Let’s get real: I need to lose some weight

So I woke up yesterday and decided to weigh myself for the first time in about two months. 

The number on the scale shocked me, but it wasn’t surprising. I weighed in at my highest weight ever. With me only being 5’1” and having a petite frame, it’s clear I need to lose weight not just for vanity’s sake, but for my health. 

I’ll be honest, it was obvious I had gained weight over the past six months or so, but I was still in denial that I wasn’t that heavy, just thicc. I basically stopped exercising except for the odd walk here or there or one week bout where I would get all excited about my fitness only to abandon my workouts because of well, life, and just plain being lazy. Not to mention I have been eating a lot more lately. And with the pandemic, working from home and lock downs, who hasn’t been doing some comfort eating, amirite?

And while I love how much bigger my butt has gotten, I don’t like the fact that my bras and shorts don’t fit anymore, even some of my leggings and pajamas are too tight and I’m tired of getting winded just walking up and down the stairs in my house. 

I calculated my BMI (body mass index) on a BMI calculator and it came to 30. According to the site I used, I am not technically obese but I am overweight and my weight “is no longer optimal for my health”. I’ve always struggled with my weight, ever since I was a kid and I have body issues because of it. I’ve yo-yo’d between being skinny and also a bit chubby over the years, but I’ve never been as heavy as I am now. Maybe it was all those years of restricting myself, or maybe it’s because I’m in my thirties now but it’s harder to keep the pounds off.

But I know I can lose weight if I put my mind to it. I was very active about three years ago and lost about 25 pounds through lots of workouts and a pretty clean vegan diet. I’m still a vegan but my diet is not what I would call clean most days—let’s face it, I didn’t get this size eating tofu and steamed broccoli. (I’m looking at you Daiya cheesecake). I love Chinese and Filipino takeout, and I’ve also been known to polish off a pint of vegan ice cream in one sitting or a pack of chocolate biscuits in one go. 

I want to have a child soon so I know I need to lose some weight beforehand to have a safer pregnancy and I also want more energy and not to feel as tired whenever I bring a little one into this world. 

So I’ve decided that I will try to eat more unprocessed whole plant foods, for my health, vitality and waistline. My stomach has always been a problem area of mine and I would love to have a flat tummy at the end of this process. My goal is to lose thirty pounds by the end of December, work out 5-6 times per week, and eat as many whole foods as possible. 

Here’s a look at what I ate yesterday.

Breakfast: I had oatmeal with peanut butter, a bit of sugar and ground flax seeds. Halfway through eating this I realized I hate oatmeal but I still gagged most of it down. It was too thick and even with a tbsp of sugar, it had no taste. Also the PB didn’t melt so I kept getting big chunks of it on my spoon.  

After breakfast I did a workout. I’m on week two of Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution program which I’ll review soon. It’s a circuit training style workout with a mix of weights, body resistance moves and cardio. Each workout is about 30 minutes. I think I burned around 241 calories but my FitBit stopped working and I’m just guessing from what I plugged into MyFitnessPal.

Smoothie in a wine glass? Why thank you!

Lunch: Green protein smoothie. I made a smoothie with two frozen bananas, about a cup of organic kale, one tbsp of hemp protein powder, half a cup of oat milk, a bit of water and a handful of ice. I served it in a wine glass, because why not?

Snack: I was feeling peckish after my smoothie so I had a few crackers, a slice of Follow Your Heart pepper jack cheese and a few olives.

Dinner: I had a Beyond Burger sauteed in a bit of olive oil, quinoa cooked in vegetable broth and spices and a hefty side of greens. I ate way more greens with dinner than I normally would. Usually I would have a bit more quinoa or rice and less veggies. My goal now is to have more greens than carbs on my plate.

Tracking all my food yesterday taught me a lot. Even though I went over my calorie budget, it was nowhere near as much as I normally would eat. For instance, I would usually have some vegan cookies or ice cream at the end of the day or dinner would be two servings of pasta.

I plan on posting about my meals as well as my fitness journey in hopes that it will keep me accountable and possibly inspire others to get healthy as well. Are any of you on a fitness journey? If so, how is it going? 

Let me know in the comments, xoxo

I DID A 5-DAY JUICE CLEANSE

Green Goddess Juice by The Island Vegan

I recently completed a five-day juice cleanse and let me tell you, I am so proud of myself! I’ve wanted to do a cleanse for so long and I have tried many times in the past, but I have never made it past day one — until now.

Like everyone, I’ve been having a tough time over the past few months. Stressing about keeping safe in this pandemic, working from home, dealing with depressing events on the news and feeling powerless as stories of police brutality and racism pop up on my TL — it’s safe to say that I’ve been a bit of an emotional wreck.

