“How I Became Happy and Healthy”- The 10 Lessons I Learned During My Health Journey

17 Jul
Version 4

About The Author: Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member of the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall, I will hopefully be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be attending law school to study Environmental Policy and Law. Outside of academics, I enjoy practicing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

Hi Everyone! Like many others, living a life that promotes both physical and mental health is a top priority, which is why I have spent the past year discovering different strategies that keep me healthy from the inside out. These 10 themes I learned are based off my personal experience, but anyone can apply these topics to their lives regardless of where they are! Each of these tips falls into one of three categories: nutrition, exercise, and mental health. So here are the top 10 lessons I learned while on the path of living a physically and mentally healthy life 🙂

1.    Fuel your body with the proper nutrients!

healhtyeatEating nutrient dense foods is the first step to becoming your healthiest self! A plant-based/vegan diet has all the necessary nutrients your body needs to become strong, toned, and healthy! Consuming our essential macro nutrients (Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat) in whole  plant foods will leave you feeling energized and nourished.

Proteins= The building blocks to our bodies! Proteins make up the structure and function of our tissues which is very important when building muscle! It is extremely easy for vegans to not only consume enough protein for their body’s everyday-function, but also to consume enough to build and maintain muscle mass. My go-to protein providers are quinoa, buckwheat, beans, chickpeas, tofu, and Evolve plant protein powder (it’s so good)! Don’t forget that all plants have protein so don’t worry about not getting enough! Here is an awesome piece about plant-based protein!

Carbohydrates= Energy! All fruits and vegetables have carbs in them which our bodies use to create glucose. Glucose is the sugar that gets used for energy immediately or stored for later. Not only do out bodies need glucose, but so do our brains! With the bad rap carbs get, it’s important to understand that in order to be a functioning, healthy human we need to consume carbohydrates. My favorite complex carb-dense foods are bananas, sweet potatoes, lentil pastas, brown rice noodles, and home-made treats!

Fats= Absorption! It is essential to have healthy sources of fat in your meals so your body can absorb and receive the benefits of all the nourishing vitamins from whole foods! Healthy fats also help you feel satisfied, satiated and can curve cravings. I like to get my servings of fat from avocados, coconut oil, nuts, vegan chocolate, and almond butter!

2.    The timing of your food matters!

nourish bodyNot only is it extremely important to eat the right types of food to be healthy, but it is also important to know when to eat specific foods!

If you have a day packed with activity like walking a long distance, a tough workout, or a race to run, you’ll want to prep your body with a carb-dense meal. Leading off your most energy-expending activity of the day with a substantial, carb based meal will guarantee that you will have a steady flow of energy throughout!

One of the most crucial steps to being fit is making sure you are providing your body with enough protein to gain and retain muscle mass. After an activity where you are exerting large amounts of energy from your muscles (lifting weights, HIIT sessions, long cardio sessions, a challenging hike, etc.), consuming 20-40grams of protein will give your body all the necessary amino acids to repair, maintain, and increase the muscle tissue!

3.    Discover the type of training that works the best for your body!

There are endless benefits to exercise that leads to a healthier body and mind; so in order to be your healthiest and fittest self, finding a workout routine that you love, gets you results, and is sustainable, are key pieces! Whether your goal is to gain muscle, lose body fat, gain speed and endurance, or just to be active overall, there is a style of training that will help you get there. Everyone’s body and goals are different, so find a style of training that makes you the happiest and healthiest!

After trial and error periods, I have found that a routine centered around explosive and body weight exercises consistently gets me to my goals! My workouts always involve exercises that require more than one muscle group like jump squats, push-up-burpees (aka death), walking lunges, and commandos. These are just a few exercises that get my heart pumping and leave me dripping in sweat! Despite the fact that I sometimes think I am going to collapse during a difficult workout, this type of training is what I enjoy, what is sustainable for me, what pushes me, and what keeps me fit!

4.    Find your motivation!

We can’t forget that it takes hard work, discipline, and patience to be the healthiest version of yourself! Ask yourself why you want to commit to this journey. Is it because you’ve played sports or been active your whole life and want to continue? Is it to be confident and completely comfortable with how you look? Is it to get stronger? Leaner? Faster? Do you want to feel your best and be energized? Is it all of the above? Whatever your reason is, find what motivates and inspires you to put in the effort even when you don’t want to! My recommendation is to try to find a mentor or role model that reflects your goals in a healthy and safe way (I have listed my personal favorites at the end). There are so many amazing young men and women that share their fitness and health journeys that provide the opportunity for anyone to follow so find someone who you trust and look up to!

5.    Develop a Healthy Mindset

There is an extreme amount of pressure put on both young men and women to look a certain way, for women to be “thin” yet “curvy” and men to have the “triangle” shape with broad shoulders and a six-pack. These difficult expectations are not only promoted through advertising campaigns but also found through different social media platforms. It is challenging for young men and women to avoid comparing themselves to these unrealistic standards. With the constant pressure to look a certain way, it is crucial that you retain a healthy mindset regarding yourself, your food, and your workouts!

body careI have experienced first hand of what an unhealthy mindset looks like; I counted calories, restricted myself, counter-acted any “slip-ups” with 2 hour long workouts, and sometimes I would even go to the gym twice a day. But the unhealthiest part during this time was that I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself to be this impossibly “perfect” person. After much needed self reflection, I decided that I was no longer going to sacrifice my health and happiness to meet these expectations. I now look at my health and fitness journey with these 3 attitudes.

