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A year ago, I said I would never run more than a 10K. In fact, I said I would probably never run a 10K again. My story of how I got here fully expresses how proper training and diet wins. Every. Single. Time. The human body is amazing. This is my story of getting from the beginning of my running experience – where running made me feel sick – to finishing my first half marathon feeling great 😀

12 weeks out:

I registered for the race and began the Hal Higdon’s “Novice 1” Half Marathon Training plan. My runner friends gave me advice throughout this process and I cannot thank them enough. The most important piece I retained was to never skimp on long runs. They are the most important in conditioning yourself for the endurance you will sustain. Since the race was in my hometown, my hospital offered a 50% off discount for employees – making it that much more worthwhile.

The training process:

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blisters? Keep going. 😉

The runs themselves continued getting easier, but were never easy. My training plan started out with 2 miles 2x/week then 4 mile long run on Sunday. That occured for 2 consecutive weeks, then the following week, add half a mile, and a mile to the long run (again for two weeks). I did this with a combination of 2 days of cross train/week and 2 rest days/week. Each week, the mileage was increasing – where I was reaching 7, 8, 9, and closed it off with 10 before the race. I stuck to the plan as closely as I could keeping in mind taking more rest days if necessary. One thing I can pride myself on is listening to my body and not exerting it. If I needed an extra rest day, I’d take one.

My crosses were either gentle rounds of tennis, or cycling. From my understanding, the purpose of cross training is to keep the heart rate up while giving your body a break from the repetitive physical nature of running.

I loved this training plan and I think it was the perfect starting point for myself as an extremely novice runner. In fact, it is formulated for newbies like myself. The next half I run, I plan on doing the novice II plan.

I tried to run in either the morning, before it got too hot & humid, or in the late afternoon/evening, knowing full-well that I do not tolerate heat well. As a whole, this worked well. The only aspect I think I would’ve changed is being able to run in the morning more often, when races are held, but it is difficult when you’re a student, an intern, and you work. 😀

Throughout this training process, I discovered what to eat, when to eat, and experimented with different foods. For me, and knowing full-well that every human body is different, it was a process. Before most of my runs, I simply ate a package of fruit snacks. Yes, they’re highly processed, have a ton of corn syrup, and have slim to none in terms of nutritional benefits. However, because they are simply sugar, they make for quick energy that is readily available for the body and doesn’t usually upset the stomach. After my long runs were starting to get longer, I tried Bolt energy chews – much better ingredients, maltodextrin, green tea extract (a small caffeine boost). They consistently worked for me and I would recommend them to other athletes both personally and professionally. After getting down to the end, on my 8, 9, and 10 mile runs, I tried Clif’s “shot” energy gels after mile 6 consistenly. These easily dissolve in your mouth and realistically, do not require any chewing – making it easy to “eat” mid-run.

As a whole, I tried keeping my diet as “clean” as possible, especially throughout the month of September leading up to the race. This included avoiding alcohol, fried foods, pizza, and eating less dairy. I consumed a lot of carbs – bagels, bread, rice, and starchy vegetables as well as lean protein (chicken, fish, beans), and plenty of other vegetables. I usually ran 2 hours after eating a full meal and tolerated this well.

Two Days Before:

I ate a lower-fiber, higher carbohydrate diet consisting of a lot of white grains, less vegetables (and thoroughly cooked vegetables). Fiber is crucial to a balanced diet, as it adds roughage to the GI tract, ferments in the large intestine, and helps maintain a balance in the digestive tract. But if you are preparing for a race, especially with a sensitive stomach (like myself), reducing fiber can help TONS. Because that fermentation of the high fibrous foods takes more than 24 hours to digest, which can lead to GI upset and cramping. I had experienced both of these two things throughout my training process, so low fiber leading up to the race worked well for me.

I also upped my water intake as well and started adding Nuun electrolyte tablets to 16 oz of water. I rotated between water and electrolyte water. I also had plain black coffee (obviously).

