August is prime time for “last hurrah” summer vacations. It’s not always easy to pursue the plant-based lifestyle while you’re on the road, but I’m excited to share with you a fantastic little vegan bed and breakfast I discovered not long ago, practically in my backyard.
Located on 85 private acres in New Lebanon, NY, Red Robin Song Guest House is a 100 percent vegan bed and breakfast with the unique distinction of having an onsite animal sanctuary. This cozy retreat is just a short drive from Albany on one side and Pittsfield on the other and is surrounded by popular local attractions such as Jiminy Peak, the Lebanon Valley Speedway and Tanglewood.
I met the owners, Lisa and Jeff at Albany VegFest back in June and had the chance to visit Red Robin Song for myself a couple weeks ago. Setting out in the evening after a very stressful and frustrating day, I was immediately struck by how relaxing the drive was. The road led from a fairly populous area to a quiet, secluded spot in a very short time, and when I pulled in the driveway, I was already feeling better.
Lisa greeted me and gave me a tour of the house and the grounds. Red Robin Song has three comfortable rooms, including the Lily Pad suite with a private bath and Jacuzzi, all with views of the grounds. Guests at this bed and breakfast in New York have access to WiFi, a communal dining area and a beautiful great room/sitting room.
That was easily my favorite spot in the whole place. It’s comfortably arranged with chairs, couches and a collection of plants bathed in sunlight from big windows. There’s a projector for watching movies or streaming your Netflix account while you’re staying. If you prefer quiet leisure time, the bookshelves are stocked with reading material and games.
Outside, there are plenty of animals to visit with. Currently the sanctuary houses:
A mini donkey and a mini horse
A rooster & a hen
4 baby beavers that will be released into the wild next year
Guests can sit in an enclosure with the cats for one-on-one time or walk the many trails on the grounds to see the beaver ponds and other natural attractions. All profits from the bed and breakfast go toward caring for the animals.
Of course, I can’t talk about a vegan bed and breakfast without mentioning the well-stocked kitchen where fresh plant-based meals are prepared for guests every morning. A variety of fresh vegan snacks is available throughout the day. For dinner, check out one of the veg-friendly restaurants in the area before heading back to unwind in the sitting room or hang out with the animals for the evening.
Red Robin Song Guest House is vegan bed and breakfast you don’t want to miss. I was so taken by the relaxing atmosphere and inviting accommodations that I called my mom on the drive home and suggested she and my dad head there for their annual fall getaway. I can’t wait to spend a night there myself.
I think so highly of Red Robin Song that I want to spread the word about their unique location to as many vegans, vegetarians, and veg-curious travelers as possible. That’s why Quantum Vegan and Red Robin Song are coming together to offer a special deal to guests booking multiple nights: the chance to experience all the bed and breakfast has to offer and enjoy wellness consulting services during your stay.
Ask about this package deal when reserving two or more nights for pricing info and more details. We’re offering:
All the amenities of Red Robin Song Guest House
One hour of personalized consulting
A one-on-one plant-based cooking class
It’s still in the early stages, but our goal is to expand this deal into a full wellness retreat. What would you want to see in a vegan health retreat? Share your input in the comments — Lisa, Jeff and I are eager for your opinion!
As a vegan, you’re already committed to living a healthy lifestyle. You’ve found animal-free recipes that are delicious and easy to prepare, and you’ve already noticed the health benefits that being dairy-free, egg-free and meat-free can offer.
To bring your healthy cooking and eating up a notch, it’s also important to pay attention to the water you use for cooking. While you might already drink bottled or filtered water, filling your pots and pans with high-quality water is just as important.
The potential dangers of tap water
Although the Environmental Protection Agency has set minimum testing schedules for certain pollutants to ensure that our drinking water is safe, it can still become contaminated. For example, it might contain chemicals from industrial waste or minerals like lead or mercury. Some cities fluoridate the tap water or add chlorine, which you may wish to avoid. In many cases, people simply do not like the smell or taste of their local water.
How tap water influences the taste of food
When you use tap water to boil pasta or cook veggies, the unpleasant taste is absorbed into the food and can negatively impact the flavor and color of the food. For example, if your city’s tap water contains chlorine, it will bleach veggies as they cook, leaving them looking drab and dull instead of vibrant. Unwanted minerals that make water “hard” can also have an impact on the way yeast performs in dough. If you bake a lot of your own bread and rolls and use tap water in your recipes, you might be frustrated that the baked goods don’t rise properly.
