Being A Female Vegan Athlete With Meal Plans

Alright ladies, listen up! If you’re an athlete, a gym rat, runner, or just bonafide yogi chances are you need a little extra get-up-and-go to support your active lifestyle and rockin’ body, right? Anyone serious about their health and performance knows the importance of nutrition for overall excellence. You can pump weights, run 10 miles, and do yoga until your joints become as flexible as rubberbands but without proper nutrition, you’ll only get so far.

Myths About Athletic Performance and Nutrition

We were once told that skinless chicken breasts, brown rice, and broccoli or egg whites with non-fat yogurt were “clean” athletic foods that could support a lean body. Meals of canned tuna and diced celery with lettuce are still eaten in suffering by many athletes and dieters thinking those foods are the best option. Well, that’s not entirely wrong. The brown rice, broccoli, celery, and lettuce are all pretty good for you, stellar even. But the other foods? Not so much.

Why Plant-Based Nutrition Improves Health and Performance

Animal-based foods contain very inflammatory sources of fats and proteins. When you think about it, at the heart of our food lies what we end up becoming. Food is just language to our bodies’ cells. Cells are pathways of communication that control everything from our metabolism to our brain function. They do it all. What are we telling them to become?

Athletes or active individuals need high-quality sources of nutrition, not inflammatory-promoting foods or foods with cholesterol, toxins, and contaminants from animals. Because these foods are so highly processed, we can never really be sure what happens behind the scenes of their production, no matter what marketing hypes may tell us or what sports performance magazines may promote. Ignore the advertisements for whey protein and Greek yogurt and go plant-based for performance instead. These foods provide raw, living nutrients your cells easily recognize and can process into energy, along with care for your muscles, heart, and overall body.

The Plant-Power Female Athlete’s Needs

Women need specific amounts of carbs, fats, and protein to thrive, nutritionally speaking. These macro-nutrients should come from clean, plant-based foods and should be eaten at each meal. This balance will provide the body with fuel for performance and speed up recovery, muscle growth, and repair. It will also prevent any nutritional shortages that can hinder performance.

Ladies, don’t diet. Reducing calories to lower levels than your body needs won’t only shortchange your active lifestyle but also your long-term health. Let’s ditch the dieting and wasting your money on pricey yogurts and whey-based protein shakes.

Follow this satisfying, healthy whole food meal plan for female vegan athletes instead:

The Female Vegan Athlete’s Plate:

Three Macronutrient Ratios Choices: (Choose One Depending on Your Nutritional Preferences)

  • (A) 30% Protein, 50% Carbs, and 20% Fats
  • (B) 40% Protein, 50% Carbs, and 10% Fats or
  • (C) 40% Protein, 40% Carbs, and 20% Fats

Upon Rising. Water with lemon juice (decreases morning inflammation and increases energy) or a green juice made with kale, lemon, ginger, green apple, and cucumber (also decreases inflammation and provides vitamins and minerals)

Breakfast Choices (pre or post-workout):

  • A bowl of steel cut or rolled oats mixed with unsweetened non-dairy milk and water, with sliced banana or a sliced apple, 1-2 tbsp. chia seeds and/or  1 tbsp. ground flax seeds, berries of choice, and stevia if needed
  • A green smoothie with spinach or kale, acai berry puree, cranberries, blueberries and/or banana, a whole foods vegan protein powder, unsweetened non-dairy milk, and coconut yogurt or raw almond butter
  • Chia pudding topped with fruit of choice and sliced almonds
  • Steamed quinoa with 1/4 avocado sliced, 3 ounces grilled or sautéed savory tofu or tempeh, kale, and matchstick carrots
  • Quinoa or wild rice cooked with unsweetened non-dairy milk, berries, and ground flax; add some almonds for more protein and fats if desired
  • A baked sweet potato with salsa, kale, and tahini; one cup of plain soy yogurt with chia seeds on the side for protein
  • Tahini spread over sprouted grain cinnamon raisin bread with an apple or orange on the side
  • Coffee or chai, green, or herbal tea (nix the sugar and use stevia and non-dairy milk instead of cream)


  • raw almonds with celery, red bell peppers, and raw carrots
  • An orange or apple with 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • Raw superfood trail mix made with raw almonds, coconut flakes, mulberries or goji berries, Brazil nuts, and walnuts
  • A soy, coconut, or almond milk-based yogurt (choose unsweetened) with some flax and berries
  • A green juice
  • Orange with raw trail mix or raw nuts and seeds
  • Apple with raw almond butter
  • A bowl of berries with some soy yogurt or coconut yogurt (unsweetened)
  • A post-workout smoothie
  • A banana with a tablespoon or two of raw cashew butter
  • Vegan protein pancakes
  • Protein pudding made with a vegan protein powder, coconut flour, stevia, vanilla extract, and fresh blueberries (stir with almond milk into a pudding)
  • Raw energy bites
  • Raw fruit and nut bars like these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip ‘Lara’ Bars
  • Celery, red bell pepper slices, raw carrots, and raw cukes (good for mid-day munchies, not as post-workout fuel)
  • Water, water, water (and herbal tea or green tea if needed)

Lunch Ideas:

  • 1 large salad with romaine, shredded kale, matchstick carrots, hummus, sliced red bell peppers, roasted sweet potato or roasted squash cubes, edamame, lentils or black beans, avocado and a lemon/mustard/tahini based dressing
  • 1 large salad with kale, romaine, arugula, or spring greens with cucumber, raw olives or avocado, carrots, peppers, celery, chickpeas, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, dried raisins or strawberries, and a vinaigrette dressing
  • Seared tofu with roasted butternut squash, steamed kale or spinach, and fresh sliced tomatoes
  • Chickpea Salad Sandwich Deluxe with an orange or apple on the side
  • A sandwich made from sprouted grain bread, raw almond butter, fresh sliced strawberries or bananas, and a container of soy yogurt (unsweetened) on the side with cinnamon and chia or flax seeds
  • A bowl of oatmeal or steamed quinoa (see breakfast recipe suggestions)
  • A simple bowl of lentils, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and kale
  • A simple bowl of brown or wild rice, broccoli, butternut squash, and tempeh
  • A black bean wrap with tomatoes, corn, avocado and other veggies of choice
  • Water to drink (hydration is key for athletes)

Dinner Ideas (emphasize protein for overnight recovery):

Any of the lunch ideas above or

  • Tempeh with sauteed carrots, spinach, and mushrooms
  • A Buddha bowl made with black rice or teff, sesame seeds, avocado slices, broccoli, cauliflower, roasted butternut or zucchini squash, lemon juice to sweeten, black pepper and spices, edamame or chickpeas
  • Breakfast for dinner such as soaked oats with chia seeds, coconut yogurt, and a scoop of vegan vanilla protein powder added, berries or pumpkin added, and cinnamon and stevia to sweeten
  • Stuffed wrap with quinoa, carrots, avocado, chickpeas, and tofu if desired (add tahini for more fat and protein if you want.)
  • Quinoa with black beans, salsa, sweet potatoes, and kale or spinach
  • Vegan chili or a bean-based stew
  • Marinated kale salad made with kale, lemon juice, mashed avocado, seasonings of choice, cubed sweet potatoes, and either tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, black beans, chickpeas, or quinoa for protein
  • Water, tea, or decaf coffee to drink

All About Tea

Humans love tea. In fact, after water, we drink more tea than any other beverage. How much do we love tea, you ask? Well, on any given day, over 159 million Americans drink tea. In 2016 alone, Americans drank over 84 billion servings (that’s over 3.8 billion gallons) of some type of tea. While about 86 percent of tea drinkers stick with the black variety (green is a distant second), you’ll find a ton of varieties on your grocery or health food store shelves.

I’ve been into the concept of making my own herbal tea for quite some time now. For the past few years, drinking caffeine has been slowly leaving my diet. I don’t rely on it, nor do I crave it. Now, I almost never drink caffeine and I REALLY got back into making fresh herbal teas. I’m also trying to skip the whole tea bag thing, as they are notorious for developing microscopic mold and fungus. Loose leaf has even acquired this rap, and much like grains, how can I be sure how OLD the herbs really are?

Giving up caffeine and getting back to freshness inspired a whole new burst of creativity in my life. I began to concoct tea out of just about anything. Herbs, fruit, roots, spice—anything fresh and beneficial.

One of the saddest arts to fade in our society is a basic understanding of herbs, even common popular herbs available in America, and their beneficial properties/ ability to fight illnesses.

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“What determines whether a tea is green, black, white, or oolong depends entirely on the degree of processing that the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant undergo after they’ve been harvested,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. “Here’s the short summary: Black tea is fully fermented; oolong tea is partially fermented; green tea is not fermented at all but pan-fried and dried, and white tea is barely processed.” Herbal tea is made from other leaves, roots, and fruits and are not made from Camellia Sinensis, which also means they are generally caffeine-free.

The health benefits of tea :::

Bowden says tea contains over 4,000 health-promoting compounds, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and L-theanine. EGCG provides antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anti-infective, and cardioprotective benefits. Tea is also the only plant that makes the amino acid L-theanine, which is known for calming and focusing the mind and reducing stress.

Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practitioners have long used tea to improve digestion, accelerate wound healing, stabilize blood sugar, improve heart health, and boost mental function. And modern research shows regularly drinking tea can benefit various conditions, including type 2 diabetesobesitymood disorders, and even some cancers.

Potential toxins in your tea :::

The tea itself is really healthy, but it can sometimes be contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals. Tea plants are “hyperaccumulators,” meaning they are extremely proficient at extracting agents from the soil and accumulating them in their leaves.

