My Skin Journey

I talk about my skin pretty frequently in my Instagram stories, and I got some interest in a post that outlines my journey from terrible acne to on-the-mend, healing, healthy skin. First of all, my acne was one of my biggest PERCEIVED flaws. By that I mean, I thought that because my skin wasn’t baby bottom smooth and blemish-free or even-toned, I was not attractive/worthy/good enough/beautiful/cool. For so many years in my teens, I hated my skin and picked at it, treated it with harsh chemicals, and just plain gave up on a future with clear(er) skin. However, all of this was based on my perception of what was and wasn’t flaw. I’m laying this all out, because so much of my skin journey has been a shift in mental attitude towards breakouts, as well as an increase in overall health and wellness knowledge. So! Let’s get right into my journey.

Middle School Years

I’m not even really sure when I first started to develop skin issues like acne. I think it was around middle school, but it started gradually. When I first started noticing pimples (because I would JUST get a few, no breakouts), I used over-the-counter products like Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Aveeno, the like. Anyway, I didn’t educate myself, and didn’t understand or even care about any of the links between acne and nutrition and fitness.

As my acne started to get worse, I began sourcing new products to handle the embarrassing breakouts. I started to get acne on my chest and back, on my shoulders and sometimes a very large painful blemish on my scalp. I picked and prodded despite everyone telling me not to! I cried, I let it affect my self esteem, and I deemed myself ugly. Just because of NORMAL teenage acne. I tried every mask at my local drugstore. And ultimately, I felt helpless. My friends didn’t really get acne like I did. So I felt estranged and different, which is the last thing you want to feel in your middle school days.

Eventually, I tried Pro-Activ and similar product lines that were one size fits all such as Murad. These seemed to work on some parts of my breakouts like larger blemishes but not the day-to-day stuff. So I continued to feel ostracized because I allowed myself to think I was less-than because of my skin.

High School Years

High school seemed to make my skin worse, if the two can even be directly related. If you’re high school-aged or have been through those years already, I’m sure you know how mentally challenging those years are. There is SO much pressure to be cool, pretty, perfect, attractive, etc. and it can lead you to some seriously dark places. High school was the time that my skin issues started to create deeper psychological issues for me. I would get so over emotional about it, cover it up in every possible layer of makeup (full of chemicals and toxins) and let it affect my social life and what I thought I was capable of in all aspects of my life (relationships included).

I occasionally went to various dermatologists and received prescriptions, herbs, and other topical creams. Nothing really worked. My mom would patiently sit with me in my bathroom as I sobbed about how ugly my skin made me feel. Always there to support me, she was with me through thick and thin encouraging me to love myself for my internal beauty and treat my body with care.

I was a chronic “picker” (that word is gross, sorry) and used to attack anything that popped up onto my skin. My back acne got much worse in high school because of long, sweaty volleyball practices. This led to even more extreme self esteem issues for me. I grew up in the Caribbean (a story for another day!) where it was in the mid-80s all year round, yet I would cover up in short sleeves or sweaters to avoid exposing my taboo back breakouts that were ALWAYS apparent. Worse yet, I would cover them with make up for volleyball games since we usually wore tank jerseys. All in all, it was a mess that was made worse because I was so ashamed of it and was implored to cover it up, whatever means necessary.

Everything sort of culminated to my senior year. In the fall of my senior year I decided to remove gluten from my diet, after hearing of a family friend’s success story. I was so desperate to find something that really worked, that I would just about try anything. Shortly after, my skin was the best it had looked in years, and honestly looked better than it does now. In addition to cutting out gluten, I was generally quite happy and (relatively) stress-free. I was earning decent money babysitting, I hardly ever drank (after a ton during my junior year), I was in a new relationship, things just seemed to come together. The skin I had in this period of my life was clear and glowing, with a minor pimple or three every once in a while, that was completely manageable.

 

College Years- NOW

My freshman year of college was a bit of a nightmare for my skin. I cut out animal products, after discovering I was lactose intolerant in October of 2014. At first things were fine, but towards January I began to develop severe acne. Closer to May, my skin looked a pubescent middle schooler. It was so embarrassing, itchy, painful, and depressing. I saw an esthetician in North Carolina and underwent tons of new-fangled procedures in the hopes of remedying my troubled skin, to no avail.

I went home for summer and it seemed to become worse with the heat and sweat. I started seeing my mom’s acupuncturist/herbalist and began taking an herbal supplement as well as receiving acupuncture specifically for my skin. I think it helped slightly, but still didn’t make a huge difference. This issue lessened but still continued through my sophomore year of college. I began to, once again, feel the psychological effects of skin issues. I felt ugly, I felt hopeless, and most of all I felt angry because I was “a 20 year-old why am I still dealing with this!!” During my sophomore year, I was using Lush skin care products. I shelled out big bucks every month, trying new products that ultimately just didn’t do anything!

The next summer (last year) I went home again, and my skin started slowly getting better (I attribute this to lowered stress). I had been following Osea Malibu on Instagram and finally decided to try their products. I first ordered the essential corrective complex and blemish balm. I loved the balm, but was inconsistent with both products until last fall. And that brings me to…

What I do NOW, and how it has made a huge difference in my complexion —

So now- my skin regimen starts from within. I avoid processed foods (especially sweets/oily foods), load up on veggies of all colors, fats, lean plant proteins, nuts, and fruit with antioxidant properties. Fermented and probiotic-rich foods like kombucha and kraut are some new additions to my diet that have helped as well. I try to listen to my body as much as possible and give it what it craves (within limits). I practice balance, knowing that my skin might break out but that I am stronger now (mentally) and will recover. For example, I ate a ton of birthday cake this weekend and broke out, accordingly, but I’m totally KOSHER because the cake was good, it was my birthday, and it’s a give and take. Beyond food, I exercise and do things that nourish my mind and soul (i.e. spinning, yoga, gardening, being in nature, reading, blogging, cooking, photography….). I have been consciously working on my sleeping routine, and training myself to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier, getting (hopefully) 8-9 hours a night. I need a lot more sleep than most people! Always have. I also try to better manage my inevitable stress with adaptogens and making and completing to-do lists.

