At-Home Allergy Testing with Helix
If you’re following me on Instagram, you may have seen that just a few days ago I got the coolest thing in the mail. A company called Helix sent me their DNA test and DNA-powered EverlyWell Food Sensitivity+ kit. Together, they’ll tell me if I have elevated levels of immune antibodies in my blood, plus measure my genetic predisposition to metabolize and absorb foods and vitamins. What does that all mean? Well simply said, the Food Sensitivity+ needs just a few drops of blood (plus some saliva for the DNA part of the test) and it can test for reactivity to 96 foods (like gluten, wheat and dairy) as well as genetic influences on lactose intolerance, caffeine, vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and magnesium. That’s pretty rad!
Besides the long lines and crazy-out-of pocket expenses that can accrue when going to the doctors office, who knows where healthcare will be in a year or four? This test is a quick (results come within about a week!), safe, and effective way to figure out what your food sensitivities are without dealing with lines or overpaying for healthcare. Helix’s proprietary technology, called Exome+, reads every letter of all 22,000 protein-coding genes in your body, which produces 100 times more data than most consumer genetics companies. Then, once you’ve taken and sent back your DNA sample, they’ll store and protect your genetic data so you can access and share it with any partner of your choosing without ever having to provide another DNA sample. And if you’re interested in finding out more about your DNA, Helix offers other tests to help you dive further into that information, too. They offer cool tests for ancestry, family planning, hereditary cancer screening - all kinds of different things if you’re interested in exploring further!
Two years ago I was diagnosed with ‘IBS’ after blood and stool tests plus an endoscopy, colonoscopy and an ingestible camera found nothing but healthy organs with a lot of inflammation. Eventually, after many tests and dietary restrictions, doctors finally figured out that I was having allergic reactions to soy. They figured that was what was causing all of my abdominal pain, content bowel movements, and eczema breakouts - and they were mostly right. Now I’ve been soy-free for almost two years now and while the abdominal issues, cramping, and overall IBS symptoms have stopped, the eczema and adult acne have only gotten worse. And while I’ve tried tweaking my diet here and there, it can be really hard to pinpoint when you’re shooting in the dark. With Food Sensitivity+, you’ll learn your body’s sensitivity to many common foods AND the impact your DNA may have on your ability to digest certain foods and nutrients. That’s pretty awesome, because it also gives you the tools to create long-term meal plans and food awareness for yourself, plus know which foods are triggering you and causing your symptoms. You’ll know which foods your body should be getting more of and what you may want to be removing from your diet altogether. And hopefully I’ll be able to end these eczema flare-ups and see what smaller triggers could be causing unknown stress on my body.
The process was super easy. I ordered my kits online and they arrived within just a couple days. For the Helix DNA test I just needed a simple saliva sample. Spit in a tiny tube, add some liquid, and shake it up! For the FoodSensitivity+ test I did a simple finger prick, then put drops of my blood onto a biomarker collection card. Then all I had to do was drop my samples into a pre-addressed, safety sealed envelope and drop it into a mailbox! Two days later I got an email that my results had been received by the lab, and now I’m just a few days out from my results. And I can’t wait! (Because this product includes a biomarker test, EverlyWell will provide a physician to review my health history + biomarker results once they’re ready.) You can get 30% OFF any purchase on any Helix product with code: Helixivhk. But HURRY - only the first 25 unique users get the discount! And stay tuned - my results will be back soon and I’ll share them here!
See the video below for a sneak peek at contents of the FoodSensitivity+ blood test!
This post is sponsored, which is a tool we use to keep the content on this site fresh and relevant. While I was paid for this post, all thoughts and opinions expressed are true and from my own experience. Thanks for understanding that sponsored content helps offset the costs of keeping this site running!
5 NATURAL REMEDIES FOR AN UPSET STOMACH
I've always had an easily upset-able stomach. It's sensitive to new foods, too much sugar or spice, dairy, soy, and sometimes wheat. And because of my history with an eating disorder, I've totally wreaked havoc on my insides. My stomach has a hard time finding it's happy place, but with the help of lots of probiotics, a good routine, and a couple other little helpers, I've mostly gotten a handle on it. That said, I still overeat sometimes or go out and splurge a little on my diet - and that can cause serious tummy troubles. Sure, you could just feel crummy and go to bed, hoping that your stomach will have dealt with the bulk of the uncomfortable trouble while you're sleeping - or you could start to try and fight back! Working on balancing your belly pH and cutting your crap intake all at the same time. I've found a few tools that have really helped me to work past the uncomfortable belly pain and get into a state of relief. These tools may not work exactly for you, but they're ve helped me HUGELY and I think you'll find some relief with at least one of the options listed. And I'm always open to suggestions! Please totally leave your suggestions in the comments below, I'd love to know how you help fight your tummy troubles. Otherwise let's dive right in. Your insides need you!
