All Posts By

Vivien Ikwuazom

Why Everyone Should Eat More Nice Cream

Nice cream saved my vegan life.

For those who are vegans or who have other dietary allergies, finding alternatives for conventional foods is as almost difficult as understanding the Lost series finale. If there is anything I miss from my non-vegan days, it is definitely ice cream. I would frantically search my local grocery stores for vegan ice cream; however, they were often filled with strange ingredients that I had never heard of or that I could not pronounce.

I remember one day in the summer after my sophomore year of college, my parents sat at the dinner table indulging in vanilla ice cream topped with raspberries and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts. Watching my parents twirl their spoons into the creamy goop was unbearable.

I frantically raced to the kitchen, yanked open the freezer door and grabbed all of the frozen fruit I could find and dumped them into a food processor. Although I had the intentions of making a smoothie, my strawberry-banana concoction ended up being thicker and creamier than I expected.

Over the next few weeks, I experimented with frozen bananas and started to combine peanut butter, vanilla extract, chopped nuts and cacao nibs to my faux ice-cream. I eventually learned that there was a name for my concoctions. 

This savory, fruit-based dish is called nice-cream: an appropriately fitting name for a food that does not solely have to be consumed as dessert. Not only is this protein and fiber-filled dish healthy, it is also simple to make, cheap and extremely versatile.

Below is a recipe that you can try on your own:

Basic Nice Cream

Sh*t You Need:

A high-power blender or a food processor

For Your Base
A frozen fruit of your choice (typically bananas, but strawberries, mangoes, or a combination of frozen fruit can work, too)
Optional: 1-2 Tbsp milk of choice*
Optional: 2-3 Tbsp. of flavoring, such as a drop of vanilla extract, or cacao powder

Toppings (for the best nice creams, go CRAZY!)
Granola
More fresh fruit
Dried fruit (mulberries or goji berries, for example)
Chocolate chips/cacao nibs
Dates

*Note: you really do not want a lot of liquid because you want a smooth consistency, not a runny consistency.

The Recipe

1. Add frozen banana pieces (or frozen fruit) to your blender or food processor.

2. Blend until a creamy consistency. If the blade gets stuck, use a spoon to move some of the pieces around or add 1-2 tbsp of plant/non-plant based milk.

3. Scoop into a bowl and mix in toppings.

4. Enjoy!

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Next Time You Take A Study Break, Try Meditating

If you stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about, we’ve got you covered.

College can be overwhelming at times. When school-days are jam-packed with classes, extracurricular activities, and endless assignments, it feels like there is rarely any time to do anything not school-related, let alone take a second to breathe. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our studies that we often forget about ourselves and our health. Eight-hour library sessions might be productive, but we also need to know when to take a break.

While we may take a few minutes away from our books to scroll through Instagram and Pinterest, or take a quick Snapchat, study breaks are often more effective at re-energizing our bodies and rebooting our brains when they involve something other than our screens. Studies have shown that study breaks involving socializing with others, exercise, or napping are extremely revitalizing and help to restore our energy. However, if sleeping in public is not your thing, you might want to try meditation for your next study break.

So, what is meditation? 

Meditation – stemming from the Latin word meditatum or “to ponder” – is significant in Eastern and Western Traditions. While meditation is used in religious practices in the East, it is predominantly used in Western culture as a way to alleviate stress and improve health. Meditative practices are often mistaken for a way to escape or “get away from it all”, when it is really a practice used to harness self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Although there are many forms of meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh is responsible for introducing mindfulness meditation to the West. The core principles of mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Individuals are encouraged to be aware of their “thoughts, feelings, and [the] surrounding environment”, while simultaneously accepting or “paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them.”

As college students, it is easy to continuously think about a bad grade (a past occurrence) or look forward to things (a party on the weekend or the semester being over), which can often detract from how we perceive the present – a space that we often want to escape from. However, instead of using our brain power to reminisce about that past or think about the future, mindfulness meditation embraces focusing on what is happening in the present moment.

How can I meditate during my next study break?

Mindfulness takes focus, yet has the power to transform your day through a simple shift in attitude. While you are stressing out at the library, designate a few minutes of each hour to sit in silence, be aware of what you are feeling and where you are, and accept the task at hand. You may have a mile-long to-do list, but sitting and breathing through those feelings for a short period of time will re-center you and allow you to continue crossing the items off that list.

Trying new things is scary, that is why apps such as Headspace and The Mindfulness App are available to help you learn how to practice mindfulness and meditation. Your school may even offer an introduction to meditation physical education course! If you are not yet ready to board the meditation train, including study breaks, in general, into your work schedule – that are re-energizing and refreshing – can help lower stress levels and are imperative for overall mental health.

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Fitness, College, And Finding My Inner Self

Healthy Habits that are Never too Late to Start

From high school athlete, to collegiate fitness extraordinaire…

Being 6’0” in middle school was an interesting experience. My days consisted of dodging questions from strangers inquiring about whether I played basketball, attempting to squeeze into the tiny school bus seats, and trying not to hit my head as I dismounted the bus.

Inevitably, I played a variety of sports, and due to my height and my “athletic” look, I was always expected to be the best on the team.  This was entirely bittersweet.

At times, the pressure to be good at a sport and not let my teammates down overwhelmed my ability to actually enjoy my time on the field or court and find my niche. Because of this, I decided not to be a collegiate athlete when the time came. I enjoyed every aspect of being part of a team; however, I wanted to take advantage of the new space to learn more about myself and what I enjoyed. I wanted to identify myself beyond the court.

My definition of “fitness” during my first year of college was extremely narrow. In my mind, being fit meant that I had to go to the gym everyday. It meant that my workouts had to include 30 minutes of cardio. And, it meant that if I did not leave the gym sweating, then my workout was not “intense” enough.

Fitness, or my health for that matter, was just another thing on the laundry list of tasks that I had to complete. Exercising had transitioned from something I loved to something tedious. Fitness was no longer fun, and trying to find the motivation to get active became increasingly difficult.

At this point, I knew I needed to reassess my lifestyle.

FitnessCollegeandFindingMyInnerSelf

Like any other college freshman, I underestimated the difficulty of university life and being away from home. At times, I was too preoccupied with work that I often skipped dinner and instead would spend nights in my room eating copious amounts of snacks. Balance became difficult, and I was merely eating foods for caloric value without paying attention to which foods made me feel energetic and which foods made me feel sluggish.

I ignored the bloating and discomfort that I experienced when I ate certain foods and assumed everyone else experienced similar symptoms. I thought that it was “normal” to feel this way.

Eliminating the foods that made me feel this way, I decided to adopt a predominantly plant-based/vegetarian diet, which was beneficial to my physical well-being, and my physical appearance. The sleepless nights became fewer and I felt much stronger.

During this transition phase in my life, YouTube became my best friend. I was curious about other vegetarian/vegan college students living in dorms and how they managed to navigate school and their health. Instead of merely eating foods to ensure I consumed adequate calories, I paid more attention to eating foods that made me feel energized, and not ill.

Living in a dorm room didn’t have to restrict what I could and could not eat. Realizing that I could still enjoy wholesome meals — rather than living off snacks — even though I was away from home, was extremely liberating. Overnight oats, smoothie bowls, and loaded/stuffed sweet potatoes were just a select few of the gourmet meals I enjoyed.  

In addition to altering my nutrition, I knew I needed a boost in my workout routine if I wanted to remain active. I slowly transitioned away from the cardio machines, away from the monotonous routine I had gotten used to, and starting incorporating weights, and speed and agility workouts that I learned when I was on the track team in high school. At the beginning of every week, I included a daily fitness plan in my journal, but made sure that my plan did not solely include a workout schedule. I wanted to break out and try new things, while also learning to listen to my body and take rest days when I needed them.

My college experience plays a significant role in my fitness journey. Stepping away from team sports was bittersweet. However, it was an important decision that I made to help me find my niche in the world. Fitness transitioned from something taxing and stressful, to something that I thoroughly enjoyed. It became a way for me to meet new people, while also learning about myself.

I also discovered my passion for nutrition. By playing around with foods that made my own body feel good, I declared a nutrition major after my freshman year so I could help others do the same.

Nothing excites me more than discussing health tips with my friends, convincing my friends to try new workouts with me at the gym, or surfing social media in search of new recipes. I am excited by where I am in my fitness journey: I am happy, having fun, and I am doing what I love. What more can I ask for?  

Fitness Journey

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