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my roommate, Kai, the black lab mix, joined me for my last taper 😀

The Day Before:

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I drank 64 oz of water with 32 additional ounces of electrolytes + water. I ran one mile, and my roommate made roasted potatoes and white pasta. Nothing has ever tasted so good. I went to bed at 10 pm and slept through the night.

 

The Race:

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It was 29 degrees F. I woke at 6:00, drank 16 oz of water + electrolytes along with a tortilla with peanut butter. I also ate a pack of Bolt energy chews. I met up with my coworkers who were also running, and we made our way to the start.

I got to run with Alex & Matt until about mile 4, where they turned off to finish the 10K. After that point, I do not remember much. The neighborhoods were familiar, the streets I’ve driven on my entire life, but it is difficult to describe the thoughts and scenes you recall in those moments.

Reaching mile 7 was approaching a large incline on the Greenway of Grand Forks; I knew it was the turning point of the race, meaning more had been ran than there was left to run. Approaching mile 8, I slowly finished an energy gel and kept going.

At mile 9, I wished I had gone to the bathroom before the race started. Pausing my watch, I used the bathroom and got back on track. This set my time back more than I had planned for, but all I can attribute to this is knowing for the future. Oh well. What did I learn? Always use the bathroom prior to starting a race. Even if you think you it’s nervous energy causing the urge. Just go. 🙂

Approaching mile 12, the very last full mile of the race, was perhaps the most difficult part of the entire race. Not even because it was the last, not because I was gassed, not even that I had never ran this distance before. I had trained, I was conditioned, I was ready for this!! It was however, the ever-so-slightly above freezing temperature, the wind chill, running south against a northern wind. I cranked up my music, (I believe Make Me Proud by Drake), and pictured my dad at the end waiting for me. Finally coming within sight of the finish was relieving, yet so far away.

Again, it is hard to recall the rest of what occured. I have never felt so relieved, energized, and proud. Seeing my Dad’s face at the end made me so happy. I was congratulated (and wished a Happy Birthday) from a large group of my ER coworkers volunteering as medics at the end – it made it so much better.

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ER nurses & paramedics volunteering as medics – and greeting me at the end of the race 🙂

The Next Few Days:

The day following the race, my quads and hip flexors were incredibly sore as predicted. But alongside the physical symptoms after having just ran 13.1 miles for the first time, I felt so many emotions. Is post-run depressions something real? In short, I felt like I needed to go for a run; what I had been doing for the past 12 weeks in training. It is difficult to come down from such a high after completing such a self-fulfilling feat. I laid low and took it easy that day which was exactly what I needed.

The Monday following, my friend and I signed up for another half. But do not worry. It isn’t until June. 😀 The only reason we registered so early is it fills up within the first few minutes!!

What’s next?

Technically speaking, now that I am scheduled to run another race, I have an extra drive to stay in “running” shape. This is greatly hindered however, due to the weather in North Dakota. I still plan on running 3 miles (indoors) a few times a week along with strength training, and cross training through playing tennis and cycling. I also would love to incorporate more yoga into my fitness routine for mobility and strength.

A Special Thank You:

With everything I have accomplished so far (I am extremely blessed), I have realized how much support it takes to get to each these milestones. My parents, simply believing in me with each of these feats, and my Dad specifically waiting for me at the finish line of this race. My friends: Koryn, for making me dinner the night before, encouraging me throughout the process. Shelby, biking alongside my Sunday long runs (in the bitterly cold sometimes), Jenna, for giving me advice & encouragement throughout the process, Rachel, for your perspective and your experience. And everyone else along the way – your advice and positivity has helped me get to where I am now!


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A year ago, I said I would never run more than a 10K, and here I am. I ran a half marathon on my 23rd birthday – and this is not the end!

Thanks for reading and following along with my journey!

xx,

M

 

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This summer provided me with plenty of opportunities both professionally and personally. These are the words behind my summer.

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  1. Diabetes.