View food as your friend, not your enemy! Nutritious, whole foods are the necessary support to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Nutrient dense plant foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and grains will be your allies in being your fittest self! When you do decide to indulge in your choice of “junk food”, try to remember that having a vegan doughnut (my go-to) or a vegan double-cheeseburger is not going to ruin your progress or require you to spend 3 hours at the gym the next day. Don’t be hard on yourself if you “treat yo-self” once in a while!

View your exercise and workouts as a time to make progress toward your fitness goals, not a counter to not-so-healthy choices! Viewing exercise as a time for yourself and a way to increase your strength, speed, endurance, and overall health leads to a healthier mindset. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day of exercise! Our bodies require time to recover so don’t force yourself through a workout if you’re sore or if you aren’t up for a gym session! Listening to what our bodies are saying will lead to a healthier self inside and out!

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. We tend to be the biggest and toughest critics of ourselves so it is crucial that we maintain a healthy mindset towards what we see in the mirror. Understanding that people see you differently than you see yourself can switch your self-criticism to self-acceptance. No one is going to notice that pimple on your forehead, that you’re a little bloated today, or whatever insecurity is on your mind. Positive self-talk is so important for your happiness and self esteem, so expressing gratitude and appreciation towards how amazing your body is and everything it does will help you feel confident throughout your journey!

These last few lessons I learned are concepts that I follow in order to be in-tune with myself and my happiness!

6.    Don’t forget about your passions!

Each of us has small passions that provide a way to express our creativity and ideas! When we’re trying to keep up with the pace and demands of our lives, sometimes it can be easy for us to forget about our little hobbies that make us happy. Whether you love to create art, build things, take photos, make fire mix-tapes, write poems, watch old movies, whatever it is, just do it! Carving out the time to do something that you love enhances your individuality and will leave you feeling accomplished, content, and proud of who you are. Your passions are what make you, you!

7.    Put yourself first!

This might sound selfish but hear me out. I believe that taking the time to provide space for yourself to decompress and do what is best for yourself benefits not only you, but others. Putting yourself first dedicates the time and mental room to ground and recharge yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or a little off! If you take the time to support yourself, love yourself, and understand yourself, you then can support others, love others, and understand others!

8.    Learn how to be alone

The wise lyrics of Lil’Boosie and Lil’Phat, “I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, do you know what that mean mayne?”, asks an important question of the meaning of independence. Being independent doesn’t just apply to your ability to support yourself, it also applies to your emotional and mental independence! There will be times in our lives we won’t have our family and friends surrounding us; maybe we are away at school, or we moved to a different city. Whatever the reason, eventually we will need to learn how to be alone. Spending significant time by yourself allows you to really think about who you are and who you want to be. I am not saying spend a month in solitude just to figure out where you want to go to college, but being alone can lead you to your own conclusions and decisions without outside influence! Spending time in your own company will inevitably create a strong support system for yourself and solid coping skills that will be necessary when making big decisions and struggling with conflict.

9.    Allow room for growth

grothEveryday we are presented with both big and small trials and decisions whether they relate to our careers, home life, school work, or health! These areas of our lives offer the opportunity for us to challenge and push ourselves outside our comfort zones. This final push over the threshold of comfort is where we find the most growth! It may be challenging, uncomfortable, nerve-racking, and even a little scary to challenge ourselves to keep growing in different areas of our lives, but the outcome of our progression is completely worth it. We all have dreams and goals we wish to reach and achieve and its our job to push ourselves to be the best we can be!

10.    Take one step at a time

Life is hard. We get dealt hands we don’t want and we get thrown curve balls we don’t expect. Sometimes we have to adjust our lives, plans, and dreams in order to accommodate our new situations. It may seem overwhelming and daunting when trying to become the person you want to be; but I promise if you just take one step at a time, soon you will be able to look back and see how far you have come!  It doesn’t matter what you are facing; it could be the start of your fitness journey, a mental health situation, relationship problems, uncertainty about your future, whatever it is we’ve probably all experienced it. Just keep moving towards your end goal and I promise that you will make it out on the other side stronger and wiser!

I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read this piece; I hope I could provide beneficial advice and a helpful point of view!

Here are links to just a few individuals who inspire me to continue on the path of healthy living!

Tess Begg – Both a fitness and vegan inspiration! Tess has delicious recipes and great workouts!

Sarah’s Day – My go-to girl for great workout routines and exercise plans! **Disclaimer: I do not agree with or promote Sarah’s food choices, I only recommend her workouts!**

Hanna ❤

Connect With Hanna!



A “Night Owl’s” Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep!

10 Jul
Version 4

About The Author: Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member of the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall, I will hopefully be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be attending law school to study Environmental Policy and Law. Outside of academics, I enjoy practicing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

Now that I am in my 20’s, I have noticed that my “peak” and “prime” hours seem to be between 7pm-1am. This is great if I have a massive exam to study for or a 10 page paper to crank out during the school year, but on a regular night? No thank you! I, like many others, take my sleep very seriously. I value those necessary and precious 8 hours, but because of this nocturnal schedule I have fallen victim to the dreaded sleepless-night! Tossing and turning, flipping the pillow to the cool side, and switching positions 50 times, a restless night can be extremely frustrating and detrimental to our health. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, I believe that if we break down our night-time routine into steps that concentrate on decompressing our minds and bodies, even the most stubborn night owls can sleep soundly.

