🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life â€ïž

🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life â€ïž

Have you noticed that “the truths” of nutrition and health seem to change every day? Coffee’s good for you again. Eggs are in. No, wait, they’re out. Just kidding, we don’t know. And has anyone figured out coconut oil? It’s either magical, or it’s poison.

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Consider trends in lifestyle diets and weight-loss diets as well. High-protein, low-carb diets were quite popular in recent years (Atkins, South Beach, Zone, etc.); then high-fat, moderate protein, and even-lower-carb took the stage (Keto), and then high-carb (some forms of Vegan, Vegetarian) came into the spotlight again. People seem to have attained their best bodies or best lives on all of these types of diets, never to look back. None of these ways of eating are “bad” (though dietitians do generally advise a diet high in veggies and fruits, that provides a good balance of all 3 macronutrients, and you should definitely supplement correctly if you cut out any food groups) – but none of these are the only healthy way to eat, either. Scientists’ “unbiased research” and personal success stories surrounding certain restrictive diets can be so convincing – and so often it makes folks just wanna jump on the bandwagon real quick. I’ve been there.

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However… most dietitians will agree that one-size-fits-all diets shouldn’t be a thing, because we all legitimately have different needs. Nutritional genomics is really up-and-coming, and we’re just now discovering the magnitude of the impact that genetics has on the dietary patterns each body will thrive off of. Every single body functions a little bit differently – we may react differently to the same foods, and digest food at different speeds. We also have different goals, likes and dislikes, schedules, budgets, and lives. We can each find our healthy diet that works for us. It may even evolve and change over time, as our bodies and our lives do. So, it’s hard to pin ourselves to a diet named by one or two words, because there’s so much more to it than that.

We as humans love to have something to belong to and to follow – we were created that way. We also love to feel like we’re doing life right. Eating food that makes us feel good and good about ourselves can be a real positive – but we should certainly never feel that diet is a moral issue or something to take sides on, because according to my God, it’s not. As for Christians, diet should also never become a cause we champion more than Christ’s.

It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you, but what comes out – from your heart. (Mark 7:15)

Don’t worry about what you eat, drink, or wear, says the Lord, for he is your good Father who knows everything you need. (Matthew 6:31)

“I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

If you’ve ever struggled with feelings of inadequacy affected by what you eat or how you look, you might have trouble believing that these statements are as true for you as they are for others. I’m telling you firsthand that they’re absolutely as true, real, and powerful as every other word of the Lord. He cares less about what you eat, and more about how you act. It matters more how much Jesus you take in daily – how much we worship, look for Him in our daily lives and the Bible, and give our hearts to Him in prayer – than how many grams and what type of protein we ingest. Though nutrition has the power to affect us, spiritual things are infinitely more important.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered this timeless foundation of dietary advice that has been there for us in God’s word for centuries. Though the world’s thoughts may waver, and though the science of nutrition is always evolving, some things can remain the same. If we can nail these down, we’ll have a filter to use on any new ideas that come at us.

If you’re not into what you’ve read so far, you’re still gonna want to hang with me. I’m serious. These truths are reassuring and helpful, no matter what you believe. They have the power to change the way you view nourishment. I’ve experienced the benefits of this advice to such an extent that I’m sure I’ll never again rely on a restrictive dietary pattern.

