WIAW: Raw Til 6

One of my resolutions for this year, and also one of my goals last summer¬†was to eat more raw. I love so many raw foods, and I prefer most of my produce raw too, but there are some cooked things I still love and don’t really want to give them up just yet. Maybe someday I’ll be fully raw but for now, I’m trying the popular Raw Til 4 plan, where you basically eat all raw until dinner time. Since I eat my afternoon snack around 4, I’m changing the name to Raw Til 6 to fit my schedule better ūüėČ

Basically how I’m going about it is eating all raw until dinner, and then for dinner/dessert I’ll eat something cooked or something that’s not necessarily raw if I’m feeling like it. See, I love my roasted sweet potatoes/peanut flour/grain free pizza¬†and since I usually eat these for dinner, it makes sense to keep them in my food rotation. My other meals will stay pretty similar to how they are now —> breakfast will be Sunwarrior/Garden of Life raw protein or chia seed pudding or a green smoothie or raw flax cakes, lunch will be a salad or lettuce wraps or a protein smoothie made with raw protein powder, and my snacks will be banana softserve or snackplates with plenty of fresh produce or homemade raw desserts. What I won’t be doing is restricting my fats or carbs. I personally don’t believe that 80/10/10 is the most balanced way to eat (I love my fruit but I can’t survive on just carbs) and I don’t want to go raw gourmet either because I don’t want to rely so heavily on nuts and avocados for every meal. Instead, I’ll be sticking pretty close to my normal macros (45% carbs, 25% protein, 30% fat) and just incorporating more raw foods. I’m also planning on making plenty of raw dinners as well because I’ve been bookmarking a TON of amazing-looking raw entrees and I’m really excited to try them out. I’m also going to start sprouting legumes and making my own almond milk and I can’t wait to try all these new things!

Enough of the wordiness, let’s get to the food. I’ve also got 2 recipes for you today, and another one linked up from my other blog, so I’m going pretty recipe-crazy over here!

Homemade [cheaters] almond milk.

Homemade [cheaters] almond milk.

I’ve been meaning to start doing this for a loooooong time, since there have been a lot of posts and articles out there lately discussing the potential harmful effects of carrageenan and other things added to packaged almond milk. It’s easier than you’d think to whip up your own almond milk at home, especially when you take the cheater’s route like I did. I had some fresh ground raw almond butter on hand and within a few seconds of blending with water, I had homemade almond milk, raw and completely free of unnecessary ingredients!

3 Ingredient 3 Second Almond Milk (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 1 tbsp raw almond butter
  • 4 cups water (can use filtered, or just plain tap water)
  • pinch stevia extract (optional)

In a large food processor or blender (I used my Ninja processor), add all the ingredients and blend or pulse for a few seconds or until it turns white-ish and creamy. Makes 4 1-cup servings. 

Superbowl snacks, gone raw.

Superbowl snacks, gone raw.

By now, we all know the outcome of the Superbowl. Even though I’m a fan of the Denver Broncos, being raised in Colorado, I’m not a diehard fan by any means and I honestly didn’t even watch the game so I’m not really upset by their loss. Besides, the Superbowl is just an excuse for snacks, am I right? This year, I made my raw jalapeno poppers¬†(if you haven’t made them and love spicy things, I suggest you do!) and I had one alongside some raw cauliflower, local salsa, spicy guac made fresh at my Whole Foods, spicy sprouted sunflower seeds and a dried fig. This was the perfect snack plate for a spicy food lover like me and I didn’t even care who won the game!

A typical raw breakfast.

A typical raw breakfast.

My breakfasts have been pretty simple lately, though I’m planning on trying some new things soon. I’ve mostly been making raw protein puddings–Sunwarrior or Garden of Life raw protein powder mixed with water/homemade almond milk and sometimes raw coconut flour to thicken, and topped with pomegranate and raw nuts or seeds. It covers all the macros, tastes great and is beyond easy to whip up in just a minute.

Protein chia pudding topped with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Protein chia pudding topped with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Protein-packed chia puddings have been happening for breakfasts and snacks, too. I forgot how much I adore the thick and creamy texture that chia seeds make when they gel up. Honestly, I could eat these all day but it really is all about the toppings and mix ins. The one above was Garden of Life RAW Marley coffee protein powder+homemade almond milk+1/2 tbsp chia seeds and topped in the morning with pom seeds and raw mixed nuts.