Lets Start With Our Senses!

  1. Sight

My Himalayan Salt Lamp! I use it every night.

My first tip is probably the most obvious, turn down the amount of light intake an hour before you tuck yourself in! How are we supposed to fall asleep if every source of light (including screens) is on in our house? An hour before bed, start shutting off the big, aggressive lights and turn to lamps or candles to provide light. My favorite light source in my bedroom is the combination of my mineral salt lamp and 2-3 candles. A mineral salt lamp is perfect because of it’s warm glow that is soft on tired eyes while providing enough light for you to finish your final tasks. So light a few candles and create some night time ambiance!



My favorite “positive thoughts” book!

We live in an age that allows us to be connected 24/7. As a result, it is easy to get into the habit of laying in bed, jumping from app to app until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. I have frequently fallen asleep with my phone in my hand, so I have now traded in my phone screen for a book to break this habit.

Not only is falling asleep with a phone a bad habit, but it can also do some damage. When the wavelength of blue light from the screens of our phones and TVs hits the sensitive cells in our eyes, a signal gets sent to our brains to stop the production of melatonin, the essential hormone for sleep. Without the release of melatonin, we can’t catch those precious “z’s”.

I have found that by shutting down my phone and reading one of my books for at least 20 minutes reduces the strain on my eyes. By the time I am ready to close my eyes, I’m not staring at my ceiling as a result of the blue light, or rolling over onto my phone because I’ve passed out mid-scroll. Free-read novels are great for bed, but I also strongly recommend a book of positive mantras and thoughts before you fall asleep. Your True Home by spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, is full of wise and thoughtful excerpts that will speak to the heart!

2. Sound

One of my favorite things to do is to play chill easy music while I am getting ready to go to bed. Playing soft music enhances and ties together the easy zen environment. Some of my favorite Spotify playlists consist of “Evening Chill”, “Relax and Unwind”, “Rainy Day”, and my playlists that I have put together on my Spotify. Your music choice really does affect your mood, so choose your playlist with relaxation in mind!

3. Scent

Certain scents have effects on us, and when it comes to relaxation  lavender gets the job done. I use this dreamy scent in so many different ways (honestly, I probably go a little overboard, but sometimes you need to go to great lengths for good sleep). Lavender essential oil is great because it’s uses are extremely versatile! My go to uses are direct application and a diluted spray. To guarantee  that I am receiving the benefits from this essential oil I put a few drops on the inside of wrists and my neck as soon as I crawl into bed. If I don’t want the oil directly on my skin, I take a small spray bottle and fill it with water and about 8 drops of lavender essential oil. I use this spray to mist my pillows and bedding with liquid directly from the sleep gods. By the time you crawl under your covers, you’re tucked away in a lavender cocoon.


My go-to body lavender body lotion and essential oil!

Some other common ways to use lavender are in candles and body lotions. I mentioned earlier that candles are a great way to reduce harsh light, but the scent of those said candles matters. Lighting a lavender scented candle transforms your entire space into a haven for relaxation. Using a lavender body lotion such as “Dream Cream” by LUSH (my go-to), encapsulates your body with the pleasant scent. The scent of lavender no doubt creates a lovely environment for you to decompress and relax in!

4. Taste

My newest habit that promotes a good night’s rest is a cup of hot tea. Search no more I have found the holy grail sleep tea, tulsi tea. Tulsi is the Eastern Indian herb, Holy Basil. Holy Basil is a natural hormone balancer which means that if you have high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), consuming holy basil will help your hormones balance back into equilibrium which leads to relaxation. This tea is not only great for people who have a hard time falling asleep but also for people who have trouble staying asleep.


My favorite tulsi tea right now!

Bold statement, but I truly believe that this herb has changed my life. A few weeks ago, I was waking up at 2:30am every night, unable to fall asleep until 4:30am (I cannot even describe how frustrating this was). After some research, my theory was that between the hours of 1am and 4am, my blood sugar levels were dropping leading to the spike of cortisol resulting in me waking up wide eyed and bushy tailed at 2am. So I decided to make some changes in the timing of certain foods to see if my blood sugar levels would be altered. I found that my perfect formula is as follows: large amounts of fruit consumed only before noon, a handful of pumpkin seeds or spoonful of almond butter after dinner, and a cup of tusli tea before bed. Night one of this formula resulted in immediate positive change of sleeping soundly through the night! By tweaking just a few things in my diet and adding tulsi tea, my body has found the perfect balance for a good night’s sleep. I highly encourage you look at your diet before turning to medication/supplements for restless nights!

5. Touch

This one is easy! Put on your softest pajamas and crawl into your softest bedding to create a “fluffy cloud” experience.

Now that we have covered all the senses, here are some other tips!

Focusing on the Body and the Breath

Stretch It Out!

