What the GMO?!

Photo Credit: http://www.sheknows.com



  Sound familiar?


Now, the last thing I want to do is get all “preachy-preachy” on you (Remember: I will always empower you to make your own choices based upon what’s best for your body and health) but I wanted to cover the importance of going organic in this post because I’m concerned people don’t know enough about the risky production of nonorganic crops using GMOs.

And I don’t blame you!

With all that’s wrong in the world these days…who wants to worry about the groceries they buy right down the street at their neighborhood supermarket?


Sadly…there’s a lot to worry about :( .


(Looks healthy...right?)




And I’m not just talking about the chemical-laden, processed junk that ends up in packaged foods (you already know that stuff is bad!).  What is most worrisome is that you might already be working hard to follow a healthy diet FULL of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains (like in the photo above)…but chances are you could still be unknowingly ingesting dangerous chemicals and toxins like pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


So. What’s a GMO you ask?

Allow me to explain.


Genetically modified organisms (GMOs, or “transgenic” organisms) are the product of a laboratory process in which the genes from the DNA in one species is removed and then artificially injected into the genes of a completely unrelated animal or plant. Farmers genetically modify crops to increase their resistance to pesticides, herbicides, toxins, and viruses in order to increase production and ultimately, profit.  These foreign genes forced into the organism can come from viruses, insects, bacteria, animals and even humans. Genetically modified products include foods/ingredients, vaccines, medicines, fibers, and feeds.

In 1994 one of the very first organisms–a tomato–underwent genetic engineering for consumer purposes. The tomato, called Flavr Savr, was designed to ripen on the vine, stay firmer than regular tomatoes (for easy transport), and to have a longer shelf life.  During the same time period, a tomato was injected with genes from an Arctic fish so that the tomato plants could survive a frost– thankfully these “fish tomatoes” never made it into food stores.  Later, a major biotechnology company discovered a bacterial gene which could make crops resistant to herbicides. This resistant gene was then forced into the genes of crops such as soy, corn, cotton, and canola. This was done only after the company accidentally discovered that a certain bacteria in a chemical waste dump was surviving even if exposed to herbicide. Now, soy, corn, cotton and canola are all victims of GMOs for increased production purposes– in fact, they have become some of the worst offenders.

This same company eventually released herbicide resistant and genetically modified soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton, and now over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the U.S. every year. Shockingly, 91% of all soy, 90% of all sugar beets, 88% of canola, 85% of all corn,  and 71% of cotton crops in the U.S. are commercialized and genetically modified crops.  People eat these ingredients every day– modified corn and soy are in almost every single processed food in the U.S. In fact, processed foods make up more than 80% of GMOs out there and a whopping 70% of all foods in supermarkets are genetically modified. I bet if you went and looked at some of the food labels in your very own cabinets…you’ be surprised how many contain these “genetically modified” ingredients.


So, now you might be thinking… “what’s the big deal? WHY are GMO’s so dangerous?”


Unfortunately lack of research (because concern about the effects of GMO is still quite recent) is a substantial problem in itself. The reality is, we don’t know how harmful the long-term effects of GMOs will be.


What we do have, however, is evidence suggesting GMOs can lead to…

  • Accelerated aging
  • Decreased immunity
  • Infertility/reproductive failure/birth defects
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Allergies
  • Dysregulation of genes that handle cholesterol synthesis, cell signaling, fatty insulin production, and protein formation.
  • Changes in the spleen, kidney, and gastrointestinal system.
  • Increased antibiotic resistance (meaning that certain antibiotics and medicines may not work as well against infection for people who eat genetically modified foods over time).
  • Increase in plant, animal, and human diseases/mutations
  • Increased number of pests/bugs
  • Super weeds (as a result of becoming used to pesticides)
  • Mineral-leeched, stripped soil
  • Hazardous levels of chemicals and other products used to grow GMOs in the soil, water, and air.

And this issue goes one step further. If an animal is fed genetically modified feed and then a person eats that animal, they too will have inadvertently ingested those GMOs. Think about what and how commercial livestock and animals are fed and taken care of (if you haven’t already, please check out Food Inc.). Like humans, an animal’s organs, muscles and tissues absorb and make use of everything they eat– just like the human body (this includes good nutrients as well as toxins, pesticides, and other chemicals found in their feed). Then humans go and eat that animal’s meat and pass along whatever absorbed toxins the animal ate into their own bodies.