Sunwarrior vanilla+frozen cherries+homemade almond milk+baby kale+coconut flour smoothie, with a side of raisins and raw mixed nuts.

Sunwarrior vanilla+frozen cherries+homemade almond milk+baby kale+coconut flour smoothie, with a side of raisins and raw mixed nuts.

Lunches have been a little bit less predictable. On Monday I had a green protein smoothie with some raw trail mix (just raisins & raw nuts) on the side. Really quick and easy to make and pretty filling, too. I love how eating raw makes food prep so much easier. Sure, I’ve been using my dehydrator and food processor a lot but it’s so hands-off and meals come together so quickly.

BLA lettuce wraps and pineapple. Romaine hearts+homemade coconut 'bacon' and Whole Foods fresh guacamole.

BLA lettuce wraps and pineapple. Romaine hearts+homemade coconut ‘bacon’ and Whole Foods fresh guacamole.

Tuesday’s lunch was a little more creative. I made a batch of raw coconut ‘bacon’ in the morning and since I’m basically addicted to it, I decided to incorporate it into my lunch in a creative way. Enter the BLA wraps. The BLA is a spin on the classic BLT, only without the tomato…and avocado in its place. This raw version was incredibly good and I miiiiight have it for lunch again today.

Homemade raw banana protein bars.

Homemade raw banana protein bars.

Going mostly raw has made me more creative in the kitchen! I love that I have so much time to experiment with recipes right now (truth time–I’m still itching to get my first post-grad job!) and I’ve been making a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t normally if I was still eating mostly cooked foods. Like these raw protein bars. I’ve stopped buying Larabars for the time being to save some money and also so I can try making my own raw bars. These are NOT the same consistency as Larabars but I still love ’em…and who says being raw means no protein? I’ve actually been keeping my protein levels up (about 25-30% of my daily macros) during this raw challenge with raw protein powders/nuts/seeds and I’m planning on sprouting lentils soon so stay tuned for that!

Raw Banana Bread Protein Bars (vegan, raw, gluten free, grain free, no added sugar)

  • 2 ripe bananas (best when spotty)
  • 2 scoops Garden of Life RAW protein powder (or any raw plant-based protein powder)
  • 3 tbsp raw coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

In a food processor or high-powered blender, pulse bananas until smooth and liquefied. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Divide into 6 large balls and flatten into bar shapes. Makes 6 bars, ~100 calories and 8 grams protein per bar.

Zucchini pasta and raw pumpkin seed pesto for dinner.

Zucchini pasta and raw pumpkin seed pesto for dinner.

So far, my dinners have been raw because that’s what I’ve been craving, even though it’s been snowing here and below freezing! I’ve been making raw pastas with zucchini, carrots and kelp noodles and tossing them in a nut or seed based sauce, pairing it with fruit and calling it dinner. Raw dinners are the simplest things ever, but I’m learning to appreciate simplicity!

Do you prefer homemade or store-bought when it comes to bars? Do you like your produce cooked or raw? 

My Thoughts on Figure Competitions

Disclaimer: I have never personally been involved in a figure competition. All opinions stated are my own, based on research I’ve done.

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of bloggers talking about figure competitions, especially lately with the focus on “Strong not skinny”. For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with the previous statement…after all, you can be strong¬†and¬†skinny, and for some, it is extremely hard for them to not be skinny, and we should all embrace our natural body shape to a certain extent. The point is, figure competition is becoming extremely popular and though I have never competed in it myself, I’ve become quite fascinated with the sport.

Let’s be clear, though. The main reason I like figure competitions is because you get to show off your leanness in some crazy, blingy, fun bikini. If I’m being totally honest, I love the idea of being uber-lean, fit and tanned. But for me, I know figure competition could become an issue for me, simply because of my past (and somewhat current) history with disordered eating and body image.

So sexy!

So sexy!

I don’t think every figure competitor has an eating disorder, or even disordered eating. There are plenty of bloggers out their with normal relationships with food and their body, and I commend them for that. But I have a couple issues with the other ones, the ones who are clearly disordered, or who are becoming restrictive, or have changed their eating styles drastically in order to get into competition shape.