I'm all about those probiotics. Between my daily kombuchas and kraut intake, I do my best to take in fermented foods every single day. On top of that, I take a daily refrigerated probiotic pill - the 50 billion from Ultimate Flora - to keep my tummy in check on the regular. When I do need a little extra oophm, I love the GoodBelly Probiotics Shots. They also make probiotic juices and drinks but they tend to be really sugar heavy. The plain an vanilla chamomile flavored shots are my fave and have the lowest sugar content, plus pack a serious probiotic punch - I swear you can feel it start to work as soon as you drink it! Probiotics are getting easier and easier to find, so make sure you start using them. They're great for digestion and intimate pH balance in your gut, and with all of the studies coming out tying gut health to mental health, you want to be take as good care of your gut as possible. Plus, they really will help kick the tummy troubles!
2. Coconut Charcoal
I was suggested coconut charcoal from someone before our Honeymoon trip. I always struggle with digestion when traveling, and a friend recommended I try these pills from Bulletproof if I was feeling gassy or bloated along the way. And guys - they TOTALLY saved me. I struggled a lot with bloating when we hit the ground in Europe because we basically survived on bread, and these pills became my lifesaver. That said, go easy on them. Charcoal is GREAT for removing impurities, but it can also remove all the good stuff in there, too. So if you are going to take it, be sure to take some prebiotics a bit before and probiotics a bit after to keep everything balanced. But do try it! Even after an accidental dairy slip-up it worked wonders on my grumbling tummy. Big fan!
3. Ginger Capsules
Ginger is great for helping with an upset stomach, in any form you've got it. Fresh, raw, in juice, kombucha, or powder form - it does WONDERS on the tummy! Ginger is known to aid digestion and increase saliva flow, AND it boosts nutrient absorption in the body! So really, take it everyday in some form, if you can. When you've got an especially crummy tummy these ginger pills are great because they pack 540 mg of ginger per capsule, and are easily sucked down. They work fast, and I usually feel relief within 30 minutes of taking a few of the capsules. Ginger is also a great remedy for motion sickness, and because it's totally plant-derived, you don't need to worry about 'overdoing' it. 2-3 capsules and you'll be feeling better!
4. Essential Oils
I love putting essential oils in my diffuser, but since taking yoga teacher training I've gained a much bigger appreciation for slathering them right onto my skin. I use lavender oil regularly for massage, but didn't even really think about using a scent like peppermint at first. As it turns out, Peppermint not only smells great and stimulates up your senses, but it's cooling abilities also calms the stomach and aids in digestion! I have a few essential oil roller-sticks I've picked up recently, and one of my faves has become this 'Chill' stick from Frisky Fish; it's a blend of mint and lavender oils, and I think it's the perfect combo of cooling and relaxing. Perfect for post-yoga or after a big meal. I just roll it onto my wrists, neck and temples, and occasionally rub it right onto my belly for extra oomph. I immediately feel my body relax a bit and start to calm - from the inside, out. After some researching, I learned ginger + tea tree essential oils would be great options for diffusing or applying for digestive issues, too!
5. Herbal Tea
I've been hooked on Aloha's 'Clean' Ginger Green Tea lately and love the way it makes my stomach feel. Clean, balanced, and refreshed! A green tea with added nettle, dandelion root, and ginger root, the tea promotes detoxification in the body and and purification of the digestive system. Completely organic and wrapped in biodegradable sachets, these bags of tea are great hot or poured over ice. I sometimes add a bit of raw honey to mine, but you could also add a couple of slices of fresh ginger for extra digestive care.
And that's my go -to upset stomach routine! Hopefully having these 5 Natural Remedies on hand will help you find relief the next time you have an upset stomach. I'd love to hear your recommendations and what you do to calm a troubled tummy - let me know in the comments below!
Self care recipe: Clary Sage SALT Scrub
I've been making a real effort lately to spend some serious time on self-care. It's a phrase that's been getting thrown around a lot lately, but I'm actually a big proponent of the discussion and the idea. Self-care, if you're late to the party, if all about taking care of yourself in a restorative way. That can be different for everybody! I like to do gentle yoga, listen to podcasts, get a massage, light scented candles and take long afternoon walks. These things help me center, calm my crazy always-running brain, and allow me to spend some time focusing on myself and what I need. It's really a skill to be able to focus on listening to your body and giving it what it needs - especially when what its need is a little extra TLC.
Since summer is coming to a close and flip-flops are making their way back into closets, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this easy salt scrub - it's perfect for buffing out rough edges on your elbows and feet! While you can sub in any essential oil you prefer here, I chose clary sage for it's natural ability to boost self-esteem, confidence, and mental strength and fight depression. Basically all the tools you need when you're practicing a little self-care - and probably if you're going back to school or work after a great summer vacation, too. Plus, for the ladies, clary sage is also shown to help balance hormones and menstrual pain - it's an amazing essential oil! So use whatever oil you like, but I've been really loving this combo. If the scrub separates, you can just give it a stir to mix the salt in evenly. This scrub also makes a great gift for a friend or favorite teacher - especially if they're the kind of person that enjoy long baths and soft skin - and who doesn't?! Let's get to scrubbin', ladies (and gents!).
