Teaching Nutrition Education

When I decided that I would switch my career from Teaching to Nutrition, I had a feeling that the departure from teaching would not be a forever goodbye. I was right.

Last summer, at the very beginning of the nutrition graduate program I am in, I had the opportunity to help out at the Food As Medicine Everyday (FAME) series through the Food As Medicine Institute. At the core of this program is the empowerment of others to take the reins of their health. This is accomplished by a series of classes that combines, in each class, hands-on cooking experiences with nutrition lessons. I  can’t begin to tell you how much this experience with FAME meant to me. That summer with FAME showed me that I can still teach and help others on their own health journey through nutrition. That summer with FAME, a program that is meant to empower its participants, empowered me.

famifames Get a FAME book today!

I stuck around FAME and the Food As Medicine Institute (FAMI) to learn from them in other ways, but that experience with the nutrition education aspect of FAMI was definitely a spark that was ignited. By continuing to work with the program and furthering my own education in nutrition, that spark turned into a flame and that fire needed an outlet.

class2  Natural Grocers kitchen space


In November, with a local plant-based chef from La Vida Veggie (Heather Solano), I co-presented my first class at a Natural Grocers grocery store for the local community and what an experience that was! I experienced several emotions that day from being a nervous wreck to worrying about how many people would show up to “Oh my gosh, we have 22 people in this kitchen; we can’t screw up!”  Heather and I taught a full-on vegan Thanksgiving menu to those 22 guests who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the nutrition component just as much as the cooking and eating portions. The fire kept growing.

I remember washing the dishes after that vegan Thanksgiving class and feeling so elated about what I was just a part of. I went home that afternoon exhausted, but completely motivated to figure out how to again achieve that feeling of elation. It didn’t take me long to connect with two other local grocery store chains: New Seasons Market and Fred Meyer.

I just taught my first New Seasons Market class on Mindful Eating and what an experience that was. There was no cooking involved, but the health and wellness topic still managed to get a group of eight individuals to commute through the slushy roads from Portland’s melting snow and ice. I may have led this class, but it was more of a facilitation experience thanks to the wonderful conversations and participation of the individuals who were in the room. I have another Mindful Eating class scheduled at a New Seasons Market and I’m definitely looking forward to connecting with another group in an attempt to strengthen their and my own connection to food in a more nourishing way.

fredmeyer Beautiful 20th Century Workshop kitchen space at Stadium Fred Meyer.

With Fred Meyer,  I knew of a local store equipped with a kitchen space that they used for classes. You can probably guess what happened next…I met with the kitchen coordinator, we were both mutually interested in coordinating a class or multiple classes, and we scheduled the first one. I just taught that class a week ago (Jan. 21st) and again I had an amazing experience that was very different from the Natural Grocers class. At this class, the smaller group allowed for a completely hands-on cooking approach that had us all huddled and cooking together while learning about the nutrition and health benefits of 3 plant-based breakfast recipes and enjoying conversations about nutrition and health.

The fire continues to burn and I have scheduled more classes at these listed grocery stores and am even going to begin co-teaching Food As Medicine Everyday classes at an elementary school twice a month. How amazing does that sound?! You’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that I am  currently planning a career that includes community nutrition education because of how inspired I am each time I conduct a class. Teaching at these stores and interacting with their customers has been a phenomenal experience. At a grocery store, you never know who to expect. It’s a wonderful place where different socioeconomic statuses, different levels of nutrition backgrounds, different health perspectives and experiences, and more, are all represented and can be present in the very room you are about to teach your class in. This is what community education is all about–bringing in and interacting with different persons and perspectives while teaching and learning from  each other through the sharing of questions and stories–and I’m grateful for these opportunities, but especially to FAME for igniting that initial spark.

willatgreenfest Manda (friend and FAMI staff) and I working the Food As Medicine Institute contest booth at the Portland Green Festivals, December 2016.



Ground Up Nut Butters- Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

The following post/article was written as a partnership with Ground Up nut butters, a Portland women-owned and run small business. Part of Ground Up’s mission:  “[T]raining disadvantaged women in the Greater Portland area in marketable skills through the production and sales of delicious & nutritious nut butters!….Our goal is for women to engage in creative self-expression with the hope of gaining confidence and realizing their full potential. Women will work with us for 6-9 months and then transition into full-time employment at Portland-area businesses.”


Nutrition Spotlight: Cashews

By Wilfredo Benitez, www.EatRunandDone.com

Disclaimer: While the nutritional information contained within this article is supported through research, individuals on a strict diet plan or with a condition should consult with their physician before introducing cashews or other tree nuts into their diet.

