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.

Why Counting Calories/Macros is Worthless

One of my least favorite trends right now / ever is counting calories and macros. It’s right up there with juice cleanses and detox latte potions (but that’s another article currently in the works). These things are very trendy right now on blogs and by those self-proclaimed ‘wellness experts’ and ‘wholistic healers/nutritionists’ on Insta, and while some people devote themselves to such regimes religiously, I am going to share with you why I think for most people it does more harm than good.

IMG_7674

Now. I’m not here to tell you it’s wrong to care about the food you eat. But if you’re hyper-focused on numbers, you may be missing the point of what it means to be actually be healthy.

Below are just a few of the reasons I advise against counting calories, carbs, or macros. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: Dietitian-guided meal planning and food tracking may be appropriate for those in the early stages of recovering from eating disorders or disordered eating until proper self-feeding is reestablished.

1. You don’t really know exactly how much you need, and a lot of different sources will give you different answers.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.42.08 AM

While it’s true formulas exist to guide health professionals to estimate how much of certain macronutrients or calories a person needs for various life stages and health conditions, unless there is a case of enteral feeding, these are approximate values.

It’s highly unlikely that the calculations you compute at home or find on the internet are precise enough to match your exact needs. Moreover, you probably have varying levels of activity and sleep every day, which these formulas will not reflect.

If you don’t believe me, try googling “calorie calculator.” Type your info into a few different ones on the internet. See what happens. When I did it, I got a different value from every single website, proving a lack of validity for these values.

2. Not every item of food you eat has the exact same caloric content every time.

IMG_7708

Think about when you eat out. Let’s say, for example, I get a you pick two at panera. A go-to order for me is the garden veggie soup with pesto, a salad with avocado added, and a side of bread. Sometimes my soup has like, a bucket of oily pesto on it. Sometimes there’s barely any. Same with the amount of avocado, nuts, and tomatoes in the salad. It’s slight different every single time.

The bread that comes with it is sometimes a tiny nub, while other times I get a big round end piece. On lucky days I beg two pieces. You get the idea…all this to say that unless you eat nothing but perfect former and processed packaged foods (which I hope you don’t think is s way to get healthy), knowing the exact caloric and macro values of your food is nearly impossible, and studies have shown most people are pretty terrible at accurately tracking food and caloric intake.

What about a muffin your sister made? Or a latte at your local coffee shop? Even the USDA database has food values that don’t always reflect the actual food you eat (ie, they list 60 calories per slice of bread…the bread I eat has 80 calories per slide according to the label).

Are you going to neglect these foods because you don’t know how precisely they fit into your eating pattern?

Don’t! Free yourself! For the work involved, there is little to no benefit to tracking your calories or macros. If anything, it invites obsessing and micromanaging which can do more harm than good (see below).

3. It causes stress, and stress really mess with your physical and mental health.

Watermelon_Arugula_Salad_Vegan

Keeping track of calories, carbs, etc requires a decent amount of attention and brain space on a daily basis. Perhaps you have plans to go out to dinner later but are worrying all day about the meal not fitting into your shiny perfect numerical nutrition boxes. Or maybe your coworker spontaneously suggests happy hour drinks or a classmate offers to share some birthday cupcakes in class. Cue stress, panic, anxiety, and loss of control taking over.

Eating the same amounts every day isn’t healthy, nor realistic. Life has ebbs and flows and is meant to be enjoyed spontaneously at times. Subjecting yourself to deprivation or hyper rigidity will likely cause you stress and anxiety, both of which can impact your hunger hormones and mess not only with your hunger and fullness cues, but also with your sleep schedule and mental health, cultivating a path away from optimal functioning, instead of one towards it.

Moreover, think of all the brain space you must devote to tracking your intake. Now imagine what else you could fill that brain space with: creative thoughts, fulfilling activities, or more time to spend with family and friends or spent cooking yummy nourishing meals. Sound better than counting carbs? I thought so.

4. It doesn’t take into account how hungry you are.

img_0712

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your body is not a calculator, so it shouldn’t be treated as such. Unless you sleep, move, think and breathe the exact same amount every single day, you shouldn’t eat as if you do.

