Plant-Based Protein Powders and How to Choose One

Plant based protein powders IG post*Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am studying nutrition and on the path to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Please, contact a practing RDN or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns before adapting a new way of eating.

Good afternoon friends! 🙂 Every week I receive multiple questions in my Instagram inbox about eating plant-based or being a plant-based athlete, so I figured it was time to start addressing those questions here on the good ‘ol blog!  As a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an aspiring sub-elite runner, I am drawing on both research AND my personal experiences to share this information with you, so as usual, contact a licensed healthcare professional with any questions or concerns! Once I am a licensed and practicing RDN I will be more than happy to help you, though! 🙂

So without further ado, let’s get to it! Today’s topic is plant-based protein powders.🌱 I want to start off by saying a protein powder should never be a replacement for a food in your diet, rather it should be an ENHANCEMENT or a SUPPLEMENT to your current diet. It is always best to get most of your daily calories and protein from whole, real foods (1). A protein shake is not meant to replace dinner or breakfast. Although, no judgment if you’ve done that before, as we have all been there 😛 But generally protein powder does not make a very complete or balanced meal unless it is added to a smoothie with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Of course there are certain times when a protein powder may be appropriate: during a major illness where you need extra protein to help you heal, during a heavy training phase as an athlete, or when you are struggling to meet your daily calorie and protein needs with food alone (2). Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement, because yes, protein powder is considered a supplement!

 

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There are a variety of reasons why an athlete might chose a plant-based protein powder: dairy allergy, vegan diet, or taste preferences. I personally am vegan and whey never sat well with me even when I ate dairy, so that is why I chose to consume a plant-based protein powder. I did not start consuming protein powder until 2019 because I used to be against it to be honest. But after running my highest weekly volume ever this summer to train for my second ever marathon (the Chicago Marathon this October), I can attest to the recovery benefits of consuming a high-protein shake or smoothie after a long run or tough training session when my stomach is otherwise not ready to eat a full meal rich in carbohydrates and protein. All I have to do is dump some water or almond milk and protein powder into my Blender Bottle, shake well, and sip as I stretch and foam roll.

So what are some key differences between whey based and plant-based protein powders? Well for starters, whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it has all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on it’s own (3). All animal based proteins are complete, but only quinoa and soy products are complete plant-based proteins (3,4). So before you panic, remember that you do not need to eat complete proteins at every single meal and snack, but rather throughout the day. Or you could do some good ol’ fashioned food pairing, i.e. the classic combination of rice and beans together contain all 9 of the essential amino acids in the proper amounts! So how does this relate to plant-based protein powders? Well, unless you are consuming a soy protein powder, which is already complete,  most plant-based protein powders will achieve a complete amino acid profile through the pairing of multiple plant protein sources, i.e. pea protein, chia seeds, cranberry protein, pumpkin seeds (4). The use of multiple protein sources just adds to the nutritional benefits of the protein powder! Whey protein powder is relatively low in nutrients besides protein, but a plant-based protein powder will often have some iron and other minerals, such as phosphorous or zinc (4). Pea protein powder is among the most common plant-based protein powders, but I’ve seen many types over the years, from hemp seed to combination plant protein powders.

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As an athlete there are two additional considerations I use when choosing a protein powder. I check the ingredients to see if the plant-based protein powder contains sugar alcohols and if it is NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice (6,7). I check for sugar alcohols because for me and many others, they cause GI distress (5). I cannot even chew gum because of the sugar alcohols! I am fine with stevia though, but I honestly wish more protein powders just used a bit of regular sugar…but that’s a topic for another day 😛

I then check if the protein powder is NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so how do we know that our supplements actually contain what they say they contain (6,7)? The NSF International’s Certified for Sport program was created to test supplements and make sure they do not contain any banned or illegal substances, contaminants, and that they actually contain what they say they contain (6).  To receive the NSF mark the supplement has to be tested twice in a calendar year (6). I  also love that NSF has an app with a barcode scanner, so I check check supplements easily when I am on the go or at a store.

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Informed Choice is similar in that third party tests supplements for banned substances, but it is not the gold standard or recognized by major athletics teams, such as the MLB, like NSF certified for Sport (7). NSF Certified for Sport is especially important for elite athletes who are subject to random testings before/during/after competitions, because how would it feel to get disqualified because of your protein powder? I may be exaggerating here, but it’s still good to know exactly what is in our supplements, so even as an aspiring sub-elite athlete, I will only consume supplements from brands I trust and ones that are preferably NSF Certified, but at least Informed Choice so I know that they have been tested by a third party.

All 3 of my recommended protein powders below are NSF Certified or Informed Choice!

My top 3 favorite protein powders (in order) are linked below with pros and cons. 

 

1. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder: Chocolate or Vanilla

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  • Pros:
    • NSF Certified for Sport
    • Informed Choice
    • The chocolate is tasty in milk or water
    • Contains all the essential amino acids (complete protein)
    • 30 g protein per serving

 

  • Cons:
    • Expensive, but at least it lasts a while
    • Vanilla only tastes good in smoothies in my opinion
    • Contains stevia, which I am not sensitive to, but some of you might be or you may not like the taste of
    • Can be hard to mix unless you use a shaker bottle or a blender

2. Tailwind Rebuild Recovery Chocolate or Vanilla

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  • Pros:
    • Informed Choice
    • Tastes good even in just water (I prefer chocolate over vanilla in plain water)
    • Easy to transport if you get the single serving packs
    • Mixes very easily just by shaking
    • Contains electrolytes in addition to carbohydrates and protein, perfect for immediately after a run or athletic event
    • No artificial sweeteners

 

  • Cons:
    • Not NSF Certified
    • Most expensive option
    • Vanilla is not very tasty in my opinion but some may like it
    • Not as high in protein as other options (only 10 g)
    • High in sugar compared to other protein powders (39 g)

 

3. Vega Sport Premium Protein in Chocolate, Vanilla, Berry, or Mocha

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  • Pros:
    • Informed Choice
    • Can buy as a tub or individual serving packets
    • Tastes decent even mixed with just water, but is best in smoothies
    • 30% DV of iron
    • 30 g of protein

 

  • Cons:
    • Not NSF Certified
    • Vanilla only tastes good in smoothies in my opinion
    • Contains stevia, which I am not sensitive to, but some of you might be or you may not like the taste of
    • Can be hard to mix unless you use a shaker bottle or a blender.

 

Do you use plant-based protein powder? If so, which brand and why? Do you have a question you want to see on here next? Do next hesitate to comment below, contact me on Instagram, or e-mail me at blackbeanqueen@gmail.com ! 🙂

 References

  1. Plant-Based Sports Nutrition by D.Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RDN & Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RDN
  2. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark, MS, RD
  3. What is a complete amino acid profile? by Kelli Shallal, MPH, RD
  4. Whey Vs. Plant Protein by Abbey Howarth
  5. Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes by Mayo Clinic 
  6. NSF International Certified for Sport 
  7. Informed Choice
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What is the difference between vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based?!

*Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am studying nutrition and on the path to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Please, contact a healthcare professional with any questions or concerns before adapting a new way of eating.

It is 2019 and I would be shocked if you told me that you do not know at least one person in your life that is vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. Same with gluten-free. Or soy-free. Or oil-free. But, I digress. The focus today will be on plant-based eating. You probably hear about this way of eating all the time or may even eat plant-based yourself on the daily or by participating in #meatlessmonday. But, do you truly know the difference?! It’s okay if you do not! I’m here to save the day 😉

As a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), food is my favorite topic! I love researching about food, talking about food, cooking food, and obviously eating food 😛 But as your favorite future RDN, runner, and black bean lover (I’m making a lot of assumptions here, okay? :P) I am here to set the record straight about the differences between the types of plant-based eating patterns, and to provide you a few resources along the way. So, let’s get to it! I promise it’s not that long, but full of helpful information and a link to some resources! 😉

Me eating a vegan cookie dough bite and living my best life 😛

The key difference between vegetarian, vegan, and plant based

First of all, let’s be clear. Vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based diets have a lot of similarities, but they are not the same. Two of them are diets and one of them is a lifestyle. More on this later.

According to the Harris Poll conducted by Vegetarian Nutrition resource group in 2016, 37% percent of the population always or sometimes eats vegetarian meals when eating out (1). Note that approximately 3% percent of the population is vegetarian (including vegans) all the time, regardless of whether they dine at home or out (1). A slightly higher proportion of people (5%) always eat vegetarian or vegan meals when eating out (1). Three years later, in 2019, I imagine the numbers of vegetarians are even higher, and we see this reflected in huge increased in plant-based options at restaurants. There has also been an increase in exclusively plant-based restaurants. This makes sense because nearly 25% of millennials (yes, I am one :P) consume a vegetarian or vegan diet (2). With the increasing popularity of plant-based, especially with my generation, you may find yourself wondering about the differences between the 3 eating patterns.

Whether it is something you are interested in yourself, you are about to host a dinner party with a vegan guest, or you are unsure how to explain yourself to your family, this is the post for you!

So, grab a bite to eat and let’s discuss the key differences! 🙂

Vegetarian

A vegetarian diet refers to an eating pattern that forgoes all forms of flesh foods (3). This includes seafood, shellfish, poultry, beef, etc. A vegetarian consumes a diet containing fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products, but no flesh foods (3). Depending on the type of vegetarian, they may consume dairy or eggs, though (3). A vegetarian who still consumes honey, dairy products, and eggs, but no flesh foods is called a lacto-ovo vegetarian (3). A vegetarian that consumes dairy, but not eggs is referred to as a lacto-vegetarian and a vegetarian that consumes eggs, but not dairy is called an ovo-vegetarian (3). There are a multitude of reasons someone might adapt a vegetarian diet, but the most common reasons include: health, environmental concerns, ethical concerns, and enjoyment of vegetarian foods (3,4). Some other less common, but still fun reasons to go vegetarian: you’ll be more regular (runners love talking about poop 💩), your dinners will be pretty and colorful 🌈 (millennials love putting food pictures on Instagram :P), and you may live longer 👵🏻 (4).

Veganism

Veganism, is not a diet at all, but rather a lifestyle. What does this mean? Someone who practices veganism will not consume any flesh foods, honey, eggs, or dairy. Vegans have been dubbed “strict vegetarians” by some groups. Yet, veganism extends beyond diets. True veganism is an ethical practice that seeks to reduce harm and suffering of animals in the world. A vegan likely will not wear clothes with any animals products (i.e. wool or leather), will not go to zoos, use products tested on animals, and any other activities or practices that might bring harm or suffering to animals.

Please, respectfully discuss with me in the comments or via e-mail if you agree/disagree with the following… but some people may identify as vegan, but occasionally wear animal based products because they already owned them before going vegan (but then will not buy any more animal based products moving forward), use make-up that was tested on animals, or they might allow their child to go to a zoo for a school field trip. The end goal of the vegan lifestyle is to reduce animal harm and suffering, but to also make this lifestyle accessible to as many people as possible! A 95% vegan lifestyle is better than a 0% one! Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Taylor Wolfram of Whole Green Wellness describes this beautifully and in more detail in her post entitled: Veganism is not a diet. I highly recommend checking it out!

Plant-based

Finally, plant-based is a more general term that refers to a few different eating patterns. The most common type of person who calls themselves plant-based is someone who eats a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet, but occasionally has meat or dairy products. A pescatarian falls under this category because they consume a vegetarian diet, but they also eat fish, dairy, honey, and eggs, but no other flesh foods. A second category might be a person who is a true vegetarian or vegan, but they call themselves “plant-based” because it is a more general term and they like the flexibility of this classification.

As of today, I personally call myself plant-based, because I am 98% vegan, but I very occasionally consume food that contains honey (but otherwise no animal products) and some of my clothes and cosmetics are made from animal by-products or tested on animals. I am slowly working to live a more cruelty-free lifestyle, but with my current budget as a student, I’m not about to throw away clothes or shoes I already own, but I try to only buy vegan products when I’m on the search for something new. *If you have any thoughts about this please comment or e-mail me, but be respectful.

A third category of plant-based are people that eat a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB). This diet is technically a vegan diet in the sense that it avoids all flesh-foods and animal by-products, but they may not have the ethical ties that a true vegan has (5). Furthermore, a person adhering to a WFPB typically avoids processed foods and choses minimally prepared foods, as close to the Earth as possible, such as i.e. salads (5). This diet was made popular from the documentary Forks over Knives and the book The China Study.

Do you eat plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan? I’d love to know if you do and why you do! Drop me a comment below. Be on the lookout for more information about plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan resources for endurance athletes, specifically, later this summer!

Additionally, comment below or e-mail me if there’s a topic you’d love for me to cover here. My goal is to help and inspire all of you! 🙂

BONUS! Check out the new blog tab, entitled RESOURCES for some of my favorite resources for plant-based recipes, books, cookbooks, and documentaries! 🙂

References

  1. How Many Adults in the U.S. are Vegetarian and Vegan?
  2. Everything Is Ready To Make 2019 The “Year Of The Vegan”. Are You?
  3. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets.
  4. Why Go Veg?
  5. Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

2018 in review

Hello friends! Long time, no post and Happy New Year’s Eve! How is it only one day away from 2019?! 😱

Life got a little crazy since my last post in October: I ran my 1st marathon in a BQ, got injured during said marathon, finished my 1st semester of nutrition classes, and focused on injury recovery! All those recent events reminded me that it’s been a crazy fun, tear-inducing, challenging, awesome, amazing, and unpredictable year. 😜

So why not recap/reflect on the highlights from each month of 2018, so I can start 2019 on a high-note? Without further ado, here are my top moments for each month of 2018, running and otherwise:

January:  The top moment of January was running the F^3 Lake 5k and meeting a few of my new BibRave teammates. It was my favorite moment because I spent a lot of the fall injured, so it was exciting to be able to lace up and race a 5k, even though I only had a few weeks of training under my belt and no workouts. I treated the race as a tempo, somehow won, and had an overall great time. My husband ran the half marathon and earned a personal best time of 1:15! We were fortunate to have weather in the high 30s and the post race party was fun. If you want to read more about this race check out my recap 🙂 I am recovering from injury (again) now, so I likely won’t run the race in 2019, but I highly recommend the 5k or half marathon on 1/26/19!IMG_5111

February: The top moment of February was a tie between the unexpected snow day (and day off work) on Friday February 9, 2018 and being chosen by BibRave to test out the Aftershokz wireless headphones. And yes, I’m sure you’re wondering how one single day could be my top moment of 2018…but if you are a regular follower/reader here you may remember that I used to be a high school chemistry teacher. In January- March 2018 I was working as a temporary chemistry teacher for a teacher on maternity leave. The teacher had been on leave since September, and the school had trouble finding a teacher to take the maternity leave, so the students had been without a permanent teacher until I took the position in January. Without divulging every detail, it was tough situation that really tested me, especially when I was already fairly certain (not yet publicly at this point) that I did not want to teach, but rather go back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, but more on that later 😉

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Anyway, after a particularly tough Thursday with some unruly students and a mountain of grading, we got an unexpected snow day on Friday, February 9th. For those of you who aren’t in Chicago, it is incredibly rare for the Chicago Public Schools to declare a snow day. It happens maybe once every 5 years. 😛 It was much needed! I was able to fit in a snowy run with my new trail shoes, my new Aftershokz, and in the daylight hours on a week day. Friday, Feb. 9th was AWESOME! It’s still funny to me in December 2018 that a simple snow day was my top moment of February 2018.

March:  Hands down the best moment of March 2018 was winning an Instagram contest for of three months of coaching with Heather McKirdy of McKirdy Trained. She had been a runner and coach I looked up too since I made an instagram page for this blog. 🙂 She’s positive, hard-working, a dreamer, speedy, and extremely knowledgable about running. In my short three months with her as my coach, I grew so much as a runner! I set a half PR, integrated more workouts and recovery, and took my running more seriously for the first time since running for my college in 2010-2013. I also watched many of my other Instagram friends become her athletes around when I did and make awesome running gains (I’m especially looking at you Teagan, Meghan, Laura, and Nicole :P). I was very sad after my three months ended because I decided to exit the work world and go back to school to study nutrition, so unfortunately I could not and still cannot afford a coach and I loved working with Heather 😦 It would have definitely been helpful to have one when I trained for the Chicago Marathon because my training was kind of a mess 😂 ANYWAY, if you are looking for a coach and it’s in your budget I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend Heather or any of the other McKirdy Trained coaches. 🙂 A majority of their athletes BQed or set PRs at their races this year and those are results you cannot ignore! 😱

Honorable mention/a close second was finishing off that maternity leave teaching position and figuring out my now public next steps. More on that below 😉

April: Okay, okay! I can’t pick just one moment because this month was freakin’ awesome. Hands down the BEST moment was deciding to change my path and go back to school to study to become a Registered Dietitian. I also ran a personal best in my second ever half marathon (1:34), while sick, under the guidance of my new coach Heather. My husband ran the full marathon that same day in a stunning 2:42, cutting 26 minutes off his previous best time and securing a ticket to Boston 2019. You can read much more about my experience at the Illinois Half Marathon here.

Last, but not least I was able to meet and become real-life friends with two of my Instagram friends: Katie of 2fabfitchicks and Danielle of Feed Me Happy. Danielle and I are also now real-life classmates and future RDs, so that’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Meeting and running with Scott Jurek during his North book release tour also deserves an honorable mention! April was truly an amazing month!

May: May’s top moments are a tie between being interviewed for my first ever magazine article in Voyage Chicago and my birthday BibRave run meet-up at Millennium Park. It was nearly 95 degrees, but I still had a blast running with Steph, Ben, and Frank on my 26th birthday! 🙂 Joining such an awesome team of supportive and fun runners/ambassadors may have been my greatest decision all year, besides deciding to go back to school 😛

June: It was a hot day and not my best race time, but I still pick my first ever 10k at the Run for the Zoo as my top moment of June 2018. I even managed third female overall somehow 😛 It was a fun race to rep BibRave and somewhat kick off my Chicago Marathon training!

July: My husband got a new teaching job and we moved to a new apartment. I absolustely love my new loft apartment and it’s proximity to awesome places to run along the Chicago LakeShore path.  I  was honestly hoping that the Rock ‘N Roll Chicago half marathon would be my top July moment,  but I just did not have a good race and you can read more about it on my Instagram 😦 I’m still glad I ran it even if my time of 1:36 was very far off of the 1:30 I was hoping for at that point. 

August: A hot month full of marathon training and long run PRs (mileage wise) every single week. I even made it through my through my longest run ever (20 miles) and nailed my fueling strategy with Spring Energy (ElectroRide in my hand held and Canaberry gels ).

Running the Nike unsanctioned 6k race deserves an honorable mention, as well. It was a fun race and a great way to fit in a mid-week workout.

September: Oh man September was a tough month! I was struggling to balance my classes, work, my extremely long commute to/from school, and training for the marathon. I had a few 0-10 mile weeks and I even contemplated not running the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully, after turning around my training a bit, some reflection on how far I had come (despite a less than ideal training situation). and the kind words of so many of you I decided to still run. That is definitely my top moment of September 2018. It was not an easy decision!

October: Completing my first marathon in a BQ, enough said! 😛  Although, having to stop multiple times to stretch due to hip and IT band pain and then becoming so injured I just started running again a little over a week ago also serves as a bit of a low point. :/ You can read more about my race on Instagram.

I am extremely grateful that Dale of Marathoner Dale ran part of the marathon with me. She had a fantastic race (earning a 3:22 PR) and helped me at my lowest, most painful points. I am also grateful that Jess (the cofounder of BibRave) and I were able to run together for some of the race! 🙂 I am positive with better training (and honestly a coach ), I would have a had a much better and injury free race, but hey- a 3:28:01 is not bad for my first one!

I am proud, but am also dreaming bigger (and training MUCH smarter) for my next marathon! 😛 I had a blast meeting a lot more of my BibRave teammates at the Chicago Marathon summit and the race and would not change the race or this weekend for anything, though. I can only hope to perform at what I am actually capable of next time I run a marathon 😉

November: No running at all for me in November, as I focused on cross training, resting, and gaining hip/glute strength. BUT the best moment was watching my husband cut two more minutes off his personal best marathon time at Indy Monumental in a blazing fast 2:40! 🔥 I am also grateful for Ashlyn, who is the kindest human and an amazing friend, who put together a strength training plan and will make a running plan once I am able to run more. I am not sure what I did to deserve her help, but I am grateful because this injury has been a struggle and an uncertain time for me. :/

December: After not being able to run post-Chicago marathon, hands down the top moment of this month was the pain-free mile (even if it was on the dreadmill) I ran three days ago! I am cautiously optimistic about my return to running as enter 2019! I am not sure anything I will do in the remaining hours of 2018 can top that, unless I am able to run 10 miles 😉 But don’t worry, I’m won’t try such a foolish thing!

Finishing my first semester nutrition school finals and earning good grades also earn an honorable mention, but clearly being able to run again is more exciting to me 😛 I also got accepted to be a BibRave Pro for another year, so I am grateful that they want to keep me! 🙂

So now, I want to hear from all of YOU! What were your top moments of 2018, running or otherwise?! 👇🏻

Organizing Your Weekly Plant-Based Meal Plan

Good afternoon friends!

It’s been a minute since I’ve done a food related post here 😱 I’ve been a little caught up in the busyness of school, work, and deciding if I should run the Chicago Marathon or not over the last few weeks. The good news is, I decided to still run the race despite a few weeks of less than ideal training! Those of you who follow me on Instagram already know this!😜 You can’t run you first marathon if you don’t start the race!😉

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During these busy days of marathon training, school, and beyond, it is so important to eat healthy and often. When I get busy or stressed, I tend to under eat, which is the opposite of a lot of people and not ideal for running some serious miles.😩 What has been key for me overcoming this over the last few weeks is planning my meals (especially lunch) ahead of time. It also helps to have most amazing husband, who makes me cashew butter and jam sandwiches on especially busy mornings to bring to school. I’m lucky, what can I say?!😍

Anyway, imagine my excitement when Meghan Harris of White Rabbit Garage Storage, reached out to me to write a guest post here about meal planning. I thought that it was perfect timing, as I am personally working on being better about meal planning!

So, without first ado, here is the first ever guest post on Black Bean Queen! 🙂

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Eating a plant-based diet is not only healthier for you but also makes you feel better and have more energy throughout the day. However, organizing and creating a meal plan to follow can be tedious and daunting. Without a solid plan in place, it is easy to fall back into old habits and to slip up more often than you’d like. Below are 3 tips to help you organize your weekly meal plan and a sample plant-based meal plan for you to try.

Look Through Your Pantry

Go through your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to get a solid idea of what foods you have to cook with already. Starting with foods you have previously purchased allows you to not only save money, but also time when shopping. You’ll also waste less food.

Going through your pantry will give you a sense for what foods you typically eat and help you remember which ones you didn’t like when you tried them. You will also be able to free up more space and organize the shelves, so you can look through your food storage easier in the future. If you have any food that you don’t like, and it hasn’t yet expired, donate it to your local food pantry.

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Find a Place to Keep Recipes

If you prefer written recipes you will want to find a place in your kitchen that won’t get ruined by spilled oil and is easily within reach. Consider finding recipe organizers at Target or on Amazon.

If you prefer online recipes keep a file on your computer or phone to organize different websites, you have found with recipes. You can use a word doc, detailed Pinterest board, or Google files to do so. Make sure this is accessible from several devices in case one is misplaced or broken.

Choose Meals with Familiar Ingredients

BB Familiar Food

 Meal planning will help you feel less stressed during the week, so you can avoid spending money on unnecessary food purchases. However, if you are shopping for items you primarily are unfamiliar with you won’t use them either.

If you shop for black beans often, you know when they are a good deal and when you should use a different kind of bean. If you use quinoa often, you know exactly how long to cook it for before it becomes soggy. As you become more comfortable with meal planning, add in 1 or 2 new ingredients each week.

As you work on your weekly meal plan, remember that it’s okay to be flexible and that some meals may go awry. You can always pick yourself up and try again the next day!

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BONUS: Here is a simple work week meal plan for you to try!

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Monday Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Basic Tofu Stir Fry Cauliflower Fried Rice
Tuesday Vegan Waffles with Blueberry Sauce Creamy One Pot Pasta Pasta Bean Casserole
Wednesday Peanut butter and dark chocolate oatmeal Squacos Greek Goddess Bowl
Thursday Apple Buckwheat Pancakes with Coconut Caramel Apples Tomato and White Bean Salad

 

Black Bean and Quinoa Taco Bowls
Friday Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Hummus Pizza with Veggies

This post was written by Meghan Harris at White Rabbit Garage Storage. She enjoys hiking, playing card games, and spending time with her family.

What other tips do you have to organize your weekly meal plan?

 

Plants are cool #2: Basic Tofu Stir Fry recipe

Good afternoon! This is the 1st Saturday I have gotten off of work early in months, so I decided it was time to finally share another plant-based recipe! Today I am sharing a staple recipe in my apartment: basic tofu stir fry. My husband and I eat this at least one a week, if not more often 😛 That’s how much we love it! And it’s easy to prepare, easy to customize, and easy to clean-up,

I am sharing this as a part of my new recipe series called “plants are cool”. Because duh, plants are amazing! And because we should all be eating a lot more of them! I’m here to show you that cooking with plants can be cheap, easy, versatile, and fun! I know I am biased because I am plant based…but please be open minded, maybe try a few plant recipes and who, knows?! Maybe you too will agree that plants are cool! 😉

Basic Tofu Stir Fry recipe

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Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 bag of frozen stir fry vegetables OR slice up your favorite fresh vegetables (I recommend peppers, broccoli, onion, mushroom, carrots, celery, and baby corn)

Organic extra or super firm tofu (I recommend Trader Joe’s or 365 by Whole Foods)

Grapeseed or Avocado Oil (for sautéing) 

1 cup rice or grains of your choice (I used 365 by Whole Foods Organic Super Grains, but other options I’ve used include brown rice, jasmine rice, and quinoa)

Dried ginger (we never measure :P, but I’d put at least a teaspoon or two)

Tamari sauce to taste (at least a tablespoon)

Optional: red pepper flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or nutritional yeast. 

1. Measure and rinse your grain of choice in a mesh sieve.

2. After rinsing, prepare your grain of choice according to the package directions.

3. Chop the vegetables if you aren’t using frozen.

4. Press your tofu. We invested in a tofu press because it significantly cuts down on the time of the recipe.  (Here’s some methods to press tofu if you don’t have a press).

5. After pressing your tofu, slice into bite-sized cubes.

6. Add the Grapeseed or Avocado oil to a sauté pan or a Wok and then add the cubed tofu.

7. Sauté the tofu on medium- high for about 5-10 minutes or until the cubes start to brown.

8. Add the fresh, sliced veggies or the frozen stir fry veggies and continue to sauté until everything is cooked thoroughly .

8. Check the grains and if they are cooked, turn off of the stove top and fluff them.

10. Once the tofu stir fry is cooked throughly, serve atop the cooked grains and add your desired mix-ins. My favorite mix in is pumpkin seeds and my husband loves red pepper flakes.  🙂

If you make my basic tofu stir fry recipe, I’d love to see your creation! E-mail me or share on social media ( InstagramFacebook, or Twitter), but make sure to tag me! I’d be happy to feature your version of basic tofu stir fry on my social media channels!

 

Your path is not linear

Your path is not linear and it is NOT meant to be!

I’m not sure about all of you, but I wholeheartedly believe everything happens for a reason. And sometimes that reason happens right away and other times it could be a very long time before it makes sense. No one knows what is best for you, BUT YOU! Not everyone will approve of your choices or your path, but you are not here to please them, you are here to be TRUE TO YOURSELF. 🙂

So, where am I going with this?! Well, I have a story to tell about my own path and it is certainly not linear!

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My senior year of college (nearly 4 years ago 😱) and most of college for that matter, I remember feeling really anxious about what I wanted to do as my career. I knew that whatever I was going to do I wanted to use science to help people. As a freshmen in college, I chose biology as my major and thought it would help me reach my a goal of becoming a neurologist. I had that goal since I was 12 when my grandmother died of brain cancer. I quickly learned that medical school was not for me. I would not have taken kindly to the high pressure situation of brain surgery or any surgery for that matter. My love of science persisted, though. I played around with other ideas including a physician assistant, physical therapist, and science teacher.

Then, junior year of college I moved off campus to a house with a kitchen and that changed everything for me. I was now responsible for ensuring that I had nutritious meals and snacks to fuel my workouts as a college runner. Some students become really  unmotivated to cook once they move off campus and live off take-out and ramen, but not me!  I have been passionate about eating healthy as long as I can remember. I used to annoy my dad in high school with my requests at the grocery store for things like natural peanut butter, wheat germ, Clif Bars, and giant canisters of oatmeal. I loved eating healthy food and found out I loved making it even more in college! I really enjoyed cooking new dishes in my off campus kitchen and making healthy snacks for after cross country practice as a welcome study break.

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(My junior year snack staples: no bake peanut butter energy bites and peanut butter granola)

Then, my senior year of college we moved to an apartment closer to campus and I decided to go vegetarian. I can share my full vegetarian story at a later date if there is interest. I welcomed the new cooking challenge and had a lot of fun making food and snacks. I made smoothies and homemade energy/protein bites almost every day. I even tried tofu for the first time my senior year. I loved it! It was also nice because one of my good friends/teammates, who is also vegetarian, lived next door to me. Some nights we cooked dinner together after practice. My favorite dishes we made together were black bean burgers and black bean tofu tacos (which should not surprise any of you :P)!

 

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(Homemade black bean burgers with my teammate)

I even got my now-husband hooked on black bean burgers then before he went vegetarian! 🙂 Despite my crazy busy schedule, I spent my spare moments cooking or reading about health, fitness, and nutrition. I was becoming really passionate about vegetarianism and nutrition! But I was also becoming really stressed out because it was my senior year and I was still not sure what I was going to do with my life.

My now-husband and I talked about both of us pursuing Master of Education degrees to become science teachers. I really liked that idea at the time. So, in late fall we went to take the subject area exam (biology for me and chemistry for him) to gain admission to a program. I really thought I had it all figured out! But over winter break I could not shake the thoughts of “are you sure you want to teach?” and “wouldn’t it be awesome to work with food/nutrition/health instead?” And on Christmas day my senior year I remember searching for ideas of how to make a job out of nutrition and wellness. I had an epiphany! I could become a registered dietitian!  And to share my love of black beans with all 😉

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(Black beans, corn, brown, rice, and salsa. A staple meal to this day. :P)

But then panic ensued…So many of the programs I looked into were past the deadline or within a few weeks of the deadline. If I wanted a Master’s degree in nutrition I needed the GRE and it takes weeks to report the GRE score to schools. So if I wanted to pursue nutrition that year, I had to pick a second bachelor’s degree program instead of a master’s program. Plus, some programs included the internships and some did not. It was an overwhelming amount of information.😱

I also learned I was two pre-requisites shy for all programs and scrambled to figure out ways to take the classes, which were not offered at my college. I somehow finished the application, got letters of recommendation, and figured out how to take the pre-reqs before the fall in time for the deadline. In April of my senior year, I found out I got into a program! We also found out my now-husband got into a Master of Education program. We graduated college and moved in July 2014. Fun fact: I actually made this blog in June right before we moved. Life was good! 🙂

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(Undergraduate graduation in spring 2014 with my now-husband)

I finished up my last pre-requisite class and then began the nutrition program in late summer. My now-husband started his classes too. Things were going well for the most part. But, then the doubt started creeping in…”why didn’t you stick with teaching?”, “it’s dumb to get a second bachelor’s degree”, “you should have taken a gap year after undergrad to figure out a better plan”, etc. I went from feeling sure and confident to doubting everything I was doing. I told my now husband how I was feeling and he said that maybe I should teach instead. He reminded me that I’m a decent public speaker, passionate about science, and he thought I’d be good at it. Plus, I already had all the pre-requisite classes taken care of because it’s what I was going to do originally. I agreed with him and applied. I got in the same program as him.

I finished out a semester of nutrition courses and then began my teaching journey in January 2015. I still kept this blog as a place to write about food and running, but stopping posting as frequently. By July 2015 I stopped posting here altogether. I tried to put my heart and soul into teaching, but I continued to read about nutrition in my spare time. I missed the nutrition program I switched out of, but kept it to myself. I even read The China Study during my commute to and from teaching observations. I did a good job in graduate school and student teaching. I won an award for most promising science educator. I liked teaching enough! I just knew all along I liked nutrition more. My now-husband and I graduated in June 2016 and we both tried to find teaching jobs.

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(Master’s graduation in June 2016)

My now husband got a teaching job right away! I did not land one, so I started subbing. Subbing was not a steady enough paycheck, so I was lucky when my old boss (from my job in graduate school) asked me back to work.  In that time frame, I also got engaged. Things were crazy with working full time at the firm and wedding planning, but I still could not shake that feeling of doubt. Doubt about why I went into teaching, especially because I struggled to get a job, and doubt about where I was headed. I knew that I still had a passion for nutrition.

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(Our wedding in July 2017)

A few months after my wedding, I secretly started researching how I could go back to school for registered dietitian programs, but I did not know if it was feasible. Around that time I also started this blog back up again. I was feeling stuck in so many ways in my life. 😦 I figured the ship for becoming a dietitian had sailed, but I also was not sure I wanted to teach or stick at the firm. Soon enough, I got a new science related job in late 2017. Then, an opportunity to temporarily teach for just under four months presented itself to me. After asking many different people for advice, I took the temporary  teaching job, even though I had just started a new job two months prior. I told myself I needed to give teaching a shot because it is what I studied. I secretly decided that if it’s not for me then I would find a way to make my passions a career. Because at the end of the day you are the best version of yourself if you work a job that you are passionate about. You do your best work this way too! 🙂

Overall, it was a tough temporary teaching job, but I think I did a decent job! Less than a month into the teaching job, I started working on applications to registered dietitian programs that include the internship component, but did not finish them. Around two months in, I talked to my mom and my husband about wanting to go back to my original path and they were both wildly supportive. I decided to finish the applications and play the waiting game. I wanted to go to a school that would not completely uproot my husband’s life if possible.

THE GOOD NEWS: I recently found out I got into a nutrition program! I’m so excited for my new journey and I cannot wait to become an RD! 🙂

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I learned so much about myself and my long term goals during this journey.  I am almost 26 years old, so I can say I took me a long time to figure it out. I did not do everything in a logical manner. If I could do everything over again I would have taken a gap year after undergrad to research nutrition programs more, complete pre-requisites, and apply to the most logical program. BUT I can’t go back in time, I can only move on. I would not trade these twists and turns in my journey for anything! My path was not linear and it taught me important lessons.

There is relief in the destination, but also so much beauty in the journey. And if you have reached your destination it is time to start a new journey 😉

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So please, join me on my new path to becoming a registered dietitian! There’s bound to be bumps in the road, but ultimately I am excited to become what I’m meant to be! I’m also excited to continue to share my my love of plant based food, running, fitness, recipes, and eventually my nutrition expertise here!

Have you changed careers before or want to? If so, what was your experience? If not, what is holding back?

Plants are cool #1: “Squacos” recipe

Good afternoon! 🙂 As promised many, many months ago, I am finally sharing my butternut squash taco recipe, AKA “squacos”!🌮 I am sharing this as a part of my new recipe series called “plants are cool”. Because duh, plants are amazing! And because we should all be eating a lot more of them! I’m here to show you that cooking with plants can be cheap, easy, versatile, and fun! I know I am biased because I am plant based…but please be open minded, maybe try a few plant recipes this month, and who, knows?! Maybe you too will agree that plants are cool! 😉

Of course, today’s recipe has black beans, because I have not been living up to my namesake!😱 This is a very basic recipe that lends itself to dressing up with different toppings and serving options, because that is half the fun with taco recipes! So, without further ado let’s make some “squacos”! 😋

“Squacos”

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Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 bag of frozen butternut squash or 1 whole butternut squash

Grapeseed or Avocado Oil (for sautéing) 

1 cup rice or grains of your choice (I used 365 by Whole Foods Organic Super Grains, but other options I’ve used include brown rice, jasmine rice, and quinoa)

1 can of black beans drained and rinsed

Cumin (we never measure :P, but I’d put at least a teaspoon or two)

Cinnamon

Himalayan sea salt (to taste)

Optional: avocado, tomato, cilantro, shredded lettuce, red pepper flakes, salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese (regular or non-dairy), and/or sour cream (if you aren’t vegan)

1. Measure and rinse your grain of choice in a mesh sieve.

2. After rinsing, prepare your grain of choice according to the package directions.

3. Chop the butternut squash if you aren’t using frozen.

4. Add the Grapeseed or Avocado oil to a sauté pan and add the chopped fresh or the chopped frozen butternut squash.

5. Sauté the butternut squash on medium high for about 5 minutes or until warmed.

6. Add the cinnamon and cumin to the butternut squash and make sure everything gets thoroughly mixed.

7. Add the drained and rinsed black beans to the butternut squash mixture.

8. Check the grains and if they are cooked, turn off of the stove top and fluff them.

9. Sauté the black bean and butternut squash mixture for another couple of minutes.

10. Serve on tortillas or make a taco bowl. Be sure to add in any of the fun extras listed above! The optional mix-ins add flavor and depth if you eat these on a weekly basis like my husband and I do! My personal favorite is making a taco bowl with salsa and other veggies and then using tortilla chips as scoops. 🙂

If you make “squacos”, I’d love to see your creations! E-mail me or share on social media ( InstagramFacebook, or Twitter), but make sure to tag me! I’d be happy to feature your version of “squacos” on my social media channels!