If you have had a particular stressful day, I suggest setting some time aside to focus on releasing tension in your body through some light stretching or a gentle yoga sequence. Our bodies hold our emotions and stresses mostly in our shoulders, neck, and back so taking 20 minutes to gently stretch out these tight muscles can greatly increase your body’s ability to surrender into sleep! Gentle stretching and calming yoga sequences allow you to tune into your body and let go of the day’s troubles. My go-to sequence is the basic sun salutation because it is easy to follow and allows different opportunities for all the major muscle groups to be addressed!

sun sal

Just Breathe

breathIf anything from this piece sticks with you, please let it be this last point: the greatest sleep tool at your disposal is your breath. We all have the ability to slow down and switch our focus just by tapping into our breath. Breathing deep has endless benefits including the increase of oxygen levels in both the brain and muscles, the decrease in the production of stress hormones, the release of tension, the lowering of blood pressure, and a focal point for your mind. These are just a few impacts of deep breathing that can affect your precious sleep! With your mind focused on your inhales and exhales, you transfer your concentration from your thoughts to your breathing pattern. I cannot even tell you how many times I have been laying in bed unable to fall asleep when suddenly I remember to breathe deeply and before I knew it I was drifting asleep (pro tip: to keep your attention on your breath, count your inhales and exhales). Our breath is extremely powerful so use it to your advantage!

I hope this post has helped in anyway! Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this. Sweet Dreams!

Connect With Hanna’s Instagram

Hanna ❤

Top 10 Pieces of Advice When Becoming a Vegan!

5 Jul


Version 4

About The Author: Hi! My name is Hanna and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member on the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall I will hopefully be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be writing on the topic of the environment or attending law school to study environmental policy. Outside of academics, I enjoy practicing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time finding new plant-based recipes and learning more about the vegan lifestyle.

Hi Everyone! Depending on your starting point, becoming a vegan may involve some transition and change. Sometimes when we are making a change, no matter how big or small, we can feel overwhelmed, clueless, and maybe a little nervous! Fear not, being a vegan is one of the best choices you can make for yourself. I have put together my top 10 pieces of advice for anyone who is trying to go vegan, is a vegan, or just curious about veganism!

1. Change Your Mindset

Remember that being vegan is a lifestyle choice, not a diet. Yes, your “diet” consists of all plant-based foods but veganism stretches further than that. Chances are once you embody this lifestyle, you won’t want to go back.

vega picStart looking at your food with new lenses. Break down what exactly you are consuming into separate ingredients rather than the final product. That non-vegan cookie you’re debating on? That isn’t just a cookie, it contains many different ingredients including eggs and dairy. Try to then connect these non-vegan ingredients to larger ideas like your health and ethics. Practicing this break down helps you make the connection from your food to veganism and creates a bigger picture for you to see that your choices do matter.

2. Tap Into Your Creativity, and Eat the Rainbow


Here is my go-to! Base: Banana “nice-cream” w/ vegan chocolate protein powder (The brand I use is “Evolve”, absolutely delicious!) Toppings: Banana, raspberries, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, cocoa nibs, chia seeds, and hemp seeds

Start embracing the saying, “Make your plate colorful” and eat the foods that make you beautiful from the inside out. Pack your meals with fruits and vegetables that are not only rich in color, but also rich in nutrients!

One of my favorite things to do is to decorate a breakfast bowl for myself in the morning! I use either banana “nice-cream”, acai, or coconut milk yogurt as my base and then use all different types of toppings to create a beautiful design! Taking the time to do this for myself allows me to appreciate the natural beauty and the beauty that we can create eating a plant-based diet. It’s very therapeutic 🙂

3.Use Replacements to Hold Your Hand

When I was first transitioning to a plant-based diet, I used replacements for my “comfort foods” which helped adjust to the new lifestyle. I frequently ate pre-made veggie burgers, veggie-dogs, vegan mac-n-cheese, vegan cookies, basically anything in the grocery store that had “Vegan” on the label! There are vegan options for pretty much everything so chances are you won’t have a hard time finding exactly what you want!

Using vegan replacements for the foods that you are used to eating can help introduce you to all plant-based foods without bringing you out of your comfort zone too much! But remember, whole and unprocessed foods are better for you than pre-packaged foods so don’t depend on these replacements for your main nutrient source!

4.Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

This tip applies to living your vegan life outside your home. I will be the first to admit that when I was first becoming vegan I would turn to my mom if we were out to dinner and say “Mom, can you please ask the waiter/waitress if *item on menu* has dairy in it?”. I quickly had to get over my fear of inconveniencing people with my questions and dietary choices. Now if I am unsure about a food or drink item on the menu I have no problem asking all the necessary questions in order for me to know exactly what I am consuming. At the end of the day sticking to my morals and values trumps me being too much of a baby to ask questions!

5.Create New Norms

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Here is a picture with one of my new norms, I wasn’t kidding about the bananas!

Before I was vegan, I never thought that having 2 sweet potatoes as the main portion of my dinner was “normal”. I definitely never thought that walking into Whole Foods once a week asking for one 40lb box of bananas to fuel me would be a part of my weekly routine (yes, I basically just shared with you that I consume 40lbs worth of bananas per week). But these are are just two examples of what is “normal” to me since becoming vegan.

When you become vegan, you will find what works best for you and create new norms for yourself. These norms might seem strange or extreme to other people or even to you at first but remember that you are fueling your body. So embrace your new norms!

6.Become a Student Again

Just like anything new in life, becoming a vegan and being a vegan is a constant learning process. You are learning how to view your food differently, how to eat differently, cook differently, how to grocery shop differently, and how to eat out differently. Bold statement, but I would honestly say I learn something new relating to being vegan every few days. We only get one body in this life, and it is our responsiblity to do what is best for it, which is why I love learning about plant-based nutrition!