I also gained about eight pounds during quarantine due to my boyfriend’s newfound talent for bread and pizza making (not to mention the copious amounts of wine and spirits we consumed while stuck at home.) I head back to the office soon and wanted to feel better and let’s be honest, drop some el bees before I squeeze back into my work attire. Read on to learn about my experience and how I stuck with it.

Day 1- I woke up early to go to the grocery store for my supplies for the week. I got mostly organic produce (such as greens, apples, strawberries, carrots, grapes) but also a mix of non-organic fruits with a tough outer layer (cantaloupe, watermelon, etc. I’ve read that these fruits don’t have pesticides in the flesh because of their tough skin. But get as much organic produce as you can.) I made several batches of two types of juice in my Vitamix (apple/grape/kale/celery and orange/ginger/carrot) and sipped on those throughout the day. The apple juice was fine but I had to gag down the carrot concoction because I didn’t strain it after blending and it was too thick. I finished the day off with a small bowl of steamed broccoli and cauliflower (it honestly tasted like the best thing ever by that point!) and some tea and went to bed. I wasn’t that hungry which surprised me.

Day 2 – My juices tasted much better on Tuesday. I made a big batch of green juice with organic seedless grapes, apples, collard greens and celery in my Vitamix and another carrot/orange/ginger juice. I strained both mixes with a wire mesh strainer after blending which really improved the taste. I was feeling a bit tired on day 2 and *TMI alert* I was feeling backed up which is rare for me since I usually get a lot of fiber. I ended up having a smoothie with banana and flax seed to see if it would help, ahem, fix things.

Day 3 – This was the hardest day for me. Although I was less bloated and not really hungry, I just wanted to quit the cleanse. I felt a bit tired, which could be because my cycle was about to start in a few days but it was also from the lack of calories. (I realized later that I wasn’t drinking enough juice.) It didn’t help that my boyfriend brought Chinese food in the house, which is my favorite, and the smells were intoxicating. I went to the store to get more produce. I had more green juice but also switched things up with melon juice. For dinner, I had scrambled tofu with spinach and tomatoes cooked in a tiny amount of olive oil.

Day 4 – I felt much better this day. My backed up problem had been fixed and I was down about three pounds. (Seeing the scale go down each day, even if only marginally really motivated me to keep going.) I experimented with different juices like watermelon and kale and cantaloupe and mint, papaya, carrot and orange. Normally before my period, I have intense craving for carbs, fried food and chocolate and although I felt tired, I didn’t have any extreme cravings. I only drank juice and water that day.

Day 5 – This was the last day of my cleanse. I drank mainly juice and had a smoothie for lunch because I had a family event in the evening. I also snacked on raw cherry tomatoes with a bit of sea salt and a handful of raw cashews. My event ran late and by the time I got home it was after nine and I was starving. I ended day five with a small bit of tofu and spinach seasoned with nutritional yeast.

Verdict: When I weighed myself on morning six, I had lost five pounds, my stomach was less bloated and my digestion was back on track. Because I had been eating small amounts of cooked food most days for dinner while on the cleanse, I wasn’t scared about breaking my fast but decided to still drink some green and fruit juice with my meals. I started off with easy to digest foods and still ate clean. Looking back, on days one and two I should have had more juice, and that probably explains why I felt so icky on day three. It also was tough not chewing things. I think it’s fine to snack on raw veggies and fruits if you want to chew something during a cleanse. I wish I had done that earlier in the week. It’s better to be 80-90% than fail and relapse on something unhealthy because you feel deprived. I also let myself have a cup of organic black coffee every morning because me without caffeine is not a pretty site! I slept better while on this cleanse and also had the most vivid dreams. I also felt great, aside from my evening cravings of just wanting to chew something.

What this cleanse has taught me: The past few days have taught me that I have the willpower to get through things even when I want to throw in the towel and that I can fight my cravings. It’s helped to reset my palate and taught me to enjoy simple meals like steamed vegetables without a ton of sauce or vegan butter. It showed me I can be satisfied without mindlessly gorging on rice or pasta. Before this, I had been consuming too much refined sugar and carbs and not as much vegetables as I would have liked to.

Would I do a cleanse again? Yes, most definitely. First of all, I loved juicing so much that I plan to keep drinking green juice at least once a day for the foreseeable future. It made me feel energized and like I was doing something good for my body. I’ve also juiced fruits that I normally don’t eat or like, such as watermelon, papaya and grapefruit. Next month I’ll probably try a two or three day cleanse as I feel like five days was too long. But a couple of days is fine for a reset or refresh.

Cons: Juicing is expensive. I live in the Bahamas where food is generally pricey and imported, especially organic produce. Next time I’ll hit up a farmer’s market to try and find cheaper fruits and veg, but because of the pandemic I haven’t been to the market in months. It’s also a lot of prep work to clean your produce, chop it up, blend (or juice if you have a juicer), strain it in my case, and then wash your blender/juicer. Like I said, I was working from home, but when I get back to the office, I don’t know if I will have the time to make multiple juices every day.

If you are thinking about doing a cleanse, my advice is it start incorporating one or two green juices into your diet first to get used to the taste before going full throttle. Also experiment with different fruits and flavors so you don’t get bored. Add citrus to your juice and another flavor enhancer like a bit of ginger root, tumeric or mint leaves. And it’s perfectly fine to do a partial cleanse like I did, having juice in the day and a small meal of steamed or raw veggies at night if you desire. Do what feels best for you.

For those interested in a juice cleanse, please consult your doctor first.

Creamy Ginger Carrot Apple Soup (Vegan)

This ginger carrot apple soup is easy to make and perfect as a vegan Thanksgiving appetizer or light fall lunch or dinner.

The other day I had a craving for soup and decided to make something I hadn’t had in years – carrot apple soup. Adding apples to your soup may sound weird, but I remember making this recipe when I first went vegetarian as a uni student and loving it.

It’s so simple to make as well as being nutritious and filling. This soup would be perfect as an appetizer for Thanksgiving or even just as a light fall lunch or dinner, paired with a salad and some bread. The full recipe is below.

Creamy Carrot Apple Soup

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 apples, peeled and diced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 small onion, diced

2 1/2 cups of water

1 tsp each of black pepper, ground sage, garlic parsley blend

1 vegetable bouillon cube

3 bay leaves

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

salt to taste

2 tbsp of oil


Directions

  1. Peel and dice your onion, carrots, apples and grate your ginger.
  2. Heat oil over medium low heat in a pot. Add grated ginger and onions and saute for 3-5 minutes until onions are translucent, being careful not to let the ginger burn.
  3. Add carrots and apples to pot along with water.
  4. Add spices, stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Once at a boil, add vegan bouillon cube and bay leaves. Cover and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, until carrots are tender.
  6. Remove veggies from pot using a slotted spoon and add to blender. Add a few tbsps of broth if needed to blend. Reserve remaining broth and discard bay leaves. Add nutritional yeast and blend veggies until creamy.
  7. Return blended mix to reserved broth and stir. Add salt to taste. Serve soup garnished with sauteed kale and mushrooms. Top with red pepper flakes if desired.


Enjoy!

How To Make The Best Vegan Banana Carrot Muffins

The other day I had a few overripe bananas on my counter, and instead of chucking them in the freezer for my smoothie stash, I decided to make some banana muffins.

Not just bland banana muffins, but the best banana carrot muffins you will ever eat and they’re vegan to boot. Before I made these, I was on a self-imposed break from baking. I went from baking some sort of treat every week or two, to basically going on a baking fast if that’s a thing (it’s not lol).

The BEST vegan banana carrot muffins. Photo by: The Island Vegan

So when I made these muffins, I was worried that they wouldn’t come out well or worse yet, they would be so good that I would eat the whole dozen in one sitting. (They are that good but I have self-control and only ate three of them in one day. Progress!)

Trust me when I say these muffins are delicious, moist (did you just shudder at that word?), sweet but not too sweet and filled with lots of fiber that you won’t feel guilty if you eat as many as I did in one day. I shared them with omnivore friends and they were a hit, one even said she couldn’t tell they were vegan, which I took as a compliment!

The recipe calls for wholewheat flour and a flax egg, making them healthier than standard muffins, but trust me there is no compromise on taste. The carrots add more fiber and antioxidants to the recipe, while you’re getting potassium from the banana and Omega-3s from the flax seeds. Win, win!

Bet you can’t eat just one! Photo by: The Island Vegan

You could use white flour if that’s what you have on hand and your fav egg replacer but the result may turn out a bit differently than mine did.

Can I just tell you how much I love vegan baking? Even if you’re not vegan, there’s lots of reasons why you should add some plant-based recipes to your arsenal. First of all, you’re free to lick the spoon (and bowl, who am I kidding) without worrying about salmonella. You can serve vegan goodies to friends or relatives who may have allergies or dietary issues with consuming dairy. And you can indulge in healthy but tasty treats knowing they have a lower carbon footprint than traditional desserts and no cow or chicken had to be harmed to make them.

As the weather cools down, I probably will be baking a lot more so watch this spot for more recipes. Until then, let me know in the comments how this banana carrot muffin recipe turned out for you.

The Best Vegan Banana Carrot Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1 flax egg

1 tsp of white vinegar

half cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk

⅓ cup of oil (I used organic canola)

1 scant cup of vegan sugar


Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare flax egg. (Mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water. Stir and set aside until it congeals, about ten minutes.)
  3. Peel bananas. In a small bowl, mash banana with a fork until it resembles pudding and set aside.
  4. Add vinegar to non-dairy milk, stir then set aside.
  5. Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and then add flax egg, banana, and remaining wet ingredients. Mix well to combine with a spoon, but do not over mix. If mix appears too dry, add one tablespoon of non-dairy milk. Fold in carrots.
  6. Lightly spray or grease a muffin tin. Scoop batter into muffin pan, filling each hole about 2/3 full. If you have remaining cups, fill them with one or two tablespoons of water to ensure even baking.
  7. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until tops are brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for five minutes before eating or cooling fully on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Ok, I’ve Gained Weight (And I Am Not Happy About It)

So I have neglected this blog for months on end.

It’s part writer’s block, part feeling like a fraud, part feeling like I’m not good enough/not getting enough engagement and part laziness. I had a plan to abandon this space all together, to scrap it and start a new blog with a new direction – because that’s what I do. Push things aside and abandon them when they get hard. But I’m a writer and I am passionate about veganism, so I don’t want to leave this space. I just have to let go of my desire to be perfect all the time and only post what I think is perfect content.

I started this blog for myself mainly and then became upset that many people weren’t reading it. Now I am just going to go back to the mindset of having a space to share my thoughts and not trying to fit into the mold of a food/lifestyle blogger and sharing the aesthetic of an Instagram perfect life. Because my life is far from it. I will share recipes from time to time because I enjoy that. I will share vacation photos and tips on where to eat vegan because I enjoy that too. But I also want to be more real.

To be honest the past 10 months or so have been pretty hard on me. I went through a break up and then getting back together with the love of my life. I went from not being able to eat and feeling like my world was at an end and losing weight to eating so much junk food and comforting myself with processed meals that I have gained back nearly all the weight I lost when I first became vegan.

One of the handful of pics I took on vacation because I felt self-conscious about my weight.

I don’t feel like the perfect ambassador for veganism. I’m not skinny, sometimes I am tired and stressed and I have bags under my eyes from insomnia. I get so anxious from my job that I don’t have the energy to do anything creative and that makes me even more miserable. I went from exercising six days a week and feeling strong to working out every two weeks or so. I stopped working out because I was depressed or maybe I was depressed so I stopped working out. Whatever the case, I’ve decided to get my life back on track. I will cut out the vegan junk food and work out five times a week.

Let’s make this clear: I am not trying to be skinny. I suffered from an eating disorder from my teens until my late 20s. While I don’t restrict or purge anymore, sometimes I still binge – which is not healthy. Focusing on filling my body with more whole foods and dealing with my anxiety will help change those patterns.

I will meditate and be grateful for all I have, instead of wallowing. My goal is to write more and share more, whether one person reads it or 100 people do. So I will start fresh tomorrow, with a log of my food and exercise plans. I will also share what I am doing to better my mental health and my self-care tips. My goal is not to be skinny, but to focus on my health and vitality and treat my body with the love and attention it deserves.

This will be a space to keep me accountable, instead of one where I feel intimidated or not good enough.

xoxo

Comforting Chickpea Stew

My favorite recipes are ones that are simple, quick to make and full of flavor.

While I love spending time in the kitchen and making elaborate dishes, most of the time I don’t have the time, but that doesn’t mean I want to skimp on taste or food quality.

Lately I’ve been eating a lot of stews. They are easy to make and customize with what I’ve got in the fridge and pantry, and also are very comforting in the cool weather we’ve had in the Bahamas in the evenings for the past few months, which is rare.

A few days ago I whipped up a chickpea stew that reminded me of my recent trip to Costa Rica, which I will blog about soon. The recipe came about as a result of me needing to use up some items left over in my fridge from before my trip and also me craving a layer of flavors.

Vegan chickpea stew

The end result was very satisfying and tasty, so I hope you try it out and let me know what you think!

Comforting chickpea stew (makes four servings)

One small onion, diced

1 ¼ cup of diced white mushrooms

1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used cherry)

1 16 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup of frozen corn kernels

1 ½ tsp ground sage

1 tsp cumin

¼ tsp chipotle powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of red pepper flakes (for garnish)

Chopped cilantro (for garnish)  

1 1//4 cup of veggie broth

1 tbsp of tapioca starch or cornstarch

Oil for sautéing

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until transluscent, about two to three minutes. Add mushrooms and tomatoes, stirring occassionally and cook for about two minutes more.

