Motivation

The Facts about Worldwide Hunger, and How YOU Can Help

Let’s talk about hunger.

No, I’m not talking about what you might feel when you wake up in the morning and can’t make a bowl of oatmeal fast enough. I’m talking about hunger that kills. As a dietitian, worldwide hunger and nutritional deficiency hit close to home. And as a dietitian, I know that there is more than enough food to feed every single person in the world, and feed them well.

While on a trip back home to Virginia, I had the pleasure of lending my help to an an anti-hunger campaign called Stop Hunger Now, which was hosting a meal-packaging event in my town. I hopped onto the assembly line and made sure meal packets were the right weight and consistency to be shipped off to over 65 countries worldwide. Within two hours we had packaged 25,000 meals. That’s right — 25,000 meals! Each of those packets will feed six children and boasts rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals.

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Children are hit hard by malnutrition and the diseases that arise from (or are amplified by) not having enough food. Measles, malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia are some of the leading causes of childhood death. And malnutrition can start before kids are even born, if their moms aren’t taking in enough nutrition. Read more about the effects of malnutrition here.

The meals that we packaged were exclusively vegan. Now, depending on what country they are sent to, various meats may or may not be added per the local culture. But the meals cost just 25 cents because they are plant-based.

“Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of two years and transports quickly. Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country.”

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(c) Stop Hunger Now

So if we have enough food to feed everyone in the world, why does one person every three seconds die of hunger or hunger-related illness? I’ll briefly summarize some of the key reasons. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this matter, but I have learned quite a lot through my studies and my travels to food-insecure countries such as Tanzania and the Dominican Republic.

1. Poverty and a Reliance on Meat as a Protein Source

Farmers and families living on $1 or less a day simply cannot afford to buy or trade their food. And farmers trying to make a living off of their own land are often not supported by their governments. As the renowned Marion Nestle writes,

“Governments must support food systems that provide farmers and workers with a reasonable standard of living, replenish soil nutrients, conserve natural resources, and minimize pollution and greenhouse gases—and promote health.” Part of minimizing pollution and greenhouse gases naturally involves growing more plants, and less meat. When the focus is on growing crops to feed animals, an opportunity arises to feed more people instead of fueling a meat-driven system that just isn’t working. 

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2. Climate Change (read the 2009 World Food Programme’s climate report here)

You don’t have to believe in human-accelerated climate change — it’s happening, and it’s been happening, for a long time. Due in part to increased heat and decreased water availability, farmers all over the world will suffer a decrease in agricultural production (mostly wheat, rice, and maize). This will cause an increase in food prices worldwide, but mostly in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Extreme natural disasters as a result of climate change will  continue to wreak havoc. By 2050, we expect an increase of 10-20% of people at risk of hunger worldwide.

3. Lack of nutrition education.

During my time in Tanzania, I sampled probably twenty kinds of root vegetables, dark leafy greens, and native fruits. Unfortunately, many of them were underutilized by the local population and sometimes even treated as throwaway foods. But these foods were rich in vitamins and minerals, protein, and valuable starch. It takes dedicated professionals to provide nutrition and cooking education to teach people how to rely on the food that their own soil can produce.

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In America, 48 million people are hungry and rely on government initiatives like SNAP. I encourage you to read about the $1 a day challenge — this is something I was tasked to try for one day in college, and it was hard. But over a billion people worldwide have to do for their whole lives. And remember:

“It’s not due to laziness that someone is poor. It’s not due to a lack of ambition or lack of intelligence. It’s because they lack the things that we take advantage of every day.” — Living on One Dollar

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So how can YOU get involved? I’ve compiled a list of Portland-specific organizations that need help. Oregon is the fifth-hungriest state in America.

1. Have a garden, or participate in a community garden? The “Plant a Row” program with the Oregon Food Bank allows you to donate home-grown food to the needy.

2. Want to get involved long-term? Growing Gardens offers programs to help schools start gardens and provide cooking classes. In the summer, weekly garden parties will involve a local Portland chef who can teach people how to cook what they grow. They even have an internship, which will focus on fundraising, building gardens, and hosting garden summer camps.

3. Reduce your own food waste. With so many hungry in the world, it’s a damn shame to throw so much food away. And Americans waste 40% of the food they buy. The Kitchn has a great article on ways to get the most out of the food you buy. And remember to compost your food scraps if you can, as decomposing food in landfills contributes methane to the environment.

4. If you like gardening a whole lot, get involved with the Produce for People Program. Last year they grew and donated 20,3337 lbs of produce to needy families.

