What the Health?! Documentary Review

As you have probably gathered by now, I am a vegan. And no, I haven’t always been this way. In fact, if you knew me in high school and had the experience of watching me eat breakfast, you would know that I went through bowl after bowl of cereal with milk. That’s right, full-on dairy multiple times per day. At that point in my life, I would also eat meat on occasion–telling myself that I might as well because the animal had already been killed and it would be a waste if I didn’t.

Besides the ethical issues at hand (of which I’m sure you have seen me elaborate on through my social media accounts), there were many personal health considerations that I was simply ignoring. Things that I attributed to school stress, puberty, and other events. Even when I entered college I wasn’t vegan (or again, strictly vegetarian) and there was a series of events that led me to commit to veganism in April of 2016.

Like many people, I ate dairy and meat products without much thought. I remember that Costco had cupcakes that were literally the size of my head and that contained more dairy than I can even think about. I would eat those, cakes at birthday parties, milkshakes after long summer days. All without much thought. Milk was normal. So were eggs. Cheese. All of the things that now seem so abnormal to me as I browse the grocery store shelves.

So, what changed? Well I didn’t notice the consistent problems that I had been having until I stopped consuming dairy. That being said, however, when I was a senior in high school I started to notice a change. Instead of being happy after eating a big ice cream cone or slice of cake, I was extremely nauseous. My stomach would feel like I had eaten both a large brick as well as a bunch of air. You know the bird, Kevin, in the movie Up? When it swallowed all of the balloons on top of the house? That’s basically what I felt like.

Despite feeling this way, I was hesitant to give up dairy. I mean, it is in so many things! How was I just supposed to give it up? This was the attitude that I maintained for the majority of my senior year, not changing my dietary habits. If anything, I started eating more dairy in an effort to improve my overall fitness. I would eat greek yogurts, protein powders, and even eggs in an effort to get in shape and maintain my fitness. These are all of the things that I had heard were the best way to get fit, through commercials, the internet, and from fitness centers.

I saw little improvement over the year in terms of the symptoms that I had been experiencing, and finally decided to look up the symptoms for a sensitivity to dairy. I had all of them. All of a sudden, it started to make perfect sense. Not only what I had experienced that year, but also what I had been experiencing for years.

Fast forward to now, the documentary What the Health was just released on Netflix. I decided to give it a watch this past weekend, excited because it was produced by the same people who made the film Cowspiracy. As soon as the film started, I knew that it was going to be groundbreaking.

Veganism has many aspects to it. Animal rights, human rights, environmental rights/protections, and health. This final aspect is the one that many people don’t consider when they think about going vegan. People are under the impression that unless you cannot eat meat and/or dairy products, it is healthier for you to eat meat and dairy. In other words, Veganism is often perceived as something that is only for those who care about animal rights and protections.

Even though I had heard about many of the health issues involved in the consumption of meat and dairy products, I was unaware of the extreme connections between health associations in the United States and meat/dairy producers. The level of interconnectedness was shocking to me, as was their resistance to answering honest questions about their health suggestions for those diagnosed with heart conditions and diabetes.

As I grew older, I started to question what I had heard about the health benefits of meat and dairy. It seemed, to me, there was no way that something produced in such mass quantities and in such terrible conditions could be good for your health.

When I was in 8th grade I did my first research project on factory farming. This was the first time in which I started to take an interest in the effects of animal agriculture on the world, and what I learned was shocking. As I watched this documentary, I felt the same shock that I had when I first delved into research on factory farm policies, ethics, and their impact.

Factory farming is an issue that expands beyond veganism and animal rights. Here are some of the facts explored in What the Health (all facts are bolded and in all caps, and can be found here with their respective sources).


Which leads into the next fact:


I found this next fact interesting, especially given that most people consider ‘white’ meat to be a healthier alternative:


I also found the following quite interesting, given that eggs are considered a staple in many vegetarian diets:


How can this be? Haven’t we always been told that these foods are good for us? Well I remember learning about “pseudoscience,” a.k.a scientific reports that make themselves look as though they have legitimate findings through sound scientific practices. In reality, however, these reports often tell the truth in their fine print and are frequently funded by the industries in question themselves. 