The theme of my summer. My wonderful preceptor is a Certified Diabetes Educator and was gracious enough to ensure I learned from her. Diet. Medications. Carbohydrates. Being immersed in such a specialized area of practice will hopefully help me later on in my education. And with that, 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal, and take 500 mg Metformin with meals 2x/day if you’re first diagnosed. Ok, it’s not THAT simple. 😉

The largest contributor to the success of my internship was my preceptor. She is an amazing human being. She is working her “dream job” in this field, has ran marathons, and went back to school in her 60s. I absolutely adore her and aspire to be the kind of professional she is.

Another HUGE portion that I was fortunate enough to gain from this internship was cultural competency. The majority of patients we served were from all different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Through this, I was able to learn about dietary patterns, foods, and a lot of food words in other languages. Culture is so important to consider when treating our patients. There is nothing like direct immersion in the field.

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2.  Vehicles.

With living in a different city this summer, I quickly learned that my car, granted to me at 16, was aging and wasn’t going to make the biweekly commute. My first car, (given the nickname Black Beauty, like the horse), was sold to another 16 year old girl this summer. And for me? I am now making my first car payments – ever. But it wasn’t that easy or simple.

My parents were kind enough to let me take their cars for my 70-mile commutes in the meantime. And parking my dad’s pickup at the downtown clinic I interned at wasn’t exactly the easiest or comfortable experience. I am that much more grateful for a nice, and reliable vehicle. I pray that my new car will hopefully last me for years upon years.

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3. Scrubs.

My friend and coworker has been nagging me for well over a year to watch the show Scrubs. I had a million excuses, but I finally caved. I am hooked. Part of it is how much Elliot reminds me of someone I know very well… 😀 Regardless, this show is part of how I wind down at night and I love it. PS, did you know Scrubs is ‘supposedly’ one of the most medically accurate TV shows?

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4. Balance.

Maybe not what you’re thinking. My weekdays were full of clinic patients doing health education (primarily diet), and my weekends were full of acute, fast-paced emergency room patients. The environments were polar opposites. And I didn’t really stop. Scrubs and tennis shoes then dresses and jewelry. STEMIs and strokes, then DASH diets. I was a machine this summer. This helped me to realize that in my professional life, I will seek a similar variety with the call, the emergency room, the high-acuity events, but ALSO, the education, and preventative aspect in the clinic. I cannot believe this was summer #5 in the ED!

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5. Beer.

The girl who has always hated on beer is also the girl who was open to try it. Yet still never liked it. Until this summer. I discovered I am a fan of ales – especially ones with citrus. If you have any recommendations, send them my way! I’m open to try any!

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6. Chipotle.

Nope, my hometown/college town does not have a Chipotle, believe it or not. The city I interned it, you better believe it did. This is my favorite quick food option. Brown rice, sofritas, black beans, extra lettuce, corn salsa, cheese, and……… GUAC. Until we are in the same city again, Chipotle. ❤

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7.  Soulmate.

I was so fortunate to be able to live with a friend from elementary school this summer. Bailey just graduated with her bachelor’s in dietetics, so you can imagine our in-depth discussions. We lifted heavy together, made dinner together, and ventured on the walking trails of the city. But beyond that, Bailey gave me a piece of mind among the chaos. She reminded me the importance of sleeping enough, allowing myself to take breaks, and overall, taking care of myself. She is a beautiful human being. We were destined to be friends. Bailey, I cannot thank you enough for making my summer the best way it could’ve been.

 

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8. Road trip!

I got to visit one of my best friends from college in Duluth, MN for a long weekend (with my now reliable vehicle). We hiked in Gooseberry and ate really well. Jenna is now done with her first week of pharmacy school. You go girl. ❤


The best growth I have experienced this summer were the things that were at first, out of my comfort zone. I had never lived in a different city, and I had never gotten to see MY OWN patients. Everything has flown by per usual, but looking back, despite all the work and time spent progressing I am so satisfied, and so happy. Here’s to the start my second week of my 5th year of undergrad! 😉

Thanks for reading!

xx,

M

 

 

 

 

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The emergency department doesn’t sleep, and quite frankly, my sleep schedule is consistent with the hours of my ED shifts. I work all of them. Day, evening, swing, unit clerk, tech, sitter, triage, 8s, 12s, 16s, and now, the occasional…night shift. And that’s the thing. I usually don’t work a stretch of nights. I’ve worked 1-2 in a row at most and transitioned back to normal, but not necessarily with ease!

