Vegan Strawberry Almond Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars

Today I was craving some comfort. The past few weeks I’ve felt uneasy, and I can’ quite figure out why.

Easy Vegan Almond Butter Strawberry Seed Jam Bars with Crumb Topping

Perhaps it’s a combination of stress of an 18-credit graduate school load, figuring out my summer practicum, some pressing family issues, or the mundaneness I sometimes feel after working on something (whether it be school work, work work, projects, or applications for practicums) from morning til evening with little relief.

Once I cross one thing off my list, it seems, 6 more pop up.

VEGAN Strawberry Almond Butter Oatmeal crumb bars

Yesterday I took a break and got brunch at Mathew’s with my good friend Raag. The outing provided not only a delicious meal and good conversation, but a much needed break, some peace of mind, and a fleeting moment or two of comfort.

But today, I was back on the grind. And today, comfort came in the form of Vegan Strawberry Almond Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars.

Vegan Strawberry Chia Jam

I love a sweet but not-too-sweet breakfasty nibble, filled with oats, nut butters, and sometimes fruit to snack on in the afternoon with tea and to have to pack for snacks during the school week.

I wanted something with a soft bottom, a yummy fruity center, and a scrumptious oatmeal crumb topping. Crumb toppings are one life’s finest pleasures, as far as I’m concerned.

Almond Butter Strawberry Chia Seed Jam Bars Spread 2

I was trying to decide what to bake when I remembered the clearance frozen strawberries I purchased at the store yesterday, and the idea for a Vegan Strawberry Almond Butter Bar with an oatmeal crumb topping came to me. And just like that, I knew I had to make some.

Easy Cegan Almond Butter Strawberry Seed Jam Bars + Crumb Topping

So I set down my laptop, turned on some YouTube (currently obsessed with Buzzfeed’s Worth It), turned off the universe, and got to baking.

Vegan Gluten-free Almond Butter Strawberry Chia Seed Jam Bars**

Few things provide me with such consistent mental release as baking does. I crave creating, and baking is a low-pressure low-stakes way to allow the creative juices to flow.

Because I adore the chewiness and flavor of oat flour, I used it to I made the bottom layer. You can substitute your favorite flour in it’s place, with varied results, if desired.

Easy Vegan Almond Butter Strawberry Chia Seed Jam Bars*

The middle layer was a play on this Easy Homemade Chia Seed Jam, swapping blueberries for strawberries, but you can use whatever fruit you’d like.

The top is a classic cinnamon oatmeal crumb topping, swapping butter with almond butter for an extra nutty scrumptious taste.

vegan strawberry crumb bars with almond butter

All together these Vegan Strawberry Almond Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars are a perfectly easy, scrumptious, nutritious nutty and chewy delight.

I hope you make these and I hope you love them! If you do make them, let me know in the comments below or on Insta (@katherinebaker4@)! I love hearing from you.

Delicious Vegan Almond Butter Strawberry Chia Seed Jam Bars

Vegan Strawberry Almond Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 1 12-inch square pan

Ingredients – Soft Bottom Layer:

  • 2 cups oat flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut or brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or other nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Ingredients – Chia Jam Center:

Ingredients – Crumb Topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • dash of salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare a 9×9 inch pan by greasing generously or lining the pan with parchment paper.
  3. Prepare strawberry jam by thawing frozen berries, and mashing with a fork. Add chia seeds and stir, and allow to thicken for at least 10-15 minutes. If non-chunky jam is desired, process in food processor or blender until smooth.
  4. Mix oat flour, baking soda, sugar, almond butter, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Press into prepared dish.
  5. Spread jam over bottom layer.
  6. Place bars in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare topping. Combine oats, oat flour, cinnamon, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Mix well. Add almond butter and use a fork fingers to form small crumbs or lumps within the oat mixture
  8. Open oven and sprinkle oat crumble over the jam layer and continue to bake an addition 10-15 minutes until golden and a fork or knife inserted in the center of the bars comes out clean upon removal.
  9. Enjoy! Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Better yet, store in the freezer and thaw or warm in microwave for 30 seconds before enjoying.

