Black Bean and Quinoa Veggie Burgers

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Black bean and quinoa veggie burgers made with real veggies.

The reason I say “made with real veggies” is because not all of the store bought packaged burgers are. Sure they may have some thrown in, but most vegan burgers have loads of added salt and oil that aren’t necessary in my opinion. Is it too much to ask that my veggie burger be made of just, dare I say, veggies?

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That is exactly what I set out to do. Although I did add some flax and quinoa, it is primarily just vegetables. No added salt. No added oils.

IMG_1620My go-to packaged vegan burgers are the Dr. Praegers California Veggies Burgers. They are delicious and convenient when you don’t have time to make your own. However, cooking them yourself is always best. You know exactly what is going into them and have the freedom to experiment with different ingredients. The greatest thing about making your own is you can make a whole batch in advance and then individually wrap and freeze them for later use. Talk about meal prep made easy!

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Also, since you won’t be cooking with raw meat or eggs you’ll be able to taste as you go to get your ideal burger.

“The secret is in the seasoning.” Wise words from my mom and she’s absolutely right – moms always are.

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Yields 7 burgers

Ingredients
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup sweet corn
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
1 clove garlic, minced
Ground pepper to taste
*Your favorite seasonings (cumin, paprika, Italian seasoning, oregano, chili powder, poultry seasoning, etc.) I like using Montreal Chicken seasoning.

Prep Directions
1. Make 1 “flax egg” by mixing flax meal with 3 tablespoons water. Let sit in fridge.
2. Place quinoa in a pot with 1 cup water. Bring to boil then reduce to medium low heat and cover. Let cook for 10-15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat.
3. Mash black beans in a bowl. Add flax egg and cooked quinoa to the bowl and mix.
4. Pour in all remaining ingredients and mix. At this point you may add any other seasoning you would like.
5. Shape into burgers. Wrap and store leftovers in the freezer.

Cooking Directions
1. Over medium heat spray pan with nonstick spray .
2. Add patty and cook until crisp and brown (about 5 minutes each side).
*These are softer than “normal burgers”, so be cautious when cooking. Flip often to prevent burgers from sticking to the pan.

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Vegan Chocolate Banana Pancakes

IMG_1525_2Finding a vegan pancake recipe is hard. I’ve tried and failed multiple times. Without an egg in the mix, pancakes have trouble holding together and in my experience turned out to be undercooked, unflippable, and quite frankly inedible. That was before I finally jumped on the “flax egg” bandwagon. They are popular in the vegan world as an egg substitute, but I surely didn’t believe it until I gave one a try in my pancake recipe.

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These chocolate banana pancakes are vegan, flavorful, high carb, low fat, and will keep you full for a while – no doubt about it. You can customize them as well to suit your own taste/what you have in your pantry. In this recipe I used spelt flour, but almond, whole wheat, or any other flour should work just fine. I also used almond milk, but any nondairy milk will do. Same goes for the maple syrup. You prefer agave nectar? Feel free to substitute that as your syrup!

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I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

IMG_1515Let’s get mixing.

Yields 4 5-inch pancakes

Ingredients
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup almond milk
1 large ripe banana
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Maple syrup to taste
Coconut oil spray (any nonstick spray)

Directions
1. *Prior to cooking, mix flax meal with 3 tablespoons of water and place in fridge to thicken. Minimum of 30 minutes, but I let mine sit overnight.* Don’t skip this step.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl – flour, cocoa, baking powder – and mix.
3. In a separate bowl mash 1/2 banana then add almond milk and flax egg.
4. Combine both mixtures and stir well, but don’t over mix.
5. Preheat pan over medium-high heat.
6. Once hot, spray pan with coconut oil spray and pour 1/4 of the batter onto the pan. Wait for bubbles to appear then flip and cook for a few more minutes. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
7. Layer or top with the rest of the banana. Pour on syrup and enjoy!

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My Everyday Oatmeal

IMG_1370If you couldn’t already tell, I like oatmeal. As much as I like to play up my oats with different combinations, sometimes I just want to whip together a quick and easy bowl. First things first, a banana ALWAYS makes its way into my oatmeal. It’s a necessity.

IMG_1418This one wasn’t as ripe as I would have liked, but whatcha gonna do.

The other toppings really depend on the day – and what I have on hand. They may include strawberries, mango, dried fruit, walnuts, cocao nibs, or a spoonful of nut butter. However there is one ingredient that has forever changed my traditional oats…

IMG_1407Grapes.

