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july 4th bbq

It’s finally summer! So kick it off well with an Independence Day BBQ.

With all these recipes, you can easily host one in your backyard, patio or even tiny apartment kitchen.

Or if you’re a guest, bring one of these along! If you’re going to eat all the food, you might as well contribute a liiiiitle bit. So get in the kitchen, then get outside! And remember your sunscreen. Happy 4th!

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Grapefruit Avocado Salsa


A healthy appetizer or burger topping! Besides, why go a day without avocado?
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Vegan Veggie Burgers


For friends and family with special diets.
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Pizza Pasta Salad


No more fights over choosing between pizza and pasta!
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Healthier Strawberry Ice Cream


Greek yogurt makes this frozen yogurt a healthy and easy alternative to make at home!
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Easy Flag Fruit Dessert


For friends with kids… or kids at heart!
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Cucumber Basil Kombucha Mule


Because why not be tipsy and trendy
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Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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DNA sweet tooth

If since your early days, you’ve found yourself drawn to sweets, your DNA may be behind it.

(I personally, didn’t need a DNA test for this one, everyone in my family knows I’m a chocoholic!)

Ignoring these cravings and blaming your lack of self-control is likely not the answer.

So what is?

It could be that you have a FGF21 gene variant. A study published in Cell Metabolism shows that if you have a variant of this gene, you are 20% more likely to enjoy and seek out sugary substances.

You may not be a “super-taster.” Other research has shown that some people (25% of the population) are what are called “super-tasters,” and these people are extremely sensitive to bitter foods. Super-tasters are more sensitive to bitter tastes simply because they have more taste papillae and taste receptors on their tongues that make them more sensitive to bitter tastes. They’re also more sensitive to sweet, salty and umami tastes, but to a lesser extent. They tend to have a reduced preference for sweet and high fat foods. (Super-tasters also tend to consume more salt then non-tasters because salt masks bitter flavors.)

But don’t get down! Remember, it’s always possible to learn to like healthier, less sugary sweets, even if you have a deep-rooted sweet tooth – no matter what kind of taster you are! Super-tasters, non-tasters and everyone in between have one thing in common; their taste buds regenerate in about 10 days. So if you notice sugar cravings start to subside after a few weeks on a whole-foods diet, this could be why!

The great news is that none of us are doomed by our sweet- tooth genetics. By eating a diet rich in plant-based foods and opt for naturally sweet foods instead of those with added sugars, you’ll soon find your sweet cravings subside!


Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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mindful eating

The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are seemingly endless.

The mental and physical benefits of slowing down, breathing and quieting the mind are advertised across every form of social media, news feed and literature. But how, exactly, does mindfulness apply to food? How can we practice mindful eating?

First of all, your stomach and your mind are connected by what’s called the enteric nervous system. You know that feeling when you look up #foodporn and then your belly starts to grumble? Yup, that’s it. It also works the other way around: when you’re eating nutrient-dense food, you’re happier. When you gorge on some greasy fried food, you get an endorphin high for a bit, and then your mood plummets.

Often times people underestimate the power the mind can have over choices, emotions and physical feelings. But if these examples are not enough, try it yourself. If you pause, close your eyes, and just focus on your breath for a few minutes, you may notice your responses to hunger cues have changed. Because when you start to tune in to your mind and body, the distracting stimuli of the world fade away. Now you recognize whether you’re actually hungry, or if that was just a tasty-looking photo.

mindful eating

Mindfulness and meditation take practice, just like lifting weights.

Your brain is like a muscle that needs to be flexed and challenged often if it is to get stronger or develop a new habit. A short, simple, daily meditation practice can help change your attitude towards food and actually aid in weight loss.

If weight loss is not your goal, meditation can help you better enjoy your food, and become more aware of how your body feels in response to food.

After a few weeks of daily meditation, usually it starts to become easier to quiet your mind. Don’t get frustrated if it seems like a daunting task that never improves – this is natural and will ease with practice. You just have to let go of your goals, return to your breath, and let yourself make mistakes. It’s ok! Let the thoughts come and go.

In our always-working society, people are multitasking while eating. If you can, try to put away distractions for just 20 minutes and really think about your food. Chew it fully, place your fork down in between every bite. Focus on the flavor, the texture, and how it feels to eat each bite of food. When you’re finished, notice how you feel. Do you still feel hungry? Are you full or satisfied? By practicing mindfulness when eating, you can become more in-tune with your hunger cues. You may find you’re not as hungry as you initially thought, or that a certain food is more flavorful than you realised. Mindful eating makes you not only feel more satisfied, but also more grateful for the nourishment you’re getting and more positive after your meal has ended.

