person holding sliced vegetable
Nutrition and Food, Personal Care

New Course Alert!

I’m so excited to announce that my first educational course, Getting Started on a Plant-based Diet, is here!

I designed this course with you in mind. It’s designed for everyone because everyone can benefit from adding more plants to their diet. As a Registered Dietitian you know I’m passionate about evidence-based practice and this course has been designed to be equivalent to a 1:1 session with me. It covers macro and micronutrients, supplementation, and so much more!

So what are you waiting for? Check out my Teachable content and let me know what you think! What should my next course be? Comment below or send me a message!

Personal Care, Product Reviews

Vegan Friendly Workout Gear

On a recent hike with my friend Wayne I learned that the workout gear he’s been wearing all this time is vegan-friendly! Needless to say I was so excited because he always looks comfortable, stylish and not super sweaty when we take our dogs out together. I asked him to share with me a little bit about the brand, Skins. He was kind enough to send a full review PLUS a discount code and link to shop for you guys!

Wayne’s Review

I have been using their compression products for many years for working out at the gym, cycling, and running. Skins offers different series of compression based on the type of activity and I have found their line of recovery products to be extremely effective, eliminating post-workout soreness. Their products are Vegan Friendly and sizing is to the T. I would recommend following the sizing chart exactly for a perfect fit. If you click this link  and use code wc35 at checkout you will receive 35% off purchases made from now until March 7th! Feel free to follow me (Wayne) on Instagram where I will be posting updates and future discount codes https://www.instagram.com/chathamws79/

Please note that Wayne is affiliated with Skins compression, however his thoughts and opinions above are 100% his own.

Try them out and let us know what you think!

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Is Creatine Worth Supplementing?

I’ve always been very choosy with my supplements both for safety and quality reasons but also for financial. There are many supplements on the market that can be overkill when someone is eating a balanced diet that result in creating expensive urine.

Why would I spend extra money on something that I’m already getting plenty of in my dietary habits? Additionally being picky has meant that many supplements just didn’t appeal to me since they didn’t have the third- party certifications I look for.

Except that I’m probably not getting plenty of creatine because of my choice of diet. I follow a vegan diet, and as I’ll explain later this means I would likely benefit from supplementation of creatine. It’s also worth noting here that creatine monohydrate is vegan-friendly. If you follow a vegetarian diet of any type you’ll also want to keep reading.

If you’re new to supplements or don’t really know the quality/safety specifics I recommend checking out my previous post Let’s Chat: Supplements to learn more.

Some Science

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance. Your body makes creatine in the liver, kidneys and pancreas and converts it into creatine phosphate (or phosphocreatine) and stored in your muscles where it can be used for energy. When you engage in short duration, high intensity bursts of activity (think HIIT, sprinting, weight lifting) phosphocreatine is used in your body.

Despite there being numerous studies looking at creatine’s ability to improve athletic performance, not all bodies are the same and therefore not everyone’s body responds to creatine the same way. Dietary intake of creatine can also influence your body’s response to supplementation. Some individuals may have more naturally occurring creatine in their body from their diet and therefore not see the same benefit from supplementation as someone who has a lower storage amount.

Vegans and vegetarians are a population who tend to have lower overall creatine stores; likely because of the omission of meat and fish from their diets. It has been demonstrated that increasing creatine through supplementation may be more beneficial for vegetarians (all types who avoid meat and fish) when compared to non-vegetarians.

Some studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation can be helpful for people with muscle weakness due to illness. However, the majority of people interested in taking creatine are here because they want to improve their athletic performance.

It’s important to reiterate that creatine has been demonstrated to improve exercise associated with high bursts of energy in short durations and not necessarily in endurance based exercise. Study results looking into its ability to improve endurance based activity performance has been mixed.

My Experience

My first time trying creatine was honestly because Vitalura Labs released one. I immediately bought theirs to try, one because I practice what I preach and I want to support this amazing company, but two because I knew it would be top quality. Every product in their product line has been top notch with NSF certification so I knew their creatine would be no different.

Scoop size next to a coffee cup for reference.

I started taking it about 7 weeks ago. Honestly, at first I didn’t notice much. It was easy to mix into just about anything since it’s a small amount of powder.