IMG_1414Yep, you heard me right. Grapes. When someone first told me to try grapes in my oatmeal I thought that sounded disgusting. Grapes are so fruity and oatmeal is so not. As skeptical as I was, I gave it a shot and now I am hooked. It is one of those strange but good combos that you have to try for yourself. The grapes add a delicious burst of flavor to spruce up bland oats. Trust me, it’s not gross like it sounds. Lately, just banana and grapes have been my go-to toppings. As simple as this oatmeal is to make, I still get questions about how I cook my oats and how much I cook.

If given the option to cook them in the microwave or on the stove top, I choose the stove. Even though it takes a bit longer I think it turns out tasting way better. Also, part of me is secretly afraid of microwave radiation, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. Am I just being paranoid?

IMG_1368Yields 1 serving

Ingredients
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cup water
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup grapes
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Cinnamon to taste (I dump buckets of it in)

Directions
1. Pour water into pot and bring to boil.
2. Add oats and stir.
3. When at desired consistency add cinnamon and chia seeds
4. Pour into bowl and top with banana, grapes, and a sprinkle of any remaining chia seeds.
5. Dig in while it is still warm!

*Chia seeds absorb moisture so the longer you leave them in your oats, the more water they will absorb.

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What’s your go-to oatmeal combination?

Grill Veggie Kabobs Like a Pro

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Summer is here and you know what that means… Grilling season is in full effect. I may not be a meat eater, but that doesn’t mean I stay away from the grill. Lately, my family and I have been on a huge grilled vegetable kick and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. With all of the summer veggies out there, we love experimenting with different combinations and seasonings to keep our taste buds guessing.

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It’s not that grilling vegetables is difficult; you just need to be careful. They cook quickly which means you’ll be chowing down within minutes, but you also have to keep a watchful eye on them. Have no fear, I’ve come up with a few tips to have you grillin’ veggie kabobs like a pro in no time.

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1. Soak Your Skewers.
If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours before use. This will prevent them from burning on the grill. Of course, you could also use metal skewers, which wouldn’t need to be soaked.

2. Proper Combinations.
When cooking kabobs it’s important to pair similar vegetables together. Softer veggies, like tomatoes and mushrooms, should be paired together on one skewer; Harder veggies, like bell peppers and onion, can be placed on another.

3. Size Matters.
Cut your veggies the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. No one wants half their kabob cooked to perfection and the other half barely cooked at all.

4. Keep Watch.
It takes no time at all to grill vegetables. Be sure to keep flipping your kabobs and moving them around the grill. Also, try not to step away from the grill for too long or you may come back to burnt kabobs.

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Lemon Blueberry & Banana Baked Oatmeal

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They say it is the most important meal of the day. Yes, you know what it is. Breakfast. Oatmeal is certainly my go-to breakfast at the moment, but the truth is I haven’t always been a fan of oatmeal. It’s not that I didn’t like it; I just never really gave it a shot. To be honest, it grossed me out. I thought of it as bland and boring mush. Why do people eat this stuff? It has no taste. And what’s up with this texture? Well, that was before I realized that creativity is key to delicious oatmeal.

This past year when I lived in a dorm it was the easiest and most filling meal I could make in the morning. Therefore, I ate it just about every day. I didn’t get tired of it though because oatmeal is so versatile. Old-fashioned oats, steel cut oats, oats in a jar, overnight oats, stove top cooked, oven baked, the list goes on! Today we are making baked oatmeal, which has a crisp exterior and gooey center. Divine.

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Lemon, blueberry, and banana go together like PB&J. Just blueberry and banana make a decent combination, but the addition of lemon packs a wonderful punch. It’s warm, zesty, sweet, and pairs perfectly with my morning tea.

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Yields 1 serving

Ingredients
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/3 cup almond milk (any non-dairy milk will do)
1 medium ripe banana
1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Coconut oil spray (or any nonstick spray)
*Optional slivered almonds

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Mash banana in a small mixing bowl.
3. Add all other ingredients, except blueberries, and mix well. Once mixed, add blueberries and stir gently.
4. Spray an oven-safe dish with coconut oil spray.
5. Pour mixture into dish (optional: top with slivered almonds).
6. Bake for 20 minutes.
7. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!

What I Eat in a Day

What do you even eat?! Another question I get asked all the time. It’s normal to think vegans are extremely limited when it comes to food, but we’re actually far from it! I post a lot of my meals on Instagram, but certainly not everything. I thought it would be a good idea to show you how much food I actually eat in one day. Believe me, I can eat. Especially with how much I run and workout – I need the energy! If you read my Secret to Weight Loss post, then you know I don’t count calories. I have gotten to the point where I’m very in tune with my body and what it needs. It’s taken a while, but now I am truly able to listen to my body, eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m satisfied. I don’t measure out my food either, but I’ll try to give a good estimate as far as my portions go. Some days I eat more than others depending on my activity level. Yesterday happened to be a rest day, so keep that in mind.

