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

 

 

Seven semesters of my undergraduate studies are done – just like that! I’m writing to share my experience with flexibility, progress, and personal growth that I have experienced throughout the last few months.

A difference from this semester compared to my previous semesters – from the start – was that it was my first semester not being on the tennis team here at UND. Playing my favorite sport at the division I level is something I would have never fathomed before it was given to me, and I am eternally grateful for this experience that has enhanced my overall college experience.

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What’s the big transition, you ask?

For the last three years of undergrad, I had a small family (or subculture, as we call it in sociology), that I did everything with: my teammates. Every day was structured leaving little wiggle room for being tired or giving up. At the start of the day, I would wake up tired, attend lecture, make lunch, practice for two hours, lift/condition for another hour, shower and make dinner, and study until about midnight every night. Monday through Friday. On top of these daily activities included community service events, various formal events, Saturday practices, and required meetings. It sounds like too much, right? Nope. I loved the community we shared with other athletes. I loved the rigorous fitness regimen. I loved the structure and routine. This is why I am eternally grateful for the experience.

This semester has been quite an alteration of the previous and a transition at best. With less structure, I was both challenged and relieved to adjust to a different schedule, one where I felt more in control of my own studying, working, and staying active flexibly. I have never struggled with structure and this new experience has left me feeling happier and less stressed overall. Again, my experience playing tennis in college is something I will forever be grateful for and I would not trade it for the world. It’s an experience I wish for every athlete to have – with all my heart.

Now, with the status as “former athlete” I can share my experiences from the last 4 months that have changed my lifestyle for the (even) better. 😀

August:

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paddleboarding with Stella 🙂

The weekend before school started, I spent the weekend at a family friends’ cabin in northern Minnesota. If you’ve never been to the area, regardless from what part of the Earth you live on, I wish for you to experience this form of tranquility. There is nothing like it. Especially as your are mentally preparing for 16 weeks of college physics.

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a cabin in the woods

September: 

A challenge I felt I would struggle with is scheduling exercise into my busy days. After registering for my first race in June, I began training all summer. The feeling of crossing the finish line is symbolic of all those miles I logged with the absence of snow on the ground. If you really want to feel alive, run a race!

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this girl.

My 22nd birthday was my favorite birthday to date. Having lunch with my mom and spending the evening with my best friends meant so much to me. A reminder that with age, comes the satisfaction of having those who you love around you rather than material things. Cheers to another year of getting my ID meticulously checked!

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my people!!!

October:

North Dakota is so beautiful 3 of the 4 seasons we experience. The leaves and the outdoor bike rides and walks with Stella truly make me feel alive. Something I’m learning to do is find the mind-body-spirit connection; and what I have learned

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hanging in the mountains with one of my favorite people and her sweet sweet baby Lilah ❤

In the midst of it all, I go to visit my cousin Bronwyn at the end of the month – ALL THE WAY IN ARIZONA. We hiked, ate all the dairy-free ice cream, and I personally didn’t do anything academic for a few days. Talk about feeling alive!

November: 

I interviewed for another job (and just today received news that it’s officially mine) with the wellness center on campus. I will be working at the Culinary Corner and performing free, healthy cooking demos for students – for free! I cannot wait to also or at a job where I am able to engage in my passion and help others learn about one of my favorite things in life: food.

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never going to forget this one!

Meanwhile, at my emergency room job, I was able to assist with a procedure (I was on a high for 3 days straight). I have always known that I want to be a physician that takes pride in teaching, but now I can promise this will be in my future; I want to give back in thanks to those who have taught me while I’ve been an eager student.

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YUMS.

OH, and Thanksgiving! My cousin and I made our *FIRST EVER* vegan Thanksgiving. We will be doing this again, don’t worry.

December:

Round seven of finals and through with half a year of physics! Now, it’s time to relax.

***

As mentioned before, this semester has been very different and challenging in its own way, but adjusting to spending more time at the hospital, learning how to prioritize my time, and making the most with every opportunity I have been faced with has been so much fun. I could not be more grateful for some of the changes in my life. Sometimes, blessings come in disguise.