See the vicious cycle?


Another issue with GMOs is the cross-contamination risk to other crops. This is especially problematic for organic farmers who work so hard to stay that way, yet they may not be able to control a genetically modified seed from a neighboring farm being picked up by the wind and contaminating an organic crop– especially since it’s a 3-year process to convert land back over to organic status once considered non-organic.

Insects are also beginning to build up a resistance to presticides. For instance, mosquitoes have already begun to develop increased resistance to DDT. Other insects could start developing a resistance to GMOs as well, which will make it difficult to control insect damage and infestation.

Allergies are one more extremely harmful side effect of GMOs.  When genetic material from one organism is introduced to another, there is the possibility that the GMO material can trigger allergic reactions in those who have allergies–which brings me to a completely different problem.




In fact…even though 92% of Americans want the FDA to label GMOs and genetically engineered food…they are still refusing to do so.

Something’s pretty fishy about that…don’t you think?

This is especially dangerous because those who are at risk of severe allergic reactions may not know which foods to avoid. For example, if someone with a severe peanut allergy ate a food that was genetically modified using allergenic protein from a peanut, that person would be put at risk because there’s  no label stating this. There is speculation that this is why peanut allergies are so common among young kids these days.

Many countries in Europe have already banned genetically modified foods, including Greece, Germany, France, Australia, and Luxembourg. However, the USDA has deregulated the use of many genetically modified crops. It doesn’t seem to make much sense, and fortunately people are starting realize that it’s their right to know exactly what they are eating. Because no one can be 100% certain how to completely remove genes from a species of GMOs once they are introduced, GMOs are starting to gain a lot of negative attention from those in health fields who find them harmful and risky.


Scary huh? So what’s a person to do?





There is only one label you should be worrying about– and that’s the USDA Certified Organic seal.

If a food has the USDA Organic label, then this ensures the product is made up of 95% organic content, has not added sulfitesand has been processed according to the USDA standards. Food that is 100% organic is labeled as such; 100% Organic :) . Organic produce has a 5-digit PLU (price look-up) code that begins with a 9.

When a product says it is “made with organic ingredients” however, this means that the product contains only 70% organic ingredients and therefore cannot have the USDA organic seal on its packaging. A four-digit code that begins with a 3 or a 4 means the produce is probably conventionally grown.

Lastly, don’t be fooled– natural DOES NOT MEAN organic! Natural foods may not contain preservatives or additives, but they are not regulated and can be grown using GMOs and pesticides. A five-digit code that starts with an 8 means the product has been genetically modified.

(Click here for more detailed information on the National Organic Program and here to visit the Non-GMO shopping website).


Now, I know there’s a lot of information in this post, but I hope it gets those wheels in your head turning. Everything I’ve discussed is just the tip of the iceberg. While “organic” has had a certain “crunchy-granola” stigma attached to it in the past…it’s certainly becoming more and more mainstream now that people are learning about the harmful food industry practices out there.  After all, you probably wouldn’t actively choose to buy an apple that was injected with hormones to make it grow larger or choose to spray down your food with chemicals before you ate it would you? I know I sure wouldn’t!

And that’s exactly why I’d like to know where my food comes from– so that way I can avoid these unadvertised GMOs! And yes… while I know organic foods can be more expensive than mass produced products (thank goodness it’s farmer’s market season), I think it’s a small price to pay so that you know what you’re getting is 100% healthy, good-for-you food.

I’m not expecting to change the world (although I’d like to!), but if you come away from this article wondering about or having learned just ONE new thing…I’ll be happy.



When it comes to your health…you’re worth every penny! :)



Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle



P.S.- To sign the petition or to learn more about the movement to get genetically engineered products labeled, please click here.



Time magazine

Livestrong: Risks and Side Effects of GMOs

Natural Awakenings Magazine: The Truth about GMOs: Plant pathologist Don Huber Reveals the Risk

Extraordinary Health Magazine: USDA Certified Organic: What are your Products Wearing?

Huffington Post: Explained-What are GMOs

Human Genome Product Information: What are Genetically Modified Foods

Consumer Reports  



Fruity Tutti Fruit Bowl (with Cinnamon Chips!)