Here is everything I ate yesterday!

IMG_0604Breakfast: The first thing I do when I wake up is drink one huge glass of water, or two. For breakfast I tried my best at making layered oats, but unfortunately failed pretty bad. Note to Self: Work on your parfait game Riley. Breakfast was 2/3 cup of oats cooked in water and layered between strawberries and bananas. Oh, and lots of cinnamon – can’t forget the best part.

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Mid-morning snack: Smoothie made up of two bananas and a few handfuls of frozen berries {strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries}. Take a look at that color and tell me you don’t want a sip…

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Around this time I also had a Vita Coco.

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Lunch: Pasta with sauteed Roma tomatoes, onion, and a generous amount of garlic. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that I used about 1 cup of dry pasta – probably a little more. I was pretty hungry and honestly just dumped however much I was craving into the pot.

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Afternoon Snack: Banana nice cream made up of 4-5 bananas.

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Dinner: Dr. Praegers California Veggie Burger, sweet corn, and roasted red skin potatoes.

As you may have been able to tell I am in no way afraid of carbs or overdosing on fruit. If you like this type of post let me know and I’d be happy to make more!

Let’s Go to the Beach

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Everyone says how much they love the beach, but I think my love for it is on a whole other level. There is absolutely no place I would rather be. Fingers crossed that one day I can live within walking distance of the ocean. That’s the dream. Until that day comes, I’m satisfied with taking advantage of every opportunity I get to go to the shore.

Early Monday morning – well, not too early – my friend, Megan, and I headed to the beach for a few days. We both didn’t have work this week and were craving a little salt water and sunshine. We figured a spontaneous beach trip was just what we needed.

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I procrastinate like no other when it comes to packing and this trip was no exception. Luckily, it didn’t take long to gather all of my things and pack the car on Monday morning. I swung by Megan’s house to pick her up and we were off.

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But first, let me take a selfie stop at Starbucks. I don’t go to Starbucks too often, but was in the mood for their unsweetened passion iced tea. I ran in to pick one up and now we were off. The beach is about 3 1/2 hours away, which isn’t bad, but this tea along with Hunter Hayes on the radio definitely made the drive that much easier.

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When we got close, we made a stop at the farmer’s market to pick up some goodies. I got loads of produce for the week because you know I can’t resist.

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Finally, we arrived! With a view like this Megan and I decided to go kayaking through the canals. The kayak wasn’t yet in the water, so we first had to lug it over to the dock and then haul it in – is was really quite the process a piece of cake.

IMG_0336Paddle, paddle, paddle!

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Monday nights are clearly reserved for The Bachelorette (and 24 now that it’s back), but before that we hurried to the beach to get a run in. Beach runs are honestly my favorite workout. I run without any shoes on and can definitely feel it the following morning. I wake up with aching calves and sore muscles in my feet that I didn’t even know existed. It’s the best.

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The rest of the days kind of mushed together since there was a whole lot of lounging and relaxing going on. One morning I made this bowl of cinnamon oatmeal with bananas, strawberries, and grapes. I basically ate a variation of this every other day of the week too. If you have never tried grapes in your oats, then you need to get on that ASAP. Two words: Life changing.

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I spent my days with Nicholas Sparks,

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and I did lots of hydrating. Fruit infused water is something I always forget to make, but I love it so much. Lemon and cucumber water made the perfect combo and was so refreshing.

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I also tried my first starfruit ever. Isn’t it beautiful? I’m no starfruit expert, so I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell if it was ripe. I grabbed a random one at the grocery store, hoping I would get lucky, and brought it along with me to the beach. Turns out I had luck on my side because it tasted pretty good! I would definitely buy another one of these. It tasted almost exactly like an apple, only sweeter. It also had the same crunch as an apple. If only they were easier to find…

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Of course, I ate tons of fruit. What else is new.

IMG_0486Lots of pasta, rice, and potatoes as well. You know, the staples. This was one pasta dish I made and brought with me to the beach. It was multicolored quinoa pasta with yellow and orange bell peppers, onion, and cherry tomatoes. Eat the rainbow.

DSC_0633I’m always so busy taking pictures of other things – usually food – that I forget to take some of myself. But, on the last night we remembered. Say hello to Megan!

