back to school recipes - chicken salad

August is coming to an end, which means school is starting soon!

Prepping lunch for students both young and old can be difficult in the busy fall season. Every student is different, and often their nutritional needs vary, too. The classic PBJ may work for some, but not all.

So if you’re struggling to find a lunch that interests a gluten free 8th grader, a 4th grade vegetarian or athletic college senior, you’re in luck! There’s something good for everyone.

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1. Chicken Soup

For picky eaters, try a a classic chicken soup! You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer in batches to thaw the night before.

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2. Tomato & Mozzarella Pasta

For the vegetarian, a tomato & mozzarella pasta is both sophisticated and simple to make so all ages can enjoy.

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3. Vegetable Sushi Bento Box

For the vegan, a vegetable sushi bento box will wow the whole table! No one will even notice the lack of meat or dairy.

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4. Chicken Salad on Fresh Baguette

For the athlete, a hearty chicken salad on fresh baguette will offer plenty of carbs and protein for an active body!

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5. Homemade Sandwich Bread

For the gluten free student, it can be tough to be the only one without a classic sandwich. But with this homemade sandwich bread, PBJ is back on!

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6. Whoopie Pies

With a nut allergy, it can be difficult to watch everyone enjoy cookies that “may contain peanuts.” These whoopie pies go great with any lunch, but without any risk!

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7. Hummus

For the lactose-intolerant, there’s no need for cheese when you’ve got hummus! Pack it with veggies, pita and olives for a real mediterranean experience.

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8. Taco Soup

For the grad student, you never need to miss out on Taco Tuesday again. When one hand is writing your thesis, one can enjoy this Taco Soup!

If you have a go-to lunch, feel free to share it in the comments!

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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vegetarian pantry

Alongside the usual savory and sweet items that every pantry needs, there are a few ingredients that are particularly useful for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those wanting to eat more meatless meals.

All of these items are ideal for adding protein, texture, and flavor to what you’re cooking.

Each household’s pantry will vary according to personal taste, ethnic background, and food allergies, but these 15 items are a great way to get started.

vegetarian pantry1. Beans

I like to keep a variety of dried or canned beans, but I always make sure my pantry has at least two: lentils and chickpeas. Lentils cook quickly and are great additions to soups, pilafs, and salads. I like to throw chickpeas into pasta dishes and vegetable braises and stews. Pinto, black, kidney, and cannellini beans are also good to have on hand.

2. Grains

Using a variety of grains lends nutrition, texture, flavor, and makes vegetarian and vegan meals more interesting. I like to keep my pantry stocked with brown rice, white rice, quinoa, spelt, farro, millet, and bulgur.

3. Tempeh

Once you know how to prepare it, tempeh can be one of the best staple sources of protein. It can be refrigerated for a week or two (check the date on the package) and will keep up to several months in the freezer.

4. Tofu

Like tempeh, tofu is not strictly a pantry item, but it’s an essential for vegetarian kitchens. I like to keep blocks of refrigerated extra firm tofu for baking and frying, vacuum-packed silken tofu to blend into dressings and puddings, and dried tofu for soups and stir-fries.

5. Nuts

I always have almonds and cashews and try to keep pistachios and pine nuts around, too. Whole or chopped nuts can be used in salads and grain dishes. Ground nuts can add body to lasagna. And there’s always pesto. Extend the life and freshness of nuts by keeping them in the freezer.

6. Dried fruits

Raisins, dried apricots, and dates are not only great for snacking, but they can add unexpected and delicious flavor to grain dishes, vegetable braises, and sautéed greens.

7. Vegetable stock

I prefer to make stock from scratch and keep it in the freezer. But if you don’t have the time or inclination, there are plenty of good store-bought options.

8. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is somewhat of a new pantry item for me, though I’m very quickly coming to love it. It can be used in sauces or as a coating for tofu, and sprinkled on potatoes and popcorn.

9. Miso

I like to keep both light and dark miso paste in the refrigerator for different degrees of savoriness, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the mellow white variety. Miso makes excellent soup as well as dressings for salad, vegetables, and tofu.

10. Tahini

Tahini, or sesame paste, often works in conjunction with miso in my kitchen. A quick tahini-miso sauce (try adding lemon juice and garlic, too) can be poured over steamed vegetables, tofu, or tempeh for simple weeknight dinners.

11. Dried sea vegetables

I like to keep several kinds of seaweed, from sheets of nori that can be wrapped around rice and vegetables, to kelp and kombu that add flavor to broth, to hijiki that can be reconstituted and used in salads and vegetable dishes.

12. Coconut oil

From making rich curries and roasting vegetables, to searing tofu and even baking, coconut oil is super versatile.

