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.
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!
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
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!
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!
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.
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!
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)
Hi guys! Thanks so much for visiting my new blog! I’m so excited to use this new space to share my thoughts and ideas with you. One of the most common questions I receive on Instagram is “what is your grocery shopping list?” So, I thought I would share with you my approach to grocery shopping as a whole and then I will share my general list below.
It’s so important to me to have healthy food in my apartment because if not, it’s really easy (especially in NYC) to order take-out or go out to eat. Now while I definitely appreciate the convenience of ordering in or dining out once in a while, I find that it’s much more difficult to control the way your food is prepared. Usually restaurants are really accommodating when it comes to my plant-based diet.
However, the food is much more likely to contain extra oil/salt/sugar that I would never cook with at home. More importantly, it’s not cheap to dine out or order in! This is one of the main reasons I taught myself how to cook 3 years ago when my fiancé, Nick, and I first moved in together.
With that said, when it comes to food shopping, the truth is I never really use a list. I usually ask Nick if he wants anything in particular and usually he just says “a lot of veggies” which pretty much sums up my approach to grocery shopping. When I go in the grocery store (usually Trader Joe’s) I spend 90% of my time in the produce section. I have my go-to greens and veggies but I really like to see what looks freshest. I usually end up with generally the same items but I also like to try new fruits, vegetables or choose seasonal items (I am anxiously awaiting fig season).
I also want to note my approach to organic vs non-organic. I always try to buy organic when possible. I especially focus on organic berries and leafy greens which tend to have more pesticides. I also do take price into consideration so I’m definitely not buying 100% organic.
After I’ve filled my cart with mostly vegetables and some fruits, I have an honest conversation with myself about what “staples” or packaged foods I need. I’m going to list some of my staples below for reference. I know from experience that if I roam the inside aisles aimlessly it can be really easy to end up buying prepackaged and typically more unhealthy foods that I really didn’t need. I’m talking cookies, crackers, chips. The usual suspects with tons of sugar and salt. I’ve been following this way of shopping for a couple of years now so those things aren’t AS tempting to me as they once were. That being said, I definitely need to remind myself to put down the veggie tortilla chips from time to time.
I hope you guys find the lists below helpful! I don’t buy all of these items every time I go shopping but they are things that I purchase on a regular basis. Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts or questions. I would love to know if you enjoyed this and want more blog posts!
Red Bell Peppers
Purple Sweet Potatoes
Avocados (and lots of them)
Unsweetened almond milk
Gluten Free Pasta
Chickpeas (low sodium canned)
Black beans (low sodium canned)
White beans (low sodium canned)
Unsalted Macadamia nuts
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes