The “Real Food” Farm|Quenching Baltimore’s Food Desert

We’ve gotta talk about this ’cause the thirst is real. Open scene…”My stomach is eating a hole through my back”. I could simplify that saying with one word–“hangry” (no typo). “Hanger” may run up on you after a long day at the office when your only nourishment has been a coffee and a pack of mixed nuts courtesy of the mini snack bar in the breakroom at work. It normally happens when you’ve been savagely focused on a project and you opt out of a lunch break because…well, you’re floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee and you wanna flex on every-damn-body with your presentation in tomorrow’s meeting. Justifiably, you skip a meal but you’ve pushed it to the limit and by the time you set your sights on a food, you’d pretty much eat an entire cow. Any cow. It can be a cow covered in poo, a cow with ten eyes, a cow dipped in dextrose or a cow glazed in sugar. “Get in my belly!” is all you can think.

For most of us who live in Black and Brown neighborhoods, healthy food options are few and far between.

For myself and others, getting to the “hangry” state is pretty risky business. I mean, I do my darndest to make sure “hanger” doesn’t creep up on me because I tend to make thee worst food choices when I’m famished. I’m talking a Popeyes and KFC. Why? Because their proximity is convenient (walking distance from my job). I’m ashamed but look at my situation. Let’s say I wanted to grab a fresh smoothie or a salad, right. My options are limited to fast food smoothies (a joke), fast food salads (yuck and also comical) and grocery store salad bar salads (also yucky and germy). Often times, I end up grabbing a piece of fruit to hold me over until I get home. Once I’m home, I toil over a meal for about an 1.5 hours before I eat the food my body is so desperately in need of. The willpower required to bypass all of the sweet and salty fast food-immeasurable. Honestly, sometimes I fail, even though the consequences have proven to be lethal.

See the difference in mortality rates based just on popular food items in neighborhoods in Baltimore City below.

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But let’s rewind, real quick. To a time when I worked in Southside Jamaica, Queens and I was in an extreme food desert. In NYC I had no car and I used my feet and Metro card to get around. In Jamaica, every store within a 10 minute walking radius of my job was either fried chicken, pizza or a dollar store. I remember my boss eating a slice of cheese pizza, cheetos and a gatorade for lunch every day and thinking to myself “How is he alive right now?”. I mean, the calories were there but the nutrients were not. “Who could survive off of that type of diet?” I asked myself. The answer is–lots of us do. We satisfy our hunger for the moment but in the long run, we’re slowly killing ourselves. In impoverished neighborhoods, there are lots of people who rely on public transportation to move about their daily lives. But who is going to hop on a bus to get food when you can walk right up to the Chinese restaurant on your block and order an egg roll, four chicken wings, french fries and a soda for $4.75. Save the bus fare and save the hike, right? That’s why I was so elated when I noticed The “Real Food Farm” parked across the street from my job today. “Real Food Farm” works toward a just and sustainable food system by improving neighborhood access to healthy food, providing experience-based education, and developing an economically viable, environmentally responsible local agriculture sector. Yep, most of their produce is grown right here in Baltimore and tended to by the hands of those who live here. They’re also stocked with produce from local farmers. I snagged some delicious watermelon from Black Dirt Farm, a black owned farm, on the Eastern Shore. Sweet! That was actually two birds with one stone because I’ve been trying to support Black-owned business when I can.

It’s wonderful to know that there are initiatives like Civic Works’ “Real Food Farm” that prioritize people who really need the access, education and opportunities. Yep, in addition to the mobile food truck, you’ve got the opportunity to take your school group for a visit to their Clifton Park farm to see how all the juicy goodness is grown right out of our Baltimore soil. Educational opportunities like this are made possible by donors and volunteers who devote their time to making healthy lifestyles a possibility for all.

The best part? The Real Food Farm accepts EBT! Yep, there’s no excuse not to grab up this healthy goodness as an alternative to all the yuck that is strewn about the neighborhood.

Oh! There are volunteer opportunities if you’re interested.

This Saturday Oct. 1st is the 14th Annual Ricky Myers Day Of Service

Join in at the Clifton Mansion to earn your $5 credit towards Real Food Farm produce! Register at civicworks.com/dayofservice.

Do you guys shop locally for your produce? Do you have your own garden? Do tell below!

Feature|Founder Of N’Joy Eats & Prep Transformed Her Life Through Diet & Exercise

One super dope aspect of my wellness journey is that I’ve crossed paths with some pretty amazing women of every shade, age and faith. From the elderly women who faithfully attend their Silver Sneakers class at my gym every morning to the fit IG beauties that share their stories with the world. One of my favorite IG inspirations is Indiana based Chef Shay of N’Joy Eats & Prep. Her transformation is bomb and she inspires others to lead a healthy lifestyle through her exercise, meal prep and nutrition expertise.