The solution: a high-quality water purifier
To make sure the water that flows from your tap is as clean, healthy and as great-smelling as possible, purchase a high-quality water purifier. This way, you can still take advantage of the convenience of filling your pots from the kitchen faucet without the worry of using water that makes your food look and taste funny. One unique option is the eSpring water treatment system by Amway that combines ultraviolet and carbon filter technology to reduce more than 140 contaminants in water while still allowing beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium to flow through.
(QV note: I started using a DuPont water filter recently due to concerns about environmental contaminants and have noticed a marked change in the way the water tastes. I do all my cooking with it and make sure only to drink from the tap with the filter installed.)
A few words about washing fruits and veggies
Most of us already know the importance of washing our produce before eating it; in addition to removing soil from the food, it also helps to wash away contaminants and pathogens that can make us ill. To ensure that your fruits and veggies are as clean as possible, you want to do a bit more than rinse them under filtered tap water.
First, clean your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and wash your fruits and veggies under the filtered water.
If the food has a lot of nooks and crannies, like broccoli or asparagus, soak it in filtered water for two minutes and then rinse.
Pat the produce dry using a clean paper towel, not the dish towel you used to dry your hands; this will remove even more bacteria from the food.
Please note, even if you are eating only organic fruits and veggies, it’s still important to follow these steps. (QV note: There may not be any pesticides, but produce can get fairly dirty during shipping, packing and stocking!)
Don’t waste all the hard work involved in preparing healthy vegan meals by using unfiltered tap water. Make sure your food looks and tastes amazing by rinsing, washing and cooking your food with high-quality filtered water. Your family will thank you for it.
Thanks to Alison Stanton for this post! Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.
Allergies are the result of an immune reaction to an otherwise benign substance. Whether it’s pollen from a field of ragweed or a protein in a food, the body mistakes it for an invader and launches an attack. This is different from an intolerance, which produces symptoms with no immune response, and can range from a runny nose to full-fledged anaphylaxis.
Instances of allergies, especially food allergies, are on the rise in the U.S., so the folks at Blink Health have put together a handy infographic with statistics and suggestions for management. There’s a lot of good info here, so take a look!
Click the thumbnail to view the full image.
I think it’s interesting to note the number of potential allergies that relate to animal products. For example, I didn’t know it was possible to be allergic to leather (apparently it’s because of the chemicals used to process it)! The best thing, in my opinion, is that allergies can be managed naturally with supplements like bromelain and quercetin. Remember to always consult with your health care practitioner before beginning any supplement regimen.
(Disclosure note: Sari Foods provided products in exchange for an honest review and compensation for original recipe development.)
Type “define superfood” into Google, and you get this straightforward answer:
a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.
Although the label seems to get slapped on whatever food is the darling of the mainstream media at the moment, some foods actually deserve their “super” reputations. Sari Foods has captured several of them in their unique product line.
Sari Foods declares their philosophy to be “to bring you the essence of food.” All of their products are 100 percent whole-food-based and contain no artificial or synthetic ingredients. Unlike many supposed “superfood” concoctions and supplements, the nutrients in Sari Foods’ products are highly bioavailable and easily assimilated by your body. Scientific food babble aside, what this actually means is that these products can have real benefits for your health. (Plus, they taste awesome. But I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Here’s a run-down of what Sari Foods has to offer:
What’s a plant-based diet without a little “cheese” sauce once and a while? And, let’s face it, healthy cheese is largely an oxymoron, even in the world of vegan cheese. With nutritional yeast, though, that dream becomes a reality. Two tablespoons of the nootch from Sari foods provides:
4g dietary fiber
Multiple B vitamins
and more, but these are the most notable. This combination is what qualifies it as a superfood. You get a blast of antioxidants, energy and thyroid support, an immune boost and a way to make a grilled cheese sandwich that definitively counts as healthy.
Image courtesy of Sari Foods
When you open the bag, you’re greeted by small, pale yellow flakes that lack the vibrancy of other nutritional yeasts but make up for it with an amazingly clean flavor. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can taste the difference so much that I blew through my sample bag and have already ordered three more. It’s smooth, delicious and just right for everything from cheese sauce to savory oats to salad dressings.
Acerola Cherry Powder
I’m sure I’m not the only one who reaches for a bottle of vitamin C supplements after being exposed to illness. Unfortunately, most of those pills have little, if any, beneficial effects due to the fact that the vitamin C is in an isolated, unnatural form. The vitamin C powder from Sari Foods, on the other hand, is made from acerola cherries, which happen to be the single best food source of vitamin C!