I have a VERY bad habit.

A fruity habit that is.

And I think I mayyy need some help…


You see, whenever I go into a grocery store, I just CAN’T control myself. As soon as those shiny, rainbow-colored displays of fruit greet me at the door I’m toast. No matter what I do, a simple shopping trip to pick up a few apples and bananas to last me through the week ends up turning into a full-out FRUIT-FEST.


Wait…does that make me a FRUIT-A-HOLIC??


Regardless, this weekend in particular was a bit out of control–even for me (It honestly would have made more sense to ask me what kind of fruit I didn’t have in the house than to ask me what kind I did have).  When I woke up this morning, I took one long look at my fruit bowl and knew I needed to do something about this fruit situation before everything spoiled. Either that, or I was going to have to open up my apartment to the public and become a farmer’s market for the day! But something tells me I don’t think my landlord would like that…


So, what’s a girl to do with all this fruit?

FRUIT SALAD, obviously!


As soon as the hot summer months come around, I rarely use the stove to cook meals. Instead, I choose to eat fresh, cool, and raw dishes as a way to beat the heat. One of my favorite summertime staples falling under these categories has always been fruit salad. I could honestly eat it for breakfast, as a snack, and even for dessert for the rest of my life and be perfectly satisfied. Not only is fruit salad healthy (Antioxidants! Fiber! Vitamin C!) but it’s easy to toss together and it’s a bright, pretty dish to bring along to summer parties or cookouts.

For this recipe, I decided to take a classic fruit salad and spice it up a bit. When it comes to fruit salad, I like to try to hit all the colors of the rainbow because, well, it’s pretty and girly :) but you certainly don’t have to. This recipe is 100% customizable, so don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients–you can totally go all improv and create your own masterpiece!


There’s only one thing left to do.



Start choppin’!


Fruity Tutti Fruit Bowl


  • 1 apple (fuji apples are my absolute favorite!)
  • 1 whole orange
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 pear (I like d’anjou, but any kind will do)
  • 1 peach
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1/2 cup grapes (sliced)
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 3 teaspoons of all-natural, vegan, jam (I like Trader Joe’s reduced-sugar jams. They make it in blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, apricot. I couldn’t pick so I used half apricot and half strawberry for this recipe :) )
  • Plum Amazins (for sprinkling)–they are a great alternative to raisins, plus, they’re lower in calories!)
  • Sliced almonds (for sprinkling)
  • Cinnamon (for sprinkling)–cinnamon is a great addition to any diet because it helps control blood sugar spikes and is very high in antioxidants. It’s also anti-microbial, has anti-clotting features, boosts brain function, and promotes colon and heart health because it has fiber, manganese, and calcium in it.  I put it on EVERYTHING!)
  • Chop everything up and place the fruit in a large bowl (leave the kiwis, almonds, and plum bits aside for garnish).
  • Mix in the jam and cinnamon (I personally put a TON of cinnamon in this recipe, but I tend to like things over-spiced. Feel free to spice it up or down as much as you’d like).
  • Sprinkle almonds and plum bits on top. Arrange the kiwis around the bowl.

Don’t forget the Cinnamon Chips!



Cinnamon Chips:


  • 2 whole wheat tortillas
  • Cinnamon
  • Stevia or all-natural, organic sugar
  • All-natural cooking spray
  • Preheat the oven to 350º
  • Slice the tortillas into triangle shapes
  • Place the tortilla triangles on a baking sheet and lightly spray with all-natural cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and stevia (or sugar).
  • Bake for 11 minutes.
  • Once cooled, arrange around the fruit bowl for an adorable presentation!
  • Eat the chips on their own, or use the chips to scoop up some of the fruit for my take on a dessert salsa!

See, sometimes its okay to be fruity! ;)


Healthfully Yours,
Ashley Michelle



Cha Cha Chocolate-Hazelnut Chia Pudding


Ch-Ch-Ch- CHIA!


I bet you didn’t know that the same little seeds sprouting from your chia pet are actually MAGICAL seeds…


Don’t laugh.

It’s true! (Plus they make a heck of a dessert…did you see above?).

Chia seeds are chock full of amazing health benefits. And that’s exactly why they have been a SECRET SUPER-FOOD primarily known among the health and fitness savvy for years…


These little miracle seeds are finally becoming more mainstream now that health conscious people everywhere have discovered their fabulous health benefits…but what is it exactly that makes chia seeds so unique?


Well, I’ll tell you!

But first off, let’s start with a brief history lesson :) .


Photo Credit: www.christinacooks.com

Native to Guatemala and both the southern and central parts of Mexico, chia (Salvia Hispanica) is a flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. The chia plant is harvested for its highly nutritious, multi-colored, and speckled seeds. Evidence suggests that these seeds were used as far back at 3500 BC! Before the Spanish Conquest of Latin America began in 1519, chia seeds were a vital crop and food source for the Aztecs and Mayans because of their incredible stamina and energy-providing abilities. In fact, it is believed that Aztec and Mayan warriors and runners were able to sustain themselves on just a handful of these little seeds a day! It is quite fitting, then, that the name ‘chia’ is derived from the Mayan word for ‘strength’.

The Aztec and Mayan civilizations regularly consumed chia seeds either on their own, by grinding them into flour, drinking them mixed with water, or pressing them for their oil. Unfortunately, after the Spanish Conquest of Latin America, chia plants disappeared for about 500 years. This was because the Spanish settlers prevented the practice of any native traditions, including the farming of native crops. Instead, the Spanish used the natives’ land to harvest their own crops (namely barley and wheat). However, some chia plants did survive as a minor crop in Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua– and now, years later, THEY’RE BACK!


Health Benefits of Chia Seeds:

  • They deliver the maximum amount of nutrients with the least amount of calories.
  • Chia seeds have 2x the protein of any seed or grain.
  • They have 3x as much iron as spinach.
  • Chia seeds increase stamina and energy over long periods of time (they are becoming a favorite among marathon runners!)
  • They can aid in weight loss (chia seeds absorb up to 7x its weight, and expand to curb appetite/make you feel full).
  • They are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA.
  • Chia seeds can reduce overall cholesterol and increase good cholesterol (HDL)
  • They are heart-healthy in that they have one of the most concentrated sources of Omega-3 than in any other food (even salmon).
  • They also contain high amounts of Omega-6 (both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids cannot be made internally and must be obtained through diet).
  • They contain the essential minerals such as sodiumphosphoruspotassium (2x as much as bananas), manganese, and calcium (5x more than in milk!).
  • They are FULL of antioxidants (3x as much as blueberries!).
  • Chia seeds have 11 grams of dietary fiber in one ounce (the soluble fiber improves digestion and helps to reduce glycemic spikes)
  • They do not need to be ground like flax seeds in order to reap their benefits.
  • Chia seeds have a long shelf life and do not spoil as quickly as other seeds (like flax-seed).
  • They soothe heartburn and calm the digestive system due to the gel-like substance they form when mixed with a liquid (this is especially helpful for people with IBS).
  • Chia can relieve itchy skin (in oil form)
  • They can help to balance blood sugar/prevent glucose spikes


But the BEST part of all? You can use chia seeds to make a DELICIOUS and HEALTHY DESSERT!


When chia seeds are soaked in water and sit for about 20 minutes, they form a jelly-like substance. The soaked chia is perfect to use as an egg-replacement (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water), as a drink (chia fresca), or (my personal favorite!) as a PUDDING! (You can also toss chia seeds on salads, in protein shakes, mixed into yogurt, or on their own. There aren’t any rules. Go crazy!).

While the texture may be hard to get used to at first, I promise you…the health benefits of chia seeds are worth it! This pudding recipe below is a guilt-free option for a healthy dessert or snack, and even better…it’s delicious!


Chocolate-Hazelnut Chia Pudding


  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (I use the unsweetened version of Vanilla Almond Breeze)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (I have seen chia seeds at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Shaw’s…but I bet you can get them at most grocery stores nowadays).
  • 1 tablespoon of all-natural cocoa powder (feel free to add more if you want it extra chocolate-y!)
  • 2 packets of stevia (or 2 teaspoons of another all-natural sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of all-natural hazelnut extract (You can find this at Whole Foods or online, but vanilla, almond or maple extract would also do–just reduce the almond extract by half…it’s quite strong!)


  • Pour the chia seeds in a bowl.
  • Mix the almond milk, cocoa powder, hazelnut extract, and stevia in a blender.
  • Pour the mixture over the chia seeds– stir for a few seconds–let it sit for at least 20 minutes (do not mix while the seeds are soaking).
  • After the 20 minutes are up the seeds should have absorbed all the liquid (if not, soak a little longer) and have a jelly-like texture. The pudding will get even thicker if you let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so.
  • Mix very well and serve cold.


If you want, feel free to fanci-fy your chia pudding like me! You can layer it with any fruit you’d like (strawberries anyone?) and Soyatoo vegan whipped cream to make a trifle-like dessert. Anyone on the Scottish side of my family know how much I LOVED trifle as a little girl :).


Hmm. That gives me an idea…

I just may need to create a vegan version of my favorite childhood dessert very soon…


Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle



What are chia seeds

Livestrong: The benefits of chia seeds

Livestrong: Medicinal healing properties of chia seeds

Powerful health benefits of chia seeds

Chia seed profile

The superfood that could change your body

The miraculous running food

Dr. Oz: Ancient super secret

Three cheers for chia!

Chia questions and answers

Restaurant Review!

Life Alive: Urban Oasis and Organic Café

Dinner date at Life Alive!


Last week I stumbled upon a restaurant SO UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING that I went back the next day to order the same exact meal all over again. I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious it was!


The restaurant is called Life Alive, and it’s official…

I’ve definitely discovered my latest addiction.


Now, the funny thing is, this is actually the first REAL vegan/vegetarian restaurant I have ever gone to. Crazy, right?? It’s especially crazy when you consider there are A TON of veggie-lovin’ restaurants around me (just one of the many perks of living near Cambridge), but I honestly haven’t had the chance to test many of them out ever since moving to the area a little over a year ago.

Call me crazy, but I just can’t seem to convince my omnivore friends or omnivore boyfriend to muster up the courage to eat vegetables for dinner! But honestly, I suppose I don’t really blame them for hesitating. If not done right, vegetarian and vegan dishes can easily come up short on flavor and presentation. Life Alive happens to be one of those veggie- friendly restaurants that WILL NOT disappoint in either of these areas. In fact, I’m certain it  CAN and WILL blow anyone’s taste buds out of the water…meat-lovers and veggie-lovers alike! Still need some extra convincing? It’s just as easy on the wallet as it is on the stomach :) .


Life Alive’s Mission:

To Feed the Vitality of the World…one meal at a time.

Photo credit: www.lifealive.com

“We are here to renew your energy and connection to life by soulfully serving you the most fantastic, vibrant, organic, therapeutic, whole food you could ever imagine in an inspiring environment that honors local artisans, the community, and our global ecology.”– Life Alive


Life Alive strikes a unique balance between whole, “good-for-you” dishes and effortless, fast-food convenience. This idea is what strikes me as most important– the notion that in this crazy busy world…it IS POSSIBLE to make healthy choices and to fill up our bodies with nourishing food!  The ordering system actually works much like that at Panera Bread– meaning customers wait in line and order from the many menus displayed behind the counter. Once you place your order, you choose to sit either upstairs or downstairs (on some nights there is even live music playing downstairs) and you are given a number to display on your table. The wait staff then brings your meal right to your seat. The system is incredibly easy, however, picking what to eat is almost impossible! Everything  just looks TOO DARN GOOD. 


This is how Life Alive breaks down their menu:


  • Warm Meals: Different variations of veggies, greens, seeds, nuts, tofu, and sprouted legumes served over short-grain brown rice, quinoa, or a mixture of the two.
  • Cool Meals/Salads: Homemade hummus served atop mixed greens and variations of veggies, nuts, and fruit.
  • Warm and Cheesy Wraps: Variations of veggies, cheese, protein, and dark greens nestled in warm-tortilla wraps–these can be made with or without cheese and eggs depending upon your dietary preference. They also carry Daiya vegan cheese option.
  • Soups: Check to see what the soup of the day is :)
  • Sides: Garlic, carrots, celery, cucumber, peppitas, raisins, sunsprouts, sesame sticks, dried pineapple, dried cranberries, goji berries, apple slices, flax oil, hijiki, greens, broccoli, corn, dates, banana, beets, avocado, shredded cheddar, sun-dried tomato, tamari almonds, raw cashews, hard-boiled egg, brown rice, tofu, sprouted legumes, shiitake mushrooms, quinoa, Daiya vegan cheese, lemon-garlic chickpea hummus, red lentil hummus, winter squash hummus-seasonal.
  • Simple Snacks: Fun items like granola, peanut-butter and jelly wraps, celery and peanut butter (etc…).
  • Juices: Fresh pressed juices with ingredients like carrot, apple, cucumber, ginger, beet, kale, celery, lemon, wheatgrass, spirulina, honey, cayenne, garlic, apple cider vinegar, aloe, and maple syrup.
  • Smoothies: Life Alive offers an extensive variety of these thick, frozen, fruity, and creamy drinks which make for a great snack, dessert, or lighter meal (the organic chia-amond milk used is made in-house every day).
  • Simple Beverages: Organic teas, detoxifying lattes, hot chocolate, and wheatgrass shots.

Looks pretty YUM, huh?

The BEST part of all is that you can CUSTOMIZE your meal any way you’d like. You can even order any of the salads and bowls as a wrap, a “demi” (half-portion) or as is (in a large bowl). Now, anyone close to me knows I am the QUEEN of customization. Case in point, I’m kind of a waitress’ worst nightmare since I’m ever-changing the sides, sauces, dressings, and  toppings on my meals. Oops! But when my college roommate and I decided to get together for a dinner date, I knew she would appreciate this little gem (she also loves customizable meals!). Thank goodness she just moved to the city, because we ‘ve already started a list of vegetarian and vegan places to test out together :) .
When we first walked into Life Alive, the first thing we noticed was the busy, upbeat atmosphere. It’s pretty awesome!  Life Alive is more like a “hip café” rather than your typical sit-down restaurant. Plants and paintings line the walls, decorative pillows sit along wall benches,  live music plays downstairs, and the decor is full of vibrant colors. Both of the times I’ve been there the line has been practically out the door (always a good sign!).

After much deliberation, I finally decided on THIS salad.


"The Explorer" Salad

Life Alive calls it “The Explorer,” and it’s a blend of high-protein red lentil hummus with sesame sticks, cucumbers, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet corn, spring greens, shredded carrots and beets served with honey wasabi vinaigrette. I also had a side of tofu added on top for some extra protein. Now, the dressing is on the side in this picture, (and I usually keep dressing on the side for healthy dipping) but it didn’t take long before I POURED this healthy dressing all over the greens. It was fantastic! (Note: I actually don’t think this dressing had any oil…but I’ll have to double-check next time I go to be 100% certain.)

My roommate ordered Life Alive’s signature dish–a warm meal called “The Goddess.”


"The Goddess" Warm Bowl

It’s a mix of carrots,broccoli, beets, kale, and tofu served over short-grain brown rice and drizzled with their famous “Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce.” Nama Shoyu Sauce is the only raw soy sauce available in the U.S. and it’s teaming with live-enzymes and healthy organisms like lactobacillus. It also has much less sodium than your typical soy sauce. Plus, it tastes GREAT.
We also both decided to order a fresh juice called “Simply Alive” (you can see it in the cute little Ball jelly jars in the picture at the top of this post). The drink is a mix of lemon, spirulina, honey (omit if strict vegan), and pure water.
I ABSOLUTELY ADORED my salad, but the next time I go to Life Alive for dinner…I am definitely ordering “The Goddess” bowl. This warm meal was SO flavorful and yummy I kept wanting to snitch bite after bite right off of my roomie’s plate! Lucky for me, when we took half of our meals to go (the portions are huge!), she was nice enough to let me take some of her leftovers home so I could enjoy them for lunch the next day (in fact…the BOYFRIEND enjoyed them the next day too…and he couldn’t believe how amazing a VEGAN dinner could taste!).
Not only is Life Alive a tasty place to get a healthy vegan/vegetarian meal, but it’s also a restaurant you can feel good about going to. It serves only healthy and nourishing food…a far cry from many of the restaurants out there today. So next time you’re in Cambridge, Lowell, or Salem Massachusetts, (they have three locations!) be sure to check them out.