In other words,


Another fact that I found really interesting, especially given my seemingly ‘rare’ intolerance to dairy, is the following:


Along the same line of thinking with pseudoscientific reports, the dairy industry thrives on the idea that dairy products have calcium that supports strong bone growth. This is, in fact, often an inverse relationship:


In another demonstration of the relationship between brands and health industries, the Susan G. Komen ribbons can be found on yogurt containers and other dairy products. However, it has been shown that


And another relationship that I had not previously considered: that between the pharmaceutical industry and the animal agriculture industry. It is well-known that these animals have to be fed antibiotics due to their confinement to ensure that they live long enough to reach prime profit-bearing stages of growth. However, the degree of interdependence between these two industries is astounding:


As many of you know, I go to college in Iowa. As a result, I am no stranger to the eye-watering manure spray that passes by when the wind blows (which is often). My college is at least a few miles away from these industrial farms, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be right next to them. This is a reality that many live each day, and not only that but


As if that wasn’t enough of an issue, on a global scale


What’s difficult about these realities is that there are laws in place to ensure that what happens behind closed doors stays there. This went as far as bringing a woman to trial after she gave severely dehydrated pigs water as they arrived in trucks for slaughter. She was not pressed with charges, but this one case lasted for months. But what happens when workers abuse the animals already being sent to an inhumane and abusive slaughter? Absolutely nothing, in most cases. 


As someone who is vegan, and has been for a year now, you can imagine how often I get the following question: “but where do you get your protein?” or even the statement “you’re definitely not getting enough protein”. The following facts in the documentary made me rejoice with relief:


Since going vegan, I think I am actually getting more protein. How? I am making much healthier eating and lifestyle choices overall and eating many more whole plant foods on a daily basis. I have grown more muscle mass, eliminated excess fat, and generally feel a million times better on a daily basis than I did when I wasn’t vegan.

Vegan food isn’t hard to come by, and often isn’t more expensive. I recently tried the Hampton Creek Just Mayo Vegan Eggless Soy-Free Kosher Mayonnaise  and I am a bit obsessed with it! It was affordable and oh so good! (It also got raving reviews from non vegans). In fact, I’m not alone in how much I love this brand!


This documentary resonated with so many things that I already knew, but it also managed to shock me about the interdependence of industries. Are you interested in learning more? I highly suggest that you give What the Health a watch! (You can find it on Netflix!)

Have you watched it? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Vegan Sweet Potato Burgers: Recipe and Vlog!


I have been wanting to post more of the recipes that I have been making recently (now that I’m home!), and this was one that definitely had to be shared! I have always been a fan of recipes like this, but they usually take longer than I have time for. With this recipe though, there are options to make it take less time!

Since I had more time and regular sweet potatoes were on sale, I decided to take the time to prepare them. I peeled four potatoes and diced them into smaller sections. I placed these sections into a pot of boiling water, and let them boil for about twelve minutes (until softened). Once they were soft, I strained them into a ceramic bowl and mashed them.

I also prepared a box of quinoa (simmering for 15 minutes), and combined this with the sweet potato. Finally, I also added one can of black beans (slightly mashed). I stirred all of these ingredients together, and combined a paste of flaxseed meal and water (3T of water to 1T flaxseed meal) with the rest of the mixture to make them stick together more (flaxseed meal is a vegan egg replacement).

Once all of these ingredients were combined, I formed them into patties and placed them onto a heated pan with a small amount of olive oil. I cooked them for five to six minutes on each side, and placed them on a separate serving plate.

I toasted the hamburger buns, and took the sweet potato fries (that I made out of the leftover potatoes I bought) out of the oven. I decided to use my Hampton Creek Just Mayo (DELICIOUS vegan mayo!!) and local medium salsa as toppings, and it was so good!!

I decided to make a vlog to go along with this post as well, and I will be making a lot of videos in the near future! 🙂

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Nutritious Vegan Pancakes

This post has not been sponsored. There are affiliate links within this post, which means that I get a percentage of a purchase you make when you click on them. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Wise Willow possible! (Also, as always, everything I promote I personally love! 🙂 )

Do you ever have those days where you start craving something that you wouldn’t normally? Today was one of those days for me, as I was craving pancakes all day (mostly because I was scrolling through Pinterest and kept seeing pictures!). I decided to take all of the ingredients that I could find laying around, and give an experimental recipe a shot! For those of you who have seen me cook, you know that I’m all about experimentation. This is probably why baking goes terribly for me, but cooking is more forgiving in that regard. 🙂

This recipe turned out much better than I anticipated, and I just had to share! It made six pancakes, which were perfect for my dinner. I still have two leftover (since they were quite filling!). They took about twenty minutes once all was said and done, and were delicious! I also didn’t have any non-dairy milk lying around today, so I had to use water. Despite that, they turned out to be great!