Resources, resources, resources! When I was first exposing myself to veganism, I used almost every tool at my disposal. I watched a crazy amount of YouTube videos, lectures, and talks, followed several vegans on Instagram, searched “veganism” on Pinterest, and used google search almost everyday (I linked some of my favorite pieces at the end!). We live in a period where information is at our fingertips, so take advantage of the inter-9webs and get ready to absorb the knowledge!

7.Be Patient

The biggest advice I can give you regarding the mental aspect of going vegan is being patient. Be patient with veganism, be patient with your loved ones and their acceptance, and most importantly be patient with yourself.

vegvegvegEveryone’s vegan story is different. Some people take a few days to transition, a few months, a few years, and for some it is an overnight change.

For me, it took be about a year to be ready to commit. Summer of 2015, I watched YouTube videos almost everyday of girls my age from around the world of what they eat in a day being vegan, why they went vegan, vegan grocery hauls, and vegan recipes. Because it was a big change to my previous diet (standard American) I personally needed as many facts, exposure, and real world examples, and experiences that I could visually consume before I made the change. I started small, making small replacements of everyday foods, and choosing the vegan friendly option when convenient. Then, March of 2016 I decided to cut all meat out of my diet. Because I was away at college, I decided that as soon as I came home from school for the summer I would go full vegan. So summer 2016 is when I officially went plant-based, that is one full year after my first initial thought of going vegan.

Once I went vegan it took me about a month and a half for my body to adjust to my new diet. After that time period I no longer craved meat, dairy, or eggs and instead craved sweet potatoes, avocado toast, and of course, bananas. I had to learn to be patient with my body, after all, I had 19 years of certain foods to get out of my system.

Was I perfect through this transition? Absolutely not! I am human after all. When I did slip up I tried not to be hard on myself and move on while keeping my eye on the end goal of being fully plant-based.

8.Listen to Your Body

After exposing yourself to the vegan lifestyle you will most likely come across all the different “types” of vegans. Some common vegan diets are raw-until-4pm, raw, and as-long-as-it-doesn’t-involve-animals. Regardless if you follow one of these diets, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel because what works for one person might not work for you. Maybe your body thrives off of eating different types of melon in the morning, or oatmeal, or a massive green smoothie, or 6 bananas like me; whatever it is, experiment with what you thrive off of!

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset

Listening to your body includes intuitive eating which involves the practice of labeling your cravings. Our bodies need three macro-nutrients for fuel: fat, protein, and carbs. When we get a craving, that is our body telling our brain that we need one of these nutrients! Say you are craving a big bowl of ice cream (vegan of course), that is probably your body saying “I want some fat!”. So instead of reaching for that cashew milk ice cream, maybe reach for a healthier option like an avocado or almond butter which are both high in healthy fats! Taking that second to break down what you are craving into the necessary macro nutrients instead of the individual food gives you that space to really listen to your body and choose the healthiest option for yourself.

9.Block Out the Haters

leovegan memeEveryone knows the vegan joke, “Oh you’ll know if someone is a vegan because they’ll tell you”, or the stigma that all vegans are crazy, hippie, peta-preaching, extremists who live off lettuce. I don’t know about you, but all the vegans that I know are extremely kind, compassionate, and intelligent people who would gladly have a civil conversation about veganism if asked. Some people just have this “image” of who can be a vegan when in reality veganism is all inclusive.

When sharing your new lifestyle of being vegan, you will find that you get reactions that can probably fit into these 3 categories: positive, stereotypical, and just straight up uncomfortable.

Positive: These reactions are the easiest. The most frequent ones I have come across is something along the lines of “Oh, that’s cool!”, “How long have you been vegan?”, “What made you go vegan?”, “Do you feel different?”, and “What do you eat?”

Stereotypical: These are the ones that may make you internally eye-roll. These reactions are usually “Where do you get your protein?”, “Don’t you miss bacon?”, “Oh, I love cheese too much”. The stereotypical reactions almost always end in, “I could NEVER be a vegan.” to which I reply “Hey, I grew up with ground beef on taco Tuesday, pizza on Friday, and steak-dinner on Sundays. If I can do it, you can do it”.

Uncomfortable: This type is my favorite! These reactions seem to happen when the person has no idea how to react to you being vegan. The most awkward reaction I’ve gotten is when I was out to lunch with my ex-boyfriend and his grandparents and shared with them that I was now vegan. His grandmother ordered steak tacos and I kid you not, offered to build a wall between me and her tacos with menus from the restaurant. I appreciated her thoughtfulness and said that building a wall wouldn’t be necessary.

Chances are you have experienced, or you will experience each of these reactions. My advice is just to laugh off the uncomfortable ones and let go of the negative ones because unfortunately someone will always be judging you. Just like every other decision you make, there will probably be someone that disagrees with you being or going vegan. At the end of the day, being vegan means that you are choosing to live your life with compassion and health. If someone has a problem with that, that is on them and not you.

10.Discover the Purpose

why vWhen I first went vegan, I did it for myself. I was drawn to veganism for the health. Now, when someone asks me “Why are you vegan?” I say, “I am vegan for everything”. The more you expose yourself to the lifestyle, the more you will learn that being vegan isn’t just about you, its about the preservation of life. Every choice we make has an impact, whether we see it first hand or not. Being vegan impacts your health, the animals, the agriculture system, the oceans, society, world hunger, the environment, and our home Mother Earth. Being vegan is not just a plant-based diet, it is a moral choice.

We all have a chance to make a difference in this world. The question should not be “Why go vegan?”, the question should be “Why Not?”