If you were to guess which of the most commonly consumed nuts in the U.S. has the lowest lipid profile, would you guess cashews? If so, you’d be right and if not, well now you know. But that’s not to indicate that the fats from nuts and seeds are bad and that consumption of them should be avoided. For some, the lower fat profile is an added benefit for a variety of reasons, but with the many benefits of cashews, this is one nut that should be added to your grocery list if it is not already a regular.


Let’s take a look at what the health benefits of cashews are and what these benefits are attributed to.

There are different types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats (these include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids). Cashews have a greater amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids compared to other fatty acids and this is where most of the benefits of cashews come from. It is well supported that monounsaturated fats can help reduce triglycerides which are normal to have in the body, but a high amount of this form of fat has been linked to a greater risk for heart disease. One study even found that the risk of heart disease was 37% lower for individuals who ate nuts more than four times a week compared to those who never or rarely consumed nuts. To apply this to real life, and with the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional, it may not be a bad idea to enjoy a tablespoon of nut butter a few times a week, perhaps much more depending on your metabolism and lifestyle.

groundup8 Oatmeal for breakfast with some cashew nut butter is a great way to keep full longer and to get healthy fats, protein, and other minerals in your diet. 


If you’re worried about gaining weight from including nut butter or nuts in your diet, think again. There are numerous studies that debunk the idea that eating nuts leads to weight gain. Sure, having a diet very high in fat without the lifestyle to warrant it, may indeed lead to weight gain and other issues, but that can be said for almost anything. In fact, many studies have shown that a diet that includes a healthy amount of nuts is linked to better weight control and prevention of weight gain.

Lastly, I wouldn’t be doing cashews justice if I didn’t speak to them as an excellent source of copper, a mineral that we need to get from our diet. This essential mineral is necessary for utilizing iron in the body, energy production, eliminating free radicals in the body that damage cells and organ systems, and for formation of collagen which is essential for bone and tissue health. Not much copper is needed on a daily basis, but an inadequate intake of copper can lead to issues with blood vessels, joint problems, undesirable cholesterol levels, and possibly iron deficiency anemia. It should be good to know that just two tablespoons of whole cashews (about 1 tablespoon of cashew butter) offer about 40% of one’s daily recommended intake of copper.

                      –The author of this article thinks that carrot sticks and Ground Up nut butter is a phenomenal combination and a great way to absorb the fat soluble Vitamin A in carrots. Feel free to connect with him via his blog or on IG: @eatrunanddone.

A Summer of FAME

Update! — The Food As Medicine Institute is a finalist for the Green Festivals Community Award. This award is for $5,000 and will help spread nutrition education to schools and other communities. I have worked for this program and I know the doctors and people who are involved and you can trust me when I tell you that great work is being done. Please take 10 seconds to click on the link above and vote for the Food As Medicine Institute to win this award! 


This past summer was extremely busy and went by rather quickly due to starting grad school again at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM). This may or may not mean that I’ve still not been to the Oregon coast and now likely won’t get there until sometime next year (eek!), but I did participate in something else that I’ll certainly remember Summer 2016 for: FAME.


FAME stands for Food As Medicine Everyday and it is a cooking series of (generally) 12 weekly classes that combines simple and fun cooking experiences with nutrition education. The two naturopathic physicians who primarily led this summer’s Food as Medicine Everyday series used the recipes from their book  to teach participants simple cooking techniques right in Charlee’s Kitchen in NUNM’s Helfgott Research Institute building. It was so inspiring to watch everyone become so comfortable with a knife, a Vitamix, with spicing foods, and with having fun while cooking, and then return to the dining table as a group to learn about a health and nutrition topic that varied with each weekly class. And by “inspiring”, I mean that my experience with the cooking classes and with FAME behind-the-scenes a bit more has made it clear to me that community nutrition education is an area I want to explore for my career after graduation.

fame8  fame2

My role and the role of the other two or three staff who I worked with throughout the summer was to supervise one of three cooking stations as well as initiate and/or facilitate conversations about meal prep, cooking, or even the nutrition of the foods we were preparing and boy was that a fun experience. I mean, I got paid to help supervise cooking and to socialize with new people who really want to be there. How sweet is that? And how do I know they actually wanted to be there? Well, they told me. But also because they signed up for a class that started at 6pm on Wednesday…in Portland. If you’ve driven near downtown Portland at 6pm on a weekday, you know the level of commitment I’m talking about.