5. More of a day-to-day volunteer? The Oregon Food Bank (and any food bank, no matter where you live) needs help. Here’s an easy way to get involved.

6. Host a meal-packaging event with Stop Hunger Now. This would a fantastic event for an organization or club to host. With 40 people, you could package 10,000 meals in two hours, at just 25 cents a meal.

7. Make your dollar count. Support local farmers, and local produce. Alleviate your carbon footprint by reducing your meat intake.

There’s so much more to be said about hunger, and so many experts out there who can say it better than I can. I hope this post left you with the knowledge that hunger and the disease that occur with it can be stopped. What do you know about hunger?

 

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Nike Portland Run Club: We Run PDX

What’s better than running? Not a whole lot.

What’s better than running with a group of running-obsessed Portlanders, Britney Spears blasting on the speakers, while being simultaneously cheered on and honked at (in encouragement) by people and cars in the streets? Definitely, definitely nothing. Welcome to Nike Run Club.

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If you’re looking for some inspiration and motivation to get out there and hit the pavement, you’re in luck. The Portland chapter of Nike Run Club is open for business!

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What’s makes running with a group so fantastic? It’s all about the synergy. Think back to high school physics.

syn·er·gy
ˈsinərjē/
noun
noun: synergy; plural noun: synergies; noun: synergism; plural noun: synergisms
1. the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
 
That’s right: with the perfect mixture of friendly, fun energy and a fantastic group of runners, we accomplish more than each of us would on our own.
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Running with a group is one of the best ways to pump up your pace and endurance. 
While I do love running solo, sometimes I need to push myself with some healthy competition! Running up the OHSU hill would never have happened without Run Club. It’s hard to focus on mileage and the respiratory taxation of running when you have an overwhelming amount of positive energy circling around the group. I have succeeded in introducing four of my friends to Run Club, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. That’s cause it’s fun, y’all. On run club nights, we run the city like we own it.

Not to mention, we get to run in one of the most beautiful and fun cities in the world.
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If you live in Portland, come run with us! It’s free, and all levels are welcome! All you need to bring is a smile and some shoes. If you don’t like your shoes, you can take the Nike store’s currently featured kicks on a test run. Nike lends out the latest gear for user testing as well, like its new sport watch. If fear about your pace is keeping you from joining us, stop right there! At least three Nike employee pacers come with us and make sure no one is ever left behind.

Bonus points if you have the Nike Run+ app on your phone to track mileage (it’s free), and an Instagram account to tag our runs! Nike will donate a set amount of money per mile to a selected charity. Remember to hashtag #werunpdx!

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Meet up at the Nike store downtown on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 pm. Monday runs break into groups planning to run 3, 5 or 7+ miles. The Wednesday run will usually be a themed fun-run between 3 and 5 miles, planned by one of the Nike employees. Last night, our art-themed route had us running to some of Portland’s iconic sculpture stops, where we did some quick strength training moves before continuing on.

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Wall sits: par for the course.

You’ll also get the inside scoop on larger runs coming up. For example, Nike’s We Run the Night Flash Run on December 21st hosted hundreds of runners on a four mile route through Portland to celebrate the longest night of the year. I’ve never seen so many glow lights in my life. We were treated to a pit stop inside the Jeld-Wen stadium for some personal trainer-led strength training, and a fireworks show inside the stadium! Since it coincided with Santacon, we were cheered on by about 200 intoxicated Santas, but kept on course with the help of a bona fide marching band. What can I say? If you weren’t there, you weren’t there.

Needless to say, if you ever needed a boost of pure adrenaline with some of the best people in this city, run club is for you.

But apart from the mileage, the hashtagging, and the training, I love Run Club because it helps me to get out there and be active within my community. Between the expertly crafted playlists pumping through the city air and the friendly chatter to be had with new friends, running this city is a total blast and never fails to lift my spirits.

Just remember: if you can walk, you can run. If you can run, you are a runner. So what are you waiting for? Just do it.

(for more fantastic pictures updated by a Nike pacer himself, visit http://phillipmatos.com/)

VegFest 2013 and the Plant-Based Nutrition Conference

I had the pleasure of attending my first ever health conference as an actual health professional yesterday! The “Enhancing Health with Plant-Based Nutrition” conference was organized by Adventist Medical Center and Northwest VEG and was a great learning experience. Registered dietitians are required to earn 75 continuing education credits every five years to make sure we are continuing to learn in our field, and I had a lot of fun earning my first six! And as a vegan RD, I was so grateful that the Academy approved this lifestyle medicine conference for credit.

