Tips for Skin Health

I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs on my skincare journey. I suffered from some serious breakouts as a teenager. Once I started taking the pill, my skin cleared up completely. As you can probably guess, when I decided to stop taking hormonal birth control about 5 years ago, my teenage breakouts came back and they were worse than ever. While my skin isn’t perfect and I still have occasional breakouts, I’ve come a long way since where my skin was 5 years ago. I’ve found a few things that really impact my skin health.

  • Hydration – water is so key. I make a habit of drinking a massive 20oz glass of water first thing when I wake up and then constantly refilling it throughout the day. I always carry a reusable water bottle when I’m out so I can hydrate on the go.
  • Products – I’ve tried so many products and a lot of them caused new breakouts or made my inflammation even worse. Everyone is so different but it’s important to find products that work with your skin instead of making it worse. I’ve been using BioClarity products for almost a year now and the 3-step clear skin routine works really well for me. The BioClarity Cleanser with cucumber, green tea and chamomile is my favorite because it’s so gentle and calming but also leaves my skin feeling so clean without over drying.
  • Nutrient rich foods – I’m all about eating the rainbow as much as possible. I find my skin looks best when I’m eating a balance of lots of vibrant fruits and veggies, healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds) and protein (chickpeas, wild caught seafood, pastured eggs, etc.)
  • Avoiding inflammatory foods – It definitely took some trial and error to figure out which foods cause inflammation in my body and on my skin. For me, dairy was a huge contributor toward the crazy breakouts I was having. At the time, I was eating Greek yogurt, skim milk, and cheese daily. When I eliminated those foods, my skin cleared up a lot. Now I’ll have small amounts of ghee in my coffee or cheese when I’m eating out occasionally but overall dairy is something I try to avoid. Processed foods also cause inflammation for me. Obviously, it’s not realistic to totally eliminate processed foods but I do the best I can! Some days are better than others and I’m ok with that!
  • Herbs, spices and adaptogens – I love using herbs, spices and adaptogens in my kitchen! I am constantly adding turmeric and cinnamon to everything! I love using adaptogens in my morning elixirs to health promote balance. I’m so excited about BioClarity’s new Beauty Boost supplement because it has tons of nutrients for skin health and harmonizing adaptogens like matcha, turmeric, goji berry and others. I’m a huge believer that healthy skin starts from the inside out.
  • Stress reduction – Stress is difficult to avoid but managing it can help a ton. When it comes to reducing stress my go-to’s are breathing exercises, yoga, walking outside, and taking mindful breaks from my phone, computer or TV when necessary.

Everyone is different and these are just some things I’ve noticed on my skincare journey. I hope you find these tips helpful!Bioclarity beauty boost

You can use code “VEGGIN” to save 15% off of your entire BioClarity order!

*Thank you BioClarity for sponsoring this post!

My Thoughts on Collagen

vital proteins alexI was always curious about collagen and decided to start experimenting with it in October of last year. I was most interested in taking collagen for skin benefits. I started off by using Vital Proteins Unflavored Collagen Peptides. What are collagen peptides? Collagen peptides are made from the bovine hide of grass-fed and pasture-raised animals. The peptides are a powdery consistency which makes them easy to add to hot or cold beverages (or even food!) I started adding the unflavored collagen peptides to my smoothies and/or coffee drinks daily. I couldn’t taste it at all! I immediately loved the froth it added to my coffee when I mixed it up in my high speed blender.

The first change I noticed after incorporating collagen into my daily routine was an improvement in digestion. I definitely noticed within the first few days of taking it that my digestion was more regular and I felt less inflammation/bloating around my stomach. I also noticed after a few weeks of taking collagen that my skin was clearer and after a few months my nails and hair seemed to be growing faster than ever! I think diet plays a big role in hair, skin and nail health for me but collagen definitely gave me an extra boost!