But like any change it takes time to notice anything, good or bad. I kept with it and have now been taking it regularly for a little over a month. By about week 5 of taking 5g creatine daily I noticed a significant development that kept me going on the creatine train.

What I Found

While doing my usual lower body routine one day I decided to try increasing the weight stack, just to see if I could complete a rep or 2 at the higher weight. To my surprise, not only was I able to complete 2 reps, I was able to do my entire planned set at that higher weight. The weight isn’t a lot when compared to body builders and hardcore weight lifters, but it was a weight level that I have never successfully been able to lift for more than 1 set of 3 reps. Let me tell you, I was so excited that I immediately checked the weight stack again just to be sure that I wasn’t hallucinating.

Of course there’s a bit to unpack here. Obviously I’ve been very consistently working out and working toward a specific goal. I’m not belittling the effect that consistent strength work can have on your ability to lift more weight. What I think is important to share here is that I didn’t experience the expected and usual fatigue that would set in so quickly whenever I had previously tried to lift the same amount of weight. That ability to push more is where I give the creatine credit.

Another side effect that I did notice was a slight increase in my body weight, very likely due to water retention. This is a known creatine side effect and not one to fear. Water weight gain isn’t real mass and will leave when you stop using it. My own experience of stopping creatine to see if the water retention disappeared worked and I was at my “normal” weight within a week.

It’s important to note that the amount of water retention someone experiences is also relative and different for everyone. The water retention level that someone experiences will depend on their muscle mass and the type of muscle. The majority of creatine is found in your type II (aka fast twitch) muscle. Logically this makes sense as creatine has been found to improve athletic performance for shorter bursts of power. So if you’re someone who is powerful for shorter bursts of time you may find that you also retain a little more water.

As always I want to disclose that I’m an affiliate with Vitalura Labs. I was super excited to find that they sent me my own bag of creatine to try about a week after I bought mine. Thank you to everyone who shops through my links; if you missed it this post might help you understand how important you are.

Are you ready to try creatine with me? You can shop all things Vitalura Labs and even set up subscriptions of their products so you never run out. Use code “SARAHMILLER” for free shipping.

Nutrition and Food

Vegan on a Budget

Food budgeting is a common household need, regardless of what type of diet you follow. There is a common misconception that eating vegan or plant-based is inherently more expensive. This post is here to help you navigate your local grocery store and show you that eating more plant-based doesn’t have to mean eating more expensive.

Beans

Beans are one of the most inexpensive sources of protein you will find at your local grocery store. I recommend purchasing dried beans in bulk to prepare as needed, or canned with no added sodium. Dried beans also have a long shelf life so you’re likely to reduce your total food waste.

Nutritional Yeast

A common way to impart umami flavoring for savory dishes, nutritional yeast is a vegan source of protein that is also a great source of vitamin B12. You can find this at most grocery stores and even online.

Not sure what nutritional yeast is or how to use it? Read more about this awesome product and why you should consume it while following a vegan diet.

Lentils

Tired of beans? Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein that can be used in a myriad of ways. If you have a Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) near you, they also sell ready-to-use lentils to save you time. You can find them in the refrigerated section near the produce at most TJ’s locations.

Seitan

This meatless alternative is super versatile and has a similar texture to meat. It is made from wheat gluten so if you have celiac this is NOT a product for you. For individuals who don’t have a wheat allergy this is an excellent and inexpensive source of protein. You can even find many different recipes to make your own seitan using a few items you may already have in your pantry.

Tofu

Tofu is probably one of my favorite foods. Tofu is made using soy beans which have all 9 essential amino acids, so it is classified as a complete protein. Depending on the type of tofu you buy the protein content may vary. Many Asian markets sell tofu for much less than a traditional grocery store, too, so I recommend seeing what shops are in your area and comparing prices.

Many people who don’t care for tofu have honestly not had it prepared correctly or in a way that they like yet. The texture and ways to best prepare tofu are determined by the type that you choose to purchase. For “beginner” tofu eaters I generally recommend eating the firmer varieties as the squish of softer, silken tofu may put some people off to its mouth-feel.