 

 

What You Need To Know about Vitamin B-12, Especially if You’re Vegan

It’s funny. When people find out you’re vegan or vegetarian, suddenly everyone and their mother becomes your nutritionist, wondering if you get enough protein, if you take supplements and get enough Vitamin B-12, and if you’re malnourished and falling over yet, etc.

No one bats at eye or comments at people who sustain themselves off pizza, burgers, fries, and chips, but so many feel entitled to scrutinize the nutrient-content of plant-based diets.

But I digress. This post is about the main nutrient of concern for vegetarians and vegans. No, it’s not protein (which in fact, most people over-consume). It’s Vitamin B-12. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, have chronic bowel issues, and/or are over the age of 50, you should assess and consider if you are getting enough vitamin B-12.

nutritional yeast

I don’t very often flex my MS in nutrition muscles on the blog. I always intend to, but I find my brain so exhausted of academic/science writing from school that much of the time the blog is filled with recipe and lifestyle posts because those are fun and relaxing to write.

But I really do want to make an effort to communicate more nutrition info here on kbaked.com. Let me know if you like this kind of content and/or what other topics you’d like to see covered! Without further adieu…here’s what you need to know about Vitamin B-12.

What is Vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 (also known as cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin and was the last vitamin discovered. It’s found in various forms, including cyanocobalamin (often found in supplements and fortified food), as well as methylcoablamin (a methylated form) found in animal products.

Cyanocobalamin needs to me methylated for your body to make use of it. Both are well-absorbed, and it’s currently unknown if there’s a “better” or more bioavailable form to consume.

Why is Vitamin B-12 important?

Vitamin B-12 is an essential micronutrient (meaning you can’t make it, you have to get it from the diet) responsible for many vital functions in the human body.

Vitamin B-12 is necessary for proper DNA synthesis, formation of red blood cells, and neurological function.

Vitamin B-12 acts as a cofactor for methionine (an amino acid) synthase, which catalyzes the conversion of homocyestine to methionine. This is important for a few reasons.

First, high levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. The exact reason for this association (notice the word association, not causal relationship) is unclear. But it is well observed.

Second, the formation of methionine is important, as it is required for the formation of S-adenosylmethione (or SAM), which is considered a universal methyl-donor for a multitude of substrates, including DNA, RNA, proteins, hormones, and lipids.

How is Vitamin B-12 absorbed?

Vitamin B-12 absorption, like many things in nutrition, is a highly complex, intricate process. Vitamin B-12 found in foods is bound to protein, and needs to be released by hydrochloric acid and gastric protease in the stomach. Vitamin B-12 in supplement form does not require this separation.

Next, free vitamin B-12 must combine with intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein secreted by the stomach’s parietal cells. The intrinsic factor-vitamin B-12 complex can then travel to the small intestine. Most absorption of B-12 occurs in the distal ileum (aka further part of your small intestine) via receptor mediated endocytosis. Some is also absorbed by passive diffusion.

There’s a limit to how much can be absorbed at once. Usually no more than 1.5 micrograms per 5-50 microgram absorption can be absorbed from a single dose. Disorders that limit the amount of intrinsic factor can also limit B-12 absorption.

What are symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?

Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 can seem vague or non-descript. For example, many people with Vitamin B-12 deficiency may experience  weakness, fatigue, lightheadness, pale skin, pale skin, diarrhea or constipation, tingling or numbness (especially in hands and feet), depression, memory loss, behavioral changes, depression, and vision loss.

Many of these symptoms are also symptoms of other conditions, so detecting Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be difficult without a test.

These symptoms may arise months or years after low B-12 consumption. It was formerly believed that vitamin B-12 could be stored in the liver for up to 20 years, but the scientific opinion on this is changing, and many believe it to be far less time. Some estimate 10 years, while others estimate 2.