9 ounces (250 g) melted or fractionated coconut oil
4.5 ounces (125 g) pink Himalayan sea salt
10 drops of clary sage (or your favorite scent!) essential oil
Pour your melted coconut oil into a small mixing bowl. Add the Himalayan sea salt and essential oil drops and mix well. Leave to cool (if not already) before using or transferring to a glass jar, stirring every so often as it cools to avoid separation.
To use, massage your feet for a minute or two each with the scrub in tiny circular motions an feel the stress melt away! Rinse.
Scrub can be stored in the bathroom or shower for weekly use, but may need to be stirred occasionally to recirculate the sea salt. Enjoy!
When I was 17 I went through a really crummy breakup. I was already at an age where I felt insecure about my body and the changes it was going through, and insecure about who I was and who I would be in the future. There was a lot of upheaval in those years, and without getting into too much detail (another post, another day - maybe), I had one parent in and out of serious legal trouble and the other struggling to stay afloat amidst the chaos. It had affected me more than I was willing to admit or recognize, and coupled with the messy breakup, I started to feel out of control. Things were spinning, and the only thing I had some semblance of control over was what I was eating. I have always had a sweet tooth, and I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes, ‘clean your plate before you leave the table!’ kind of family. I never had healthy eating habits, but never really understood that they were bad, because everyone around me ate the same way. I had no idea really that I probably could’ve just changed what I was eating in a much easier, healthier and far less damaging way. Instead, I started a combo of starving myself and then binging to such fullness that I was forced to purge or would force myself to in an effort to clear out my stomach, to essentially prevent from gaining weight and hopefully lose some.
If you are still struggling with an ED, please know this may be triggering for you. I’ve never used this space to open up about this topic, but I have gotten so many questions and so much positive feedback when I’ve mentioned it on instagram. I’m not embarassed about sharing it because I am in such a better place now, and I just hope my experience can maybe help someone connect or get some perspective. Sorry - it’s gonna get really real guys.
The first time I made myself throw up was what I consider the real beginning. I had restricted food a bit before but never in such a conscious way. I was sad and feeling sorry for myself, so I went to the store and grabbed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and ate the whole thing. Just like that. Oops! I hadn't even meant to, but I was just drowning in my angsty sadness and eating and not even thinking. We’ve all been there, right? I felt really sick. Which made it really, really easy for me to throw up when I went into the bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat. I’m not proud of admitting how easy it was, but at the time - it felt freeing. It felt like somehow if I could unload the contents of my stomach, I could unload all of my emotions and the weight on my heart. Spoiler alert: it doesn't work like that.
I continued on the cycle of binging and purging and then starving myself for about 2 years. How can you do both, you ask? Well, as most people with disorders eating habits know, it’s a fluctuating thing. Some weeks I threw up every meal - some weeks I barely ate at all, so there was just nothing to throw up. I feel guilty even writing this - knowing how many people in the world don’t get to eat real or healthful meals, and I was buying good food just to waste it. I saw that juxtaposition even then, but as much as I hated what I was doing, I hated myself more. I had low self-esteem and was definitely battling depression. I wasn't working out much and I was the heaviest I had ever been, but I was soft. My muscles were deteriorating in front of me because I barely had any strength - literally. I was barley eating or drinking. After graduating high school I went off to college and the eating disorder absolutely spiraled. I was dating again but still feeling awful about my body and my size, trying to battle the ‘freshman 15’ while simultaneously eating exclusively cafeteria food, drinking to excess on the weekends, and sitting ALL DAY LONG in classes. I remember my anorexia taking the lead here - it was much harder to sneak away and throw up, except on weekends, when we drank to the point of throwing up anyway. I was keeping my calories under 1000 a day - starving limits. I was a big fan of eating a single sleeve of saltines and a cup of frozen raspberries a day - which, obviously, is far too little for any adult. I was sleeping all day through classes by the end of my second semester because I had no energy - I couldn’t even get up out of bed to go to the bathroom with out getting dizzy and feeling like passing out. I was in a bad place, and felt like I had no support system or reason to be in school. I dropped out and moved back home in February, and started to work on trying to feel better about myself.
By April I had saved up enough money to visit a friend for a week in California, and that’s where I met Alex for the first time. That week was freeing for me. I was feeling a bit better and getting a little more control over eating again at this point, and had regained more interest in working out. I still had my ED - I always will. Recovery is a choice you have to make everyday. But I decided that while I was in California for the week, I’d try new foods. I’d try to just enjoy it a bit. And I did! I tried In ’n’ Out for the first time, plus TK Burgers, Panda Express and The Hat. Do you live in Southern California? If so, you’re probably seeing a pattern here - it was all total junk food. But still, I enjoyed it! And that mattered. I visited again in May and had decided to more out permanently in August. I got a job as a live-in nanny in Pasadena and moved out just days before my 19th birthday in September. I was at my heaviest and feeling awful. I was eating a lot more food, and puking a lot less, but the foods I was eating at this point were total crap. Nothing healthful, lots of processed and fast foods. And for awhile after the move, it stayed that way. There were so many new-to-me places and foods to try in California - I went hard. And dating someone like Alex was tricky for me in the beginning; he can eat almost whatever and keeps his great bod. Some people are just lucky! What did help was Alex himself - I opened up to him about my struggles with eating and food, and he was a wonderful listener. He made a sincere effort to start eating better and working out with me, which was really incredibly helpful to me.