Thanks for reading, much love!

xx,

M

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a few short days ago, I asked the surgery residents at work if I could put on a cap and mask on and shadow a sterile procedure in our department. I quickly made myself a fly on the wall and remained out of their way.

One of the residents then asked, since I was in the room, to help hold the patient’s arm out of the way of the procedure underneath the sterile field so her arm would not tire and get in the way. I was a very minimal part of this procedure overall, but the role I held came with standing in the same position for over 30 minutes, and included holding the weight of the patient’s arm up.

I now have even more respect for surgeons who perform lengthy operations and endure gruesome shifts. I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to have a job that allows me to experience these types of things. Not many people get to go to work and help with sterile procedures every day. It is a privilege to say the least!

But what does this have to do with sweat?


Why do I hit the gym? Well, let me tell you!

1. Stress relief. Feeling good. Endorphins.

Having a busy lifestyle requires some form of stress relief. Lifting weights or hitting tennis balls gives me a a sense of clarity and helps me focus on the tasks I have to complete after I’ve gotten a good workout in. It’s been proven to facilitate good overall mental health and stress relief. If this alone was the only reason, I’d still be exercising.

2. Leading by example.

When we tell our patients to make lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, we better be doing those things ourselves. I want to be the physician that can help guide patients with proper lifestyle habits by doing them myself.

3. I want to play with my grandchildren.

Whoa. That is a bold and profound statement. Not only does exercise increase longevity, but it improves quality of life. There are chronic diseases that have a strong autoimmune component to them (such as arthritis), but many other well-known chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can be prevented with lifestyle medicine.

4. Lastly, to do my job and my future career.  

Helping the surgeons reminded me again, I don’t have trouble doing the physical component of my job. Being physically fit helps me to better help transport my patients without worrying about not being strong enough. It helps me make it from point A to point B with ease in an emergency scenario.

It helps me help others and that’s exactly what I hope to keep doing throughout my current job and future career.


Think about this: why do you work out? And if you don’t, why should you?

Thanks for reading, much love!

xx,

M

Best thing you’ve ever eaten… ready, go!

I’ve told my friends and family how much I love pizza, but I am not willing to indulge in it unless it’s good pizza – it just is not worth it to me. This is another way I go about still enjoying food, but not over-indulging and later regretting my decision.

So here it is. This easy, quick, and simple dish is inspired by one of my favorite pizzas, the Blue Crush found at Blackbird Pizza in Fargo, ND.

Blackbird’s Blue Crush pizza – (Trip Advisor) 

…only my version has fewer carbs (I’m not counting, but if you are… 😉 ), and simplifies the process – you don’t have to make any pizza dough! This can be easily customized to your dietary needs, and it is vegetarian!


Ingredients:

  • 1 flour tortilla (or grain-free of choice)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • about 1/4 c. parmesan cheese (give/take based on your preference)
  • 2 tbsp whole, raw walnuts
  • dried Italian herbs OR fresh rosemary
  • about 8 grapes, halved
  • olive oil

Procedure:

  • preheat oven to 375.
  • place tortilla on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil ( easy cleanup, duh )
  • drizzle olive oil on tortilla and add garlic
  • spread garlic and olive oil mixture across tortilla
  • Add herbs & black pepper
  • Place walnuts and grapes on tortilla.
  • Top with parmesan.
  • Bake for 10 minutes
  • Switch oven to broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling 🙂
  • Remove from oven & top with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Slice with a pizza cutter
  • ENJOY!

NOTES:

*make sure to watch the pizza while under the broiler. If you leave it in even a minute too long, you might experience an undesired charred tortilla crust.

*for gluten-free option, use an almond flour tortilla!

* image credit: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g49785-d6474484-Reviews-Blackbird_Woodfire-Fargo_North_Dakota.html


Again, think about the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Eat that food much more often. 🙂

xx,

M

There are times when cookie dough is necessary.

I’ve noticed a national trend of local food joints now serving everyone’s favorite delicacies that we should’ve never indulged in as kids (yet somehow always avoided salmonella (?)). In fact, this recipe is inspired by the edible cookie dough I’ve experienced at Nadia Cakes in Minnesota.

So let’s face it together, you want vegan cookie dough in your life. 😀 Here’s how you do it!


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. softened coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut (or white) sugar
  • generous splash of PURE vanilla
  • 1 + 1/4 c. flour of choice
  • 2-3 tbsp water

Procedure:

  1. Cream together coconut oil + sugars until thoroughly combined.
  2. Add vanilla and continue to mix
  3. slowly add sugar and combine later adding the pinch of salt
  4. add a tablespoon of water at a time until reaching desired consistency, continuing to stir
  5. Stir in chocolate chips
  6. ENJOY!

Notes:

*Water can be adjusted to the type of flour used. You’ll need more water if you’re using almond or rice flour.

*I want to point out that “vegan” does not necessarily mean “healthy.” This is simply an animal-free (and consequently, cholesterol-free) option to enjoy this treat!

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yesssssssssssss.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been a runner. In fact, when my high school tennis coach had us run up the hill for conditioning, I despised it. With extensive tennis training over the last ten years, specifically the last three, I was always advised not to run distance because it counter-acts the fast-twitch muscles that are desired to strengthen in tennis training. Running distance was completely foreign to me – even when I had signed up for this first race. So here’s the story that got me to finishing a 10K!

Training?

I joke that you could find me throughout the entire summer either doing chemistry, in the emergency room, or running – which is true to an extent. I wouldn’t have had it any other way given the option! I gained shorts and sock tan lines, streaks of white-blonde in my hair, and my watch looks like it’s painted forever on my fair skin.

I signed up for the race in May, giving me the entire summer to train. Being a conditioned athlete from three years of a college sport, I began by running one mile at a time. Yes, ONE MILE. And when I say I was a conditioned college athlete, I played two hours of tennis 5-6 days a week, did speed and vertical mobility workouts, and strength-trained to a total of about 20 hours/week.

But I quickly learned that there is nothing like training to run. I struggled to run a mile straight at first, even despite my physical training I had withstood in the past!

To train, I continued to add more and more distance at at time being mindful as to not over-do it. I ran consistently (or close to) every other day, and would attempt to add 1/2 of a mile each time. I cross-trained by playing tennis and lifting weights and taking at least one “active rest day” per week.

When September came, I was running more than the distance of the race – which I couldn’t fathom! Looking back, it is amazing to think about what the human body can do. I knew I was capable of doing the distance I had ran, but when you actually do it, you feel amazing. But this was not easy. In fact,

IT. WAS. HARD.

The hardest aspect of training for me was learning how to pace myself. I was used to sprinting (and trying to beat all my teammates in conditioning drills 😉 ) and one learns pretty quickly that giving your all fatigues your body in no time. I became nauseous throughout my runs and had to learn when to eat, what to eat, and to stay hydrated prior to running.

To overcome this, I went painstakingly slow at first (yes, it killed me). I adjusted to going slower and maintaining that near-constant speed rather than tiring out a few minutes in. Gradually, I built up a better endurance, and was able to go faster, but as mentioned, this is difficult to learn!

My essentials?

  • One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. Need I say more?
  • Apple watch. It tracked my distance, pace, time, and route all summer long.
  • GOOD RUNNING SHOES. I’m talking ones that don’t hurt your feet or other areas of your body. I am a huge fan of Nike, but not their running shoes. After I switched back to my Asics, life was better. Running is logging a lot of miles over time!!!!
  • having a friend that is experienced. Shout-out to my girl Jenna for giving me advice and training with me.

Race Day?

On race day, I woke up, brewed black coffee, and read my bible about 2 hours prior to the race.  I had two pieces of plain whole wheat toast, and slammed a bunch of water. It was a balmy 45 degrees here in North Dakota that morning. I prefer wearing shorts and a sports bra when I run, but the conditions were not right for that specific attire on race day.

When getting to the site, Jenna and I got our race tags and gear, and started our watches to track our distance, pace, and time. Before I even could conceptualize what was happening amongst the crowd of excited runners, I heard the race gun saying, “GO!”