But I bet you thought I was just going to share my skin care products! Well I am, but I want to emphasize the outstanding importance of all the above-mentioned things. Those are what makes the noticeable differences. Ultimately, our skin is reflecting our internal conditions. If you feed your body junk, you’re gonna feel like junk and not have bright and glowing skin. Simple as that.

SKIN CARE: These are my must haves (with some extras towards the end) I will literally sell a kidney to make sure I always have these products. They have WORKED and they are products I can fully get behind (organic, cruelty free, simple, etc).

  • Osea Malibu Essential Corrective Complex  $32
    • If you were to only buy one thing for your acne, this is it. It’s an essential oil blend spot treatment and it is pure gold. I’ve raved about it in several skin care posts!
  • Cocokind Chlorophyl Mask $18.99 (available at Bed, Bath & Beyond in some areas, AKA no shipping fees)
    • Good for all skin types, seriously like a cleanse but for your skin. I use it a few times a week. Love it because it works, is affordable, and lasts for MONTHS.
  • Osea Malibu Advanced Correction Cream $98 available in full size or trial size in the normal/dry skin set
    • The priciest thing ever, but if you can get a hold of it you’ll understand why I love this night cream. It is so nourishing and rehydrating, a little goes a long way, and it really helps with softening the skin
  • Osea Malibu Ocean Cleanser  $16-44 available in travel size and full
    • A great medium-level cleanser that is equally exfoliating and nourishing. Not too harsh, but very effective. I wash once daily, so this lasts a long time for me.
  • Osea Malibu Atmospheric Protection Cream $48
    • This is new to me, but I love this right now because it holds up even in this humid hot Florida weather. Plus it’s protective!
  • Osea Malibu Essential Hydrating Oil $32 (available in full size or trial size in the normal/dry skin set)
    • If you have dry skin, you’ll love this. I use this little roller on my eye area and the dry parts of my face. It lasts forever!
  • REAL FOOD. I had to – really the best thing you can invest in for healthy beautiful skin!

What else contributes to acne?

  • Picking
    • Try to avoid picking acne at all costs; that includes popping zits. It leaves nasty stubborn scars (I can prove this!). If you MUST get something, use two q-tips instead of your fingers/fingernails (suggested to me by a dermatologist).
  • Hormones / period, PMS
    • Prepare for this by extra exfoliation during PMS or before hand, and eating nourishing foods (mentioned above). If you have a hunch your hormones are out of balance, consult a naturopath.
  • Fluoride
    • Fluoride in toothpaste can cause acne around the mouth and under the nose. Try swapping for a fluoride-free option (I like Dr. Bronners) and see if that helps.
  • Intolerances
    • Food sensitivities can cause skin reactions! I recently found out I am intolerant to pineapple, and it was causing acne around my mouth.
  • Stress/anxiety
    • I mean. Duh? Combat this by planning ahead, and incorporating activities that calm you (I love yoga, gardening, cooking, and reading).
  • Sleep
    • I touched on this, but it’s worth mentioning twice. It is so incredibly important to get restful and copious sleep. This is when the most cell turnover happens, which means healing your skin!
  • Makeup and sweat
    • I only wash my face/back/chest once a day, but it’s always either after I sweat, or at the end of the day before going to sleep. SO important to remove sweat and makeup which can harbor bacteria that leads to acne.
  • Dirty bed sheets/pillowcases
    • It is imperative to clean your bedding at least once a week. Dander, dust, dirt, bacteria EVERYTHING piles up in your pillowcases and sheets. Consider washing pillows and comforters once a month too!
  • Hair products / hair in the face
    • Hair products are one of the main causes for back and chest acne. You don’t even realize how much interaction there is between your hair and skin, but it’s crucial to choose natural and preferably organic hair care. I like Acure and Giovanni brands.
  • Hands on face
    • Similarly to hair, your hands can impart lots of bacteria and oils onto your face. Try to avoid touching your face or resting your head in your hand (I am so guilty of this during classes!). Just becoming more conscious of it can help.
  • Post gym skin care
    • If you are carrying a backpack home from the gym, try layering a towel between your back/shoulders and the straps to avoid rubbing sweat into your pores or into the backpack straps (which will interact with clean skin later!). Additionally, shower/clean as soon as you can post-gym sesh!
  • Clogged pores

 

What has worked for you? I want to hear from you!

Nuzest – The Rundown

In the beginning of May, I was contacted by the Nuzest company to become an affiliate for their brand. I was immediately excited, because I had been using their cappuccino Clean Lean Protein for months and really loved it. So today, I am sharing my full rundown on all things Nuzest: products, recipes, reviews, referral link + a discount code!

But first, let’s talk a little more about this amazing company. Nuzest started just over 10 years ago, in 2005, and it continues to strive to be as nutritionally exceptional as possible, without sacrificing taste. Not only that, but Nuzest ensures that it products are responsibly sourced and minimally processed to ensure the best form of nutrition it can.

To me, it’s the best of both worlds. As a nutrition student, I am very much aware of the effects that all these food additives have on the human body. Most protein powders and other health supplements are laced with various gums, sweeteners and other stabilizer ingredients. The nutrition student in me, wants something as close to real food as possible. The vegan in me wants serious protein that doesn’t cause digestive issues, and that has a reliable amino acid panel. The Clean Lean Protein from Nuzest is this perfect combo. The other products that Nuzest offers; Quick Vita Kick, and Good Green Snack Bar, fill in all the gaps of even a balanced healthy diet. These are a great way to ensure that you get all your vitamins and minerals everyday. They’re quick and easy and live up to the quality of the the Clean Lean Protein.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Reviews:

1. Clean Lean Protein

  • Smooth Vanilla

I have said this so many times on Instagram: I am not a vanilla protein person. BUT, the simplicity of the Nuzest vanilla protein has got me hooked. I love this in smoothies, yogurt, and my homemade buckwheat pancakes (recipe at the end of this post) to add a slight vanilla flavor, and that protein punch. The powder is not grainy nor does it have an ‘off’ aftertaste like so many other vegan proteins. This blends seamlessly into many different meals.