DSC_0654The weather this week was beautiful and the beaches were close to empty. It was a pretty uneventful week, but in the best way. Sometimes, doing a lot of nothing is just what you need. And doing nothing while at the beach? Even better.

Why Did I Go Vegan?

Since going vegan I’ve had many people reach out to me asking tons of questions about the lifestyle. All of which I am more than happy to answer. I LOVE sharing my experience with others! Going vegan has affected my life in so many positive ways and I want others to experience all the benefits as well. The problem is, I usually have so much to say, but not enough time to do so. Because of this, I thought the blog would be a great place for me to elaborate on some of the most common questions I get asked. The first question I’m going to tackle is why did I go vegan in the first place?DSC_0619I have always been interested in nutrition. In the back of my mind I thought it was the key to successful health. Forget medicine, part of me has always believed that we can heal ourselves with proper nutrition. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I first heard about veganism and when I did, it sounded pretty radical. Cut meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal derived products out of your life and what’s left? Truth is, a lot. Veganism has opened my eyes to a world of new foods that I had never even heard of before. Trust me, I eat a lot more than just lettuce. Last year if you asked me what Quinoa was I would’ve had no idea – and certainly no idea how it’s pronounce. Now, I can’t imagine my life without it. Back then I just didn’t know what I didn’t know and going vegan seemed way too extreme and unattainable.

However, last summer I started to get very interested in the lifestyle. A friend, Colleen, had a blog and had just gone vegan. I followed her journey becoming more and more intrigued. Come fall of 2013, I created my health Instagram account @bitesofmyworld. At that time I was just focused on eating clean. For me, that included animal products and a minimal amount of processed foods. Through Instagram I realized there are many more vegans in the world than I expected. Maybe going vegan wasn’t as crazy as I once thought.

With my curiosity at an all time high I began watching tons of documentaries on Netflix: Forks over Knives, Food Inc., Food Matters, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead, and Vegucated are just a few of my favorites. In addition, I also read books to further my research on plant based nutrition. With every book I read and movie I watched I became more convinced that this diet was the answer I’d been looking for. After hearing and reading all of the arguments and learning the facts I was blown away. Now, the diet that once seemed extreme was looking like a real possibility. Watching the documentaries is what really pushed me over the edge and solidified my decision to go vegan. If anyone is trying to eat vegan and is possibly falling off the wagon in doing so, I suggest watching a few and maybe they will serve as motivation like they did for me. In October of 2013 I made the switch and haven’t looked back since. I now stand strong in my belief that eating plant based is the best thing anyone can do for their health.

At first, I decided to go vegan simply for my health. Sure, I knew about animal cruelty, but the ethical side didn’t become real until I witnessed it firsthand. Last winter break I took a service trip with my university to Honduras. I went with other students from my school to help build a school for the Honduran children. It was an experience that truly changed my life for so many reasons. For the purposed of this post I’ll focus on how it transformed me into a more ethical vegan. At the time, I was only about 2 months into the lifestyle. One day while at the work-site it was announced that we were eating chicken for lunch. Not only were we having chicken, but they were asking for volunteers that would get the “privilege” of killing the chickens themselves. I looked around and everyone was thrilled. For people that had previously been on the trip this was apparently a highlight of the week. They were all so excited to wrap a rope around the chicken’s neck and smash its head into the ground until it was died. When it finally came time, I couldn’t watch. Me and a few others waited around the corner, but could still hear the giggles and amusement coming from torturing these chickens. I won’t forget how disgusted I was that day and from then on I became aware that going vegan was so much more than for my health; it was for the animals too.

I didn’t change my diet because I hated the taste of meat, dairy, or eggs. In fact, I used to be a self-proclaimed Chobani addict. I loved chicken and salmon, my dad grilled the best steaks around, and omelets were my go-to breakfast. To this day if I pass by people having a BBQ do I think it smells good? Yes, of course! Is the smell enough for me to give in? Nope. I feel way too good eating plant based and have no desire to give that up. My energy level is through the roof, my skin glows, my mind is clear, and my hair and nails are the healthiest and strongest they have ever been. Those are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced since going vegan – the list goes on. It’s not difficult for me to refuse animal products anymore because I don’t think it’s beneficial for my health in any way. Also, just thinking about the animals is enough of a reason for me to say no.

I want to end by saying I have absolutely no negative feelings or judgements towards people that eat animal products. Most of my friends and family members eat meat, dairy, and eggs, and that is completely fine. I don’t make them eat the way I do, just like they don’t make me eat the way they do. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people that are incredibly supportive of the lifestyle I’ve chosen. That being said, I do strongly believe in the vegan lifestyle. I urge you all to watch at least one documentary or read one book about the plant based diet and maybe it will change your world like it did for me.