For now, the exact amount of time between inadequate B-12 consumption and signs and symptoms of deficiency is unknown, but if you’d like my personal opinion I believe it is far less than 2-20 years and that it varies greatly between individuals.

The point is, you may go vegan and not notice symptoms right away. But do not ignore these symptoms if they begin to creep up, especially if you’ve been neglecting monitoring your B-12 intake!

Who is at Risk for Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?

Vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, and people who don’t eat a lot of meat should all monitor their Vitamin B-12 intake.

But it’s not just vegetarians and vegans who are at risk. Because Vitamin B-12 relies on proper function of intestines and stomach for absorption, those with stomach and/or intestine distress may be at risk for Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Individuals with IBD, Chron’s disease, IBS-D, atrophic gastrtis, celiac’s disease, parasite infection, and/or intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Additionally, individuals who take proton-pump inhibiting medications (often taken for acid reflux/heartburn) may be at risk, as these medications can decrease acid produced in the stomach, which is essential for B-12 absorption.

Exposure to nitric oxide (aka laughing gas) at the dentist can also halt B-12 absorption and multiple exposures can lead to deficiency.

Interestingly, high levels of serum folic acid can make B-12 deficiency. As folic acid fortification is mandatory in the United States, some scientists find this is an area of increasing concern. In fact, some are calling for a reassessment of the folate fortification level, and/or an addition of a B-12 fortification.

With age, the body is less and less able to absorb Vitamin B-12. According to national dietary surveys and blood level tests, 10-15% of the elderly population in the United States is B-12 deficient. As cognition also tends to decline around this time, this is a concern.

Those with prenicious anemia are also B-12 deficient, due to an autoimmune reaction that attacks the stomach cells that make intrinsic factor necessary for B-12 absorption.

How much Vitamin B-12 do I need?

The current  recommendation dietary allowance (RDA) of Vitamin B-12 for healthy adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. That’s a teeny tiny amount.

Pregnant women are advised to consume 2.6 micrograms, while breastfeeding women should consume a recommended 2.8 micrograms each day.

What foods contain Vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 is found mostly in animal products, including fish, meat, eggs, poultry, milk, milk products, algae products, nutritional yeast select fortified breakfast cereals, and other fortified foods.

Clams and beef liver, in particular, are very rich in Vitamin B-12, with 84.1 micrograms and 70.7 micrograms per 3 ounce portion, respectively.

Trout, salmon, and tuna can also be good sources of Vitamin B-12, each with over 100% of the RDA per 3 ounce serving.

A single egg contains 0.6 micrograms of Vitamin B-12, however, due to some of the proteins found in egg, much of the B-12 found in eggs isn’t well-absorbed.

Milk contains about 1.2 micrograms per cup, while chicken contains 0.3 micrograms per 3 ounce portion.

Some breakfast cereals, plant-based milks, and vegan condiments like nutritional yeast are also fortified with Vitamin B-12 (see section, below).

What are vegan sources of Vitamin B-12?

Vegan sources of naturally occurring Vitamin B-12 are few and far between. Certain types of algae are known to contain Vitamin B-12, and some studies have found these are well absorbed when taken in supplement form, but there is debate on whether or not algae foods alone can provide enough B-12 in one’s diet.

Outside of algae, vegans need to rely on fortified foods to reach their B-12 requirements. Below is a list of vegan Vitamin B-12 containing foods:

  1. Total Cereal: 100% RDA per 3/4 cup serving
  2. Silk Soymilk : 50% DV per 1 cup serving
  3. Marmite: 0.5 micgrograms / 15% DV per 35 gram serving
  4. Trader Joe’s Original Coconut Milk (the refrigerated one in the carton): 50% per 1 cup serving
  5. Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast: 40% per 1 tablespoon serving
  6. Trader Joe’s Nutritional Yeast: 130% per 1 tablespoon serving
  7. Malt-O-Meal High Fiber Bran Flakes:
  8. Kellogg’s All Bran Cereal: 100% per 1/2 cup serving
  9. Cheerios: 25% per 1 cup serving
  10. Kellogg’s Special K Cereal: 50% per 3/4 cup serving
  11. Nasoya Tofu Plus: 20% DV RDA per 3 ounce serving
  12. Corn Flakes: 15% per 1 cup serving
  13. Tempeh: amounts vary; the viability of tempeh-produced vitamin B-12 is, however, debated in literature and it is generally agreed that this should not be an individual’s primarily source