  • Rich Chocolate

This flavor is similar to the vanilla, in that it is straightforward chocolate, rich and seamless. I love this in a blender bottle with water or almond milk straight after a workout. The powder is unlike anything I’ve ever used in a blender bottle. No graininess. It blends well with liquid and avoids clumping.

  • Wild Strawberry

I was seriously hesitant to test this one out, because it always seems like berry flavored protein powders taste so fake. Yet, this has a great strawberry flavor that is reminiscent of a strawberry and cream shake. I love this in berry smoothies to boost protein and add to that berry flavor.

  • Creamy Cappuccino/Real Coffee

This was the first flavor I ever tried from Nuzest, and ultimately what made me fall in love with the company and products. I absolutely love this in oatmeal with banana and cinnamon. It’s simple, yet decadent and filling! This also blends very nicely into coffee and other steamed beverages. I love it blended with a Rebbl tonic to make a little adaptogenic protein elixir (recipe at the end of this post).

2. Quick Vita Kick

  • Cacao Mint

I was expecting a distinct and displeasing grassy flavor with this product, as I have experienced this with numerous other vitamin powder supplements. But that wasn’t the case with this Nuzest. It has a refreshing mint flavor coupled with cacao as well. This was good mixed with just cool water, and would be even better in a smoothie mixed up with some bananas and coconut! Another great way to enjoy your Quick Vita Kick is a minty hot chocolate (recipe below).

3. Good Green Snack Bar

Like the greens powder, I was expecting the green snack bar to have a grassy taste, but that certainly wasn’t the case. It was sweet with some nuts for crunch, and a micronutrient that would bring my Advanced Nutrition teacher to tears. This stuff is really a great option for yummy and quick vitamins. It’s got the broad spectrum of your essential vitamins and minerals, making this perfect for travel or just when your nutrition needs a boost!

 

CLP-970x250

Referral Link & Discount Code

So you wanna get your hands on this ASAP right? Well good news; follow this link and use the code ‘jenbenna‘ at checkout to receive a 15% off discount on your entire purchase! Other great ways to save:

  • Try the sample pack to try out different flavors without a commitment to a huge tub
  • Sign up for the Nuzest newsletter and receive a discount for free shipping
  • Enter the monthly Nuzest giveaway to win a huge package of various product (this happens every month, with different prizes so check it out!)

 

Recipes

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Vanilla Buckwheat Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour (I love Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1-2 scoops of Nuzest vanilla Clean Lean Protein (depending on how much vanilla flavor you’d like)
  • ~1 1/4 cup water or almond milk (or enough to get to your desired texture)
  • coconut oil (spray works too) for cooking

Method

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a pyrex glass measuring cup.
  2. Add water/almond milk until desired texture is achieved (thickish-thin and creamy).
  3. Warm a frying pan over medium low heat and spray or add a 1/2 tsp of coconut oil.
  4. Pour pancake batter into small or large circles and cook until they firm up on the bottom. Because buckwheat flour is so dark, you will have to check for firmness rather than color.
  5. Flip pancakes when the bottom is firm, and cook for a couple minutes on the other side.
  6. Perfectly served with fresh berries, no syrup required!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Adaptogenic Protein Elixir

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Rebbl reishi chocolate drink (maca mocha works well too)
  • 1/2 cup steamed filtered water
  • splash of vanilla almond milk (I love Califia farms)
  • 1 scoop of Nuzest creamy cappuccino

Method:

  1. Throw everything in a blender and froth it up.
  2. Pour into a reusable to-go cup like the Healthy Human cruiser, or a mason jar!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

FVP (fruit, veg + protein) Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
  • 6-7 frozen strawberries
  • 4-6 frozen peach slices
  • small handful of organic spinach (I love Organic Girl super spinach!)
  • 1/4 tsp maca powder (I use Navitas Naturals)
  • 1 scoop Nuzest strawberry Clean Lean Protein
  • splash of almond milk

Method:

  1. Layer soft, unfrozen things closest to the blender blades, followed by powders, frozen items and liquid.
  2. Blend it up to the perfect thick consistency.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Minty QVK Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz water
  • 1/2 scoop Nuzest Quick Vita Kick in Cacao Mint
  • 2 pinches of coconut sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cacao powder (optional)
  • splash of almond milk

Method:

  1. Warm up the water in a saucepan over high heat until it’s very close to boiling. Alternatively, warm water in an electric kettle.
  2. Stir in the Quick Vita Kick, coconut sugar, and extra cacao if you’re using it.
  3. Transfer to a mug or glass and add some almond milk. Enjoy!

 

Cashew Spice Energy Bites

Some days I just get so bored with homework, that I throw it down and head to the kitchen. That just happened, and something magical came out of it: Cashew Spice Energy Bites. These little babes are very reminiscent of Square Organics’ Almond Spice bar, and I was seriously just messing around with ingredients! So, obviously I had to share my accidental masterpiece with you all.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Cashew Spice Energy Bites

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 cup raw cashews, almonds could work as well
  • 1/4 cup organic cacao powder
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 scoops The Natural Citizen Organic Protein (or any unflavored alternative)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more for rolling
  • 8 dates, pitted
  • splash or two of almond milk

Method

  1. First, place pitted dates in a bowl with filtered water and allow them to soak while you prep the rest of the recipe.
  2. Place cashews in a blender or food processor and pulse until well chopped or until a floury consistency, depending if you want nut chunks in your bites.
  3. Transfer to medium mixing bowl and add cacao, chia seeds, protein powder, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Strain the dates and place in a blender or food processor, pulsing until a sticky smooth consistency is achieved.
  5. Add date paste to bowl with dry ingredients. Using a rubber scrapper, spread date paste and fold into dry ingredients. Add almond milk, if needed, to facilitate incorporation. Add a little at a time, because you don’t want the mixture to become too sticky.
  6. Roll in balls and then drudge through cinnamon if desired. Store in the fridge or freezer.