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  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you eat, drink, or do – do it all to the Glory of God. Food can easily become an attention-thief if we give it too much importance. My best tips are to enjoy food, enjoy how it enhances fellowship with others, and do your best to eat amounts that fuel you well without holding you back. Let go a bit on worrying about types of foods, and eat with a thankful and positive spirit. Food or the lack of food shouldn’t be an excuse to be grumpy or upset – not at yourself, not at the waitress, not at life.
  • Romans 14:15 – Be considerate of others by not making diet a big issue. In the early church, they worried about whether or not to take food from others because they might not know if it had been offered to idol gods. This is rarely our problem today, however, the guidance Paul gives to those struggling with that issue is still helpful for us. Don’t let something as trivial as food choices negatively affect your relationships, or your witness. Whether this means relaxing your diet a bit on certain occasions and enjoying whatever’s offered at a restaurant or somebody’s home, or, on the flipside, not indulging in a drink if dining with someone who alcohol presents a struggle for, or simply skipping the complaints about feeling fat or full – our friends/family deserve more concern than our food. You never know what others are dealing with – disordered eating, insecurity, depression, addiction – or how your hesitancy toward or overvaluing of food might affect them. By all means, treat yourself well – but consider others, too. Nothing we do is done in a vacuum.
  • Luke 12:16-21 – Don’t spend your life storing up grain (in our terms, this might relate to building up the perfect diet or body). Don’t get me wrong, preparation is good. Bettering ourselves is good. We just need to keep in mind that we never know when our last day will come. We don’t wanna have wasted our life on storing up things that’ll be gone! Focus more on the eternal. đŸ’ȘđŸŒ
  • Genesis 3:6 – Don’t let the temptation of food or drink keep you from something better. Remember that apple? She couldn’t look past it. When we become fixated on one thing, and that thing’s not God, it can really hurt us.
  • Luke 22:19 – When we eat, remember Him. Jesus refers to bread and wine here, but honestly every meal is an opportunity to remember what he did for us and who he is in our lives. So, let’s eat with gratitude! Remember that God sanctifies all foods that are received with thanksgiving.
  • Philippians 4:12 – We can find contentment in Christ whether full or hungry. đŸ™ŒđŸŒ
  • Matthew 4:4 – Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that God speaks. God nurtures our souls through his word, which contains an invisible sort of provision for us. When Jesus said that we don’t live on bread alone, he was 40 days fasted. Sort of makes it a little more believable, right?
  • In regard to food restrictions on moral terms – Honey, meat, cheese, fish, bread, and wine (in moderation) were all consumed and positively noted in the bible, in too many verses for me list – try Proverbs 24:13, 1 Kings, 17:6, and John 21:13 to start. If Jesus wasn’t too good for ’em… neither am I.

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And my personal favorite verses on this subject:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. Ps. 18:16

He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. Ps. 18:19

If you have ever worried yourself to death about what you ate – because you couldn’t control it and felt guilty, or because you became obsessed about it and controlled it too much, God can set you free from that. It’s not for us to stress over. When we stress over it, our world gets small – and He wants it to be big! I can personally say that God has drawn me out of deep waters of anxiety and worry concerning many things, including what I eat. He continually brings me out into a spacious place where he reorders priorities in my mind – giving me freedom and the ability to make better choices for myself. He also reaches down from on high on the regular and takes hold of me when I need it. And it just so happens that I need it a lot, so I get a lot of love and “hugs.”

And you can too. All you have to do is ask.

xoxo 😘

Rae

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Fail-proof Roasted Veggies đŸ„•

Fail-proof Roasted Veggies đŸ„•

Hey fam 😊

Hope you’re loving summer, wherever your summer might have landed you!

If there’s one summer meal must-have, it’s grilled fish. Or grilled chicken wings. Or, grilled anything. If there’s two – oven-roasted veggies are going on at the same time.


I’d like to let you in on the secret to perfect roasted veggies, because I feel like it’s a complete game-changer. If you already know about this, you know exactly what I mean. And once you’ve got a method you like, it’s easier to want to try different veggies and easily bring a lot more variety to your plate.

Who ever thought asparagus could look so tempting? 👀


Ok. Here’s the classic “recipe” –

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You’ll need:

  • An oven
  • A baking sheet, or pan of any kind
  • A spatula
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Veggies (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes asparagus, broccoli, etc.)
  • Other spices/parmesan (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to “bake” around 375 F, or a little hotter for potatoes. Maybe 425. You’ll figure out what works best for your oven/each veggie pretty quickly, but you can always cook longer or less depending on how toasty you want them to look!

Wash up your veggies if they’re fresh – use a scrubber to get all that dirt off 😝

(This works great with frozen veggies as well! Just pour them right outta the bag onto the pan.)

If you’re using potatoes or something bigger like that, you can chop them into thin strips, little wedges, chunks, “fries” – whatever!

The fun part- drizzle a little olive oil all over your pan of veggies. About a tablespoon for a decent-sized tray, or just enough to lightly coat the veggies.

The good fats in olive oil help us absorb more of the vitamins and minerals in veggies, so it’s a win-win for taste and nutrition.

Then, hit em with a few pinches of salt. Sea salt, pink salt, whatever! You can add other spices if you have some you really like. If you’re roasting sweet potatoes or butternut squash, you could skip the salt and add cinnamon. But they’re good salted too!

