The Difference Between Vegan, Plant-Based and Vegetarian Diets

From the Beyonce to Pope Francis and now even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, so many are acknowledging the vegan diet as a beneficial way of eating.  Yes, even chef Ramsay who has been reported stating that he was “allergic” to vegans, has since embraced the lifestyle by offering vegan menu items at his restaurant Bread Street Kitchen. His current stance- “Veganism is on the rise, we’ve got to adapt and eat a slice of humble pie.” Well said Ramsay! While veganism isn’t something new, it is definitely trending more right now thanks in part to the mainstream adoption of the term “plant-based.”  It may seem like the two terms are interchangeable, but I promise you there is a difference between being vegan and eating a plant-based diet. Let’s check it out!

How ‘plant-based’ rebranded vegan eating for the mainstream.

Look around your local grocery store and you’ll see product after product with the term “plant-based” splashed on its labelling.  The explosion of plant based products on the market helps convey to customers exactly what the product is without labelling the product vegan. Think about it- by labeling the product “plant-based,” companies are hoping that omnivores or meat eaters will consider trying their product as well as the more intended audience of vegans.  The term plant-based allows companies to carve a niche out in the health food market while simultaneously catering to all audiences.

Okay, so what exactly is plant-based eating?

Typically plant-based diets emphasize consuming whole, plant-based foods such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits. These foods should make up a majority of what you eat, meaning you will limit or avoid consumption of processed and refined foods. And of course, it goes without saying but this diet means you will have to commit to the elimination of ALL animal products, including meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, gelatin and other animal byproducts.  

Now, the interesting part is that some individuals eating plant-based diet will chose to limit animal products rather than eliminate them all together. This primarily plant-based diet will allow for one to two days of an omnivore eating pattern (seafood, poultry and grass-fed meats), while reserving the rest of their week for plant-based meals. This style of eating is more commonly known as a flexitarian diet, which allows flexibility in consuming animal products.

Vegan’s origin story

Before the vegan diet was rebooted as a plant-based diet, it embodied a defined philosophy that was deeply rooted in animal rights. Strict vegans eliminate not only animal foods from their lifestyle, but also animal-derived, non-food products such as fur, wool, and leather. Some vegans won’t even purchase personal or household products if they have been tested on animals. Additionally, many of the reasons surrounding becoming vegan are political in nature, specifically addressing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and water usage, deforestation and wild animal extinction. Think of being vegan as a commitment to a lifestyle rather than just limiting the term to what you eat.

Okay so what is the difference?

A strict vegan diet emphasizes whole foods with minimal processing, meaning that while french fries, potato chips and oreos are essentially vegan, they bare no resemblance to the original plant form, so they’re out. On the other hand, while a plant-based diet focuses primarily on whole foods, it doesn’t entirely exclude the consumption of minimally processed foods. Again, don’t forget being vegan is a lifestyle commitment to living completely animal free, whereas the plant-based diet is solely a commitment to eating a diet that focuses on whole foods.

Ready for the mind- blowing part?!  While plant-based meals can be categorized as vegan, not everyone who eats a plant-based diet will consider themselves vegan!  The word vegan can be used as an adjective, “This stir fry is vegan” or as a noun, “Vegans eat dessert too!” The distinction seems small, but it really highlights the difference between being vegan and eating a plant-based diet.  

So is the term vegetarian out and plant-based in?

Not exactly.  Again, think about the two.  Consuming a vegetarian diet will mean that you not only eat plant-based whole foods, similar to what we know is the plant-based diet. Vegetarians who allow for consumption of eggs and dairy are categorized as “lacto-ovo” vegetarian- ‘lacto’ relating to milk and ‘ovo’ meaning egg. Typically, vegetarians eat absolutely no meat or seafood at all, however some eat fish once in awhile- this would be your pescatarian (‘pesce’ meaning fish). While there are seems to be levels of flexibility within vegetarianism, it still is at the core a plant-based based diet. Think of the term vegetarian as being rebranded into the term plant-based diet.

So what’s the take away here?

Now, for you I would say that you should eat what fuels your body and essentially makes you happy, while including a variety of nutrient dense foods into your daily meals. People ask me all the time if they should give up meat- my response is always the same… If you enjoy eating meat, there is no reason to give it up.  Instead think of reducing the amount of days you eat meat, while increasing the amount of day you eat a primarily plant-based diet. That way you are increasing the amount of nutrient dense whole foods you are eating daily, while also keeping the thing you love the most- meat. You’ll see when you do this, you may naturally begin to eat meat a bit less throughout the week as you open your palate up to a variety of whole nutrient dense foods.  


Today’s top hits I’m loving this month!

The Vernal Equinox is just 7 days away… Spring weather = roll the car windows down and turn up the volume! Of course, my top hits playlist has got to start off with the rapper from my hometown, Philadelphia- Meek Mill. This album so fire, it was hard to choose one track, but Meek Mill unleashes a lyrical assault in “Uptown Vibes”, so of course, it’s gotta lead off! The hits keep coming as Logic addresses his haters in “Keanu Reeves”, and Post Malone cements his status in the industry with “Wow.”  Rounding out the male rappers, is my man J.Cole who spits some fiery lyrics and ups his rap game dominance in “Middle Child”.