That means you want to be aware of where your tea is grown, how manufacturers process and package it, and even what kind of tea bags they use. China is the world’s largest tea producer, with 8 million tea growers. Unfortunately, they are also the world’s largest pesticide user. Manufacturers don’t usually wash tea leaves before they’re bagged or packaged, so if the plants are doused with pesticides, they will infuse directly into your cup.

On top of pesticides, teas can also contain artificial colorings, flavorings, and genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). In one investigation, researchers found all tea samples from China tested positive for at least three kinds of pesticides, with one-third containing up to 29 different pesticides (many of them illegal). Tea plants naturally accumulate fluoride and other heavy metals including lead, aluminum, and arsenic. Because tea grows in acidic soils, an even higher uptake of these metals can accumulate. Fluoride toxicity can result in a variety of health problems such as joint pain, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, brittle teeth, kidney problems, and even cancer. Among its problems, aluminum can be associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tea bags carry their own problems. Most paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a known carcinogen. Silky tea bags are made from plastics like nylon or polypropylene that are unstable in hot water. Yes, bagged tea is more convenient, but consider loose-leaf teas instead.

How to choose the highest quality, safest tea:::

All that is not to make you panic but to become more aware of what kind of tea you buy. One solution is to buy the highest-quality tea. Lower-quality teas have more heavy metals because they consist of fallen, older leaves, while newer top leaves and buds that have absorbed less are reserved for higher-grade tea products. Organic tea might be cleaner but not always since they will be free of most pesticides but still might be contaminated with heavy metals or other chemicals. Ditto with higher-grade teas, which might be less toxic, but the specific farm they are from, how they’re harvested, and the country of origin matters. Teas from China and India are generally more contaminated than those from Japan (due to industrialization).

I’ll go back to what I said before: The right teas are perfectly healthy, and you should drink as many varieties as possible. Equipped with a little knowledge, you can make the most informed decisions about choosing the right ones.

Use these seven strategies to make the most informed decision possible:

  1. Always buy certified organic and non-GMO tea.
  2. Restaurants and coffee shops often carry inexpensive, lower-quality teas. Consider bringing your own bag and simply ask for hot water. (Bonus: You might save a few bucks.)
  3. Drink your tea plain. If you need flavor, add a little bit of organic stevia and unsweetened coconut creamer.
  4. Read labels carefully and skip products with added flavors (even “natural” flavors); potential GMO ingredients including soy lecithin and cornstarch, corn syrup, and other additives.
  5. If you choose bagged tea (remember loose leaf is better), buy ethical brands that state their bags are epichlorohydrin-free.
  6. Use filtered water instead of tap water.
  7. Remember that steeping tea for more than three minutes can potentially increase heavy metal infusion, particularly lead and aluminum. As a general rule can steep white tea for one to three minutes and green and black tea for three minutes.

Staying Full And Energized On A Vegan Diet

More often than I thought I would, I hear friends tell me that they tried to go vegan for a little while, but they found that they were just hungry all the time. Constantly hungry? That sounds pretty painful and definitely not like something anyone should endure. It also pains me to hear that some people experience this feeling when going plant-based because it’s not representative of how you can and will feel if your diet is done right. I definitely don’t want anyone to quit the plant-based journey because of an empty stomach.

The following are some solutions to maintaining your vegan diet without feeling like you’re constantly running on empty.

::: Eat more food   Ever heard of any diet that tells you to eat more food? That’s exactly the principle behind a balanced plant-based diet–the idea is to only consume whole foods that are minimally processed. Once you do that, you can eat as much of them as you want. Keep in mind that whole plant-based foods are dense in nutrients but less dense in calories than most foods that make up the traditional Westen diet. I generally don’t recommend to anyone actually track their calories in too much detail, but if you feel hungry all the time, go ahead and track them for a couple days. Most of us should consume between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. If you are far from that goal, then go ahead and add an extra serving of rice or a smoothie in your diet.

::: Reduce stress  A lot of us are stress eaters. That means that if we get stressed, or when work becomes overwhelming, we suddenly feel a big emptiness in our stomach. We often mistake this feeling for hunger and quickly devour something while sitting in front of our computer or being on an agitated phone call while walking to work. The truth is, this feeling of hunger is actually stress and we try to compensate this impulse with eating. Even if you eat a vegan diet, you might still feel incredibly stressed at times, so instead of changing what you eat, change how you eat. Turn off all distractions, sit down at a real table, and most importantly, chew and enjoy your food. This can reduce your stress attacks considerably and with them, the impression of being hungry.