If you try these out, let me know what you think!

Philly Rundown

I’m not 100% sure how I am going to cover everything I love about Philly in this blogpost, but here’s hoping you get the gist of it all!

Over the past couple of years, Philly has completely grown on me. My sister is studying there, and my entire family (besides my parents) live in that general vicinity. Basically, I’m always there for one reason or another. And, over time, I have visited and found some down right delicious spots that are a MUST GO when in town. I am so happy and grateful to have been able to spend a full week there for part of my spring break this year. I got to try new things and places and I can’t wait to share everything with you all!

Since I’m a die-hard foodie, let’s start with

 

E A T + D R I N K

1. HipCityVeg

Where? Rittenhouse Square, South Broad St, UPenn

What? entirely vegan fast casual lunch spot w/ drinks, milkshakes + breakfast (only at South Broad St.) Menu

I love this place so much, that’s why it’s the first restaurant. I go here several times when I visit, as it is affordable and fresh. So what’s good here? My go-to order is the Jerk Caesar salad (sub grilled tofu) w/ either the Kale Lemonade or a chocolate soy milkshake. Bonus: for the month of March they are offering a Mint Matcha Madness milkshake (basically a thin mint milkshake SO GOOD).

Other great things on the menu: Crispy HipCity Ranch (contains gluten) and the Chipotle Fajita Wrap (contains gluten)

For my gluten free people, many of their entrees (salads mostly) can be made gluten-free, just inquire! The chick’n in their salads and sandwiches contains gluten so be aware of that!

Insider Notes: The Rittenhouse Square location is the smallest so it can get really crowded very quickly around lunch time. Take your order to the park! The Rittenhouse Square park is less than 5 minutes away.

2. Saxby’s

Where? Drexel, Rittenhouse Square, Locust Street & 11th

What? Millennial/College-focused coffee shop w/ breakfast items

The Drexel location is definitely the best. This is the one I constantly go to while staying with my sister! The vibe is very relaxed and cozy and there is lots of spots indoor and outdoor for sitting. There are also tons of outlets, as it is in a college area so many students go there to study.

My Faves: Cinnamon Chai Latte w/ Almond Milk (small/medium) + GF everything bagel (BYO vegan butter)

Other great menu items: coffee, bagels, hot chocolate

Insider Notes: if it’s finals week for Drexel (aka last week), it’s crazy busy and you generally can’t sit inside. Also, be direct about food allergies and confirm with the person who made your drink/bagel. They offer gluten free vegan bagels by The Greater Knead which are very good (and small in size), so be sure to double check! Also, for frequent flyers, they offer a Saxby’s app that is basically a rewards program that helps you save money and get free drinks! Few know about this so if you live nearby, definitely download it. Also, if you bring a mug/thermos you save on your drink!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

3. Sweetgreen

Where? UPenn, Rittenhouse Square, 10th & Walnut

What? Build-your-own salad bar chain store Menu

Sadly, I don’t have a Sweetgreen here in Jax, so I always hit up one in the city. The ingredients are generally local, and always very fresh. Additionally, they rotate the menu every season which is a great way to eat seasonally.

My Fave: arugula, mesclun greens, carrot, cabbage, bean sprouts, cucumber, almonds, avocado, cilantro + miso sesame ginger dressing

Insider Notes: if you are picky, and also need to know what’s vegan and/or gluten free, order through the app or online and go pick it up. Both locations also have lovely sitting areas so stick around! This is also the best thing to bring to the airport for travel days. It’s quick, less expensive than airport food, and SO fresh and satiating.

4. P.S. & Co

Where? Rittenhouse Square (Locust & 17th)

What? Entirely organic, plant-based and gluten free breakfast, lunch + smoothie/juice cafe. Menu

First of all, if you are a plant lover like me, you have to go here. The aesthetic of the cafe is cozy, old, and covered in plants. They offer a lot of different options for both breakfast and lunch. Some things are prepared and kept in a visible fridge, while others are made to order. They also offer some sweet baked goods.

My Faves: Carrot Ginger Kraut salad, Mango Lassi + Greens smoothie

Insider Notes: This is on the pricier side, so I tend to go less often. Going with a friend would be a great idea if you want to try a couple things when you visit! Their smoothies also make the best snack, even in cold weather. Sadly, they are not customizable, but full ingredient lists are provided!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

5. Grindcore House

Where? 1515 S 4th St

What? Entirely vegan coffeehouse w/ some gluten free options

I went here once last summer with my mom and we both really enjoyed our meals! They offer lots of different beverages including coffee and tea drinks, so it’s a great stop for everyone. I don’t go there often due to the location, which is very far from where I stay, but I would gladly go frequently if I had a car in the city.

My Faves: GF everything bagel w/ earth balance + iced coffee

Other great things from the menu: donuts, non-GF bagels, iced tea

Insider Notes: the gluten free bagels here are the same as the ones at Saxby’s (The Greater Knead brand), but this cafe offers earth balance, so you don’t have to bring your own! They also have a really cool bathroom..just saying. Lots of seating here, so it could make a great location to work on your laptop.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

6. New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant

Where? 135 N 9th street

What? Entirely plant-based Chinese food

Before I even get started, this place is not gluten free and it’s definitely a comfort/less healthy/once in a while restaurant. I can’t eat here anymore because of the gluten thing, but I’ve gotten food here a couple times before and it’s REAL GOOD. Most of the menu items are wheat-based mock meats in the traditional Chinese (Americanized) sauces.