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Chef Shay of N’Joy Eats & Prep

Ok, so it was so hard for me to choose the best photos because everything looks so good. These are just a few examples of Shay’s meal prep. Nutrition is so extremely important for us all but ESPECIALLY for those of us whose goal it is to lose weight. You know how the saying goes: You cannot outwork a bad diet. Like…it will never happen. You have to swap out the bad foods with better ones. You have to lower your caloric intake. If you need more proof than what I am telling you, please keep scrolling to Shay’s story below…

“When I saw the picture I not only saw the weight loss but I saw the pain and unhappiness I had been carrying for years. I had finally tapped into my JOY and I was never looking back.” – Chef Shay

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“Hi you can call me Chef Shay .I am 26 years old straight from Jersey. I’m very excited about working with Junk Fit! I am a certified nutritional advisor and chef. I began my healthy journey after dealing with some challenges in my life that rocked at my self image and happiness. I am now down 6 dress sizes, able to hold my head high, and live life the way I want to. Once I set a plan for myself and took an active role in my life; my goals began to manifest. Cooking healthy meals is fun and rewarding because I never see it as a diet. I love teaching clients and their families how to incorporate healthy eating to their lifestyles. I believe Junk Fit encompasses all that I practice and teach in my daily life. It is a platform to uplift our community by providing them with the tools and skills that will upgrade their wellness. Staying in shape is an added bonus to the lifestyle. I’ve also just recently obtained my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mental wellness definitely plays a significant role in how we treat our bodies. Exercising and eating clean can definitely benefit our cognitive perception of ourselves. I am so honored to be a part of an organization such as JUNK FIT that makes all that we teach engaging and fun!

Challenges: The first challenge was identifying why I wanted to lose weight. At first it was because I didn’t find myself pretty enough. I hated taking pictures, I hated trying on clothes, I hated my stomach etc. I thought I would be prettier and more confident if I just lost 10 lbs. I had to fall in love with myself first. I had to build on my confidence and not look for validation from other’s. I had to explore why I had chosen food as a comfort to begin with. I had chosen bad food as a comfort, because there were voids in my life .Grief and an unhealthy long term relationship were the little demons I had to address. Once I began addressing and fixing those issues, I naturally began improving. I wasn’t weighing myself anymore. All I wanted to do was be active because I love the thrill of competing and challenging my body. People gave me compliments as the weight fell off and it surprised me until I took a picture of myself. When I saw the picture I not only saw the weight loss but I saw the pain and unhappiness I had been carrying for years. I had finally tapped into my JOY and I was never looking back.

Advice: Stop investing in spanx, pills and control tops and get yourself in the gym and in the kitchen. Stop making excuses about your weight, no one cares .Being in shape is not about vanity or attention. It is about upgrading and sustaining your life, so that you can enjoy life and the experiences. No Fad Diets just start letting go of foods that do more harm than good. Much Success!”

You can keep up with Chef Shay’s inspirational journey on Facebook, Instagram and via njoyeatsandprep.com.

xo,

Jazz

Falling Off & Getting Back On

If you’ve ever checked for my blog or social media posts, I think its pretty obvious why I chose this topic for my comeback again post. But for those of you who are stumbling across my blog for the first time, things have been slower than molasses ’round these parts. New content is coming but before that happens, let’s chat about why I fell off of my blogging and workout game. For starters, summer ’16 was everything Aubrey said it would be.

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It was my first summer back in the DMV and I made it count. I mean there were boozy brunches galore, day parties, cookouts, rooftop soirees, amusement parks, cooking classes, comedy shows, museums, exhibits, camping, late night sh*t-talking with friends over bonfires, and add to that, I’m on Match.com now so you know the dates just rolled right in (we’ll discuss in another post). I frolicked ’til my heart’s content. Truly. Honestly. A girl just was living her life on the weekends. Cause when Monday hit, things got real.

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This summer was BY FAR thee most stressful summer I’ve had in a long time. Work consumed most of my energy during the week and I’ll be honest in that I did not push myself to go onward once 6 pm hit. I simply said “I’m exhausted so when summer camp is over in 6 weeks, I’ll resume my workouts.” But that was super weak and I know it. I knew it the instant I started telling myself that b.s. There were so many things I could’ve done to offset the fact that I wasn’t working out or blogging. I could’ve funnelled my daily nutrition to the blog and committed to at least one post per week. Don’t get me wrong, I made mindful eating choices (on weekdays) and worked out at least once per week but it was a far cry from the 5 day regimen I was on. By my standards, that meets the qualifications for “falling off”. But if you’re human, like me, you know that sometimes you just can’t go as hard as you normally would but you should try make sure you give what you do have in you. Obviously, I had more than one day a week and smoothies. Like really, Jasmine!?  Since my stress levels have gone back down, I’m back to the regularly scheduled program. Let me share with you how I got myself back in the game.