Even without Alex’s help, being in a new environment and around exciting new things made me want to be happy. I was sick of feeling sick all the time, and sick of constantly worrying about what I’d be eating or wouldn't be eating. Being happier made me want to start enjoying meals with my partner, enjoying food in social settings without having to excuse myself to the bathroom to berate myself for eating too many appetizers. I got curious about food, and about why I was feeling sick all of the time. I had simultaneously screwed with my metabolism and insides so much I had constant stomach aches and heartburn, and I didn't know why. I started cutting out foods I knew I might be struggling with - starting with dairy. I’d always had some lactose intolerance, so it seemed like a natural place to start.
Within 6 months of actively reducing the dairy and occasional other foods intermittently and rarely seriously, Alex and I moved in together. We got a couple of roomates, one of which was a vegetarian. She sparked my interest in removing meat from my diet. If I’m being honest, I was more initially allured into veganism because of the restriction aspect. Like I said, I had always grown up with healthy appreciation for meat - but had also very much ‘met my meat’. I never ate meat from factory farms growing up or helped support animal agriculture on a large scale - we ate a few eggs weekly from family chickens and ate a single deer yearly that my father hunted. This isn't a defense or calling out of anything - you do you. This is just what I lived. I wanted control over my food, but I also wanted to get much healthier. I wanted feel good about food and eating again. So I went vegan! It wasn't easy when I started, and I ate a lot of french fries and apples because I didn't know what else to do. But I taught myself to cook, and started the blog to try and share my experiences with other people. Back then it was exclusively recipes, and some of my very first recipes that I posted are simple smoothies and salad ideas that I learned as I went along. The pictures sucked because I was shooting them on like an iPhone 4, but I was just excited to start to feel like I was getting it.
At this point my ED had diminished a bit. I was in therapy weekly, was eating a lot better and had started working out. I’d started to lose some excess weight and was getting a little stronger. I wasn't super healthy, but I was working on me and it felt really good - probably the best I’d felt in a long time. But I still dealt with serious food guilt; if I ate too much and felt really full I’d think about how easy it’d be to slip to the bathroom and make myself sick or how if I maybe just skipped breakfast all next week I’d look slightly thinner. I talked to my therapist about it, and I talked to Alex about it. And that helped a TON. I will say this loud and proud: it is so incredibly important to take as good care of your mental health as you do your physical health. If you think you need a therapist or psychologist or new doctor or even a really great dog groomer in your life, DO IT. You will never regret asking for help when you need it. It may even take you a few tries to find someone you’re comfortable talking with, but when you find that person, see the value in opening up. It helped me so much to get the weight off my shoulders of what felt like a major secret to me, and also helped me to see how damaging the things I was saying to myself were. When I would eat something even slightly indulgent, I would berate myself. “You’re so fat Amber, no wonder you feel disgusting. Your jeans look so gross - all people are looking at is your muffin top.” I’m not kidding - I thought that telling myself these things was helping me. I don't know how. Well, I sort of do; diet culture tells women that if they are not a thin, perfectly in-shape person that they are less than. This kind of crazy bullshit needs to stop. Diet culture is bullshit - it is a lens at which you look through life that begins to cloud how you see yourself and others in it. It’s all pretend. My therapist started to help me realize that the way in which was speaking to myself actually REALLY mattered, and that is I changed that, I could make real change within myself.
So I started trying to speak to myself more kindly, remind myself that this body has also done a lot of impressive things, and is capable of anything I want from it. I started to see only recently that I don't want to be thin or in-shape, I want to be STRONG. I want to feel safe and proud and capable. And those things only happen when you eat a balanced diet. It took a lot to learn what healthy food was because of the crazy diet culture in our country. It was hard to get straight answers on what I should and shouldn’t be eating, and most of the last 7 years have been a learning curve of trying new things and seeing how my body reacts. If you’re curious what I generally eat in a day, check out this MBG article I wrote recently. I talk about my fave foods and snacks, though I don't mention in the article that I have been recently diagnosed (in the last last two years) with a severe soy allergy. That has definitely changed what I eat as a vegan person, and has eliminated most of the faux meats, cheeses, and processed foods from my diet, which generally contain soy products. It has greatly increased my appetite for more fresh foods, and I’ve been feeling healthier than ever lately. It’s important to get tested for food allergies if you can - I would’ve saved myself years of tummy troubles if I’d looked into it earlier.
Another thing that was instrumental for me in working towards recovery (besides Alex - he’s been an incredible, uplifting partner on this journey!) was discovering how much marijuana helped me me increase my appetite. I prefer to vape now because it’s much better for the lungs, but whether you ingest it, smoke it, or vape it, its acts as a wonderful way to increase your appetite. It also calmed me way down, so I was able to start enjoying how food tasted and felt in my mouth again. I started appreciating food for what is was - nourishment - and also for how it made me feel. I started to reconnect and really hear when I was hungry before eating. We have a couple great posts on vegan Medical Marijuana Edibles here and here, if you’re interested. Before you get started though, know what you’re doing. THC + CBD are slightly different strains of marijuana. CBD is more about pain relief and THC is more about getting high and getting the munchies. Both are great! And we use both. But you probably want THC if you’re looking for increased appetite. Within THC there are two types essentially: sativa and indica. Sativa is my daytime preference, makes you snacky but keeps you active. Indica is my nighttime go-to because it gives you more of a ‘body high’ and helps you sleep. Also increases your appetite, probably more-so than a sativa strain would. Whatever you do, please do it safely and legally!
So do I still get food guilt? Hell to the yes! I think I always will. My relationship with food is an ever-evolving one, constantly striving for more balance and positive and more of what makes me feel good. While I am in a pretty great place of balance right now with eating and exercise and mental health, there are totally breaks. That’s where self-care and really tuning in and listening to your body become so important. The little negative, nagging voice in the back of my head will always be there; it’s more about realizing it’s there, accepting what it is, and just moving past it. My ED carries a lot of baggage and pain with it, and those memories are not something I want to live anymore. When I find myself most triggered is usually when I am most stressed and emotionally compromised. I’ll accidentally skip a meal, or purposely skip it in favor of ‘eating more later’. This is not okay, and it’s a cycle I’ll probably have to work my whole life to break. But I choose to be healthy and to eat - because as much sadness as food used to carry for me, it also carries an incredible amount of joy. I have so many great memories of cooking with my parents and grandparents when I was little, and of towering birthday cakes, and plates full of tacos, and bowls of mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving, of my wedding cake; these are special, happy, social food memories. And I prefer these. I think, again, recovery is a lifelong process. It’s waking up each day and deciding you need and want to do something different, something better for yourself.
And for veganism, it was definitely an aid in rehabilitating my relationship with food. It helped me strip down to the bare essentials - which is to say, eating more healthful fruits, veggies, and grains and cutting out meats, eggs, and dairy products. That said, I have been a vegan for 7 years now, and the older I get, the less I like labels. More coming on this later, but that is essentially why we’re changing the name around here. I’m done with labels, and I’m done judging people. I’m at a spot in my life where I feel like you gotta do what is best for you. If that means eating vegan, great! Please do! If that means just eating vegan one day a week, thats also awesome! I’m all about bettering ourselves and the planet, and the way to encourage people to do that is with inclusion and encouragement. I still eat a plant-based diet, but I’m done with labels. I finally feel at a point where I can admit to you guys that on our honeymoon in Paris last month, I tried some goats cheese one day. It was pretty good, and it was something I hadn’t tasted in years. I ended up feeling pretty icky afterward, so I don't think I’ll be doing that again. (Lactose is not my friend.) The lesson here is really more about being open to trying things. Don't be too restrictive on yourself if that’s a trigger for you - because it absolutely was for me. For years I’ve gone hungry in situations over eating something that wasn’t 100% vegan, and I’m done starving myself to stick to a diet that only I am enforcing on myself. As much as going vegan has helped me as a tool in recognizing and overcoming my disordered eating, I’m at a fork in the road, because it’s also a very restrictive mindset for someone in recovery. For my own ED recovery, I’m taking the high road: eating a plant-based ‘vegan’ diet because it’s good for me and the environment, but not being so incredibly hard on myself if theres a situation in which I end up eating something not so plant-based. And I hope you do what’s best for you, too. Because eating disorders and depression are scary things, but you are capable and strong fucking babe. Don't ever forget it.
If you need help right now, please call the National Eating Disorder Hotline or let someone you trust know you need some help. Find a therapist, talk it out. Do what you need to do to get better - you deserve it.
If you see us in real life or follow us on instagram, you've probably seen me lugging around any combination of my HydroFlask gear. Between our three different water bottles and two food flasks in varying sizes, we always have them with us. The first stainless steel, all-insulated bottle on the market, HydroFlask containers are made with TempShield, a double-wall insulation system that keep cold things ice cold for 24 hours - not kidding - and hot things piping hot for at least 6 and warm for way longer. Seriously, they are INCREDIBLE! I only wish we'd had them when we hiked Katahdin last summer. We always have our HydroFlask bottles and snack containers for iced and hot drinks and for taking warm breakfasts or lunches on the go, which all conveniently fit in our lunch boxes and cup holders. I've stuffed everything into those food containers, and even took them on a recent trip to the Hollywood Bowl. They kept our kombucha cold and our dinner warm, which made for a hell of a concert. They're super tough and scratch resistant, and even after dropping mine seemingly a million times, it has no visible bumps or bruises.
Founded in just 2009 in Bend, Oregon, the company has already earned a ton of product and industry awards, including Best Place to Work. They are a company that truly cares about the quality of their products, and we love them for it. They are constantly innovating to make their products the very best, like the recent changes they made to the handle of their wide mouth lids: they are more flexible and now easier to carry. They even just released their latest - and dare I say greatest? - product yet: the Growler. Their growler pleas from the inside for leak proof protection and a tight seal that keeps in carbonation, so it's perfect for filling up with your favorite brew straight from the tap. Oh yeah, and did we mention that their products come with a lifetime warranty? Yup, all of 'em. Because they are that good. Whether you have a HydroFlask already or not, you should scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for our giveaway, open to US residents only. Use the widget to enter and one lucky lady or fella will win their own 32 oz. wide-mouth water bottle and 12 oz. food flask snack container! (That's a $70 value, guys!) ? Oh yeah, and you know what looks great on a HydroFlask? Our Plant Based Adventures stickers. Check 'em out here.
5 Best Freeze-Dried Vegan Backpacking Meals!
Alex and I love pending time outdoors coming, hiking, and backpacking whenever we can. We had actually planned on hiking the JMT this summer but the cookbook sort of threw things off a bit. Maybe next summer, after we get hitched!
When you do decide to commit to a long-term backpacking adventure, there are a lot of creature comforts you could bring with you to make the trip more enjoyable; maybe the most important thing to get excited about when you set up camp each night though is a hot, hearty meal. After you've been hiking and climbing all day, there's no better way to re-group and re-fill your energy stores for the day. But you want to enjoy it! If you're an experienced backpacker, you'll probably have your JetBoil or similar other cooking system to help you heat your water extra quickly and have your meal ready in minutes. If not, you may need to get a fire going to get boiling water, but that's just about all you'll need to make one of these easy freeze-dried meals. They all come in recyclable packaging, most of which are utilized as a containment system for actually cooking inside the bag, which is super convenient and saves you from washing extra dishes.
We've tried a bunch of these meals in prep for our trips and out of sheer curiosity, and we definitely have some favorite brands and meals. All of our approved kits on this list are vegan friendly and most of the companies offer several, if not many, vegan freeze-dried meal kit options. It's always good to have a variety of food in your pack - so let's get eating!
1. BACKPACKERS PANTRY
We just tried this brand for the first time on our most recent trip to Big Bear and really enjoyed it (pictured above left). I love that they are made by pouring boiling water right into the bag and sealing it, then letting the steam and hot water do its thing. Each bag makes enough portions for two people, so it's perfect for sharing. We tried the Louisiana Red Beans + Rice and though it tasted great with a bit of hot sauce mixed in. Backpackers Pantry brand sells a bunch of different camping equipment, but their adventure food is my favorite. They have a whole section for 'vegan' specific meals with 25 different options! And they sell their meals in larger containers, so if you;re going on longer hikes you can save space and cut down on waste by using on of their 27-serving meal kits. You can find it all right here.
2. ALPINE AIRE
This was one of the first brands we tried, and we quickly feel in love with both the Santa Fe Black Beans with Rice + the Wild Quinoa Pilaf. Both are a bot spicy and packed with savory flavors, plus are packed with protein from the beans - the perfect post-hike meal! They are made by pouring boiling water right into the bag and sealing it, letting the steam and hot water do its magic. Each bag makes enough portions for two people, and Alex and I often top ours with tortilla chips and a bit of hot sauce to spice it up and make it feel a bit more like a real meal. Also, Alpine Aire makes a bunch of vegan freeze-dried meal options, so you'll definitely want to check them out...which you can do here.
3. MARY JANE'S FARM
We discovered Mary Jane's Farm meals while perusing REI one day and loved the packaging. We later realized that they are from the same makers of Mary's Janes Farm Magazine and make a variety of better-for-you home and food products, which is awesome. What we liked about the MJ meals were that they came in a variety of interesting options that tackled foods not tried by al companies. Also, they had a bunch of 'accidentally' vegan options. We loved the Lentils, Rice + Indian Spice meal (pictured above left) after a long day of hiking all over Big Sur. (With all dehydrated meals we recommend checking the label - some meals are vegan without anyone realizing it and without it ever saying on the package!) You can find more about their meal options here.
4. MADE IN NATURE, ANCIENT GRAIN SUPER SIDES
These bags are everywhere it seems like now - and super convenient! They are microwaveable and can go from bag to table in 1 minute. We have mostly just heated ours in a small pan over the JetBoil or campfire, and they were still delicious. 5 of the 6 flavors they make are vegan, and they can be found at your local REI. These make more of a single-person portion but are a great side with a bigger meal or as a snack between hikes. You can find all the info on the meals here.