Add tapioca starch to veggie broth and stir to combine, ensuring there are no clumps. Add broth/tapioca mix to pot and stir. Add chickpeas and spices except red pepper flakes and cilantro. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes. Then add frozen corn and cook for another five minutes uncovered.

Garnish with red pepper flakes and cilantro and serve with rice.

Athens Travel Guide

One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens is a gritty metropolitan mecca rich with culture, history and magic. If you plan on traveling to Greece, it is a must for your itinerary.

I fell in love with Athens years before I ever set foot on its soil. An avid fan of Greek mythology since junior high and a theater geek in university, Athens was always high on my bucket list. Of course, when one thinks of Greece, the stunning cliff view, blue topped roofs and white washed walls of the buildings in Santorini come to mind. After all, it is a mind-blowing island. Santorini holds a special place in my heart and my boyfriend and I did travel there after Athens. But if you are going all the way to Greece, the capital city should be top on your list.

Athens is home to the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, a must-see for any travel enthusiast and history buff. The history of ancient civilizations and the birthplace of democracy, theater and philosophy is juxtaposed with bustling modern cafes, shops, markets and bars. There really is something for everyone in this city.

My boyfriend and I spent three full days in Athens, enough time for its charm and spirit to woo us, while leaving us with plenty of days on our two-week vacation to island hop.

What to see

Acropolis: The Acropolis of Athens is one of the world’s historical marvels. It’s a complex of ancient structures built on a hill, consisting of the Parthenon, Theatre of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena Nike and other wonders. The Parthenon and the other main buildings were built in the fifth century, giving you a glimpse of the marvels of early human ingenuity. It was the crown jewel of my trip to Athens. If you’re heading there in the summer months, it’s best to get there early or close to sunset because of the heat and crowds of tourists. The site closes at 8 pm. I got there about 8 am and there was a line already forming. Take a hat, bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen.

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The Acropolis in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

You have to pay a small admission fee to get in and you can also get a tour guide if you want, but my boyfriend and I decided to wander around by ourselves, which many other people were doing.

Athens
Me at Theatre of Dionysus, Acropolis, considered the world’s first theatre.

I think it took us about two or two and a half hours to tour the site, inclusive of taking lots of breaks to drink water, sit down and also snap photos.

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There are lots of places to get amazing city views of Athens as well.

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Athens skyline. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Acropolis Museum: Across the street from the Acropolis is the Acropolis Museum. The entryway to the museum has a transparent floor and underneath you can see excavation of an underground ancient city. The museum has several collections, including marble statues from the 7th century, BC, and other early periods. It’s best to fit in a view of this museum after touring the Acropolis. It was not my favorite museum that I have visited, but the statues are beautiful and it definitely worth a visit.

National Archaeological Museum: This museum was founded in the 19th century and, according to its website, houses antiquities from all over Greece. It is also the largest archaeological museum in Greece. Here you will find lots of artifacts and statues, as well as an exhibit dedicated to Ancient Egyptian culture. I also ate lunch here before my boyfriend and I toured the museum (there is a nice restaurant on the grounds) and was able to get a delicious grilled veggie sandwich and fries.

Monastiraki: Monastiraki is a flea market neighborhood in Athens filled with lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. You can spend hours roaming around this area, just soaking up the sights. Have a beer at one of the many cafes, sit outside and people watch, then wander around for a bit, picking up gifts for yourself or loved ones back home.

What to Eat

If you are vegan like me or just trying to eat more plant-based foods, Greece got your back girl. While most restaurant menus are filled with meat, seafood and cheese dishes, nearly everywhere I went I found a vegan option or something that could be made vegan with the removal of cheese or yogurt. Also everyone spoke English, so even though I did memorize a few words, I didn’t have to embarrass myself with mispronunciation and just asked if things had yogurt/cheese and if so, could they be removed. At some places a few things like stuffed vine leaves and falafel came with a side of yogurt, so be sure to stress you don’t want it.

Avocados: A dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was so good, I ate there two of my three days in Athens! It’s a cozy, quirky little place with outdoor/indoor seating as well as an upstairs area where you can sit on cushions on the floor. My first time there, I had the Avocado’s Burger without cheese.

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Veggie burger at Avocado in Athens. Photo by Travis Cartwright-Carroll

It was massive and I wasn’t sure if I could finish it, but I did and went into a food coma after! It was honestly one of, if not the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. It’s served with a side of sweet potato chips and at first I was disappointed it did not come with fries, but after struggling to finish this beast I was happy I didn’t have them. The chips were light, not greasy and a perfect complement to the veggie burger.

On our last day, we had dinner there. I had the Life’s a Rainbow stir-fry with tofu added (a small extra cost but worth it) and the Raw Chocolate Tart for dessert. Both were delicious, especially the tart which was decadent.