Note: tofu is similar to chicken, meaning that it has practically no taste on its own. Eating plain tofu is another behavior I would consider more “advanced” and not recommended for newbies. Most people who enjoy tofu will tell you that marinating and sauces go a long way with this versatile protein source.

Fruits/Vegetables

There’s a common misconception that fresh fruits/vegetables are always the most superior form, when compared to frozen or canned. However, frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested and processed at their peak meaning that many times they are better tasting and at peak nutritional value when compared to fresh produce.

Like any food product there are some options that are more healthful than others. I generally recommend avoiding frozen produce that has large amounts of added sodium and/or added sauces. This way you still have control over the spices and additives in your fruits/vegetables.

If canned is your preferred or only available option, try to choose varieties of fruits/vegetables that have no or minimal added sodium as well as avoiding fruits in added syrups. This will help limit your intake of added salt and sugars. I also recommend rinsing canned vegetables and beans to help remove some of the sodium that may have been added.

Shop the Sales

Another great way to stay within your weekly grocery budget is to try and make meals based on the items on sale that week at your local grocer. This strategy can sometimes be a bit difficult for fresh items, but definitely one you want to use when shopping for pantry staples and shelf stable food items.

Happy Shopping

Hope you found this information helpful! Check out this previous blog post for tips on transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Personal Care

An End to Ads, 1 Click at a Time

This morning I decided I wanted to find a recipe for an easy, vegan caramel date sauce. A friend had sent me one a few months ago, but alas I couldn’t remember where it was or which site she had sent. Of course there are a million recipes online, so like most people I simply clicked on the first one from my Google search. That’s when my frustration began.

Ads. Every site you visit is so over run with advertisements that it’s almost impossible to actually read or use the content the person created. Eventually I gave up with that first Google hit and went back to select the next. And you know what? More of the same. So many advertisements and pop-ups that I couldn’t even read the recipe.

Rather than having this be a purely negative post, I decided I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you. I understand that I’m in a privileged position choosing to avoid pop-up ads and other annoyances that help monetize a site so that the creator can get paid. A big part of why I can do this is because of you.

Every time you “buy me a coffee”, make a purchase through one of my affiliate links, pass along my promo code(s), or refer a friend to me for Dietitian services I get paid. Some of these options obviously return more than others, but ALL of them are ways to help me keep this site advertisement and tracker free. And YOU make that possible.

So thank you; from the bottom of my heart. I truly appreciate your contribution to keeping this site and my brand how I envision it to be: a safe space where people can come to find evidence-based, credible information from a professional who is truly passionate about nutrition for health.

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Meal kit face-off Hello Fresh vs. Purple Carrot

Meal delivery services and kits are one of the greatest ideas to have evolved in the last decade; especially for people who have a super busy schedule. Not only do these services take care of the grocery shopping but the mental fatigue involved with deciding, “what should we have for dinner” is also happily handed off.

I’ve always been curious about meal kit services but never tried one. Since I follow a pretty specific diet I wasn’t able to find a service that would meet my dietary requirements when they first came out. Luckily most delivery kits have some sort of plant-based option(s) available making cooking for me in my multi picky eater household a little easier. There are many out there to choose from but I decided to give Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot a chance.

Hello Fresh

I decided to try Hello Fresh when a friend of mine passed along a discounted trial coupon.

Pros of Hello Fresh

  1. No grocery shopping- huge time saver
  2. App was easy to use to modify and make changes to my delivery
  3. Meals designed to be crowd pleasers 
  4. Priced well
     

Cons of Hello Fresh

  1. Not enough vegan options 
  2. Menu was a bit boring and repetitive

Ultimately the deal breaker for me was the lack of vegan options. This meant I had to micromanage our delivery every week to make sure I was either choosing things I could later veganize, were already vegan, or needed to skip. Their menu options of plant-based items usually involved dairy, which is great for some people but a no for me. Price point was pretty good and I did feel that Hello Fresh is one of the best priced options available. If you follow a lacto-ovo or lactovegetarian diet then Hello Fresh might work better for you than it did for me. 


Purple Carrot

I can’t even remember anymore where I first heard of Purple Carrot. The decision to try came from a random day of me looking up new recipes to cook at home. One of the recipes was from the Purple Carrot website and next thing I knew I was signing up for a trial box.