The route went through many residential neighborhoods and was part of several of my training routes. It was comfortable and beautiful; from the people outside cheering, and the midwestern hospitality of serving water and some alcoholic drinks along our route – though we politely declined. :p

Everything went smoothly, by mile 5, I felt drained. I tried my best not to look at my watch in attempts to keep my mind off the distance left, but I was feeling those five miles! I asked Jenna if we could slow down, and she continued to talk to me, carrying out a conversation. I thought nothing of this and kept going.

When we got to the origin, or the finish line (displacement of zero 😉 ), I FELT AMAZING. Jenna said, “we kept the entire race under a 9 minute mile. I wasn’t sure if you wanted to go that fast, but we did it.” I will never forget that profound statement. Jenna distracted me from thinking about the “temporary misery” that I thought I was experiencing. That alone proves how mental the sport is. And there is nothing quite like making it past that finish line. It screams, “YOU DID IT!”

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race day details!

After we got our finishing medals, Jenna and I headed to Bully Brew Coffee House to get some carbs and caffeine. About an hour after the race, each of us felt uneasy and I personally faced strong abdominal cramping. I lost my appetite and began to feel sick. This seems to be a common theme among distance runners when scanning internet forums, and I had experienced this in a much milder form when training. But by dinner time, I ate 3/4 of a pizza from Blackbird and was the happiest girl on the planet. I have to remember to be mindful of what and when I eat, and caffeine consumption prior to running in the morning. You live and you learn!

Why running? 

Tennis, my predominant sport throughout my life, requires skill and a great deal of athleticism that one learns over time. This is true to some extent with running, but the difference is that you do not have to be good at running to run successfully; you have to have the mental drive to finish. Sure, you get better at it over time; your physical and mental endurance outdoes the voice in your head telling you you need a break, but if you have the willpower to keep going you will be good at it!

Running in itself is its own category. You are out, alone, experiencing the beauty of nature. Just you, your music, and the details of the world around you. It challenges your mind and body, and crossing the finish line is a feeling like no other.

You want to give it at shot?

DO IT! Be patient with yourself. There are good running days, and there are not-so-good ones. Thrive from the good ones, and don’t let the bad ones get you down. Run a little bit at a time. Stop if you don’t feel well. Keep going if you’re feeling great. Carry pepper spray when you run alone. Run in safe areas. Don’t run in the dark. Treat your body well. Drink a lot of water and at a well-balanced diet. Invest in high-quality running shoes and break them in by wearing them around the house. Appreciate your hard work.

Thanks for reading!

Push yourselves and step outside your comfort zones – your future self will thank you!

xx,

M

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thankful for this girl and all of her words of advice & encouragement! 

If I’m brutally honest, I am not a die-hard autumn fan. When you’re in the midwest, fall can only mean one thing: WINTER soon. That particular season and I aren’t the best of friends. 😉

I will admit, however, that with anything, if there’s food involved, you can count on me being there and mentally present. And along with harvest, change of seasons & produce, and dishes that come with autumn are rich, warm flavors, big squash, pumpkin, fragrant cinnamon & nutmeg, and the warmth of the season are things worth appreciating.

Apple pie is a fall favorite, but with any dessert, it packs copious amounts of sugar.

My version is a twist on the classic. This dish is warm, fragrant, and will give you a taste of apple pie without all the sugar and guilt. It’s quick, simple, and worth your time. 😀

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BAKED APPLES

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 apples of choice
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Procedure:

  • slice the apples in half and use a spoon to scoop out the core and seeds
  • Cut off the stem and remove the bottom of the apple as well
  • in a small bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds.
  • add the brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  • Combine with a fork
  • Place apples face up on a baking sheet.
  • Fill with oat mixture uniformly
  • Bake for 20 minutes
    • if you stab the apple with a fork and you’re easily able to do so, the apples are done!
  • Enjoy them by topping with coconut whipped cream, yogurt, or a drizzle of honey!

If you’re like me, embrace the fall season, the pre-cursor to the dreaded winter months!

Happy eats!

xx,

M