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How to Enjoy a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

Lifestyle, wellnessMaría Elena RodríguezComment
how to have a healthy plant based diet

If you've ever decided to stop eating animals or even minimize your animal products consumption, you know the struggle is real. From going out to eat at restaurants, having dinner with the family and learning how to properly get all your nutrients, not because it's especially hard, but because we have to change our mindset completely. Seriously! It's like learning how to cook all over again! But the hardest part, at least for me, is explaining why I don't eat animals. And let me be clear on this: Contrary to what most people think about vegans and vegetarians, 99.9% of the time I don't start this conversation. People want to know why/how and for some weird reason, they feel entitled to give me all types of unsolicited nutritional advice *alternative facts* on why I should eat meat. And if I debunk their theory, they give me their favorite comeback: But plants also suffer when they're killed! (Insert the annoyed gif of your preference here)

I decided to stop eating all types of meats back in September 2017 (yes, right when Hurricane Irma and María hit us) and I promised myself I was going to go easy on myself, just so I didn't fail as I did a few years back. I made a deal with myself that if I wanted to eat chicken one day, I would, if I wanted to drink a latte with cow's milk, I would and if I wanted to eat a cupcake with cream cheese frosting, I would enjoy it without regret. But little by little I stopped craving animal products and started craving real whole foods, mostly because of how great I felt from the inside out every time I ate this way. Nevertheless, I still eat the ocasional egg or cheese, but I gradually crave it less. 

In a nutshell, I enjoy a plant-based diet because of health and ethical reasons. I feel amazing and my gut health is on point, if you know what I mean 💁🏻and just as I only endorse exclusively cruelty-free beauty products, I don't want to contribute to the suffering of innocent animals just for my pleasure. 

So after receiving so many questions about my new lifestyle, which had me actually questioning if I was doing the right thing, even though I have probably done the equivalent of research on the topic as a straight A student, I decided to interview the nutritionist Carla de La Torre from carlaminutricionista.com to know if the plant-based lifestyle is in fact, a healthy alternative. Here's the result:

Can you explain the main difference between a vegetarian and vegan?

Vegetarians exclude all meats, such as beef, pigs, fish and poultry, while vegans don't eat any of these, plus don't eat eggs nor dairy. You can be as strict or as flexible as you want, but obviously, the more strict you are, the more discipline and knowledge you need in terms of nutrition. You need to know how to complement your food so you don't have any nutritional deficiencies.

Instead of labeling ourselves as vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc, I like to use the approach of eating "more vegetables and fewer animals". That way we can little by little diminish our animal product consumption.

Is the vegetarian/ vegan diet healthy?

Without a doubt you can be healthy while eating an strict vegan diet. My master's degree tesis is about the Nutritional Habits for Resistance Athletes in Recovery, where I researched how you can recover your muscles without depending on whey protein, steaks, eggs but instead achieving this with quinoa, soy, hemp seeds, peanut butter and other grains. My research concluded that you can be an strict vegan, be a resistance athlete and not have any nutritional deficiencies nor performance problems. 

The only concern with the strictly vegan lifestyle would a B12 deficiency, since you can't find this vitamin in plants, but you can easily supplement it. Plus, even though you can get iron from plants, there is a risk of having an iron deficiency. That's why nutritionists give you the tools and strategies so you can have a healthy, delicious and cost effective plant based diet. I don't want you to only depend on super expensive and processed vegan foods! 

What are the main reasons someone should consider a Plant based diet?

I have three main reasons:

  1. Health - There are many studies that prove that eating meats, processed foods and eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol could cause obesity and can have a damaging effect in cardiovascular health and/or cause colon cancer.

  2. Ecology - Consuming animal products can significantly affect our carbon footprint. The amount of water and soil that is needed to satisfy our omnivorous diet is not sustainable.

  3. Animal Cruelty - A diet with more vegetables and fewer animals is obviously friendlier towards animals.

Instead of labeling ourselves as vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, etc, I like to use the approach of eating “more vegetables and fewer animals”.
— Carla de la Torre

What is the best way to start a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle?

The best way to start a plant based diet is to take it little by little. It is already difficult to eliminate animal products in terms of shopping, changing your recipes, eating out and taking care of our nutrition at the same time. This is why I recommend to start by eliminating the animal products that are worst to our health and go from there. Here's an example:

  1. Processed Meats (hams, sausages, etc) - In nutritional terms, these foods are horrible and they are tightly linked to colon cancer.