My Fave: general tso’s “chicken”

Insider Notes: order delivery through grubhub, and don’t feel guilty that it isn’t bursting with kale and superfoods. Indulge. Enjoy.

 

S W E A T

 

1. SoulCycle Rittenhouse Square

Where? 113 S 16th St

What? an indoor cycling EXPERIENCE

I just rode here this week with my longtime friend Summer, and oh my goodness. Seriously an amazing experience that you have got to try! We took Nick Turk’s class and it was challenging, fun, SWEATY, and downright amazing.

Insider Notes: as a first time rider, you get a discounted rate ($20 in Philly) and free shoes for your first ride! Additionally, they email you an offer (3 classes for $60 instead of the normal $30 per class) after your first ride, so hop on that if you live near one! Also- wear dark leggings (capri or long) + a sports bra. I started with a tank and took it off within the first 5 mins. Bye bye body image issues!

Also Nick is the best. Take his class. Now!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

2. Body Cycle Studio

Where? 1923 Chestnut St (second floor)

What? amazing indoor cycling studio

I rode here with my momma last summer and had such a great ride. They also just got brand new bikes the day before we had class so it was easily the smoothest ride of my life! We took class with Jessica Sullivan who was SO sweet and really understanding of the different levels within the class. Her workout was HARD with lots of upper body included too!

Insider Notes: Your first ride is free! There are discounts for military and students as well. Also, you don’t need to have spin shoes – sneakers will work just fine on their bikes. While it may be a small studio, there is a shower and bathroom available for clients to scrub up before leaving.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

P A M P E R

1. Adolf Biecker Spa & Salon

Where? 16th & Sansom (Rittenhouse Square)

What? Hair salon and spa featuring nail, facial, and body treatments. Aveda brand is used for all of the hair treatments (cruelty free)

I’ve gotten my hair cut here twice, and given that I maybe cut my hair a couple times a year, that’s pretty frequent! My mom has also gone here a couple times when she’s visited and loves this place too! This week, I chopped off a TON of my hair and went for a completely new look. Lauren, my stylist, new exactly what I was going for and even showed me how to easily style it!

Insider Notes: First of all, Lauren works magic and is super sweet and accommodating. Also, if you call ahead and ask who the junior stylists are (Lauren is one) you spend about half as much on your cut and style, with the same impeccable quality.

2. Raw Lab Spa

Where? 264 S 10th St

What? Non-toxic nail salon

This beautiful tiny salon is run by the sweetest mother and daughter. Not only was it great to find a non-toxic salon, but the service and pricing was better than comparable toxic nail salons. The attention to detail was astonishing. Nothing is over looked! My nails are looking beautiful. They shaped them perfectly, and didn’t cause any infections or raw spots which is nearly unheard of for me. Additionally, they have lots of on-trend colors and gel shellac options as well!

Insider Notes: This place is a little hard to find because it’s so tiny, but go to the address and you’ll get there. Reservations would be a good idea because there are only two chairs, so if they have customers, you’ll have to wait.

 

What are your favorite Philly destinations?

March Favorites

I’m bringing it back; talking about all my favorite foods, products, music and Instagram accounts. ALL RIGHT HERE.

 

F O O D

1. Health-ade Kombucha

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

It definitely took a lot of brands, for me to finally join the dark side and love kombucha. Health-ade did it for me. The perfect amount of bubbliness mixed with crisp refreshing flavors, couples with straight-up ingredients and swoon-worthy packaging. I was OVERJOYED when I started finding these at my local Earth Fare, since Jacksonville’s Whole Foods doesn’t ever sell them (what even??). My favorite flavors are Pink Lady and Maca Berry. Looking for Pomegranate and Sweet Thorn!

2. Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

If you haven’t yet tried these, I beg you to! The chips are the best of both worlds for a nutrition student; equal parts delicious as they are wholesome. Over the past couple months I’ve been trying to reduce my corn intake, and sadly that meant traditional tortilla chips, taco shells, and corn tortillas… so no more taco Tuesday right? Wrong. I picked up some of Siete’s Nacho flavor and my world has forever been changed. Never going back to corn!

3. Purely Elizabeth Coconut Cashew Grain Free Granola

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

I’ve heard all the craze behind this grain free granola, but could not seem to get my hands on it. At the beginning of March, however, I spotted a bag at Earth Fare and tried them immediately. It took me a bit to figure out how I feel about it, but the results are in. To me, it isn’t granola. It’s an elevated cousin to granola. Perfect for smoothies and yogurt bowls alike, this stuff has officially become my kryptonite and I’m not mad about it!

4. Wild Friends Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter + Chocolate Almond Butter

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

The first of these two, I tried, and fell in love with, my sophomore year and wasn’t able to find again in full size. However, Whole Foods had them in the beginning of March so I grabbed a jar and it’s starting to run low (ugh). But it’s seriously the best flavor of almond butter on this planet. Yup. Just said that. The chocolate almond butter is the second best flavor on the planet. It has little almond pieces in it too and I’m loving it on my yogurt bowls. Wild Friends, can I please live in your inventory room?

5. Love Grown Chocolate Power O’s

As mentioned above, I’ve been trying to cut corn and its byproducts out of my diet, due to digestive issues. Sadly, as someone who can’t tolerate gluten, this means most cereals are not okay for me. But, Love Grown has a ton of different flavors and types of cereal that are made with a bean base, are entirely gluten free, and are downright delicious. The chocolate power o’s remind me of Cocoa Puffs, but with a healthier, less guilty spin. I found these at Whole Foods and also on Vitacost.com so go grab yourself a box! They’re perfect on smoothies and yogurt bowls, or for snacking right outta the box!