One of my biggest issues with calorie and macro counting is that it teaches you to disengage with your inherent hunger and fullness cues. Once you lose touch with them, it can be quite difficult to remember how to self-regulate.

Some days you’re just extra hungry for no reason. That is okay. And other days you may not feel as hungry as usual. That’s also normal. But you should eat according to what your body wants and needs given the situation. This means listening to hunger and fullness rather than a chart full of numbers.

5. It sucks the fun out of eating and eating out.

img_0595

Per the reasons mentioned above, calorie and macro counting suck joy out of life. Don’t do this to yourself. Food and eating are meant to be pleasurable. They’re intended to be shared, joyful experiences, or at the very least, fulfilling nourishment to cary out the rest of your life’s passions without being distracted by hunger or stressed by food charts.

This evening, for example, I overheard two well-intentioned females picking items off a menu based on what would fit their macro plans based on what else they had eaten that day. It made me so sad. You are meant to enjoy the food you consume, not micromanage it.

Imagine instead if these girls ordered what they had wanted instead of what they did order, and satisfied the craving their body had, nourished mind body and spirit, and moved on with life. What struck me the most was that the concern was not on the healthfulness of the varied food options, but rather, a game of numbers and macros. I almost wanted to butt-in from my table and tell them that their original order was actually highly nutrient-dense and would likely keep them satisfied for hours. But I held back…

Well there you have it: the reasons I advise against counting calories and macros.

If you are looking to improve your health, my best advice is always the same and relatively simple: fill up on plant-based foods (fruits, veg, beans, nuts, seeds, etc). Moderate the rest. Eat what you want when you want it, and stop when you’re satisfied. Listen to your body. They’re smarter than we give them credit for. And don’t forget to prioritize sleep an stress reduction, both of which may be compromised by rigid dieting.

Cheers to a happy, healthy 2018, free from self-inflicted diet stress.

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

img_9845

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

Watermelon_Arugula_Salad_Vegan_GF

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

4. Unfollow anyone on Instagram promoting a cleanse or detox

img_9795

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

IMG_7672 (1)

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

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.28.15 AM

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

img_8448

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 12.05.38 PM

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

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.23.45 PM

Life is too short. Eat dat ice cream.

Weekend Update/Life Update (My Next Step)

Hey there! I haven’t written a post like this in a while so I figured it was time. I thought I’d share my weekend and what I’m up to next!

IMG_7775

This weekend I was actually supposed to be in Denver, but life was too hectic with a move coming up this week (eeeeep) and with zero packing done and no apartment yet I decided I’ll go to Denver in January instead. My anxiety hasn’t been serving me well these days. Sometimes it does, other times it’s a messy butthole that gets in the way. Right now it’s the later. #anyways #movingon

Friday:

Friday I took my brand new MacBook Pro to the Apple Store because after shelling out a boat load of money for it, it came with a broken “D” key. How irritating. The guy was also totally not nice about it and didn’t believe it came that way (he kept saying Apple Care would cover the damage this time…and I’m like this isn’t damage….it came messed up). Anyways, now I don’t have a computer I can use Adobe on until Friday which is SUPER annoying because I was in the middle of editing several videos. Ugh!

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.27.46 AM

Also on Friday, it was announced that Millie’s photo in the TJ’s contest won us a $500 giftcard. I AM SO GRATEFUL AND HAPPY. Thanks to all who supported us! Here’s the photo from Millie’s Insta:

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.59.03 AM.png

I actually found out about this on Thursday and took Millie out to dinner and froyo at Panera to thank her for her cuteness lol.

IMG_7708

She got the chicken that would have come on my salad.

IMG_7710

Can we be real for a moment? I frickin’ love Panera. Like I know it’s nothing phenomenal but it’s consistently good. I just love their salads and soups and bagels! Tho their bread is kinda meh IMO. Bring back the actually yummy sourdough roll days!

IMG_7718

IMG_7713

Saturday:

Saturday I made peanut butter cookies (because I love to bake when I’m stressed; recipe coming soon), sort of packed, took Millie to the park, and was in a meh mood for most of the day.

IMG_7681

At the park, Millie made friends with a bee! Curious nugget.

IMG_7691

I met an old co-worker for dinner at Odd Duck. If you ever find yourself in MKE, go to Odd Duck. It’s small plates, different menu almost every time you go, and more often than not, very yum yum.

I got a quinoa salad (yes this photo is AWFUL, the lighting was dim) with greens, quinoa, apples, onions, golden raisins and a cumin vinaigrette. The golden raisins in it were MONEY. The cumin dressing could have used a hint more acid/salt to be a slam dunk IMO, but I tend to like very acidic/salty things so perhaps I’m biased.

IMG_7751

I also got this grilled cauliflower dish. It came with hunks of grilled Cauliflower (obvi) Guajillo Purée, Plantain Chips, Fingerling Potatoes, Poblano Jelly, Chili Oil “Powder”, Nopal Aioli. This was MONEY.

IMG_7748

After that I stopped by a friend’s in Bayview since I was nearby, did an errand, and headed home for sleeps.

Sunday:

Sunday I hit up Trader Joe’s bright and early to get in on some of their deals for their 50th anniversary. I got avocados and organic French baguettes for $0.50, and $93 of other stuff. I utilized the avos + baguette for an epic $1 lunch (with some everything bagel salt, of course).

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.52.21 AM

I also went to a barre class that morning, and ran another errand or 8. I also got stressed about my computer issues preventing me from getting work done so I made more cookies.

Levain Bakery Style Vegan Cookies

While I was baking I looked up and saw two wild turkeys and two deer in the backyard. Gotta love Wisco (political policies here aside)!

IMG_7767

Sunday evening I met my aunt for dinner at Beans & Barley, which is a Milwaukee health food institution that’s old school and charming in the best way.

IMG_7775

This was one of the first healthy diner type places around here, and it was nice to visit it since I haven’t been in a while. I love how old school certain things about it are. Like they put whole cherry tomatoes and alfalfa spreads in salad and serve everything with these cute tiny rolls and a pad of butter.

IMG_7779

Dinner was chips and guac with 3 kinds of salsa, a large greens salad (with all of the veggies, sunflower seeds, cashews, etc) with balsamic marinated tofu (yum), and of course, a wee little roll. Their balsamic dressing, BTW, is money.

IMG_7783

We also got dessert. German chocolate cake for her and vegan peanut butter chocolate cake for me. Yummo. Their cakes are good because they are not too sweet! #bless

It was a nice evening. I really enjoyed spending time with my aunt. She’s pretty awesome. After that I headed up, chilled with the weiner, and headed to bed.

What’s Next:

In an attempt to be more open about my life on my blog and not just post recipes, I’m going to share that I’m moving back to NYC for more school (yup). I’m starting at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in the Environmental Health Sciences department, with a focus on Climate & Health. My goal is to focus on how climate change is impacted nutrition/food systems.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.48.08 AM

Yes, I’m a mega-nerd. If you know me IRL closely, you’ll know this year was kinda tough for me. I moved cross-country and started something that I knew in my gut just wasn’t right. Lesson learned: ALWAYS trust you your gut, not your logical brain or what anyone else tells you should do.

Anyways, after realizing what I definitely DON’T want to do, I revisited an urge to enter this program. I took classes in this department while at IHN of Columbia, and was blown away by them. I felt so moved, and motivated. Also throughout that entire program, I realized my strength is not in basic lab science. I can do it, but I truly excel at social sciences and public health.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.18.35 AM

I actually didn’t want to do this program since I’m wary about moving back to NYC after being there for so long and really enjoying a break from it, but accepted students day sold me. Hard. The department I’m in seems so awesome. The professors are amazeballs and very caring. And it seems like the students do such neat things!

I want to help communicate public health messages to the public and be an advocate. Eventually, I think, I want to be a professor. I have taught at U of MN and at Marquette, and really enjoy it! I’m excited to share my journey of life in NYC, public health, nutrition, and climate health. I hope you’ll join me; I’m legit VERY excited about this curriculum! And plan to NOT do what I did last time I was in school and stop blogging. No no. This is happening. HOLD ME TO IT.

IMG_6774

Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, especially in this last weird/icky/bumpin’ my head around the world year. I feel truly humbled and blessed for this upcoming opportunity.

Thanks for reading!!! Comment about your weekend; I love hearing from readers!

10 Phrases to Remove from Your Food/Exercise Vocabulary

Greetings! Just have some things on my mind I wanted to share over here on this blog thing.

baker_katherine_chocolate_chip_single_serve_vegan_air

This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but after traveling and listening to the way some friends talk about food/eating/working out, and the way the Real Housewives of Orange County (side note:why is it this group that does it the most? Real Housewives of NY seem to eat normally…) talk about food/eating/working out, and the way some of my fitness-hyped friends/gyms talk about food/eating/working out, I’m at my breaking point. Time to write!

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.41.19 AM

I wanted to discuss a few things that I continually hear that are NOT HEALTHY behaviors. Sadly, society has made them ‘normal,’ so I can’t classify them as NOT HEALTHY NORMAL behaviors. Maybe some day.

Anyways, society has warped people’s ideas of what it means to be healthy. Even in the nutrition world, I see people I know take it too far. Nutritionists I follow on Instagram post their daily workouts and show all their pristinely healthy foods.

Kbaked_Cherries

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with regular exercise or black bean brownies, but like, it’s okay (actually, healthy) to have a bit of flexibility in your diet. Eating too healthy  and working out rigorously all the time isn’t healthy; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

It can cause stress, anxiety, food-fear, guilt, and tumultuous relationships with food that can spiral into an eating disorder, or cause people to flirt with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors for years.

Baker_Katherine_chocolate_PB_college_done1

Admittedly, this is a lesson I learned with time. We all make mistakes, grow, and learn. So here are phrases I have banned from my vocabulary, or, at the very least, phrases or thoughts that I recognize as unhealthy if they creep up in my brain or in conversation. I encourage you to read them and assess your relationship with food:

1. ‘I’m banning sugar/fruit/carbs from my diet.’

IMG_4604

Are you? That sounds difficult, sad, and downright impractical. Glucose is your body’s preferred source of energy, and it needs it!

I have no idea who decided bread and pasta are like, the worst thing ever, OR who decided that that the only ‘acceptable,’ sources of carbohydrates are quinoa and sweet potatoes, but it’s time to recognize that carbs are an important part of a healthy diet, as are sources of fat and protein.

So important, in fact, that it’s recommended you eat a majority of your calories from carbohydrates. So embrace that bread baby! And the fruit. All the fruit. And unfollow anyone on Instagram who tells you fruit is bad for you. They are bad for your mental health.

2. ‘I feel so guilty if I eat ____.’

Yummy Vegan Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Rolls - Kbaked

Eating should never make you feel guilty. You are a freaking living organism for crying out loud. Do you feel guilty drinking water if you’re thirsty? No, you probably don’t.

So why on earth would you feel guilty giving your body fuel when you are hungry? Eating when you are hungry is the same as drinking when you are thirsty. Give. Your. Body. What. It. Needs.

And if you have guilt or anxiety around certain foods, perhaps you need to assess your relationship with eating. Food is just food. If you want an apple, eat an apple. If you want a cupcake, have a cupcake. Your body will break it down, digest it, and give you energy. So eat food. Enjoy it. And move on with life.

3. ‘No food after XX:00pm.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 11.23.45 PM

Hey just another reminder that your body is a living organism, not a clock or a machine. You should eat when you are hungry. Period. Want lunch at 10:00am? Eat it. Want it at 2:00pm? Also cool.

Clocks don’t always match up with your hunger cycle, and every day is different. Instead of judging when you want to eat, or setting up windows when you can, start listening to your hunger/fullness cues instead of eating on a schedule.

4. ‘I didn’t work out today, so I can’t eat any __________ or go out to dinner/dessert.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.43.31 AM

That sounds like a rigid, unhealthy relationship with food and movement. If you’re moving your body with the sole intention to burn calories, OR you feel you do not ‘deserve’ certain foods if you haven’t worked out enough, you may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise.

Here’s a fun fact: you burn calories all the time. When you’re sleeping, when you’re digesting food, when you go to the bathroom, even when you think – all of those things burn calories.

The human brain consumes roughly 420 calories per day, so you should be eating enough to fuel your brain, organs, and body enough to live through each day with ample energy and mental clarity.

Exercise should make you feel good; it should make you feel stronger. It isn’t a box you have to check off your list every day in order to eat appropriate amounts of food.

I don’t want to look back on my life and regret missing fun dinners or desserts out because I didn’t work out enough that day.

5. ‘Never miss a workout! #Noexcuses! #MotivationMonday.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.42.08 AM

No excuses? What if you’re sick, tired, sore, or having a really stressful day where adding exercise to your routine will greatly increases your stress level? Those sound like darn good excuses to me…

Exercise should enhance you, not stress you out. And you should be able to ride with the ebs and flows of life and skip exercise when you aren’t feeling it or it isn’t convenient and not feel guilty or anxious about it.

Overexercising can increase stress hormones like cortisol, and cause all sorts of nasty impacts on your body/health. Making overexercise unhealthy.

If you think it’s more important to burn calories every day than to maintain your health, you should seriously check your relationship with food/eating.

6.  ‘I was so bad last night….I ate  _____.’

Vegan Almond Cherry Cake Mary Berry GBBO Inspired

If you are labeling eating behavior as ‘good,’ and ‘bad,’ you may be flirting with (or have a full blown) disordered relationship with food.

People ask me all the time “Is X food or Y food better?” To which, I always respond, “Foods are very complex and everyone is different and in need of different things, so that’s a very complicated question.”

Try not to view foods as ‘good,’ and ‘bad.’ Sure, there are foods that have more fiber or protein or vitamin whatever than other foods, but just because a food is high in sugar or lacking trace minerals doesn’t make it ‘bad.’

Sometimes you gotta eat for your mental health or to enjoy social experiences. For example, if you choose not to eat cake on your friend’s birthday even though you want to eat it, simply because you think it’s ‘unhealthy,’ you are doing yourself more harm than good. And sometimes you just need a damn cookie after a long day because you are craving it.

Same goes with travel. Tasting new foods while traveling should enhance your travel experience, not cause anxiety. EMBRACE IT.

7. ‘I feel insane if I don’t workout every day.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 11.18.35 AM

Do you? Because that is a little insane, and sounds a bit like exercise addiction, especially if missing exercise causes you to have anxiety. See numbers 4 and 5.

8. ‘I’m at my calorie limit for the day, so I can’t have any.’

img_4631.png

If you count calories or track macros, I urge you to stop.

Can I ask you a question? Is your body a calculator? No. No it is not. So why are your treating it like a math equation. Every single day is different, so your needs are different each and every day to reflect that.

Some days you may be crazy hungry and need 5 meals and 4 snacks. Other days you may have less of an appetite. Both are totally normal. So why would you try to achieve a specific number each day, you’re actively disengaging from your hunger/fullness cues and REALLY messing with your body’s ability to naturally maintain homeostasis and body weight.

Do yourself a giant favor, and skip the counting. You’ll feel free, and more in tune to what your body wants, and what it actually needs.

9. ‘Earn/Sculpt Your Body.’

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.37.46 PM

This is something I often hear at gyms or boutique fitness studios. Even at a boutique fitness studio I really love and have a membership to, I see/hear this all the time and it bothers me.

Here’s why: I just don’t think you should feel like you have to treat your body like it’s a goddamn piece of clay for some art show or something. Your body breathes. It digests food. Your brain thinks. It helps you learn, create, share information, and interact with others. It also helps you be able to exercise, and do all other amazing tasks you may need to do throughout the day.

Your body is FREAKIN’ AMAZING. So instead of viewing it as something to manipulate, how about showing it some gosh darn well-deserved appreciation?!

10. ‘I’m on a cleanse/doing a non-toxic lifestyle thing.’

arugula

Lol…I have no idea what people mean by ‘cleansing’ or ‘detoxifying foods.’ These are sexy phrases that have no scientific backing/evidence. No food has shown significant evidence to cleanse or detoxify you…your liver and kidney remove any real toxins so you can consider yourself all good on that front.

All of these cleanses and detoxifying powders and pills and potions and are simply a way for unregulated supplement companies and the ‘health influencer’ Instagram stars who promote them to make money off vulnerable people who are innocently looking to improve their health. Which is pretty shitty and irresponsible of them, if you ask me.

Same with ‘giving your digestive system a break.’ Hey guess what, you still digest things like juice. And your digestive system is designed to digest food on the regular. Like I said in #9, your body is FREAKIN’ AMAZING.

Would you put your pet on a cleanse? No, you probably wouldn’t. Because you’d think to yourself “No, that’s not normal. My dog is supposed to eat every day and would be grumpy if they didn’t.” Well then. Same goes to YOU!

So skip that cleanse, and buy some delicious groceries and EAT. Because eating is satisfying, delicious and fun.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 8.41.08 AM

I challenge you to recognize when these phrases come up in conversation, on TV, on a magazine cover, on an Instagram ‘health influencer,’ star’s stories, or on the wall at a fitness boutique and ignore them. You have the power to do so and it is oh so very freeing.

This takes time and practice to do so be patient and forgiving with yourself. But your brain and body will thank you!

The HAES/Anti-Diet Movement, and What It’s Missing

Hello fam. How ya doing? I hope you’re doing well and enjoying a day filled with delicious foods and internal sunshine.

With the weather warming up and a mini-toe surgery leaving me unable to do much else in terms of movement, I’ve recently taken to going to long walks with my dog and listening to podcasts. After blowing through a couple series in their entirety, I started listening to Food PsychFood Psych per recommendation of a few others.

Overall, I really enjoy listening to the podcast. It’s thought-provoking, delivers important messages so many need to hear, and is entertaining enough to hold my attention. That said, I do not agree with every message delivered in its entirety (and am a firm believer you should not only watch/listen to things you completely agree with, because that’s called living in an echo chamber, and it’s important to understand other POVs, IMO), and I seriously believe that the podcast is missing an important part of body acceptance.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.28.15 AM

I can totally get behind the anti-diet movement (for those unfamiliar, it basically points out how society has normalized diet culture, and now it’s more abnormal than not to not be constantly dieting); I’ve felt that way about diet-culture for a very long time and have recently become an advocate of intuitive eating. I am learning to be better at letting go of external cues and just eating what works for me when I want to and I’m all about that life.

But the entire podcast focuses mainly on accepting bigger bodies, “thin privilege,” and how thin people don’t feel the pressure to change their bodies. And I can say, first-handed, this isn’t true. I have felt enormous shame for being the scrawny kid growing up, and even to this day, everyone from strangers to doctors to potential employers feel entitled to comment on my size, make pointed assumptions on how I got to be my size, how I should change, and what my physical or professional capabilities are based on my body type.

I must be weak, emotionally vulnerable, mentally ill, and childish, right? And no one would ever find a woman who looks like a 12-year-old boy to be desirable…or at least that’s what I’ve been told. And heaven forbid I order a salad somewhere, even if that’s what my body is craving, because obviously, you know, that means I have a problem.

I have honestly been asked in job interviews how old I am, and been told that “no one should look like that, it’s not natural or healthy,” regarding my shape and size. Uh, okay, cool.

The sad part is, I’m not even that abnormally sized.  And in fact, in my 6 years living in NYC, my body never came up as an issue. But after living in the Midwest this year, I gotta say, I feel the heat very regularly. It reminds me of being in middle and high school again, where people would tease me for my size and I was on the “itty bitty titty committee.” Moreover, eating disorders are SERIOUS disease, and not something to take lightly or assume or wish upon anyone.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 12.38.24 AM

Not to minimize any pain any others feel about shame they receive for their body shaming, but I argue thin privilege is not the privilege it’s made out to be in this Podcast series. Thin people get shamed all the time, and damn it, our feelings get hurt too.

Bodies change and fluctuate throughout the lifespan. Maybe in a few years I’ll look different. Maybe not. But this is my body today, and I’m tired to being made to feel shameful of it just as much as anyone else.

I’ve written about this before in this viral piece for Spoon, and years later, I still feel the same.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.26.56 AM

I will continue to listen to the Food Psych series, and truly DO enjoy it. However, I wish they would feature thin shaming at least just once. They constantly bring up “health at every size,” yet seem to not acknowledge the fact that smaller people may also just be that way and may be healthy.

In fact, at times, I feel as if they almost demonize being small. In a society that is so thin-obsessed, the acceptance of eating what’s right for your body and not fighting your body’s natural size is so so important. But I wish they would acknowledge both ends of this spectrum. People know what they look like, and size isn’t, in my opinion, anything to be commented on.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. Wishing everyone a day of body acceptance and self-compassion!