Pros of Purple Carrot

  1. Entirely plant-based vegan menu- no need to micromanage delivery
  2. Exciting recipes and variable flavor profiles
  3. High quality ingredients
  4. Also offers a pre-made meal option and “plantry”

Cons of Purple Carrot

  1. A bit more expensive than Hello Fresh

The only con I’ve experienced is that Purple Carrot is a tad more expensive than Hello Fresh. However, the price point is on par with what you would pay at the grocery store for the week’s worth of groceries. And you didn’t have to go to the store, plan the menu, or micromanage the meals arriving in the box. Purple Carrot even offers pre-made meals and a “plantry” so you can include extras you would’ve picked up at the store.

Winner: Purple Carrot

If you’re vegan or vegan curious, or follow a mostly plant-based diet  I highly recommend Purple Carrot. The menu selection is huge- and it’s all vegan. All of it. There’s no need to micromanage or worry that you’re accidentally forgetting to swap an ingredient. The recipes range from easy to more advanced both in flavor profile and cooking skill. They even started including some produce items pre-chopped making it even quicker for you to make dinner on a busy night. Purple Carrot is great for people who like to taste new flavors- every meal I’ve made has been delicious. The recipe developers are amazing. 

 

Nutrition and Food, Recipes

Vegan s’mores Popcorn

Ingredients

  • unpopped popcorn kernels (I use ~1/4c unpopped for 1 person)
  • popcorn popper (I like my colonel popper)
  • vegan graham crackers (at least 3 sheets) broken into pieces
  • vegan marshmallows (mini or regular)
  • vegan chocolate chips or bar of choice (if using bar, break into pieces)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Pop your popcorn according to instructions. I like to airpop using my colonel popper in the microwave, no oil needed.
  3. Spread popcorn out on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Distribute pieces of large marshmallows (or mini marshmallows) throughout popcorn spread. Do the same with your chocolate and graham pieces.
  5. Place baking sheet in the oven. After ~5 minutes watch more closely for doneness. Chocolate and marshmallows should be soft/melted with some slight browning on the marshmallows.
  6. Remove from oven- serve and enjoy!

Tips

  1. I recommend keeping a close eye on your tray in the oven to avoid overcooking.
  2. Feel free to try different add-ins such as unsalted nuts, caramels or other gooey or crunchy treats. The options are endless!
Nutrition and Food, Recipes

Easy Vegan Egg Bites

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Turn air fryer on.
  2. Spray mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  3. Place 1-2 pieces of the diced potato and diced mushroom in each mini muffin hole.
  4. Let air fry for about 5 min or until potato has some light browning.
  5. Carefully remove mini muffin tin from air fryer.
  6. Shake well and pour in liquid Just Egg, being careful not to overflow.
  7. Place a few pieces of shredded vegan cheese or smaller pieces of sliced vegan cheese in each muffin hole.
  8. Return to air fryer on lower level of appliance.
  9. Let air fry for another 5 min, or until tops of mini egg bites appear done (light browning).
  10. Carefully remove from your air fryer and let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from muffin tin. Make sure to place on a heat safe surface.
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

  1. I recommend keeping a close eye on your air fryer during the cooking process to avoid overcooking.
  2. Feel free to try different vegetables and/or cheese. The options are endless!
  3. Make sure not to over-fill mini muffin tin; adding too much liquid will make the egg bites puff up. They’ll still taste great, they’ll just look like mini soufflés 🤣
  4. These are so tasty you’re going to want to eat them all, so at most one mini muffin pan will feed ~1-2 people.
Personal Care, Product Reviews

Head to Head: Schmidt’s vs Beautycounter

If you’ve read my blog post reviewing natural deodorant you know that I’ve tried a plethora of different natural deodorants. Even though ultimately Schmidt’s was the winner, it was still lacking in a few areas, which led me to continue my search for the best natural deodorant.

I joined Beautycounter as a consultant earlier this year because I feel strongly about clean beauty products and like to support companies that are trying to make a difference, both for humans and for the planet. Beautycounter has a clean deodorant called the Clean Deo that was on my list of products to try and when it arrived in my latest order I was super excited to get my sweat on.