 

P R O D U C T S

1. Healthy Human Stein and Cruiser

I received each of these as a giveaway hosted on Instagram by the lovely  @bwhitesides, and I am so thankful and happy to have them in my arsenal as the temps raise here in Florida. The Stein is an insulated water bottle that keeps things cold for 24 hours or warm for 12. And it seriously does. When I get cool filtered water on campus, it’ll stay cold until the next morning in my dorm. The Cruiser is an insulated cup with lid and straw that makes smoothies for breakfast life-changing. I remember the days of making an icy morning smoothie, taking it to my 8am’s and drinking it at a lukewarm temp. Gross. But now, smoothies in the Cruiser will stay cold all day long which is perfect! The cruiser is also great for keeping coffee or lattes steamy all morning. In the colder months, this was unbeatable!

2. Cactus Mug from Urban Outfitters

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Currently on sale! If you follow my on Instagram, then you’re very aware that I have a full family of plants in my teensie little dorm room. Well, the plant love doesn’t stop there. I chanced upon this beautiful mug from Urban and new it had to come home with me. So it did, and I’ve been filling it with smoothies and tea on the reg. They also have a leaf one that I was tempted to purchase while in Philly..but there just isn’t enough room in my cabinets!

3. Weck Jars

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Granted, I only have one at the moment, but I can tell I’ll be grabbing more real soon. These adorable little jars are great quality, plastic free, and make great serving dishes as well as storage containers. Definitely going to be asking for more (in a variety of sizes) for my birthday!

4. Cocokind Chlorophyll Mask

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

I cannot support this brand and product enough. First of all, Priscilla, the founder, is the most real person I’ve ever ‘met’ (through Instagram). She is straight up in an industry that is all about covering up imperfections and trying to convince you one product will perfect your skin. She is honest, raw, and ridiculously inspiring. Her products are the just like her. Real, affective, and different. This mask has quickly become a weekly necessity of mine. I forgot to bring it on my spring break and literally almost cried. It feels like a bi or tri weekly juice cleanse for your face…and it looks like it too. Purifying, illuminating, rejuvenating. It’s everything. Plus, because it’s packaged as a powder that you add water to, you get a ton of uses from a single pot of it. For example, I’ve had mine since the beginning of December and use it 2-4 times a week. It’s maybeeee half way down if not 3/4 of the way empty. Plus, it’s organic and affordable.

5. Grab Green Vetiver Laundry Pods

In the quest for a less toxic life, my laundry was not even something I thought about. Yet, many of the leading detergents (even “clean” brands!) are chock-full of nasties. I actually came across this brand through a house sitting job over December and January. I did a little more researching to see if this really was non-toxic. It was pretty good for a pod, with the free + clear and powdered form being the best from the brand. I like the ease of a pod, as a dorm-dweller. Additionally, I didn’t even think about this at the time, but it makes it much easier to travel and bring your brand with you. The smell is just fresh. You can actually get Vetiver essential oil and I may have, the smell is that amazing.

 

M U S I C

1. Drake’s new album More Life

I mean what food blogger doesn’t jam to Drake while creating recipes? Okay well I listen to this pretty much 24/7 at this point. So hop on the Drake train if you haven’t already. Serious blogging music. In the zone right now.

2. Frank Ocean’s album Blond

Yeah I know, very late to discover this. But without many forms of social media, I never hear about new music being released. Favorite song: Nights. Put it on repeat, as loud as possible and just swoon.

3. Post Malone – Go Flex

Idk what I’m supposed to say here, but just go listen and enjoy k thanks bye.

4. San Holo – Light

One of my favorite songs when I’m chilling or cleaning or blogging. Just plain ‘uhh’ ya know?

5. Mura Masa – I’ve Never Felt So Good

Another one of those chill-clean-blog songs that just hits all the feels.

Also- check out my Spotify if you’re feeling this music vibe –> jennwalla

 

I N S T A G R A M   A C C O U N T S

1. Allie from @allieseats_

FullSizeRender

My girl. I connected with her towards the beginning of her food Insta and it’s been seriously so fun and amazing to watch her grow! It’s also been great to talk with someone who just gets it. The blogging world, college and Instagram, inspiration-lulls you name it. She’s the bomb.

2. Marianna from @mareeatsclean

FullSizeRender 5

My vegan soul sister. I swear we seem to be on the same wavelength constantly. Such a supportive and inspiring girl with a beautiful feed full of delicious vegan eats *drool*. Connecting with her has been such a blessing because of the pure LOVE that emanates from her kind words. Plus, she has cute little plants too which I love!

3. Pamela from @prettyandspiced

FullSizeRender 3

One of my favorite feeds, coupled with the sweetest personality? Instagram friends are the coolest. Seriously though, Pamela’s feed is beautiful and curated and her messages are so supportive! Love her and her account.

4. Alex from @eatyourhe.art.out

FullSizeRender 4

So much love from this girl! Alex comments and really connects which is so inspiring and awesome to see in this foodie universe. Plus, her feed has some of the yummiest things that I just wanna eat NOW. Damn girl! Check her feed out ASAP.

5. Jeannette from @shutthekaleup

FullSizeRender 2

Obviously had to include the food Insta maven herself, Jeannette. This QUEEN inspires me daily to try new roasted veggie combos and new smoothies. Plus, her stories are seriously like watching the news for me. If there’s something new happening in the foodiverse, you better believe she’s on it. So much love for this girl. If ya aren’t following her, you’re doing it wrong.

April – Let’s do this!

Easy Breakfast: 3 Ways

I have never really liked breakfast foods. I would much rather eat a leftover taco bowl at the crack of dawn than anything on a diner’s menu. However, as someone with great interest in health and nutrition, I know the importance of breakfast mealtime and a complete, balanced dish to start your day. So, over the last year or so, I’ve set out to find foods that my leftover-loving self will enjoy, and that my nutrition-nerd self can approve of.

Here, I’ve gathered my three favorite combinations to share with you all. Try them out, make some changes, tell me what you love! These are my staples, and I hope they soon can be yours too.