  2. Beef and Pork - These meats are also associated with colon cancer as well as other types of cancer.

  3. Poultry - You want to avoid all the hormones induced into these birds.

  4. Fish - I always recommend that you eat fish only two to three times a week and eat a mainly plant based diet every other day. If you stay here, you are considered a pescatarian. 

  5. Eggs and Dairy - If you eliminate these and all of the above, you are considered a vegan. If you only decide to eliminate these, you are a lacto vegetarian. 

You can also become a flexitarian. Most people like to stay here because it is easier in social terms, especially when going out to dinner with friends and make it easier on their family members who still eat meats. 

What If this elimination process doesn't work for someone?

Some people like more extreme or direct approaches towards a healthy lifestyle. In my website I have a section in which I divide a healthy and easy approach to each day of the week: Meatless Monday, No Sugar Tuesday, Colorful Wednesday, Fish Friday, Active Saturday and Delightful Sunday.

The great thing about this approach, specially Meatless Monday, is that it introduces veganism or vegetaniarism without intimidating people. Plus, by grocery shopping for each lifestyle, you will be little by little changing the way you cook and eat for yourself and your family. 

There's also the term "Vegan 'til 5" in  which your breakfast, lunch and snacks are vegan. But in the evening you let yourself eat animal products in order to be more flexible with your social life. 

It's so hard to explain the plant-based diet to older generations. Why do you think this happens?

A lot of people associate this lifestyle with nutritional deficiencies or food shortage, so eating meat is sort of a symbol of wealth. Eliminating meats from our diet is like going back in time in some societies. 

I see this a lot with mothers of teenagers that come to me because they don't approve of their son or daughter's decision of going vegetarian. I have to work with them and  sort of re-program their excess of repeated wrong information from generations before. That's why I love to educate people. 

Is it true that you don't need multivitamins if you have a balanced vegan lifestyle?

This is not a yes or no question, because we have to make some blood tests in order to really know. But in essence, in a well balanced plant based diet you shouldn't need anything more than a B12 supplement.

If someone has celiac disease, is it a good idea to go vegan?

healthy vegan lifestyle

Yes, if the condition is controlled in terms of vitamin absorption.  

A lot of people think that being plant based means not eating gluten also. Why do you think this happens?

Gluten has nothing to do with the vegan or vegetarian diet. Most of the hype around gluten is due to a lot of miss-information from people who want a low carb diet. 

Is it true that you should be careful with the oil intake in a vegan diet?

As long as they are healthy fats, such as avocado, coconut or olive oil, you should have no problem. You should also make sure the amount of fats your eating fit your daily macronutrients. 

What do you think about fitness apps such as my fitness pal and macronutrients?

I would highly suggest you leave this task to your nutritionist, since a lot of times these apps overestimate or underestimate your portions. You want this process to be enjoyable! It is difficult enough to eliminate meats while eating out or going to the supermarket. It is just too much information to process. 

When you go to a nutritionist, we will give you the right portions you should eat to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. 

What do you think about all the food industry documentaries on Netflix?

I think that it is a great way to create awareness among people who don't have studies in nutrition and who have no clue about the pharmaceutical industry. But I do believe that sometimes they create hysteria around these topics, even though they are speaking a lot of the truth. This is why some people may develop orthorexia which is the obsession with eating healthy. 

I think that they usually have a message of judging other people for eating the way they do and you have to be careful with this. I don't want people to feel excluded or rejected by the vegan community. I want them to feel welcomed and not intimidated by the movement. 


If you would like to know more about Carla de la Torre, you can visit her website carlaminutricionista.com. She has several plans to choose from, starting from $80 and they can be completely online! 

ambinity's Vegan Must Haves:

2017 in Review | The Best and the Worst

Beauty, Lifestyle, HealthMaría Elena RodríguezComment
best buys of 2017

This year was far from normal to say the least. From traveling to Europe for the first time, posting consistently once a week and surviving a devastating natural disaster. 2017 was intense, but it was all that I needed to check my priorities. 

I made some big lifestyle changes and some huge decisions along the way. It was transformative to say the least, but I couldn't be happier for the outcome. So here are the highs and lows that helped me get there:

Beauty

Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip Collection

As many of the products I discover, I discovered this one out of a whim. I always like using a nourishing lip balm after my nighttime skincare routine and before I fall asleep and this one has been perfect. It's a little expensive, but it's worth the splurge since a little bit goes a long way. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab Bite Beauty Everyday Agave Lip collection here

 

OLEHENRIKSEN Transforming Walnut Scrub

ole henriksen walnut scrub

You all know my love for Ole Henriksen, but first thing first: This scrub STINKS! But boy does it work. If you can pass through the smell and are diligent about using this product at least once a week you will see the amazing results. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Ole Henriksen Transforming Walnut Scrub here

 

tarte Tarteist™ Lash Paint Mascara

I have the most stubborn eyelashes. They are the hardest to curl and give some volume. But this mascara is doing her part on my lashes. Plus, it's buildable and perfect for those days when you want to give your makeup look that extra sultriness. 

