Epic Food Fight

Sodexo USA

For my Hunger Relief Project (an assignment for the internship) I decided to participate in a fundraiser for Manna Food Center hosted by The Bench Restaurant in the Marriott hotel, which happens to be located right next door to the Sodexo USA Headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD.  On March 16, the restaurant contributed 10% of all of their profits from the entire day to Manna Food Center.  I found the best part of this fundraiser to be that, unlike most fundraisers of this kind, patrons did not have to mention the event in order for the proceeds to go to the cause.

the Bench Restaurant

After sitting down at the table and weighing my menu options, I had narrowed my potential selections down to the crab cake appetizer, the crab cake sandwich, and the crab cake entrée.  With careful consideration and deliberation with the waitress, I selected my prandial victim.  Let’s just say it was a bad day to be a crab cake sandwich on ciabatta with a side of sweet potato fries; especially since it came with a crazy awesome old bay remoulade – and the remoulade had capers!

crab cake and fries

I kind of have a thing for capers (and it’s pretty serious), which by the way are very high in quercetin, a phytochemical that helps support your body’s detoxification system (I know right, winning!).  But I digress…or did I?  I mean, I think I met a triple bottom line here:  I took a small bite out of food insecurity, I had a taste-bud rockin’ meal, and I got a little natural detoxification support just in time for my spring-clean-eating prep (more on that coming soon).  I can’t help but to imagine a food system where people could dine at a restaurant where every menu item was nutrient-dense; the ingredients were sourced from farmers and purveyors committed to responsible, safe and sustainable practices; and investments are made towards building social capital by supporting fair wages, food security and health equity.  I believe it is a basic right for EVERYONE to live in a food secure, health equitable and sustainable world that nurtures and nourishes ALL OF US to live a whole and full life.  I’ve been told I’m a visionary (that’s my loose translation of being called weird) and I totally and whole-heartedly believe that we can bring this vision to fruition.  However, I know that this cannot be accomplished without a fight.  It’s going to take awareness, advocacy and action.  I’m ravenous for change and I’m curious to know what you think.  Do you think this vision is a long shot or not?  What are some solutions that you think can eradicate these social injustices?  Furthermore, what do you think are the root causes of lifestyle-related chronic disease and hunger?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Experienced Through Food

I’m a glutton for passion with an insatiable appetite for adventure. I know I’m not alone as we’re all born with an innate curiosity and primal craving for exploration. We all have a visceral hunger for knowledge. We all long to understand the world around us and to find our purpose in it. One can argue that until we find our purpose in life, we are merely existing rather than living. One of the core elements of existentialism is freedom of choice, which according to the philosophy, is a critical determinant of one’s identity. We all inherently have the freedom to choose. The choices? Whether to exist or live. Whether to survive or thrive. Whether to reach our full potential and experience all that life has to offer, or to settle for the status quo. Unfortunately, for most of us the freedom to choose is heavily impacted by social constructs. Consistent with this reasoning, our identity then is also influenced by social constructs. The current U.S. food system has created an environment where our food choices are relegated to options that are convenient and cost effective. Mass produced food, or rather food products, that are most readily accessible, available and affordable are not that which reflect the cultural diversity of the people that make up this country.  Our capacity to experience life and thus reach our full potential is impacted by societal confines that influence our food choices. Limited food choices resulting from social determinants restrict our capacity to actualize one’s identity and ultimately experience life. I believe that one of the ways our potential for self-actualization can be increased is by increasing our freedom of food choice via microcosmic food system restructuring.  Okay, okay…all I’m trying to say is that we can make a difference and regain our freedom of food choice by selectively and intentionally choosing our food.  Yes, it is much more convenient said than done, but we could definitely impact our food system by using our consumer power.  Demand impacts markets so imagine what could happen if more of us started growing our own food, buying from local farmers, shopping at farmers markets, participating in community shared agriculture, or I don’t know…even just spending the little extra on food that was actually alive at one point rather than “food” that’s been processed so much to the point that it is legally called a food product.   Anywho, you have to excuse me and my rambling.  I just heard someone mention recently, “you are what you eat” and these were just some thoughts of a foodie.  What do you think?