First up, oatmeal – the ultimate breakfast food.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Vanilla Almond Oats (vegan w/ gluten free option)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 rolled oats (gluten free, if you’re like me)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2-1 banana, sliced or torn into pieces
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 serving of vanilla protein powder (Nuzest is my main squeeze- use code ‘jenbenna’ for 15% off)
  • almond butter (I love Wild Friends’ Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter)
  • 1 tbsp pepitas or chia seeds

Method:

  1. Combine oats + almond milk in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Once brought to a boil, turn heat down to low. Add banana, vanilla + cinnamon.
  3. Let simmer for a couple minutes and then stir in protein powder.
  4. Allow to simmer until it reaches your desired consistency.
  5. Transfer to a bowl and top with almond butter, pepitas and a dash of cinnamon!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Peachy Keen Smoothie (vegan + gluten free)

Ingredients:

  • 2 scoops unflavored protein (I love The Natural Citizen’s organic protein)
  • ~3/4 cup frozen peaches (about 4-5 slices)
  • 1 1/4 cup frozen organic berries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup coconut water (I use Harmless Harvest, but you can also use nut milk)

Method:

  1. Layer into blender in order, so that the protein is the first thing to touch the blade (so go in the order I have if you have a large pitcher style blender, or reverse order if you have a smaller nutribullet style).
  2. Blend!
  3. Toppings: almond butter, chia seeds, Love Grown cereal, Purely Elizabeth granola

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Yogurt Parfait (vegan + gluten free)

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. In a mason jar, layer ingredients as shown above.
  2. I also like to eat this “deconstructed” on a rimmed plate and just stir everything together for a more ‘sit down’ breakfast.

Looking for more breakfast inspo? Check out these recipes:

Organic Protein Thin Mint Bites (vegan, gf + peanut free)

It all started with the Grasshopper smoothie at Native Sun yesterday. The delicious blend of peppermint and cacao nibs with spinach and bananas brought back nostalgia of those addicting thin mint cookies I used to sell in my childhood. I love everything mint + chocolate. This is just the beginning.

I wanted these bites to pack a protein punch, so I grabbed my trusty The Natural Citizen organic protein powder (unflavored so perfect for whatever recipe I’m creating) + some raw cashews. I also wanted a little more nutritional value so I threw in some Navitas Naturals organic cacao powder – packed with magnesium, iron, polyphenols, antioxidants + minerals.

These are naturally sweetened with organic dates, which really makes them guilt free…just don’t eat them all in one sitting!

They are best stored in the fridge or freezer, as they have a fudge like consistency that might get too sticky if not kept cold enough.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Organic Protein Thin Mint Bites (gluten free, vegan, peanut free)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of raw organic cashews
  • 1 cup of pitted organic dates (this measured out to 12 for me)
  • 1/3 cup Navitas Naturals organic cacao powder
  • 1 1/2 scoops The Natural Citizen organic protein
  • 3/4 tsp Simply Organic peppermint flavor
  • organic almond milk to facilitate blending

Method:

  1. Blend cashews in blender/food processor until they’re approaching a nut butter consistency (just after they become a fine powder). Transfer to mixing bowl
  2. Blend pitted dates in blender/food processor and continue until a paste forms. Scrape out and add to mixing bowl.
  3. In mixing bowl, add cacao powder + protein powder. Throughly mix together all ingredients until evenly incorporated. If you have a strong food processor, this step could be done in there, alternatively.
  4. Add a small splash of almond milk to facilitate mixing, but start with a little and really try to get things well incorporated with minimal almond milk – this will affect the end product consistency.
  5. Spread mixture evenly against the bottom of the mixing bowl and add peppermint flavor. Peppermint flavor can easily become overpowering, so add to your preference. I like a good minty flavor so 3/4 tsp worked perfectly for me.
  6. Form into 12-15 small balls or spread into a pan and make slices
  7. Transfer to a air-tight container and store in fridge.

Homemade Guacamole (v, gf + soy free)

GOT FAT?

The healthy kind that is. We healthy people hear it all the time… Avocados are really high in fat! Fat is bad! Don’t eat a lot of fat! blah blah blah.

Truth is, fat from the right sources is extremely beneficial for your entire body. Yes, if you over do it you will start to put on some weight over time. No, it shouldn’t be your main source of calories. But let’s just embrace the good healthy kind of fat that’s full of rich monounsaturated fat (hello beautiful skin)!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

AVOCAD-HOE das me. Gimme all the scrumptious avocados. ESPECIALLY if they’re in guac form! Today, I’m sharing the homemade guac recipe I learned from my mama once upon a time.

If you are in need of a quick, cheap, and easy recipe to bring to your next social gathering, or if you just need a snack for a little “me time”, this recipe is a total winner. The ingredients are minimal, and most are likely already in your kitchen. This recipe pairs super well with Siete grain-free chips (I love the nacho + sea salt flavors). ENJOY!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Homemade Guacamole (vegan, gluten free + soy free)

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 7 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium avocado (either Hass or local)
  • juice of 1/2 large lime
  • 1-2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 slices of jalepeño, seeded and finely minced
  • handful of cilantro, finely chopped
  • ~1/2 tsp cumin
  • optional add-ins: diced tomatoes, hot sauce, organic sweet corn

Method:

  1. Slice avocado in half and scoop the insides into a serving bowl. Set the pit to the side.
  2. Mash with a potato masher or fork until most or all chunks are smoothed out and it has a creamy consistency.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients + mash to combine thoroughly.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning or spice level.

Pro tip: If you need the guac to last, either in the fridge or at a party, save the avocado pit and place it in with the dip: it keeps the dip from going brown! Remember to cover the bowl with a lid or cling wrap when storing. Best when fresh, although it will store for up to 2-3 days in the refrigerator if covered and the pit is in it.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Lululovin

If you know me personally, or just pay attention to my instagram stories, you’ve probably noticed that I am Lululemon obsessed. By some stroke of luck (possibly bad luck for my wallet) I was introduced to Lululemon through an old friend at UNCW, Lauren my yoga instructor. She has the cutest pieces that looked HELLA comfy, so I finally looked into the brand. My first two pieces were the power-y tank and the classic energy bra. To this day, the energy bra has been my go-to and all time favorite classic sports bra.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Here, I’m compiling my favorite pieces in my ever-growing collection, that have made it through the sweatiest of weight lifting or spin sessions. Of course, everything is subjective based on what I wear these for and what my body type is, but I 100% adore this brand, and after a couple requests, I thought I’d share with you guys!