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I hope that I could help you in some way! Listed below are some of my favorite pieces that helped me go vegan!

From “Excuse-itarian” to Vegan- Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

101 Reasons to go Vegan

Nutrition Facts

There are extremely eye opening and thought provoking documentaries that also played a huge role in my decision to go vegan (“Meet Your Meat”, “Earthlings”, “Forks Over Knives”, “Cowspiracy”).

Hanna’s Instagram

Hanna ❤

The Best Sweet Potato-Black Bean Burgers

22 Jun


Version 4About the Author: Hi! My name is Hanna Malzenski and I am a Junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with a Sustainability Certificate. At the University of Iowa, I am a member on the public relations team of my sorority and starting in the fall I will be writing for Iowa’s school newspaper, The Daily Iowan. After graduating from Iowa, I hope to be writing on the topic of the environment or attending law school to study environmental policy. Outside of academics, I enjoy instructing yoga and channeling my creativity through different forms of art. Being a vegan for over a year, I am frequently spending my free time finding new plant-based recipes and learning more about the vegan lifestyle. Hanna’s Instagram

These patties cover all the bases: vegan, gluten-free, protein packed, low fat, and low sodium! They are great because their two main ingredients, sweet potatoes and black beans, are nutrient dense foods that fuel your body and provide you with tons of energy! Not only is this dish super yummy but it is also extremely versatile! You can serve these patties by themselves, as a burger, in a veggie bowl, or as a snack! One last thing before you get started, these burgers, hot or cold, are also delicious as leftovers because all of the flavors soak and blend together well!


3 Large Sweet Potatoes

~27 oz. of Black Beans (About 2 medium cans),6B0F0C7B-E8B6-4AE6-841B-C5265E70AFCF

drained and rinsed

2 cups of Gluten-Free Rolled Oats

2-4 Chipotle Chilies soaked in adobo sauce,

finely chopped

2 tbsp. of adobo sauce (from chipotle chili can)

2 tsp. of garlic powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tbsp. of coconut oil (for frying the patties)


Pre-heat oven to 400’. Rinse, clean, and poke holes in the sweet potatoes; cook for 40-50 minutes. Check softness of potatoes using a fork. If potatoes are still hard, cook until soft using 5 min intervals.

In a large bowl, combine oats, black beans, chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, cumin, and garlic powder. Use a fork to smash beans while mixing.

Scoop out sweet potatoes and mix in with other ingredients. Once evenly mixed, shape mixture into patties.

Heat coconut oil in a skillet and cook 2-3 patties at a time, 10 minutes on each side for crispiness.

Store any leftovers in your refrigerator and most importantly, enjoy!!

Hanna Malzenski ❤

Top 15 Podcasts I am Hooked On Right Now

5 Jun


I LOooooVvvvvvEeeee ❤ ❤ learning, and that is a huge understatement! I am unceasingly asking questions, and feel the constant desire to better myself, my relationships and the world around me. If you see me out and about walking my dogs, for example, you will almost always see me with my earbuds in listening to an audiobook or podcast. I aim to read/listen to 2 books a month, and listen to minimum of 2 podcasts a day. I have probably even watched every educational documentary on Netflix! So, if you are curious like me, then do yourself a favor and check out these podcasts ASAP! 🙂 These are in no particular order of preference. All of these except #9 can be found on the stitcher radio app or iTunes.


  1. Bulletproof Radio: This podcast distills the knowledge of world-class MDs, biochemists, Olympic nutritionists, meditation experts, and more than $250,000 spent on personal self-experiments. From private brain EEG facilities hidden in a Canadian forest to remote monasteries in Tibet, from Silicon Valley to the Andes, high tech entrepreneur Dave Asprey used hacking techniques and tried everything himself, obsessively focused on discovering: What are the simplest things you can do to be better at everything?
  2. Invisibilia: is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.
  3. Big Picture Science: is a podcast that engages the public with modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling.
  4. Rich Roll Podcast: Each week Rich delves deep into all things wellness with some of the brightest and most forward thinking, paradigm busting minds in health, fitness, nutrition, art, entertainment, entrepreneurship & spirituality. This podcast highlights intimate, deep and often intense conversations designed to provoke, educate, inspire and empower you to discover, uncover, unlock your most authentic self.
  5. The Minimalists Podcast: How might your life be better with less?
  6. The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast: This podcast includes fitness, nutrition, health, diet, wellness, workout, exercise, triathlon, Ironman, swimming, cycling, running, weight lifting, bodybuilding, Crossfit, Paleo, Spartan, vegan, vegetarian, muscle gain and fat loss advice from America’s top personal trainer.
  7. Sex with Emily Podcast: Dr. Emily Morse is a sex and relationship expert dedicated to educating people to achieve the sex and relationships they desire in order to maintain happiness and longevity.
  8. The Tim Ferris Show: In this show, Tim deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.
  9. Where Should I Begin with Esther Perel: (New series on audible channels, the audible app): The acclaimed therapist and TED speaker, Esther Perel, opens her office door to let you listen in as she counsels real couples. 
  10. Multiamory: is a podcast about out-of-the-box ideas to deepen current relationships, broaden sexual horizons, developing a better understanding of yourself, and provides awareness and education about the ethical practice of non-monogamy. Insights come from research and years of personal experience with polyamory, but the information found here is useful for people in any type of relationship. Whether you are poly, considering diving into it, or just looking to have better monogamous relationships, their tips and ideas will help you to have the healthiest, happiest dating life possible.
  11. The School of Greatness: Lewis Howes is a NYT bestselling author, lifestyle entrepreneur, former pro athlete and world record holder in football. The goal of the School of Greatness is to share inspiring stories from the most brilliant business minds, world class athletes and influential celebrities on the planet to help you find out what makes great people great.
  12. Sword and Scale: This true-crime podcast is an immersive audio experience covering the underworld of criminal activity and the demented minds that perform the most despicable and unthinkable actions, proving that the worst monsters are very real. They cover true-crime stories, high-profile trials, unsolved murders and missing persons cases.
  13. Mastering Nutrition: Chris Masterjohn, who has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences, explains complex science and puts it into new, practical ideas that you can use to help yourself on your journey to vibrant health. This show allows you to master the science of nutrition and apply it to your own life.
  14. Risk! : Take a walk on the wild side with the RISK! podcast, with selections from the RISK! live shows where everyone from comedians to regular folks divulge true stories they had always thought they’d keep to themselves.
  15. Smart Drugs Smarts: Fuel Your Brain With the Latest in Neuroscience.