I promise you WON’T be disappointed! :)

Healthfully yours,
Ashley Michelle

Life Alive Website

Cambridge, MA
765 Massachusetts Avenue
Lowell, MA
194 Middle Street
Salem, MA
281 Essex Street



A Vegan Girl in an Omnivore World

Before I made the big decision to change my life, I had been toying with taking the plunge for quite a while.


"Produce falling into wooden bowl" provided by Microsoft Office Images (Fotolia)


No, I’m NOT talking about marriage.


I’m talking about going V-E-G-A-N.


The ironic thing is, going vegan hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be in terms what food I can and cannot eat. The real challenge has been learning how to handle friends, family, and co-workers who don’t understand the path I’ve chosen to take.

But first…a little background about how I got here in the first place.

I tried to proclaim myself a vegetarian when I was in the 5th grade, and while I’m not sure what exactly prompted this declaration, I suppose deep down I must have had some sort of awareness that eating animals wasn’t for me.

Unfortunately, when you live with a family of meat eaters, and you’re  just shy of 11 years old, you don’t have much of a say about what’s for dinner. From my family’s perspective, I was being “picky” and “high-maintenance,” and I’m certain they wished I could have just eaten a hot dog for dinner like every other normal kid my age.

Out of sheer trepidation that my aversion to meat would forever label me as a “problem” for others, I ended up spending the rest of my adolescence avoiding meat (when I could), fearing restaurant outings, and forcing food down in social situations where I had no other choice (such as family parties, dinner with the boyfriend’s parents, work events). I was so worried about pleasing others, and I was so afraid of making them uncomfortable, that I resorted to making myself more uncomfortable instead.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how crazy my anxiety over food was. Why on Earth was I sacrificing my beliefs out of fear that I would offend someone else?

It was during my college years that I finally had the opportunity to live how I wanted to, do my own research and truly learn the healthy ways to live a vegetarian lifestyle without judgment.

I started to become more aware of my overall health, and I began looking at what the food I consumed was made up of. I worked to replace all that processed and supposedly “healthy” food with natural, clean, whole foods full of real ingredients that would benefit my body inside and out. Immediately, I started to feel amazing when I made the switch to real foods and vegetarian fare. I was full of energy, my skin cleared up, and I was sleeping better than ever. And wouldn’t you know, by the time I graduated, my family was a little bit better (not perfect) about accepting my choices.

Yet even though I was feeling more confident about my lifestyle, something was still nagging me inside. It was then that I  knew I was ready to take on my next challenge and transition to a 100% vegan lifestyle.

If I thought the backlash against my food choices was long over, boy was I wrong!

Immediately, the term “vegan” was met with an unenthusiastic response. At holidays, my family looked at me as though I was being “rude” or a “food snob.” At dinner with some girlfriends, they acted as if my motivation was to be ”diet trendy” or “one-up” them and that eating habits were a secret way to personally attack theirs. The most difficult place to be a vegan, however, is at work.

It seems as though we celebrate a birthday every other day in my office. This means there is an abundance of cakes and cookies and afternoon treats around every corner (NONE of which are vegan). I’ve always dreaded these celebrations in the past, but I’ve come to dread these celebrations even more because of the food guilt I face and the pressure I feel from others to take part in the desserts. While I love my colleagues and always attend these get-togethers with a birthday card in hand, a smile on my face, and often a healthier goodie in tow, it never seems to be enough no matter how many times I politely turn down the various sweets, and delicately explain I am vegan.

Someone is always pleading “Oh c’mon, just one bite! It’s soooo good!” Oftentimes it is a person of higher authority doing the begging. Other times, I am met with blank stares, silence, or passive aggressive comments as soon as I bring this detail up. I suddenly find myself feeling out of place without a fork in my hand and cake in my mouth at these gatherings.  It’s quite an uncomfortable situation. Unless I am stuffing my face with an artificial, sugar-laden, non-vegan desserts, I simply don’t feel as though I belong.

In social situations such as this, I am torn because I never wish to offend anyone, especially my superiors, but I do wish to stay true to my beliefs and decisions about my body and health. It’s unfortunate for anyone to be put in a position where they feel as though they must choose one principle over the other.  I find it impossible to understand how and why so many people seem to take it personally when a person has a lifestyle preference different from their own. Whether it be choosing to go vegan, trying to lose weight, or practicing Buddhism, it seems that there will always be someone, somewhere, trying to bash your efforts. Sometimes I get so frustrated inside and I wish I could yell “you don’t see me stuffing tofu down your throat do you! Don’t try to force something I don’t want down mine!” But alas, I refrain. I won’t stoop to their inconsiderate level, and besides…I couldn’t give my fellow vegans a bad name!


Another difficult part of my journey has been following a vegan lifestyle while living with an omnivore boyfriend.


My boyfriend and I met in college and moved in together a year ago. While he has been supportive and always knew I was a healthy eater who teetered between being a vegetarian and a vegan, I don’t think he expected my choices to ever affect his life in any way. The truth is, when you’re a meat-loving guy living with a veggie-loving vegan girlfriend, things can get a little tricky.

For instance, grocery shopping and cooking are not duel tasks. When he and I first moved in together, I had visions of us going to farmer’s markets on Sunday mornings and spending the rest of the day cooking organic fare for dinner. This is NOT our reality! Instead, on Sunday afternoon, we go our separate ways. The boyfriend heads to Market Basket to stock up on a good bargain and stops at local butcher shop to pick up meat for the week. I, on the other hand, head to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (when my paycheck can handle it) to pick up items like nutritional yeast, spirulina powder, organic produce, nori and tofu.

When we finally do meet up back at home, it’s time to the kitchen dance!

Our kitchen is rather tiny, so two people cooking at once is a nightmare. Instead we attempt to coordinate who needs to use the stove/counter space first and then we take turns so that we can both sit down together at the same time and enjoy a nice romantic meal (even though the meals are different!). We aim to do this every weekend since our schedules are so hectic during the week and we rarely get to sit down and eat together then.

Not everything always works out so nicely though. Being so different definitely has its drawbacks.  For example, going out to dinner can be a hassle. My boyfriend may want to go to the nearest burger place or BBQ joint but they may not have many, if any, vegan-friendly options. I don’t want my diet to deprive him in any way, so I often try to accommodate him when I can by looking at the menu and creating a meal from various side dishes or salads at these restaurants. Sometimes, however, it’s just exhausting always planning ahead. I think I will try to get him to check out a vegan restaurant in the future instead of feeling bad about asking him to try something different and new.

The same thing happens when I go out or away with friends. When we go on weekend trips, normally, everyone pitches in and buys food for the whole weekend in bulk from Costco’s or BJ’s, but I usually end up trying to buy my own stash of food to hold me over. I don’t mind doing it, but the jokes and jabs about being high maintenance make me feel like the oddball and ruins the mood a bit, for me anyways.

Lately, however, I’ve been aiming to overcome some of these obstacles with friends and co-workers by bringing vegan food that tastes more “mainstream” to events. I’ll just quietly place it down with all the other food on the table and wouldn’t you know, when you don’t draw attention to it and introduce something as healthy or vegan…people often will eat it and often even notice what it is until they ask who made the fabulous dish!

I didn’t choose to take the plunge and become vegan because it’s becoming popular in Hollywood, or because I have friends doing the same thing…in fact, I don’t know ANYONE in my circle of friends and family who is vegan. I chose this path because it makes me feel happy and healthy…inside and out! Isn’t that what life is all about? After all, why should I care if I am “singled out” for being different as long as I’m proud to be who I am? (Cue the snaps please!)

The most important thing for me to do now, and this is possibly the biggest mistake I have made in the past, is to have a little more confidence in the healthy lifestyle I’ve chosen.   I find there is a fine line between educating others in your health-related choices and flaunting them, so I must attempt to do this without seeming as though I am preaching about my eating habits to others.

My boyfriend may support my choices, even though he still thinks I am a little weird from time to time, and my family may never fully understand where I am coming from (although my Mom has been tinkering with a clean diet recently…maybe her next step is vegetarian!), but what I now know is that I should spend less time worrying about what others think, and spend more time trying to get them on my good side with my fabulous, vegan, cooking skills!

It is possible to be a vegan in a world of omnivores, and my goal is to prove it. I don’t like being judged for how I live my life, and I’ve promised myself I won’t do this to others.  You never know, maybe if I don’t push the vegan lifestyle…they’ll eventually test the waters on their own!


Healthfully yours,

Ashley Michelle


This post was originally published on the True Food Movement’s websiteyou can check it out here!