My favorite way to incorporate collagen is with my morning beverage (Most days it’s mushroom coffee!) I personally love adding collagen in my coffee elixir in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, my favorite way to start the day is to take a moment for a little self-care before the craziness. I totally savor every drop of my warm morning beverage and take a few moments to practice gratitude. Having the collagen in my drink helps set the tone of prioritizing my health and self-care for the day. Another reason I love having collagen in my coffee elixir is because the protein helps me feel more balanced in the morning and satiates me enough to where I could wait an hour or two if I want to before eating breakfast. I definitely don’t think collagen can be used as a meal replacement but it is helpful in-between meals or incorporated during meals for an extra protein boost!

My favorite way to incorporate collagen is with coffee (recipe below) but if matcha is more your speed, Vital Proteins Matcha is individually packaged with collagen so it makes it super easy! I’ve been loving switching up my normal coffee routine with a matcha elixir instead! Matcha is full of antioxidants so I love incorporating it!

I also want to mention another one of my favorites from Vital Proteins which is their Beef Liver Supplements. I’ve learned that liver is SO rich in nutrients especially vitamin A and B12. As someone who is working to raise nutrient deficiencies, I try to incorporate liver in my diet from time to time because I definitely can feel the benefits of how nutrient dense and nourishing it is. Let’s be real though – grass-fed liver isn’t always accessible and in a lot of cases, not the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Vital Proteins makes it so easy with their amazing Beef Liver supplement in capsule form. Definitely a great option if you are someone like me who wants the benefits of liver. I also notice more energy when I take these.

I hope this helps explain the reasons why Collagen has become such an integral part of my daily routine and why I love it!

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Collagen Coffee Elixir

2 cups boiling water

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

1 serving instant coffee

1 scoop Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

1 tbsp cacao powder

¼ tsp ghee

A few dashes of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a high speed blender (equipped for hot beverages), mix with a frother or simply stir well in a mug and enjoy!

 

Thank you Vital Proteins for sponsoring this blog post!

Roasted Carrot Fries & Tahini Sauce

7518850288_IMG_3784These fries are definitely my new favorite way to eat carrots! They are the perfect combination of sweet and crunchy! I was so happy to find so many quality organic ingredients at the new Whole Foods Market 365 in Fort Greene, Brooklyn! The new Whole Foods Market 365 still has the same quality standards as Whole Foods Market BUT it’s a more simple and streamlined process. What’s awesome about Whole Foods Market 365 is the trusted high quality and NON-GMO ingredients of Whole Foods Market are all included but since everything is simpler and more streamlined they are able to offer more affordable prices. WIN WIN. Hope you guys love these! Let me know on Instagram or in the comments below! 7518850288_IMG_3804

ROASTED CARROT FRIES & TAHINI SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

1 pound (16 oz) bag of Whole Foods Market 365 organic carrots

2 Tbsp Whole Foods Market 365 extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp Whole Foods Market 365 organic garlic powder

1/4 tsp Whole Foods Market 365 organic paprika

1/8 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

TAHINI SAUCE

1 Tbsp tahini

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 Tbsp water

1/2 Tbsp apple cidar vinegar

1/8 tsp Whole Foods Market 365 chili powder

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Wash carrots well. Trim off ends and cut in half. Cut in either quarters or half lengthwise to create “fry” shape sticks.
  3. Add cut carrots to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, sea salt and black pepper until evenly coated.
  4. Place carrots on lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 40 minutes turning once about half way.
  5. In a small dish, combine tahini, lemon juice, water, apple cidar vinegar and chili powder. Stir well with a fork. If necessary, slowly add more water until desired consistency is reached.
  6. You can drizzle the tahini sauce on top or use on the side for dipping! Enjoy!

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Thank you Whole Foods Market 365 for sponsoring this post!

 

 

 

 

Dairy Free Mac and “Cheese” with Broccoli

As the temperature drops, I’m craving ALL the comfort food. I’m especially dreaming of mac and cheese lately. I used Ripple pea milk and sweet potato to create a thick and creamy “cheese” sauce. This recipe is totally gluten-free and dairy-free! It’s perfect comfort food for those cold winter nights. Enjoy!