The Secret to Weight Loss

1,200 calories a day is the magic number for weight loss right? I hear it all the time: on television, in magazines, everywhere. Eat 1,200 calories a day and you will be losing weight in no time. Well duh you’ll lose weight; you aren’t fueling your body with anywhere close to the amount of energy it needs. To simply complete daily activities like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and even breathing, requires energy (also known as calories). Throw exercise into the mix and suddenly 1,200 calories a day is your metabolism’s worst nightmare. This method of calorie restriction is not sustainable and certainly not healthy. Physically your body cannot work efficiently at such a calorie deficit. Soon enough you may even binge and end up put on more weight then when you started. Not to mention the internal damage you are putting your body through. We’ve been tricked into thinking losing weight is all about restriction. It’s just not the case. We need calories to LIVE! It’s not about how many calories you’re consuming, it’s about what kind you’re consuming. Clearly, I couldn’t be more against calorie counting.

The thing is, I used to do it too. Back in high school I fell for the “low calorie” labels slapped onto food packages. I would eat those 100 calorie packs thinking I was doing good. Little did I know I was actually starving my body of the nutrients I needed. Ever eat a pack and wonder why you’re hungry thirty minutes later? It’s because they don’t satisfy your nutritional needs. Because of this, they actually make you hungrier. Our bodies are much smarter then we give them credit for. Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are easily recognized in our body. We know exactly how to digest these foods and can use them as proper energy. We literally burn right through them! On the other hand, processed foods that may read “low calorie” (or even processed foods that don’t) are packed with chemicals, preservatives, and artificial junk. All of these toxic ingredients are indecipherable in your body. They cannot be used as proper fuel and after a few minutes your stomach will be growling – begging for the nutrients it needs.

If your goal is to lose weight I first encourage you to change your outlook from “I want to lose weight” to “I want to get healthy”. Your health should be far more important to you than body image. After you do that and begin incorporating whole, plant based foods into your diet the weight will fall off. Remember that this won’t happen overnight. Healthy weight loss is a journey, but stick with it and your body will eventually find it’s ideal weight. Heck, I’m still on the journey. When picking out food your priority shouldn’t be about the number of calories; it should be about the quality of the food. Eat until your satisfied. Once again, our bodies are very smart, so listen to them. If you’re hungry, then eat. In my opinion, you can’t overdose on fruits and veggies. If you are worried about the high sugar content in fruit, don’t be. Sugar has gotten a bad reputation, but the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit serves our body VERY different than the refined sugar found in cookies, cakes, etc.

Now, most people think I’m insane when I eat a bunch of bananas at one time or a huge plate of fruit. Woah woah woah that’s way too much fruit. Personally, I find it crazy how other people find that crazy. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, but that doesn’t mean you have to – or should – limit yourself. What it means is you have to eat MORE of those foods. I’ll go to the grocery store, buy a couple bunches of bananas, and everyone gives me weird looks. The cashier will even ask what I plan on doing with all of them. Well, I plan on eating them. All of them? Yes, all of them. Now imagine the same situation, but someone has a cart full of cookies, chips, and candy. They get no weird stares because it has become “normal” in our society. Yet, it’s so abnormal to have a cart loaded down with nutrient dense foods.

I challenge you all to focus on the source of your calories and not the number on the nutrition label. Want to know the secret to weight loss? It’s basic principals we all know, yet everyone brushes to the side. People seem to still be searching for a magic pill or an even more magical number like 1,200. We are so busy trying fad diets and wasting money on weight loss programs that we can’t see the answer right in front of us. Eat lots of plant-based foods, get enough sleep, move your body, and drink lots of water. The secret to weight loss is there is no secret.

*This is just my opinion based on personal experience and research I’ve done. I’m in no way a dietitian or expert in the field of nutrition.

Farmer’s Market Finds

Fun Fact of the Day: Take me to the farmer’s market and I’ll love you forever.

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I’m like a little kid in a candy store when I go to the farmer’s market. I love the atmosphere, the colors, the smells, and – of course – the quality of the produce. I’m off to the beach for the next few days and obviously had to stop by the farmer’s market on the way up. I hope you’re prepared to get hungry…

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The one I always stop at is pretty big and has so much variety. It has the most vibrant colors,

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the sweetest corn,

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the most photogenic strawberries,

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the crunchiest grapes,

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and overall the freshest produce.

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Our farmer’s market trip was a success and I’m now all stocked up with the goods. I hope these pictures didn’t make you too hungry, but I warned you.