Fall Transition Outfit: Boots and Blazers

Fall Transition Outfit: JCrew Schoolboy Blazer, JCrew Pixie Pant, Lucky Brand Boots

This is a slightly different post for me. I know I typically post about food and nutrition, but there are three facets to my blog: Eat. Tone. Love. Thus far, I believe my focus has been predominantly “Eat” related. I’ve dabbled some in “Tone” posts, but it’s hard to put together workout routines when you don’t have a tripod and have yet to coerce someone into filming you. Perhaps the most neglected facet of my blog is “Love,” which I intended to be a smorgasbord of things I love: fashion, clothes, skincare, science, what have you. In the upcoming weeks, you will see more and more posts within this category, including outfit of the day posts (both work and work out apparel), reviews for athletic apparel, and style guides to keep you looking fancy and fit in the gym (I recently went into a shopaholic frenzy for some Nike apparel, so I’ll give you the full run down of all my purchases).

I haven’t been blogging as much recently. Between work, school, social life and both the fun and drama associated for all these, I’ve felt pressed for time for writing. Fear not, I have not strayed from my healthy lifestyle- I still workout daily, cook daily, and function like a lean, green machine. I haven’t abandoned my lifestyle, but I have abandoned you, my readers, as collateral damage. Thus, I have a ton of content to blog about, I just can’t seem to find the time or motivation to type it all out. Thus, my posts may be more picture-based now. In line with that, you can also follow me on Instagram. I’ve been cheating on WordPress with Instagram, but it’s just so much easier to snap a picture and write a caption than to type out a long ass blog entry and recipe. So, if you feel deprived from my lack of blog posts, head on over to Instagram to see what I’ve been cooking up recently.

Now, back to this fall-tastic outfit. The only things I moderately enjoy about cooler weather are boots, blazers, and scarves. Things I do not enjoy about cooler weather? Freezing my ass off (the one downside to low body fat %) and, and this one may come as a surprise, pants. I freaking hate wearing pants. For the longest time, I refused to wear jeans unless absolutely unnecessary. Call me a girly girl, but put me in a skirt or dress and I’m happy. Put me in pants, and I feel weird, constricted, and ugh. Thus, winter becomes a struggle, and I inevitably must give in to pantalones.

Because yoga pants and leggings are not always acceptable attire (dammit. Gym attire FTW), I’ve had to find pants that I can actually deal with wearing. Enter the Pixie Pant from J.Crew- which is basically a socially acceptable, structured legging. My particular pair has pockets and belt loops, you know, so I can pass them off as real pants without sacrificing my need for lack of constraint. I have these pants in black (pictured here) and navy, and I adore them. Another item that I adore is the J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer, featured here in dark gray. J.Crew makes the best damn blazers, and I just added two more lovely ladies to my collection, bringing my grand total to five (black, navy, gray, soft orchid, and fire coral). Structured, stylish, and classically and effortlessly put together, the J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer is a welcome addition to any outfit to make it both fall-ready and business chic. And what would a fall outfit be without some Lucky Brand BootsJ.Crew bling, and my trusted and adored Michael Kors Selma Bag?

Fall Transition Outfit- H&M top, Pixie Pant, Lucky Brand Boots

J.Crew Necklace

Shirt: H&M
Blazer: J.Crew Schoolboy Blazer in Gray
Pants: J.Crew Pixie Pant in Black
Boots: Lucky Brand Boots
Jewelry: J.Crew Necklace
Handbag: Michael Kors Selma in Luggage

‘Tis the season for Pumpkin Spice- or is it?