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DAIRY FREE MAC AND “CHEESE” WITH BROCCOLI

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

1 cup boiled sweet potato (mashed)

1 cup Ripple unsweetened pea milk

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 box gluten-free pasta (I use chickpea pasta)

4 cups broccoli

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. After boiled sweet potato has cooled, add sweet potato, pea milk, nutritional yeast, olive oil and spices to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend approximately 1 minute or until sauce is created.
  2. Follow package instructions to cook pasta. Add chopped broccoli to the boiling water for the last 5 minutes of cooking. After pasta is cooked, drain pasta and broccoli.
  3. Add pasta and broccoli back to the same pot over low heat and add sauce. Gently stir for 5-7 minutes. Serve as is or with extra black pepper, sriracha, or paprika.

 

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Tahini Cookies

I’ve been working on creating a healthier chocolate chip cookie recipe to make for the holidays. This dark chocolate sea salt tahini cookie is perfect! The tahini is so rich and creamy and is amazing paired with dark chocolate chips. I definitely will be making these for all of the holiday parties I have coming up. They are seriously addicting! Hope you love them as much as I do!

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DARK CHOCOLATE SEA SALT TAHINI COOKIES

Approx. 22 cookies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 egg

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (dairy-free)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients (except dark chocolate chips). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together egg, maple syrup, almond milk, tahini, coconut oil, tahini and vanilla,
  4. Gradually add dry mixture into wet mixture. Once dough is formed, fold in dark chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon dough into 1-inch rounds, place on parchment-lined baking sheet and gently press down.
  6. Bake cookies for approximately 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown
  7. Let cool, top with a sprinkle of extra sea salt and enjoy! (store in refrigerator or freezer)

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Cauliflower Rice with Kale

This cauliflower rice has become a weeknight regular! I love the combination of olive oil and garlic. It creates such a creamy texture! This rice is also so easy to make and so satisfying! I add in kale for extra greens but spinach would be great in this dish as well. Garlic Cauliflower Rice is also the perfect healthy side dish for Thanksgiving! Hope you guys love it as much as I do!

GARLIC CAULIFLOWER RICE WITH KALE

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

4 cups cauliflower rice (16 oz)*

3 cups kale (washed and roughly chopped)

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add cauliflower and kale to lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and add seasonings.
  3. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
  4. Gently mix after roasting to ensure that the rice is evenly coated with olive oil and spices.
  5. Serve as is or as a side dish with protein of your choice!

*I buy cauliflower rice prepared from Trader Joe’s (HUGE time saver) or you can easily prepare it at home by washing a large head of cauliflower, chopping into medium sized pieces and pulsing in a food processor until rice-like consistency is reached.

cauliflower rice

 

 

 

A New Chapter in My Journey: Letting Go of 100% Plant-Based

I would like to begin by saying, the thoughts below are based on my own individual experiences. I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional. I’m just vulnerably sharing my story here with the hope that it will help some of you on your own path. Love you all.

I’ll start with the beginning of my journey to a 100% plant-based diet. I decided to go vegetarian in the Fall of 2014. It dawned on me after a conversation around the lunch table with a few co-workers. One of my colleagues mentioned the hormones and antibiotics that are given to most animals. I was totally grossed out and I decided that I would try giving up meat for a week. I stopped eating poultry and red meat immediately but I was still transitioning away from seafood, dairy and eggs. My digestion was incredible and I felt energized. I was super motivated to stick with this new way of eating. After only a few days, I felt AWESOME.

I created my Instagram account in January 2015. I was so excited to share photos of all the new meals I was making! Instagram quickly exposed me to the world of veganism. I was definitely intrigued. The health benefits sounded amazing. I absolutely love fruits and vegetables so I thought it would be easy enough for me. I was also very disgusted by the animal agriculture, dairy and egg industries after watching a few documentaries. I loved the idea of compassion and that I was no longer contributing to harming animals and the environment.