This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s simply meant to give you a few ideas next time you’re at the store, and/or inspire you to check products/compare brands of similar products. If you find any B-12 gems out there, let me know in the comments!

Also, none of these are affiliate links. I do not generally sponsor posts and am always 100% transparent when I do, as I want to instill trust in my readers.

Should I take a Vitamin B-12 supplement?

If you don’t eat fortified foods daily, I would suggest vegans, vegetarians, the elderly. those with malabsorption issues, adding a Vitamin B-12 supplement to your diet.

Importantly, many supplements come in mega-doses.According to the IOM, there is no known adverse outcomes associated with over-consumption of B-12.

Still, there’s no need to take a pill that gives you 50000% RDA Vitamin B-12 per day. You can easily halve or quarter supplements to not only meet your needs, and extend the life of your supplement bottle in the process.

Some supplements contain animal-derived sources of Vitamin B-12 and/or gelatin (usually the gummy varieties). Certain brands are vegan-friendly, and their packaging will usually let you know. If you’re concerned, I suggest searching on Amazon for vegan-specific vitamins.

Long Story Short:

You’re not invincible. Pay attention to your B-12 intact if you are plant-based or not a big meat eater or have digestive health issues! Supplementation can’t hurt.

Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

Helloooo my favorite snack ever! If you’ve known me for any length of time you probably know that my favorite food on earth is the wonderful sweet potato. Regular. Japanese. Red. Purple. I’ll take ’em all. Carb me.Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

I am a sweet potato maniac. When I was a kid I would walk around with a baked sweet potato in my hand, eating it as if it were an apple. I was cool. Between that and being the only elementary school kid drinking soy milk (because milk did and does give me the worst gas ever) I had a lot of friends. I promise.

Easy Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

One of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes is with almond butter. Something about the nuttiness of almond butter plays so well off the savory sweetness of sweet potatoes.

Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

Lately I’m very into making sweet potato wedges. For years, I pretty much exclusively made baked sweet potatoes and ate them whole. But lately I’m on a wedge kick. Bonus: sweet potato wedges are perfect for dipping, in my case in AB.

Easy Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of meal prep, but potatoes I don’t mind making in larger quantities because I literally am always in the mood for them, and they’re nice to add to salads or pair with a sandwich or to just eat as a snack. Plus, given the fact that I have a couple late nights a week, it’s nice to have some food ready to go for my hangry ass.

Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

I like to make a big batch of these and let them cool completely before eating them. For some reason, I think sweet potatoes have a more vibrant sweet flavor cold. So I make a batch using 2-3 giant sweet potatoes, and store them in the refrigerator for snacking over the course of 2-ish days. I don’t like to prep potatoes more than 2 days out because potatoes actually go bad pretty quickly.

Easy Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

You’ll notice I don’t use a ton of oil for these wedges. This isn’t because oil is bad, but mainly because oil prevents things from burning, and I like my potatoes a bit burnt. If you desire slightly less cripsy wedges, add a bit more oil, and decrease bake time.

Delicious Easy Baked Cripsy Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

These wedges are perfect dipped in almond butter, but they’re also fabulous plain with sea salt, and/or dipped in hummus, maple syrup, or guacamole. Potatoes.are.bae.

I hope you make these potatoes and I hope you love them! If you do give me a holler. Leave a comment below or HMU on Insta.

Happy potatoeing my friends!