My favorite blender to use at the moment is the Oster My Blend , because it is perfect for one person! It also has the ability to turn into a cup to bring with you on the go! I also have been loving this Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Glass Mixing Bowl Set, because it has all of the sizes that you could possibly need! It’s perfect for my minimalist kitchen. 🙂 I am also loving all things bamboo (toothbrush for example!), so I have brought that into the kitchen as well! This set of two wooden spatulas is perfect for all types of recipes, and won’t melt like plastic does (which is great for people like me who sometimes leave plastic utensils in hot pans while I change up my Spotify playlist…Oops.).

These pancakes would be perfect for a quick and nutritious breakfast, lunch, or dinner! In my dorm we have a tradition where we make pancakes for everyone on Saturday mornings, so this may have to be my new go-to vegan recipe! 🙂

If you give it a go, please let me know what you think! And if you make any variations (as I said, I’m very experimental too). I’d love to know! Feel free to tag me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



The Iowa Farm Sanctuary

the-iowa-2As I drove past crop fields and rolling hills in the Iowa countryside, my thoughts drifted to how I started my vegan journey and found this calling. Within the past year I have experienced the ups and downs of a vegan lifestyle, especially with how it fits in a college setting. It was a steep learning curve, but I feel as though I’ve become more aware about what I am putting both in and on my body.

A few months ago I found a recommended account on my Instagram feed for an Iowa Farm Sanctuary. I had heard of farm sanctuaries around the country, and was immediately intrigued! I found out that it wasn’t far, and knew that I had to schedule a visit!

Prior to this visit I didn’t have many experiences with the animals that inspired me to adopt this lifestyle, and I was beyond excited to finally get that chance. Those of you who have known me for a while know that I am a bit obsessed with pigs. Ever since I was little they have been one of my favorite animals, and yes, it was on my bucket list to meet a pig in person! My dream came true last week, and I couldn’t wait to start writing about this wonderful organization!

The Animals

I have always been an animal lover, and I spent much of my childhood on a farm when I started horseback riding. I was so excited to reconnect with this passion of mine, and my heart was filled with pure joy the entire time I was at the sanctuary!


The first animal that I got to meet was Bennie, an adorable goat who came to the sanctuary as a runt. He was the sweetest thing, and full of boundless energy and love! He was roaming and eating with Carl (a calf) and Hope (a pig) in the pasture.


I then met Carl and Hope, who also melted my heart with their affectionate dispositions and incredible stories. Carl was a calf that was very ill when he was brought to the farm. He was nursed back to health, and is now full of love and joy! He loved eating the pumpkins in the pasture, and basking in the sun with Hope and Bennie.


Hope was brought to the sanctuary as a runt who had a broken foot and leg. She was nursed back to health and now loves to dig in the dirt and bound across the pasture! She was the first pig that I have met, and I will always remember the moment when she touched her nose to my outstretched hand.

Monkey, Marley, Kayla, and Sammy
Monkey, Marley, Kayla, and Sammy

There are other pigs at the sanctuary as well, and hearing their stories grounded me in why I had started on this journey in the first place. Quite a few animals fall of transportation trucks on the highway when being taken to feed lots or slaughterhouses, especially due to the cramped conditions and the uneven floorboards. Getting to interact with these sweet animals in person made me realize that I, even as just one person, could make a difference in the lives of farm animals. I couldn’t help but laugh with joy as their ears bobbed up and down when they ran across the pasture! 🙂

The chickens and ducks enjoying the brisk November day!
The chickens and ducks enjoying the brisk November day!

The sanctuary is also home to a number of chickens and ducks, some of whom were rescued as chicks/ducklings. They have found a wonderful home at the sanctuary. I got to meet one of the hens, Piper, who has a clipped beak (most likely from the farm she came from, which is a common practice on factory farms). She was nursed back to health, and now enjoys a life of love at the sanctuary.


I also met Otis the ram, who had the softest fur imaginable! He is older (eight or nine), and came to the sanctuary when he was found roaming around after escaping from his property.

I had the chance to meet three goats in the barn, a mom and two babies. Though they were timid at first, they loved affection! They especially loved the hay and alfalfa in the barn, and running around together!


As I met all of the animals living together in harmony, I felt aligned with my vegan journey in a way that I haven’t been before. I have met the animals that my heart aches for, and it was a truly transformative experience. Though my academic study is in Religion and Politics, one of my other passions has always been animal welfare. After seeing this sanctuary, I feel inspired to get involved in every way that I can and to potentially start a sanctuary of my own in the future.

Bennie, Carl, and Hope
Bennie, Carl, and Hope

I left the farm (as Bennie, Carl, and Hope ran to the fence to say goodbye!) feeling inspired and spiritually aligned with my true self and my passions. Being vegan definitely hasn’t been easy, but I would choose this path again in a heartbeat. I’ve been looking forward to sharing this experience with you, and I hope you enjoyed hearing about this wonderful organization! You can learn more about them on their website as well as on their Instagram (which I highly recommend, because who doesn’t love to see amazing pictures of adorable farm animals??)!

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



Fall 2016 Vegan Beauty Haul

vegan-beauty-2After transitioning to a vegan (“plant based”) diet over the summer, I decided to slowly transition into a completely vegan lifestyle. Adopting a vegan lifestyle is by no means an overnight process, and after a few months I am happy to say that all of my beauty and skincare products are vegan! 🙂

Amber Blush, Salted Caramel Pumpkin, Sweet Velvet, and Champagne Apple & Honey

Every fall I have a tradition of making a Bath and Body Works purchase for the entire year. I go a bit (maybe more than a bit…) crazy, but my lotion supply lasts for a year or more. This year I bought eight lotions: Cashmere Glow, Velvet Sugar, Amber Blush, Sensual Amber, Champagne Apple and Honey, Salted Caramel Pumpkin, Pumpkin Cupcake, and Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte. This variety of scents is perfect for the entire year (a few fruity florals for the spring and summer, as well as sweet scents for the fall and winter). My skin has greatly improved from drinking plenty of water and applying lotion a few times per day. Especially in crisp fall/winter air, my skin loves the added protection of lotion! What is your favorite Bath and Body Works scent? 🙂

My ELF Fall Collection!
My ELF Fall Collection!

One of my favorite makeup brands is ELF, especially since they are vegan and affordable! While I was on their website the other day, they were having a massive sale! They gave me a free fall goodie bag with my purchase, and I have been loving all of the products so far. Here are the products I got, and my impressions and uses:

Prism Eyeshadow Palette in Nude: This is one of the best eyeshadow palettes that I have ever owned. I am not a huge makeup collector (in fact, this is the only eyeshadow palette I have at the moment), but I do love nude shimmery colors. The eyeshadows in this palette are creamy and pigmented, and allow for a variety of looks. I especially love the lightest shade as a inner corner highlight to make me look more awake! I bought the Eyeshadow C Brush to go along with this palette, and love how easy it makes applying and blending.

Total Face Palette: This is another one of my favorite products. This palette includes two blushes, a highlighter, and a bronzer. My old highlighter wasn’t vegan, and one of the main reasons that I bought this palette was to try out a new highlighter shade. It’s beautiful! I was worried that it would be too light for my skin tone, but it blends out to a soft shimmer. The two blushes are very subtle and great for fall and winter weather. The bronzer is subtle, but blends well!

Contour Palette in Warm (one of my freebies!): I am not very into contouring, but this palette adds a great flush of color to my face. When all four colors are blended together, it adds an even glow to my complexion. I highly recommend it, even for those who don’t use contours as much.

Eyebrow Kit in Medium: The other product that I owned that wasn’t vegan was my eyebrow tint. I decided to try the eyebrow kit from ELF, and I love it! It is subtle and natural looking, and very affordable! The medium shade matches my hair color perfectly as well.

Angled Contour Brush: I purchased this brush to apply my highlighter, and I couldn’t be happier! I already own a blush brush by RealTechniques, but was lacking in a brush that could apply highlighter to a well-defined area of the face. I highly recommend this brush for highlight and contour!

Complexion Brush (another freebie!): This brush is great for the contour kit and powders, and is very soft and workable. I prefer my RealTechniques brush for blush application, but this brush is great for finishing products.

Lip Gloss (cranberry red, freebie!): This was not a color I would have ordinarily picked out for myself, but it works well with my medium skin tone! It is also a great addition to formal occasion looks or fall-inspired looks.

Complete Coverage Concealer Kit in Medium: My dark under eye circles (which always get worse in colder weather!) are starting to show through my glasses frames, and this concealer kit is perfect for adding brightness to my eyes! The shades are very blendable, and a little goes a long way!

Eyeshadow Quad in Matte for Plum (freebie!): I wouldn’t have ordinarily picked out these colors for myself, however, I think that they will be great additions to my shimmery palette and for more subtle fall looks. The darker colors will also be great for Halloween makeup looks! 🙂

Mineral Infused Mascara: I have used this mascara for quite a while, and love how it has a natural effect with no clumping. It lasts for at least a month or two as well!