My skin health was my main motivation to no longer consume dairy. As a teenager, I had pretty bad breakouts. However, my skin cleared up completely after starting hormonal birth control. I started the pill as a way to control my extremely heavy menstrual cycle and the symptoms that came along with it. Of course, I enjoyed the benefits of short periods with little or no symptoms as well as clear skin. Six years later, I found out about the dangers of hormonal birth control. I made the immediate decision stop taking the pill. It was then that I realized the birth control was only masking my symptoms. Right away my heavy periods came back and my skin was worse than my teenage years. My colleague, who had originally planted the seed about vegetarianism, mentioned to me that dairy was probably contributing to my skin breakouts. She was right. It was super easy for me to switch from skim milk to almond milk. Eliminating dairy was the single best decision that I could’ve made for my skin. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed the inflammation on my face was noticeably less, and while not totally clear, I saw vast improvements.

I started to notice earlier this year that my menstrual cycles were NEXT LEVEL and taking a huge toll on me. I was feeling extremely weak and tired the week before my period and the week during. My headaches were getting worse and worse and my periods were SO heavy. I knew something was wrong. I had a feeling my iron was low because of the heavy menstruation. I started increasing all of the iron-rich plant foods, especially during my cycle. However, nothing seemed to change. During this time, I was having intense cravings for seafood. Fish was a staple in my diet before going vegan. It caught me by surprise because I had never craved animal products in the first two years of eating plant-based. I brushed it off as just a seasonal craving because it was summer. I increased my intake of omega’s and healthy fats to try to satisfy the cravings.

I started having digestive issues about 2 months ago resulting in intense abdominal pain. Suddenly foods that I previously digested with ease, were wreaking HAVOC on my system. I went to see a holistic doctor here in NYC. I thought that I might have developed an allergy to nuts or gluten. The doctor took blood-work and checked for possible food allergies as well as vitamin and mineral levels. When I received my results, I was SHOCKED and TERRIFIED. No food allergies but my iron was CRITICALLY low and my iron stores were even lower. I was also deficient in other essential vitamins and minerals. I was so upset, I could not believe how eating a plant based diet focused on nutrient dense fruits and vegetables produced these results. I felt as though I had failed my body.

I knew instantly after speaking with the doctor what I had to do.

My first step was research. I wanted to learn as much as possible about my deficiencies. Specifically, heme (animal sources) iron vs. non-heme (plant sources) iron. Of course, there are a lot of conflicting views on this topic. However, the fact is heme iron is absorbed more easily by the body than non-heme iron. Despite my best efforts to consume all of the non-heme sources of iron, my body was not absorbing enough and needed more. This was amplified by the amount of iron I lose regularly during heavy menstrual cycles.

I knew I had to start eating animal protein to bring my iron and iron stores, as well as my other deficiencies, back to normal. As much as I knew that incorporating animal protein was completely out of necessity for my body, the thought was still horrifying after not eating meat in nearly 3 years. I knew I had to obtain these products from the very best sources. I wasn’t about to run out to the nearest fast food chain – LET’S BE REAL.

I want to be strategic. My goal is to maximize my nutrient intake in the most conscious and healthiest way possible. My focus is to buy organic, wild, cage-free, hormone and antibiotic free, free range, etc. from the most sustainable sources that I have access to.

It’s been almost a week now that I’ve slowly started incorporating animal protein into my diet again. I already feel that my energy has increased. I was worried about having crazy digestive issues but that hasn’t been the case. It actually seems that the more animal protein I eat, the more my body craves it. I can feel my body responding positively.

The takeaway here is that our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. I have a deep connection with my body. However, I still let my mind talk me out of listening to my cravings. I always tell everyone who asks me questions about nutrition “listen to your body”. I needed to take my own advice, be true to myself, take care of my health and my body. After everything that we have been through together, I owe it to my body to fuel it with what it is asking for and not fight it.

Health has been and always will be my #1 priority. It has been very difficult spiritually and emotionally to start eating animal products again. I am trying to find peace in the difficult moments with my decision because I know this is what my body needs.