What are your favorite podcasts that you listen to??? 

Challenge: listen to a podcast that you might not normally listen to this week. Learning about perspectives/ideas/stories different from your own will educate you, and keep you open-minded! ❤

podcast (1)

❤ Colleen Poling, RD

4 Tantalizing Mythical Creature Smoothie Bowls

24 May

blog title smoothie bowls



Smoothie bowls are all the craze on IG lately! They all look super yummy and healthy! Almost too pretty to eat! Beware though, because they can be HUGE sugar bombs. The goal is to make the smoothie bowl properly balanced, and not 100% fruit. Make sure your smoothie bowl has four components: 1. Fruit 2. Vegetable 3. Protein and 4. a Healthy Fat Component. This will keep you fuller for longer, and prevent blood sugar spikes! I created for you 4 Mythical Creature Smoothie Bowl recipes that are both balanced and beautiful! 🙂

1. Unicorn Bowl




Recipe: Blend Together…

4 Balanced Components 

  1. Fruit=Banana, Blueberries, Raspberries
  2. Vegetable= Cauliflower
  3. Protein= Protein powder, Hemp Seeds
  4. Fat= Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Milk

2. Siren Bowl




Recipe: Blend Together…

  • Dark Green Side: 1/2 Frozen Banana, 1 tsp Spirulina Powder, 1/2 tsp Moringa Powder, 1/4th Cucumber, 1/2 cup Green Melon, 1/2 cup Baby Spinach, 1/2-1 cup Coconut Water
  • Light Green Side: 1/2 tsp Matcha Powder, 1 Kiwi, 1/2 Frozen Banana, 1/2 Avocado, 1/2-1 cup Coconut Water
  • Toppings: Avocado, Hemp Seeds, Pistachios, Kiwi, Cucumber 

4 Balanced Components:

  1. Fruit= Banana, Kiwi, Melon, Cucumber
  2. Vegetable= Spinach
  3. Protein= Hemp Seeds, Spirulina, Moringa, Pistachios 
  4. Fat= Avocado, Hemp Seeds, Pistachios 

3. Yeti Bowlyeti



Recipe: Blend Together:

  • Dark Blue Side: 1/2-1 cup Hemp Milk (unsweetened plain), 1/4th cup Almond Yogurt, 1/2 Banana 1 Tbsp Butterfly Pea Flower, 1 tsp Maca Powder
  • Light Blue Side: 1/2-1 cup Coconut/Almond Milk (unsweetened plain), 1/2 Banana, 1/2 cup White Stem of Bok Choy, 1/4 cup Raw Cashews, 1/4th cup Almond Yogurt (plain unsweetened), 1 tsp Butterfly Pea Flower
  • Toppings: Fresh Coconut Meat, Dried Coconut Flakes (unsweetened), Chia Seeds, Blueberries, Blackberries

4 Balanced Components: 

  1. Fruit=Bananas, Blueberries, Blackberries
  2. Vegetable= Bok Choy Stems
  3. Protein= Hemp Milk, Almond Yogurt, Cashews, Chia Seeds
  4. Fat= Cashews, Coconut Milk, Coconut Meat, Chia Seeds

4. Phoenix Bowl




Recipe: Blend Together…

  • Pink Base: 1/2 cup Frozen Mango, 1 Tbsp Pink Pitaya Powder, 1/2-1 cup Cactus Water, 1/4th cup Cashews, 1/2 Frozen Banana
  • Purple Base: 1/2 cup Frozen Blueberries, 1/2 medium Purple Carrot, 1/4th cup Purple Cauliflower, 1/2-1 cup Cactus Water
  • Toppings: Dried Goji Berries, Cherries, Raspberries, Hemp Seeds, Apple Slices

4 Balanced Components:

  1. Fruit= Bananas, Blueberries, Raspberries, Apple, Goji Berries, Cherries, Mango
  2. Vegetable= Purple Carrot, Purple Cauliflower
  3. Protein= Hemp Seeds, Cashews
  4. Fat= Hemp Seeds, Cashews


Peace, Love, Superfoods ❤ Colleen Poling, RD

4 Guilt-Free SuperFood Dark Chocolates🍫

10 May


These chocolates are so easy to make that you will never want to buy chocolate at the store again! They are infused with superfoods, and have no sugar added! Dark chocolate is very nutritious because it is packed with antioxidants, iron, magnesium, copper, and can improve blood flow,  raise good cholesterol, protect your skin form UV rays, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve eyesight and improve cognitive function…and since these recipes have additional superfoods added to them, and no added sugar, you can feel 100% guilt-free!!