Local taverns: There are lots of little restaurants around Athens to get some vegan friendly food. Near my Airbnb I had a dish called ‘large beans’ according to the menu and Greek salad, no feta cheese, which funnily enough had no lettuce unlike the Greek salads I get at home. I also ate a lot of stuffed vine leaves with rice, spinach pies and falafel.

Where To Stay

There are so many Airbnb offerings for Athens I was overwhelmed during my search. Many of them were reasonably priced (under 50 euros a night), a much better deal than the hotels I searched. But until this trip, I had never stayed at an Airbnb so I was a bit hesitant. I ended up going with the first option that caught my eye because it was well-priced and I liked the decor. It turned out to be an amazing choice. The place was homey and cute, and looked exactly like the photos online. Our host met us at the apartment, gave us the rundown on everything and some advice. There was also homemade jam and some toast, coffee and tea provided as well. The Airbnb was in Athina and the metro was about a minute’s walk from our front door. There were also lots of small food shops, a coffee shop and a tavern right near our doorstep.

Tips

Don’t bring a lot of cash with you for money exchange. There are lots of ATMS around Athens and the other Greek islands. Changing money at the airport kiosks is expensive. Most restaurants and shops take credit/debit cards as well.

Use the metro. We mistakenly took a taxi to our Airbnb which was in the Kato Petralona area, because the metro would have been a longer (but cheaper) ride and we had never used it. After being overcharged we learned from that mistake. There was a metro stop minutes away from our Airbnb. We had to ask people for help with directions a few times but overall it felt safe and we were able to get where we needed to go. Just be careful and watch your valuables while riding. If you are taking a taxi in Greece, save yourself a headache and get the price upfront.

Good luck in your travels, xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Go Vegan: A Simple Guide

I firmly believe becoming a vegan is the best decision a person can make for their health, well-being, the environment and the animals. Vegan diets can prevent diseases, are full of fiber and micronutrients, and if done right, can help you lose weight. Factory farming is one of the biggest atrocities humans have inflicted on this planet. More than 50 million land animals are killed each year by humans for food. By becoming a vegan, you are making an ethical decision with your wallet and your stomach that will no doubt lead to a paradigm shift in how we view food and other animal species.

How To GoVegan

When someone finds out that I’m vegan, many times they are curious and want to know what I eat, how I did it and how they can make the transition. While I extol the virtues of this lifestyle to anyone who wants to listen (and even some who don’t!!) I know firsthand that it can be a daunting process to someone who is eating a diet heavy laden with meat and dairy.

To the uninitiated, a vegan diet may seem extreme. After all, most of us have been conditioned by society to view eating the body parts of dead, mutilated and abused animals as normal. We have even been conditioned to think that eating corpses and animal byproducts is healthy. Milk does a body good, remember? However nothing could be further from the truth. So many people in the western world are riddled with preventable health problems, obesity and chronic, non-communicable diseases. It’s all down to what we are putting in our mouths.

Some people think vegans live off iceberg lettuce, carrot sticks and tofu (I love tofu, btw), when in reality vegan food is so varied and tastes effing awesome! You can have pizza, burgers, ice cream – all without harming animals and having a gentler impact on your health and the environment.

 Read on and I will show you how to go vegan step-by-step.