Clutch Creations: Kale-Mango Salad

Kale-Mango Salad

Okay, so I MUST share this creation with y’all.  I had just woken up this morning and was still in that in-between stage where I wasn’t sure if I was actually awake or not… anywho I was thinking of what to pack for lunch.  I knew I needed to use the kale I bought earlier this week and I’d been craving mangoes something serious lately.  Weird combo right?  WRONG!  Some of the most awesome dishes ever created were made out of necessity and from seemingly incompatible ingredients.  And let me tell you, this is definitely one of them!  Aside from the kale and mango, this kale-mango salad only has 3 additional ingredients.  This 5-ingredient, super fast, super cheap and super easy dish is pure deliciousness!  Trust me when I tell you that kale and mangoes definitely play well together.  Did I mention it’s also super nutritious?  Weighing in at only 315 calories, this kale-mango salad packs in 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and 317 miligrams of calcium.  I used this great and totally free food tracking tool called “Food Tracker” created by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to see how close this dish gets me to reaching my daily recommended amount of servings from each food group (I try to eat from all 5 food groups every day).

kale mango salad

Please excuse the blurriness!  Click on the link above to check out Food Tracker and all its cool gadgets.

Next time, I’m going to experiment with some DIY dressing creations to really set this salad off.  But this thang right here, dressing or no dressing, is a new staple and is here to stay.  My kale-mango salad definitely came in the clutch and saved me from a lunch break crisis.  Check out the recipe below, try it out, and tell me what you think!  Let me know what you’d add or how you’d switch it up.  Also, what clutch creations have you come up with lately?

Thrival of the Fittest

Survival of the fittest

We spend our lives working tirelessly trying to survive. Much too often the work we do doesn’t contribute to fulfillment of our being.  For many of us, we are actually drained and find our jobs to be merely a means to an end.  We work to earn the means that would enable us to provide the basic needs of survival: food, water and shelter.  We work hard in this current industrial system trying to sustain life and the irony is that the harder we work, the more we actually drain life in the process.  From the time we’re old enough to start school, we’re fed the “American Dream”.  Go to school, work hard and get a degree.  Get a job, work really, really hard and be successful.  We continue on with our lives trying to follow this formula; however, things don’t seem to be adding up.
People are living longer, but we’re sicker.  Not only are we sicker, we’re unhappier.  Not only are we unhappier, we’re unfulfilled.  Rates of chronic disease and psychosocial challenges like anxiety and depression disproportionately affect people of color and continue to rise at alarming rates. To add more gloom to the forecast, our current generation of kids is projected to be the first generation to have a life expectancy shorter than that of its parents.

Why in a society where technology continues to advance exponentially are we seeing survival of the unfit?  My observation – our current society has created an environment such that the fittest have become unfit.  While adapting to an environment where we spend the majority of our waking hours at work and have less time to explore, experience and enjoy life, we have become stressed out.  While living in an environment where overly-processed food products are more readily available, accessible and affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables,  we have become unhealthier.  While living in an environment where sedentary lifestyles have become the status quo, we have become sicker.  Historically, being unhealthy, stressed and sick lead to a less favorable outcome.  However, with modern western medicine, drugs have contributed to making unfit the new fit from a social ecological standpoint.  We can now live longer with diabetes and heart disease.  We no longer have to exert physical activity to hunt and/or gather food or to build shelter.  Rarely do we currently participate in cultural practices or ceremonies that include dancing or other physical activity.  So while we are all going through this journey called life, I can’t help but ponder a few questions.  Are we really living, or have we evolved to zombies of our true selves?  What if we followed a new formula?  What if we focused our time and energy towards a different kind of work?  What if we invested our time doing things that made us happy and brought us fulfillment?  What if we started looking to some of the old ways of our ancestors for guidance on lifestyles that favor good health?  What if we changed our own personal environments, our thoughts, mentalities, perspectives etc. to change ourselves while still living in a system that doesn’t necessarily favor healthy living?  I believe that once we start acting on finding answers to these questions we will transcend surviving and begin thriving. Furthermore, I believe that instead of adapting to our environment, we can empower ourselves to thrive and our environment will have no choice but to adapt to us and support thrival of the fittest.  I know this is a bit lengthy, but these are just a few of my thoughts.  What do you think?

