Showing posts with label food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food. Show all posts

May 30, 2018

Why I Trust NOW Foods for my Natural Products


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Fitfluential, LLC on behalf of NOW Foods. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



In health and fitness, there are lots of claims and labels being thrown around by brands and people. As a former chemist (who will always be a science nerd at heart), I’m the type of person that finds the actual research article when I read a headline about a new study. Sometimes there are small samples for the study, bias, or parts of the research aren’t addressed. The same thing goes with labels such as “natural” not being a regulated label or even their being specifics about what constitutes “organic”. Before visiting NOW Foods headquarters just outside of Chicago for the #NOWGetFit influencer event this month, I hadn’t considered myself super brand loyal, but now I can tell you I trust NOW Foods!

NOW Foods #NOWGetFit Day 1
After a travel snafu (ugh American Airlines WHY) I made it out to the event on Thursday starting with a trip to the Cooking Skills Academy for an “Iron Chef Challenge” using NOW Foods ingredients. 

Chef showing us how it's done.

My team won with a take on an avocado toast-clearly all those years watching Iron Chef and the Food Network have paid off! 

The winning dish!
Also forgot to mention that the before our challenge the night before, Kasey from Powercakes made us DELICIOUS protein donuts. I don’t throw around the word delicious paired with protein donuts ever.
Girl, I'd watch your Food Network show. 
I’ve bought many NOW Foods products in the past because it seemed to be good quality and has been a very affordable option for me for supplements, essential oils, and baking products. I’ve bought their products in natural food stores like Whole Foods, on Amazon, or on iHerb. All of their products are free of preservatives or artificial ingredients.

Getting to listen to the NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme talk about the company and hear about its history was really eye-opening. Today it is one of the largest independent manufacturers of natural products in the U.S. with over 1500 different products including foods, supplements, sports nutrition, essential oils, health & beauty products, and a new pet supplement line. 


The company spends very little money on marketing which helps them keep their cost so low for consumers which may be why you’re unfamiliar with the brand. You may recognize their signature orange and white label from health food stores or your own pantry!

NOW is still family-owned since Elwood Richard started the company in 1968 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It still continues its original goal of making healthy, quality, and affordable products. 

When I made it back to my hotel room at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa that night (which was fabulous!) I sifted through two giant bags of NOW Foods products including protein powder, a diffuser and essential oils, and supplements (psst…you can win the same gift bags valued at $520 on my Instagram)

Swag on swag. 

NOW Foods #NOWGetFit Day 2 

The next morning we got up bright and early for a tough group tabata workout with the lovely Kasey from Powercakes. 

The group post-workout

This lady is so much fun and knows how to lead a killer workout. 

After our workout, NOW Foods had created the smoothie bar dreams are made of so we could refuel with our own smoothie creations. 
Can I have this in my apartment every day? 

I got to try out NOW Foods protein powders, MCT oil, amino acids, and more. While enjoying my smoothie, I learned more about the sports nutrition which I was very interested in as an athlete.


NOW Sports uses quality ingredients that are heavily researched and tested. This year NOW Sports will have the Informed-Sport certification which is a globally recognized assurance program by the LGC for anti-doping that certifies that every batch of a supplement product and raw material with the certification logo has been tested for banned substances. Professional and collegiate athletes can use the 150+ products in the NOW Sports line without worrying about the ingredients. I even met a couple awesome Olympic athletes at the event who were NOW Foods ambassadors!  

All the proteins and MCT oils-with the new labels coming out soon!
Later in the morning we headed over to the NOW Foods Operations facility to take a tour of the plant in Bloomingdale, IL (they do public tours monthly FYI!). I was honestly blown away by the level of quality, documentation, and testing. NOW tests each and every batch of raw materials and finished products that come into and leave the facility. All of their products are non-GMO, and their products in the Living Now line are produced in a dedicated gluten-free and allergen-friendly facility. These products are made without the 8 major allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, nuts, and fish).

Looking chic in my factory gear and hairnet!
So clean and organized. 




As someone who spent the last 7 years working in research labs, I was excited to learn about their Quality Control and Quality Assurance programs as well as see their labs. NOW has an A rating from the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and is one of the first to seek GMP certification in 2000. Their testing goes above and beyond this as I mentioned earlier, making sure that everything that they say is in their products is actually there, free of contamination. 

I used to work with these LCMS machines-but look how many they have!
Also without geeking out too much, their labs were immaculately clean and organized (and yes some of these labs had people working in them). Learning a little about their research to make a stevia that was complete but not bitter-tasting was interesting too.

Research poster on NOW and stevia
Everyone I met from the company and in the factory was friendly too, which is nice to see in a company.



After the tour we headed to the corporate headquarters for lunch catered by Whole Foods which was a dream-like a Whole Foods hot/cold bar without having to weigh your plate! I learned more about NOW Food’s body care products and essential oils and also made my own fitness cleaning spray and sports soak. 

All the Mediterranean goodness on one plate. 



NOW Solutions, their health and beauty care line is made of pure and natural ingredients. Besides being affordable, their essential oils are certified organic and 100% pure, which is tested using strict quality standards. I learned that their essential oils are some of their top-selling products!



One of the fellow influencers asked the CEO Jim why fly a bunch of influencers/bloggers out here and take the time to put on such a nice event for us when he could pay for marketing. He said that we shouldn’t undervalue ourselves and that visiting the company in person is more valuable to him because we can see it all for ourselves and share our experiences with other friends, family, and followers. To him that was more important than any TV commercial. So I left the weekend 100% trusting the NOW Foods brand and knowing that when I’m buying their product, I’m getting exactly what the label says.

Some of my swag that YOU can win too!
Again, I’m partnering with NOW Foods for a giveaway to win the same amazing swag bag I received with over $520 worth of products including an oil diffuser, body care products, protein powder, baking products, and more. Head over to my Instagram to enter!


What decides what natural products you purchase-quality or price, or both? What is a brand you trust? 

April 6, 2018

{Baltimore Bred} Top Vendors to Check Out at the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar

This weekend is exciting because it looks like snow is no longer in the forecast for Baltimore (YAY!) and it's the first Sunday of the season for the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar underneath I-83 (Jones Falls Expressway). It's also the perfect event to highlight in Charm City!

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The market runs every Sunday from 7 AM -noon from April 8th through December 23,2018 (more information on the Facebook page). This is one of the biggest farmers' markets in the city with everything from local produce, fresh eats, and artisan goods. It's something I love going to after a run to grab a bite to eat or spend the morning shopping and eating with my boyfriend especially in the summer months. 

Lots of amazing local products and food vendors are sold there which makes it sometimes more fun for me to just grab breakfast and browse the market leisurely. I'm going to share with you my top vendors and goods to check out at the farmers' market this year. 

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1. Farm to Face falafel wraps
This list is not in order, but if it was this would still take the top spot. These stand has the most delicious made-to-order falafel wraps with the option to have it with a lavash bread or collard greens wrap. 

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2. Seasonal produce and plants
I love coming to the farmers' market throughout the year as different produce and plants come into season. The flowers are always beautiful in the spring and sunflowers start appearing later in the summer and the early fall. I also snagged a bunch of herb plants last spring to plant in pots on my balcony. 

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3. Michele's Granola
This local small-batch granola can be found in grocery stores and markets around the area, but I always love buying from the source as well as having the option to buy granola in bulk and try out the new seasonal flavors. 

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4. Migue's Mini Donuts
The perfect pairing to a cup of coffee, these mini donuts are fried on site. You can top yourself with powdered sugar and the option of other toppings such as chocolate syrup. A small bag of 6 mini donuts for $3 is a steal for a sweet Sunday treat. 

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{Photo from Migue's Minis Facebook page}
5. Zeke's or Dooby's coffee
Every Sunday at the market you will see a long line for Zeke's Coffee-a Baltimore-area favorite. I usually have little patience when it comes to waiting for coffee so I often head over to the Dooby's stand and grab a cold brew coffee and maybe a breakfast sandwich. Both will get you a delicious caffeine fix to fuel your shopping. 

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6. Bags of kale
I know this is an odd choice,but if you use kale and don't mind taking the time to clean it all, you can get a plastic bag stuffed full of kale from multiple local farms for $2 or $3. Some of the other greens can be more pricey compared to grocery stores, but the kale is super affordable.

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7. Gogo's Fashion Truck 
Gogo's is a busload (literally) of fun thrifted and vintage clothes, jewelry, and accessories. I love browsing and seeing what unique finds are for sale. 

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8. Ekiben 
Ekiben has a storefront in Fells Point but brings their no-frills steamed buns and other Asian fusion items to the Farmers Market. 

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Also, I'm super excited for some of the new vendors to the market in 2018 including my favorites Gundalow Juice and Bottoms Up Bagels. 

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Hope to see you at the market! 

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Do you have a favorite local farmers' market? What is your favorite food to purchase there? 

May 4, 2017

Eat More Greens: What I Ate in a Day {with BrightFarms}

Disclosure: I received promotional consideration from BrightFarms. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sometimes I get in ruts where I've been so busy that I notice I haven't really been eating any greens. Oops

I find myself grabbing some protein bars, oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and whatever for dinner (including pizza sometimes because it's my favorite and SO easy). So I drink some green juice, eat some salads, and re-balance my diet. A couple weeks ago was one of those times that I decided that I really needed to start adding more greens and vegetables into my diet again. I wanted to start this diet shift off by including vegetables in every meal of the day. It encouraged me to get creative in the kitchen and actually make a meal plan. Planning actually makes things a lot easier when you take the time to do the planning, in case you forgot (like I had). 

This all happened at the perfect time because BrightFarms was lucky enough to send me some of their produce to try out, which made my one-day challenge more fun. I was going to use 1 shell of the BrightFarms local spring mix, 1 of their local baby greens, and 1 of their kale in a different meal of the day. 

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BrightFarms is a produce company that uses sustainable greenhouse farming to supply grocery stores with fresh greens, tomatoes, and herbs year-round. In the DMV area they solely deliver their produce to Giant grocery stores, farm to shelf within 24 hours. I was excited because unfresh produce and buying lettuce from the grocery store and finding a couple smelly, slimy pieces that have gone bad within a day is super annoying. If you need to grab some greens and can't make it out to a farmer's market or local farm, BrightFarms from your grocery store is the next best thing! 

Meal 1- Breakfast: Queen Green Smoothie

I decided to keep it nice and simple for breakfast with a green smoothie. This was also portable to take in the car with me on the way to class which is a bonus. I created this smoothie on the fly, using whatever I had available in my refrigerator and pantry. I like trying out new smoothie recipes, but usually end up making ones with my favorite ingredients like frozen pineapple anyways. This is the Queen Green because it's one of my go-to smoothie variations and is queen to me!

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Into my Ninja blender for my Queen Green Smoothie I added: 
  • a  handful of BrightFarms kale
  • a handful of frozen pineapple and peaches mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of vanilla unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 tablespoon of honey
  • Optional: 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder or supplement-I used a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen in this smoothie. 
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Blended everything up, and it was ready to go. Despite the color, you can barely taste the greens in this smoothie. Everything went into the blender and within minutes I had breakfast on-the-go, packed with lots of yummy goodness. 

Meal 2-Lunch: a Mediterranean-style Salad

Today was one of those days where I was able to stop home in between class and heading to work. I actually dislike packing salads (probably why I was eating more sandwiches lately) so I love when I can grab lunch at home. I can't take all of the credit for this one because my lovely boyfriend actually whipped this salad up for me. 

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This Mediterranean inspired salad includes adding all of the following to a bowl, mixing, and enjoying: 
  • BrightFarms baby kale
  • shredded carrots
  • chopped cucumbers
  • feta cheese
  • kalamata olives
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

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This salad was so delicious. I have been loving olives in everything lately so the mixture of the salty olives with the sweet carrots and creamy feta cheese just hit the spot. I also loved the texture of the baby kale which made for a great salad base. 

Meal 3-Dinner: Cheesy Taco Skillet 

Making some sort of Mexican-inspired meal is always a go-to for me whether it's tacos, enchiladas, taco salad, or a taco skillet, like what I made this day for dinner. 

I used this recipe from Sweet C's as a guide for my cheesy taco skillet  and used BrightFarms local spring mix as the greens in it. The best part is I cooked everything in this one big pan so clean-up was easy. 

My cheesy taco skillet (adapted from Sweet C's) included: 
  • 1 lb of ground beef ( I used grass fed ground beef) 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1, 12 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp of taco seasoning
  • 2 cups (I just did two big handfuls) of local spring mix (or any greens you prefer)
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese


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First brown the ground beef in the pan, and then drain the excess fat. Next add onions and peppers, cook until browned. Then add the canned tomatoes, taco seasoning and zucchini into the pan. Then add the spring mix or greens and let fully wilt, mixing everything together. Finally add the shredded cheese on top and cover to let the cheese melt. This took just a few minutes. You can eat it right out of a bowl like I did or could even eat over rice or in a burrito. 

Of course, I made sure to include plenty of cheesy goodness on top! Sadly it was so good, there was only a tiny bit of leftovers. The greens in this wilt so you are getting lots of nutrients that you can't even really taste-perfect for those picky eater kids or significant others. 

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I'm a totally snack queen so in between I had multiple snacks during the day  including a yogurt, trail mix, and good old protein bar. Adding in greens to all of my big meals of the day was a lot easier than I thought. I was happy to be balancing my diet as well as preparing some delicious meals in the kitchen instead of grabbing sandwiches, pre-packaged meals and snacks. I was thinking of making it a fun Monday challenge for myself to help me start planning my meals and beginning the week on a high note after enjoying some weekend treats. 

Shout-out to BrightFarms for supplying some yummy greens for my challenge-Marylanders can find their products in local Giant grocery stores. 

 What's your favorite way to sneak greens into your everyday meals?

April 11, 2017

Favorite Walt Disney World Eats {Part 1}

Walt Disney World is truly a magical place. As a child growing up on the east coast, I was lucky enough to get to go maybe 4 times with family. I went to Walt Disney World (WDW) in Orlando, Florida again on my high school senior trip. I've had lots of fun vacations and many good memories there. My sister has been working at Disney World so now I've been back 3 more times to visit her and take advantage of some of her perks such as when she has unused guest passes (major SCORE), including once for the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon last April (recap on the blog on Thursday, finally!). 

Obviously one of my favorite things to do when I travel is try new foods so I thought I'd share some of my favorite eats from my most recent trips to Walt Disney World. No matter where I go I always pack some snacks, but when I'm in Disney World I usually eats in the parks or at least splurge on having one meal there. 

Especially with my sister there in recent years, I've become pretty knowledgeable about the parks and of course scoping out the eats so I decided to share some of my favorites-particularly for any of you RunDisney runners!  I figured I should label this round-up Part 1 since there could be multiple parts because picking a few favorites was hard! 

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Favorite Eats in Walt Disney World (Part 1)

 1. Disney World snacks-Mickey soft pretzel and Dole Whip

I know it's just a soft pretzel in the shape of Mickey's face, but something about I just love this magical carb. Nothing like a Mickey pretzel as an afternoon snack in any of the parks after walking around all day. 

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Of COURSE I had to include the famous Dole Whip. These are so delicious, cold,  and pineapple-y. The one pictured below is from the WDW Flower & Garden Show in 2014 at Epcot where a booth had alcoholic Dole Whips with coconut rum a.k.a. the best vacation snack. 

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The best way to spend an afternoon 

2. Mickey Waffles at 1900 Park Fare character breakfast at Grand Floridian (or Mickey waffles anywhere)


1900 Park Fare was introduced to me by my sister when I was looking for a place to eat some Mickey waffles (literally my favorite Disney breakfast food) and wanted to splurge on one character breakfast buffet. Now you definitely need to make reservations ahead of time for the Supercalifragilistic (character) Breakfast, and may even have to wait when you get there like we did because it's crowded. It was $32 when I went there for the buffet and character experience so it was definitely my biggest meal of the day.