The set-up

My goal was to wear the Clean Deo daily for a week so that I could get a good comparison to my Schmidt’s product. Switching from an antiperspirant to a natural deodorant necessitates getting used to sweat. Brands will tell you there’s an entire detox process, but I can’t find any solid evidence to support this. The bottom line is that when you’ve spent years wearing antiperspirant you’ve forgotten what it’s like to have damp underarms. I think it takes about 2 weeks to get used to your body sweating instead of feeling dry all of the time.

I’m definitely a heavy sweater. I work out daily, take my dog for walks, love to go hiking, and all sorts of other things active and sweaty. Don’t even get me started with how much my anxiety makes me sweat. For a deodorant to keep up with me is pretty difficult and generally requires me to reapply throughout the day.

Application

Schmidt’s has long been my go-to because it doesn’t irritate my skin with reapplication, is a vegan product, smells great, and glides on fairly smoothly. You do have to warm it for a few seconds in your underarm to make it roll on smoothly. Additionally Schmidt’s does leave a white product residue behind and unfortunately leaves underarm stains on many of my shirts.

Beautycounter Clean Deo (I used the coconut scent) has a great application feeling- better than Schmidt’s and requires no warming. Just simply remove the cap and apply. It glides on super smoothly and requires only 1-2 swipes without leaving a white residue. Did I mention that I only had to re-apply a handful of times this past month? Way less often than when using other natural deodorants on the market.

I have been using the Clean Deo daily for over a month now and can attest that it has not stained any of my clothes.

But is it vegan?

Schmidt’s is a vegan product and Beautycounter’s Clean Deo has beeswax. So depending on how strongly you feel about beeswax usage this may be a dealbreaker for some people. I personally try to look at every product holistically before making the decision to use it. For me, I can forgive the use of beeswax when taking other factors into consideration- including that Beautycounter is leaping bunny certified. Leaping Bunny certification is an important criteria for me if a product I’m considering isn’t 100% vegan. Veganism looks different on everyone. Veganism for me involves challenging my own and conventional views of what makes someone or something vegan, as well as setting priorities for what criteria is met and if I’m willing to compromise.

Beautycounter’s Clean Deo also has an amazing feature that other deodorants don’t. Instead of throwing away the entire stick when it’s done, you keep the container and simply refill it with a new canister. I’m definitely not the only fan out there, either. The Clean Deo was recently featured in the Toronto Star’s round up of the best refillable products and Marie Claire’s 17 best deodorants. Making the deodorant packaging refillable cuts its water, fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 47%! This is a huge win for the environment.

Final thoughts

Overall, Beautycounter’s the Clean Deo is my new go-to and my Schmidt’s has started collecting dust.

Considering making the switch to clean beauty? You can shop the Clean Deo and other Beautycounter products here.

Jars Containers Zero Waste Vegan  - Jasmin_Sessler / Pixabay
Nutrition and Food

Nutritional Yeast

A significant source of some B vitamins, nutritional yeast is a great way to give foods a cheesy or savory flavor. Some brands are fortified with vitamin B12, making this a staple in many vegan households. I personally love the flavor of nutritional yeast and started using it years before I was eating vegan. 

Nutritional yeast can also be helpful for people who want to give their food a cheesy flavor but are on a low sodium diet. One serving (1 tbsp) of nutritional yeast has 25mg of sodium while one serving (1oz) of cheddar cheese has 174mg.

One serving of nutritional yeast provides 9g of complete protein and is made from a single-celled organism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is dried and inactive and therefore doesn’t grow like active dry yeast does, so you can’t substitute it in place of yeast in your bread recipes. Nutritional yeast is technically made from the same species of yeast as active dry yeast, but it’s a very different product.

But you can use nutritional yeast to amp up the flavor of many dishes including soups, sauces, egg substitutes (like this tofu scramble) or even as a popcorn topping. The umami flavor of nutritional yeast is from the amino acid glutamic acid. But don’t worry, this is a naturally occurring amino acid and is not the same as the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

NPR has a great piece on the history of nutritional yeast including it’s many rises and falls in popularity.