In fact, I hadn’t pulled an all-nighter ONCE in my life until I worked my first night shift last summer… I was always the kid at sleepovers who wanted to go to bed before midnight. If I’m being honest, I dreaded this moment – the one where I had to work while the rest of the world sleeps. I didn’t want to mess with my sleep schedule, I didn’t know what to expect or how things are run, and I had a lot of anxiety about it.

But surprisingly enough, the girl who was dreading nights ended up enjoying night shift – would maybe go as far to say preferring it!! Much of my anxiety with these stemmed from not knowing what to expect. When will I take my break? How busy is it during the night? What if I get too tired to function? From someone who had no idea what they were doing, or what to expect, here’s how I can ease YOUR way into nights – all the things I wish I had been told.


BEFORE night shift:

  1. Shower & brush your teeth.

For no other reasons besides the fact that a shower wakes you up, makes you feel clean & refreshed, and smelling good throughout the rest of your shift. Before my first night shift, I forgot to brush my teeth that night. TMI…? yup. I wish someone had told me that it makes a huge difference. But that’s why I blog. 😉

2. Glasses > contacts.

If you wear glasses/contacts, take your contacts out and swap for your specs. Tired eyes are not fun, but they’re even worse when you have contacts in. Just do yourself a favor and wear your glasses!

3. Don’t bother wearing makeup.

Ladies, if you happen to meet your future spouse on night shift, I guarantee he/she will not care what you look like either. This gives your skin a chance to breathe. Even though you’re not “supposed to,” rubbing your eyes feels great, too. Just be comfortable and moisturize your face well. 😀


DURING night shift:

  1. There are less people around.

Guess what? At 3 am, there aren’t as many people roaming the hallways of the hospital. Most people in the world are sleeping. Now, no guarantees here, but this usually means you have less patients, too. You tend to be a little more “free.” For me, this means wearing a sweatshirt over my scrubs to stay warm and taking a 4 am coffee break.

2. Eat when you’re hungry.

Don’t eat because you feel you have to take a break at a certain time. I usually don’t bring a full “meal” with when I work nights. Instead, my go-tos are usually:

  • a banana
  • a protein bar
  • water/sparkling water
  • raw, chopped up veggies – like bell peppers!

In fact, I find myself feeling the need to eat, but when listening to my body, I’m not actually hungry. Eating small snacks throughout will make you less full overall and probably decrease your chance of feeling nauseous in the middle of the night, like we have all experienced. Oh, and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.

3. It’s a normal shift.

Sure, you’re working when the world sleeps, but (especially) if you’re in the emergency department too, it’s just like any other shift. I am assigned the same tasks as I’d carry out during a day shift. The ER is a well-oiled machine that functions 24/7. The only difference with night shift is that you’re working in the middle of the night. This is great to tell yourself if you’re any bit anxious about how the night will go.


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Stella was yawning too. Or maybe just that happy to see me when I got off work.

 

AFTER night shift:

1. Brush your teeth and shower.

Yup, you probably just did this before your shift. Get those hospital germs off before you sleep. Wash your face and hair, and brush your teeth. In other words, make sure you take care of yourself.

2.  Sleep for 4 hours.

Yes, 4 hours. Think of this like a nap. If you feel ok, get up and go do things. Make lunch, exercise, do what you have to do. If you’re too tired to function, sleep for a few more hours or watch an episode or two of The Office or Grey’s Anatomy until you can get up to “normal” human function. This is hard on your body – it doesn’t like to be awake throughout the night, after all! Be nice to yourself, too.