I know that the participants learned quite a lot over the 10 weeks of the class (it was shortened for the summer) such as various cooking techniques, recipes, reading labels, and a great deal on pertinent health topics, but the FAME series proved to be a learning experience for me as well. It is always invaluable to practice skills such as supervising, teaching, listening, and working on a team and that’s what working the FAME series this summer allowed me to do.


I’m incredibly grateful for the experience that I was given and for the opportunity to continue working with the Institute this fall as a blogger and with other tasks. I feel a calling to learn all I can from everyone at FAMI and the work they do and I can actually see myself following their lead after graduating from this nutrition program. I believe that when one is in school, they often learn or experience the most valuable things outside of the classroom and I think FAMI is and will continue to be that valuable experience for me.

Update: I’ll be tailoring and teaching (possibly co-teaching) FAME classes to two 5th grade classes to a school in West Linn, Oregon. I cannot wait for this awesome experience! I’ve been wanting to teach nutrition education to kids for sometime now and I’m humbled to do this while still a student (though I am also a licensed teacher so that helps!).

In February, the Institute will be putting on their 4th annual Food As Medicine Symposium  and you can bet I’ll be there. I hope to see you some of you Portlanders there, too. Until then…

Happy Eating! And Cooking!


Change Up Your Scenery: My Run on Sauvie Island

Sometimes you just need to change it up a bit.

Work ended for me early this year (perks of being a substitute teacher; until I’m a full-time nutritionist of course!) so I decided one morning last week to take a quick drive out to Sauvie Island–located right on the outskirts of NW Portland–and it was such a great decision.


It was about 55-60 degrees–perfect running temperatures–and I managed to wrap up my run right before the grey clouds started to roll in.  Don’t worry. It was early enough where traffic was even lighter than it always is so I didn’t risk anything by taking this bridge picture!


I didn’t know what I wanted to run as I had a bit of flexibility in my marathon training schedule for various reasons. I didn’t want to drive out to Sauvie Island (about 14 miles from my apartment) and not put in a good workout so I knew the run would be a quality one either for marathon-specific pacing or just for endurance. I told myself I would run at least 10 miles and if I felt good, I’d continue to 12 or 13 miles. Well, I felt great early on so I decided I’d make the run a good half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles. I ran it on the moderate-to-quick end of my training pace spectrum averaging 6:50 for the run (went out in 7:34 which was a bit too slow but I hadn’t known I was running a quick 1/2). I closed well with the last 3 miles each under 6:30 pace. It was a really good run especially since it’s not like I planned to run a time-trial half marathon or anything and there were no rest days involved, but I appreciated the change of scenery even more…I think you’ll see why.



Running past sites like these doesn’t happen every day in Portland proper. Portland is beautiful for running, don’t get me wrong, but Sauvie proved to be a very nice getaway run and it’s one that I’ll return to a couple of times before my marathon. It’s no wonder Shalane Flanagan (whom I deeply admire) and her Bowerman TC teammates train out here some days.


Sauvie Island doesn’t have bike lanes like Portland does, but it doesn’t really matter as Sauvie drivers actually follow the courtesies that these signs suggest!  I didn’t have to worry about a car once which made it possible for me to keep my pace steady.

SI12 SI11

This hawk was flying circles around me both times I approached her nest. She was not a fan and the sounds she started to make at one point..let’s just say she helped me to speed up a bit!


The grey clouds (much more grey clouds to the left of this view) were starting to roll in on my way back  to my starting point so I picked up the pace a bit. Someone tell Mr. Fisherman to leave the fishes alone…They’re not bothering him!


I snapped this cool aerial photo of Sauvie Island as I flew past it taking off from Portland airport on route to Phoenix for my connecting flight to Philadelphia’s airport. You can see the bridge from my first picture to the north of this photo crossing the water. It’ so crazy how small the island seems when you’re running on it. It’s not huge by any means, but there’s quite a lot of land on that island!


This run was sponsored by Nii Foods. Okay, not really, but the marathon I’m training for (The Oregon Marathon on July 16th) is indeed sponsored by Nii Foods and I’m so grateful for their support! I love being a member of the Nii Tribe! They make delicious dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan bars that are nutritionally dense, so tasty and in 5 flavors, at least one of which you are sure to love! Try them out!


One of the best benefits of a hard run with an additional afternoon run scheduled for later in the afternoon is an incredibly delicious vegan blueberry chocolate-chip pancakes breakfast made from scratch!  Comment for the recipe or search “3 ingredient pancakes” in the search tool.