P.S. – If you’re watching your sodium, either a) measure the total amount of salt you use and make sure you don’t consume more of a serving than you need, or b) substitute other spices or one of Mrs. Dash’s salt-free seasonings. Or skip it all together, because just the olive oil will make these pretty darn good.

Once you get ready, stick your pan in the oven! You should do this about 1 hour before you wanna eat.

Cook 25-30 minutes, pull the tray out (with hot pads!), flip all the veggies over with a spatula, and cook 25-30 more.

If you wanna add some Parmesan, pull the tray out again with 10-15 minutes to go and sprinkle some on. This is especially great on green veggies like asparagus or broccoli! đŸ˜Š

And after about an hour, here’s your final product!


Veggies should be crisp and lightly browned. YUM 👅

Temperature, time, etc. are totally modifiable to suit different ovens, vegetables, and tastes – but this should be a good outline to cooking veggies well. It’s hard to mess up – and if you turn the oven light on, set a timer, and stay nearby, you’re not likely to!

It’s also a nice method because you can put these in, forget about them until your timer goes off and it’s time to flip, and use that time to get the rest of your meal ready. Or, if you have some chicken or something already cooked, you can roast these and keep studying or cleaning or whatever, heat up the other stuff in the good old ‘wave, and you’ve got a super low-maintenance but awesome dinner.

This method has also been known to win over even the pickiest of veggie eaters, because it makes them taste super crispy like french fries 🍟

Hope you love ’em!

If you have (or find) a favorite roasted veggie or a favorite spice to add, let us know in the comments below!

xoxo 😘 Stay bright!

Rae

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Breakfast-Style Sweet Potato

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the benefits of natural foods for the body. Yesterday, I spent some time researching the effects of certain foods on the skin, and felt motivated to include more foods in my diet that are minimally processed, lower in refined sugar, and provide a spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

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As a result, I ended up taking home an extra sweet potato from the dining hall last night. Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, C, and B6, Manganese, Potassium, and fiber. They pack a lot into a small, nutrient dense package – they also generally won’t give us as high of a blood sugar spike as white potatoes. I started thinking about hash browns, and I realized – if white potatoes can make it into the breakfast club, why shouldn’t sweet potatoes? I searched Pinterest for some sweet potato breakfast recipes, and most people made them into a hash (which looked delicious!). Being in my dorm room, that wasn’t really plausible for me – so I came up with my own idea.

This breakfast sweet potato is stuffed with roasted cinnamon and crushed walnuts, and topped with a drizzle of maple almond butter, a few dollops of silk vanilla yogurt, and some fresh berries. These were all ingredients I had on hand – You could mix this up with any type of nut butter, fruit, or yogurt. These are my favorite toppings in the world added to my favorite vegetable, so naturally, this was one of my favorite breakfasts ever made.

Here’s my recipe! You might choose a larger or smaller potato, and more or less toppings than I did, depending on your size and energy needs. If at home or in an apartment, you could get fancy and heat this in the oven, but it was great just microwaved.

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato (cooked)
  • Roasted cinnamon, to taste
  • 2 walnut halves, broken into small pieces
  • 1 tsp Justin’s Maple Almond Butter
  • Silk vanilla yogurt, 1/4 container
  • Blueberries and raspberries, to garnish

-Pull your left over sweet potato out of the refrigerator. Make a slit down the center, and push the ends in to open it up.

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-Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir up the inside. Heat for 30 more seconds, and your sweet potato should be warm and ready to top!

-Stir in roasted cinnamon and walnuts; Drizzle almond butter and yogurt; top with berries.


I feel so energized after eating this! I also had my protein coffee and the rest of my silk vanilla yogurt on the side to balance out this breakfast. I’m about to go conquer a beautiful Thursday – 2 exercise science classes, studying, track practice, and weights. I hope your breakfast fuels you to do something great!

Stay vibrant,

Rae

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Fresh & Clean

{Feature B&W Room: Claire Vaughn}

We all know cleaning up our space is a good thing. When we are having a tough week, however, this is typically one of the first things to fall to the wayside. I’m speaking some personal truth here, because I cleaned up my own desk this morning and watched a wave of productivity and fresh thoughts roll in. As I worked away at (and finished!) a couple of assignments I had put off, and sent multiple emails that I remembered were on my to-do list, I scribbled down ideas for this blog post that just kept popping into my brain. Talk about a good morning.