Sweet Potato Wedges with Almond Butter

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 2-4 servings, depending on hunger

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
  • sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 420°F.
  2. Slice sweet potatoes into wedges shapes by cutting in half lengthwise, placing the flat surfaces downwards on the cutting board, and cutting lengthwise again. Next, cut each remaining chunk into thirds. This tutorial is helpful if you’re interested.
  3. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, foil, or parchment paper. Arrange potatoes evenly on the baking sheet, leaving a bit of space between them so the wedges are not touching.
  4. Drizzle oil on potatoes, and use hands to toss potatoes, so wedges get lightly coated.
  5. Roast for 30-40 minutes until edges are browned and potatoes are soft to touch, flipping halfway through.
  6. Remove wedges from oven and salt generously. Enjoy with almond butter, guac, or hummus.

Easy Homemade Chia Jam

I love me a PB&J. Or an almond butter and J. Both are wonderful. And something I feel I appreciate more as an adult than as a child. Anyone else? Okay, maybe just me.

Easy Homemade Chia Jam

While I’m a nut butter fiend, I also appreciate a scrumptious jam or jelly. The issue, I find, with many at the store is that they’re so darn sweet.

Chia Jam Recipe

I’m all about desserts, but when it comes to breakfast foods like yogurt, jams, and oatmeals, I’m very turned off but overly sweet things. Hence, I seek out sweetened-with-only-fruit jams (Crofter’s Organic is my favorite brand, and Trader Joe’s has some good options, as well) or I make my own homemade chia jam.

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Chia seed jam is the easiest thing ever. All you do is add chopped up fruit, chia seeds, and a hint of lemon juice if you’re feeling fancy. If you want to up the sweetness factor, go ahead and add a tablespoon or two of sugar, honey, or syrup.

Chia Jam

I find the chia seed jam perfect tangy and sweetened with only fruit, but you do you boo boo. Live your best jam life.

Easy Homemade Chia Jam

You can use pretty much whatever fruit you want for this recipe. I like to use frozen blueberries and/or strawberries the best. Just thaw and chop them up a bit, or mash at them with a fork. I like to leave some chunks in, but if you like smooth jam, I would suggest processing in a blender or food processor until desired consistency is achieved.

This recipe also rocks because the chia seeds add a little boost of omega-3 fatty acids to your day. If you don’t eat a lot of fish or flax or hemp seeds, chia seeds can help you add some of these essential fatty acids to your day, which as a vegan, I appreciate.

Easy Vegan Chia Jam

This jam goes wonderfully on sandwiches, oatmeal, toast, and yogurt. The possibilities are endless! It will have you saying #ThatsMyJam.

Easy Vegan Chia Jam

I hope you make this jam and I hope you love it! If you do let me know. Comment below or hit me up on Insta (@katherinebaker4).

Have a good weekend everyone!

Easy Homemade Chia Jam

Prep Time:  5 minutes
Fridge Time: At least 60 minutes
Servings: about 1 cup jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped or mashed fresh or (thawed) frozen fruit of choice
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, maple syrup, honey, or agave (optional)

Method:

  1. Chop or mash fruit until desired consistency is reached. I like my jam a bit chunky, so I leave chunks in. If you desire smooth jam, process in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
  3. Allow jam to thicken in the refrigerator, for at least 1 hour, ideally 4-6 or overnight.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Enjoy!

Roasted Spicy Sweet Potatoes and Plantains

Carbs, carbs carbs. We all know I love carbs. And potatoes (sweet potatoes in particular) have always been one of my favorite foods.

Last fall when I lived in Minnesota I was exposed to several varieties of sweet potatoes I’d never had before. I’m sure I walked by them in grocery stores in the past and overlooked them in search of regular, but now that I’ve discovered the likes of purple and Japanese sweet potatoes, I truly enjoy mixing up my potato game.

Then, a few months ago, the plantain obsession started, and now these babies have become a routine part of my starchy vegetable parties.

And the best part about these parties is that I can mix and match my starchy carbs to my liking.