I’m not here to call out any bloggers in particular, just to voice my concern about some alarming trends in general. First, the restrictive habits. I get that figure competitions require a LOT of dedication and self-control, and I really admire those who have both. But there’s a difference between self-control and restriction. One example of this is shunning most carbs, especially close to competition day. The science behind it makes sense, but it certainly isn’t healthy in the long run. Carbs are our primary source of fuel, and whether you choose to consume them through whole grains or through fruits and starchy veggies is up to you, but the obsession with protein at the expense of healthy carbs is NOT okay. Even if you’re eating more paleo, you can still carb up with fruit and squashes. So many people fear carbs today, and it makes me so sad. I know I’m being a bit of a hypocrite here because I still fear carbs somewhat (particularly grains) but I know that carbs are important and beneficial and healthy in the right amounts. Basically, if I had to skip all fruit for weeks to be in a figure competition, I would die. There’s a carb source out there for everyone–don’t skip out or skimp on them, especially if you workout!

Apples are NOT "bad" carbs!

Apples are NOT “bad” carbs!

The second thing that bothers me is that a lot of bloggers drastically switch up their eating habits to fit with a competition diet. What I’m referring to is a formerly plant-based (or mostly plant-based) eater suddenly adding in animal foods (usually whey protein, fish and eggs) so they can eat more protein. I think by now we all know that you can easily consume enough protein on a vegan diet, as long as you’re mindful of what you’re eating. Plenty of whole, plant-based foods are absolutely packed with protein, and if you feel like you aren’t getting enough, there are lots of clean protein powders and supplements out there to help you out. I want to be clear, though–I don’t think veganism is necessarily for everyone, but it makes me mad when a formerly-vegan blogger suddenly adds animal products into their diet all in the name of protein. I understand that protein is vital in fueling growing muscles, but you can get plenty of protein to do this on a vegan diet. I firmly believe that vegan figure competitors can perform just as well as those eating animals–just check out these amazing women!¬†However, so many people turn to animal sources of protein, and forget the health benefits they may have seen while eating vegan or vegetarian. I’m not saying it’s bad or wrong to be an omnivore, just that those who are currently eating plant-based and considering going into figure competition should at least try to keep up their current eating habits. If anything, you can prove to others that you can be a fit vegan!

Amanda Rister, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

Amanda Riester, a gorgeous and super-fit vegan figure competitor.

I think that figure competitions can be a fun way to challenge yourself, test your limits and try something new, but it can be an unhealthy thing that can make your body and mind quite disordered. As with all things, you should really consider if figure competitions are right for you at this time in your life and if so, what steps you’ll take to ensure you can maintain a healthy lifestyle while training for a competition and post-comp. As for me, figure competitions are something I may want to do in the future, once I have a healthier mindset surrounding food and my body, and I’d love nothing more than to enter as a vegan competitor to show that it is possible to be fit and healthy and beautiful on a plant-based diet!

How do you feel about figure competitions? 

WIAW: Life Lately

I kinda missed being a part of the WIAW party last week, so this week I’ll be doing a big photo dump showing my life lately. Get ready for lots of pictures!

Woke up to this last Monday and wasn't thrilled.

Woke up to this last Monday and wasn’t thrilled.

No, you’re not seeing things. This was over a foot of snow…in April. My college town got dumped on quite literally over the course of 3 days last week by winter storm Yogi. While Colorado usually gets some snow in April, we don’t usually get this much, ever! And my college is known for never giving snow days, but we got 2 half snow days last week and it kinda made my life. I had to take the bus for most of the week when classes were in session, but I’m hoping I’ll be back to driving my car to campus for the rest of the semester.

One of my favorite 'bucks drinks: tall unsweetened iced coffee, sweetened with stevia.

One of my favorite ‘bucks drinks: tall unsweetened iced coffee, sweetened with stevia.

This was consumed well before the snowstorm, when it actually was feeling like spring. I actually prefer the cold drinks to the hot drinks anyway, because I tend to get overheated too quickly with hot coffee. So I’m really glad we’re getting into summer when it’s more acceptable to sip on iced coffees and iced teas.

Recent lunch: spinach topped with green olives, raw jalapeno kraut, sprouted pumpkin seeds and white bean 'falafel'.