How I Stay Motivated

You can’t have knowledge without application.

At least that’s what Daddy always told us.  As such, my recipe for success is quite simple…

Knowledge + Application = Success.

However, while simple in theory, putting this equation into practice is far from easy.  There are a few missing variables that separate those that reach their goals from those who don’t – mindset, motivation and consistency.  I believe these three variables are responsible for the disconnect between knowledge and application, and derail even the most determined individuals from succeeding.  If there is one thing alone that can determine the outcome of your efforts, over anything else, it’s your mindset.  “If you believe it, you can achieve it”…”Thoughts become feelings, and feelings become things”…”Confidence is key”…”Have a can-do attitude” – are all adages we’ve all heard at some point in our lives, and for good reason.  They’re all true!  I know this from personal experience (definitely more on this later).  Consistency is also a very important factor.  Consistency, or the lack thereof in my case, was a huge roadblock in my path to health and wellness (more on this too).  In order to be consistent, you have to have constant motivation.  Of course, easier said that done.  So how do I stay motivated?  I wanted to share a few healthy habits that I’m trying to incorporate into my healthy lifestyle and I must say, they have kept my motivation tank full this past week.  So here goes…

Since I'm either on campus all day or out traveling to elementary schools conducting SNAP-Ed lessons, I'm always eating on the go.  I control what I eat (and save money) by packing my food for the day.  I try to eat about six small meals/snacks a day so what you see here is an example of what I eat in a day (during the week) minus breakfast and my last meal - grapes and string cheese, apple and cashews, sloppy joe, salad w/ a Kashi bar.  I also try to combine protein and carbs at each meal.

Since I’m either on campus all day or out traveling to elementary schools conducting SNAP-Ed lessons, I’m always eating on the go. I control what I eat (and save money) by packing my food for the day. I try to eat about six small meals/snacks a day so what you see here is an example of what I eat in a weekday minus breakfast and my last meal — grapes and string cheese, apple and cashews, sloppy joe, salad w/ a Kashi bar. I also try to combine protein and carbs at each meal.

I like to pack my gym bag for the week, even though I don't necessarily need it.  Even if I don't go straight to the gym (or go to the gym at all), having my gym clothes ready gives me added motivation to work out.  I already know what I'm going to wear so it takes away the excuse of me "not having enough time to get ready".  It's also easier to talk myself into working out.  I find myself saying "You already have your clothes set out, you might as well just put them on."

I like to pack my gym bag for the week, even though I don’t necessarily need it. Even if I don’t go straight to the gym (or go to the gym at all and just work out at home), having my gym clothes ready gives me added motivation to work out. I already know what I’m going to wear so it takes away the excuse of me “not having enough time to get ready”. It’s also easier to talk myself into working out. I find myself saying “You already have your clothes set out, you might as well just put them on.”  Then once they’re on, I’m good to go!

The major motivator for this week...having an "accountabili-buddy".  Having a workout partner adds some accountability and makes you less likely to skip out on a workout.  It's easy for me to talk myself out of a workout, but not if it means letting someone else down.  My "accountabilil-buddies" are my dad and my big sis.  We have daddy-daughter gym dates at least 4 times a week.  By the way, dads = awesome personal trainers ;)

The major motivator for this week…having an “accountabili-buddy”. Having a workout partner adds some accountability and makes you less likely to skip out on a workout. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of a workout, but not if it means letting someone else down. My “accountabilil-buddies” are my dad and my big sis. We have daddy-daughter gym dates at least 4 times a week. By the way, dads = awesome personal trainers 😉

Take home message on staying motivated:

Be proactive, plan and find a workout partner.