We all have our favorite running routes or at least running routes that we are very comfortable running. We know the mileage markers without even glancing at our GPS watch; we know the level of car or people traffic at various times of the day; we know when to speed up or when to save energy for that hill; and so many other reasons for why our favorite routes are actually our favorite. But sometimes it can be a truly wonderful experience to just go somewhere new and run and reduce the monotony of your exercise routine. Mixing things up can help people become less bored and likely to drop the activity which is not an uncommon occurrence with running. Running somewhere new can also help you learn something new about your community or city or state. Heck, like me, you may even find one of your New top-places to run. You really don’t have anything to lose and as they also say, “You won’t know if you like it unless you try it.”

Be adventurous. Take your running or biking or walking or hiking to a new place. Meet new people. See new sites. Explore. And have fun.

Happy Running!



Potlucks are the Best!

Potlucks can be one of the most fun events that people participate in. Friends and food. What more can you ask for? No, seriously. What more would you like there to be, because so much more can go down at your weekly, bi-weekly, or perhaps monthly potluck. In addition to the food and socializing, some of the following can be happening: board games; video games; book club reading; knitting; watching the “big game”; watching the presidential debate (I would so be there for this!); listening to a speaker; and so much more. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also attach a theme to the potluck that can be applied to the food as well as the dress-code and activities.


I was able to head to a potluck this past weekend, but all this writing about potlucks is making me want to find out on Meetup for tonight! Northwest Veg , the group behind Portland VegFest (Oct. 22-23 this year) , puts on 2-3 potlucks a month so the opportunity to attend one is never hard to come across. Lucky me, I know. I actually don’t take advantage of these potlucks often, but on Sunday I went to their Portland potluck with a presentation by Dr. Craig McDougall  and definitely enjoyed all the food and the educational information that was presented. And when I say, “I enjoyed the food,” I really mean it. The pastas, salads, lentil loafs, quinoa dishes, cookies, muffins, and other creative recipes…how can you not enjoy yourself?


There are so many reasons to attend a potluck (and I guess there are equal or more reasons to not attend one, but we’ll ignore those) so let’s delve into a few of them…

Share your favorite recipe.

Potlucks may or may not be the best place to try out a new recipe. I guess it depends on your confidence and cooking skills! Regardless, they are definitely a great place to share your favorite recipe and the food that recipe leads you to create. The people in attendance may love your dish and may want your recipe so it’d be a great idea to bring copies of your recipe to share with those who may ask you!


Try a new food/recipe. 

Just as you may be asked to share your recipe(s), you may love a dish so much that you find yourself seeking out its creator! Potlucks are a great way to try something new (and maybe different) which can be great for giving you ideas and  helping you branch out. You may be inclined to gravitate toward the food you know you’ll like…the safe food…but push yourself to try at least one or two dishes you normally wouldn’t try. You may end up loving your decision!

Meet new people.

This is an obvious one, but it will only happen if you are open to it. Talk to someone in line or start up a conversation with the chef of your favorite new dish at the potluck. Meeting new people doesn’t mean you have to become friends with them, but why waste an opportunity to do just that or perhaps expand your network which could benefit you socially and/or professionally.

Introduce people to your favorite snack.

3 potluck

I actually really like this part of potlucks and yes, it’s a bit different than following and swapping recipes. Let’s face it: we don’t always have time to cook a fresh dish let alone find a new recipe. So many things can get in the way of that such as not having the right ingredients, car problems, and, you know, life. Sometimes the best thing we can do to not show up empty-handed is pick up some chips and salsa. We’ve all done it! But how about instead of picking up the usual, grab your favorite snack that people may not have had before. For me, my favorite snacks that come in a package and would be good to share in a potluck-like setting are Beanfields Bean and Rice chips and Pacific Superfood Snacks kale chips (soon to be Made in Nature). Why Pacific Snacks? Because they simply make the best kale chips on the market. I’m not exaggerating. They are always the first to go whenever I bring them out. And Beanfields..Well they just up the chip game tenfold. With flavors such as Sea Salt, Barbecue, Pico de Gallo, and my favorite Nacho, they are great to enjoy in so many ways. You can dip them in hummus, guacamole, salsa, a bean dip or anything else you can think of. I’ve also crushed them up and sprinkled them in salads, soup (like what is about to happen in the picture above-left), a hot bowl of quinoa, and a veggie stir fry. Orrr you can just have them straight out of the bag! Whatever you decide to do, just be careful you don’t end up eating the whole bag before you even get to the potluck!