I could attempt to list all the holistic health benefits of meditation, but I will leave that for your googling pleasures. But today, challenge yourself to one meal or snack where you remove all distractions, slow down and truly taste your food.

By incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your life, you’ll find you have no need for crash diets or binges; your body knows exactly how to eat.


Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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perfect weekend pancakes

This easy, whole grain pancake recipe is perfect after sleeping in on the weekends, or even just making in the morning because you have an extra 20 minutes.

You don’t need a reason to make these, especially since all the ingredients are wholesome, and already in your pantry!

So what are you waiting for?
Pancakes for dinner!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (substitute water or other plant-based milk of choice)
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Steps:
  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Add the unsweetened almond milk, vanilla and maple syrup and stir until “just mixed.”
  3. Let the batter sit for 5-10 minutes. (Optional, but I found they come out fluffier this way.) Let the pan heat up while you wait.
  4. Cook in 1/4-1/2 cup portions in a lightly oiled non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  5. Once there are a few bubbles in the middle, flip and cook for a few more minutes on the other side.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

I topped mine with banana slices, peanut butter drizzle, and maple syrup. I also added chocolate chips because plain pancakes are never as good as chocolate chip! Here’s a pic of my own construction, but feel free to experiment!


Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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adaptogens

It seems like every time you open Facebook or a magazine there is a new health craze. Whether it’s green juice, wheatgrass shots, or the latest superfood, there is always something new to try.

This time, it’s adaptogens.

What is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are herbs that are non-toxic to the body, have widespread benefits, and help bring the body back into equilibrium. Some adaptogens stimulate the body or enhance mental performance and physical stamina. Others help calm the body and increase immunity. Some herbs may have anti-inflammatory effects, but they’re not necessarily true adaptogens.

 

Adaptogens work by supporting the adrenal glands – the glands that deal with stress and fatigue. They bring the body back to homeostasis, which is often hard to do in our stress-filled society. The harmful effects of stress greatly exceed feelings of anxiety; stress harms your sleep cycle, which in turn leads to unhealthy food and exercise choices. Stress also messes up your hormones, causes inflammation throughout the body, leads to weight gain, harms your heart, decreases immune function, and disrupts digestive and mental health.

 

What makes adaptogens such potent stress-fighters?

They tailor their functions to your body’s exact needs. Regardless of how your body exhibits stress, whether that’s from lack of sleep, work or family stress, travel, or illness, adaptogens are able to target the imbalances in your body and help correct them.

 

Adaptogens are available in powders, capsules, tinctures and even teas. But before purchasing, be sure to check that the manufacturing company is a reputable source, since these are not regulated by the FDA. (No supplements are!) Talk to your doctor about which ones are best for your needs, and how often you should be taking them. Adaptogens do not treat one illness; instead, they promote overall well-being. If you’re feeling “off” in any way, adaptogens may be a healthy addition – along with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle.

 

adaptogens

 

Here’s a quick list of the most common adaptogens:

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Eleuthero
  3. Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  4. Maca
  5. Panax Ginseng
  6. Rhodiola Rosea
  7. Schisandra
  8. Astragalus
  9. Licorice
  10. Moringa
  11. Gotu kola
Remember, adaptogens are not meant to cure or treat disease, and they can never replace a holistically healthy lifestyle. If you’re stressed and tired, don’t expect these herbs to allow you to keep pushing – listen to your body, slow down, and use adaptogens to return the body to a balanced internal state. There is no one-size-fits-all for adaptogens, so talk to your doctor to figure out what is best for you!

Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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dorm inspired recipes

Elaborate meals are great. They look good, they taste good… but unfortunately, they’re not a sustainable reality for most home-cooked dinners. Unless you have 6 hours to kill, you likely don’t have the time to make complicated dishes. Additionally, those rare, organic ingredients are pretty pricey, and require kitchen equipment and skills beyond that even of your grandmother’s expertise!

I took the time to ask some of my favorite bloggers for easy, “dorm-room” recipes.

Not only are many of these vegan, gluten free, and allergy-sensitive, they require minimal time, money and equipment. If you like any, be sure to check out their blogs!

Whether you’re living in a college dorm, small apartment, or simply don’t have the time or interest to cook elaborate meals, these recipes are the ones for you!

 


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Mini Microwave French Toast


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Creamy Vegan One Pot Pasta


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Healthy Banana Cookies


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Healthy Guacamole


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Healthy Vegan Ramen Noodle Salad


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Sweet Potato Breakfast Boats


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Hearty Italian White Bean Basil Soup


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Veggie Wrap with Apples and Spicy Hummus


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Coconut Maple Cold Brew Coffee


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One Minute Cinnamon Roll in a Mug


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Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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omega-3s

You have probably heard that omega-3s are the newest, healthiest fat around. But what are they really?