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Huge props to whoever organized the food for this event. I was fed a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with PB. Lunch was a delicious buffet of all gluten-free and vegan items, ranging from cashew cheese spread over millet and tempeh, to tacos with delicious guacamole and salsa. But dessert really took the cake –we were treated to raw raspberry cheesecake. Drool!

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Overheard: “But seriously, how much kale is too much?”

I really enjoyed the speakers at this conference. They spoke on a wide range of topics, from enhancing your brain health and preventing Alzheimer’s dementia with a plant-based diet, to one dietitian’s research in the Marshall Islands working with a population stricken with a diabetes epidemic. After hearing her tales of diabetes reversal and the new life and vigor these people have for plant-based nutrition, I was even more inspired to live my life as a joyful, vegan RD.

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I wrote down a few key points that stood out to me, so I’ll go over them briefly if you’re interested in evidence-based nutrition information:

1. 51% of American calories come from processed foods. It’s hard to remember that outside of the Portland bubble, where everyone seems to care about locally-grown, whole foods, there’s an entire nation of people who are still surviving off of factory-produced or imported food.

2. The average American consumes 12 cows, 25 hogs, and 2400 chickens in their lifetime.

3. Blue Zones, or geographic areas that have been identified as spots where people live significantly longer than the average human and have a better quality of life in their golden years, have specific lifestyle factors in common: strong family ties, non-smoking, plant-based diets, a habit of constant moderate activity, and healthy social engagement. Read more about Blue Zones here. Here are some research articles about how people following a plant-based diet have been shown to live longer and have less incidence of chronic disease (including cancer and heart disease): Adventist Health Study, AHS-2 Fraser, Crowe, & Huang et al.

Some of the specific patterns that have been isolated as promoting significantly higher risk of disease included red and processed meat consumption, refined grain consumption, and consuming foods rich in saturated fats such as sweets, desserts and french fries ( this was from the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, with fourteen years of data from over 69,000 nurses).

I was particularly shocked to read about heart disease reversal and diabetes reversal in the Marshall Islands. Type 2 DM is the number one cause of death on these islands, and 50% of the population who are over 35 years old have it. I can’t even wrap my head around that, but I fear that our country may see these numbers someday (right now about 8% of our population has diabetes). Brenda Davis, RD, of the Diabetes Wellness Project traveled to these islands and helped to integrate a lifestyle change of exercise, stress management, and a fully plant-based, low-glycemic load diet. The results? Within two weeks patients who couldn’t walk without pain were starting to walk to the end of the block and back. Blood tests became normal — in fact, one woman’s HbA1C went from 8.7 to 5.7 (if you’re a health professional, you know this is unheard of without medication!!). I was so impacted by this project and the word Brenda Davis has done with plant-based nutrition.

“Diabetes Wellness Program participants have overcome seemingly insurmountable mountains of Spam, donuts, ramen noodles and cola. They have managed to put together low-cost, healthful meals despite the high cost and poor quality of their produce. They have managed to do it with little education and marginal English skills. They have managed to do it with few gyms, no hiking trails and limited access to fitness facilities. These pioneers are providing a powerful example of health and healing for other Marshall Islanders. They are providing hope amid a deep sense of hopelessness.”

4. Curcumin (the extract from turmeric) really is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Check out my post on the turmeric-raspberry iced tea! Combining curcumin with pineapple for its bromelain, an enzyme, increases its absorption. This seems like a great excuse for some  Indian pineapple curry 🙂

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6. Areas of the world that have the highest incidence of multiple sclerosis are also the areas of the world that eat the most meat and dairy (aka, have a higher saturated fat intake). Read more about this here. Dr. McDougall is currently conducting a study through my alma mater, OHSU, support his and the late Dr. Swank’s theory that MS can be halted with a low saturated-fat and plant food based diet.

Phew!

After all the brain-power that went into this all-day conference, I couldn’t wait to attend Portland’s annual VegFest today! I love this event for so many reasons — the people are friendly and informative, the vegan foods and products (books, clothes, kitchen-ware, makeup and toiletries, etc.) are delightful, and…perhaps most importantly…the free samples are EVERYWHERE! I purposefully skipped my breakfast because I knew I would be heartily nourished 🙂 I think my favorite had to be the cashew crème fraîche with fig. I mean.