What’s In Your Pantry? (Grocery Haul)

I must admit.  I like to stay up on my fair share of gossip like who’s dating who, and who’s  wearing what, but I’m also very much interested in who’s eating what.  I believe you can tell a lot about a person by what they eat.  We all know there’s a huge cultural component associated with food, but I also believe that there is much to learn about one’s personality based on their food preference and choices.  Just like with fashion, we see fads come and go, high priced, brand name products, and food trends. Our interaction with food is a huge form of self-expression.

Now that you have a glimpse into my obsession with food, let me open the door just a little bit more…I absolutely love checking out people’s social media posts about the different foods they’ve discovered and meals they’ve experienced.  I’m also always interested in seeing how people manage and maintain healthy eating habits – how they shop, how they store food, how they prepare/cook food – so that I can pick up some new tricks of the trade.  I figured if I’m this intrigued about what kind of foods people are buying and eating there has to be at least one other person on this earth that would be interested also.  Hence, my grocery haul.

I had a great shopping/prepping/cooking routine while I was living on my own, however moving back in with my parents has presented some challenges.  The biggest one being limited storage space.  While on my own, I would pretty much do my shopping on Saturday and batch cooking for the week on Sunday.  It took some discipline but it made life so much easier.  Not to mention, I saved so much money from not eating out.  Well now that I am a broke college student, time and money have become even bigger challenges.  Swearing off Ramen noodles and Easy Mac, one challenge that I currently set for myself is finding an eating routine that’s convenient, easy on my pockets and of course, healthy.

That being said, today I did my shopping at Walmart and Safeway.  The total damage done was $70.28.  That may sound like a lot initially, but it’s cheaper than grabbing breakfast, snacks and lunch on the go everyday.  Also, I anticipate some of the items lasting longer than a week (grapes, bread, honey – for sure).  Check out the pictures below to see what I got!

As of late, I try to shop in food groups.

From top left to bottom right: fruits & veggies, protein, whole grains, dairy.

Miscellaneous items:  toasted coconut chips, apple chips and honey.

Miscellaneous items: toasted coconut chips, apple chips and honey.

I got all this for $70.28!  One meal I plan to make quite frequently is the turkey wrap (seen above).  One of my favorite snacks - post work-out, late-night, or whenever - is apple slices and peanut butter.

I got all this for $70.28! One meal I plan to make quite frequently is the turkey wrap (seen above). One of my favorite snacks – post work-out, late-night, or whenever – is apple slices and peanut butter.

What are some of your healthy shopping / food prep habits?  You know I’d love to hear about them!

Pursuing My Passion

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On student panel of “Future Health Care Providers” episode of Health Matters sharing why I chose to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Being a late adopter and falling on the lower end of the technologically savvy spectrum, I never thought I would be able to start my own blog and admired those who did.  I have always been intimidated by technology.  Combine that with a fear of failure and what do you get?… paralysis, repression and stagnation.  Almost 2 years ago I made the decision to give up my steady paycheck, benefits and my cushy apartment to once again become a broke college student and move back in with my parents, but most importantly to follow my dream of becoming a registered dietitian.  To find out why, click here to watch (start at 5:39).  Making such a drastic life change at 24 years old, I thought “this would be a perfect time to start a blog” and I wrote my first blog entry ever (click here read it).  Unfortunately, that was my first and only blog entry until eight months later.  And guess what happened after I wrote my second entry?  If you said nothing, you guessed it!  That became my second and last blog entry – until now.  I got so lost and caught up in the chaos of life that I wasn’t living (that’s a whole other story for another time).  Fast forward, now I’m preparing to finish my didactic program in dietetics this May, and I will eventually complete my dietetic internship and sit for and pass the National Registration Exam (yes, I’m putting it in the universe – law of attraction, anyone?).  Someone who has been very influential in my life told me the journey is just as important as the destination.  So now that you know where I’m headed, you probably already guessed that this blog will be about my journey.  I plan to encounter self-expression, self-discovery and growth along the way.  Care to join me?