Scientifically speaking, omega-3 fatty acids are a types monounsaturated fats that have a double bond at the third carbon on their fatty acid chain. Is this important to know? Not really.

What you should remember is all the health benefits of a diet rich in omega-3s, and where you can find these foods!

Benefits of Omega-3s:

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Fights anxiety and depression
Improve eye health
Promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
Lower risk of heart disease
Reduce ADHD symptoms in children
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Reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Fight Inflammation
Right autoimmune disease
Improve Mental disorders
Prevent mental decline
Help prevent cancer
Reduce asthma in children
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Reduce fat in liver
Improve bone and joint health
Alleviate menstrual pain
Improve sleep
Good for your skin
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Woah! Now that is a list! Can you say superfood, anyone?

So now that you’re craving some good old healthy fat, where can you get it? I’m sure you’ve heard of salmon, but that’s not the only source! Check out these omega-3 packed foods, and a recipe to try them out!

Food Sources:

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Firm tofu
Spinach
Fontina Cheese
Navy beans
Grass fed beef

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Anchovies
Mustard seed
Walnuts
Winter squash
Omega-3 Eggs

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Purslane
Flaxseed oil
Wild Rice
Chia seeds
Red lentils

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Recipes:

omega-3d spinach saladSuper Food Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Glazed Walnuts

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • One 5-ounce container baby spinach
  • 4 ounces white button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine 1/4 cup juice with the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small nonstick skillet.
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces slightly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the walnuts and continue to cook, stirring, until the nuts are coated and dark and the liquid evaporates in the skillet, about another 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet to cool. When cool, break apart with your hands.
  5. Meanwhile, soak the red onion in ice water for about 10 minutes; drain and pat dry.
  6. Place the baby spinach in a serving bowl and top with the onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and walnuts.
  7. In a bowl whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons juice with the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and then whisk in the oil.
  8. Drizzle over the salad and toss just before serving.

omega-3s oatmeal flax chocolate chip cookiesOatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed, finely ground in a spice grinder, or pre-ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the flour, oats, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver


VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

Click below to find out how you can benefit from 1 on 1 Nutrition Coaching!

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Good question.

It seems like in the past few decades, this question has become harder and harder to answer. With new research and the ease of accessing and publishing information (both true and false), “healthy” has become one of the most ambiguous terms out there. To clarify, let’s review a quick definition:

Healthy: free from disease or pain : enjoying health* and vigor of body, mind, or spirit

*So… what is health? Another definition for ya:

Health:

  1. the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit :  freedom from physical disease or pain : the general condition of the body

  2. a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well

I don’t know about you, but the concept of a “healthy” diet still seems pretty unclear to me. Based on these definitions, “healthy” food should make me “thrive,” and benefit me physically, mentally and spiritually. I certainly love chocolate, though I can’t say that I have a spiritual connection to the stuff. So how do we determine what a healthy diet really is?

I think most people might reference fruits and veggies, which is certainly a good place to start. Most Americans don’t get enough of these crucial food groups. But that’s not the only part of a “healthy” diet. Another good resource for understanding healthy food is the government issued My Plate. I’m not an adamant subscriber (obviously, I don’t drink milk and I find the pictures too unspecific for my taste), but for the general public it can be a great resource for getting started.

But here is my interpretation.

Eat plants. This includes fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Eat lots of them, and try to keep them as “whole” as possible. This means avoiding their processed counterparts – but NOT like the plague! Part of a healthy diet, in my opinion, is being mindful about how much you are eating as well as what. That doesn’t mean restricting anything at all. If you eat a lot of cookies, cut back. But you don’t need to eliminate your favorite foods to be healthy. That would be neglecting the mental (and maybe spiritual) aspects of health.

 

With that said, if you like to drink milk and eat meat, by all means, go for it. Just maybe not all the time, and opt for lean and local sources. Read ingredients. Watch portion sizes. Experiment with foods and flavors and see how each makes you feel. You may notice that eating certain foods make you feel better (and happier!) than others, and not just in the moment of eating them.

I know that may not be very specific, but I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to diet. Our bodies respond differently to different foods, and we all have various lifestyles, activity levels, cultural habits and genetics. Find what works for YOU as an individual! Eat your plants and move your body, and choose everything in moderation. You’ll likely turn out alright.

If you have more questions about nutrition, feel free to send me an email! I’m happy to talk about more specific topics or address any curiosities you may have.

Email Sarah with questions or comments:

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