Recent lunch: spinach topped with green olives, raw jalapeno kraut, sprouted pumpkin seeds and white bean ‘falafel’.

Again with the salad-a-day. I’ve been going more for nori ‘burritos’ for lunch but sometimes a nice spinach salad hits the spot. Ironically, this was eaten on one of the snow days! Obviously I’m still craving summer when there’s snow on the ground. What can I say, summer is my favorite season by far.

Mini raw cinnamon rolls.

Mini raw cinnamon rolls.

I still haven’t been able to find a great vegan and GF baked cinnamon roll recipe, but the raw versions I’ve made are pretty good. This one was made with almond flour, flaxseed, raw honey, dates, raisins, coconut oil and cinnamon (duh). They turned out to be pretty tiny rolls, but the filling was ridic. So gooey…I love dates like no other!

Grilled asparagus salad.

Grilled asparagus salad.

I can’t wait til I’m home for the summer and can hit up the amazing salad bar at the Whole Foods near me, but for the next month, I’ll be slumming it at the lame salad bar at the WF in my college town. Ok, just kidding, it has a pretty lame selection but I’ve been saving money and not buying anything from there too often since it’s usually disappointing. But some of the cold salads in the prepackaged area are actually decent, like this grilled asparagus salad. The ingredients are pretty clean, and the veggies taste bomb when drizzled with some balsamic. I think these would be perfect for a veggie wrap with some hummus or guac.

Qdoba naked veggie salad with black beans, habanero salsa and tons of guac.

Qdoba naked veggie salad with black beans, habanero salsa and tons of guac.

Speaking of guac, Qdoba has some of the best. I love that they always give me a huge scoop of it, so I don’t even care that it costs extra. I pretty much get the same thing every time I go: the naked vegetarian taco salad with black beans, habanero salsa (I like things spiiiiiicy) and the guac. So simple, but so perfect.

Dessert-ish for breakfast: chocolate coconut protein 'ice cream' topped with Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips and coconut chips.

Dessert-ish for breakfast: chocolate coconut protein ‘ice cream’ topped with Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips and coconut chips.

I always get stuck in ruts with my breakfasts. I used to love overnight oats, then I moved to smoothies-in-a-bowl, then pancakes, then waffles and most recently chia seed puddings. Now I’m returning to the smoothie thing, but more like the protein ‘ice cream’ I’ve seen around the blog world a lot. Basically, I blended almond milk with Sunwarrior protein powder, some melted coconut oil (not needed, just for extra flavor and a fat boost), and then added a few ice cubes and some xanthan gum. It turned out thick, creamy and icy, almost like actual ice cream!

More snow this week=not a happy camper.

More snow this week=not a happy camper.

As if a foot of snow wasn’t enough, just by the time it all melted on Sunday, we got hit with another quick round of snow. This time we got about half the amount and it started to melt really quickly, but still. This is yet another reason why I really want to leave Colorado after college–I need warmth! (Just as an aside, Colorado generally¬†isn’t¬†this snowy, it’s a pretty dry state but we’ve had a weird spring this year).

Southwestern style nachos for dinner. Sprouted sweet potato tortilla chips, leftover sweet potato, green olives, white beans, sprouted pumpkin seeds and raw jalapeno kraut.

Southwestern style nachos for dinner. Sprouted sweet potato tortilla chips, leftover sweet potato, green olives, homemade guac, white beans, baby spinach, sprouted pumpkin seeds and raw jalapeno kraut.

I gotta say, homemade nachos are one of my favorite throw-together dinners ever. And nachos don’t have to be unhealthy! I always top mine with sauteed kale or spinach and other veggies, have plenty of beans for protein and healthy fats (seeds and guac) and use the Way Better Snacks brand of chips since they’re made from simple ingredients and sprouted grains and seeds. I also had a different twist on nachos last week with some Greek style nachos…those are a definite repeat, once I stock up on more Skinny Crisps crackers. They remind me a lot of pita chips but they’re grain free!

Nori wraps are a new lunch must-have.

Nori wraps are a new lunch must-have.

I’ve still been enjoying my salads for lunch, but I love mixing it up with nori wraps. I usually stuff ’em with kelp noodles, spinach, raw kraut or kimchi, mango or pineapple, coconut aminos and raw cashew butter. I wish they were more portable though since they make a great quick lunch option.