13. Maple syrup

Maple syrup is my favorite natural sweetener. It’s perfect for baking, making dressing and glazes, and of course, you can never use too much of it on pancakes.

14. Ground flax seeds

Flax seeds are super nutritious and loaded with fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. I love them stirred in my oats, mixed into smoothies, and baked into breads and muffins. And, combined with a little bit of water, ground flax also works as an egg substitute.

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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food environmental pyramid

Why do people go vegetarian?
You’ll find there is no single answer to this question.

Some people care about animals, some do it for their health, others want to reduce their environmental impact, and even more do it for a combination of these reasons. The reason why there is no single reason as to why you, or anyone, may adopt a vegetarian diet is because each reason is interconnected.

In particular, a healthy diet is also likely better for the environment.

The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation defines sustainable diets as:

“Those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.”

But what does that mean in practice? To summarize, here are some basic principles for healthy, low carbon eating:

  • Aim to be waste-free. Reducing food waste (and packaging) saves energy, effort and natural resources used to produce and dispose of it, as well as money.
  • Eat better, and less, meat and dairy produce. Consuming more vegetables, fruits and grains, and smaller amounts of animal products, helps reduce health risks and greenhouse gases.
  • Buy local, seasonal and environmentally friendly food such as organic from local farms. This benefits wildlife and natural environments, minimizes the energy used in food production, transport and storage, and helps protect the local economy.
  • Choose Fair Trade-certified products. This ensures that imported goods are benefitting sustainable farming as well as providing a living wage and fair treatment for workers.
  • Select fish only from sustainable sources, certified by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch. Future generations will be able to eat fish and seafood if we act now to protect our rivers and seas and the creatures living there.
  • Get the balance right. We need to cut down on sugar, salt and fat, and it doesn’t hurt to avoid questionable ingredients and processes such as genetic modification (GM) and many additives.
  • Grow our own, and buy the rest from a wide range of outlets. Nothing is better than food fresh out of the garden! Even if you don’t have a garden, stop by your local farmers market for seasonal, sustainable foods.

Author Michael Pollan puts it even more simply: “eat food, not too much, mainly plants.”

The food pyramid most people are familiar with does not accurately reflect a sustainable diet.

This image compares a sustainable diet with the conventional pyramid to give you an idea of how to focus your meals to reduce your environmental impact:

food environmental pyramid

Now that you know which foods are sustainable, and which aren’t, it’s easy to see how a vegetarian diet is a great way to protect both your health and the world we live in.

What will you change in your diet first? Leave comments below!

by VIM Trainer: Sarah Oliver

One of my carnivorous friends has decided he is giving up meat for lent. After I got over my shock, I was pumped! Everything I’ve done and said in the past about plant-based diets he has ignored. I’m trying not to talk about how excited I am for him because I’m worried he’ll back out, but I have offered some tips when asked.

If you’re a vegan reading this blog, you’ve probably had one person or another ask how you get protein. My friend was no exception, especially as an athlete who needs plenty of carbs and protein to fuel his distance running. I sent him a list of vegetarian protein sources, along with a little information on complete vs. incomplete proteins.

If you took freshman bio, you know there are 20 different amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino acids are called “essential” amino acids because our bodies are not able to manufacture them on their own. Animal proteins are complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids in about equal amounts. On the other hand, many plant proteins are not complete proteins. This means that we must eat a variety of protein sources to get all the amino acids we need. In the list below, I’ve bolded the complete protein sources. I’ve also suggested which proteins to combine to make them complete!

The Distance Runner’s Protein List for Lent:

  • Fish (if you decide to eat this) = ~20g per 3 oz (varies with fish)
  • Milk, Cheese (if you go vegetarian) = 8g per cup milk, 7g per oz cheese
  • Eggs (if you go vegetarian) = 6g per egg
  • Yogurt (especially Greek) = 17g per cup
  • Quinoa and other ancient grains = 8g per cup, cooked
  • Chickpeas = 15g per cup (with rice for complete protein source)
  • Hummus = 9g per ½ cup (with pita for complete protein source)
  • Tofu = 10g per 4 oz
  • Beans (all kinds) = 15g per cup (with rice for complete protein source)
  • Edamame (soy beans) = 29g per cup
  • Seitan (wheat protein) = 21g per 3 oz
  • Tempeh = 16g per 3 oz
  • Soy milk, yogurt (and other soy products) = 7g per cup
  • Nuts & seeds = 8g per ¼ cup
  • Nut butters = 8g per 2 tablespoons (with bread for complete protein source)
  • Whole grains = 7g per 2 slices bread
  • Veggie Burger = 13g per patty
  • Lentils = 18g per cup (with seeds for complete protein)

The next time anyone asks you about protein, feel free to share this list! What is your favorite plant-based protein source? By now I’m sure you know mine is peanut butter…