IMG_3104

Fall is officially here, which means gratuitous amounts of Pumpkin Spice paraphernalia is coming (also, winter is coming… But please, let’s not talk about that yet). The Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has such a cult following that it even has an abbreviation (PSL) and countless Tumblr pages dedicated to capturing the fall-tastic essence of the PSL and various other fall things “white girls love.” Since I’m a Starbucks-drinking, Michael Kors-toting, legging and riding boot-wearing basic white girl, I thought I would embrace my inner basic bitch and indulge in the PSL. Turns out I’m not as basic as I thought- I found the PSL to be mostly hype.

typical-white-girl-2

Gasp. I know, how dare I insult the Pumpkin Spice Life (err… I mean “latte”). I just wasn’t blown away by it- the flavor was meh, and I find most Starbucks seasonal drinks to be far too sugary for my liking. Plus, everyone knows that the Peppermint Mocha is the Queen Bey of seasonal lattes (even though it, too, becomes too sweet for me).

beyonce-responds-to-pepsi-lets-move-campaign-1

So what’s a girl to do to get her fall swag on? Fear not, for there is a year-round solution to feed your latte addiction: the cinnamon dolcé latte… A skinny cinnamon dolcé latte with soy milk, to be exact. I’ve already blogged once before about the wonders of the cinnamon dolcé latte (CDL?). Not only does the soy CDL taste better, it contains much less calories and sugar (140 calories and 13g sugar for a grande soy CDL vs 310 calories and 48g in a grande soy PSL). Even more horrifying, if you don’t order your PSL with soy/nonfat milk and you indulge in whipped cream, you’re looking at 380 calories in your white and green cup. Too many of those and you’ll really begin to question if legging as pants is a good idea.

Unknown

So enjoy fall- pick pumpkins, wear riding boots and leggings, throw on that J.Crew blazer, rock a chunky scarf, whip out your cashmere tech gloves, but don’t fall victim to the PSL life. This has been a PSA against PSL by the Cinnamon Dolcé Coalition against Lumpy Legging Butt (CDC against LLB? Has a nice ring to it).

❤ Nika

Review of Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen, Lexington, KY

Vinaigrette Vegan Power Salad with Chicken

Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen is a new restaurant off of Leestown Road that describes themselves as a “fast casual salad shop serving fresh gourmet salads.” As the first salad shop of its kind in Lexington, it’s causing quite a stir. My eyes widened in excitement as I heard the announcement of their opening because, as a health-conscious nutritionist that struggles to find restaurant options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and mammal-free, salads are my mecca, especially when they’re packed with hearty, fresh ingredients. When I looked at their menu, my heart skipped a beat when I saw their Vegan Power Salad. A restaurant option that doesn’t require me to make a million adjustments to the ingredients and then still worry about any hidden dairy or egg?  I was sold, and I knew I had to make the pilgrimage to this salad mecca.

I ordered the Vegan Power Salad, which consists of spring mix with Napa cabbage, quinoa, chickpeas, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, sweet peppers, roasted sunflower seeds, and edamame. Somewhat ironically, I added grilled chicken to this vegan salad and swapped the salad’s standard Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette for their Blackberry Sorghum Vinaigrette. My mom ordered their Orange Blossom Salad, a mixture of romaine and iceberg mix with Napa cabbage, crispy rice noodles, edamame, snow peas, carrots, and cucumbers with a Honey Orange Sesame Vinaigrette. They also had a tempting assortment of lemonades, including Sweet Baby Watermelon, Blackberry Mint, and Lemon Rosemary.

The Food:
I really enjoyed my salad- the ingredients were really fresh and crisp. I loved the edamame and chickpeas in the Vegan Power Salad- it’s so nice to see some vegan sources of protein out there. Further, I knew I had to order this salad when I saw the quinoa- finally a place in Lexington that uses quinoa in salads! It adds such a great texture to the greens, and it’s a wonderful source of protein and fiber. Additionally, the tomatoes and cucumbers were really tasty! So often restaurants use pathetically pale insipid tomatoes and wimbly, watery cucumbers in their salads; thus, it was refreshing to get some quality ingredients. You really get a lot of salad at Vinaigrette, as they fit a lot of greens and lettuce into those deep metal bowls (which is a cute idea, by the way). I drizzled my salad in their Blackberry Sorghum Vinaigrette, a delightfully rich and smooth dressing with a hint of fruit and sweetness, but not overly saccharine or tangy. I definitely enjoyed this vinaigrette and got a second cup of it to finish off my lettuce (they’ll give you as much dressing as you need). I tried both their Sweet Baby Watermelon and Blackberry Mint lemonades. The Blackberry Mint was pretty good, but, oh my, the Sweet Baby Watermelon… SO GOOD. I could drink that all day. I love the taste of watermelon, and Vinaigrette perfectly captured the delightful sweetness of fresh watermelon in this crisp and refreshing lemonade. Overall, I was very satisfied (both with the taste and quality of the food and also with how the salad satisfied my hunger).

The Atmosphere: 
The interior is quaint and adorably appointed. There is great texture and warmth to the interior: rustic brick, barn wood, metal chairs, wooden tables, subway tile… the interior gets a definite thumbs up from me. However, the seating is almost absurdly minimal- there are three tables, three! I understand they are a new business and pressed for space, but finding a place to sit was a challenge. At lunch time, all of the tables inside were occupied, their tables outside were occupied, the benches were occupied, the tables in front of the neighboring Orange Leaf were occupied, and some people were sitting on stray chairs with their laps. My mom and I, along with several other patrons, had to walk around the corner to the patio of Firehouse Subs to be able to sit down. Not that it’s horribly inconvenient, but it was awkward, as the manager of Firehouse came outside to tell all the Vinaigrette patrons (who stand out with their large metal bowls) that, essentially, we couldn’t sit there but she would let us finish eating before she kicked us off the patio. So be cautious of the lunch rush and consider getting your salad to go if you are planning on trying out Vinaigrette during peak hours. However, the staff of Vinaigrette was exceptionally friendly, upbeat, and helpful. Even when I asked to add chicken to a vegan salad and inquired which of their dressings were gluten free and vegan, they were happy to answer all my questions and definitely added to the warm and inviting atmosphere at Vinaigrette.

The Prices: 
Vegan Power Salad $8.95
Add grilled chicken $3
Orange Blossom Salad $8.95
Seasonal Lemonade $3
Our total for lunch ~$26

The prices are reasonable, but you will pay more than your average quickie salad due to the quality and customizability of the ingredients. If you get a salad, and only a salad, you could scrape out of there for under $10. However, if you want to add any additional toppings, especially proteins, or if you want to indulge in one of their tantalizing lemonades, you could be over $15 for one person. As someone that rarely eats out and always packs her own lunch, it will be more of an occasional treat than a regular occurrence, but it is convenient to find somewhere that prepares healthy food in front of you.

Overall: 
I really enjoyed Vinaigrette- the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, and the business. It’s a little out of my way, but it will definitely be a top contender for future lunch dates! Want to learn more, see more pictures, and see what others have to say? Head on over to their Facebook page.

Note: I received no compensation for this review and purchased my own food. However, I would never be opposed to some complimentary salads or lemonades… you know, for taste-tasting purposes 😉

❤ Nika

Espresso Depresso: How I Broke Up with Coffee and Cleared my Skin

Oh, coffee. We have a long, sordid love affair. It all began many years ago in a cozy French bakery tucked away in the darling neighborhood of Chevy Chase. I grew up in this bakery, my parents’ business, and it was my second home. I was raised not by babysitters, but by a bakery- a shadow behind my mother’s apron, raised on scents of baguettes, croissants, and coffee in a village of customers who saw me transform from shy but sassy little girl trekking around Chevy Chase on her pink tricycle to shy but sassy stressed out pre-med student that was going to conquer the world. This transformation, the loss of innocence, the gain of stress and worry… herein lies the tale of how the siren call of coffee transfixed me, whispering sweet caffeine nothings into my ear.

Thus, you can see that I grew up surrounded by coffee culture. That liquid caffeine was always brewing within reach of my nostrils. My parents, my dad especially, drank coffee like water throughout the day. Day in and day out, people would flock to the bakery like a modern, metropolitan watering hole, lured in by that sweet, rich aroma that seems to impart a certain warmth and energy to the air. Its power is electric, its promise is tantalizing, its hold is undeniable. Except for little Nika. I don’t remember how old I was when I tried my first tentative sip of that steamy brew, shyly sipping from either my mom or dad’s mug. I do, however, remember my reaction: repulsion.