2 Ready to have some Beanfields and King Harvest hummus.

If you are in the Portland area, I highly encourage you to consider coming to a Northwest Veg potluck. There is always some kind of presentation happening so your bound to learn something new and the food that is brought never disappoints. If you are not in the Portland area, you can still find some potlucks. I’m sure a quick Facebook or Meetup search will produce some results, but if they don’t or if you aren’t interested in that, then start your own potluck. You can invite family, friends, colleagues, and/or even neighbors. It can be a great way to try some new food, meet some new people, get to know some people better, and just have fun! You won’t regret giving it a shot.

Forget La Vida Loca. Live “La Vida Veggie.”

When I was at Portland VegFest (2016 dates: October 22-23) this past November, I learned about a lot of new companies and people doing awesome things with food, clothing, magazines, speaking engagements, cooking, fitness, and so much more. One of the benefits of being part of such a great event was learning about people within my community, the Portland community, who are doing great things. One such person is Heather Solano.


In 2014, Heather saw an opportunity to spread plant-based eating to others outside of Portland (already a haven-and heaven-for veg-eaters) and so she opened up La Vida Veggie in next-door Beaverton, OR (hometown of Nike World Headquarters). After VegFest, Heather announced that she was turning her vegetarian menu into a 100% plant-based, vegan menu. I was intrigued and I recently finally got around to asking her more about this decision. I was able to learn the narrative of Heather and of La Vida Veggie and I bring you what is not a short Q&A, but Heather’s responses are so well-crafted, you won’t look at the clock once!
So grab your chips, salsa, and the guac, get comfy, and enjoy:

What made you open up a restaurant? Why vegetarian?

I have lived on the Westside of Portland since I was a kid. I’ve been all over by bike, foot, bus and car. I know this side of the river like the back of my hand. When I became vegan 6 years ago, I really longed for a place that I could go, relax and eat that was close. This desire along with my love of cooking with plant foods mixed with divine timing and moral support from my community, really inspired me to go for it. I specifically wanted a plant based restaurant for two reasons: 1. It is a lifestyle that I truly believe in and 2. I believe that it was an unfilled need on the west side. The summer of 2014, my youngest child was ready to start full day kindergarten and this small, humble space opened up across the street from school. It was perfect; and worth a try. Why not, right?!


Are you vegetarian or vegan? Why do you follow this diet or lifestyle?

I am vegan. I have been on this journey, bumps in the road and all, for six and a half years. I used to have a vegetarian friend in middle school. I thought she was eccentric and couldn’t understand her emotional meltdowns when my 14 year old self and friends would gather all of our change, order a half vegetarian/half pepperoni pizza from Old Town Pizza. The pepperoni juice would get on HER half of the pizza and she would then insist on getting her own personal pizza. This was my first brush with vegetarianism. (I totally understand her now!) Although I was a particular child who picked at my chicken to make sure I was only eating white meat and hid my pork chops in my pockets at the dinner table so I wouldn’t have to eat them, I never considered this lifestyle until my second child was born. His arrival via HVBAC in my kitchen (go figure!) changed many, many things in my life. One of these happened when, after nursing him, he would spit up his food and have gastro intestinal issues. I started to research what could have been causing this. One book suggested that dairy could be the culprit. I was eating my fair share of cheese and ice cream, so I did an experiment and cut it out of my diet. Not only did his discomfort go away but headaches that I had been living with, on almost a daily basis since I was a teen, miraculously disappeared. I was amazed! I picked up the book, Skinny Bitch and then The Kind Diet. What I read horrified me, but inspired me to learn more. I watched Earthlings, Forks over Knives, Food Inc. and anything else I could get my hands on. That was it for me. I could not support an industry that harmed animals, the environment and us human beings ever again. Cutting out meat was easy and surprisingly natural for me. I haven’t looked back since.


What made you decide to have La Vida Veggie make the shift to an all-vegan menu? How has the customer response been?

Honestly, I wanted to be an all vegan establishment from the very beginning. But, I was scared. I was scared of the doors closing before I could even open. I was scared of not being supported and not being able to acquire enough interest; after all, it is the wild wild west side! I didn’t have corporate money to advertise and open a huge, fancy place. I knew I had a lot of vegetarian supporters in the community. But, vegan? I wasn’t so sure. After one year of being open, I went for it. I always talk about being true to oneself; I wear my heart on my sleeve and I have to practice what I preach. It was scary to take the leap. However, I’m glad I made this decision. There have been a few people upset, but the response from the vegan community has been so great that it makes up for it. At the end of the day, I’m happy and satisfied with my decision.

What are some of LVV’s most popular dishes/foods?