A lot of people ask me how I eat potatoes and plantains since I eat them so frequently. This (along with plain baked with salt and almond butter) is one of my favorite ways.

Simple, spicy roasted sweet potatoes and plantains make a the perfect side dish to your meal (try alongside a tofu scramble!), or topped with avocado, beans, and/or pico, can easily become a meal.

All you need is a couple potatoes, a plantain and some spices, and you’ve got a yummy nutrient-packed starchy vegetable treat on its way.

I hope you try this dish, and if you do let me know! Comment below or tag me on Instagram.

Spicy Sweet Potatoes & Plantains

Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 1-3, depending on if you eat as an entree or side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 large purple sweet potato (can sub Japanese sweet potato, regular potato, or additional regular sweet potato)
  • 1 large very ripe (brown) plantain
  • 1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • heafty sprinkle of salt
  • avocado, black beans, and/or cilantro for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Cube sweet potatoes into equal sized cubes or coins. Place in a bowl. Microwave for 90 seconds – 2 minutes to soften slightly, as potatoes will cook more quickly than plantains otherwise. Slice plantain into 1/4 inch thick coins and add to bowl
  3. Drizzle oil on potato cubes and plantains. Add cumin, turmeric, and cayenne and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Spread potatoes/plantains onto a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are tender and browned. Remove from oven and serve with avocado, black beans, and/or cilantro.

11 Food and Health-Related New Year’s Resolutions That Are Way Better Than Losing Weight

It’s that time of year again: the time when everyone starts chattering about how this is going to be the year they finally lose weight. Diet talk starts flooding your ears and diet and fitness ads pop up all over the TV and social media. It’s unescapable.

But here’s a wild thought: if this stuff worked, and if these crazy cleanses and diets and fitness regimines were sustainable, then why does everyone pursue them year and year again? Oh, that’s right, because these are marketing gimmicks and money-makers from companies who have your wallet, not your health, in mind.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to live a healthy lifestyle. All I’m saying is that the diet industry has sort of distorted what it means to be healthy. And there are way more important and interesting things to pursue in life than talking about losing weight and doing juice cleanses all the time. Like, I don’t, perhaps realizing how privileged we are to be able to even not worry about where our next meal is coming from.

So here are 11 food and health-related resolution ideas if you want to make a resolution and are out of ideas since literally the only one you usually hear about is weight-loss related. Or don’t make one. That’s cool too. Eliminating extraneous and unnecessary self-placed pressure is totally something I can get behind.

Anyways, happy New Year! Hope you have a fun, tasty, and festive holiday.

1. Don’t diet

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They don’t work. They lead you to be miserable, sad and empty inside.

They also cause a great deal of stress, which leads to the stress hormone cortisol elevating in your body. Elevated cortisol is not only detrimental to overall health, but can actually make it harder to lose weight (which honestly, you probably don’t need to do anyway).

If you had a friend that made you sad, miserable, stressed, and left you feeling empty inside, would you continue to pursue a relationship with that person? Likely not. You’d probably distance yourself from them.

So you should do the same with diets. Kick that sh*t to the curb. Free yourself.

2. Let Go of Food Norms

Millie_Banana_bread_Dog

In the past few years, I’ve gone from being self-conscious, rigid, and weird about food norms to not giving a flipping fuck.

What do I mean exactly? Well, for example, for reasons that escape all present logic, I used to feel really weird eating lunch before noon. Like, the thought of enjoying a salad at 11am gave me anxiety. All of my friends in New York ate lunch at like, 2 or 3, so I perceived that as the normal or cool thing to do. If I ate lunch early, it’d make me different and weird and maybe cause me to miss out on eating with friends later.

This odd rigidity lasted after college, even when I would work from home. How silly is it that if I was hungry-for-a-meal at 10:30am, that I’d eat a small snack and let my stomach rumble for 90 minutes, starting at the clock and counting down the minutes until 12;00pm hit, rush to the kitchen, and rage on food.

In retrospect, it makes no sense to do this. At all. Obviously with various work and school schedules, I don’t always get to eat when I’m hungry, or eat what I feel like eating at the time. That’s okay. That’s life.

But I’ve let go of rules and regulations. Since I eat breakfast between 5-6, being hungry for lunch at 11 is totally acceptable.  I don’t judge myself for it. I eat my food, satisfy my hunger, and free up brain space to focus on other things.

There’s no right or wrong time to eat or correct meal to eat certain foods at.

So eat salad and sushi for breakfast (I have). Have lunch at 10:00am. Eat ice cream before bed when everyone else is talking about their new weight-loss plan. Do you. Live your best life.

3. Disassociate numbers and health

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Including calories, macros, and weight. Your body is not a calculator.

4. Unfollow anyone on Instagram promoting a cleanse or detox

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You can follow them again later, but free yourself from daily posts about ‘chic’ fast-tracks to health. Spoiler alert: there is no magic pill to good health. Juice cleanses are an example of a way company’s have found to make tons of money profiting off the vulnerability of those who simple want to be healthier or thinner and don’t know where to begin.

Juice cleanses don’t work. There is literally no scientific data to support them. Literally none of my nutrition professors at Columbia nor NYU ever said a single favorable thing about them.

Drinking juice is unsustainable and highly unsatisfying. Want to be healthier? Eat more plant-based foods, move when it feels good, and

5. Realize that food on Instagram isn’t real life

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I feel like the internet has set up this dream world where food always looks perfect and luscious and bountiful and full of health and wonder and it sometimes leads us to set oddly high or distorted expectations of what eating is.

The truth is, food doesn’t always have to look glamorous or even taste amazing all the time. Truly. It’s fuel. Sometimes you eat things that are boring and eh or maybe things you don’t like. That’s life. And sometimes there’s more to eating than picture perfect or gourmet meals. Sometimes it’s about the social element. Sometimes it’s going with the flow.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t really cook or style food or eat very boring food all of the time. In fact, I eat very boring food most of the time, I just don’t post all those meals and snacks to the internet.

There’s a lot more to life than food (which I know, is ironic to say on a food blog). But it’s true. Food is what gives you energy to do all the other things in life. So go ahead and eat boring food and make sh*t happen.

6. Waste less food

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Food waste is one of our nation’s tragic and hidden scandals.

40 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough to eat. Yet 40% of the food produced in this country goes in the trash, and often to landfills (which is also sad, since most food scraps are compostable).

Food waste wastes not only food itself, but also energy, water, and resources required to grow, package and transport it.

Even if you don’t giving a flying crap about the planet, there’s a selfish reason to care: wasting food wastes a ton of money, meaning there should be an incentive for everyone to stop buying or ordering more than we’ll realistically use, storing food more wisely (make friends with your freezers fam, seriously), and being more crafty with leftovers.

7. Take a few seconds a day to appreciate the fact that you have food

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Per reasons mentioned above. We live in a world of excess. Many of us walk around where food is everywhere, and in great abundance. Meanwhile, 40 million Americans don’t get enough to eat every year.

If you’re not food insecure, appreciate it. Truly. I firmly believe you can’t function at your maximum capacity when you are hungry.

8. Stop trying to ‘control your hormones’ with extreme diets and exercise habits

Vegan Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Rolls via Kbaked

Lately, ‘mastering your hormones’ seems to be the fastest, easiest, and trendiest way to attract followers on social media.

It really makes me sad to see people with tons of power and influence promoting extreme regimes and unscientific potions to large audiences.

The truth is, nutrition is super complicated, as is the endocrine system. And an Instagramer with a shiny feed who appears to be a queen of ‘natural’ lifestyle knows nothing about your health or what your body needs.

While I have a background in nutrition, I am not your healthcare professional, nor are any of the references listed above. If you have a concern about your hormones and/or have lost your period, consider seeing a healthcare provider about it.