Lengthening and Volumizing Mascara (freebie!): I hadn’t previously tried this mascara, but it works quite well! It is quite comparable to the mineral infused mascara, though it is better at lengthening.

RenPure Originals Coconut Cream Shampoo and Conditioner
RenPure Originals Coconut Cream Shampoo and Conditioner

I have also found a few shower essentials that I have been loving lately! My hair often struggles in the humid weather, but I have found a shampoo and conditioner that are vegan and that tame the frizz! The RenPure Originals Coconut Cream Shampoo and Conditioner are truly amazing additions to my routine, and my hair has definitely benefitted from them! They last quite a while, and are under $5 per bottle!

I also bought two Bath and Body Works shower gels, in Pumpkin Cupcake and Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte. I absolutely love fall scents, so I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Finally, I have been loving two elements of my skincare routine. I have a tradition on Wednesday and Sunday to do a complete detox face mask to keep my skin clean and refreshed. I have been loving the French Green Clay mask by Rainbow.

Green Clay Face Mask and Vitamin C Moisturizer! My skincare staples!
Green Clay Face Mask and Vitamin C Moisturizer! My skincare staples!

This mask is a powder that you can mix with water, banana, or avocado to make a fortifying face mask that is cooling and revitalizing. It has done wonders for my mid-week and end of week skin! I have also been loving my Vitamin C and Sea Buckthorn moisturizer by Now Solutions. This moisturizer smells like oranges, and definitely wakes up my skin in the morning! It is perfect for protecting your skin from the crisp fall air, and wears well under makeup.

I hope you enjoyed my Fall 2016 vegan beauty haul! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you would like to see a skincare routine or everyday makeup routine on YouTube! 🙂

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella.



Vegan Q&A: Being Vegan in College

vegan-qaI am now a few months into eating a completely vegan diet and living a vegan lifestyle, and I thought that it would be fun to answer some of the questions you had about my vegan journey and transition! I adopted a vegan diet for both health and ethical reasons, and it has worked wonders for me in my life journey. I understand that everyone has a different cultural and health background, and I promote adopting the lifestyle that is healthiest for you. That being said, there are many things that people can do to lessen the impact of farming on the environment and on the cruel treatment of animals. If you are interested in learning more, I will leave a few links at the end of this post! So without further ado, let’s get into the questions!

What motivated you to become a vegan? What has been the biggest challenge?

A few years ago if you would have told me that I would be a vegan in the future, I would have laughed and said that I would probably be a vegetarian but definitely not a vegan. My love for cheese and ice cream would never make that possible! However, during my first year of college I faced many health problems that made studying and other day-to-day activities difficult. Despite my attempts to discover what was the root cause, I struggled for many months before determining that it was a sensitivity to meat and dairy. I had been vegetarian for quite a while prior to this discovery, and decided to make the full transition to being vegan. It was by no means an easy transition (there were so many learning curves!), but I would do it all over again a million times over.

I had been a migrainer since age 14, and last year I was having about 1 (or more!) migraines a week. This was very detrimental to my productivity, but I had always assumed that it was stress that was causing them. Once I omitted dairy from my diet, this number dropped dramatically. My last migraine was in July, which is unheard of for me! This alone made the transition completely worth it, and learning more about the ethical considerations for veganism made it a clear choice. I was never excited about eating meat, even as a child, and decided to be primarily vegetarian very naturally in high school. Now that I have made the transition to a vegan diet, my energy levels are consistently higher and my ability to focus is definitely more reliable. That being said, the biggest challenge was maintaining a consistent blood sugar level and adjusting to being a vegan in college.

It’s important to always have snacks with you on the go!

As a vegan you burn through your calories and nutrients much faster than the more complex proteins found in dairy and meat. For me, these complex proteins often left me feeling tired and nauseous, but switching to plant proteins and nutrients left me hungry about every hour. I’ve learned that carrying snacks around with me (KIND bars, mixed nuts, fresh fruit, etc.) helps me to keep consistent blood sugar and energy levels. I also feel as though I am taking better care of my body by giving it raw nutrients and whole foods. 🙂  I’m considering writing a full post about being vegan in college on a budget, so let me know if this is something you would be interested in reading about!

Do you have any tips or alternatives for a girl who loves cheese and crackers, or mac and cheese? 