Each teaspoon of this organic powder contains 500mg of vitamin C, the equivalent of about 260g of actual acerola cherries.(1) Since it’s actually a whole food powder and not an extracted nutrient, it contains the full complex of the vitamin C family, including the naturally occurring bioflavanoids that enhance its effects. In addition to boosting immunity, vitamin C is also supports healthy collagen production, aids in detoxification and acts as a protective antioxidant.(2)
Image courtesy of Sari Foods
The unassuming tan powder has a tart cherry flavor, but does contain some organic maltodextrin, a fact that I’m not terribly thrilled about since I try to avoid added sweeteners. However, it does provide just a touch of extra sweetness that makes for a pretty delicious addition to your favorite beverage.Update & correction! The maltodextrin is used to help create the fine texture of the cherry powder, not to sweeten, and is used in small amounts. (Therefore, it’s still worlds better than commercial water flavorings like Crystal Light, which contains not only non-organic maltodextrin but also aspartame and artificial colors.)
I like to mix the acerola powder with the diluted apple cider vinegar drink I have every morning, but it would also be tasty just in water or blended into a smoothie. You can even sprinkle it in your oatmeal!
If concerns over spirulina contamination have led you to avoid this beneficial green superfood, I recommend trying the one from Sari Foods. Harvested from freshwater lakes, this spirulina powder is organic and contains (per tablespoon):
A balance of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats, including GLA
Multiple B vitamins
High levels of chlorophyll
I do want to note that the package lists B12 as one of the B complex vitamins found in spirulina, and while this is technically correct, scientific evidence seems to show that the forms of B12 found in this and other foods aren’t usable by the human body. The rest of the nutrients, however, do everything from help fix calcium in your bones to combat inflammation. GLA in particular is hard to get from other sources, appearing mainly in things like borage and evening primrose oils. Overall, there may be more than 100 nutrients working together in spirulina!(3)
Image courtesy of Sari Foods
Contrary to popular belief, spirulina isn’t actually algae. It’s a cyanobacteria, a type of bacterium that derives its energy from the sun, hence the chlorophyll content. Interestingly enough, the chlorophyll molecule bears a striking resemblance to the heme part of human hemoglobin and works to stimulate the production of red blood cells.(1) Its antioxidant properties provide strong protection from DNA damage,(3) and it may even hang around in your body after you eat it, contributing to the regeneration of CoQ10 when combined with sunlight.(4) So in a way, you can derive some energy from the sun!
Like the nutritional yeast, Sari Foods’ spirulina has a very clean flavor that mirrors its deep blue-green color. This is another good one for adding to smoothies, although I prefer to mix it in with my chopped salads to add a little something to the taste. Believe it or not, the whole salad tastes pretty amazing when combined with a citrus-based dressing and garnished with sauerkraut.
I’m pretty much in love with the products from Sari Foods, and the nutritional yeast in particular. I can’t imagine switching back to any other kind! On a more objective note, here’s what all the products have going for them:
Made from actual food, not extracts or synthetic nutrients
Vibrant packaging in generous sizes (1lb. for spirulina, 8oz. for nutritional yeast, 6oz. for the acerola cherry powder)
Clean, fresh taste with no strange overtones, undertones or aftertastes
The only thing I didn’t like is that the reseal strips on the tops of the bags don’t seem to work very well. I folded the bags down and secured them with rubber bands to get around that problem. And I can’t really count that as a “con” since it has no bearing on the quality of the products themselves!
Sari Foods gets two thumbs up in my book–their products do indeed deserve the “superfood” title! If you want to try them out for yourself, they’re having a new customer promotion with the code “WELCOME25” at the moment.
Bring on the Recipe!
Of course, I can’t babble on about how much I love a product without using it in a recipe! I’ve incorporated both the spirulina and the acerola cherry powder into these Chocolate Superfood Truffle Balls, plus I added some nuts, seeds and dark cocoa powder for an even bigger “super” boost. The result is a nutrient-packed healthy snack with a nutty, light chocolate flavor.
Chocolate Superfood Truffle Balls
Recipe Type: Snack
Serves: 25-30 truffles
Looking for a “super” snack? Try these nutty, chocolatey little bites that pack a hidden nutrient punch!
1 1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raw walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup raw pecans, chopped
1/4 cup nut or seed butter of choice
2Tbsp dark cocoa powder or raw cocoa powder
1 Tbsp Sari Foods spirulina
1 Tbsp Sari Foods acerola cherry powder
Place the dates and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until crumbly.
Add the oats and nut butter, and process again until well combined.
Add the cocoa powder, spirulina and acerola cherry powder. Process again until everything is mixed well.
Test the “dough” to see if it holds together when pinched. If not, add more dates, two at a time, until the dough can be shaped without falling apart.
Roll the dough into balls to form truffles. Place the truffles on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
1) Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Simon and Schuster
As part of this year’s series of posts for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness), I’d like to shed a little light on the epidemic of binge eating disorder, sometimes called compulsive overeating.