Many people suffer from hormonal imbalances and amenorrhea from under-eating, over-exercising, not sleeping enough, or being too stressed out. Robyn from the Real-Life RD writes some good stuff on this topic if you want to know more from someone who is actually educated  in the stuff unlike so many self-proclaimed ‘wellness and lifestyle experts’ out there who maybe read one trendy pop-nutrition book or two.

But seriously, free yourself from believing that potion-and-mushroom-filled lattes and eliminating grains is how to fix

10. Prioritize sleep and stress reduction

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For so many years, sleep and engaging in activities that lower my cortisol were the first things to go when I was busy or overwhelmed. But lately I’ve come to realize how crucial sleep + stress management are to physical and mental health.

11. Enjoy your food more

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Life is too short. Eat dat ice cream.

Easy Baked Plantains

Our department has a lunch meeting every Wednesday where first year students sit and eat while a faculty member tells us about their research how they got where they are, and sometimes their life story, etc. it’s a nice time / I’m all about free food.plantain_baked_kbaked_coined_

Delivery options are limited around the Columbia University Medical Center campus. Hence why every single week lunch ends up being one of 3 options: pizza that smells like burnt Chuck E Cheese kitchen grease and is paired with a salad cloaked in sad cold deli meat (and one plain salad, but that goes fast), Dominican food, or on a good day, sandwiches on really strangely delicious fluffy crusty white hoagie bread.plantain_baked_kbaked_coins_vertical

Dominican food days are frequent, and I don’t hate it. The buffet has enough veggie options (salad with avocado, rice, beans) that I can finagle a decent meal out of it.

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The star of every Dominican week is, of course, the fried plantains. Sticky sweet gooey goodness, the fried plantains have become a cherished and familiar treat.

It dawned upon me this week that I’ve never actually made plantains at home which considering bananas and potatoes are my favorite foods and plantains are essentially the potato of bananas (as in not sweet and rather starchy), is quite odd. So over the weekend I decided to change this. I picked up some plantains, 3/$1, at my local grocery store.

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A kind woman was also picking out plantains when I was sorting through them. I asked her if she had any advice for a new plantain cook, and she told me to wait until the plantains were “soft like sponges.” Noted.

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Now onto cooking. I don’t love frying things and my stomach doesn’t love eating large quantities of fried food. Hence why I after doing some googling to confirm it was possible, I opted to bake mine.

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I did mine skin-on because the method sounded intriguing to me. You can totally peel them and cube them, coat them in oil and seasonings, and bake them that way (just for a shorter duration, 20-25 minutes until tender rather than 40-45).

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If you are curious about the skin-on method as I was, I am happy to report that it totally works. Just take it out of the oven when the foil-wrapped plantain gives to a squeeze.

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Next comes topping. I played around with topping these babies. One I coined and ate with melted vegan butter and brown sugar.

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Another I drizzled with almond butter, cinnamon, and a dash of sugar. The last I ate with leftover black bean soup and cilantro. I decided they would also taste great with guacamole. All were solid options, and it was a very plantain-filled day.

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Speaking of filled, I found plantains quite filling. I plan to keep this in mind since they are a cheap starchy piece of produce aka something I desperately need to befriend.

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I hope you give these a try. If you do, please let me know, and let me know how you topped or are them.

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Happy plantaining!

Easy Baked Plantains

Prep Time:  2 minutes
Cook Time: 35-45 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium very spotted ripe plantains

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a knife, draw a slit lengthwise down each plantain.
  3. Wrap each plantain (skin on) in aluminum foil, or lay out on a baking sheet with parchment paper underneath.
  4. Bake plantains for 35-50 minutes (depending on size/oven) until soft and squeezeable to the touch.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Top and eat as desired.

Topping Ideas:

  • non-dairy butter + 1 teaspoon brown sugar + dash cinnamon
  • drizzle of almond butter + cinnamon + sugar
  • black bean soup + salsa + cilantro
  • guacamole