3. Melatonin. 

There it is. If I know I’m going to have trouble falling asleep, I will take 2.5-3 mg of melatonin anyway. But after a night shift or two, I take 5 mg (the max dosage recommended dose one should take is 6 mg) about 2 hours before I want to be sleeping. It knocks me out and keeps me asleep. I usually feel great when I wake up. Because your sleep schedule is all out of whack now, I take half that dosage of melatonin (2.5 mg) the following night. I’ve had no problems since. 🙂

What else?

  • The environment seems to be much more relaxed. My department turns the lights down in the nurses’ station, we wear jackets to stay warm, and
  • It’s a lot easier when you go into work if it’s bright out. My department doesn’t have windows, so if I go in when it’s bright outside, it never really “feels” like nighttime. That’s because of the melatonin production secreted by the pineal gland in our brains. Melatonin is released when the receptors in our eyes pick up light. Science is cool.

 

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It’s a tiny little structure!!!

 


And with that, I present to you, the night shift, as told by the non-night-shifter. Comments? Questions? Feedback? Shoot me a message!

All my love,

xx,

M

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My friends at Banish sent me a few samples from their company to try out a few weeks ago. I gladly accepted after I read their philosophy and ingredient lists. For one, their ingredients are amazing. Being a nutritionist, you better believe I read labels and what goes into my body and on my skin. I was stunned at Banish’s lists. I can recognize and pronounce every single one of their products – a rarity. Here are my thoughts!

*Disclaimer: I will not support or partner with companies that test on animals, unethically source their products, or market something that doesn’t resonate with my core beliefs.*


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Activated Charcoal Mask:

This one comes in the jar as a powder. I love that you mix the powder with water yourself and apply this mask with a brush. Its shelf life will be so much longer than other masks I’ve tried! After taking this one off after letting it dry, my face felt clean and refreshed. The charcoal sticks to blackheads and appears to draw them out. It is a simple mixture and fragrance-free. This mask is definitely a product I would recommend to others – especially if you have sensitive skin, and want a clean, refreshed feeling afterwards.

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Pumpkin Enzyme Mask:

Ingredient list = nothing better. This mask is a little more on the clumpy side and more difficult to apply. That didn’t stop me from loving it, however. This mask also has a killer ingredient list and leaves your face clean. My immediate thoughts are that it almost instantly makes your face feel tight. I would guess this is due to the enzymatic activity in the mask. It looks and smells like pumpkin pie, and in fact, my roommate was tempted to taste it!

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The Banisher and Banish Oil:

If I’m going to be totally honest  I was terrified when I first saw this device. After reading about it and how to use it though, I was down to try. The Banisher is a facial roller with tiny, tiny (or micro) needles on the roller. Wait, why would you want to do that to your face? The Banisher is marketed to be your own, at-home microneedling treatment. And that is exactly what it does. I believe it is ideal for acne-scarred and damaged skin.

Myself? I have been blessed with fairly clear skin historically, so I don’t think this is the right tool for me. I did not use this product consistently, either. However, the Banish oil is very hydrating, non-greasy-feeling, and feels great after a shower, before bed. I can’t wait to use it in the winter with dry skin!

And as for the Banisher itself? If you have acne-prone or scarred skin, I say give it a shot. It’s all-natural and isn’t a radical treatment that could harm you for trying.

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Vitamin C Elixar

This stuff smells really good – citrus-y and fresh. I’ve probably used this product the most of them all. It is great to freshen up with and feels as though it’s actually conditioning your skin. It is perfect to use before bed or in the morning after moisturizer.


I was very impressed with this company and their products. If you have acne-prone skin, give this brand a try. Even if these products don’t clear up your skin, they are unlikely to harm it due to the quality & purity of their ingredients. Even if you don’t have acne-prone skin like myself, the masks and oils are high quality and are made from nutritionist-approved ingredients! 😉

Read more on Banish’s philosophy and product details on the links attached.