Coffee is Gross as a Kid

What is this venom, this propagated lie? Little Nika was aghast by the thought of drinking cup after cup of this bitter, acidic, vile inky tar. The taste of growing up, of adulthood, of not enough hours in the day, of late nights and earlier mornings. A world vastly more complicated than I could have encountered on my pink tricycle. So what did Little Nika do? I set that mug down, swore off coffee, and spent the succeeding years as a person who didn’t like coffee and certainly didn’t drink it.

That all changed in 2009, the summer after I graduated from high school. Again, I had entered coffee’s den, but this time in the form of a chocolate shop and coffee bar in Asheville, North Carolina. I was lured in by the promise of chocolate truffles, caramel drizzled turtles topped with nuts, and other bite-sized bonbons. My dad, the coffee critic, was more enticed by the coffee selection and the establishment’s collection of French presses. So there I sat, an innocent child with eyes wide over my impending, truffle-induced blood sugar spike, as coffee sneered with its crooked, seductive grin, rolling its aromatic mocha cloud around my unsuspecting ankles, preparing to wrap its lush, steamy tar-black tendrils around me like Hexxus from Fern Gully.

Slimey_Hexxus

Why not try just a sip? It’s been years since you’ve tried coffee, maybe you’ll like it now… College is coming… The French press is the best way to drink coffee. So I poured myself a cup. Black. Straight up. Pure, unadulterated caffeine. It spread like hot tar through my veins, warming my throat, warming my mind. So I poured another cup, and another, and another, cups and cups and cups of coffee over the years. For I have known them all already, known them all; have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,  I have measured out my life in coffee spoons. Coffee had hexed me, cast its spell over me. I was as powerless as Fern Gully.

Hexxus Coffee

The beginning of my love affair with coffee cosmically coincided with the start of my college career, an arduous task that consumed me inside and out. Exams, homework, finals, grades, presentations, MCAT scores, medical school interviews… these were the new manifestations of Hexxus in my life, and caffeine was a beacon, a promise of hope, baiting me in with promises of energy, more hours in the day, productivity.

Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

So I became a machine, oiled by caffeine, its tar black tendrils held my eyelids open as I poured over organic chemistry textbooks and physics problems for hours and hours every night in the basement of the library.

I remember drinking tea in the morning my freshman year. But soon, just one cup of tea was not cutting it. Enter Jazzmans: an endless fountain of coffee to be bought with meal plans and flex points that don’t even seem to have the normal constraints of “real money.” Coffee and caffeine has this oddly exponential addiction curve. You can start out with one cup… two cups… three cups… pots of coffee… lattes… espresso.

like-coffee

Pretty soon, my coffee maker was hustlin’ all day everyday. When I moved off campus my sophomore year and bought an automated coffee pot that could be pre-set to brew in the morning… it was game over. Rise and grind. Wake and brew. Sleep then sip.

Rise and Grind Coffee

I would drink an.entire.pot.of.coffee. alltomyselfomgcanyoubelieveit?! I would drink 1-1 ½ cups as I was getting ready for school and then load up my travel mug to the brim with that sweet, brown nectar of the gods. Soon, I wanted more. No longer with a meal plan and refusing to buy overpriced, shitty Jazzman’s coffee, I would drink my coffee at home, bring my travel mug, and bring a thermos with the remainder of the pot. This way, I drank coffee all day. From the moment I woke until around lunch time (when it became too cold for me to justify). I have never been much of an afternoon or evening drinker, thank goodness for that, at least I had my limits. One pot of coffee. Every day. It’s a delicious, warm, caffeinated drug. I enjoyed it like a hardcore addict: black. None of that sweetener shit, get that milk and nasty creamer outta here. Just me and my freshly ground beans. 

