawnola, strawberries, cacao nibs, 1/2 banana bread Uber Larabar, coconut butter.

I’ve been loving meals in a bowl lately. This was a mostly raw dessert-like snack that I threw together from the few things I have for snacks. I really need to make a Whole Foods trip ASAP to stock up on raw stuff!

Whole Foods salad bar box. Again. Never gets old.

Whole Foods salad bar box. Again. Never gets old.

‘nough said, but really, this never gets old. Oh, and I really don’t get these that much (maybe once every other week or once a week) but I feel the need to post them every time because I love the Whole Foods salad bar a LOT.

A vegan and GF take on the BLT. Buckwheat & almond flour pancake 'bread', spinach, tofu 'bacon' and raw Caesar dressing.

A vegan and GF take on the BLT. Buckwheat & almond flour pancake ‘bread’, spinach, tofu ‘bacon’ and raw Caesar dressing.

This was a totally random, this-sounds-good-I’ll-just-throw-it-together kind of dinner, but it was a real winner. I marinated the tofu in coconut aminos+liquid smoke+a little maple syrup and quickly pan fried it in coconut oil. I mixed together buckwheat and almond flours with flax and salt and water to make quick pancake ‘bread’ slices and whipped together a raw Caesar-like dressing from soaked cashews, half a nori sheet, nooch and spices. It came together pretty quickly and was repeat worthy.

Dessert: peanut flour microwave muffin topped with Justin's vanilla AB, raspberries and 1/3 GF vegan chocolate chip walnut cookie.

Dessert: peanut flour microwave muffin topped with Justin’s vanilla AB, raspberries and 1/3 GF vegan chocolate chip walnut cookie.

Another meal in a bowl. Having fresh raspberries again makes everything so much better. And splurging on Justin’s vanilla almond butter (sooooo good!) is making me want to put it on everything. Kind of a problem when it costs $8, but I’m going to try to make it last longer than 2 weeks.

What are some of your new and old favorites?

Cuckoo for Cacao

Ever wondered what’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? Up until about a year ago, I had only heard of and used cocoa powder but as I’ve gotten more into experimenting with raw foods, I learned about cacao and it’s many health benefits.

First, both products come from the cacao bean, grown in South American, and where we get chocolate from. Cocoa is usually ground up, sometimes dutch-processed and can include a bit of cacao butter in it to enhance the flavor. Cacao, on the other hand, is completely raw, sugar free and full of antioxidants.

When I used to use cocoa powder, I’d always buy the Hershey’s Special Dark variety, since it was fuller in flavor than the regular version. But it was made from a mix of dutched and naturals cocoas, so it wasn’t quite as unprocessed as it could be, plus it wasn’t raw.

I discovered truly raw cacao powder after I had started making raw desserts. I’m obviously not 100% raw, so often my raw desserts aren’t completely raw, but I figured that switching to raw cacao would be beneficial. And I ended up liking the taste more. It was richer, more complex and actually sweeter, despite having no added sugar. It worked just as well in raw recipes, so I decided to switch to just using that, despite the slightly higher price tag (and I also was having a hard time finding the dark cocoa powder), because it has more iron and antioxidants than plain cocoa.

Cacao nibs are also a favorite of mine. I love the Navitas Naturals brand (I get the cacao sweet nibs which are lightly sweetened with organic cane juice) because they’re fairly inexpensive and are a healthier alternative to dark chocolate chips. I eat them straight-up, in nut butter stuffed dates and use them in raw recipes.

If you need a chocolate or granola fix, but are looking for something that fits into your clean eating or raw diet, I’ve got the perfect option for you…Crunchy Cacao Buckwheat Rawnola. It’s easy to make (you don’t even need a dehydrator if you don’t own one), has only 4 simple and healthy ingredients and is perfect for those chocolate and cereal cravings. Buckwheat is another superfood, and is actually not related to wheat at all. It’s gluten free, and not really a grain but a seed (like quinoa) so it has a higher protein and fiber content than many other grains. 1/4 cup of raw buckwheat groats has 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, which makes it a great option for vegetarians and vegans who want to bump up their protein content. The best part about this rawnola is that it’s oil-free and only has a bit of added sugar in the form of maple syrup, which is a lot better than most granola brands on the market. And you make it yourself, so you get to control what goes in it. So you can definitely change up the flavor profile, but having the raw cacao powder in there means more antioxidants and who doesn’t love chocolate?

cacao buckwheat rawnola

Crunchy Cacao Buckwheat Rawnola (vegan, gluten free, grain free, raw)

1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked overnight 

1-2 tbsp raw cacao powder

1-2 tsp maple syrup (for raw option, use raw honey or agave)

stevia, to taste

Drain water off groats and dry with a towel. Place soaked groats in a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. The groats should be wet enough to soak in the cacao powder. Spoon cacao groats onto dehydrator trays (alternatively, you can put them in the oven on the lowest heat setting with the door open for a few hours) and let dehydrate at 115 degrees overnight, or at least 6 hours. Enjoy the rawnola with almond milk, over fruit or just plain. Makes 2 servings. 

What is your favorite ‘superfood’? Have you ever made granola with something other than oats?

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Friday #44 and Raw Food Thursdays.