Banish, thank you so much for choosing me to review your products. You’re doing a great job. ❤

xx,

M

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A city, a district that is rich in history, people, and endless things to do whether you’re a history buff or not. The streets are cobblestone, homes are rows upon rows of…row homes, and culture & diversity are abundant. I had never been to this busy, trendy, yet historic city before, but I am extremely glad I was able to visit our nation’s capital. A friend and I decided spontaneously on February 14, Valentine’s Day, that we were going to go visit a mutual friend who was interning at the National Rural Health Institute this summer. Boy am I glad we did. I learned quite a bit about our country in our short few days at our nation’s capital. With this, I took away a few things that may help you if you decide to visit this beautiful place.


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morning MARC train

ONE: FLY INTO BWI

Flying into Washington, DC from ND was not the most cost-effective option, but flying into Baltimore was MUCH better (not to mention the usage of SkyMiles). Regardless, if you want to visit DC, I recommend looking for tickets for Baltimore-Washington International airport and then taking the $8 MARC train into DC from the airport. If you have the luck I had, it will probably be much more affordable than flying into Reagan.

TWO: METRO

Like most big cities, taking the subway/metro/tube/ ETC is probably your best bet of getting from destination A –> B in terms of cost, time, and experience. Navigating the Metro is easy, in fact, the most difficult thing you might have to do is change trains to get to your final destination. Riding the Metro is what the people of that city do every day. Sure, you’re a tourist and just visiting, and yep, you probably look like one too, but you’ll get to see what the locals do as well as feel the vibes of the city.

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food truck burrito bowl with kimchi 

THREE: FOOD TRUCKS

Like most big cities, one could argue that everything is expensive in DC. This includes food. But on Urban Street, you’ll find an abundance of food trucks. Food truck food tends to be less expensive than dining in, and it’s usually fresh. We ate on Urban Street twice – the first time I got a chicken burrito bowl with kimchi, and the second, rice and garlic ginger spinach, broccoli, and cabbage. Each of my meals were between $7-8, were huge portions, and very, very, very delicious.

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basement air b+b

FOUR: AIR B&B

I’m sure that not everyone’s experience with Air B&B is amazing, but we could not have been more satisfied with our stay. This is an affordable option for travelers that gives you something hotels don’t: being in a neighborhood. With residents of that neighborhood. Ours was in the basement of a red row home, included wifi, metro cards, and bike passes. On top of this, we were in the middle of a beautiful historic neighborhood staying amongst the locals. If you’re interested in our exact spot, (which I totally recommend), click here.

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tourist?

FIVE: NATIONAL MALL

Do your research ahead of time on which monuments and museums you would like to see while you’re visiting the area. I was in DC for 4 full days, saw plenty, and didn’t see even more. If you weren’t previously informed, the monuments and museums are all free admission. Hell yes. We made it to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (get your free tickets ahead of time!), the Museum of Natural History, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. Absolutely beautiful and so very beautifully American.

My favorites? 

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espresso + vanilla w/ dark chocolate
  • Gelato at Pitango nearly nightly; the espresso flavor is to die for.
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my favorite exhibit.

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  • The Food exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. It displays the different changes in our country’s food system throughout the years including cooking devices like the George Foreman grill, as well as the evolution of the government-issued food pyramids over across history.

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  • The shops in Georgetown as well as Georgetown Cupcakes. It’s a must.

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  • George Washington University’s Medical Campus and seeing the emergency department where Ronald Reagan was taken after being shot (and saved), in the 1980s.
  • The Lincoln Memorial – it’s HUGE, dare I say monumental. 😉 Way bigger than I had pictured in my 8th grade US History class.

As mentioned previously, you cannot leave this city saying you’ve “done it all.” It’s not possible. The key is to get the most out of your experience. 🙂  If you’re heading to our nation’s capital for vacation or a conference, I hope this helps you get the most out of it.

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Cheers, and happy travels!

xx,

M

 

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I could talk about bananas for quite a long time.

DID YOU KNOW…

One medium banana constitutes one of your two recommended servings of for the day.

One banana alone makes up for about 20% of your daily potassium recommendation.