Funny-Coffee-Quotes-image

I continued this coffee love affair throughout college and all the way up until about a month ago. I have struggled with acne and my skin for years, and recently I have been approaching my wit’s end. I became weary of my excessive coffee drinking when I began to read about coffee’s potential connection to skin. I didn’t think that my mocha lover was giving me acne, per se, but that it could be contributing to the facial redness and inflammation that only made my acne look worse. My skin is a very difficult thing for me to discuss, so when I decided to stop wearing makeup to work, I was incredibly insecure. The fact that my face seemed so damn red and flushed all the time was not helping me out, so I started searching for answers. I noticed that when I woke up in the morning, my skin was ballin’. But by the time that I had gotten ready for work and started my day, I began to notice more redness. By lunch, my face was at full flush. I knew that, being the stressed out mofo that I am, my cortisol levels were a likely culprit of this redness. Coffee, unfortunately, can trigger hyperadrenalism and an overreactive stress response– read: more cortisol. I have enough cortisol from four years as an overachieving pre-med student, thanks. Plus, cortisol can raise insulin, which can result in increased inflammation and production of oil and sebum. Lovely. Not to say that coffee doesn’t have its benefits (other than caffeine bliss), such as antioxidant capabilities, but this is hotly debated and somewhat irrelevant to my current “experiment.” With this in mind, I was a more tentative lover with coffee, more hesitant to gulp up cup after cup after cup.

Then, one morning, I awoke from groggy slumber (I am not a morning person) and realized I had not prepped my coffee the night before. Consumed by fatigue and a dash of laziness, I declared “I’m too tired for this shit” (a testament to my periodic laziness. True, I do have to grind the beans every time, but the whole process probably takes about 5 minutes, maybe 10 until it’s ready). But why take 10 minutes when I can heat a cup of water in the microwave for one minute and have a cup of tea? Boom. I abandoned my coffee maker in one fluid swoop. Thus, I began my experiment to limit coffee consumption. I will not say that I have eliminated it, as we did carry on a torrid love affair for years, and I love the way it tastes. So I will indulge in Starbucks maybe once a week and have maybe one odd cup during the week (if it’s free and right there… maybe just a tiny one). Regardless, my consumption has been reduced drastically, to maybe 1-2 cups max per week vs an entire pot per day

Coffee Vs Tea

The results after one month of reduced (not even eliminated!) coffee consumption? I’m hella tired, yo. My head feels foggy in the morning, and one cup of tea doesn’t quite cut it. However, it’s manageable, and I’ve been chronically fatigued for about 4 years, so I just fight through it for the cause. And why do I fight through? Because my skin is less red, less flushed, less irritated, and less oily. I have been breaking out less, but that is likely attributed to other changes in my routine. The fact that I can go to work and sit under fluorescent lighting all day with some light spot concealer and not completely hate my life is a miracle. And my skin has been thanking me too. So I will keep this experiment going, as I’m willing to do damn near anything to get clear skin. I will still indulge in a cup of coffee here and there (moderation in all things, even moderation, right? Except dairy, never eat that shit. Ugghh my tummy and skin quiver at the thought). I will never be able to refuse the siren call of a Starbucks grande skinny cinnamon dolcé latté with soy milk… my mouthful of a drink order that I always feel like should be accompanied by some sort of snobby hair flip. The weekends are hard too- it was always my routine (and my routine with my SO) to drink coffee and relax on weekend mornings. If I’m alone, I’m not tempted, but I will indulge in some weekend coffee cup clinking if the opportunity arises.

It’s bittersweet to bid adieu to my lover, but my skin and my health take priority over everything. If (no, no, I should say WHEN, dammit) my skin clears up completely, I might try adding coffee back in to see if I do see a corresponding increase in redness, inflammation, and breakouts, but until then, I’ll be sipping my 1 cup of pomegranate green tea and enjoying my day without being tethered to my travel mug. Sorry Hexxus, but I saved Fern Gully.

Nike Lunarglide 5 Review

Nike Lunarglide 5

What luck, I’m writing a review for the Nike Lunarglide 5 the week of the announcement of the arrival of the Lunarglide 6! Oh well, I’ve already checked out the Lunarglide 6, and, in my opinion, the 5s are much prettier (and they have a vaster color selection!). Plus, now that the 6s are out, the 5s will likely be on sale!

I’ve had great luck with the Lunarglide 5s, and this is my second pair in a row (different colors, of course!). It’s been years since I’ve owned a pair of Nikes that I considered comfortable and that I could actually run in. Nike probably makes the cutest looking shoes with the most vibrant colors, but I’ve often struggled with running in their shoes without pain. I know many people love their Nike Frees, but my arches, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints require me to have more support than a minimalist shoe. For years I ran in Asics, and I thought they were my Holy Grail running shoe… but I still continued to get shin splints even with their $160 Kayanos. Plus, they felt so heavy and bulky! Not only during running, but also cross training and weight training were made difficult by the cinder blocks I had on my feet…

Enter the Nike Lunarglide- a lightweight stability running shoe. The arch support and cushion you need to keep you comfortable without any added bulk to weigh you down (and slow you down!). I was shocked the first time I ran in my Nike Lunarglide 5s- comfortable Nikes?! But they’re cute! How can they be comfortable too?! I’m always going to have some pain when I run longer distances, but the Lunarglides keep my shin splints and other pains at bay better than any other running shoe I’ve had. Continue reading

Amy’s Light and Lean Quinoa and Black Beans with Butternut Squash and Chard Review

000902

I am a big fan of Amy’s frozen meals- they make for a great lunch when you’re almost out of the door and realize you haven’t prepped anything to eat at work (because you aren’t buying lunch out at restaurants, fast food chains, or cafeterias… right? RIGHT?!). Although in an ideal world we would prepare all of our meals from scratch, this isn’t always possible in the hectic, busy constraints of the real world. Enter the healthy frozen meal. I like to keep some frozen meals at work so I know I always have something on hand that I can eat (because even if I wanted to get something on campus, there’s nothing I can eat!) The Amy’s rice, veggie, and tofu bowls (especially the teriyaki) have been staples in my freezer for quite some time, but I stumbled across this gluten free vegan Light and Lean Amy’s meal and was captivated by its promises of nutty quinoa, hearty black beans, earthy swiss chard, and juicy butternut squash.IMG_2425

With hearty ingredients like quinoa, black beans, swiss chard, and butternut squash, this bowl is very filling due to its impressive 11g of fiber and 10g of protein with only 240 calories. I was really looking forward to this meal, but the first bite left me a little disappointed- it was quite insipid and bland! Although it contains many great, healthy, and whole ingredients and veggies, this bowl was seriously lacking in seasoning. Luckily I had some salt and pepper on hand. Granted, some of you may watch your salt intake, but I have incredibly low blood pressure, hypothyroidism, and a predilection for lightheadedness, so my doctor has actually told me to consume more salt! Um, done. I am really quite moderate with salt, but sometimes you just need a little dash! In my opinion, salt and pepper is quite possible the best seasoning. It’s not fancy, but sometimes the basics beat out all the frilly and herbed competitors. After the addition of some seasoning, the salt really brought out the flavor of the butternut squash, black beans, quinoa, and veggies, while cutting some of the bitterness of the swiss chard.

The verdict: unaltered, I would not be a big fan of this bowl. However, some simple salt and pepper really transforms the flavor of this bowl and enriches the taste profile. Will I purchase it again? Perhaps. It’s a pretty unique frozen meal and contains many ingredients I love. However, there are other frozen meals out there that don’t need any alterations to have great flavor!

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.35.23 PM

Hydration Station: New Water Bottle

IMG_2449 IMG_2450

Breaking news: I have a nifty new water bottle! So new I didn’t even take the wrapper off for these pictures, oops. I know, “Uh.. so what?” but this is exciting for me! First of all, look how fancy it is (so fancy, from head to toe)! This water bottle has a built in straw (love) that pops out with the touch of a button (double love!). Not only is it cute (and my favorite shade of blue), but it has a nifty button… I’m a sucker for fun little gadgets.

This was a big step for me, as I have been faithful to the same insulated pink Polar Bottle for the past 5 years. Not only does this trusty water bottle accompany me to the gym every day, but it has also traveled the world with me. Ready to play I Spy? This little pink bottle has been …

Water Bottle France

Cycling in the South of France…

Ireland Water Bottle

Hiking along the cliffs of Ireland…

At the school - Version 2

And through the rain forests and oceans of Belize.

I’m not quite ready to retire Old Faithful, but this new Contigo water bottle is a strong contender. I like to keep one water bottle at work and one in my car (for the gym), and I haven’t quite decided the position to which this new water bottle will be assigned… will it be my new gym buddy? Or my at-work hydrator? Both are tough jobs but essential to my health!

Are you drinking enough water in a day? Hmm don’t lie to me!! There’s always room for improvement, especially with all the benefits that water provides! If you need help motivating yourself to drink more water (at home, at work, at the gym, anywhere!) maybe consider buying a cute and nifty new water bottle. Not only are they fun to drink out of, but they are healthier than plastic water bottles-both for you and the environment! As an added bonus, water bottles with measurements on the side (like this new Contigo) can help you keep track of how much water you’re drinking- and to challenge yourself to drink even more of this healthful hydrator!

Stay happy, stay healthy, stay hydrated!

❤ Nika

Kutoa Chocolate Banana Bar Review

The last time I ventured to Whole Foods, I discovered a new gluten free, vegan bar: the KUTOA Bar (kew-toa, ko-toa, ku-toah?). I may not know how to pronounce Swahili, but I do know that this bar has good intentions. Not only are these bars constructed from natural, non-GMO ingredients, this bar has a social and public health cause in mind- for every bar you buy, they will feed a child in need.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.45.28 PM

Whenever you buy one of their full-size bars or kids squares, they will give mironutrient packs, nut packs, KUTOA bars, or healthy sandwiches to children in need in the US, developing countries, and globally.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.45.35 PM

Whenever I find a new gluten free, vegan bar, I can’t refuse slipping it into my cart; therefore, I couldn’t resist trying this alimentary version of Tom’s Shoes, especially with flavors like Chocolate Banana and Blueberry Almond.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.45.55 PM

You can read more about their cause and their products on their website, but now let’s get to the part you really want to hear- how does it taste?!

Although I’m reviewing the Chocolate Banana flavor here (which is the flavor I was the most excited about), I tried the Blueberry Almond bar first and loved it. The chocolate flavor in this bar is great, but the banana is a little off to me. It tastes a little too ripe and mushy, almost like a babyhood banana purée. The bar is a little softer and mushier than the Blueberry Almond bar, so there is not as much of a rice crunch crisp present (which I really enjoy, I like a little crisp!). The chocolate has a great taste and melts perfectly in your mouth, but the banana really doesn’t measure up for me. The off-taste (for me) is likely due to the date paste, which is listed above bananas in the ingredients (ironically). I often steer away from bars with ingredients heavy in dates because, although they have great nutritional value and add natural sweetness, I often find bars with dates to be overly saccharine in taste and to have an odd, mushy mouthfeel. That’s totally personal preference, so if you enjoy LaraBars (which are also heavy in dates), you might love the Chocolate Banana, but I think I will stick with the Blueberry Almond KUTOA bars to get that nice, airy crispy crunch! After perusing their website, I discovered they also have a Chocolate Espresso flavor that sounds divine, but my Whole Foods unfortunately doesn’t carry this flavor. (Cough cough for anyone who can find one and wants to send one my way! 😉 )

This bar contains 7g of protein and 3g of fiber, so it has some nutritional worth… until you scan down to the sugar content: 22g of sugar!! Most GF vegan bars you can find are around 12-17g of sugar (which is already high enough), so I was shocked (and preparing for a sugar coma) when I saw that this KUTOA bar contained a full 22g of sugar. Despite the high sugar content, the ingredients are natural and the bar contains lots of chia and flax seeds to pack a 200mg omega-3 punch.

  Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.44.38 PM

The verdict: The bar wasn’t terrible, but I much prefer the Blueberry Almond flavor. I won’t be purchasing this flavor again, but it hasn’t deterred me from trying their other options, especially if I can get my hands on the Chocolate Espresso flavor! Until then, I guess I will continue to eat my Espresso Chip Bonk Breaker Bar!

Whole Foods Grocery Haul and Reviews

I thought I would share a recent grocery haul from Whole Foods with you all. I’ve posted pictures of all the items, and I will do an itemized list with a mini review below. Some products will garner a more detailed individual review post later, but I’ll give you all a thumbs up or a thumbs down in the meantime in case you’re heading to Whole Foods soon and need some suggestions. While I like to do the majority of my bulk shopping at a variety of grocery stores, Whole Foods has a great selection of protein/granola bars, specialty granola and cereals, and frozen meals and pizzas that are hard to find elsewhere in town. My motto? Come for the bars, stay for the multitude of impulse buys.

  • Whole Foods Guacamole– avocado, lime, cilantro, white onion, hot peppers, salt and pepper. I was very disappointed in this guacamole. It tasted oddly acidic and the flavor profile was lacking despite the ingredients. The ingredient list sounds better than the guac tastes. Thumbs down.
  • Whole Food Bars: Bonk Breakers (thumbs up, see full review here), Epic Turkey Bar (thumbs down), That’s It bar (thumbs up), Kit’s Organic Bars (eh, neutral thumbs), PROBAR Core Chocolate Mint (thumbs up, see full review here), Kutoa Bars (thumbs up)
  • Artisan Bistro Coconut Lemongrass with Chicken: thumbs up, full review to follow. These frozen meals are the best I’ve had.
  • Amy’s Veggie Loaf: haven’t tried this one yet, but Rob loves it… so, third party thumbs up
  • Amy’s Roasted Vegetable GF Vegan Pizza: thumbs up,  see full review here. Would be my favorite GF vegan pizza if it came in a larger size.
  • Amy’s Black Bean, Quinoa, and Butternut Squash Bowl: thumbs up with modifications. This bowl was great, but the taste was rather bland. I added some salt and pepper to liven it up, and it was much more flavorful. Full review to follow.
  • Daiya Fire Roasted Veggie Pizza: thumbs up, see full review here.
  • Michele’s Pumpkin Spice Granola: thumbs up. Looove this granola, especially the cinnamon raisin flavor. It’s pretty expensive compared to something like Kind, but totally worth it.
  • Emmy’s Cacao Coconut cereal: neutral thumbs. Full review on cereals to follow. This cereal is loaded with 6g of protein and 5g of fiber with 8g of sugar. The Cacao Coconut is probably the best flavor, but it’s still a little bland to eat alone, so I mix in some granola.
  • Erewhon Quinoa and Chia cereal: thumbs up. 6g of protein and 5g of fiber with less than 1g of sugar. This cereal is the nutritional winner amongst GF vegan cereals, but it is a little bland (naturally), so I always use this as a cereal “base” and top with granola.
  • Back to Nature GF Sesame Seed crackers: thumbs up, probably my favorite GF vegan cracker. Nice and crunchy with a lightly salted sesame flavor.
  • Amy’s Chili Lime dressing: thumbs up. If you read any of my salad recipes, you’ll see how much I love this dressing. Hands down, my favorite salad dressing right now (hence the two bottles)
  • Pink Lady Apples: thumbs up. The candy of apples, see a more in depth review of my favorite apples here.
  • Whole Foods Almond Milk: thumbs up. I always get unsweetened plain almond milk, and they all taste pretty much the same to me. Usually I get Silk, but this is essentially the same.
  • Knudsen’s Nature’s Peak Orchard Veggie juice: thumbs up. Like Bolthouse’s or Naked’s Green Machine/Green Goodness, minus the wheat grass (gluten) and pineapple… neither of which I can eat.
  • Honest Kids Watermelon Super Fruit Punch: neutral thumbs. Random purchase, as I almost never buy juice. However, I love watermelon, and I can always use it in smoothies. There is a much better watermelon juice at Whole Foods that I will share with you all soon…
  • Hilary’s Eat Well Veggie Bites: thumbs way up. Love these! I usually cook them in the oven, and they are a nice way to have a starchy-tasting carb side dish without sacrificing vegetables. They taste and smell lovely- almost like cheese! I’ll definitely do a full review on these soon.

Do you have any Whole Foods favorites?