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Now I’ve begun thinking what I would have felt like if I had done this 3 days ago…

I’m a big believer in the importance of a positive environment. I have become aware of this throughout college, and I feel like the more I work on it, the more benefits I see. This is present in so many areas! For example:

  • A messy space invites you to throw more things down. Throwing more things down invites you to throw yourself down and be lazy.
  • A clean room is pretty, inspiring, and makes you want to have friends over!
  • Cleaning out your closet is such a help. You remember all the cute stuff you have, and actually want to enjoy all your clothes instead of pulling the top t-shirt out of the drawer again.
  • Starting the day with a fresh glass of water (squeeze of lemon optional) clears away yesterday and sets a good intention for the day’s health.
  • A clean kitchen is more fun to cook fresh meals in. Dishes piled up make you want to order pizza – or just go out!
  • A pretty, organized, health-filled fridge leads to nice options being more appealing (e.g. berries you already rinsed and neatly stacked yogurt cups).
  • The people you spend time around influence your ambitions, self-worth, and attitude.
  • A balanced budget makes you aware of what you have, and frees you to spend on what you need/ give to others.
  • A good team environment – people giving their all and being happy to be there – makes practice so much better.

I’m sure you can think of examples in your own life where an environment change, “cleaning house” or “starting fresh” made things right. It’s the changes that take place in your mind as much as it is the physical changes that make the difference. The mind is where all of our actions originate, so why not weed and water the roots?

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Visual cues. A clean desk with a visible to-do list surrounded by space lets you know that you have room to tackle those items. Placing the things you love on your desk, in your kitchen, or on your walls reminds you what you care about. Keeping our loves and visions in mind is one of the biggest keys to living a happy and fruitful life.

When I know I cleaned, my room has a certain lightness – like I dropped a heavy weight. This lightness can carry over to anyone who enters your space – not just you – thus improving your relationships and the lives of those around you. When you take the trash out and light a candle, the place just feels good, doesn’t it? Aromatherapy is a whole different subject, but a good-smelling space can really boost your mood.

Knowing you cleaned up – even if things still aren’t perfect – contributes to good self-efficacy vibes. The physical act of cleaning seems to stir up the mind, allowing us to usher in new thoughts. Even those tasks you don’t enjoy… when I finish my laundry (which requires climbing flights of stairs and $1.25 per load), I feel like the baddest girl on the planet. I know if I can tackle things I really dislike, without anyone making me, I can handle life as it comes at me.

Cleaning has a lot of parallels with making good dietary choices. If I can be kind to myself by doing the dishes, making sure my sheets are clean, etc. – I see similar benefits to those that come with making healthful food choices. There is power in action. Doing what’s good for us and experiencing the positive rewards makes us want to do it more. Even when some junk piles up, we can “take out the trash,” mentally or physically, and experience a fresh space again.

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Here’s a few  ways to get this bright, fresh, clean feeling in your life today:

Whatever you see that’s a mess – for me usually the pile of clothes in the floor – tidy it up. Find a home for those homeless items. Your space will thank you.

Sweat. Exercise jogs the mind like moving and cleaning does, and can renew your focus. You can even use cleaning as exercise!

After you break a sweat, shower. There’s nothing like a hot shower to refresh you. Which brings me to…

Water. The ultimate cleansing substance. Did you know juice cleanses and “detoxes” are a myth? The body does all its own cleansing and detoxifying, all day, every day – and water is the #1 to help move those processes along. Water is also highly concentrated in fruit and veggies, and this is one reason they are great for you. If you ever feel like you need a “system restart,” water and foods with a high water content are the places to look. It’s good for the mind, too, because our brain needs it! Drink an icy cold glass when you’re having trouble focusing, and you’ll typically see improvement. If it’s cold out, brewing a hot cup of water with lemon, or even herbal tea, has the same cleansing effects.

Clean out the fridge. Get rid of old stuff, stuff you’re sick of, and stuff that doesn’t make you feel happy and healthy. This is even better if you’ve got a friend to help you! You’ll let someone else in on the process, they’ll feel good too, and you might be inspired to cook something good together later.

I hope you’re motivated to sweep the dust away today!

Stay bright,

Rae

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Along with our Publix, Troy also boasts a brand new Panda Express. Naturally, my friend Clair and I had to go try it, because it’s new and shiny. And, we like fortune cookies.

You’re probably thinking one of three things right now. Let me guess…

  1. Chinese food? MSG, fried rice, huge portions… it’s a splurge.
  2. Panda express isn’t even real Chinese food. Not worth it.
  3. Yum, I’m craving some takeout now!