We have a few best sellers. As expected, our specials usually sell out. I love specials! It’s a way for my staff and me to be creative, try out crazy and fun ideas and keep things fresh and interesting. Our menu is seasonal and changes every three months, however, our jackfruit and walnut meat tacos as well as our Portobello pesto grilled Panini are definitely our best sellers. The tacos are topped with guacamole, pico de gallo, oregano, pickled cabbage and a cashew lime cream. The Portobello Pesto has marinated portobellos, basil pine nut pesto, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and cashew cheese. Everything besides our breads and tortillas (at least for now!) is housemade.


What is your favorite food to create with?

Mushrooms…mushrooms are amazing! Not only do they taste amazing but they are so important to our environment. They purify the land, have complex underground systems and provide our bodies with important nutrients like Vitamin D, riboflavin and potassium. I love using them as one of my sources of protein too!  I have a love affair with portabellos. They are super “meaty” and I always bring them to family BBQ’s! I also always look forward to Chanterelle season every year. My favorite way to prepare them is to sauté them in fresh garlic and ginger with a touch of shoyu, cooking sherry and sesame oil. I also love to make gravy with them. One of my favorite ways to use mushrooms, however, is to pick out many different varieties and make a big bowl of mushroom ceviche. All of the flavors of the tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, cilantro and lime really marinate into the mushrooms and make them so tender and juicy.

La Vida Veggie doesn’t just dish up tasty vegan dining. LVV also puts on classes and workshops, right? What kinds of events are generally on the calendar and why take that on?

We absolutely love it when practitioners, artists, community organizers, etc. come to us and want to host events. I really envision LVV being a community space as well as a restaurant. Some events that we have hosted would include Women’s Red Tents, painting classes, tea ceremonies, art shows and of course, our monthly “Make Tamales Not War.” This is an event that is held most last Saturdays of the month where volunteers and I make up to 200 tamales that are then passed out to homeless men, women and children in our area. It’s really an amazing experience. We are currently also selling food tokens that are then given to the Beaverton Help Center next door, whom then distributes them to homeless families to redeem at our restaurant. Our events bring so much energy flow in and out of La Vida Veggie and they really bring the community together in many fun and interesting ways.


What’s been your most memorable experience since opening La Vida Veggie?

Oh my goodness….every day is memorable. Seriously; I learn so much every day. I’ve made so many mistakes (aka opportunities for growth) and I’ve just had to laugh at myself. So…memorable in a mind-blowing, “wow that was amazing!” way would have had to been attending the Portland VegFest 2015. I had made it my one-year goal to attend and it was an incredible experience. It was a major amount of work but it was so rewarding. I remember weeks and nights before having checklists—and checklists for my checklists—outlining everything that I needed to do and when. Something that has been invaluable for me has been to learn the art of delegation. So, nights before, I just had to give up some control and enlist help. Some wonderful volunteers, as well as my employees helped me prep everything. We had an open dining room for service plus about six people in our teeny tiny kitchen, hands on, making Operation VegFest happen. That Friday night [the night before VegFest], my kids were dressed to the nines making their acting debut on stage at school across the street for a spring performance. So, here I was, staying until the last second that I could at the restaurant and then jogging to school to catch my daughter’s lead role as “Narrator 1” just for it to end to jog back to answer my shop’s text message of “help!” Ha! It was a crazy (but fun!) couple of days. My most memorable moments have been like this, actually. Moments where I think I’m being tested and pushed so far to the edge that I actually may just fall off but in reality I’m growing, learning and accomplishing things that I never thought I could. I’m sure one of these days, the mountains to climb over are going to be 100 times larger and I’m just going to read back on this, chuckling, shaking my head and remembering how easy I (once) had it.

What drives you every day?

This question makes me laugh! I think that I am extremely stubborn and will-driven. Don’t think I can do it?! Well, yes…yes, I can and here, let me prove it! Besides my natural tendency to want to do everything, the fact that I truly, in my heart, believe in this lifestyle and everything it has to offer the world drives me to get up and go to work every day. I love to connect with people; I crave it and it is my purpose in life. I want to spread the message of veganism through this connection; through love and compassion; through non-judgmental living examples; through me and my business. I’m most definitely a dreamer and the reality of the business world has and continues to bring me back to Mother Earth but I just know in my heart that I was sent here to make a difference. And, I will only dedicate my time and energy to something if that is exactly what I’m doing.


Are you perfectly content with La Vida Veggie and its now-vegan menu or do you have additional plans in mind for your and LVV’s future?