To make these all you do is melt the coconut oil and/or cacao butter on a double broiler, then mix in cacao powder and other ingredients listed, and garnish with the superfoods you mixed in as you please! Then pour into a silicon mold. I used this one click here. Freeze overnight, and there you have it! Best to keep these refrigerated once they are done freezing overnight.


🍫Matcha-Reishi Chocolates:


IMG_37361🍫 Moringa-Chaga Chocolates:


🍫 Blueberry-Vanilla Chocolates:


🍫 Mint-Chlorophyll Chocolates:

Peace, Love, Superfoods ❤ Colleen Poling, RD

8 Mouthwatering Paleo-Vegan Breakfast Wraps

15 Apr


What is a Pegan Diet? It is a hybrid of the paleo diet and a vegan diet, taking the best of both worlds and combining them together! I take the completely vegan (no meat, dairy or eggs) approach, and apply the best paleo recommendations for max benefits! 🙂 Focusing on: real whole, fresh food in its natural state free of processed ingredients, refined carbohydrates, and additives.

Colleen’s Pegan DOs:

Fruits and Vegetables: Organic green vegetables like leafy greens, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, and organic low sugar fruits like berries.

High-Quality Fats: Olive, coconut and avocado oils, in addition to avocados, hemp seeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, olives, Brain Octane, and daily algal oil for omega 3’s from a supplement or from a culinary oil like Thrive. 

Healthy Grains: Reach whole grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice or forbidden rice. Keeping this to a very minimum, 1 serving/day max. A traditional paleo diet would not allow for grains. If you include hemp seeds, and even a protein powder like Vega one then will have an excellent essential amino acid profile while still limiting, or eliminating grains.

Beans and Lentils: A nutritional powerhouse and great source of protein. Choose only sprouted beans and lentils. A traditional paleo diet would not allow this, but vegans need beans and lentils in their diets.

Colleen’s Pegan DON’Ts:

Sugar: Added sugar should be kept to a minimum, if not completely eliminated. Watch out for sneaky sugars, even in the forms of agave, maple syrup and coconut sugar. A lower carbohydrate, low glycemic load is what to aim for. Sugar subs like Lakanto is a great alternative.

Gluten: Gluten free grains are recommended when following a pegan diet.

Dairy: On a vegan and paleo diet there is no dairy allowed! There are plenty of substitutes!

Franken-Foods: No processed vegan meats allowed! No chemicals, additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG, or artificial sweeteners. No vegetable oils like canola or safflower. Choosing organic, non-GMO foods whenever possible.


Here are 8 easy Pegan Wraps I created that you can make for breakfast, or enjoy at any time of the day! All wraps are made with Seite Almond Flour Tortillas. Click on the underlined ingredient to learn where you can buy it, or how to make it!

1.Fat-Adapted Wrap:

fat wrap1


2.Galaxy Wrap:



3.Crunch-Wrap Supreme:

  • Organic Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Heirloom Tomatoes, Organic Avocado, Watermelon Seeds



4. Fermented Wrap:



5. Forest Wrap:



6. Lizard Wrap:



7. Buddha Wrap: 



8. Bob Evans Wrap:


Which one is your favorite????!!!?


❤ Colleen Poling, RD

One Bowl Dark Chocolate Walnut, Pecan, Banana Bread. Vegan, GF, No Sugar Added

3 Apr

Banana Bread



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 4×8 -inch loaf pan with parchment paper. 
  2. In a food processor blend together all ingredients except pecans and walnuts. Pour Batter into lined loaf pan.
  3. Add nuts on top and cook in oven for 60 minutes or until fork inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. Let cool. Slice, Serve and enjoy! Works great as a snack in between meals!



No Sugar Added, GF, Vegan Sweet Potato Muffins with Blueberry Coconut Whipped Cream

28 Mar




Ingredients for Muffins

  • 1.5 cups organic gluten free oat flour (gluten free oats ground into a flour)
  • 1/2 cup organic almond flour
  • 1/2 cup Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener 
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 tsp organic cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup mashed organic sweet potato
  • 2 T shredded organic carrots 
  • 1 cup cashew milk unsweetened 
  • 1 flax egg 
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 6 T smooth organic almond butter

Ingredients for Whipped Cream

  • 1 14-ounce can (414 ml) organic full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4  cup Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener 
  • 1 tsp organic blueberry powder
  • 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract

Directions for Muffins:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease 12 muffins tins with organic coconut oil.
  2. In a high speed blender, combine all your ingredients and blend until a fine batter is formed. If your nut butter is not smooth enough, you may want to melt it slightly beforehand.
  3. Divide the batter amongst the muffin tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. Ensure you check by inserting a skewer and once clean, they are done.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, top with whipped cream (below).

Directions for Whipped Cream:

  1. Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid. 
  2. The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.
  3. Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies).
  4. Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla, blueberry powder, Lakanto, and mix until creamy and smooth – about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
  5. Use immediately or refrigerate – it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it’s chilled. Best if devoured in a couple days! Enjoy! 

❤ Colleen Poling, RD