Of course, I couldn’t walk away without some treats. Apart from tasting about 9058723 samples of soups, kale chips, chocolates, vegan artisan cheeses, kombucha, power bars, popcorn mixtures, teas and coffees, I ended up with organic deodorant and an awesome zip up hoodie from Herbivore Clothing Company, a local and sustainable clothing and accessories shop in Portland. I can’t wait to check out their real location! Oh, and check out all those coupons and recipes!

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That’s all for today! Look for my upcoming post on how to replenish healthy gut flora after a bout with antibiotics (long story) in the next couple of weeks. And remember…

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The Vegan Lifestyle Series: Cosmetics

Welcome to the second installment of the Vegan Lifestyle Series! This one is about…drum roll please…cosmetics! I’m not just talking about the neon shade of yellow you have to wear for the Halloween party. I’m talking about basic, every day staples that make you feel fresh and clean in the morning and ready to wear a smile all day long.

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Me? I’m pretty simple when it comes to makeup. Give me some moisturizer/foundation, eyeliner, and mascara, and I’m good to go. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally spend hours on YouTube looking at smoky eye makeup tutorials, but that is neither here nor there.

More and more companies are starting to wear their “cruelty free” label as a badge of honor, as well they should! But for the ones who don’t have that listed? It’s pretty safe to say that these products have been cruelly tested on animals and/or contain animal derivatives.

I’ve gone ahead and listed some common ingredients in cosmetics that are animal-derived. If you want to be surprised, grab your favorite foundation or eyeshadow and see if any of these ingredients match up. I took at look at some of my own products and was (unpleasantly) surprised.  For a complete list of animal ingredients you might find in your cosmetics, visit here.

1. Lanolin, an oil from sheep’s wool. Also goes by aliphatic alcohol, cholesterol, wool isopropylmyristate laneth lanogene, lanolin alcohol, lanosterols, sterols, and triterpene alcohols.

2. Keratin: a protein that is derived from hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of animals. It’s used as an additive in many hair products to promote strength and shine.

3. Arachidonic Acid: a fatty acid found in the liver, brain, and fat of animals and humans. It’s used in lotions, specifically to soothe rashes. Try aloe vera or tea tree oil instead.

4. Chitosan: it’s derived from crustacean shells and is an ingredient in diet pills used to bind to fats that you eat, which makes for a really pleasant bathroom experience.

5. Collagen: lauded for its anti-wrinkle properties, collagen is found in anti-aging lotions and creams. Try keeping your skin hydrated and toned with almond oil and orange extract instead.

6. Unnatural (as in, not from something that grows from the earth) dyes or colorants: FD&C and D&C colors are continually tested on animals to establish “safe” human use levels. These dyes are made from coal tar, which is listed in the American Cancer Society’s most recent list of Known Human Carcinogens.

7. Gelatin: used to thicken shampoos and face masks, it’s made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

8. Guanine: fish scales, commonly found in shiny nail polish, and shampoos.

9. Retinol: this is a hot cosmetic ingredient right now, as its claim to fame is reducing wrinkles and restoring youthful vigor. It’s part of the vitamin A group that is found in animal tissue, most often from fish or shark liver, egg yolks, and butter. Look for an anti-wrinkle cream with carotene instead.

10. Vitamin D3: ALWAYS from an animal source. It comes from fish livers, milk, and egg yolks. It’s used mainly in creams and lotions. Vitamin D2, on the other hand, is usually vegan.

11. Hair wax/straightening spray: make sure the wax you’re using is from a vegetable.

I highly recommend PETA’s very comprehensive lists of cosmetic companies that DO and DON’T test on animals. You can download each list in PDF format and use it as a reference when you’re at Rite Aid searching for the perfect hair spray.

Once again, developed countries across the pond are leagues ahead of the US.  Most recently, the EU banned the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetics.

If it seems like animal-free cosmetics are hard to find, look no further than this list I’ve compiled of some of my favorite vegan cosmetic producers. When looking, remember that cruelty free products have a bunny on them, and certified vegan products are noted accordingly.

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Urban Decay (!!!) vegan makeup section

Tarte Naturals — gorgeous natural makeup that’s easy on your wallet.

Motives

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

Vegan LUSH hair care products (the Veganese shampoo and conditioner boast rave reviews)

Desert Essence (some products do have beeswax and honey)

Jason Tea Tree Deodorant — I haven’t had much luck with natural deodorants, but I’m willing to try as many as possible!

If you’ve got bucks to spare and are looking to treat yourself, Ethical Ocean offers a “True Beauty Box” chock full of the latest vegan cosmetics delivered to your door monthly for $30.