How to go vegan the right way

    1. Educate yo’self. When I first became interested in a vegetarian (now vegan) lifestyle, I did what I always do when learning about a new topic. I researched the **** out of it. I scoured the internet for recipe ideas, the health benefits of not eating meat and how to go vegetarian. But I didn’t stop there, I also read a lot of peer-reviewed medical research which showed that many plant-based eaters had lower incidences of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension) and those who adopted a plant-based diet after getting one of these diseases had a higher rate of recovery than those on a standard diet. I also found that on average, vegans and vegetarians live longer than omnivores, another win. Additionally, through my research I found humans can get almost all the nutrients we need from plants if eating a well-rounded diet, but there is one supplement vegans need to take – B12. You can also find it in fortified plant milks or nutritional yeast, all of which I use including a daily tablet. Moral of the story is, if you’re going to do something, do it right. The Vegan Society’s website is a good place to start.
    2. Clean out your closets and pantry. Once you decide to go vegan, it’s time to clean out your fridge and pantry of anything containing animal products. The way you do it is up to you. You can wait until you eat all the meat and dairy you have on hand, as well as all the packaged/frozen food containing animal products. Or you can donate these items to family, friends, or a food bank. I don’t recommend throwing away anything unless it is something spoiled or half-eaten, etc. Food waste is a serious problem in the developed world while there are so many people going hungry and starving in other places. If you choose to eat through your stored food before making the switch, set a timeline for yourself for the transition and stick to it. In the meantime, avoid purchasing meat and dairy products for your home. You should also extend your purge to your beauty and cleaning products. Use up any cosmetics and toiletries that were tested on animals. When making new purchases, look for things which have not been rubbed or dripped into a bunny’s, dog’s or monkey’s eye. The leaping bunny symbol or the words cruelty-free on the back of the product are things to look for. Same goes for your leather and fur (shudder) items. Some persons continue to wear used leather after going vegan but I think that sends a mixed message. Donate them to a charity and buy sustainable vegan alternatives in the future.
    3. Experiment in the kitchen. As you start your vegan journey, focus on adding not subtracting. When people first make the switch to veganism, too often they think about what they are giving up instead of what they are gaining. Trust me, a whole new culinary world will be opened up to you. You will learn that you can bake without eggs and dairy and your desserts and baked goods will come out the same, even better sometimes. You can make ice cream with bananas, coconut milk  – even avocados. You will learn that soft tofu is a perfect dupe for eggs in a scramble and you can even make omelets and cheesecake with it. Raw cashews can be soaked and blended to make vegan cheese and sauces, the list goes on. And you will begin eating an array of vegetables and fruits you never thought of before as you expand your palate. Sure you can subsist on fries, potatoes, Coca-Cola and mock meats, and all those things are vegan, but you want to thrive, not just survive. Buy vegan cookbooks, watch vegan cooking tutorials on YouTube, try some of the recipes on this blog (shameless plug) and embrace your new world.
    4. Tell your friends and family. A good way to hold yourself accountable as a new vegan is to tell friends and family what you are doing. To be honest you will probably feel so great in the first few weeks (improved digestion, weight loss, more energy and feeling lighter) that you will want to scream from the rooftops that you are vegan. I found when I became a veg, many of my friends were supportive. When I’m invited to parties people do think of me and try to have something vegan there, even if they aren’t too familiar with the lifestyle. And by spreading the word, you may open the eyes of more people about the health benefits of going vegan, thus saving the lives of more animals. Win, win!
    5. Research menus before dining out. Eating out. Perhaps the biggest fear of a new vegan. What will I eat? Will they have anything on the menu besides a garden salad? Will the waiter and my friends judge me for asking about the ingredients of dish after dish? Just because you are a new vegan, doesn’t mean you have to hole yourself up in your apartment eating plate after plate of veggie curry, watching Netflix and turning down dinner invitations. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience). But eating out will be tricky unless you are going to a vegan place. The best bet is to call ahead or Google the restaurant where you will be eating and scope out their menu. See if they have vegan options, or anything that can be veganized. Or if you show up to a place unexpectedly with no vegan options, you can always ask the waiter if the chef will make something vegan just for you. Most places should be able to do a simple pasta with veggies in oil or tomato sauce. And if all else fails, just order fries and a small salad and try not to think of all the amazing vegan food you have at home, while hating your friends.
    6. Dust yourself off and try again. I have been a vegan for just over three years and was a vegetarian for 10 years before that. I am far from perfect, but every day I try to make choices for the good of animals, my health and well-being. But there have been times when I have inadvertently eaten meat or dairy. Cheese hidden in pasta that I thought was vegan. Or chicken in a Chinese dish even though I specifically told the waiter no meat. I do not consider these things food or healthy, but I did not beat myself up about it. If you make a mistake, whether you knowingly or unknowingly eat an animal product, it doesn’t do anyone any good to hate yourself over it. Just recommit yourself to the path that you are on and realize this is a marathon, not a sprint.
    7. Be ready to defend your choices. I said earlier that when I went veg, many people were supportive of and open to my decision. But there were those who chose to deride my choices, make fun of me at work or social gatherings and for some reason shout at me that they could NEVER, EVER give up meat. I have even had a person tell me at a dinner party that not eating animals was not solving anything and my lifestyle wasn’t doing any good. I was so angry that I started to shake. But getting into a shouting match with people over being a vegan doesn’t help anybody (been there, done that), however you should have about five talking points memorized for those uncomfortable conversations. People will ask you why you are vegan and tell you how good bacon or steak tastes and that they don’t care if animals are murdered. They will say these things because your choice not to exploit animals scares them and shakes the core of their pre-conditioned thinking. And because of limited diets, many people don’t realize how good vegetables can taste and all the amazing things you can do with them. They have yet to be enlightened. Instead of being flustered when you encounter a person like this, having a well-thought out response with some statistics will show that you are serious and on the right path. It will also shut up those ignorant people who just want to troll you. And if not, you will still come out looking like the better, more educated person.
    8. Stay healthy. Another stereotype of vegans is that we are all twig, waif like things that will blow over in a slight breeze. In truth, there are vegan body-builders, athletes and performers who go against this cliche. And while some vegans are thin and yoga-toned, it is beneficial to remember that we come in all shapes and sizes, cuz we’re human. I would love to lose ten vanity pounds and I am working on that, but my main goal every day is to be healthy. I don’t worry about dieting, but focus on eating as many whole, plant foods as possible with a few vegan treats here and there. I also try to get a lot of sleep (which is hard since my day job is in journalism which is full of anxiety and adrenaline), drink lots of water, exercise and take vitamins. When you get sick as a vegan, there will be people who will gleefully say it’s because you need to eat a steak. In actuality, I hardly ever get sick and my digestion is much better than when I ate dairy, which often made me bloated and gassy. Stay in tune with your body, if you are feeling sluggish on a vegan diet, try upping your intake of leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, etc and also eating more plant-protein. Don’t rely on processed foods (anything in a package) but eat organic foods from the earth. I also take a mix of supplements which I rotate in my smoothies such as maca, Spirulina, wheat grass powder, and ground flax. I also take magnesium, B12, and a vegan probiotic. Your health and how you look will become a reflection of this lifestyle to society. I take care of myself because I care about myself, duh, but also because I want to show those around me the benefits of this way of life.