5. GOOD TO-GO
We love Maine-made Good To-Go Meals and enjoyed their vegan-friendly Smoke 3-Bean Chili on our most recent trip to Big Bear. It was smoky, hearty, and so so perfect after a long, exhausting day on the trails. All of their food is made in Kittery, Maine and made from whole, recognizable foods - no fillers here! Plus, Good To-Go meals are created by a former NYC chef - so you know you're getting great tasting, high quality meals each time you open a package. Did we mention the packaging yet? SO CUTE! And, almost every meal they make is VEGAN! You can find out more about them here.
PACT Clothing Review + $250 Shopping Spree Giveaway!
We met the people at PACT Clothing + Apparel when we visited Expo West this year, and basically immediately fell in love with their company. Because we think they are so rad and we want all you to get a chance to try their awesome apparel for yourselves, we've partnered up to do a $250 GIVEAWAY for one lucky winner, plus a 25% discount for all of our readers! You'll need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for that, but before we get there, let's talk a little about why we love this company so much.
First, they have some really friendly, fantastic, funny employees working over there, and it was them who wowed us before we even put the socks on. After chatting with them for awhile we took some socks home and prepped for the next Expo day. Now, if you've been there you know what a hassle it can be to try and visit the same booth on multiple days. There is SO MUCH to see that you're usually on a different floor each day! But we made a concerted effort to get back to the PACT booth because when we got home we had tried on our socks and loved them. They were cute, comfy, and ethically made! We ended up trying on a few more goodies at the show, and got some more stuff shipped to us a few days later. We wanted to try everything they had!
Everything we've worn has been the softest, comfiest, and all of it fits surprisingly well. I tend to be wary of ordering online, but I wear a medium in most stores and the mediums here have fit me perfectly each time. Everything is made from super soft plain or patterned fabrics with amazing attention to detail, like hidden seam stitching and cozy elastic-band coverings. Since we started enjoying what PACT has to offer, both Alex and I have nearly completely replaced our underwear drawers with their comfy garments. They have the everyday basics you need for just about everything - underwear, socks, shirts, tees, tanks, leggings, sleep sets, and pullovers!
Now for the best part: PACT is a business that we're really proud to support. All the clothing is ethically made, and always child labor + sweatshop-free. They partner with companies who treat their employees well and are paid a fair wage, and only employ organic farming practices. PACT clothing is Fair Trade Certified and is always made using organic, non-GMO cotton. By buying clothes from companies like this you are literally voting for change with your dollars, and supporting companies who make the world a better place to live in. Which is why we LOVE them. Oh yeah, and their clothes are literally the softest and comfiest - you're going to love them, too!
You may also have seen us rocking some PACT gear on instagram, which you can also check out below for a snap of what some of their gear looks like on us! I find myself constantly slipping on the leggings (and of course the undies and socks) every time we go on Plant Based Adventures, since they're so comfy and breathable. It's perfect trail gear. And if you're an avid hiker you'll know - there is nothing better at the end of the day than slipping a fresh pair of cotton socks onto your feet!
YOU MADE IT TO THE GIVEAWAY! All you've got to do to win is enter using the widget below. It's THAT easy! We'll randomly pick a winner and announce in about a week. Wanna shop now? Head over to PACT and use the code FETTLEVEGAN25 for 25% off your purchase! (Valid thru 7/15/16)
*We weren't compensated for this post, we really just love comfy clothing you can feel good about wearing, and I know most of you guys do, too.*
5 Must-Haves For Your Next Camping Trip!
Alex, our pup Maddie, and I LOVE getting outside and having #PlantBasedAdventures, and we've definitely got some favorite tools and products that we bring on every trip. From healthy, hearty snacks to keep you moving on your hike to one of favorite ways to relax while we're camping, this list is designed to make your next camping experience the best it can be. These are our must-have products for our outdoor adventures!
1. EASY, HEALTHY SNACKS + ON-THE-GO FOOD
You need some serious calories and carbs to keep you fueled up while you camp. From protein bars to crackers, vegan jerky and dehydrated backpacking meals - we've tried it all. The best stuff though? Something that packs some protein and that you actually enjoy eating! There's nothing worse than an exhaustive outdoor day followed by a really disappointing meal back at camp. We've got some great campfire meal suggestions here and here, but we also try and bring plenty of granola bars, vegan jerky, chips or crackers, and fresh fruit for snacking. Oh and of course, S'MORE stuff! Of course you could just bring these S'mores brownies, instead. And if you're like us and go camping year round, be sure to check out the monthly snack boxes from Vegan Cuts + Urthbox! They both offer great deals on fun and creative snacks that get shipped to your door monthly. We always end up with leftover snacks in our box that we toss into our camping tote for trips. It's perfect and always snack sized! (Gear pictured: Backpackers Pantry, AlpineAire, Louisville Vegan Jerky, Way Better Snacks)
2. HIGH-QUALITY CAMP KITCHEN EQUIPMENT
The key to successful campfire cooking might just be to avoid the campfire completely! While I love and often use a campfire while we are camping, because we live in super dry and prone-to-forest-fires California, there are times when having a campfire simply isn't feasible. That's when having awesome, high quality gear you can count on is super important. We love our fuel-fed JetBoil cooking system. We've made oatmeal, pasta, pho soup, and even just boiled water for rehydrating meals, making hot drinks and to do dishes with. The setup is easy and boils about 2 cups of water in less than a minute. There are other similar systems on the market, but we've been super happy with this one. We also always keep stainless steel dishes, like the To-Go Ware's reusable layering steel tiffins above (PERFECT for keeping multiple meals separated on a long hike!), wooden utensils, and insulated mugs on hand. We always have our HydroFlask bottles and snack containers for iced and hot drinks and for taking warm breakfasts or lunches on the go, and we carry all of it in our hiking backpacks. We love Maine-made Good To-Go Meals, pictured above as well, and enjoyed their vegan-friendly Smoke 3-Bean Chili on our most recent trip. (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, To-Go Ware, JetBoil, Good To-Go Meals)
3. A HAMMOCK
We LOVE our hammock. Its maybe my favorite piece of camping equipment we own and one I never thought I needed. It takes just minutes to set up and even on a one night excursion, we always end up setting it up. We got ours from ENO (the leading Hammock brand) at a flash REI sale last year, and the straps to extend the length we just ordered on Amazon, along with some string solar lights to hang above it, as well. Its a great investment - for less than $100 you have an extra bed, hang-out spot, lookout, or snuggle spot! We've napped in it or just hung-out, and it easily fits both Alex and I. Maddie hates getting inside, haha, but thats okay. Its made of parachute material so it dries easily if it gets wet and packs up really small when its time to put it away. Plus, since it just needs two trees to get set up, you can set it up over a rad view, often in a spot a tent could never go. You can check out ENO hammocks here - although there are many brands to choose from! (Gear pictured: ENO Hammocks)
4. COMFY ADVENTURE CLOTHING
If you're going to be hiking, camping, or just playing around outdoors, you need to be comfortable. Nothing make a trip more miserable than being wet and soggy, too cold or too hot because you just didn't bring the right gear. A couple of tips: first, do your research! Check weather reports for where you're headed in the days before to be sure there aren't any funky weather patterns moving in that you aren't prepared for.
Second, its all about the layers. Pack an extra outfit more than you think you'll need and plenty of layer to shed or add as the temperature changes. I always bring a warm beanie for chilly mornings but usually end up shedding it by the time the sun has been out for a few hours - always better to be over-prepared than under!
Third, start with the underwear! Seriously, is there anything worse than itching or chafing mid-way through a 10 mile hike? NOPE! Which is why I really recommend having great basics - breathable cotton if you don't plan on getting super wet, wicking materials like polyester if you do. We've been addicted to sustainable, eco-friendly clothing company PACT for all our 'basics' needs. They make everything from underwear to leggings, tops, socks and PJ's for men and women, too. Its nice to feel like you're wearing clothing that is both good for the earth and comfy on your body. Plus, there's nothing better than a clean, fresh pair of underpants after a long day outside! (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, To-Go Ware, PACT, ENO Hammocks)
5. PLANT BASED ADVENTURE GEAR
Okay, so you don't NEED these stickers - but they're a pretty great addition to your favorite adventure gear! We have a few more designs in our shop, as well as a really cute and sturdy lunchbox that'll remind you to 'Pack All The Snacks'! They're affordable, ship out to you quickly, and look great on water bottles, bumpers, bikes, laptops and wherever else you think to stick 'em. Find all the designs here! (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, Plant Based Adventures)
Plant Based Adventures Launch + Shop!
If you've followed us here (or here) for awhile, you probably know that my partner Alex and I love the outdoors. I was raised in Maine, so living in Southern California can sometimes feel like a huge city I just need to escape. Alex and I like to get away by packing up our pup and our camping gear and driving to a remote location to camp, hike, hang around the campfire and enjoy the fresh air. Whether we're driving to Mammoth, Big Sur, or Anza Borrego, or anywhere else - we like to get adventurous in the outdoors. Since we're vegan, we started using the hashtag #PlantBasedAdventures to categorize our adventures and keep track of them. Now, we're launching a whole section here on Fettle Vegan for it! This new part of the site will be dedicated to the half of our lives not spent in the kitchen, but rather in the great outdoors. We'll have everything from cool camping product reviews to campfire-friendly recipes and excursion ideas...oh yeah, and some RAD merch for sale, too!
Yup, we've got stickers and lunch sacks for sale to show everyone how you roll on your Plant Based Adventures! We're heading off to the desert tomorrow for our first camping adventure of the spring, and we'll be packing all of our new goodies to show off. I hope you guys love the designs as much as I do...we have our dear friend and incredible designer Kat Marshello to thank for those, and she did a really incredible job capturing some of my favorite parts of our trips. Can't wait for some feedback from you guys. In the meantime, check out all the products in our SHOP!