I want to include again that this is just MY experience. We are all SO different and that is beautiful! I 100% believe that some people can thrive on a plant-based diet and that is truly amazing. I wish I was one of those people but, unfortunately, that’s just not the case. I have a ton of respect and appreciation for the vegan community and the movement. I think we can all agree that more plants are better for everyone! Especially with the current Standard American Diet.

I still plan to keep my diet very plant focused in the future. I love creating and eating plant-based meals (especially buddha bowls)!

I’m not sure where this journey will take me but I know I will continue to grow and change as time progresses and I’m excited to keep sharing with you. I am SO grateful for my body. I am also so grateful for the Instagram community that has been so supportive and opened my eyes to so much. I truly feel that every season in life happens for a reason. I believe with confidence that I am being guided on this path.

I know that not everyone will understand and that’s okay. I hope you can all find peace in knowing that we are all in control of our own individual decisions. No one else can know exactly how you or I feel individually in our own bodies. You are the only one who can decide what’s best for you.

I will always keep it 100 and real. Thank you all so much for your love and support.

NYC Vegan Restaurant Guide

Hi guys! I’ve been getting a ton of messages and emails lately about my favorite spots to eat out at in NYC. I thought it would be best to include it all in a blog post here. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t eat out a ton just because I love preparing my own food and it’s definitely more cost-effective. That being said, I definitely take full advantage of the amazing plant-based options New York City has to offer from time to time. I might add to this list in the future but I figured this is a great place to start. Enjoy!

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Beyond Sushi NYC

62 W 56th St. New York, NY 10019

(They have 5 locations in NYC, this is the one I go to most)

  • 100% Plant-based : )
  • My top picks on the menu: Nutty Buddy wrap, Sweet Tree Roll, Mighty Mushroom Roll, Zen Salad
  • No reservations needed, usually seating available
  • Great option for a quick lunch or dinner

 

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Peacefood Café

41 E 11th St. New York, NY 10003

  • 100% Plant-based
  • My top picks on the menu: So many options here but my go-to’s are the Fluffy Quinoa Salad and Chickpea Fries
  • I haven’t been here for dinner but lunchtime isn’t usually too crazy
  • Cute café atmosphere plus they have lots of vegan desserts!

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Sweetgreen

8 E 18th St. New York, NY 10003

(17 Locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn)

  • Plant-based options available
  • Typically, long lines during peak lunch hour time. Pro-tip: Download the app and order on your phone in advance for quick pick-up
  • I usually create my own salad here depending on what I feel like. My favorite add-in’s are kale, organic wild rice, spicy sunflower seeds, spicy broccoli, shredded cabbage, warm Portobello mix, avocado, housemade hummus, and hot chickpeas. Obsessed with the spicy cashew dressing!

 

Juice Generation

28 E 18th Street New York, NY 10003

(Locations all over NYC)

  • Almost all smoothies, juices and bowls are vegan
  • Perfect post-workout spot
  • My top picks: Joyful Almond smoothie is my all-time fave! It tastes like a milkshake! If I’m feeling all the greens, Mr. Greengenes is my JAM. I also love the XO Coco acai bowl.

 

Candle 79

154 E 79th St. New York, NY 10075

  • 100% plant-based
  • Definitely one of the pricier and fancier of the options that I’ve listed
  • Great for date night!
  • My top picks: Mezze platter, Grilled Kale Salad
  • They serve Kombrewcha!

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Bareburger

48-19 Vernon Blvd Long Island City, NY 11101

(One of my fave local spots in Queens but they have locations in Manhattan also)

  • Not 100% plant-based but great vegan options
  • Perfect compromise if you are with non-vegans
  • My top picks: Cali Fresh Salad, Guadalupe Burger, Sweet fries
  • Beware: the brussel sprouts have bacon (I learned the hard way)
  • The guacamole is amazing!

 

Hope this helps! Would love to hear your thoughts!

**(This post is not sponsored – just based on my personal experiences)