La Vida Veggie will continue to be vegan forever. This will not change. However, I do dream of expanding out of my little 14 seat café restaurant. I think about it every single day of my life! I envision a larger, full restaurant with a hood (imagine that!). I would love to be able to exercise all of the menu ideas that I have and bring an incredible, classier version of La Vida Veggie to the Westside. I would love the capacity to make our own breads, tortillas, chips as well as have a more extensive and varied menu. I would also like to entertain the idea of a dance floor and stage for live music as well as a full drink menu, using the finest fresh juices and elixirs. I am convinced that this is where La Vida Veggie is going and I hope to continue to grow with the support and love from our community.


So what are you waiting for? Either add it to your list of restaurants to dine at when you visit Portland, or if you are local, make lunch or dinner plans  at La Vida Veggie! You won’t only be supporting this incredible small woman-owned and run business, but also the community that it supports through all it offers beyond creating and serving really good food.

Happy Eating!

Q&A with Dr. Michael Greger, MD-the Go-To for All Things Nutrition

His name is Dr. Michael Greger, MD. And he’s coming to Portland.

And I am thrilled.


A couple months ago, I learned that a family member had high LDL (the bad kind) cholesterol. Unfortunately, many people in this country have high cholesterol, but the cholesterol levels coupled with the family history made this more of an issue than it may be for others. I later found out that that same family member was just diagnosed with another possibly debilitating ailment, but one that, luckily, can be reversed and prevented with proper nutrition and a removal of meat (and hopefully dairy) from the diet. When I shared the news with Val, her response indicated she was reading my mind: “Watch some NutritionFacts.org videos about it and what can be done.” So we did just that and the family member was absolutely shocked at what she learned and I was shocked at how well she understood everything Dr. Greger was saying. I shouldn’t have been because I knew that his videos are so easy to follow and to grasp. I’m grateful to have a resource that is of such importance and one that my family can now utilize when they have their own questions and concerns.

As an aspiring nutritionist and with a fiancé who is studying naturopathic medicine, I look up to Dr. Greger as a kind of savior for American society. He understands the importance of nutrition as medicine and has made it his life’s work to teach others that you really are, or will become, what you eat…metaphorically, of course!


When I first heard about Dr. Greger, it was from Val telling me that I needed to visit the NutritionFacts.org site and now I’m telling you to do the same. But don’t stop there. Watch his nutrition videos, read his articles, binge watch YouTube recordings, and if you’re local, come meet and hear him speak in Portland on January 19th. Oh! And if you really want to educate yourself…get his new book How Not to Die and prepare to have your eyes opened.

Dr. Greger was gracious enough to answer some questions I had for him and the following screenshot is semi-proof that I’m not making these responses up!


Q&A with Dr. Michael Greger

Why did you decide to write How Not to Die?

It all started with my grandma, actually. The reversal of her end-stage heart disease with a plant-based diet is what inspired me to go to medical school, but when I got there I was shocked to find out that this whole body of evidence on reversing chronic disease with lifestyle changes—opening up arteries without drugs, without surgery—was being largely ignored by mainstream medicine. And so if the cure to our #1 killer could get lost down the rabbit hole, what else might be buried in the medical literature that could help my patients? I made it my life’s mission to find out. That’s what led me to start NutritionFacts.org and that’s what led me to write the book.
What should people who don’t like to be overwhelmed, but want to improve their health focus on first: their food/nutrition or exercise?


The #1 cause of death and the #1 cause of disability is diet (with smoking at #2 and inactivity somewhere around #5), so definitely changing what we eat.


It is a common belief, and one that is well-supported, that MDs generally do not have adequate education in proper nutrition for maintaining a healthy diet as well as fighting various illnesses and disease. Is any of your work targeting the lack of nutrition education in our society’s most esteemed medical profession?


Indeed. Doctors have a severe nutrition deficiency–in education. Most doctors are just never taught the impact healthy nutrition can have on the course of illness and so they graduate without this powerful tool in their medical toolbox. There are also institutional barriers, such as time constraints and lack of reimbursement. In general, doctors simply aren’t paid for counseling people on how to take care of themselves. Of course the drug companies also play a role in influencing medical education and practice. Ask your doctor when’s the last time they were taken out to dinner by Big Broccoli.


Are you optimistic that the overall health of our society will improve over time and that more and more people will be knowledgeable about food and nutrition?