Katy Perry emerges with “365” a delightfully breezy pop track produced by Zedd. And c’mon, there isn’t one girl I know who isn’t singing along with Ariana Grande nowadays.  “7 Rings” is the anthem for girl bosses everywhere. The onslaught of girl power continues with Maren Morris, who after winning a grammy for her first solo album 3 years ago, continues to dominate as a vocal powerhouse in “GIRL.”  The emotionally charged “What a Time” with Julia Michaels and the brazen “Women Like Me” by Little Mix, round out our tracks of female empowerment.

Wrapping up this Top Hits Playlist is Sigala with “Just Got Paid”.  This track is exactly the turn up you need to head out for the evening.  But just as all good things must come to an end, “Wake Up in the Sky”, winds us down and sends us into our dreams.

Track List

Today’s top tracks I’m loving this month!

I am so excited to bring you an all new playlist to help fuel your Summer!  Of course, up first as to be The Carters!  This is not just because we share the same namesake.  “Everything is Love” is seriously placing JAY and Beyonce at the top of their game.  Drake comes in and just smashing all types of records with his new album “Scorpion.”  This is Drake’s most ambitious album yet and we are loving every track!  Just to shake things up in this playlist, we can’t leave out Ye or Pusha T.  The historic rap feud between Pusha and Drake has produced some amazing music on both sides.  Demi pairs up with Clean Bandit on “Solo”, an upbeat anthem ready to fuel hot summer days.  Jonas Blue never fails to produce a summer smash, and they did it again with “Rise.”  This playlist is fire!  What are you waiting for?  Get over to Spotify and download it now! #LiveInspired

Track List

Oh Hey Summer!

I can’t believe it is the first week of July!  I feel as though this year is moving so fast that it is just slipping away from me.  I can remember back to when I first moved to Los Angeles.  My mother had just passed, I was forty pounds overweight, and emotionally a wreck.  Measuring myself today, up against that emotional woman who arrived four and a half years ago from New York City, I can say honestly say its been a slow crawl putting myself back together, but I feel almost whole today.  My goal when I moved to Los Angeles was to rebuild my life without my mother and achieve something that both she and I would be proud of.

You see, my mother and I spoke of my dreams and ambitions all of the time.  She was the first person I called when I had amazing news and she was always there for me when I was going through a tough time.  As I was struggling to continue my professional career as an actor/dancer in New York, she would frequently ask me what it is I wanted from my life.  I always maintained that I wanted to have a life as an actor, but that I also wanted more… a place to call home, a husband to love, and a family.  I frequently questioned whether my life as an actor could provide me with those things.  My mother, who I’m sure would’ve liked to steer me away from the business, supported me in continuing my professional acting career.  She never wavered in supporting me.  We would talk for hours about a life that would work in parallel with my life as an actor.  That’s when I decided to go back to school and study nutrition.

Honor thy mother…

July is the birth month of my mother, which is why I’m reminiscing about my time with her.  She encouraged me to go back to school and now five years later, I’m about to enter my last year of graduate school.  It’s bittersweet to be going through this year without my mother.  I know she would be so proud of me.

While this is such a prideful and satisfying time in my life, I can’t get this feeling of regret out of my head.   I wish I knew back then what I know now about medical nutrition therapy and basic nutrition overall.  My mother passed away on an otherwise normal Friday night in June.  June 26th, 2012 to be exact. The cause? Complications surrounding cardiomyopathy.  Looking back now, I could see the warning signs of heart disease that had overcome her.   As I continue to study for my clinical nutrition rotation, I can’t help but think that she could have been saved had I looked a bit closer.  

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle.  For my mother, the disease manifested after years of consuming a diet full of salt, sugar and fat.  My mother had diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, was overweight and a smoker.  Even so, my mother could never give up her True Green cigarettes, Coke Classic or sour cream and onion potato chips.  If my mother had implemented even a small fraction of heart-healthy lifestyle changes, she’d probably be alive today.

So the next two months I’ll be focusing on several components of a heart-healthy lifestyle that would have prolonged my mother’s life.  

  1. I can have my cake and eat it too?!  In this post I’ll be focusing on Intuitive Eating and “all foods fit” approach.  Intuitive Eating is a non-diet approach which aims to create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body by reinforcing the need to listen to internal cues of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.   
  2. Pass the Salt.  Or should I say pass on the salt.  Salt…or sodium? The average sodium intake in the United States is currently 3,440 mg which is equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.  The American Heart Association advises limiting daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg to prevent hypertension and high blood pressure.  In this post, I’ll focus on this salty subject and provide ways to decrease sodium intake without sacrificing flavor.  
  3. Is fat killing you, or sugar?  This hotly debated and heavily researched topic will be the focus for the month of August.  It is that important that I will spend the whole month giving you as much knowledge as I can regarding this topic.  I have numerous friends on the ketogenic diet and I want to provide sound evidenced based advice as to how fat and sugar are affecting your health.  
  4. As Queen Bey says, “A little sweat never heart nobody!” Oh, yes, my friends we are focusing on getting moving and toning that body.  All new home workouts with downloadable PDFs are coming your way.  
I’m so excited to bring you all of this content and hopefully you’ll begin to share some of it with family and friends.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country, so let’s do something about it.  Let’s get the conversation going so that everyone can “Live their best lives!”