I also want to preface this post with a couple things on pricing/purchasing. The majority of the recent items I’ve bought were on sale or through Mercari (a used/NWOT clothing app). There was a semester my sophomore year where I spent my entire extra scholarships on food and Lululemon, and I’m definitely a bit regretful..so don’t feel like you need a thousand pieces to look cute. For the most part, a couple staple quality items can totally revamp your workout collection!

Sports Bras

As mentioned above, one of my first Lulu purchases was the energy bra, and I have collected a couple different colors/patterns over time. It is definitely the most universally flattering bra. For example, I am not at all chesty whereas my sister is the complete opposite, and (with different sizes) the style looks awesome on both of us! Sizing, for all their bras, is based on band size rather than cup size. So try a couple different sizes and see what works best.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

This style is simple, practical, comfy, supportive, flattering, and chic. I would definitely suggesting trying one on if you’ve been struggling with finding a great sports bra.

High Neck bras are another favorite of mine from the brand. Sadly, styles come in and out of circulation so the two I have here aren’t available on their website, however they are constantly bringing out new styles that are similar so I’d check those out. I like the high neck bras for traveling and lounging (in addition to cycling/weight lifting) because of how comfy and supportive they are.

Tops

I don’t know about you, but I am a tank top girl HANDS DOWN. Even though I workout all year round, I have insisted on wearing tank tops. My favorites from Lulu are no longer available, but you may find them on apps like Mercari.

The first is the trapeze twist tank, which is actually currently available in a newer style online. I love the back (of course) and that it’s lose and soft so I can do literally anything in it. This pairs really well with the high neck sports bras.

The second style I have in two versions, one that ties and one that doesn’t. However, I wear both of these every single week without fail.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

I’m not really into tighter fitting tanks, although I do love the Cool Racerback in black. I have it in white but I’m considering selling because it’s just not flattering in that color on me. The black top is very cute with some of my more vibrant pants. I love tieing it in the back too, since I have a shorter torso.

Leggings

I have so many different styles (mainly ones I grabbed while they were on sale), but there are some definite standouts that I wear religiously every week no matter what, that Lulu has kept in stock year after year (in newer colors/patterns).

My current favorites are the All the Right Places crops and full length. These are the most flattering leggings I own. The stitching hits all the right places and is so amazing I fall in love every time I put them on. Plus! They have pockets, which are just the best innovation in leggings.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Another favorite is the Inspire Tight. These are also extremely flattering and have cute mesh accents on the calf. They also have little zip pockets which are nice touch, although don’t really have any practical value now that cell phones are the size of a toaster.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Those two styles (All The Right Places + Inspire) are, by far, my favorites for weight lifting and spinning. The material for both styles is Luxtreme which is sweat wicking and compression-fitting. Perfect for sweat sessions.

For lounging/traveling/wearing to class, I really like the Wunder Under Crops in regular and hi-rise versions. I like the full length ones as well, but currently Florida is just too hot for the majority of the year to wear the full length version. The crops are so amazingly comfortable and cozy, perfect for cold classrooms or the library. But they’re also breathable enough to go grocery shopping in or just walking around. The ones I have are mismatched from various sales, but they’ve come to be a go-to for me when I’m in need of comfort. Also, back in the days when I did yoga far more consistently, I loved this style for yoga class. They’re short so not too warm, but comfy and cover everything.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

I’m not doing a section on shorts, because I dont really like shorts in general. I wear them when it’s that hot, but having rather large thighs makes wearing shorts a constant strip show/chaffing (TMI? probably). I also have an extremely disproportionate hip/thigh ratio, so even when pulling the drawstring, shorts just never fit me comfortably and I stay away from them as much as possible. (obviously try their shorts if you’re a short wearer)

If you don’t have a store near you, check out their size guide. For reference (or if you wanna gift me some new threads) I wear a size 4 bra + top, and size 6 bottom. This is pretty true-to-size for other brands that I wear.

What are your go-to Lululemon pieces? I am looking into getting a long sleeve top for my birthday, so let me know any recs!

Easy Baked Ziti (vegan, gf + df)

What could be better than a bowl full of ooey gooey baked ziti? One that’s incredibly simple to make and gluten and dairy free! I remember my childhood baked ziti dinners that were out of this world cozy, and that’s what inspired me to simplify (and veganize) my mom’s recipe. The outcome was truly decadent.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

There’s tons of space for creativity here, so let me know all about your spin on this recipe!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Easy Baked Ziti (gluten free + vegan)

  • Servings: 5
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of pasta (I used rotini, but literally anything works here)
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (try a variation like roasted garlic!)
  • 2 organic zucchinis, cut in half + thinly sliced (see above)
  • 2 organic carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp dill weed
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 container of Follow Your Heart shredded parmesan
  • Chosen Foods avocado oil spray

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Prep the sauce ingredients: slice zucchinis evenly + grate carrots. Then, add the veggies, sauce, spices + nutritional yeast into a saucepan.
  3. Prepare pasta according to package, and heat sauce over medium low heat while pasta is cooking (8-10 mins).
  4. Strain pasta and return to pot. Add the sauce mixture and nearly the whole container of parmesan to the mix and throughly incorporate.
  5. Spray a 9″X 11″ pyrex dish with the Chosen Foods avocado oil spray, and transfer ziti mixture evenly into the pan. Top with the remaining parmesan.
  6. Cook at 350° for about 20 minutes. If desired, broil on high for a couple minutes until parmesan on top browns.
  7. Let sit 5-10 mins before eating so everything sticks together, then enjoy!

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset