“So What Do You Eat?” A Day in the Life of a Vegan

As I continue to strive toward a Quality Life, I have been asked many questions- and I truly enjoy sharing what I have learned. The number one question is, “So, what do you eat?”

With my first full year of being plant-based under my belt (Happy Anniversary to me!!!) I can tell you what I eat has become purposeful and, like every cook, I have found a few ‘go to’s’ that keep the family and me happy.

Coffee Lover  

With all of the research claiming that coffee has so many health benefits including cognitive ability (my #1 reason), protection from Parkinson’s, and type 2 diabetes- I haven’t shied away from filling up my mug in the A.M.  My cup a java adds just an extra two or three benefits due to the tsp of Turmeric creamer from Laird superfoods (lairdsuperfoods.com) and the 1/4 cup of almond milk I add in.

IMG_0584

  • turmeric  = curcumin  which has been proven to stop the growth of fat tissues, may reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and much more
  • almond milk= adds protein, calcium and a bit of fiber

*after enjoying a nice warm cup, I can then embrace the idea of dishing up a nutrient dense breakfast

Breakfast – ‘Break the fast’ Ideas

I grew up with the mantra ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  This is your first opportunity to break the fast from the long night of sleep and recharge correctly.  Breakfast has to be something that can be simple and quickly made.  It also has to contain good fats and protein to start me off on the right foot.

Some of my favorite breakfast options include…

sweet potato with banana, nut butter and almonds

IMG_0599overnight oats with nuts, nut butter and fresh fruit

Avocado toast with balsamic glaze and tomatoes

Smoothies with frozen bananas, almond milk, protein powder, spinach/kale, and fresh fruit

Lunch Break 

It is very important that I take a half hour for lunch every day no matter how busy, preoccupied I am at the time.  I mean sit down, take my time and enjoy it.  This has helped my digestion, my cognitive abilities, my evening dinner intake, and my mindset about food; enjoying it instead of thinking of it as a ‘means to an end’.

Some of my favorite lunch options include…

IMG_0581spring mix salad with a black bean burger, shredded carrots, tomatoes, nuts with balsamic/oil

black bean tamales from the farmers marker and guacamole or half an avocado

buddha bowls with brown rice/quinoa, roasted veggies with chickpeas

Dinner Stop

If it sounds like lunch is important, dinner is even more. This is our family time and growing up it was the only time we sat around the table and actually spoke to each other. I still remember going around the table and getting the undivided attention from my family to tell them my “2 goods and 1 bad.”  Even today, when my siblings and mother get together, dinner is an 2 hour or more EVENT that we all look forward to.  I want to carry that tradition with my own kids, so eating together (even if we are eating different foods- as my boys aren’t quite 100% plant-based… YET) is important.

Some of my favorite dinner options include…

IMG_0524black bean, sweet potato tacos

spaghetti with lentils and mushroom bolognese

Ratatouille

white bean puttanesca

  • Purple Carrot has some great plant based recipes if you are looking for ideas

At the end of a long day, I also enjoy a nice glass (or 2) of red wine- a nice long pour.  This may no be the most ‘Vegan’ thing to do, but it is plant-based and I am good with that 🙂

Cheers !

An Herbivore’s Bulk Store Must Haves

My recent trip to “Bulk City” made me think of all the confusion that can occur in a ginormous place like this. I know that a normal grocery store can cause a lot of funnyannoyance and unwanted purchases, so my last trip to this large store was purposeful – I was on a mission to find convenience items that add a PUNCH of healthy benefits for anyone trying to maneuver this plant-based journey with me or someone just trying to make BETTER choices for themselves/family.  I found many staples that come in bulk which saves me MONEY, convenience, and  trips to the grocery story.

#1 BEETS

beet humorI know this is a tough one for many people because they taste like ‘dirt’, but I have always had a fondness for beets- cooked beets were my son’s, Charlie, first real food.

beetWHY beets? Beets contain valuable nutrients that can lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina and even detox your system.  Now with all that goodness, one must be careful because this vegetable contains the highest amount of sugar, so eat in moderation.

(add to your smoothie, chop up and add to an arugula salad or an heirloom tomato salad)

#2 Guacamole and/or Avocadoes

My local bulk store has 2 different kinds of guacamole that are a MUST in my cart.

CaptureWhy Avocados/Guacamole?  This nutrient dense vegetable is a strong antioxidant, 3.4 grams of fiber are in just half an avocado which can keep you feeling full longer, the monounsaturated fats lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, decreases your cholesterol levels.

(add to your smoothie, grill and add to a salad, half and slice and add to a soup, or mash up and add to whole grain toast, tomatoes, and a balsamic glaze, or just half, add a sprinkle of Himalayan salt and eat)

#3 Whole Grains, Bread and Crackers

Lets be honest- we all go to these stores for the bulk items, and these items are perfect.  I grab the bread and freeze what I don’t use for later.  I have purchased the quinoa and brown rice pouches for convenience add ins for our dinners.  My entire family grabs a handful of these crackers for snack, a perfect side to soups, sandwiches or to dip in our guacamole and hummus (also a top pick).

  • My favorite choices are pictured below because of their ingredients.
    • Turmeric: cancer fighter, natural anti-inflammatory, detoxifier, aids in fat metabolism
    • lentils, quinoa: high in protein,
    • flax, chia : high in fiber

Why Whole Grain?   Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance you don’t want to miss out on the nutrients that come from whole grains. Whole grains provide you with fiber that can control blood sugar and reduce your colon cancer risk due to their digestive support, plant-based proteins that support weight, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

#4 BEANS

I do, on occasion, grab some canned beans or my favorite bagged Garbanzos in bulk for convenience.  I prefer using my pressure cooker to make beans because it is cheaper and you can control the add-ins. beans

Why beans?  Well, this is an easy answer- PROTEIN and FIBER

(beans can replace the animal protein in almost any recipe- can even add protein to a blondies recipes)

#5  Kombucha

I have a few neighbors that make their own kombucha, and this is a summer goal of mine but until then I will be purchasing mine in bulk from Costco.

1Why Kombucha?  Kombucha is a beverage known as the ‘immortal health elixir’  is fermented which adds a large number of healthy bacteria (probiotics) to the drink.  These bacteria line your digestive tract and support immune system which we have discovered is our ‘second brain’. If you have an unhappy gut, you have an unhappy life.

I no longer consume dairy, it is difficult for me to get probiotics- and with all the beans I am consuming- my digestion (bloating) needs all the help it can get. My boys love kombucha and ask for it when their tummies are upset or they want something instead of water to quench their thirst.  It is high in sugar, so I wouldn’t recommend it at every meal.

#6 Fresh Produce Aisle

This is a no brainer- I never skip this section even when I am already freezing. I fight the cold to grab the large salad containers, extra large berry bins, Banana bunches, English cucumbers, large cruciferous vegetable bags,- we go through these so quickly that it is a staple every time. We freeze the extra fruits for smoothies and eat up the veggies before we even know it.

#7 Must -Haves

I don’t know how anyone walks out of this place with only a few items.  Every aisle has something that makes an herbivores life easier, fancier, and a little bit more exciting. (sounds like an oxymoron, right)

Almond milk cartons– IN BULK!!!!

Salad toppers – nut mix

larabarsLara bars – yes, I have a recipe for these, but some times convenience wins

Trail mix and nuts

frozen black bean burgers – I prefer making my own because I know exactly what they are made out of, but (again) having the ability to just throw one on the grill and add onto a salad makes for an easy lunch during my summer

hhHemp Hearts- I don’t always have to purchase this large bag, but I keep enough around the house to add to muffins, smoothies, and pancake batter for added protein.

Nuttzo Nut and Seed Butter– filled with 7 nuts and seeds: cashew, almond, Brazilian, flax, chia, hazel, and pumpkin seeds – the boys love the texture and I love the added benefit of flax and chia.

The trip to your local ‘bulk store’ does not have to be overwhelming. With this list in hand, I hope you will find it purposeful and productive. “And may your vegan life NEVER be boring!”

funny1

Overcoming the Challenges (of a Plant-Based Diet)

 

I admit that changing my diet from animal protein focused to a whole food, plant-based lifestyle has been challenging, and every single day I overcome obstacles and negative thoughts.

I have discovered a few tricks to keep me focused on this journey and, admittedly, become very forgiving to myself. With all the health benefits that come with a plant-based diet,- mental clarity, lower cholesterol, diabetes 2, and cancer risks, increased energy– adopting this lifestyle change can become very overwhelming and the ‘judgement’ can start taking a toll on your fortitude.

The challenges that I have faced are small compared to what they could be if I were still eating an animal protein based diet, but they are significant enough to talk about.  As some of these obstacles could discourage some people from trying this lifestyle change. So, I have discovered a few things/ideas that have helped me stay on track.

  1. Think-Ahead

I have been to a few events and even hosted a few dinners since ‘the switch’.  I hate being a burden or seeming like my lifestyle should dictate those around me, so I plan ahead as much as I possibly can.  lunch

I meal prep breakfast and lunch weekly, so I don’t head to work without options.

Eat before an event

Bring a side-dish or 2 to a dinner that everyone can eat from, including myself

A few recipe books have come in handy this past year that have helped the ‘boring’ become a lot more interesting.

imagesdownload (2)

2.  80/20

I have had animal protein in my diet since I can remember. Sometimes texture and the smell are too much for me to say ‘no’ to.  Dr. M. Gregor pushes in his book, How Not to Die,

images

the 80/20 rule- 80 % of your diet should be plant-based, with 20% of your weekly or images (1)monthly diet can consist of animal products – This 80/20 rule keeps me from blowing it all together, helps me forgive myself for the little self control that I tend to have sometimes.

Add in VegetablesWhen I get home, a frozen pizza might just be the ideal dinner plan.  If I just add in extra vegetables to the pizza, eat a salad for my Main course- then the guilt doesn’t set in.  The other night, we had a vegetable frozen pizza, and I added artichoke hearts, spinach, and extra bell peppers while it warmed in the oven. I ate one slice with a LARGE spring salad (from my veggie garden) It was a perfectly, quick meal.

3.  Remember your WHY.

Why did you make this lifestyle change?

I became plant-based because I did not feel good. Then, as I read more about it, the diet became a reason to live a longer more QUALITY lifestyle.  When I start to get ‘bored’ or weary, I remember my WHY. This helps me stay on track.

4. My Kids

I have two young boys, and I get a lot of questions and comments about my lifestyle change and how it affects my children/husband. (everyone’s concern for my children’s well being is appreciated) BUT, In my mind, I am thinking that the ‘normal’ western diet affects children more than a plant-based diet- but that is why it is the ‘norm’- the western world has grown up believing and hearing how good MILK is for your bones, how important chicken breast is in your diet, and how vital eggs are for a protein boost in the morning.  so, I keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to be ‘one of those VEGANS’IMG_5674

My children will take a little bit longer to transition than I did, but I have already seen the affects my diet has made on them. I try to keep the 80/20 rule the focus of our meals with the boys, and I encourage fruits/vegetables for seconds and snacks.

Sugar intake has always been of high importance in my family (whole-food sugar options trump FAKE sugar, no juice, and CANDY is a very special treat)- as this was my first real lifestyle change, so the boys know that candy, cookies, and cupcakes are always special and not very frequent.  This does not mean that they are deprived of these choices- I can make some killer baked treats (of course, with a few healthy adjustments).

5. The “full-factor’

download (1)For a while there, I just needed that sense of fullness that I got when I was eating animal protein.  So, to compensate for that – I was CARB LOADING.  I was falling into the same pitfalls that many plant-based eaters do that run out of time, eat in a hurry, and don’t plan ahead. I needed to manage this, so I started using the Myfitnesspal app. This app has helped me keep track of my calories, macronutrients, and water intake. It took me about 2 weeks of consistent use to get back on track, understand what foods mattered and come back to portion control.

 

Plant Based Protein Mindset

proteinThe very first question people ask me when I talk about my whole food plant-based diet is, “What do you eat for protein?” This is a great concern (only when someone says they are a vegan), as our bodies are made up of 20% protein and all of our metabolic processes rely on the amino acids that make up the proteins that we eat.

Many people find animal proteins superior to the plant based proteins because they contain all essential amino acids.  But, there are a plant-based proteins that contain all essential amino acids – quinoa, buckwheat, soy, chia, and hempseed.  With the mindset of variety, a plant based eater can come away with the correct daily amount of protein and amino acids (.4 grams of protein/ 1 lbs of weight), plus the appropriate amount of fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and fewer grams of cholesterol, antibiotics, and carcinogens.

For the last 7 months, my primary source for protein has come from plants, and I can tell you it has improved my…

energy levels
mind clarity
sleeping routine
BMI
digestion
skin, hair and nail health

This weekend, I prepared breakfast and lunch with the mindset of keeping my protein intake at its all time high. Here is how I did it …

Whole Wheat Waffles with almond milk yogurt  (click for recipe)

oatmeal cranberry, orange muffins with almond milk yogurt (click for recipe)

I added a combined 3 TBSP of hempseed and 3 TBSP of chia within both recipes which increased the protein for both of these recipes to an additional 16 grams. (2 grams/serving) The use of whole wheat flour adds 13 grams of protein/ 1 cup.  (2 grams/serving)

For lunch, I prepared

lunch

Mason Jar salads with black beans and quinoa

roasted vegetables with 1 cup of brown ricesalad

The quinoa and black beans that were added to the mason jar salads gives me 15 grams of protein. Not to mention the cup of spinach already adding 5 more grams.

The roasted vegetables that I cooked for my Buddha bowls includes (1/2 c of each of these vegetables)

Brussel sprouts = 2 groasted veggies 1
broccoli = 2.3 g
carrots= 1g
butternut squash =1g
beets = 1g
1 c of brown rice = 5 g

By the time I get to dinner, I will have consumed 3/4s of my protein intake goal for the day by focusing on plant based, whole-foods that add fiber, minerals, vitamins and nutrients (Which I wasn’t getting from the animal proteins from my previous diet.)

While many people think it is difficult to consume enough protein as a vegan or vegetarian (or a plant based eater)- IT ISN’T!

 The key is a plant based protein mindset – eat a variety of whole foods, focus on opportunities to add-in high  protein plant food, and avoid the processed snacks and refined foods.

Mix-n-Match Your Ingredients for Lunch Variety

When it comes to lunch, I am lucky if I get time to sit down and actually enjoy it. Therefore, I rely heavily on items that can be consumed or reheated conveniently. Many trends out there help with this task. Tasty Vegetarian is a great Buzzfeed app that contains a library of recipe videos that have helped me create my meal prep arsenal. These four categories keep me from the lunch rut because of variety, but they are also easy to prep on the weekends for quick meal prepping. Make a large batch for dinner Sunday night and store the rest for lunches.

Mason Jar Salads (choose as many from each category and mix-n-match)mason jar salad

Flavor Boosters

Vinaigrette – Newman’s Own is my preferred store bought brand
Green onions
Guacamole
Basil, mint, cilantro
Dried Italian seasoning with avocado oil
Balsamic vinegar
Nuts- roasted, unsalted
Dried fruit
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Corn
Peppers

Hearty Fillers

Whole-wheat orzo
Quinoa
Beans
Roasted squash (butternut, acorn, zucchini)
Farro
Black-eyed peas
Brown or wild rice
Roasted sweet potato
Roasted Brussel sprouts
Shredded carrots
Diced celery

Healthy Greens

Baby Kale
Spring mix
Arugula
Spinach
Romaine
Butter lettuce
Spiraled zucchini/beets

Veggie Burgers Galore

I really like having a veggie burger on standby. Add a whole-wheat roll or bun, vegan mayonnaise (so delicious), lettuce, tomato- and you have a very hearty lunch. I can add these to my Buddha Bowls, Pastas or salads as extra protein. Most importantly, they are simple to make and this Buzzfeed video from Tasty Vegetarian makes it look just that.

Buddha Bowl or Grain Bowl(choose as many from each category and mix-n-match)

*not plant based

Flavor Boosters

Green onionsbuddha bowl
Basil, mint, cilantro
Dried Italian seasoning with avocado oil
Balsamic vinegar
Nuts- roasted, unsalted
Dried fruit
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Corn
Peppers
Lime
Chili peppers
Lemon
Feta*
Tahini sauce
Annie’s- dressing
Pomegranate seeds

ProteinIMG_5220

Quinoa
Roasted sweet potato
Beans
Chickpeas
Edamame
*shredded or grilled chicken
* ground beef

Hearty Fillers- keep in mind many of these have protein

Whole-wheat orzo
Roasted squash (butternut, acorn, zucchini)
Farro
Black-eyed peas
Brown or wild rice
Roasted Brussel sprouts
Couscous

Fresh Vegetables- keep in mind these have protein

Baby Kale
Spring mix
Arugula
Spinach
Romaine
Butter lettuce
Spiraled zucchini/beets
Radishes
Shredded carrots
Diced celery

Pastas (choose a pasta and 1 or 2 from each category, mix-n-match and enjoy)Steam some veggies and add protein of choice.

 This one is fun and SO EASY! Boil a large pot of water and add in your pasta. Whole grain or whole-wheat pasta is, in my opinion, the best because it is less processed. Side note: Whole-wheat pasta (1 cup) provides 23% of your fiber – love that heartiness- and 16% of your protein. Spiraled zucchini or beets are great choices as well.

17139375a3e5d2420a45104e79c0bcb6My favorite pasta recipe comes from Cookie and Kate

farfalle pasta, broccoli, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, garlic, red chili flakes, and avocado oil

If you are a Pinterest troll like me, follow my Wellness board for some of my favorite recipes. Capture

5 Easy Prep Breakfast Ideas and Tips

 

At 6 a.m. every morning, when I am trying to get myself ready, my two young boys up and dressed, and everyone out of the door by 6:40, breakfast is the last thing on my mind. All I really want is a cup of coffee, so it is very important that I pre-make my breakfasts on the weekend if I am wanting to stay on track and not disturbing my colleagues with stomach growls.  I have found 5 recipes and tips that have been game changers for me.

  1. Homemade Granola Best Granola Ever

I use these steps to make granola every weekend, and I use this granola oIMG_5224n almost everything. I eat it like cereal with some almond milk, sprinkle it in my almond milk yogurt for some crunch, sprinkle it on my muffins before baking them or add it to my baked sweet potato.  I have even been caught pouring some out in my hand while making dinner for a quick pick me up!

larabars2. LaraBars  (link to DA My Health.com)

I used to spend a ton of money on individually packaged Larabars – few ingredients and good for you ingredients, but expensive.IMG_5227(I am pretty sure I was just paying for the packaging), but then I discovered this great website that has every recipe imaginable.  I started making these last week, and they were easy and quick- code for Breakfast Must Haves!

A container of 16 Larabars from Amazon can cost 17$. – not really cost affective when I can spend $20 to make twice that amount. Place them in parchment paper or a Ziploc bag and store them in the fridge.

3. Baked Sweet Potatoes sweet pot

Yes, baked sweet potatoes.  Why? They are so versatile. sweet ptIMG_5226I can make this every week and never feel like I am having the same thing every time because there are so many ways to top them. Plus, they have great vitamin and protein benefits.

 

 

 

f9107e3069b14e5841a14667afd785e64. Oatmeal

Steele cut oats have become a favorite breakfast staple. And like everything else on this list, it is because it never gets old.  I can add any flavor booster, nuts of any kind, natural sweeteners and fruit.  With a side of almond milk yogurt, you can’t go wrong. Heather Barnett has a great blog about oatmeal topics that will help.  If you follow this link, you can even print the article for easy use.

5. Bread Loaves and MuffinsIMG_5225

I have always loved banana nut bread, cranberry bread, lemon-blueberry Muffins in the mornings.  As a plant based dieter, I have had to stop grabbing the premade items from the grocery and start making them ahead of time.  Good News!!!! These are easily frozen if you are wanting to make large batches.

A few tips to keep these on the healthy side and high protein.

a. whole wheat flour, coconut flour or almond flour

b. almond milk (highest protein content of the dairy-free alternatives) instead of milk

c. applesauce, almond milk yogurt or pureed pumpkin instead of the oil or butter

d. Himalayan salt (adding 84 minerals including calcium and iron)

e. fresh add-ins – orange zest, fresh cranberries, lemon zest, fresh apples, bananas, spiraled zucchini, nuts

f. Egg replacer (if you are vegan) Bob’s Red Mill makes a great replacer, flex eggs (1TBSP of flex meal mixed with 2 Tbsp of water- mix and sit until you get a scrambled egg consistency) pumpkin puree, applesauce or mashed bananas are also egg replacers in baked goods.

 

Cut Your Weekly Meal Prep Down by Half

If blocking out an afternoon of your Sunday to meal prep for the week sounds tragic, I am with you. With the amount of laundry that piles up all week, grocery shopping, and house cleaning that has been neglected- I sometimes feel like just sitting on the couch, binge watching Netflix and hiding from all the ‘To-Do’s”.

After choosing to become plant based, I had to start preparing my meals ahead of time to keep me from starving to death or caving to the cravings. I have been preparing breakfast and lunch for my husband and myself for the last 6 months, and within that time I have discovered some tricks that have cut down my meal prep from 2 1/2 hours to just 60 minutes. In this short time, I am able to prepare 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches for both of us and prepare batches of some key ingredients needed throughout the week for dinner.

Here are a few of the top time and $ saving tips that have given me back some time with my family.

Tip #1

Take the time to write down your meal ideas BEFORE heading to the grocery store or adding to your online grocery CART- Walmart pick up Moms Unite!

Saturday morning I sit on the couch, drink a cup of coffee and plan my meals. I troll Pinterest and some of my favorite recipe books to help keep me from a food rut. This 30-minute task allows me to organize by day of the week, meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and snacks.

Yes, I am one of those people who has the weekly dinner plan food prepon a chalkboard in the kitchen. Not only does this help me stay on budget, it keeps me from the agonizing phrase, “What am I going to cook for dinner?”, which is usually a time I dread after a long day at work. When I know what I am making for dinner, then I  usually don’t have such terrible thoughts about preparing it. (plus, if I have planned really well- most of the grains, legumes are already prepared and ready to be added)

Stick to your list. With just a few staple pantry items and herbs/spices –you can save a lot.

Tip #2

(This kind of goes a long with #1) Lean on Fall Back Meals

lentil soupI am a sucker for soup!!! I love making soup because I can just throw together a bunch a veggies, legumes, and veggie broth in no time. Plus, it is always a hit at my house- throw a grilled cheese together and everyone is happy (even my 4 and 6 year old). I actually made lentil soup last night, which also became todays lunch. https://pin.it/777l3uzm5enasi   From CookieandKate.com

Bake sweet potatoes – they can be used for breakfast (a little bit of nut butter, cinnamon, chopped nuts and a banana) or with black beans and roasted broccoli for a quick lunch.

Roasted Veggies is also a go-to meal that I prepare almost weekly.

This allows for so much variety, and it isroasted veggies so easy and FAST.

Chop up all your veggies (especially roots), add garlic salt, balsamic vinegar,

And roast at 375 for about 30-40 minutes.

  • Many of these items can all be cooked at the same time, which can also Save on time.

 

 

Tip #3

Icontainersnvest in quality containers and food storage totes.

Enther makes great containers that are BPA free, airtight 2 or 3 compartment containers that are microwave and dishwasher safe. I actually have 3 other people at my work already using these to meal prep. A set of 20 is only $16.50.

 

Or buy mason jars of all sizes to store your batches and Lunches.

Tip #4

Prepare Batches of…

Grains

Legumes

Quinoa

Buy a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot!

These are great ‘Go-To’ items to add to soups, Buddha bowls, oatmeal, sides etc…

These are just a few tips that have helped set me up for success.   I am always looking for more ideas, more quick ‘go-to’ recipes, so please leave any ideas in the comment section.