One banana is the perfect pre-workout or post-workout fuel due to its carb content and potassium content that helps replenish the electrolytes that are lost in sweat.

In fact, did you know that the other electrolyte, sodium, is overly-consumed in the SAD (standard American diet), but potassium is likely to be deficient? Dietary potassium isn’t as readily available as dietary sodium, but once you’re aware of the foods that are rich in the micronutrient, it becomes much easier to consume foods that contain more potassium.

So long story short, bananas make for a versatile snack, are pre-packaged by mother nature, and are full of macronutrients AND micronutrients.

We all know that bananas vary greatly throughout their post-picked life span. When bananas are green in color, they are rich in probiotics, but most of us don’t desire the taste because they don’t present very sweet at this stage. When bananas are light to dark yellow, they’re sweeter and more enjoyable to eat. When bananas start getting spots, that’s when you know they’re on their way out, but probably pretty sweet. This is my personal favorite stage* 😀 However, when bananas start turning dark brown and the spots are more and more numerous, you might find yourself wanting to throw them away, as I do. BUT DON’T DO IT – at any of the described stages! Aged bananas are a versatile ingredient to have on hand. Let me show you some of the wonderful things you can do before you think about throwing your precious bananas out.


 

1. mash them:

 

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Add a mashed banana to your oatmeal before you cook it, add it to your peanut butter toast for breakfast or a snack, or top your pancakes with a mashed banana – you won’t even need syrup!

When? Perfect for that lightly spotted-medium spotted stage.

2. freeze them: 

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Frozen bananas are the staple to the majority of the smoothies I make because they A) make your smoothie creamier, B) naturally sweeten your smoothie and C) and make it cold without adding ice that will eventually water your smoothie down. To freeze, I recommend cutting the banana in half, peeling the banana, and placing in an airtight bag or container and let freeze for at least 12 hours.

When?  In the darkened-spotted stage for peak sweetness but not when the entire banana is browned or else you’ll have a mushy banana.

3. bake them:

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Banana bread, baked oatmeal, healthier cookies, etc. Again, bananas provide natural sweetness and serve as a binding agent in several recipes. What’s not to love there?

When? This is when those BROWN bananas come in clutch. Mash them up well and incorporate into your favorite recipe!

 

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I hope bananas make you this happy too.

xx,

M

What does this featured meal have to do with today’s blog post? It is vegan, gluten free, and relatively low in calories, but packed with nutrients and will give you zero dietary cholesterol as an added bonus 🙂

Shawn Brokke, a friend, and plant-based foodie sat through the most frequently asked questions about veganism and answered them with delight. To contact Shawn, find him at @palegoon + @nutritious_goon on Instagram! He really knows how to get the conversation started! I have compiled some questions regarding his experience and life as a vegan.

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check out that vegan tattoo!

Let’s start with the million dollar question(s): How long have you been a vegan? Why did you convert?

I’ve been a vegan for almost two years. I had been dieting before and was not happy with the food I was eating and the density of that food. I had been eating the stereotypical “bodybuilding” diet [consisting of chicken and rice and the occasional vegetable]. I wasn’t satisfied. The reason I looked into veganism was because of my mom’s chronic illnesses including thyroid issues. I discovered the vegan diet, and I’ve never thought twice about it!


Wow, just like that! How did you transition? How did you know what to do? That’s a drastic change!

Overnight, actually. I strongly considered have that “one last meal” of all my favorites that are not part of the vegan diet, but I decided not to. I figured if I did that, it would just prolong the process of transitioning. I gave my food to my brother and the rest was history. However, because I did this overnight, it didn’t come without challenges. I relied on YouTubers and trial and error. The key was not to get mad at myself if I ate something that wasn’t vegan friendly and I wasn’t aware of it. It’s a process and you learn as you go.


 Now that you’ve been a vegan for a while now, what do you eat?

“My go-to is stir fry with all the vegetables – rice noodles, soy sauce or usually tamari.”(pictured above) others include:

  • soy milk.
  • low-sodium pasta sauce with noodles.
  • bananas.
  • tofu.
  • rice.
  • oats.
  • pasta.
  • flax oats
  • Vega protein shakes
  • canned beans – low sodium (more cost effective!)

The most commonly asked question for vegans (or so it seems), is getting adequate protein. Most people believe it simply isn’t possible to get enough protein from plants alone. You’ll see things on the internet regarding vegan bodybuilding and it is indeed possible to achieve physical goals with a vegan diet. If you are eating enough calories (based on individual dietary needs), you should not need to supplement protein or make any extra effort to meet the RDA for protein. It’s fairly simple! 🙂 Especially knowing foods like broccoli and snap peas [green vegetables] have “bonus” protein in them. Most people think of vegetables to fit in the “vegetable” food group, and fail to recognize that there are other either macronutrients or micronutrients that may be contained in that vegetable.


Do you take any supplements since your food is not sourced from animals anymore?

Yes! Vitamin B12 (a necessary supplement for those who follow a vegan diet). By taking it, I have noticed increased energy, and a better sleep cycle, and a decrease in symptoms of seasonal depression. I also take a vitamin D3 supplement.


Your experience sounds phenomenal so far. Have you had any challenges with this lifestyle?

Yes, of course. The major problem I have is that food I eat is so good. It is definitely possible to gain weight if you enjoy the vegan “junk” food such as cookies, cakes, sweets, and other indulgences too much. Though this can be seen as a negative, eating this so-called “comfort” food, can help you transition to eating more plant-based; as long as one is aware of this and can practice self-control while transitioning!


What about eating out? What would you tell someone who wants to go eat with friends?

It’s not as hard as one may think!

  • Noodles & Company: Japanese Pan Noodles with tofu.
  • Paradiso (in Grand Forks): offers burritos with vegan chicken and beef.
  • Olive Garden: minostrone soup!
  • Qdoba: no meat, and all the black beans.
  • Chipotle: Sofritas.
  • Little Bangkok (Grand Forks): I really do miss sushi, but get the sweet potato rolls!!!

Chains usually have better options and are more aware of their ingredients than some of the smaller, locally-owned restaurants. Always ask!


You seem to like tofu and soy protein! What about people who tell you soy isn’t “good?”

Bodybuilders are often against the concept of soy protein because literature has stated that soy can mimic estrogen in the body and decrease your strength capacity. I feel that soy is the scapegoat in the world of veganism; people are so apt to believe that you can look and feel well when adapting this diet. It is interesting because mammalian estrogen is found in dairy milk and isn’t as accounted for as the plant phytochemicals that mimic estrogen (isoflavonoids) in soy.

Most bodybuilders follow diets that are high in chicken, beef, eggs, and other protein-rich animals sources. However, just because they are buff and look good on the outside does not mean that their arteries are not going to pose a health risk down the road.


What are your favorite vegan products?


What would you tell someone who wants to start adopting a vegan diet?

  • BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. Don’t get discouraged. It isn’t a transition that can’t usually [successfully] happen overnight.
  • Do not be mad at the world with concerns of ethics, frustrations with how food is produced, or people who just don’t listen. This will get you nowhere and nearly defeat the purpose of being that “one person” who is doing good for the world! The
  • You’ll need to eat a lot more. Plants are less calorie-dense than animal products; you will need to eat more, yes more, to maintain a calorie input and stay healthy. Perhaps download an app to help track calories to ensure your intake is adequate.
  • Any step is a step in the right direction. If you start narrowing things down, you’re making progress. If you have a slip-up and your intentions are still good, you’re still moving in the right direction! The ball is in your court!

And with that, I conclude my questions for Shawn. I personally learned a lot about the overall vegan diet and some of the resources that are available. If you considering adopting a vegan diet and need a resource, again, check out Shawn’s instagram or message him or myself with any questions you might have.

Thank YOU for reading, thank you to Shawn for sitting through an interview, and thank you to those who are considering eating more plants! Your body will thank you!

xx,

M

“Veganism is the least you can do for animals.”

-unknown