Vegetable Frittata for Lazy Summer Days!


Hello Summer!

I’m absolutely loving these sunny, breezy and bright Californian summer days.  For me, one of the best parts of summer happens to be weekend mornings.  If I happen to have the morning off, I luxuriate by spending an extra hour or two in bed, enjoying the crispness of the morning.  Once, I finally decide to peel myself up out of the bed to shower and begin the day, I head straight to my local farmers market to pick up fresh vegetables to throw into a frittata.  The best thing about frittatas is that there limitless types of vegetables that can be thrown into one.   

Frittatas are great when you’re looking for something a bit more substantial than scrambled eggs and less involved than making a cumbersome multi-ingredient meal.  Frittatas are differ from omelettes in that they are started on the stovetop and then finished in the oven with the fillings mixed in with the eggs.  With omelettes, the ingredients are folded into the center and are prepared solely on the stovetop.

I decided I wanted to feature a frittata on the site because preparation is fairly simple and cooking time is minimal.   Frittatas can be made ahead of time and can served hot or at room temperature.  The basic recipe calls for well beaten eggs to be whisked together with milk, seasonings, herbs, cheese and vegetables and cooked in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until the edges are set.  Once the edges are set, the frittata is placed in the oven to be cooked slowly over low heat until eggs taken on a springy texture.  

For my frittata, I used sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese and zucchini whisked into egg whites.  Although I used egg whites, you must certainly can use whole eggs if you prefer.  Additionally, feel free to use different vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms or a different cheese such a gruyère.  Get creative and use whatever you have leftover in your fridge!  Not only would you be saving money, but you would also be reducing potential food waste. 

Summer Vegetable Frittata

Egg whites, Zucchini, Sun dried tomatoes, Goat Cheese, Basil


9 eggs (whites only)

1/4 cup milk (or any dairy such as sour cream, yogurt, milk kefir, but not something non fat)

1/4 cup basil, chiffonade*

6 tbsp goat cheese

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste


Whisk together egg whites, dairy, 4 tbsp goat cheese and basil. Season to your liking. Sauté off zucchini (this helps release excess moisture and adds depth of flavor). Add 3/4 cooked zucchini and sun dried tomatoes to egg mixture.

Add 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to pan over medium-low to low heat. Add egg mixture and cook until edges are just set, about 3-5 minutes, depending on range. Top with remaining zucchini and goat cheese.

Place in oven until top is golden brown and center is set, about 10-15 minutes.  The frittata should have a springy nature (almost like set jello).  Garnish with chopped sun dried tomatoes and extra basil.  Enjoy!

Feeds 2.

*Chiffonade means “made of rags” in French.  This knife skill is used to prepare delicate ribbons of herbs.  To chiffonade the basil in this recipe:

  1. Begin by washing and drying the basil, then stacking the leaves on top of one another.
  2. Roll the leaves lengthwise into a tight roll.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the basil crosswise, thinly until its all sliced. 

Nourish + Balance Nutritional Info Extra: Eggs

Eggs supply protein, iron, choline, selenium, biotin and lutein.A yolk from from one large egg contains 185 milligrams of cholesterol and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.To control dietary cholesterol, consume whole eggs and egg yolks in moderation.Substitutions: Two egg whites for one whole egg; or Two egg whites and one whole egg for two whole eggs.Nutritional value: 1 large egg = 72 calories & 6 grams protein.

Ron Carter, Executive Chef 

Joshua Clay // Entrepreneur & Fitness Professional

What does wellness mean to you? 

Control. Wellness to me means having control of your life from a mental, spiritual, and physical standpoint. I don’t mean control in the way you can control how you’re feeling but controlling how you react to the emotions you feel, the events that occur, and the people you talk to at any given time and the thoughts that arise as a result. It also means maintaining control over your body from what you put in it as well as how you use it and being able to say confidently, you’re treating it in a way that makes you feel good.

Spring is a time of change, renewal and new beginnings.  Is there any aspect of your life that you feel is in need of change or renewal?  How will you go about implementing those changes, if any?

Not so much anything I think I need to change suddenly but something I want to continue to change is my adherence to my training and eating. The past few years have mostly been dedicated to improving my abilities as a coach, increasing my knowledge of training and nutrition, and building my business. With that said, my focus was more so on my clients and my business than it was my own training goals, so I hired my own strength coach at the beginning of this year to help me reach some training goals of my own. I lost around 8-10 lbs of muscle mass from my bodybuilding days and significant strength so I’ve made it my mission to improve my body composition, regain those 8-10 lbs of muscle and improve my strength to numbers I’ve never reached before at a bodyweight of 175. 

As a busy entrepreneur and young professional, how do you navigate your busy work life, your social life and time for self-care?

In order for me to fully enjoy my down time and social life, I need to have completed all the work I have set out for the day, week, or month. I have a whiteboard in my room and before bed each night, I create a list of things to do for the next day as well as things to do for the week. I then go through and number them in order of importance. As I complete each task, I cross them off one by one. So long as I have the tasks with the highest importance completed, then I can enjoy my social life and down time without feeling like I’m making the wrong decision. Long as I have put my “needs” before my “wants” then I know I’m setting myself up for success in the future and that puts me at ease to fully enjoy my time away from work.

Do any of these aspects carry more significance than the others?  Or do you aim to achieve balance in all three areas?

I do my best to achieve balance in all three areas. I’ve been at the severe ends of the spectrum as far as working 80-100 hours a week with little down or social time to the other side of the spectrum where I simply wasn’t making proper use of my time and getting quality work in. I live my life by a few mottos and one of those is “Hard work for hard work’s sake is just work.” I want to make sure that the work I’m getting in isn’t simply just to flaunt on social media that I’m “grinding” but that the work is for a reason and will benefit my future in some fashion. I don’t see any point in staying up all night “working” just so you can tell people how little you sleep or how hard you work. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some nights I have no choice and have to stay up late working but I try and keep those nights as minimal as possible. Otherwise, I run into feeling down and exhausted to the point that a task that should take me an hour ends up taking 3. I like my sleep and getting quality sleep allows me to get in quality work which then lets me enjoy my social life and down time.

You’ve been an athlete all of your life.  What led you transition into coaching?

When I realized I wasn’t going pro in any sport haha I played both college football and college rugby, I wasn’t the best but I was good enough and the training I put in to be better made me exponentially better from a confidence standpoint and an athletic standpoint. I hired a coach to prepare me for training camp as a freshman and to this day, nobody (besides my parents) has made a more profound impact on my life. He showed me what was possible if I fully enveloped myself into anything I wanted badly enough and made me fall in love with the training and journey towards any goal I may have. I loved what he did for me and wanted to do that for others

So often we are led by fear of the unknown, judgment of physical selves and self-doubt of our abilities.  How important is having self- worth in overriding those things?  How did you come to believe in your worthiness?

Ahh, the holy grail of knowing your worth or “having self-worth”. This was something I always asked myself, “How the hell am I supposed to know what I’m worth?” I think self-worth is extremely important because it allows you to have control over your reactions to things or people that may not align with who you are. Guy Ferdman talks about being in alignment with who you  are and being okay with anything that’s not, being able to say no and feel confident in that decision. To me, having the ability to do that without faking it gives you the power to make decisions and execute swift and purposeful action in every aspect of your life.  My worthiness came as I developed my abilities as coach and began refining the priorities in my life. My intelligence and knowledge as a coach was always something I took pride in but constantly looked outward to other professionals for reassurance that I was truly a good coach.

It wasn’t until I began teaching and coaching other trainers that I began to believe in my abilities and realize my worthiness as a coach and individual. I realized that I was doing all the things I should and could be doing to better myself and once other coaches and trainers began coming to me for guidance and mentorship as well as being hired to put on seminars, it was time to realize who I was and be that to others who may look to me for the same reassurance I once looked to others for.

Clearly you have a passion for physical fitness.  How important to you is the balance between fitness, nutrition, and wellness?

I believe the balance between the 3 is constantly evolving and changing based on what is happening in your life. There’s this idea of optimal in the sense of “the absolute best given everything is in perfect alignment” and optimal in the sense of “everything is all kinds of messed up but this is the best I can do given the circumstances”. I prefer to base my balance of the 3 off the latter. I will say that generally so long as my wellness is where I want it to be then my fitness and nutrition will generally follow suit.

With leading such a busy life, how do you manage to make time for proper nutrition? Do you have any go to meals or snacks?

I usually make time to meal prep on Sundays. I keep it pretty simple, so I can make it easy and quick. Generally, I prep 15 meals which gives me 3 meals a day Monday thru Friday. That way, I can just grab & go as I need to throughout the day without having to constantly eat out. I eat a hefty amount of carbohydrates so a favorite snack of mine is granola mixed in vanilla yogurt. Other than that, it’s the basics like carrots with hummus or a green apple. I don’t buy too many “snacks” which prevents me from over eating during the week.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve taken on in the last year?

Surfing by far. I was mostly a team sport athlete most of my life with the exception of stints in BMX racing and track & field. I made it a goal to learn a new skill starting this year and I chose surfing because it intimidates the living hell out of me but also to relate to newcomers in the gym.

I was tired of  “IG models & trainers” preaching to people to overcome their fears without giving any real life examples of how they overcame their own fears. I love the gym but I’m not ignorant to the fact that the gym can be a very scary and intimidating place for a lot of people.

Surfing was the same for me. Paddling out there in Venice with a ton of extremely experienced surfers just hoping I don’t get in their way, hoping they don’t judge me when I’m out there for hours repeatedly falling down and looking like a newborn calf. I wanted to overcome those same fears people experience when joining a gym. I’m happy to say that I can now stand up and ride a wave! I still have my frequent moments of falling and my days where my coordination just seems to have left me but I keep going. I will say that it has gotten to the point where being out in the ocean is now something I crave and allows me to forget about my own problems for a couple hours and just focus on my weaknesses and getting better.

Did you encounter any obstacles while trying to achieve this goal?  If so, how did you overcome those obstacles?

Oh hell yeah I did! Besides my own emotions of being self-conscious of what other surfers would think, surfing itself is hard! Luckily a client of mine lent me a longboard of his which made makes it much easier to learn but regardless, I still had and am having a hell of a time. Surfing is a skill completely new to me so getting used to the proper stance, standing up, maneuvering the board, etc is a challenge but it’s also exciting. I had a few days in the beginning where I just wanted to quit because I was so bad but I kept at it and couldn’t be more pumped that I did. Other obstacles would be finding the time, I’m pretty busy with work and other side projects so I’ve had to really make the time to clear 2-2.5 hours, 2 days a week to make it out there but like I said, it’s to the point now where I crave those hours and it allows me to use my fitness for something more than just being strong. I had one day in the beginning where a wave took me under and kept me there for about 20 seconds. That scared the living hell out of me given my inexperience and 20 seconds underwater feels like an eternity, so it gives me infinite amounts of respect for these professional surfers who learn to hold their breathe for 5 minutes at a time. That had me freaked out for a few days but still going strong!

If you made a vision board for the next five years of your life, what would be featured on it?

I’m at a point in my life where the idea of having a huge house and a ton of cars doesn’t do much to motivate me so I think mine would be a little different from what most post to their vision board. I would feature various places around the world I want to visit like Africa, Italy, and the moon because I mean, why not? I would also feature various cut outs of gyms like Barbell Brigade, Anatamy at 1220, Cressey Sports Performance, as well as facilities from various athletic programs like West Point and UCLA. I hope to open a facility of my own in Santa Monica with a partner so these would help remind me of a huge goal and dream of mine. 

In your opinion, how do we best achieve what we want out of this world?

Discipline above and beyond everything. Discipline to do what needs to be done when it’s the last thing you want to do, discipline to constantly learn, grow, and evolve by reading, listening, and attending various events. Motivation is cool but is very temporary and only serves us when we’re feeling good which is great but discipline keeps you working and doing the things that will help you reach those goals when you’re down, sick, sore or…unmotivated.

What are 5 fun facts about yourself?

  1. I’m a huge harry potter nerd. I’ve got cups, a cloak, shirts, pajama pants, socks, beanie, and even a remote control wand. No muggles can be found here.
  2. My pops is a race car driver. I grew up in North Carolina where racing is huge so yes, I enjoy watching cars turn left. If you haven’t been to a Nascar race then you’re missing out.
  3. My favorite music is country. I listen to EDM as well but it has to have words or you lose me. Rap/Hip-hop once in a while but if you’re driving with me then you can expect to hear some honky tonk.
  4. I am a WBFF Pro Fitness Model. I used to compete back in the day and actually received my pro card, at the time becoming the youngest pro fitness model at 22. It was fun but my priorities and goals shifted however, it’s still cool to look back occasionally and remember all the cool people I met and memories I made.
  5. I highlight, tab, and make notes in all my books. I base how good a book is off how many times I’ve added a tab. If it’s a really good book, I take all the notes and highlights and turn it into a study guide. A little overboard but it helps me retain all the information.

Social media:

IG: @joshualeeclay


Today’s top tracks I’m loving this month!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new playlist, so I’m so excited to bring you this new addition to the Sound Lab.  If you didn’t know already, Kendrick Lamar was awarded a Pulitzer for his profound, thought provoking work on his album “Damn.”  Beyonce continues to be leader in the music industry, recently becoming the first black female to headline Coachella.  And of course we love whatever Drake spits out and there’s definitely room for him on this playlist.  My personal favorite right now is the new album from 30 Seconds to Mars entitled “America”.  It been awhile since I’ve been so profoundly moved by music and this playlist definitely lives in my soul.  Enjoy!  #LiveInspired

Track List

We got the Beet!

We got the Beet, we got the Beet, we got the Beet… Yeah, we got the Beet! 🎶

This week we have not one, but two recipes for you try!  If you’re like me, beetroot or beets as they are commonly called, have been a food you’ve always wanted to try, but never really had the guts to actually do so.  And no beet chips do not count!  Although I have had beet chips and I do enjoy them tremendously.  But seriously, let’s talk about beets and how beneficial they can be to your health.  

Beets are a source of not only essential vitamins and minerals, but also dietary nitrates. What are dietary nitrates you ask?  Okay, quick chemistry lesson.  Nitrates contain 3 oxygen atoms.  Once nitrates are exposed to bacteria in the body or enzymes in food, they become nitrites which have 2 oxygen atoms.  Adding nitrites to meat, prevents them from turning brown.  Nitrites are the reason whey cured meat is pink or red.  Nitrites then turn in to nitric oxide, which is good.  However, it can turn be converted into nitrosamines, which are bad.  

Okay, now that we’ve had a quick chemistry lesson, lets talk about why nitrates are good for you.    Approximately 80% of dietary nitrates are derived from vegetable consumption; sources of nitrites include vegetables, fruit, and processed meats (1).  Vegetables are the biggest dietary source of nitrates. Nitrate- rich vegetables increase plasma concentrations of nitrate and nitrite.  These increased concentrations have been show to lower blood pressure in healthy adults (2).  Beetroot juice, with its high concentration on nitrates, has become popular dietary supplement over the past decade cardio protective properties.  

In addition to lowering blood pressure, beets have been proven to possess antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.  Oxidative stress plays a role in the pathophysiology in over 200 clinical conditions.  The pigment in beets, betalain, has been shown to protect cellular components from oxidative stress.  Chronic inflammation as a result of clinical disorders such as obesity, liver disease, cancer and heart disease can be partially mediated by the anti-inflammatory effects of betalain and beetroot extracts (3).

It is important to note that excessive intake of dietary nitrates and nitrites can lead to negative health effects.  Of primary concern is their association with processed and cured meats.  Nitrates added to meats serve as antioxidants, develop flavor, and stabilize the red color in meats but must be converted to nitrite to exert these actions (1).  Consumption of certain types red and processed meats are associated with an increased risk of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  However, the correlation between nitrates/ nitrites and processed meat needs to be studied further to assess to what extent nitrates/ nitrites contribute to cancer risk (4).  

Overall, beets are low in calories, high in water and a great source of several nutrients including fiber, folate and vitamin C.

I am so excited for you to try these recipes!  The first recipe is a roasted beet toast which is great for a light lunch.   Using packaged beets and preparing the pesto the night before, will lead to quick preparation.  Choose a bread you love and top it with your roasted beet/ pesto mixture.  Only thing you’ll have to master is poaching an egg.  Don’t make that face… you can do it!  The second recipe is a salad that you can prepare the night before, pack it up and take it the next day for lunch.  However, if you’re like me, you can most certainly eat the salad immediately after preparation.   The salad lends itself to being a companion to a lean protein.  Try pairing it with a lean steak, roasted chicken, or broiled fish for a complete meal.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!  


  1. Hord NG, Tang Y & Bryan NS (2009) Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Am J Clin Nutr 90, 1–10.
  2. Jonvik, K. L., Nyakayiru, J., Pinckaers, P. J., Senden, J. M., Loon, L. J., & Verdijk, L. B. (2016). Nitrate-Rich Vegetables Increase Plasma Nitrate and Nitrite Concentrations and Lower Blood Pressure in Healthy Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 146(5), 986-993. doi:10.3945/jn.116.229807
  3. Clifford, T., Howatson, G., West, D. J., & Stevenson, E. J. (2015). The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Nutrients, 7(4), 2801–2822.
  4. Etemadi, A., Sinha, R., Ward, M. H., Graubard, B. I., Inoue-Choi, M., Dawsey, S. M., & Abnet, C. C. (2017). Mortality from different causes associated with meat, heme iron, nitrates, and nitrites in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study: population based cohort study. The BMJ, 357, j1957.

Roasted Beet Toasts w/ Cranberry Pesto Vinaigrette, Poached Egg


4 medium sized beets 

1/2 cup kale

1/2 cup packed basil leaves

1/2 cup cranberries

1/4 cup super seeds or nut (chia, sunflower, hemp, flax, almonds, walnuts)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup parmesan

2 garlic cloves (diced)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt to taste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 slices seeded multigrain bread

For Beets: If roasting fresh: place beets in roasting pan with a 1 cup red wine vinegar. Add water until 3/4 of beets are covered. Cover roasting pan with foil. Braise for 1 hour at 400 degrees or until fork tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool. But not too much. Using a kitchen towel or peeler, remove skin and dice, slice, or into wedges.  If using packaged beet just cut into wedges.

For Cranberry Pesto: Pulse seeds for 10 seconds and nuts in food processor then remove and set aside.  Add remaining ingredients to food processor except for oil and parmesan cheese.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil, while pulsing.  Pour into mixing bowl.  Fold in cheese and pulsed seeds.  Salt to taste. You can adjust amount of cranberries to desired flavor.

For poached egg: 


Ingredients: 2 large eggs & 1/2 tbsp white vinegar

Fill a large straight-sided skillet with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Add vinegar and return to a boil. Break one egg into a small heatproof bowl. Placing lip of bowl in the water, gently tip the bowl to slide egg carefully into pan. Use a large slotted spoon to fold the edges of the white over the egg, for a neater edge. Repeat with remaining eggs. 

Cook until whites are just set but the yolks are still soft, they should still move around inside, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Lift out eggs with a slotted spoon or small mesh sieve and briefly rest on bread to allow eggs to drain. Trim edges with a knife for a prettier presentation before serving on toast, if desired, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

To assemble:

Toss roasted beets in pesto mixture.  Spoon onto toasted bread.  Top with poached egg. 


Roasted Beet, Farro, and Tuscan Kale Salad w/ Dried Cranberries and Orange Mustard Vinaigrette


1 cup faro

1 small sweet onion (diced)

1 qt. vegetable or chicken stock

4 medium beets (substitute: package beets)

1 bunch kale (stems removed)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tbsp champagne or sherry vinegar

Zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp whole grain mustard

1 tbsp honey

Salt (optional)

For Faro: Sweat diced onion on low heat. Add faro and stock. Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Stir in 1 tbsp butter (can substitute 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil) to finish. Set aside.

For Beets: If roasting fresh: place beets in roasting pan with a 1 cup red wine vinegar. Add water until 3/4 of beets are covered. Cover roasting pan with foil. Braise for 1 hour at 400 degrees or until fork tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool. But not too much. Using a kitchen towel or peeler, remove skin and dice, slice, or into wedges.  If using packaged beet just cut into wedges.

For Kale:  Rough chop kale. Sauté over medium heat until wilted and tender. About 4 minutes.  Set aside.

For Vinaigrette:  Add orange juice, champagne vinegar, orange zest, whole grain mustard and honey to food processor.  With the food professor on medium setting, slow drizzle in extra virgin olive oil to emulsify mixture.  If whisking by hand, slowly add in oil while whisking.  Salt to taste.

Toss together all prepared ingredient together and top with dried cranberries.  Can be served warm or room temperature.



Solving the “The Dinner Dance” Dilemma

The Spring season is off to a strong start with many of you working hard to achieve you fitness, nutrition and wellness goals.  As with most of my friends, life is getting more and more hectic and you are probably having a difficult time making your nutrition, health and wellness a priority.  That’s okay.  Here’s where I come in to help out.  Today I want to talk a little bit about meal delivery and why it can be beneficial to you to supplement your weekly meals with a subscription.  I do not have an affiliation with any of the services I’m going to promote, so there is no bias on my part.  Okay, let’s dive in shall we.

Meal delivery… what is it?

No I’m not talking about take out delivery using post mates or grub hub.  I’m also not talking about meal delivery kits in which you receive a box with all of the ingredients to make a recipe.  I’m specifically talking about meal delivery services where subscription includes a set of pre determined prepared breakfasts, lunches or dinners (sometimes snacks and juices as well) to be delivered to your home or apartment.

The Benefits

As a soon to be registered dietitian, the main complaint I hear from clients as to why they cannot stay on top of their nutrition goals is due to lack of time.  However, clients are quick to add they’d prefer not to sacrifice eating a healthy, nutritious meal just because they don’t have the time to prepare it.  I definitely understand how hard it is to be a busy, working professional, but also keep health and wellness a priority.  Pre made meal delivery service can be the saving grace we all need to take some of the stress away from the dinner dilemma we constantly put ourselves through.

Many of the meal delivery services cater to both food sensitivities, preferences and allergies.  From gluten free to vegetarian, from paleo to vegan and from detox offerings to organic eats, meal delivery services can compliment your way of life and even help you to move into better health and wellness.  Below are some of my picks for meal delivery services that provide excellent #dieticianapproved meals here in Southern California.  If you live outside of your area, do a quick search and try out some meal delivery options local to you.  And remember there is no need to succumb to fast food urges and impulse buys at the grocery store when you’re short on time.  Try meal delivery and save yourself the headache of marching out pots and pans, preparing ingredients, cooking, serving, then cleaning up.  I’m exhausted just writing that sentence.  Let me know how it goes rockstars!

  • Thistle— This service is plating 100% organic, plant forward meals that are both gluten and dairy free with no added sugars.  Thistle aims to connect people to real foods in a sustainable way that delivers the optimal amount of nutrition.  There are several meal delivery options for 3 to 6 days a week, which include breakfast, lunch dinner as well as  juices, snacks, soups, wellness shots, cold-brew coffees.
  • Crateful LA— Chef prepared gourmet meals with locally sourced and organic ingredients.  Chose from 4 meal options: Chef,  Fit, Vegetarian, and Paleo. Food is packed in compostable packaging, not your typical plastics.
  • Sakara Life— An organic meal delivery program is based on a whole-food, plant-rich diet free of calorie counting, GMOs, dairy or gluten.  Protein in these meals comes from whole foods that are plant based.  A unique feature of Sakura Life’s meal plans is the inclusion of flavored waters and tea, emphasizing the importance of hydration as part of a clean and balanced program.
  • Paleta— Paleta meals are made in LA’s first certified green commercial kitchen, complete with recycling/composting programs and an on-site greenhouse where they grow some of their own ingredients. Different portion options are available for Paleta’s seasonal meal plans, including fit (weight loss), lifestyle (health/energy maintenance), and performance (athletes).
  • Klean LA—  The Klean program is based on high quality foods, portion control and macronutrient needs.  A regular meal plan consists of 45% lean protein, 37% complex carbs and 18% healthy fat.  They additionally offer a vegan and vegetarian plan that provides optimal nutrition for those clients that prefer to omit animal protein from their diet.  The vegetarian program is still gluten, soy and preservative free (no fake meat).  Pescatarian plan is mostly vegan/vegetarian with the exception of fish which is served twice a week.
  • Fitness Kitchen LA— Nutritionist Designed Meal Delivery Service.  100% Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free 3 plans to choose from based on dietary goals, offering  4 meals daily.

Four tips for getting Festival Ready

Now that we are officially in the Spring season, many of you will be gearing up to hit the festival circuit, if you haven’t already!  While most of us didn’t get a chance to go to SXSW this year in Austin, there is a real chance that you already have tickets to see the queen herself Beyonce, at Coachella.  Next up is Stagecoach in Indio, California, then the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, where at that point we into Memorial Day.  Now don’t be sad if you are not planning on attending one of these festivals as many are too busy to go or too cash poor purchase the expensive ticket.  However, that is no reason to forgo getting festival ready!  You absolutely never know when someone might surprise you with a ticket and a free trip… or more realistically, festival season is great reason to step up your health and wellness game.

Festival ready tip #1 // Clean up your diet!

As you are trying on your new festival wardrobe, you may not like how your body is looking in all of that festival gear.  I’m sure you look fabulous, but if you are feeling a bit self- conscious, cleaning up your diet is a great way to feel and look great.  For the next two weeks, try eliminating processed foods from you diet.  This includes protein bars and skinny pop popcorn.  I know, it is very tough.  However, there are several benefits to restricting  processed foods in favor of a clean diet.

A diet of whole, nutritious, minimally processed foods, lean protein and complex carbohydrates is full of antioxidants, omega- 3 fatty acids, and vitamins & minerals.  Aside from weight loss, consuming a clean diet yields many benefits including strong hair and nails.  Vitamins C, E and biotin that are prevalent in fruits and vegetables will help you grow your hair and maintain durable nails.  On top of having super shiny festival ready hair, eating more whole foods, will also increase your energy.  Make sure your meals and snacks are jam packed with protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to help fuel your energy reserves.  Get a good nights sleep every night, and feel yourself wake up more energized.  Added benefit, eating balanced meals such as these, will help you to feel fuller longer, reduced bloating and prevent overeating.

photo credit: CNN Money

Festival ready tip #2 // Hydrate more & no, I don’t mean with bottomless mimosas!

Along with a clean diet, make sure you are properly hydrated.  Throughout the day its important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to maintain and replenish water levels.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lemonade-colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration, while dark colored urine, indicates dehydration. When you are dehydrated, your heart, brain and muscles do not function properly.  You may also experience changes in mood and decreased energy levels when dehydrated.  Staying hydrated will help you to maintain energy throughout your day and increase brain performance which will help improve concentration and mood.   Adequate hydration also increases satiety and boosts metabolism all thew while helping to cleanse your body of toxins.  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends over the age of 19, men should drink 3.7 liters daily and women should drink 2.7 liters.  This value includes any water containing foods and beverages you consume throughout the day.

Festival ready tip #3 // Tone it up with HITT training

Okay, so you’ve purchased all of your festival outfits, and now want to make sure you look your festival best in all of it!  Well high intensity interval training is going to be the most effective way to slim down and stay sculpted.  High intensity interval training includes repeated bouts of short to moderate duration exercise completed at an intensities which are performed at anaerobic levels greater than your threshold.  In other words, you ‘go hard’ for a specific duration of time and then have a short recovery.  Think of a sprint in cycling— for 30 seconds  you are going as fast as you can and then you recover, only to perform another shortly after.  Higher exercise intensities with longer durations produce higher degrees of EPOC; however, research has shown that intensity has a greater impact on exercise post oxygen consumption than duration.  Exercise post oxygen consumption or EPOC refers to the calories expended above resting values after exercise.  Essentially, it represents the increased amount of oxygen above resting level that the body is utilizing to return itself back to its pre-exercise state.  So if you want to maximize your post workout calorie burn, look for speed interval training (i.e., running on a self propelled treadmill, alternating  30 of sprinting with 30 seconds of rest), rather than circuit based HIIT.  However, it should be noted that both speed interval and circuit based HIIT are more effective at increase caloric expenditure than steady state exercise.

Festival ready tip #4 // Find mindful moments to destress

The worse thing you can do is carry your stress with you to the festival you’ve been looking forward to for weeks.  Self care is so important to relieve stress.  I know so many of you are working a main job and either have a side hustle to make more money or are going to school to obtain a masters degree.  The millennial generation is burning the candle at both ends and is much more stressed then older generations.  The pressures to live up to perfection, both self imposed and societal, is pushing us to working even harder to reach our goals.  Within all of the hustle, we need to set aside time to decompress, and practice some self care.  What are some ways to practice self care you ask?  Well you are already tackling your diet and workout regime with the aforementioned tips.  Go further with self care by employing some mindful mediation or “grounding exercises” such as deep breathing or going for walk to clear your mind and destress.  Take stock of your physical and emotional state and find methods to release tension and anxiety.  For me, sometimes a long hot shower and a good cry helps me to release tension.  It’s not that I’m sad, but I have some built up anxiety that needs to be let out.  Find what works for you and go for it.  Making self- care a regular ritual will help you to navigate more of the stressful moments in your life.

I hope this list helps you get #festivalready!  Now go live inspired!