I’m about to challenge all of these statements.

It actually doesn’t have to be a splurge. After doing some research on the Panda Express site, I learned that there is no MSG added to the food, and they actually give nutritional info as well as offering the WOK Smart Menu – entrees with 300 calories or less and at least 8g of protein. A bowl, the smaller portion, was plenty for me – we each were able to finish our chicken but left some of the rice.

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Let’s talk options – Panda Express reminds me of Moe’s or Subway in some ways, because your meal is what you make it. It can be a gut bomb or a light, fresh choice all depending on what you point at. These are the 3 things you’ll want to consider when you order:

  • SIZE – the bowl was plenty for me – 1 side, 1 entree. A bigger person might be able to tackle the plate – 1 side, 2 entrees – but judge for yourself (especially rice!) and don’t feel the need to finish every bite.
  • ENTREE – the WOK Smart options are great – they are much lower in sodium, and there are several options for grilled chicken, as well as a grilled beef with broccoli. I had the teriyaki grilled chicken (pictured above), and it was delicious. Not dry at all, teriyaki sauce came on the side, and it had a nice, mild flavor. Other grilled chicken options include mushroom with zucchini, black pepper with green beans, kung pao with peanut sauce, peppers and zucchini, and firecracker, with peppers in a spicy black bean sauce.
  • SIDE – brown and white rice are your best options by far! They’re simple and real – just like what you’d cook at home. In my opinion, you don’t need a fancy side like chow mein or fried rice when you’ve got a fancy entree already. Brown rice is delicious and is going to provide more fiber, so I’d put it in #1 spot. I also read after the fact that mixed veggies are a side option – I may try this next time and see if I like that even better!

(PS – Don’t see what you want out? They’ll cook it for you really quickly! The sides aren’t always all out front, either – just ask.)

At only 32 calories a cookie, the fortune cookies are an easy choice!

Now to address the “real Chinese food” aspect – Who cares when it’s good? You don’t need to go overboard on flavor to have a nice meal. I like that they have some options that aren’t fried, because I know those tiny Asian women aren’t eating that every night. I also really like the chain because they attempt to make the menu choices clear, and offer thorough nutritional info online. It’s like real food with a Panda twist – chicken and rice can be a part of any culture, but with a little teriyaki, it tastes like something special.

You’re not going to want takeout here – the atmosphere is so cool. The ceilings have the coolest detailing and light fixtures, and the place was so clean (it’s only been open 2 weeks, lol!) We ate in the restaurant and enjoyed the awesome smells and trying to use chopsticks. It’s my opinion that eating out shouldn’t be a nightly occasion, but a special thing – this allows us to truly appreciate it, and to develop our own cooking skills so that we appreciate someone cooking for us.

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The Panda says – stick to the basics. Sounds like a good argument for brown rice!

Stay bright,

Rae

{Magic} Protein Coffee

{Magic} Protein Coffee

Get ready to experience greatness.

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One day this winter, I had a brilliant hunch. Protein powder = milk solids + vanilla + sweetener. Vanilla lattes = espresso + milk + vanilla + sweetener. I love vanilla lattes… and my homemade version has cut my Starbucks spending down by about 90%.

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At ~50-60 kcal a cup, you could also call this the ultimate skinny vanilla latte.

Also a great way to sneak protein into your morning (which can help keep you satisfied throughout the day)! I’m absolutely hooked.

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Here’s the recipe:

Coffee (~1 cup): Brew, let cool until drinking temperature (3-5 minutes). If too hot, powder will clump.

Quest vanilla milkshake protein powder (~1/2 scoop, to taste): Dump into warm coffee.

Replace lid, insert blender bottle shaker ball, and shake! It’s even got the foam.

You can add a little half and half or milk to taste, if you’d like to give it a more latte-like color. It’s still gonna be creamy and awesome either way!

I’d love to know what this would be like with another flavor protein powder, like caramel or chocolate. Try any flavor you’d like, and please post the results if it’s great!

Disclaimers: I’ve only tried this with Quest Protein, so I can’t guarantee how other powders will hold up to the hot coffee. I can say you have to be certain you don’t get too excited and dump the powder in too early, because it will clump up. I can also say you might be hooked once you try this, but… it’s a fairly healthy treat!

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Cheers,

Rae