Absolutely! It’s like smoking in the ‘50s. We already had decades of science linking smoking with lung cancer, but it was ignored because smoking was normal. Most doctors smoked. The average per capita cigarette consumption was 4,000 cigarettes a year, meaning the average American smoked a half a pack a day. The American Medical Association was reassuring everyone that smoking in moderation was ok. There was this disconnect between the science and public policy. It took more than 25 years and 7,000 studies before the first Surgeon General report against smoking came out in the 60’s. Until the system changes, we have to take personal responsibility for our own health and for our family’s health. We can’t wait until society catches up to the science, because it’s a matter of life and death. But just like [with] smoking, society will eventually catch up


More and more books, personalities, celebrities, restaurants, and films that focus on plant-based diets and veganism are being more frequently recognized and discussed in health, nutrition, and food conversations throughout the country. Do you think this is because more people in this country are recognizing that vegetarianism and veganism are healthier diets and lifestyles for a person and for the planet or do you think such recognition is just to satisfy a new market or audience?

My hope is that the science is slowly, but surely getting out there!


Information about his Portland visit can be found at the NW Veg website. I’ve copy and pasted some info below. As of this posting there are only 50 spots left! Click here to reserve your spot before it’s too late. Hope to see you there!

NW VEG and Adventist Medical Center present Dr. Michael Greger with “Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating Disease with Diet” on Thursday, January 19th at 6:30pm at the Adventist Medical Center (Amphitheater), 10123 SE Market St., Portland 97216. Doors open at 6pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Somehow I Wrote About Portland VegFest in Less Than 600 Words

Sorry, ERaD readers, for the really long delay in posting anything! I had quite a busy weekend and the week was spent preparing for a Chemistry exam. I have to do well if I’m going to get into the Nutrition master’s program and bring you the best posts on eating and nutrition I can muster!

Last weekend was truly remarkable. I had the honor of representing No Meat Athlete at Portland VegFest and the booth couldn’t have been in a better place; we were right next to the amazing Brenda Carey, founder and editor of Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine, as well as Robert Cheeke who is a 2-time champion vegan bodybuilder. And yes, I was giddy when I first saw them. Vegan celebrities do exist, people.

With others, I helped bring in several of the presenters on the demo stage which included the well-accomplished runner Tim Van Orden, pro-cyclist Zak Kovalcik, and a few other local persons in yoga (Yoga isn’t exercise?? Clearly you haven’t tried it.), Nia, and boxing.


Annie (yogaRIOT), Andrea (Nia), Me, and Tim .

The four of us in the picture each had our own presentation, but we are captured here waiting for the fitness panel Q&A to start. Tim gave an inspiring and informational talk about overcoming obstacles to reach one’s fitness goals; it’s obvious what Annie and Andrea demoed; and I demoed what the crux of the next post will be about: dynamic stretches with an explanation for why dynamic exercises are encouraged over static ones. I’ll get into that in my next post but first, allow me to share with you some more photos from Portland VegFest.

I was swamped with volunteering and demoing and working the booth and taking pictures of everything was the last thing on my mind…and probably something that would have been impossible unless I had deleted every picture from my phone’s library just to make enough room. No worries though; the creative guys at Vegan Foodiot posted a 20 minute cover of Portland VegFest which I embedded at the very end of this post for your pleasure! And yes, all of the food they tried (and didn’t try) was superbly plant-based and superbly delicious. Gotta thank these two guys from Vegan Foodiot, because without them, I’d have to talk up VegFest way more than I do now. Now, you can just watch it!

10   4

The Friday before VegFest weekend was a nutrition and health conference organized by the group that puts on Portland VegFest, Northwest Veg.  NW Veg brought in fantastic speakers and an exquisite vegan/plant-based lunch buffet was provided as well!

5  14

While the health conference was happening, scores of volunteers  were downstairs helping to set up for VegFest. The No Meat Athlete booth was just one of the many booths represented that has veganism as part of its constitution.

18   17

Val was pretty darn excited for her Yeah Dawg lunch! This hotdog-shaped food is made entirely of a blend of plant foods (veggies and legumes to be exact). The Cali Kush Dawg is pictured; topped with coconut bacon, avocado, and jalapenos that I added. Oh and the image above the title? That’s Homegrown Smoker  which is a place that if you are vegan in Portland and tell someone you’ve never been, you’ll get looked at like you just said you’ve never drank water. Truth.

Okay. That’s all for VegFest…for now. Stay tuned for my next post which will include the details of dynamic stretching which I demoed at VegFest and now that it’s getting much colder out there, proper stretching and warming up should be paid attention to even more to help prevent injury.

Were you at Portland VegFest? What were some of your favorite foods, products, or other booths/organizations that you visited. Have you ever been to a VegFest? Tell me about your experience!