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Plate #1 at the breakfast buffet

I really like this character breakfast buffet in the Grand Floridian Hotel. It's a good excuse to check out this fancy and fabulous hotel, and I like that it's a buffet. I had  waffles, fruit, eggs, lox, bacon, and more until I was stuffed. We saw some characters from Alice & Wonderland, Pooh and Tigger, and Mary Poppins who made their rounds to all the tables during breakfast. The service was great, and everything was delicious. 

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Hanging with Winnie the Pooh

4. Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom 

When I had come to Disney World with my family in 2015 for the first time in 9 years, this part of Magic Kingdom and the Be Our Guest Restaurant were all brand new. Getting a reservation was difficult, but we managed to snag a sit-down dinner reservation there and even happened to squeeze into a quick service lunch by walking up the day before. I've since eaten there for breakfast and again lunch as well. 

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Outside of the Beast's castle 
Now first of all it's just really cool because the restaurant is in the Beast's (from Beauty & the Beast) castle. There's different rooms in the castle you can sit in. For dinner my family was seated in the West Wing which is darker, but I loved the ambiance. After dinner we got to meet the Beast and take a photo with him which was fun too. 

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I thought the napkin in the shape of a rose was a nice touch. 
The food was pretty good at dinner, and I enjoyed the braised beef entree I had. Just a note, entrees will run you $21-35 dollars depending on what you are getting so this is definitely a fancier meal. However I particularly liked grabbing lunch here for around $15 and still getting to experience all of the castle and restaurant ambiance. I had the croque monsieur sandwich which hit the spot the last time I was here!  

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Braised beef entree from Be Our Guest
Dessert was a chocolate cupcake because it's a vacation. Who am I kidding? I always save room for dessert!

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Chocolate cupcake for me. Don't worry, I tried my sister's order of Grey Stuff. 

4. Meatloaf and Fried Chicken at 50's Prime Time Cafe in Disney's Hollywood Studios

There aren't a ton of places I like to eat in Disney's Hollywood Studios but last time I was visiting we ate at 50's Prime Time Cafe pretty hungry after a long day at the parks, and the Sampling of Mom's Favorite Recipes hit the spot. 

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I'm the type of person who loves samplers because I love a little bit of everything-variety is the spice of life! The fried chicken, pot roast, and meatloaf with fixings for $23 is comfort food at it's finest. Something about this big meal hit the spot after a long day walking around the parks on my past visit. I love the 50's theme of the restaurant, complete with the waitresses yelling at you to get your elbows off the table. 

5. Indian-Style Bread Service at Sanaa restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge

When travelling with my family, my parents share a love of food so we have tried many different restaurants and eaten some great meals. However my dad isn't a fan of anything too culturally different like African, Indian, or some Asian foods. When I was visiting this past December for a few days I knew I wanted to hang out at Animal Kingdom where she was mainly working at the time because it was a place I had always spent the least amount of time at, and I love animals. 

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My sister knows I'm a foodie and love good eats so she suggested eating at Sanaa which sounded awesome. It's inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is a hotel outside of Animal Kingdom where there are freaking giraffes and zebras and animals just chilling outside. 

The outside of the Animal Kingdom Lodge
Since I was treating us to dinner and spending time with my sister whom I hadn't seen in 6 months, we started off with glasses of delicious red (her) and white (me) sangria. She told me we needed to order the Indian-style Bread Service, a choice the waiter also recommended. 
sangria at Sanaa
It is a huge platter that comes for 3 breads-naan, garlic-ginger naan, spiced naan, onion kucha, or pappadum.  The menu now says you can choose three accompaniments, but I think we choose an option to pay to get some more when we were there. The choices are little portions of curries, chutneys, pickles, a yogurt sauce, and hummus all ranging from spicy to sweet to cool. It was less than $15 and they give you extra bread so you can eat the little accompaniments to your hearts desire. It was delicious, especially because the Naan bread comes out super warm.  


After that I ordered a sandwich that was mediocre, but next time I would just go back for the bread service and a drink. 

BONUS:  Epcot is probably my favorite park because of the World Showcase. I'm always sure to grab a beer in Germany! 


What's your favorite Disney park food or meal? What is one of your favorite meals you've had on a vacation?