Random dessert: half of a cinnamon apple ALT Larabar, no sugar added vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

Random dessert: half of a cinnamon apple ALT Larabar, no sugar added vanilla coconut milk ice cream.

If you’ve never warmed a Larabar, plllllllease do! It’s so good, especially with the chocolate chip flavors ’cause then they get all melty. Warming the cinnamon apple ALT bar made it taste like apple pie, and of course I had to have it a la mode, with my favorite ice cream.

Have you discovered any unexpectedly good flavor combos lately? How’s the weather where you are?¬†

“But Where Do You Get Your Protein?” (Garden of Life Review)

If you are or have ever been a plant-based eater, you’ll know that the protein question is all too common…and annoying! Many omnivores believe that the only sources of protein are found in animals, and vegans especially are scrutinized for the presumed lack of protein in their diet. My parents, though both omnis, are luckily very open to my veganism (they’ve even tried and loved some vegan dishes) and don’t question my protein content, but I know that I’ve been making more of a conscious effort over the past year to increase my protein consumption without turning to animal-based sources.

When I first started AlmostVegGirlie, I was mostly vegetarian but had never heard of tempeh or peanut flour. As I transitioned into a vegan diet, I eschewed shrimp and Greek yogurt, only to find myself lacking in the protein department. A year ago, I was only getting about 15% of my calories from protein on a daily basis–I know some sources say you only need roughly 10-20% from protein, but I wasn’t feeling as energetic as I knew I could be. So I started incorporating more protein sources: sprouted tofu, nutritional yeast (2 tbsp has 8 grams of protein!), nuts/seeds, tempeh, peanut flour and plant-based protein powders all entered my rotation of food within the last year.

One of my favorite (secret) sources of protein--a 1 ounce serving has 9 grams of protein!

One of my favorite (secret) sources of protein–a 1 ounce serving has 9 grams of protein!

Now, I try to include a source of protein with every meal and snack, and I’m getting between 25 and 30% of my calories from protein–what a difference! I feel like I’m¬†benefiting¬†more from my workouts and I tend to feel less hungry when I get enough protein (though increasing my healthy fats in the last few months has helped too). I’m strongly considering starting a strength training routine soon and I know that having more protein will be beneficial for that.

So what does all this protein talk have to do with a review? Well, about a month ago the lovely people at Garden of Life¬†sent me some samples to review. I’ve mentioned my love of their protein powders before and I’m so glad I discovered them because they’re my favorite plant-based protein powder.

What I love about Garden of Life is that their protein powders are made from sprouted protein sources including quinoa, lentil, flax and chia seeds (instead of the usual soy-based powders), they’re sweetened only with stevia and they are a source of raw probiotics from chlorella. But the best part is, they don’t taste plant-y at all! The flavors are true to life and not overpowered by sweetness.

I was sent the RAW vanilla and RAW chocolate flavors to try. I had bought and tried the chocolate before myself so I knew I’d love it but it was nice that they sent individual serving size packets which are perfect for taking on-the-go. I had never tried the vanilla before but I was excited to see if it was better than other vanilla protein powders I’d tried. Usually, vanilla powders are hit or miss–some are delicious and not too sweet but others just taste fake. Garden of Life’s vanilla was very clean and a little bit ‘green’ tasting but I liked it. The consistency was great for making protein frosting and it works well in baked goods.

Chocolate peppermint buckwheat waffle with Garden of Life RAW chocolate protein frosting.

Chocolate peppermint buckwheat waffle with Garden of Life RAW chocolate protein frosting.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Garden of Life RAW protein powders. They’re well-priced (you can get them for $28 on iHerb, $25 on Amazon and Whole Foods has them for about $30 but they usually have a $5 off coupon for them in their monthly flyer), taste great, are made from plant-based clean ingredients and have great stats (90 calories, 17 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar per scoop). I would recommend any of the flavors, but if you have a Whole Foods near you, be sure to check out the store’s exclusive vanilla chai flavor–it’s my favorite!

Disclaimer: I was given this product to review by Garden of Life. All opinions are my own. 

Have you ever tried Garden of Life protein powder? Do you prefer chocolate, vanilla or other flavors of protein powder?