::: Balance the plate  I think the misconception that vegan meals are all veg and nothing else gets to the issue at hand. I highly recommend having a mixture of grains, protein, and vegetables — it provides a great balance not only with flavor/bulk but also texture. Grains and legumes help keep the meal filling while the vegetables bring everything together.  While I like to keep balance within my meals (and eat a lot of vegan bowl meals), showcasing a beautiful vegetable or fruit can make a great hearty, vegan meal.

::: To Feel Satiated, Try Incorporating Starchy Plant-Based Foods According to Dr. McDougall, research shows carbohydrates lead to long-term satiety, enduring for hours between meals, whereas the fats in a meal have little impact on satiety.

Before you worry about getting fat eating carbs, I’d like to clarify that not all carbs are equal. Refined and processed carbs like white bread are a no-no. The processing and refining steps of refined carbs usually turn them into products stripped of nutrients (fiber, vitamins, and minerals) and loaded with salt, oils, sugars, dairy- derivatives, and chemicals.

However, complex, natural, unprocessed sugars, made in nature by plants, contain fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals which are all good for the body, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Other than starch-based foods, I’d also like to add that nuts and seeds are also a great source of protein and can help you feel full.

According to Dr. Michael Greger, 90 percent of relevant studies have shown that subjects showed no weight gain from nut consumption perhaps because nuts are so satisfying and appetite suppressing that you just eat less throughout the whole day. Nuts may also increase our resting energy expenditure by as much as 11 percent, helping us burn more calories while we sleep!

Without further ado… below are 5 groups of plant-based foods you can incorporate into your diet to help you feel full:

Grains like wheat, barley, rye, corn, oats, millet, black rice, brown rice, purple rice, quinoa

Out of the grains listed, quinoa deserves a mention. I love quinoa (don’t we all?) especially since it serves as complete protein for vegetarians and is relatively low in calories.  Quinoa has significantly greater amounts of both lysine and isoleucine, which allows the protein in quinoa to serve as a complete protein source, providing amino acids your body needs.

Starchy Vegetables like squashes, carrots, yams, parsnips, artichokes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes

I love my sweet potatoes, which is high in vitamin A and C, protecting cells and tissues from free radicals and oxidative damage which accelerates aging and causes diseases such as cancer. Roasting sweet potatoes have also been shown to have a more favorable impact on blood sugar regulation and to provide the plant with a lower glycemic index (GI) value.

Legumes like lentils, beans (black, green, kidney, pinto, navy, garbanzo), peas, peanuts

Beans are high in fiber, protein, and plethora of minerals that are good for your body. And yes, beans can curb your appetite.  A recent study reported that subjects were more satisfied with their diet when garbanzo beans were included, and they consumed fewer processed food snacks during test weeks in the study when garbanzo beans were consumed. They also consumed less food overall when the diet was supplemented with garbanzo beans.

Nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts

Before you fret at the thought of eating fatty nuts, please note that most of the fats in nuts are good for your health. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders suggested that an almond-enriched low-calorie diet (high in monounsaturated fats) can help overweight individuals shed pounds more effectively than a low-calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates.

Seeds like chia seeds, flax seeds

Chia is the richest plant-based source of omega 3, dietary fiber, protein, vitamin, and antioxidants.  It also contains a right ratio of amino acids and essential fats. The indigenous population in Central America would use chia to sustain their energy and blood sugar levels so that they could sometimes run over 100 miles in a few days! When you eat chia seeds, they will expand c. 3x original size and keep your stomach full, especially since the seeds absorb water and expand!






Being An Inspiring Vegan

Veganism has taken the media by storm in the past few years, with so many celebrities flocking to the diet.

That’s wonderful news for those of us who believe in the vegan lifestyle, but an unfortunate side effect of all this momentum is judgment. Some vegans judge others for not going vegan and non-vegans criticize vegans for being too judgmental.

If you are vegan, this article is for you. I am asking that you will consider the following 5 ideas to better represent veganism. I believe that the way to garner attention is not by bashing, judging, or looking down upon those who don’t embrace this lifestyle. It’s not by judging those who are not vegan.

Here are 5 Steps to Dropping Your Ego and Being a Vegan Without Being Preachy:

::: Be kind  Let me reassure all of you who are vegan that being kind to others works. Kindness (toward animals and yourself) is important to you or else you wouldn’t be vegan, right? Well, it’s equally important to be as compassionate to those who aren’t vegan. When you exude kindness, you have a glow of sincerity, which grabs people’s attention. If you’re trying to influence others to become vegan, the approach works.

::: Don’t be judgmental  Thousands of you who have become vegan were once were meat eaters. You were once part of “the problem” (so to speak), eating innocent animals on their journey to slaughter. If you think about your journey into veganism, it probably took some time.

It took me years to become vegan. My point is that it’s not only unfair to judge others, it’s also an inadequate approach to educating others. When you are a judgmental vegan, it is misrepresenting what should be a kind community.