This is a great question! One of my favorite comfort foods growing up was mac and cheese, and for the longest time the idea of giving up cheese was unthinkable. However, I’ve discovered that Daiya mac and cheese is just as delicious as regular mac and cheese! I’ve also made grilled cheese sandwiches with SmartBalance margarine spread and Daiya cheese melts or shredded cheese! They’re so good and you can’t even tell the difference between them and the ‘real’ thing! Nutritional Yeast is also a great cheese substitute, especially in baking and for pastas. You also don’t have to give up pizza, because Daiya has options for that too! All of their dairy substitutes are so delicious, and quite affordable! 🙂

Have you noticed any differences in your overall health, or how you feel on a daily basis? 

Now that I'm vegan, my mornings are much more energizing :)
Now that I’m vegan, my mornings are much more energizing 🙂

I used to wake up super tired and feeling generally “meh” despite getting enough sleep or nutrition, but now when I wake up I’m always energized and happy. 🙂 Someone asked me the other day to describe how I felt on a daily basis, and the only word that I could think of that came close to describing it is light. Not in a weight sense, but in the fact that I always felt groggy after eating meat/dairy. Once I eliminated these from my diet, I never felt uncomfortably full after a meal. I eat frequently and make sure I’m getting enough calories and nutrients, but I always feel as though I can go through my day without feeling a variation in my overall health as the day goes on. 🙂 I’ve also found that I have had a strengthened immune system, and that my hair and nails are stronger, healthier, and longer now that I have switched to a plant based diet!

Is it difficult to eat out when vegan? How do you know what’s okay for you to eat?

Eating out was definitely a bit difficult at first, but now I’ve learned how to be able to go to most restaurants and find vegan friendly options. I usually like to look at a menu online ahead of time just to make sure that there are going to be a few options that I can choose from (samosas are one of my favorite vegan options, they’re just so delicious!!). Some restaurants have dietary labels and cautions on their menus, and with others I have to double check with the server if the meal has meat or dairy in it. They usually will check with the manager to make sure that it fits a vegan diet. Restaurants are used to getting asked about dietary information, so don’t worry about double checking! I’ve often found that many servers give me recommendations for vegan dishes, and they’ve always been delicious! As a vegan I don’t usually eat out often, but I definitely don’t have to miss out on the opportunity to go to a meal with family or friends. 🙂

Do you have any tips for if you experience a lack of protein and energy?

Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to wake up and start my day!
Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to wake up and start my day!

After a process of trial and error, I have definitely found the routine that maximizes my nutrient consumption and balance. I absolutely love smoothies, so adding vegan protein powders to my breakfast or post-workout snack has been very easy. I have both a chocolate and vanilla variety, and love to use them with peanut butter, chia seeds unsweetened almond milk, and bananas for added nutrition and protein. I find that these smoothies are super easy to make and help to keep me full and energized throughout my day. I bought a personal blender over the summer (Oster MyBlend), and I absolutely love it! The blender compartment turns into a travel mug, so even if I’m in a rush (as many of us are!) I can still manage to have a full and complete meal and keep myself balanced and energized.

I also love to have nut proteins and oats as snacks to fuel my day, as well as fruit and vegetables to make sure that I have enough energy to get through a workout or a long day on campus. It’s definitely a different journey for everyone, but I’ve found that I can now tell what kind of nutrients my body needs as I go through the day. I usually eat a protein-filled meal in the morning, and then snack on some fruits and veggies at work or while working on homework for energy and focus. I also tend to eat more protein after workouts and at the end of the day to make sure I stay full and well nourished. Water is also very important! I make sure to have about a gallon per day (at least two liters), and this helps to keep me full, energized, and ready for the day! 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this Q&A post, and thank you to those who submitted questions! If you have more questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments! Below I will link some of the sites that I have found very helpful as I continued on my vegan journey, and I would love to hear any recommendations that you have!

My Pinterest board on vegan eating

Farm Sanctuary

The Humane League 

It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken


Oh She Glows

©2016 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Vegan Grocery Haul

Vegan Grocery Haul-2A couple of weeks ago I did a vegan lifestyle haul, and received a few questions about how much a week’s worth of vegan groceries costs. Contrary to popular belief, buying vegan groceries doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, it’s often cheaper than buying a “regular” week of groceries! In this post I hope to show you how I plan my shopping, how I budget, and what an average week of vegan groceries looks like. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Meal Planning:

One of the most important parts of shopping is meal planning. One of the ways I reduce my cost is to have all of my ingredients planned out and accounted for. I usually look for vegan recipes on Pinterest, and bookmark ones I want to try. This was my meal plan for this week:



  • Vegan teriyaki strips with brown rice
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Pasta with marinara sauce
  • Dinner leftovers
  • Brown rice with baked beans



  • Fresh fruit
  • Oreo cookies

Budget Shopping

I shop at my local King Soopers, which is a grocery chain similar to Hy-Vee, Price Chopper, and others. I have a Soopers Card, which is a free card that gives me discounts on my purchases. I always look in the newspaper ad to see what sales are going on during the week, and plan out my purchases with both my meal plan and the ad.

What I Bought This Week (and What it Cost)

  • Simple Life Vanilla Almond Milk ($2.79$.30 = $2.49)
  • Fresh Blueberries x2 ($3.49$2.24 = $1.25 each)
  • Rosemary and Garlic Triscuits x2 ($2.89$.89 = $2.00 each)
  • Kroger Just Fruit Strawberry Jam ($2.99$1.20 = $1.79)
  • Nutmeg and Cinnamon (10/$10, $2 total)
  • Silk Almond Creamer x3 in Caramel [2] and Hazelnut [1] ($2.00$1.00 = $1.00 each, buy 3 save $3 sale)
  • Kroger Simple Peanut Butter x2 ($2.29$.50 = $1.79 each)
  • Bananas (bunch of 4) ($.85)
  • Oat and Grain Bread [vegan] ($2.49$.50 = $1.99)
  • Jamba Juice Smoothie mix (2/$5, $2.50 total)
  • Nature’s Path Flax Waffles ($3.79$1.29 = $2.50)
  • Gardein Chik’n Strips [vegan teriyaki chicken strips] ($4.89$1.00 = $3.89)
  • 4 Navel Oranges ($2.36)
  • Kroger Olive Oil [34 fl oz] ($9.99$4.00 = $5.99)
  • Distilled White Vinegar ($.79)
  • Barilla Farfalle Pasta 16oz ($1.49)
  • Kroger Panko [vegan] ($1.49)

TOTAL: $45.15 (with $.30 bag fee and $1.67 tax)

What I’ve Learned

There are a few items that I keep on hand all of the time, and buy in bulk when they are on sale. In the past few weeks, these items were: brown rice, tofu, vegan cheese, vegetable broth, vegetable spread, frozen vegetables, oats, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Oreo cookies.

I also go to a grocery store that offers fuel point rewards, and every month I get at least one $.10 off per gallon reward. I highly recommend these programs to anyone who commutes often!

I used to spend more money on my groceries when I bought “regular” items. Dairy is quite expensive, and I used to be an avid yogurt and cheese fan. Once I realized that going vegan was better for my health personally (I eliminated meat long before dairy), I also found that my paychecks were going further in terms of food. I felt better about what I was putting into my body, and how I was purchasing my food.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Vegan Lifestyle Haul

thewisewillow.com* This is not a paid-for advertorial. All recommendations and opinions are my own. *

Over the past couple of months, I have been making the transition to a vegan lifestyle. Though I decided to go vegan primarily for health reasons, I’ve also realized that I care as much about what I put on my body as what I put in it. In other words, I’ve started to think about what goes into making the product I’m about to use. While much of my focus has been on food and dietary needs (food hauls, what I eat in a day, and recipes coming soon!), I have been reflecting on the products I use every day and their impact.

I went through all of the products that I use on a regular basis and read their ingredients list and animal testing policies. I was shocked at what I discovered. Most of the products I was using without second thought contained animal derived ingredients or promoted animal testing. Today I decided to search for vegan alternatives and start the process of switching both what I eat and what I use every day.

Cruelty-Free vs Vegan: What’s the Difference?

When looking at common household products, there are two terms that often come up. The first is cruelty-free. These products do not use or endorse animal testing of any kind throughout their creation processes. However, these products may contain animal-derived ingredients. Vegan products are cruelty-free and don’t contain animal-derived ingredients. It is important to understand what type of product you are looking for from the start, and both are great alternatives to common products that endorse testing and animal ingredients. I began the search for vegan products, as I am trying to shift away from anything that contains animal ingredients.

Budget Shopping: 

One of the concerns many people have about vegan products is their cost. As I was browsing my local store, I noticed that “regular” products were almost just as expensive, if not more expensive, than vegan ones. I’m someone who loves to save money whenever possible, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the products I selected weren’t any more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts.

Facial Cleanser:

During my first year of college, I relied heavily on the Clean & Clear Sensitive Skin facial cleanser ($4.97). It was relatively cheap and lasted for a very long time. Once I read the ingredients, however, I realized that there was an abundance of harsh chemicals. I have always had sensitive skin that is quick to react to cleansers with loads of artificial chemicals, dyes, and fragrances.

Simple Foaming Facial Cleanser

As I walked along the shelves of facial cleansers, the only vegan product I was able to find is the Simple Foaming Cleanser ($5.97, only $1 more expensive than the Clean & Clear). Though Simple is made by Unilever (which has tested on animals), it doesn’t use animal-derived ingredients or animal testing of its products. This cleanser is free of parabens, sulfates, harsh chemicals, fragrances, and dyes. It is gentle on the skin, and does not contain environmentally damaging microbeads. After using it once, I already love it. My skin already feels much more hydrated!


As someone who has veneers (porcelain covers) on four of my teeth, I am always searching for toothpastes that are both gentle and whitening. I was previously using Crest 3D White Radiant Mint ($4.88), but I knew that there were many intense chemicals in the formula despite it being “enamel safe”. Today I stumbled upon a brand that I have never heard of called Hello.

Hello Supermint Flouride Toothpaste

I purchased the Hello Supermint Fouride Toothpaste ($4.23, cheaper than Crest 3D White!), and am loving it already. It has no dyes, artifical sweeteners, or preservatives and polishes and brightens with natural ingredients. This toothpaste is completely vegan (and advertised as such), as well as BPA free and made in the USA. This toothpaste also doesn’t contain microbeads, making it safer for water supplies and gums. The Supermint flavor tastes amazing as well, which is a huge plus! 🙂

Body Wash:

Yardley London Oatmeal & Almond Bath Bar

Recently I have become quite frustrated with cream body washes. I found it difficult to use a loofah in college as it always retained water and got moldy (super gross), so I was always wasting soap as it slipped out of my hands. I was using the Tone Argan Oil Body Wash ($2.92), which had loads of artifical dyes (it was gold and shimmery!) and fragrances. I have decided to return to bar soap, which has been a great decision. Though it does occasionally slip out of my hands, I don’t feel as though I am wasting product. The soap I have chosen is the Yardley London Oatmeal & Almond Bath Bar ($0.97!). This soap is amazing. It has all natural ingredients (no harsh chemicals or dyes), doesn’t use animal testing or ingredients, and doesn’t feel scratchy like other natural bar soaps.


This past year, I finally found a mascara that didn’t clump or run down my face. This was the Maybelline Lash Sensational in Black Pearl ($6.25). While I loved the product, Maybelline does occasionally use animal testing and ingredients in their cosmetics. Though they claim that their parent company (L’Oreal) no longer tests on animals, they allow exceptions to this rule for other regulations. In other words, animal testing still occurs when reports of rash or infection arise.

E.L.F. Studio Mineral Infused Mascara in Black

I decided to try the E.L.F. Studio Mineral Infused mascara ($3.00, $3.25 cheaper than Lash Sensational) as an alternative. I love it! It doesn’t clump, and gives my lashes a very natural but defined look. It is affordable and has a great wand and simple packaging. I highly recommend it!


I love shimmery eyeshadows, but prefer a neutral everyday look. I have been using the NYX Prismatic eyeshadows ($6 each) due to their color payoff and shimmer. While NYX is cruelty-free, many of their products contain animal-derived ingredients thus making them non-vegan.

E.L.F. Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Peach Please

I picked up the E.L.F. Studio Baked Eyeshadow Trio in Peach Please ($4.00) as an alternative. The shimmer is outstanding, and the color payoff is comparable to that of the prismatic eyeshadows. They are very neutral colors, and all come in one container. They are blendable and buildable, especially with an eyeshadow primer underneath.

Swatches of the three colors in the trio

I took a swatch of the shadows for you to see how they appear on the skin. I have an olive skin tone, and they still show up with vibrant color payoff. They are very blendable, and can be used to create many different looks.

Though they are all contained in the same packaging, I haven’t experienced blending of any kind between the colors. They stay very separated, and the product fallout is minimal. I highly recommend this trio to anyone looking for a vegan alternative!

And that concludes my first vegan lifestyle haul! I’m still looking to replace other items (I tend to do this in waves of products), so I’m always looking for recommendations. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see more of these haul posts, and feel free to ask any questions that you might have! 🙂

© The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.




Alyssa DeBella

21 | Lifestyle blogger | Minimalist | Dreamer ✨| Language Lover 💕| Animal Obsessed ❤️🐶| Double Major 📚| Vegan 🌱 |Traveler ✈️ (currently in: Europe)
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