When the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) was released in 2013, it finally included binge eating disorder (BED) as a “real” eating disorder. In previous editions, BED was lumped in with other disordered eating in the “eating disorders not otherwise specified” category and had no concrete diagnostic criteria.
Today marks the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness), an annual observation headed up by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to bring more awareness to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED). Millions of people around the world struggle with some form of disordered eating, and many do so without their friends and loved ones ever knowing. It’s a very personal, very private struggle tied up with complex feelings of guilt and shame that keep sufferers from opening up about what they’re experiencing and miss out on the critical treatment necessary for recovery in most cases.
This year’s theme, “3 Minutes Can Save a Life,” aims to change all that. NEDA has developed a short, anonymous online screening that anyone can take to help determine if disordered eating patterns or full-blown eating disorders are present. If you have any concerns at all about your own eating patterns or the habits of a loved one, I urge you to take the screening. A few minutes of your time could mean the difference between getting treated and spending years suffering with a painful physical, mental and emotional disorder.
If you’d like to get involved in spreading the word, visit NEDAwareness.org for images and printable resources to share during this important week. Tag #NEDAwareness on social media to keep the conversation going. There are also many events taking place online and off to help spread awareness of this silent — and potentially deadly — epidemic.
I’ve written quite a bit on the subject of eating disorders and body image in the past:
The infographic below expands a bit more on the last post in the list. Hashtags like #thinspiration and Instagram accounts that are flooded with pictures of unrealistic bodies serve to drive those already prone to disordered eating to pursue unhealthy habits in an attempt to achieve physical perfection. For those trying to recover, such posts can be triggers that send them right back down the rabbit hole of illness.
Whether you suffer from an eating disorder yourself or simply don’t like something about your body, I encourage you to make this week the week you start to learn to love your physical shape. God has blessed each one of us with a very special, unique vessel in which to live, and that alone is something to stand in awe of.
Celebrate your body. Embrace what it can do. And get help if you’re stuck in a cycle of disordered eating and can’t get out — there is hope. <3
It’s no secret that obesity in America is a growing epidemic. According to the CDC, more than 33 percent (78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. What’s even more frightening is that we are also passing bad habits and poor health to our children. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are obese, and the number continues to rise.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The first step in fighting obesity and creating a healthier nation starts inside the home, where families share healthy habits and responsibilities. If you want to help your family (and yourself) develop better health, try these tips to get everyone started.
Pack Lunches for the Week
Lunch is the most tempting meal at which to eat fast, unhealthy “convenience” foods. Adults leave the office to hit the drive-thru or eat high-calorie restaurant meals, and kids don’t have it much better in public schools. School systems across the country struggle to set a standard for healthy lunches, and it’s a major factor contributing to childhood obesity.
Make the effort to pack lunches for the whole family. Cook delicious, nutritious meals in bulk on Sunday afternoon and store them in the freezer so that they’re easy to grab as you go off to work or school during the week. There are plenty of blogs to walk you through meal-prep recipes, and these meals can be a lifeline for anyone tempted by fast food during the day.
Plan Outside Family Activities
If you usually spend evenings in the living room watching TV and movies, change up the location. Parks, museums (children’s museums for the young ones) and family rec centers are great ways to get out of the house and move around. If you live near a city, find one new place each week to visit as a family. Be sure to pack healthy snacks like almonds and dried fruit to resist eating out around town.
Give Everyone a Task
Families that work together stay healthy together. Give everyone in the house a role to fill. One person is in charge of meal-prep Sunday, one person is in charge of choosing a new activity and one person is in charge of tracking everyone’s goals. Giving each person a specific task helps them stay motivated and keeps everyone on track toward a healthier lifestyle.
No good deed should go unrewarded, so setting goals with celebrations is a great way to keep motivated and on track. When you meet a family health goal, celebrate by taking a trip to a favorite location or buying something new for the house. Anticipating a reward keeps good habits coming in and bad habits going out. Avoid food-related rewards, as these tend to involve unhealthy food and can get you off track. Instead, stick with activities or special family “presents” that everyone can enjoy together.
How do you help your family stay on track with a healthy diet and lifestyle? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments!
Thanks to Jim Burch for this great article! Says Jim, “Born and raised near St. Louis, I developed an obsession for baseball and the Cardinals. College days brought me south to Kentucky where I studied creative writing and journalism while working as an editor for the Murray State News. These days, I write diverse copy and hone my physical prowess at my CrossFit gym in Chandler, AZ. My specialties range from movies and television to consumer technology to health and fitness.”