::: Show (don’t tell) why veganism is amazing  Vegans have been accused of being elitists and I have seen many that behave like such. It’s ugly. It’s important to lose the ego. Live in harmony with others. Remember that when you are vegan, you have a responsibility as you are representing a global movement. If you want people to see how amazing it is to be vegan, you’re going have to show them a worthwhile reason to do so. Who has influenced you? What inspired you enough to change a habit in your life? I’d bet you weren’t influenced by an elitist who judged you nonstop.

::: Let your healthy mind and healthy body communicate for you  For most people, one result of veganism a healthy body. A healthy body begets a healthy mind and vice versa. Alicia Silverstone said in an interview that she really began to influence others when she stopped challenging them, debating why veganism was “better,” and when she stopped talking about it. She went about her fab life eating plant-based meals, losing weight and shining love! Suddenly people started to ask because they saw her skin glowing. They started asking about her diet because she was losing weight. It was then that she started to have a positive influence.

::: Get a life  Yes, I wrote that. I am encouraging vegans to take a step back from the label of ‘Vegan’. Who are you? Why are you defining yourself solely by what you eat or don’t eat? The healthiest people in this world are well-rounded individuals with much to offer others. Build upon all of your other interests in life: your character, your skill sets, and do not forget to share more of yourself with the world because you are more than a vegan even if being vegan is a big part of your life.

Be kind. Be lovely. It is these qualities that make one shine and bring the right kind of attention to anything worthwhile!

Three Misconceptions That Stop People From Adopting a Plant-Based Diet

Five years ago I switched to eating completely vegan, and I’ve never looked back. Eating vegan feels right for my mind, body, and soul.

I have lost weight, my energy levels have soared, my skin cleared up and my overall health has never been better.

At first, going vegan can seem intimidating and there’s a good reason for that: Veganism is only just starting to receive mainstream attention and you may not have any family or friends that are vegan.

If you’ve been thinking about transitioning to a vegan diet, it isn’t as difficult or limiting as you may think. What I can assure you is that after fully embracing a vegan lifestyle, I’ve learned first-hand that all of the popular misconceptions about eating vegan are well, misconceptions.

::: I’ll have to eat boring food without flavor for the rest of my life!  

Wrong! In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I had this fear before going vegan. However, making the switch to a vegan diet led me to discover amazing vegetables (collard greens, anyone?), fruit, smoothies, juices, spices, and snacks that I never had before.

When you have to take certain things out of your diet, you begin to go out of your comfort zone and uncover items at the grocery store and on the menu that you never would’ve tried before. The variety of food that I eat now is more diverse than ever.

I continue to be amazed at all of the incredible options I discover. Don’t even get me started on vegan restaurants and vegan bakeries, they are all out of this world (and all of my non-vegan friends agree!).

Begin to research vegan blogs and vegan cookbooks for recipes to get some ideas and remember that although you may be giving up some of your favorites you’ll be gaining a lot more. Veganism has a funny way of opening up your eyes to what else is out there.

::: I could never give up cheese! 

Almost everyone I meet who is considering going vegan has the same infamous concern, the separation anxiety they’ll feel from cheese. I used to eat pizza almost three times a week (I’m not bragging) and I had cheese in some form almost every day.

Before making the switch to eating entirely vegan, I remained vegetarian because I couldn’t ditch cheese. I even read that people may be addicted to cheese (well, that explains it…). I didn’t think I would be able to stop eating cheese until I learned what cheese was doing to my body.

Cheese is full of saturated fat and many researchers have found that cheese can cause acne and increase mucus production amongst a whole list of undesirable things that aren’t fair to put my body through.

I went cold-tofurkey on cheese six years ago and I have never relapsed or craved cheese once. If you are considering going vegan but you really think you can’t give up cheese, don’t let that stop you, there are a lot of vegan cheeses that come close to the real thing.

::: I’ll have to take a bunch of supplements and vitamins.

Rest assured, when you go vegan you won’t need to make extra cabinet space to fit all of your vitamins and supplements. I did a lot of research when switching to eating all vegan and I learned that the only vitamin that I was unable to receive from a plant-based diet was B12. A few vegan foods do have B12, but to ensure that I receive the right amount I take a supplement as many plant-based diet experts advise vegans to do.

When people learn that I am vegan many of them voice nutrition concerns. In addition to the protein police surfacing, there are a lot of questions regarding where I get certain vitamins and nutrients from. After answering this question for a long time, I started asking the question back (in a curious, friendly and non-defensive tone). Regardless of how we label our style of eating, how many of us know and monitor where we get necessary vitamins and nutrients from?

When someone is unfamiliar with a plant-based diet they may assume that eliminating meat and dairy means eliminating necessary nutrients. It’s an incorrect mainstream belief drilled into our heads at an early age that hasn’t seemed to go away yet…even with all of the research concluding that adopting a vegan diet is one of the healthiest things you can do.

How To Avoid Being a Victim Of The Protein Myth

What’s the number one question you get asked as a vegan?

If you’re a vegan, you’ve almost certainly been asked—time and time again—the age-old question of, “Where do you get your protein?”

If you are considering trying out a vegan diet, you may have concerns about the dietary implications of giving up animal-based protein sources. Protein facilitates the building, maintenance, and repair of tissues in the body, so the thought of having insufficient amounts of this essential nutrient is just causing for concern.

The reality is, protein is an important macronutrient, but it’s actually pretty difficult not to get enough if you’re eating a well-rounded whole foods, plant-based diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently issued a statement supporting this claim, emphasizing that, “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate…[and] are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”

So what exactly are our protein needs?

The long-established recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 8 to 10 percent of calories from protein. The average American following a typical Western diet consumes between 11 and 21 percent, and eating a vegan diet can easily provide 10 to 12 percent. To determine your individual protein needs, you can do the following calculation: Body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams). There are many resources available online to assist with finding protein values of specific vegan foods, such as this chart from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which may prove helpful in planning a balanced diet.

What are the best sources of plant-based proteins?

Protein is readily available in most vegan foods, including nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains, and even fruits and vegetables. Raw fruits and vegetables contain up to 15 percent protein content, and cooked beans and legumes can provide between 18 and 30 percent protein. Excellent sources of plant proteins include dark leafy greens, lentils, seitan, peanut butter, beans, split peas, broccoli, and bulgur. There are also several “complete proteins,” or proteins that contain adequate proportions of all nine essential amino acids, available in a vegan diet: Quinoa, buckwheat, soy, hemp seed, and chia seed all fit the bill.

Is more protein better?

Since protein is an essential nutrient, it stands to reason that more is better, right? Not necessarily.

In a traditional Western diet, animal products remain the current “gold standard” for meeting our protein needs. This is partially due to animal proteins having a higher “biological value” than plant proteins, which means that the proportion of essential amino acids they contain is similar to what’s required by our bodies. The caveat? Proteins with a higher biological value are linked to inflammation in humans and can increase IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone that is linked to the proliferation, metastases (spread), and invasion of cancer.

As for concerns of inadequate protein levels in vegan diets, protein deficiencies are extremely rare in the United States, so much so that the medical term for it, Kwashiorkor, is essentially unheard of here. Modern society is plagued far more by diseases of excess—heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, to name a few—than by deficiencies. Essentially, if your caloric needs are being met, you are almost certainly meeting your protein needs.

Exactly what should you eat on a plant-based diet?

Most of our societal concerns about the nutritional adequacy of vegan foods are actually perpetrated by how we view our plates. The typical American meal is comprised of a piece of “protein” (or meat), surrounded by a few vegetable or grain side dishes. Once the piece of meat is removed, the obvious protein is gone, and the remaining food is perceived as lackluster or nutritionally incomplete.

As Marion Nestle explains in her book Food Politicsprotein is not a food, it’s a nutrient—when you remove the animal meat from a plate, you’re not removing all of the protein. Simply look at dinner plates around the world—Japan, Thailand, India, Italy, Mexico, to name a few—to see that vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains often take up more of the plate than meat does and still provide balanced adequate nutrition.

Thankfully, foods on a whole-foods, plant-based diet are not only protein adequate, they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients and can help prevent, combat, and sometimes even reverse the very same chronic diseases that excess levels of animal-based proteins are linked to.

So the next time there is concern that a meatless dinner plate will leave you nutritionally deprived, rest assured that nutrient-dense plant-based foods provide everything you need and then some, without the negative side effects.

Reads On Hormones

There are many books out there pertaining to hormones and the endocrine system. I’ve read a lot of them. And I’ll save you the time, though I encourage everyone to explore. These two books have provided the most significant shifts in my journey and if you don’t have a lot of time to sift through all the hormone books, do yourself a favor and make these the next two reads. They are also INCREDIBLE for any woman, not just those navigating the intuitive journey of balancing their hormones.


WOMAN CODE  There are MANY books on hormones. And quite a lot of “popular” doctors out there that have gone to “Harvard” or other notable schools, but no one – and I mean no one – comes closer to bio-hacking hormones like Alisa Vitti.

Women get a regular period after years of paying experts to help them, older pregnancies with slim odds, and most importantly a lot of endocrine soothing and balancing through this book. More importantly, this isn’t happening through crazy supplementing or extreme diets. It’s happening through educating women about blood sugar stability, the four cycles each woman experiences within a month, and how to nourish each through food. This incredibly easy read educates us on how our brain is functioning, sexually what is going on with us, and how much physical strength we have during each of those four cycles. This is a prerequisite for any woman, not just those suffering with dreadful hormone issues.

ENERGY MEDICINE FOR WOMEN  this book, aside from Woman Code, has been one of the more informative hormone books I’ve ever read. The energy work you can do on yourself, for free with your own two hands, will certainly provide loads of support and solutions. Furthermore, you’ll learn about other great remedies and feel incredibly supported during the chaos of hormones.

He Shou Wu

He Shou Wu root notably popular for turning gray hair back to its original color is one of the leading longevity Chinese herbs for its liver and kidney tonifying properties.  Also as a tonic for the endocrine glands, it improves health, stamina, and resistance to disease.  Cholesterol reducing due to its lecithin, studies show that it improves the cardiovascular system, enhances immune function, increases antioxidant activity, and reduces the accumulation of lipid peroxidation—making this a powerful herb to help prevent fatal diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, and stroke.


For the vanity driven, this herb is magic for faster, softer hair growth, thicker texture and preventing gray hair.  It’s also a Chinese remedy for premature aging, boosting hormonal balance to help with night sweats, boosting the libido in men and women, to increase energy, and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

So what do I do with it?  Add 1 tablespoon into your hot tea, smoothies, and I even add it to my nut butters, as it’s the ultimate longevity powerhouse.


1 c tea of choice | steeped for five minutes

1 tbsp Sun Potion Cacao

1 tsp of Sun Potion’s He Shou Wu (and any other herb(s) of choice)

stevia, honey, or sweetener of choice to taste

Dash of cinnamon

PROCESS | add all ingredients to your blender.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Garnish with cinnamon and you have yourself the most divine, beautifying, and warming tonic.

Elevating Your Mood With Food

So much of what we experience on an emotional, cognitive, and mental level is a result of what we are putting into our bodies. Yet, we often look elsewhere when it comes to bolstering + elevating our emotional states: we up our self-care regime, meditate more frequently, or consult a healer. All of these practices are beautiful, beneficial, and healing, but I think an important piece of mental health that so many people overlook is the diet. What we eat is intimately connected to how we feel, and much of what we perceive to be emotional imbalances actually originate and develop because of what we may (or may not) be feeding ourselves.

Below, I explore my six favorite dietary + lifestyle practices that to create the physiological shifts necessary for an experience of less stress and improved mood.

::: Incorporate more high-quality fat into your diet  My numero uno recommendation for mood support. When I hear a friend dipping below the line emotionally – fat. When I personally feel anxiety start to creep in – fat. It’s a deeply nourishing brain food, as the brain itself is largely comprised of fat. The immense rise in mood disorders and imbalances that we see and experience today is believed by nutritional researchers to be a result of the widespread low-fat craze (and of course, the corresponding rise in our consumption of sugar). That is, perhaps our collective state of declining mental health is not because we are all going crazy, but instead, simply because we are starving for more fat. Increasing our intake of high-quality fats (plant-based and otherwise) will correspond with an immediate increase of energy and elevation of mood, as well as long-term reduction, prevention, and perhaps even elimination of mood imbalances.

::: Stabilize blood sugar levels through regular low-glycemic and protein-including meals  The blood sugar ups and downs that result from skipping meals, eating irregularly, and/or consuming a high-sugar diet are a major (though commonly overlooked) contributor to emotional imbalances. Sharp rises in blood sugar will leave you feeling energized (albeit easily distracted, ungrounded, and generally tweaked out), followed by spans of moodiness, fatigue, and anxiety after the inevitable blood sugar crash. Our moods are intimately connected to the state of our blood sugar, which is, of course, a result of how we feed the body. Eating three daily meals (and I mean like full, substantial meals) comprised of low-glycemic whole foods, protein, and fat, in addition to small snacks in between, will ensure that you keep blood sugar levels and mood elevated and balanced.

::: Support the gut-brain connection with ferments and probiotic-rich foods  Roughly 90% of the bodies’ serotonin is housed within the gut, making the state of our digestive health a massive (and I mean massive) indication of how we will feel mentally and emotionally. Supporting our gut health is a beautiful and powerful way to make a dramatic, lasting change in our mood and mental health. How we do this through diet is by eliminating refined sugars and processed foods (duh) and incorporating more fermented, probiotic-rich foods.

::: Supplement with adaptogenic tonic herbs  Adaptogens quite literally assist the body in adapting to stress, creating a positive shift in the way we respond to internal and external stressors on a chemical and physiological level. They make powerful, nourishing additions to the diet, especially for those of us experiencing emotional highs and lows, anxiety, mood imbalances, and high levels of stress. My top picks for mood support include mucuna pruriens, Rhodiola, maca, and ashwagandha – though each of us is a bit different, so feel free to experiment with what makes you feel most vibrant and aligned. Aloe vera is also an adaptogen I take daily for emotional support that definitely proves much easier (and less expensive) to source than tonic herbs.

::: Eliminate trigger foods  It’s important to note that food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies present themselves as an array of symptoms, many of which are not physical. Mood and cognitive imbalances may be a reaction to a food that triggers an inflammatory response within your body. If you suspect this may be the case, the best course of action is to work through an elimination diet with a nutritionist, naturopath, or holistic doctor to pinpoint what food(s) are creating the adverse reaction. Common culprits include corn, eggs, the gluten protein, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, seafood, processed foods high in preservatives and additives, and animal products treated with antibiotics.

::: Increase vitamin D production via natural sunlight  Less of a dietary tip and more of a lifestyle practice, getting enough vitamin D is absolutely crucial for thriving mental + emotional health and I felt I just couldn’t exclude it from this list. Unlike any other vitamin or mineral, our bodies have the ability to produce D, though only in the presence of sunlight. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and synthetic sources and supplements are neither recognized nor bioavailable for use by the body, making it of utmost importance that we just get outside and soak it up. Every tissue within the body contains vitamin D receptors – including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system – making it necessary at virtually every level for the body and mind to function optimally. There’s a direct and well-established link between depression (among other emotional and cognitive issues) and vitamin D deficiency, making a bit of sunshine a true + powerful antidote to an imbalance in these realms.

Navigating Through Your Cravings

Navigating through our cravings can sometimes be tricky, but when we are able to tune in and get clear on where the cravings are coming from, we become empowered to make choices that support our health & wellbeing.

Cravings always carry important messages for us. There is often something lacking in our life that needs attention and nurturing. In our culture, we are working too much, doing too much, and not taking the time to rest. We push really hard to feel a sense of achievement and success, and the overwhelming we experience leaves us feeling constricted. We crave foods with expansive properties, like sugar, chocolate, coffee and alcohol (hello happy hour!), to give us a feeling of openness and expansion.

The more in the moment we are, the more we can fully enjoy the experience of our meal and the beauty of creating it. Connecting with our food to make it a gratifying sensory experience gives us a deeper sense of connection to the world around us. Tasting all of the flavors, textures, and nutrients in our meal offers a deep sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure. We just need to slow down enough to fully savor the experience.

There are a few key factors that trigger cravings ::::

A huge factor that almost always triggers strong cravings is dehydration. If you are not hydrated properly, you will automatically crave food, even when you’re not hungry. Next time you are ravenous between meals, ask yourself, “Am I hungry or thirsty right now?”

Another huge component is sleep. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which generally makes us crave food all day long if we haven’t had proper rest. You will also notice that when your sleep isn’t the best you end up craving more carbohydrates and sweets to soothe the body & uplift you in some way.

There are several different types of cravings, but here are a few of the most common ones ::::

There are nutrient cravings – This is when our body literally craves what it’s lacking physiologically. This is our innate body wisdom seeking support for healing and balance. This often times is why women crave chocolate around their menstrual cycle – raw chocolate is very high in magnesium, which a woman’s body needs more of during her menses to support her cycle.

There are emotional cravings – When we are trigged in some way that really hurts us, we experience an alienation from ourselves. We reach to food to soothe ourselves the way a baby would with mother’s milk. We are all emotional eaters in some way, but it’s important that we pay attention to what’s happening beneath the surface. Check in with yourself- is it really emotional or is it that I skipped breakfast or have been choosing foods that under nourishing me? This is your body craving nutrition. Get clear with yourself.

Lastly, there are cravings for balance – The body is a balance-seeking instrument. If you consume lots of expansive substances (like sugar and coffee), you’ll crave contractive substance (like salty foods & cheese). This is the body’s natural attempt to create internal equilibrium.

If you are stressed or working too much this will also cause you to feel contracted. This triggers cravings for expansive “foods” like sugar, alcohol, and coffee which give us a temporary feeling of openness. We also tend to reach for chocolate and sweets when we are lacking sweetness in our lives. The key here is to eat more neutral foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds to help keep you centered instead of constantly moving from one extreme to the other.

 Here are some healthy ways to move through your cravings ::::

Ask yourself- Am I hungry or thirsty right now? 

Go for a walk or do something physical to engage your body.  

Journal to get in touch with your feelings.

Call a friend or loved one if you’re craving sweets, love or connection.

Meditate, get a massage, take some deep breaths or listen to soothing music to help alleviate stress and get closer to yourself.

Use essential oils topically, aromatically or internally (food grade) to center, uplift and reground yourself. Here are a few of my favorites: white angelicasandalwood & frankincense.

Make a sugar free tonic or warm water with lemon.

Eat more neutral foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. To ground, regain balance, and keep us from moving from one extreme to the other. (expansive/contractive)

Reach out for the support of a therapist or healer to help work through emotional patterns and triggers.

Let’s tune into our senses & ourselves and look deeper to understand where our cravings are coming from & why. This is extremely important in transforming our bodies, healing, and creating harmony with our relationship to food and our relationship to life.