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Tarteist Lash Paint Mascara here. 

 

Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask

herbivore blue tansy

This is an effective but expensive mask. It smells great and it feels really luxurious. Plus, you will see the results right away. I've been using this mask before special occasions or if my skin is looking a little dull.

I talk more about this product here

You can buy the Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask here

 

Tarte Shape Tape Concealer

Just as I suspected, this concealer quickly gained holy grail status. The hype is real guys! If you suffer of dark circles like I do, this concealer will change your life. Just keep in mind that it's super full coverage, which is why I only use it for special occasions. For my every day I've been using the Wet N' Wild Photo Focus Concealer

You can read my initial review here.

Grab the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer here. 

 

Glossier Serums

glossier serums

I started using these serums after my sister raved about them so much. You all know my love for the Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, but since I've been leaning more towards more natural and less ingredients skincare I thought it was time to give these a try. 

These are definetely lighter than I thought and from my experience, you will start to see results after a week or so. The only downside is that it's 0.5 oz and for the price and for the price and daily usage, I don't think it's appropriate. Wishing they come out with a full 1oz and more cost effective packaging! 

Grab Glossier's The Supper Pack Serums here

 

Hello, World!

glossier perfume

If you follow me on Instagram you know I went to the Glossier Showroom in Chelsey, NYC this past November. I had no idea I would love this perfume, but once I smelled it, I knew it had to be mine. Some of you know that I've been really into warm and spicy scents this year and that is exactly what this smells like. But it's not basic at all. Am I explaining myself? Describing scents is so hard!

Anyways... you can grab the Glossier You Perfume here

 

All of the Nirvana Perfumes

Speaking about warm and spicy perfumes, Nirvana by Elizabeth and James stole my heart this year. From their deliciously sexy Nirvana Bourbon perfume to their new Nirvana Amethyst perfect for the holidays. If you want to captivate someone, try one of these perfumes. 

Grab a trio of Nirvana by Elizabeth and James Perfumes here

 

Rose Water Sprays

Notice that I wrote "sprays" not "spray"? That's because I don't care about the brand. I just love spraying rose water spray in my face. Does it make my skin any different? No. Does it make me feel like a queen? Absolutely! It feels like an added luxury to my skincare regimen.

Grab Mario Badescu's Rose Water Spray here

 

Too Faced Sweet Peach Eyeshadow Palette

too faced sweet peach palette

This is the only palette I've been using. I am not big on using eyeshadow, but when I do, I like some high quality, super blendable and long wearing shadows. The shades I love the most from this palette are Summer Yum and Luscious. Peaches 'N Cream is perfect for blending out at the end. 

Grab a Too Faced Peach Palette here

Lifestyle

Filofax

I come and go with planners and I have used dozens of them over the years. Even two at once. But I've come to realize that the best system for me is one where I can keep all my to-do's, calendar and notes in one place. Hence, the Filofax system. Again, I don't mind paying a little extra for effectiveness and this system lets me customize my pages and add or edit whatever I want throughout the year. This helped me stay on track with this extra crazy year! 

Running

It all started with a 5K race and it ended up being the biggest lifestyle change I've done in my life. I was never a runner, in fact, I hated running. But something inside me shifted once I raced that 5K. I even credit running for my mental health after surviving Hurricane Maria, but you can read more about that in my article at Merodea

Yoga

Where do I even begin with this? I believe I got hooked on yoga by accident. It was just a way of stretching after running, but once I noticed that I had no sore legs after doing yoga and that boost in endorphins, I knew I wouldn't go back! 

Going Plant-Based

I have been going back and forth with this topic for a while. But just in time when I began running and doing yoga I decided to give this a try one more time. It has been a challenge, specially after María, but I have never felt better in my life. Let me know if you would like to read more about my transition to veganism! 

Traveling

These past two years have been huge in traveling for me. But now, I'm in the middle of a huge life transition which is why I will probably be putting some of my vacation time on hold. But all these experiences were amazing and necessary for me. You can read more about this here

Fails

Louis Vuitton Neverfull 

This was in my bucket list since forever. After I purchased my pre-loved Speedy 30, I wanted the Nerverfull to complete my collection. Then Europe happened and I was able to purchase it for a much better price. But after I got it for a few months it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I deserved it and after Hurricane María almost washed us off the map, I knew I had to give her up. 

It's not that I'm against luxury products now. I'm just more consciously aware of everything and I just wish to have things in my life that add value to my life and I definetely didn't feel that way with the Neverfull. 


We have been posting our favorite posts of the year on Facebook and Twitter so make sure you check that out.

Until next time, 

María Elena

The Cruelty-Free Beauty Gift Guide

Beauty, wellness, LifestyleMaría Elena RodríguezComment
erbaviva sunscreen and natural deodorant

Disclaimer: We are very pleased to announce that this blog post is sponsored by GoodCubed.com. Nevertheless, all the opinions in this post are our own.

Being cruelty-free is kind of tricky. Ever since I made the conscious life choice of not supporting brands that still test on animals, I've had to spend some time researching products that fit these requirements before purchasing. But when the holiday season comes around it gets specially challenging. I want to buy people ethically correct products, but they are not always as accessible as I would wish. And lets be honest, when that VIB Sale comes around, all you want to do is find what fits best to your friends and family and be done with it! And to be really honest (as always), even though I've been completely cruelty-free these last years, my gifts haven't and that doesn't feel right. 

Enter GoodCubed.com. The team contacted me right after Hurricane María and while I was dying to check them out, I didn't have enough cell phone reception or electricity to properly review them. So when I finally had the chance to check them out and know their values, it was one of the few non-disaster-related good news that I received after the hurricanes.  According to their website, their "mission is to give animals a greater voice while connecting you with lovely, effective, clean beauty products that are 100% Cruelty-Free". Not only do they support and give cruelty-free brands a special retail space, they have an entire section dedicated to vegan products and women owned brands. Plus, 1% of all sales are donated to the Beagle Freedom Foundation. Talk about guilt free shopping! 

Needless to say, after all we've been through as Puertorricans, the only way it felt right to create a gift guide this Holiday Season was if it had a purpose behind it. And what better way to give back this season than buying your gifts from a store that already supports an amazing cause? Plus, this is a great way to introduce your friends to the cruelty-free movement! (More on this in the end of this post) 

So after browsing around in their website and testing out two of their products, I put together a gift guide that is perfect for stocking stuffers! 

PS: Read all the way to the end of this post so you learn all the ways you can save and accumulate rewards with GoodCubed.com. ;) 

CRUELTY-FREE BEAUTY WISH LIST

Cruelty-Free Beauty Gift Guide: 

Psst! Use this link to get a 10% discount code

 

For your sporty friend: Erbaviva Vegan Sunscreen (SPF 30)

If you follow me on Twitter you know I have been really into running these past few months. Since I run in the morning, I need a good sunscreen so I can take care of my skin while I take care of my health.

But as many of you know, many sunscreens have a lot of toxins and pore clogging ingredients which are without a doubt not good while you are sweating your a** off. This is why I decided to give this one a try. According to goodcubed.com this sunscreen is "naturally crafted with zinc oxide (a naturally occurring mineral), aloe, sunflower, olive, and jojoba oils and infused with organic essential oils of chamomile and lavender". Sounds beautiful doesn't it? It smells great also! So far, I've had no complains! 

erbaviva sunscreen

Grab Erbaviva Vegan Sunscreen (SPF 30)

 

For your holistic friend: Kaia Naturals Cold Pressed Deodorant

I don't know if it's just me, but I've had really bad experiences with natural deodorants. They almost never work on me and if they do, they have a really strong smell which I don't enjoy for my armpits. This is why I decided to give this one a chance as a last attempt with natural deodorants. 

But to my surprise, I haven't had any bad experiences with this one. For the past week my armpits have been dry and odorless. According to goodcubed.com, this deodorant is made with an ingredient called Ta-keh-su-mee, which is bamboo charcoal, "a time-honored Japanese secret for odor control and detoxification". Also, I read that this deodorant is great for getting out toxins and making you smell less with its constant use. Cool!

But I must say that you should store this deodorant in a cool place. With the heat and humidity in Puerto Rico I've had the experience of having this product smear all over my armpits and it's a bit messy. 

natural deodorant
natural deodorant
natural deodorant

Grab Kaia Naturals Cold Pressed Deodorant here

 

for your always on the go friend: Cocovit Vegan Coconut Water Hydro Mist

Cocovit is a brand that I have been meaning to try for a while now! You all know my obsession with facial sprays, so when I saw this vegan product I knew I had to include it in this gift guide. 

According to their website, what's great about this hydro mist is that it consists of coconut water, great for toning, Aloe Vera which helps heal and hydrate your skin and coconut oil which we all know is rich in antioxidants and healthy acids. Perfect for that friend who needs a pick-me-up every day. 

Grab the Cocovit Vegan Coconut Water Hydro Mist here

 

for your skincare obsessed friend: Cocovit Besan and Turmeric Vegan Polishing Grains

Not many of you know this but these past few months, specially after surviving two devastating hurricanes, I have been approaching a more holistic lifestyle. And while researching my holistic ways, I've found all the great health benefits about turmeric; from easing headaches to helping with inflammation and insomnia.

This is why I'm totally down to try this blend of besan and turmeric which promises to "gently lift impurities, remove dead cells and stimulate cellular turnover for soft and glowing skin". I know your skincare obsessed friend will be down to trying this interesting mix of natural ingredients! 

Grab the Cocovit Besan and Turmeric Vegan Polishing Grains here

 

for your makeup obsessed friend: EcoBella FlowerColor Natural Mascara

When it comes to mascara and being cruelty-free I haven't found a whole lot of options. I try to stay with the Better than Sex Mascara by Too Faced and the Buxon mascara. So when I saw Ecco Bella’s FlowerColor Natural Mascara I immediately added it to my wish list.

"We leave out the lacquer, shellac, and alcohol and put in natural clay and flower wax coated iron oxides. This mascara wraps around and lengthens lashes to their longest. It's water-resistant, but not waterproof. The brown and black mascara is gentle and can be easily removed. Excellent for sensitive eyes." 

Umm.. Sold! Plus, since it includes a mini mirror, it is a perfect stocking stuffer for your makeup obsessed friend! 

Grab the Ecobella Flower Color Natural Mascara here

 

for that picky and fancy person in your life: Erbaviva Relax and Awaken Body Lotions

I have so many sample body lotions that I hardly ever buy or enjoy one. This is why every once in a while I will invest in a little more luxurious one for my pampering routine, which is usually once a month (shame on me!).  What's special about these two is their aroma. One is made to be used in the morning or if you need a pick me up and the other one is meant for relaxation. I would use this last one in my feet right before putting on my fuzzy socks for bed.

And since is such a self-care item, I think it would be a great gift for someone fancy and picky... like my grandmother!

Grab the Erbaviva Relax Body Lotion here.

Grab the Erbaviva Awaken Body Lotion here

 

for that friend who needs pampering ASAP: The Soil and the Sea's Bamboo Charcoal Vegan Body Wash

No time or money for a spa day? No problem! This body wash has you covered. 

"Loaded with nourishing organic ingredients, including organic aloe vera, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic sunflower oil, organic hemp seed oil, and dead sea salt, this body wash will leave your skin cleansed, revitalized, and moisturized." - goodcubed.com

I think we can all agree this is the gift you need to give that friend who is always looking out for others instead of herself.

Grab The Soil and theSea's Bamboo Charcoal Vegan Body Wash here.

 

Why shop at GoodCubed.com?

Rewards Program

  • When you join the Rewards Program you'll get 250 rewards points, called "Cubes" that you can use for a future purchase. 
  • Once you sign up, you will earn Cubes for every purchase.
  • You can also earn Cubes from sharing GoodCubed.com in your social media channels, reviewing products and your birthday. 
  • You can redeem your cubes for free shipping, or $5, $10 or even $25 off your purchase! 
  • Join here

 

Referrals:

Once you create an account at goodcubed.com, you will be given a unique link that will grant your friends 10% off their first purchase while giving you a $5 off discount for every friend that makes a purchase. Win/ win! So prepare for this shameless plug: If you are interested in a 10% discount in your first purchase and you want to support ambinityblog.com and more reviews like this, you can use this link. Thank you very much! :) 

Remember what I told you about getting your friends into the cruelty-free beauty world? This is your chance! 

 

Free Returns:

GoodCubed.com offers free returns for any unopened and unused products within forty-five (45) days of the date the order is placed.

 

They donate 1% of all your purchases to the Beagle Freedom Project

This project negotiates with laboratories across the world to secure the release of dogs and other animals and give them a chance at a normal home life after everything they have endured for vanity and scientific curiosity. Read about them here.

 

Their Cruelty-Free Pledge

You can read it here


We thank GoodCubed.com for sponsoring this post and supporting this cruelty-free beauty space. 

Until next time, 

María Elena