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First of all, the stress has dissipated. But there are a few factors that also contributed to me getting back on the ball again.

  1. I set a bed time and started “logging off” at least an hour before hand. I’d heard of this sleep improvement strategy before but somehow the Blameitonkway Instagram sketches would keep me locked in right up until I passed out. Anyway, unplugging in advance helps me get better quality sleep. Thus, giving me energy to last throughout the day.
  2. I noticed my family and friends that kept going. For starters, as of July, my dad was down 20 pounds and he always reminds me that I was his source of motivation. Then he turned around and motivated me. Funny how that works. Additionally social media provides me with so much inspiration at different times and from so many different people. I’ve got friends that are slaying the blog game, slaying their workouts and they really motivate me to step my game up.
  3. I ate dried fruit and nuts to give myself an added burst of energy. Dried fruit and nuts are a sure way to get a quick burst of energy and sustained energy throughout your workout.
  4. I bought some new gym gear.Idk about you but a cute new outfit is all the motivation I need. Might I also add that I am a certified maxanista these days. TJMaxx has the hookup on fitness apparel and accessories. You can get things at half the price or even less. It’s disgusting!
  5. I decided that I’d stop overbidding and commit to just a one article minimum per week. I had planned out this lengthy editorial calendar to cover every nook and cranny of wellness but it turned out to be a lot for me. One article a week gives me a small task to start with and of course I’d have the option of upping the ante once I get in a good flow.

Do you guys have any strategies to get yourself back into the swing of things after a hiatus? Drop a comment below!

5 Tips To Fitting A Workout Into Your Schedule

For those of us with a packed schedule, it’s super difficult to find time to meal prep and eat, let alone make it to the gym and get a full session in. We’ve got jobs, relationships, families, school, and a litany of extracurriculars that make it nearly impossible to get to the gym. If you struggle with fitting your entire routine in or even making it to the gym, you’re not alone. The last few months were crazy for me (in a great way) but it became increasingly apparent that I needed to tighten up on my strategy. I’ve thrown together a list of things that helped me get my life:

  1. Pack your bag the night before and review your check-list. I go to the gym in the mornings and I shower there after my workout. My check-list includes flip-flops, a towel and wash cloth, toiletries, a comb, a brush, my scarf, my lock, ear phones and of course, my clothes and shoes I plan to wear to work. It really doesn’t seem like such a big deal but this is similar to packing an overnight bag. For most of us, it’s no easy feat. We can get stalled on something as simple as bobbie pins…the black or the brown? The curved or the ridged? Body wash suddenly becomes a life decision. Caress or Shea Moisture? Bar soap or liquid? I can’t be the only one! Lol. Therefore, I go on ahead and get all that out of the way the night before.
  2. Know what you want to do before you get there. It helps when you have an idea of what you’re going to accomplish that day as opposed to going and just winging it. I’ve winged it a lot in the past and sometimes it’s great, other times I leave the gym feeling like I wasted my time because, quite simply, I did. I could’ve moved with phantom speed, flowing from machine to machine, mat to wall, track to stairs but, no. I couldn’t decide between the inclined leg press or an overhead press. What part of my body needs more work? All things I should have given thought to before my workout.
  3. Create your playlist ahead of time and resist the urge to mess with your player during your workout. I know for sure that when I don’t follow this rule, I get pulled into so many distractions such as JUNKFIT.org, a random text or a work email. Focus on the workout, not your phone.
  4. Give yourself enough time to move between locations. Meaning, if you want a 90 minute workout and it takes you 30 min to get to the gym and another 30 to get from the gym to work, you need to do the math so that you’re comings and goings allow for the workout you want. Don’t let a killer 90 minute sesh turn into a lackluster “at least I made it the gym” 30 minute kinda thing.
  5. Lastly, your workouts should fall under your category of “non-negotiables”. There is no IF you can make it to the gym that day. There is only WHEN. You will make it to the gym because you’ve planted that seed and you WILL see it grow. Remember, being healthy, fit, in shape, whatever you call it, it’s a lifestyle. So, get with it. Fall in love with it. It will only love you back!

my 10 Tips For Transitioning Vegetarians

The last time I tried to go vegetarian, I did it “cold turkey” – no pun intended. I was really impressed with my cut-off skills. However, I only lasted a measly two months. It’s no small feat for a 30 year old, carnivorous, Jamerican girl from the “Buffalo wing” region. I gave up milk, butter, eggs, meat, fish, cheese…everything! It was such an extreme transition for me that it turned out to be too much at once. The thing I’ve noticed about myself is that I’m either all in or all out. In true gemini fashion, I don’t really have a middle ground. This characteristic is both beneficial and detrimental depending on what I need to get done. In this case, the goal is becoming a vegetarian. This time around, to do it right, I’m setting small goals for myself towards a lasting and successful transition.

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The first phase of my transition was the elimination of poultry, beef and pork. I’m not a huge meat person anyway so my first few meatless days weren’t all that hard. If you’re always checking for the meats with every meal, you might want to eliminate one animal at a time. One week you stop eating cow, the next week you give up chicken etc. However you decide to begin your journey, you’ll need to know what lies ahead. Here are my findings:

1. Avoid settings where the aroma of meat can penetrate your nostrils. Breaking a lifelong habit like eating meat is similar to beating any other addiction. You simply cannot place yourself in environments where meat is being prepared, served or eaten. This is cruical especially if there isn’t a vegan alternative available.

2. Meal prep is life. Realistically, none of us can avoid the temptation of meat all the time. You can have way more control over your cravings when you’re PREPARED with your own meatless goodies. This saved me a few times. Whether it’s work or a friend’s house, bring your meals and snacks to avoid eating whatever’s around.

3. Give your circle a heads up. One mistake I made this time around was keeping my transition on the low. Because last time was a bust, I was apprehensive about sharing my goals with anyone. So when I went to my sister’s house and she placed mashed potatoes, green beans, rice and a juicy chicken breast in front of me, it took all of my willpower to kindly and sadly reject the meal. Instead, I ate mashed potatoes, rice and green beans when she could’ve made me the salmon that was in the fridge. Share your lifestyle change with others so they won’t inadvertently sabotage your goals.

4. Never let your stomach hit rock bottom. Meaning, don’t allow yourself to get so hungry that you’ll “eat anything”. In those moments of brief starvation, your fatigue will compel you to eat whatever is at hand.

5. Try meat alternatives. Nowadays, there are grocery isles full of tofu chicken tenders, eggplant breakfast sausage, veggie burgers and much more. The possibilities are super exciting. I had fun experimenting with a tofu stir fry. Although it wasn’t quite the same texture as meat, the flavor was very similar.

6. Check your existing diet and swap the old for new. If you normally eat eggs and sausage for breakfast, you might want to swap your animal  sausage for a vegan sausage and later swapping out your 1 egg for 2 cups of oatmeal (same amount of protein). This way you match not only your taste bud’s desires, you’re also keeping up nutritionally.

7. Create a list of likeable, plant based proteins. Most of us don’t keep track of our daily protein intake but many of us get way more than we actually need. The average person needs 45-65 grams of protein every day (fluctuates based on gender and age). We can easily meet the recommended daily amount using plant based foods. My list includes various nuts, oatmeal, legumes and for now, yogurt and fish.

8. Look for the “V” stamp. Lots of the hassle of “what’s safe to eat” is simplified by a teeny, tiny V for vegan label on packaged foods. Right now, advertisers are eager to please the quickly growing number of vegan consumers. If it has the “V”, it’s good to eat. There’s soups, microwave dinners, sauces and much more that are entirely plant based. Good for your tummy and time!

9. Do not attempt to convert others. As opposed to forcing your new ideology onto your friends and family (which normally backfires), just tell them YOUR story. Normally, your peeps will want to know what’s new with you anyway and the argument for vegetarianism ends up speaking for itself.

10. Do it for the right reasons. In a day where folks without celiac disease are bragging about eating gluten free, it’s easy to get wrapped up in food fads. There are two things that are the true driving forces of going vegetarian (for me). My health and for the poor animals. When you care enough and are passionate enough about either of these issues you can be successful and achieving  vegetarian, and maybe down the line, vegan nirvana.

Good luck!

P.s.- Do you have any tips for those of us who want to go vegan? Do share!

XO

Jazz

Healthy Snacking: Yummy Kale Chips Recipe

This weekend could’ve turned into a nutritional disaster. The blizzard casted heavy shade over my entire weekend itinerary and like many others trapped indoors, cabin fever almost brought out the beast in me. Luckily, I forged my way through ten blocks of the white stuff to hunker down with my sister where she put me on to a healthy treat!

Lots of us find it difficult to tastefully integrate kale into our diets. *Slowly raises right hand* For me, eating kale felt like chomping on raw collard greens. It really does help to explore more innovative approaches when incorporating things like kale, beets and other yucky veggies with super duper amounts of antioxidants and vitamins into your diet.

‘Exactly how super duper is kale’ you ask? Here’s the rundown:

1 cup=33 calories, 6g carbohydrates, 3g protein

Rich in fiber, vitamin K (7× the RDA), vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, potassium. All of which are generally lacking in the modern American diet. A single cup of steamed kale per day has been proven to lower cholesterol, improve bone health and can also combat blood clotting, alzheimers and cancer.

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You’ll need:
A bushel of kale de-stemmed (and rinsed of course)
Sea salt
Fresh pepper
Cayenne pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large glass baking dish

1. Preheat your over to 310°
2. In a large bowl, toss your olive oil and kale until the kale is evenly coated. Dont overdo the olive oil. It should be a light sheen of oil not a coating.
3. Space your kale out on the baking dish.
4. Season to your taste buds with light sea salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
5. Bake in the oven for about 14 minutes or as soon as you notice them beginning to brown.
6.  Cool for about a minute.
7. Crunch away!

This snack was so quick and tasty that I’m definitely going to add it to my snacking goodie bag. Do you have any tactics for turning boring veggies into tasty treats? Do share!

Xo, Jazz

Required Reading | “By Any Greens Necessary” Author Tracye McQuirter, MPH

When I peeled back the wrapping paper on what felt like another token Christmas gift (yes, I’m childish), I had no idea that my brother was gifting me something that would alter my perception of the American food industry forevaaa (Cardi B voice). I’ve seen plenty of vegan and animal rights films but the deeper impact of a good ole paperback just cannot be debated. “By Any Greens Necessary” by Tracye Lynn McQuirter is a must read for all African Americans–especially black women. You can hear this same message from a gazillion different sources, but hearing it from a sista just makes the message so much more personal and tailored to our needs and interests.

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Tracye Lynn McQuirter, MPH

We have the highest rates of many chronic diseases, most of which can be prevented by adopting a plant based diet and eliminating animal foods. It’s common knowledge that animal products are packed with cholesterol, saturated fats, antibiotics, fecal matter, mucus and many other substances that these poor animals encounter during their filthy stay at the barn house. Regardless of all that we’ve read about the American meat industry we are still so reluctant to adopt a vegan lifestyle because we think animal flesh is an essential component to our diets. What most of us don’t know is that our bodies do not need animal products to lead a healthy lifestyle.

In “By Any Greens Necessary”, you’ll learn that contrary to what the USDA nutrition guidelines advise, 70% of African Americans cannot safely digest lactose (big shocker there).  I can’t even look at milk without shuddering. As a child, I digested milk like a champ. As an adult? Not so much. I, like many other black men and women, developed a lactose intolerance with age. Milk simply hurts these days. Hurts my stomach and gives me painful cramps that last for hours if I’m lucky. Sometimes the pain has side affects like constipation and nausea. So why on earth does the USDA recommend 2-3 servings of dairy per day? They essentially ignore the fact that we cannot safely digest it. In fact, many Asian, Native American and Latinos have a hard time digesting lactose as well. The only group that can digest lactose with ease is Caucasians. Yet, it is required that cafeteria workers place a carton of milk on each school lunch tray–whether the child wants the milk or not. It begs the question WHY? How on earth does dairy merit inclusion on the USDA’s 5 food groups? Why, when meat has been linked to heart disease, high cholesterol and many outbreaks of deadly viruses, does the government continue to allow excessive marketing, cheap and unhealthy production, despicable conditions and deceptive labeling to lead the masses to literally eat themselves to death? The recommendation of animal products on our guidelines is a sad and villainous representation of all that is wrong with our country.

If that little tidbit of information wasn’t compelling enough to make you go out and grab the book, maybe this will. My eyes nearly rolled out of my head when I read that dairy had been linked to the dreaded uterine fibroid. That’s plural for most of us. Two summers ago my 3 little fibroids landed me a stay in Brooklyn Hospital for a week on an ice and water diet. I was so miserable. That’s when I learned that a whopping 90% of Black women will develop uterine fibroids between ages 20 and 50. In numerous studies, the growth of fibroids have been linked to dairy, ham and beef consumption. Complications with fibroids can lead to hysterectomy which means no little chocolate babies for you and hubby.

Ladies, please, please, please do yourself a favor and grab this book. It is in fact a matter of life and death. Sista to sista and with love, you owe it to yourself to go out and get all of this knowledge!

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xo,

Jazz