That’s all, folks! I hope you have fun visiting those sites and exploring the many cruelty-free options that are available to us 🙂

The Vegan Lifestyle Series: Vegan Fashion

Happy Tuesday, readers!

I decided it would be fun to do a series on living animal-free that isn’t just about, well, food! Although I’ll be the first to admit that I have room to grow and flourish, I am so passionate about living vegan in all aspects of my life. This means that I have to think about things like where my clothes and makeup come from, how to travel “green,” and how to generally leave a positive trail behind me as I live my life. I know, it’s a lot!

This series will cover some of these topics in more detail and will be a springboard for you if you’re interested in living ethically. Let’s get started! Our first installment? Fashion!

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What makes clothing not vegan? I’ll be honest — I didn’t even start thinking about this until I read Main Street Vegan, a tremendous book for those of us new to veganism. Written by Victoria Moran, I highly recommend reading this if you think it might float your joyful vegan boat!

Obviously, leather, suede and fur are not vegan. Many people think that leather is a byproduct of the slaughterhouse that we use for our clothes, bags, car seats, cell phone cases, wallets…you get it. But the leather industry is booming and very much in demand by consumers all around the world. Same goes for the fur industry, for which China is a major producer. Watch our for products made of cashmere, pashmina, angora, shearling, camel hair, and mohair: every single one comes from an animal.

Bones, tusks, teeth (really?), hooves…don’t even bother. It’s fairly common knowledge that the poaching remains a serious threat to endangered species who provide these “exotic” accessories.

Wool is made available to consumers by shearing sheep, which is a brutal process. I won’t go into the details but that’s definitely something you can look up if you are interested. Reading about it made me remember the days when Uggs were the thing to have. I’ll admit that I’ve kept a couple pairs from a few years ago. I just wish I had known back then what went in to making those fuzzy, yet hideous, boots.

Down feathers are used as insulation for comforters, sleeping bags, jackets, gloves, etc. Again, the manner of collecting the hundreds of thousands of feathers that are needed for just one comforter is horrendous. Let’s be honest: down feathers are for the birds.

So what are your alternatives? Well, there are a whole lot of them! The “compassionate clothing”  industry is taking off right now and you can get all up in that! I guarantee you, anything animal-derived that catches your eye, you can have vegan. Seriously.

Here’s a quick breakdown of a few alternative fashion houses with my stamp of approval:

Alternative Outfitters

Matt & Nat vegan bags

Ecolissa — I recommend the sales page.

Michael Antonio — the shoes!!! Drool! And I’m pretty sure you can find them at DSW.

Fabric Horse — this one’s a delight for cyclists, as they have U-Lock holders and stunning bike bags.

Strange Vixens — the space odyssey leggings? I die.

Toms — I’m loving the push for vegan shoes from Toms. These prints are fantastic!

Looking for something more specific? Whether it’s guitar straps, weight-lifting gloves, laptop bags, or dog collars — cause what’s more gross than putting leather on your pet — there is an alternative. Check out this list for a complete breakdown of what is available to consumers.

I won’t lie to you and say that you’re safe if you just avoid the clothing “ingredients” I listed above. Cotton production, in addition to dyeing clothing, can translate to harsh pesticide and colorant usage, which takes a toll on the earth and on the people who work to produce these textiles. It’s almost impossible to know how your item was made, but I can offer these tips: buy as local as possible, and if it says eco-friendly, go for it! Don’t be afraid to poke your head around town. Apart from being able to try things on in person, local shop owners want to hear what’s in demand! Just the other day I stumbled across a shoe store that dedicated half of its inventory to vegan shoes.

As for household wares and outdoor activities, here’s what I recommend: look for synthetic down, such as PrimaLoft, Thinsulate, or Polarguard. While this synthetic down does break down over time, I have it on good authority from REI that it will take at least ten years until you’ll need a new sleeping bag or comforter. With today’s advancements in warmth technology, you can stay toasty in the outdoors (or simply on a cold winter’s day in the house!) with synthetic down, Gore-Tex, and the like. One of the major benefits is that synthetic down it costs just a fraction of the real stuff, so you and your dollars can stay warm together!

You can freshen up your home by checking to see if pillows are filled with feathers, if any paintbrushes are made of boar/horse hair, and if your rugs contain wool. In researching this information, I also found that some house paints have egg in them, and some toothpastes are made with milk derivatives. Another bummer? Unless it states that it’s vegan, shoes are typically made with glues that are made from animals.

If you’re inspecting your home and find some of these items, please don’t feel bad. I’m very much a work in progress and still have non-vegan items that I purchased over a year ago. It’s my thought that it is better to wear them out than instantly toss or donate them. Bottom line? Every future decision we have is an opportunity to make a positive impact.

If I’ve missed something you simply must have, please post it in the comment section.

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You can make a difference. The dollar speaks, and the more people who refuse to spend their money on industries and companies that promote cruelty, the more of a voice we will have. Live joyfully and compassionately! And if someone compliments your vegan fall riding boots, be sure to tell them how they can be a part of this compassionate clothing movement 🙂

If you have any questions or thoughts, please comment on this post and I will happily get back to you!

And how many courses are we having tonight?

Buzzfeed recently posted an article aboutwhat big-name companies notice about millennials (Generation Y), or people born from the 80’s onward. In addition to the commentary about how much we love our wine culture and how social-media savvy we are, I found one statement to be particularly telling:

 

“Millennials, along with baby boomers, have a high demand for convenience when it comes to making dinner.

Today, consumers devote less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook the evening meal. So convenience is very important, right after taste, in deciding what to make for dinner.‘”

The American people like their daily life activities to be fast, easy, and fun. Preparing and enjoying food is no exception. It’s not surprising, then, that encouraging clients to prepare wholesome meals à la Sunday Italian family get-together is simply not effective counseling. This doesn’t mean that Americans are hopeless in the culinary department — spending a couple hours preparing a mouthwatering menu with some friends can be some great food therapy. But in the day-to-day slog, after getting home from work or the gym, spending more than thirty minutes preparing a meal is just not on the menu.

But here’s the good news: eating on the fly doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice taste, quality, or nutrition. Here are some tips for your day-to-day grind with mealtime.

1. Join a CSA or a local fruit and veggie delivery service and batch cook the spoils. Throughout my internship, my commute home took anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour, and some of my internship sites didn’t have lunch options for me. Having my produce box delivered every other week allowed me to batch cook all those delicious veggies, and scoop them into my lunch container (or dinner plate) every day, with the fruits to snack on at work.

Sample recipe idea:

  • boil two cups of dry lentils (making well over four cups total)
  • chop veggies, drizzle with walnut oil, salt & pepper, and whatever spice you fancy at the moment
  • bake veggies in the oven until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside
  • store all the cooked food in the fridge until you need it
  • scoop meal-sized portions into a travel container and drizzle with a fun vinaigrette or soy sauce
  • enjoy your delicious meal that you so cleverly assembled

2. Save your leftovers. If only we could go out to eat all the time, am I right? Unfortunately, eating out tends to get fairly pricey, especially in the lovely city of Portland. I’ve found that if I’ve chosen a well-balanced meal at my restaurant du jour, saving it not only saves me money, but provides me with a no-brainer meal for the next day.

3. Keep your staples on hand, and write down dishes you thought were tasty and easy to make. It can be overwhelming to choose what to make for dinner. Salad? Pasta? Sandwiches? If you have a backlog of things that worked for you, and the staples for them — think rice, canned beans and chickpeas, nuts, bread — it can be less intimidating to make some food once you get back home. Pro tip: if you’re absolutely starving and just want to scarf everything in the kitchen, start out with some almonds, or some peanut butter on toast. This should satisfy your hunger long enough to make some dinner and actually enjoy it.

I’ll leave you with yet another Buzzfeed article (I’m obsessed with this site), called “Thirty Delicious Vegan Meals You Can Make in Under 30 Minutes.” I might have to try some of these myself! Just remember: making lunch and dinner easy, fun, and tasty doesn’t mean that you have to resort to packaged frozen meals, or fast food and take-out. Try the batch cooking idea, save your leftovers, and keep staples on hand to save yourself time and stress when it comes to mealtime.

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Just do it: Trail Running

It seems like everywhere I look, I see runners. Women, men, kids (at my last event, I might have been nearly outrun by a child of no more than ten), teenagers, old dudes, groups and independent trotters, all out in the heat and cold, rain and sun. And I’ll say it–there’s nothing like peer pressure to get you out there and running.

I usually run on the Willamette River Waterfront Park, which, aside from being flat and open, gives me a stunning view of the bridges in Portland and is simply gorgeous at any time of the day or night. You can run all the way down to the OHSU tram, or cross the Steel Bridge to the east side and run towards Sellwood.

But sometimes it’s nice to get out of the sun and reconnect with nature. Since our temperatures have been reaching the 80s recently, being under tree cover is also easier on the eyes and skin (but don’t forget to spend your 15 minutes outside to get some vitamin D!). Portland’s extensive Forest Park runs up and down the west side of town. It’s only two miles from where I live, and the trails cover over 70 miles! That’s a lot of running. I hit the Wildwood trail — it’s probably the most popular out of all of them, but at 4 pm on a Friday, I had the park nearly to myself.

Running in the forest is cool because you might find a slug that is bigger than your hand.asd2

I also discovered that I’ve been doing it wrong — instead of maintaining a steady pace, it’s much easier to take advantage of the natural ebbing and flowing of a park trail. Sprinting the downhills and then using that momentum for the inclines was a much more efficient way to run the trail. And it was exhilarating to run that fast without worrying about other people being around. That’s because what I call running is, for me, mostly stumbling around.

Nevertheless, I highly encourage you all to check out your local park or forest and try a trail run. Bring water, watch out for rocks and roots, and be prepared for some delayed-onset muscle soreness (trail running works stability muscles that aren’t as necessary on a long, flat course). If you live in the Pacific Northwest, trail running will make you feel like you are living in Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest.

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Go run!

I’m an RD! (Can I have a pony now?)

This past week I decided I wanted to take my board exam a little earlier than my original goal of August 2. In fact…I wanted to take it three weeks earlier.

So I did. It looked like this:

23432Controlled chaos. I especially like my nutrients in the gut absorption sheet on the left.

image-45I live by making cheat sheets for everything.

imageVegan pizza, ice cream, and high ball….that’s just normal study fuel, right?

I PASSED!! I am officially a board-certified Registered Dietitian! I can’t help but look back to my senior year in high school (2007) when I decided I wanted to be an RD. If I had known that this road would have left me in tears of frustration over failing my first college chemistry course, or with a total dependence on caffeine in any and all forms to get through studying for exams, or would have tested my ability to push my own boundaries in every internship rotation I had…I might have reconsidered my decision. But one of my mottos in life, and one of my tricks to living joyfully, is to take things one baby step at a time. So bit by bit and piece by piece, I chipped away at this degree and this registration. Walking out of that exam room, knowing that I was officially an RD, was the sweetest reward after years of specialized study.

Yeah, I’m gonna enjoy this feeling for a long time.

One of the immediate perks about being a baby RD is that I get to write my very own post about how to study for the exam! This is always a hot topic item for pre-RDs, so I hope my point of view is helpful.

Thoughts going in:

“I’m prepared. I’ve studied Inman’s back to back. I’ve reviewed the RD in the Flash note cards, and made 100+ of my own. I’ve reviewed carb exchanges, drug-nutrient reactions, researched countless odds and ends that I wasn’t sure about, and have memorized all the food service equations (sort of).”

Thoughts coming out:

“What in the…?”

My friends, it was rough, and weird test. Why? The RD exam questions your ability to think critically, creatively, and to reason with yourself. Oftentimes your first instinct will be right, but only if you’ve trained your brain to search for the most right answer, and for the answer that would make sense in the time frame of the question.

I was a little miffed at Inman‘s, if we’re being honest. I learned a lot of solid, useful nutrition information when studying it, but I felt that <20% of it applied to the exam. There were multiple questions that had terms that I had never heard of, or managerial situations that I’d never experienced, in which I simply had to take my best guess. In fact, I was unsure about my answers for at least 70% of the test.

I also took a CDR practice test, which was similar to Inman’s but only provided rationales for about 10 questions out of 125. Not very helpful unless you’re already feeling comfortable with the subject matter and just need some reinforcement.

The RD in a Flash was useful and covered a wide range of topics. I actually wouldn’t have known the answers to several questions on the exam without those flash cards.

I’m going to sum up what I want you all to know about this test:

1. Review basic nutritional parameters. The test will ask mostly quite general questions about nutrition care, and you need to be familiar with what an RD would do when caring for a patient with any number of conditions. I remember a lot of content on malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, diabetes, and sports nutrition.

2. You will have plenty of time. I had a 2.5 hour limit and finished the whole thing in just under 1.5 hours, and I’m a slow and steady test taker. So take your time! If you feel like you’re losing control of the situation, just take a few minutes to gather your head. I found it helpful to write out my reasoning on the scrap paper provided.

3. Be prepared for surprise questions, and don’t be scared of them. There are some questions that you will have absolutely no clue what any part of it means. Again, sit back, approach it from a different angle, and try to deduce the answer. Most of the managerial and food service portions are just basic common sense, and even if you don’t remember an equation you can probably figure out the answer using basic math. Trust in your fundamental education–we went to high school for a reason! Also, some of the questions on this test are dummy questions that are being tested out, and aren’t going to count for your final score. It’s possible that the surprise questions fall into that category.

4. Don’t skimp on studying community nutrition principles, especially related to governmental assistance programs and the scope of practice for different programs like WIC, Elderly Nutrition, SNAP, etc. It’s helpful to know who runs which programs, and whom they serve (example: the home-bound elderly, prison inmates, school children, etc.).

5. Trust your education and your internship. Bottom line? It’s in the Academy’s best interest to churn out more and more dietitians each year. The test will be challenging, but not too challenging that you won’t be able to pass it if you have paid attention in college and done well in your internship.

After taking the test, I actually think that everyone coming out of an internship could take it right off the bat. Don’t spend weeks and weeks studying for this. You will do better just to review the basic principles of each domain of dietetics, and then trust in your gut intuition and basic reasoning skills to get you through the rest. I’m so glad I didn’t waste time studying more than I needed to!

I’m confident that if you’ve had a solid internship experience, like I did at Oregon Health and Science University, you’ll be fine. You’ll end up with a shiny new RD credential, and maybe even a delectable vegan chocolate cake. Please comment if you have anything to add, or any questions about the test. Cheers and good luck studying!

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DIY: Water-proofing your wooden planter box

I picked up this neat wooden crate for $8 a few weeks ago at Old Portland Hardware, a reclaimed wood and hardware shop close to me, intending to make it into a planter box. Portland Nursery, I just can’t quit you and your adorable indoor plants!-8

I knew it had to be stained and waterproofed to avoid mold growth (mmm!), but I needed something clean and quick, since I’m living in an apartment. I settled on this Varathane polyurethane satin stain and finish in a spray can, for about $9.

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The whole thing was pretty simple, even if I did lose a few brain cells in the process. Not having a back yard, I wasn’t able to provide “adequate ventilation,” so I ended up taking a deep breath, holding a rag over my nose and mouth and blasting away at the planter box in my bathtub until I couldn’t take it anymore.

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All for the sake of a good DIY, right?

I coated the planter box three times, with about 4-6 hours of dry time in between. The end result was adequate–it isn’t shiny or smooth, but I didn’t also bother sanding it down beforehand.

The last step was to add my myriad house plants and hope the roots don’t end up strangling each other over the soil area in some kind of “Game of Thrones” plant war.

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What next? Enjoy your new planter box, until you come home and see that your cat has knocked the entire thing over!

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A 5k a day…

Wait–a 5k a day? Never mind. I’m definitely the wrong author for that post!

I dohowever, try to run an organized race every couple months, if only to put some motivation into my runs. Recently, I ran for Northwest Veg’s “Race for the Animals.”

Northwest Veg is a fantastic vegan community located in Portland. I discovered it last year during the annual VegFest, at which the honorable Ginny Messina, MS RD herself spoke! If you’re vegetarian or vegan-minded like myself, you can score some sweet deals by becoming a member of NWVeg. They offer discounts to local supportive restaurants and businesses and put on some fantastic events.

This particular race featured Out to Pasture, an amazing farm animal rescue located in Oregon.

As for the race itself…it was hard! Mount Tabor, an inactive volcano located on Portland’s east side, is just that–a mountain. The first two miles of the race were gradually downhill, and my running buddy and I took off to make up for what we knew would be lost time on the way back. We were probably averaging a 7.5 or 8 min/mile (don’t be fooled–I’m usually much slower). The last mile uphill was rough, but we still finished in under 30 minutes.

If you haven’t done an organized race, what are you waiting for? I know it can be scary–I’ve only done three, but for each one I’ve woken up nauseous from fear I won’t be able to finish. But that’s so silly. Even if you ran a minute/walked a minute for the whole race, you’d still finish easily.

And what a rush! The energy from the crowd, the countdown from the clock, and the very last stretch of the course…it’s all worth it. Not to mention, races are usually funds for fantastic causes, and benefit both you and the community.

Oh, and how could I forget? The swag is awesome!

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Super tasty snacks…but I really just needed my coffee after that early run.

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Fact: neon kicks make you run faster.

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Running always leaves you with a smile.

What races are you running soon? Leave a comment and tell me more!