I hope these tips have helped you. If you enjoyed this post, please like and follow my blog and share this on social media. xox

Chocolate Cake For One

Some days I feel like baking a whole cake and getting all fancy, other times I get a chocolate craving at 7 pm and just want a few bites of something sweet, without having leftovers in the fridge to tempt me the next day (and the next!).

That’s where this chocolate mug cake comes in. It’s dairy-free, egg-free and a cinch to make. You can make this in the microwave, but I decided to bake mine because I try to nuke things as little as possible.

I have made mug cakes in the past that have just been okay, but this chocolate baby came out moist, fluffy, gooey in the center and fudgy. I knew it was a win because my boyfriend finished it off for me after I got full.

If you enjoy this recipe, please like and comment and follow this blog for more content.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake for one

Vegan Chocolate Mug Cake

  • Servings: 1-2
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Ingredients


– 4 tbsp flour
– 3 tbsp sugar
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 5 tbsp non-dairy milk
– 1/2 tsp white vinegar
– 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients in a mug or ramekin. I used a ramekin. Add liquid ingredients and stir with a fork, being careful to scrape the bottom to combine the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. You can also make this in the microwave by nuking it for one to three minutes, starting at one minute and cooking for 30 second intervals until desired doneness is reached. Let cool and enjoy.

Mango Chia Seed Parfait

Happy Monday everyone!

I’ve only been back home from Greece for about two days and finally getting back into the swing of things. While I had an amazing time on my trip (which I will detail with posts and lots of photos on this space later) I did miss blogging and creating content. So I am very happy to be back, although my travel lust is already in swing and I am planning my next big trip.

Also, I can’t believe it’s October already! In no time at all it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving (which isn’t a holiday in the Bahamas but since we’re so close to the US, it might as well be) and then Christmas. Then a new year will be upon us and we will all be wondering where the time has gone. Normally the end of the year tends to get me a bit depressed because I think about all the things I haven’t done, goals I haven’t met, and the general pressure over holiday shopping etc.

But this year I am taking a different approach and instead reflecting on all the good things that have happened this year and all I have accomplished. I finally travelled to Greece, which was number one on my bucket list and my first time to Europe, I overcame my fear of swimming in the ocean, bathed in a hot spring, (another bucket list item), hiked up a volcano and I have been working on this blog as well as other creative projects and I feel a new sense of commitment to getting the things I want out of life.

Today I am sharing a simple breakfast/snack recipe with you. I love making intricate dishes, but sometimes you also want something that is simple and easy to make.

This mango chia seed parfait fits the bill. I hope you enjoy.

IMG_0331

Easy Mango Chia Seed Parfait

  • Servings: 1
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • half cup of non-dairy milk plus three tablespoons
  • 1/4 tsp of green superfood powder of choice (optional)
  • 2 tsp of agave nectar
  • 1 cup of mango chunks (I used a fresh mango)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of water

Directions

  1. In a mason jar, combine chia seeds, agave nectar, non-dairy milk and green powder. Mix and cover in the fridge overnight, stirring twice after 30 minute intervals.
  2. The next morning, place mango chunks into a high-speed blender and mix, using the water 1 tbsp at a time if needed to thin the mango puree.
  3. Layer the mango puree over the chia seed pudding. Top with granola, oats, or fruit. Enjoy!