Micro & Macro Nutrients

One of the first questions I get when I tell someone I am vegan is if I take a bunch of vitamins. The truth is no, I don’t take any vitamins. A lot of vegan do use supplements, but I am horrible about remembering to take medication and vitamins, so I have opted out of it. Not to mention, I would much rather get my micro and macro nutrients from natural sources. My doctor is aware of my dietary choices and my blood work looks great, so I am currently not worried about it.

Protein is a huge concern for people when learning about a vegan lifestyle. I have heard a million times “what about protein?”, but what people don’t realize is there are ton of non-meat protein sources. Here are some helpful tips for including protein-rich foods in your daily life.

  • Almonds, peanuts, cashews and other nuts are famous for being protein-packed. You can make cheese and mayo spreads from cashews. You can make almond butter and peanut butter to spread on your toast or eat with fruit. I love to make our own trail mix with cashews, almonds, dried cranberries, dried coconut, and pumpkin seeds for a protein-filled snack.
  • Chickpeas are ones of my favorite foods. I eat them almost every day and they are so versatile. They can be seasoned and baked for an on-the-go snack or added to your salad. Regular cooked chickpeas are even great for salads. I love hummus. It’s one of my staple lunch foods. You can make your own or buy some already made and there are dozens of different flavor options. You can choose from crushed red pepper, garlic, original, artichoke, jalapeno lemon, dill, or any other flavor that you prefer. I usually pack hummus with some baby carrots and celery for part of my lunch at work. We also love to eat hummus with corn tortillas. You should definitely try it sometime!
  • Tofu is another great protein option. We don’t eat much tofu because I worry about too much soy intake, but a lot of vegetarians and vegans enjoy tofu in their recipes. A lot of Indian inspired dishes include tofu. It takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, so when we do use tofu, we like to add a lot of spices. It is even an option for some cheese alternatives such as the ricotta in lasagna.
  • I’m sure this comes as a no-brainer for you, but beans are a great protein source too. Beans and rice are an awesome budget-friendly meal. We love vegan chili and it is packed with beans and warms up great as leftovers. A lot of vegan brownie recipes call for black beans too. I am not a baker, so I haven’t tried my hand at making brownies, but I think it’s a great idea.

Iron deficiency (anemia) is a concern that I personally have. Women are at a higher risk for anemia than men, but vegetarian and vegans alike are concerned with the decrease in iron-rich foods. Meat products are a large component of iron in people’s diets, so being vegan means being in-the-know about alternatives.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach are great sources of iron. Broccoli is great raw or steamed. Kale and spinach are incredibly versatile ingredients. They can be eaten in salads, wraps, and sandwiches. I like to massage my kale before eating it raw because it mellows out the flavor and texture, but my husband loves the strong taste. They are also great cooked in soups because they wilt and coordinate well with many flavors. Because of the vitamin K substance in dark green leafy vegetables, I suggest consulting your doctor if you take the medication Coumadin (Warfarin) before increasing your consumption of these foods. If you are taking Coumadin, the vitamin K could decrease the medication’s effectiveness.
  • Soy products such as tofu and tempeh are packed with iron too!
  • Pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds are great sources of iron. Pumpkin seeds can be bought in bulk and added to trail mix. You can also season and bake fresh pumpkin seeds. Any of these can be added to salads for a bit of extra crunch or, if you make your own bread, you can add sesame and/or flax seeds to your loaf.
  • A physician I used to work with told me that coconut palm sugar is an ingredient she uses when she becomes anemic. I started using it in moderation instead of regular white sugar and I haven’t even noticed a difference in taste.

Vitamin D is a micro-nutrient that people in the northeast (vegans and non-vegans alike) struggle to consume enough of. Companies have actually resorted to fortifying some foods with vitamin D (such as cereals and dairy products). Living in an area that doesn’t see much sunshine can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency because our skin is made to create the vitamin from the sun’s exposure. This is a large contributor to seasonal depression.

  • Mushrooms are an easy-additive for vitamin D intake. We add mushrooms to many of our favorite foods including salads, sandwiches, sauces, pizzas, soups and anything else that we can sneak it into. Mushrooms have a lot of medicinal properties and some studies suggest that the consumption of mushrooms on a daily basis can decrease a person’s risk for cancer.
  • Just like cow’s milk, some almond and soy milks are fortified with vitamin D. We prefer unsweetened original almond milk, but you should use what you think tastes best.
  • If you have the opportunity to enjoy sunlight, it’s the best (and cheapest) way to increase your vitamin D intake. Being outside with exposed skin allows your body to create vitamin D intrinsically.
  •  Oh, tofu has vitamin D too!

 

There are so many foods that are nutrient dense and contain one or more of the above listed items. A lot of people utilize tools and apps such as “MyFitnessPal” to track their micro and macro-nutrients. I personally have decided to eat intuitively instead of tracking, but you should find what works best for you. With any diet or lifestyle change, it may get a good idea to have a conversation with your doctor beforehand. He/She will be able to guide you in the best health-conscious direction for your body’s specific needs.

Knowledge is power.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

A Day of Thanks

It’s officially the day of thanks in the United States. I don’t care how cliche this sounds, but I think that we should focus on what we have to be thankful for more than one day a year. In one of my first blogs I wrote about how I first started journaling, with my grateful lists. Every day I would write at least five things that I am grateful for that day. I challenge you to start your grateful list and continue it until the new year.

I don’t want to talk about the politics surrounding Thanksgiving or if we should or should not celebrate it, but I do want to touch base on what Thanksgiving means to me. To me, it’s all about getting family together. It’s an excuse to all sit down at the table and have a meal together. It’s a reason to travel and enjoy the presence of the people that we have with us (and the memories of those that are no longer here).

What are your plans this year? It’s our first year hosting Thanksgiving at our home and I have to admit that I am very nervous. We will be having my husband’s family over for their (and our) first vegan Thanksgiving dinner. I have faith that everything will be okay, but of course I am nervous that a million things could go wrong. If you know me, you know that I am not the chef in the house. My idea of cooking is whatever is easiest while still tasting amazing. So, because I am the one doing most of the planning, I’m hoping this will be an easy-yet-tasty day for all.

It’s weird to think that this holiday (one that is surrounded by the idea of food) is based upon one specific meat product. It’ll be interesting to see what my in-laws think of our stuffed butternut squash instead of a turkey. Fingers crossed.

So being that it is the day before Thanksgiving, I spent the night at the grocery store fighting the crowd of procrastinators (no shame, I am one of them) and now am baking tomorrow’s desserts. I do not love baking to say lightly. It’s never something I look forward to, so it has been a test to my patience. I have already forgotten to grease the pie pan (Pyrex dish because I forgot to buy a pie dish) for the pumpkin pie and added way too much vegetable shortening to the cranberry & blueberry crisp (because I didn’t double check the measuring spoon). But now I am sitting down, taking a deep breath, and allowing myself to be proud that I did it and that no matter how it all turns out tomorrow, we will have had hosted our first (vegan) Thanksgiving with my in-laws.

On a semi-related subject, I started a new job this week. On my second day, they had me pick an option for the Christmas party coming up. The options were prime rib, chicken, or lasagna…so the conversation of me being a vegan arose. It took all of one and a half days for the subject to come up. And then the questions started about what I can (and cannot) eat. They were super nice about it and curious which I am incredibly grateful for, but it’s always an anxiety-inducing topic. I never know if it will become a lecture about protein intake, calories, and calcium (especially when the audience is a bunch of nurses). No, I can’t have ice cream. No, I can’t eat eggs. But I CAN eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes… The only things I can’t have are animal products. When they hear about how much weight I’ve lost and how well my body has adapted and is now digesting, there usually isn’t much of an objection heard. And of course, since it’s Thanksgiving time, they wondered about the turkey. For some people it’s crazy to think about a food-based holiday being tampered with. But I will tell you, once I listed what foods we were having (green bean casserole, stuffed butternut squash, stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce…) I’m pretty sure everyone would have loved to come for dinner. It’s not that much different from a “regular” Thanksgiving dinner – just a few substitutions and a different main course. No big deal.

If we can do this, so can you.

Whatever your Thanksgiving plans may be, I hope you are surrounded by people you love, devour the food you enjoy, and create memories to be cherished this holiday season.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Chinese and Burgers and Vegans…Oh My!

I often hear “I could never do that” when people find out that I’m vegan. Either they would miss hamburgers, Chinese food, cheese… but guess what… you don’t have to go without. There are so many amazing recipes out there that will curb any craving. We are so lucky that we have the internet today, so these recipes are right at our fingertips. When we find a new favorite, we write it on index cards with where the recipe is from and file it into our box. Here are two of the recipes we tried this week and will be making again soon.

Sweet and Sour Chickpeas Peppers Broccoli: This recipe was found on veganricha.com and is so amazing that we are actually going to have it again tonight. It was super quick and easy (we already had all of the ingredients at home). Including prep and cook time, it takes about thirty minutes to finish.

Sweet and sour sauce:
-1/4 cup sugar (I used 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp coconut palm sugar)
-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
-2-3 tbsp rice vinegar
-1.5 tbsp ketchup
-2 tsp soy sauce
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-2 tbsp water

Chickpeas and vegetables:
-1 tsp oil
-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
-1/2 large red bell pepper thinly sliced
-1/2 green bell pepper thinly sliced
-1 cup small broccoli florets
-15 ounces chickpeas or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
-generous dash salt, pepper, and cayenne

To Thicken:
-2 tbsp water
-2 tsp cornstarch

Instructions:
1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside
2. Heat oil over medium high heat on a large skillet. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent.
3. Add the peppers and mix in. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the broccoli and mix in. Cover and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the chickpeas, sauce ingredients, a generous dash of salt, black pepper and cayenne. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
6. Taste the sauce carefully and adjust to preference. Add more sour, sugar, or salt.
7. Mix cornstarch in room temperature water and add the mixture to the pan. Mix in. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce thickens.
8. Garnish with sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and and scallions and serve with cooked rice or grain of choice.

Tips: Instead of a half of each bell pepper, we used one whole green pepper. They are cheaper where we live and then we would have less possible waste. Additionally, we used cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, but really anything would be great with this dish. We only added sesame seeds for garnish, but it was delicious without the scallions or red pepper flakes anyway.

 

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burger with Basil Aioli: This recipe is from Wellvegan.com and will curb any craving of a delicious burger without the animal cruelty. Not to mention, the aioli is seriously to die for. I would put it on anything (and I am not even a mayo person). My husband and I loved them so much that we both had two each and I have been thinking about them all morning. This is super easy and beats any vegan frozen burger (or even restaurant burger) we have had.

Vegan Aioli Ingredients:
– 1 cup Vegan Mayo
– 3 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press
– 24 fresh basil leaves, thinly slivered
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– salt
– fresh ground pepper

Portobello Burger Ingredients:
– 4 large portobello mushrooms, wiped clean with dampened paper towels
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1 tomato, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
– 1 bunch arugula, washed and spun dry
– 4 hamburger buns
– salt
– fresh ground pepper

Instructions:
1. To make the basil aioli: combine all ingredients for aioli in a small bowl and mix with a whisk

2. For the Portobello Burgers: Cut the stems off the portobello mushrooms flush with the mushroom caps. Using the tip of a  paring knife, make tiny holes in the caps.

3. Combine the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Generously brush the portobello caps and mushroom slices with some of the oil and vinegar mixture and season them with salt and pepper.

4. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

5. Arrange the portobello caps, rounded side down, grill until nicely browned and soft, about 3-6 minutes per side.

6. Spread the inside of the rolls or buns with basil aioli. Add the grilled mushrooms, tomato slices, and arugula.

Tips: We decided not to marinade and grill the tomatoes and instead we just sliced fresh tomato and topped the burgers with them. I used JUST mayo, but you can use any vegan mayo. You could even make your own! I know that plantbasedcookingshow.com has a couple recipes available and I have never tried a recipe of hers that I haven’t liked. She even has a chipotle mayo recipe that is amazing and definitely didn’t last long in my house.

 

I strongly suggest you try one (or both) of these recipes! You will not regret it. I am no chef, but I know my food and these were both delicious and super easy to make. They’d be great weekday meals or just special treats when you are having a special craving. Are you having non-vegan friends over for dinner? These would be great meals to have them try too – as long as there are no food allergy issues. The sweet and sour chicken tastes just like something I would get from my favorite take-out place. You could even sub-out the chickpeas for tofu! Play around with these and let me know what you think. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Vegan Wedding Guest

We have been meat-free for about five months now and vegan for only a month and a half. It’s been a relatively easy transition and in day-to-day “normal” life, there haven’t been any issues. I was, however, nervous about attending a wedding for the first time while having dietary restrictions. I hate making a fuss and was wondering how on earth I could make sure I eat and feel well-nourished while keeping things low-key about my lifestyle. If you are vegetarian or vegan, chances are that you know how these sorts of conversations can go. Mostly everyone that I have encountered is accepting of veganism, but some become defensive of their lifestyle in response. I will reserve my comments on how I have handled those sorts of situations for a later blog post. Needless to say, I wanted this to be a comfortable, fun, and mostly covert mission. This required a bit of planning, but mostly we just winged it.

What we did know was that we would be driving about four hours each way and staying in a hotel overnight. We decided to bring an insulated cooler bag with us and filled it with our favorite snacks from home. These snacks included clementines, apples, almonds, dates, raisins, rice cakes, and peanut butter. We didn’t make a special grocery trip, just packed what we had available at home. We even brought our own utensils that we could use and wash later if needed. Oh, and don’t forget water! We packed a couple mason jars full of water for our trip with plans to refill them when needed. We were so happy that we brought our own snacks instead of having to stop for something to eat along the way (because we forgot to eat breakfast before we left…ooops). So for breakfast we had almonds and fruit with water.

When we got there, we had over an hour to spare. After locating the venue, we finally went on a hunt for food. Sandwiches have become our guilty pleasure recently, so we found ourselves at a sub shop. We ordered a veggie sub sans cheese to share. They only charging us for the vegetables and bread that we wanted. We ended up paying less than $3 for a sub that we expected to cost us $13. I was so shocked and grateful (and full). If I could give you one tip for going to a wedding or event that might not be vegan-friendly, I would say to eat ahead of time. I’m sure my husband was glad we stopped for food because I get really grumpy when I’m hungry.

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and the couple looked so happy and in love. It has been a long time since I’ve been a guest at a wedding and not the photographer. It was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the personal vows without having to worry about capturing every moment.

The cocktail hour was a lifesaver. There were so many fresh fruits and vegetables available. I filled up on cauliflower, watermelon, honeydew melon, and any other produce that I could find. A lot of weddings include veggies with dips or salads. Most veggie dips are not dairy-free, but the vegetables are! You could dip your veggies in vinegar if you find some at a salad station. Not to mention, salads are great too! Fill your plate with lots of greens to satiate your hunger. Balsamic vinegar (or oil and vinegar in a pinch) work as great salad dressings that are often available. Any option that you enjoy and is offered, take advantage of!

When dinner was ready to be served, I was still full from the cocktail hour. I ended up ordering one of the options and giving the meat to a family member while keeping the roasted vegetables for myself. You could always just ask the staff if they could send you a plate of whatever vegetables they have (with no butter added) or a salad instead of a meat option. I’m sure a lot of places could accommodate that! God forbid there weren’t viable options, I packed almonds and dates that would give me a substantial caloric intake to get by on.

After dancing and partying with family, we walked to our hotel and took our shoes off. We were so tired from traveling and then celebrating with our loved ones. But we were also super hungry! So we ordered a pizza for delivery without cheese, but with our favorite toppings (pineapple and jalapenos – go ahead and judge, you pineapple haters, but it is delicious). It was a great way to end an awesome day.

Our hotel offered complimentary breakfast and we fully took advantage of that. I ate some assorted fruits (orange slices, melon, and pineapple) with a slice of peanut butter toast. I also grabbed an apple to-go for the ride home. Oh, and don’t forget about water! They had water in one of the juice fountains and you could fill your cups (or mason jars) as you please. I took full advantage of that.

We were still on the way home around lunch time. We stopped for flatbread sandwiches (surprise, surprise) at a local shop off the highway. And then we continued on our journey home.

Sure, we definitely didn’t eat the healthiest, but we stuck to our guns and made it work for us. We definitely could have subbed out the sandwiches (pun intended) for salads. We also could have snacked on our healthy treats that we packed instead of devouring an entire pizza, but life is about balance. It’s about eating your chickpea and spinach salads (which I am currently enjoying while writing this), but also eating pizza and sandwiches sometimes too.

Maybe next time we will do things differently and make healthier decisions, but I definitely don’t regret the decisions we made. We got to enjoy some of our favorite foods and had a great time celebrating with family.

Don’t think of these types of events as a struggle, but instead as a challenge. Be creative and make it work for you and your family.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Traveling Vegan

Traveling while living a vegan lifestyle can be challenging, but there are some tips and tricks to help make things more manageable.

  1. Pack snacks: Finding healthy and vegan snacks can be difficult, but not when you are prepared. I recently went on a bus trip with my mom to NYC for the day. I was so glad that I packed snacks to tie me over until we found a restaurant for lunch. I packed an apple, some almonds, seasoned pumpkin seeds, and trail mix. Oh, and water! Staying hydrated while traveling is so important. It’s easy to forget about fluid intake when you are enveloped in your surroundings.
  2. Do your research ahead of time: If you know where you will be traveling to, you can search for local restaurants that cater to your needs. Find something that is close to where you will be and try something new! Don’t spend your whole trip traveling, find something local to you.
  3. Vendor Carts: If you are going to a city like New York, you will see dozens of vendors lining the streets. I never thought I would be able to buy from one of those carts again. And then I saw produce carts. Bananas, apples, and just about any other fruit or vegetable is an easy, portable, and delicious snack that you can grab-and-go with.
  4. This isn’t necessarily food related, but traveling can make you feel sluggish and full. If and when you can, walk to your locations. This will allow you to enjoy the local scenery while enticing you to stay local. You would be surprised how many steps you can get in while choosing things like hiking, walking around parks, and exploring museums to do on your trip.

 

Traveling can be stressful, but with a little planning, you can have the best of both worlds. You can live a healthy lifestyle and travel at the same time.

Take care of yourself and travel the world.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Crockpot Vegan Chili

  • 3 Sweet Potatoes
  • 2 Cans of Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Stalks of Celery
  • 3 Carrots
  • 2 Cans Cannellini Beans
  • 2 Green Peppers
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Jalapenos
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Coriander
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 3 tbsp Braggs Amino Acid (or soy sauce)

 

Chop the potatoes, celery, carrots, and green peppers into bite sized pieces. Drain and rinse the beans before adding them to the crockpot along with the vegetables. Add the tomatoes (juice and all) to the mixture. Add minced garlic. Chop the jalapenos up (discard the seeds from one and keep the seeds from the other) before adding to the pot. Add spices and Braggs/soy sauce. Feel free to add or withhold spices according to your preferences. What I wrote here is a rough estimate – we usually just eyeball the amounts. Set the crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or low setting for 6-8 hours. Stir every hour or so. The chili is completed when the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.

That’s it!

This recipe is super delicious and easy to make. We served this at our Halloween party with all of our non-vegan friends and it was a hit! This is also great for meal prepping.

Try it out and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Halloween Party – Vegan Style

If you are vegan, chances are you have non-vegan friends. The only time that this becomes stressful is when you are going out to eat or when you have friends over to your house.

If you know me, you know that I am obsessed with Halloween. For years I have wanted to have a Halloween party, but never officially planned anything. This year is different. We are hosting a Halloween party at our house with some friends and we will be the only vegans (and only non-meat-eating people) there. I want to have great food (not just great-for-vegan-food) at my party that even our guests will enjoy.

Here are some ideas for great food that works for vegans and non-vegans alike:

  • Vegan Chili – What is better than sweet potatoes, tomatoes, celery, and a bunch of other veggies in a chili on a cool night? Nothing. Not to mention it’s a crockpot meal that you can set up and forget about for hours as you go about decorating for your party or mingling with guests. I will be posting our vegan chili recipe next week.
  • Hummus – I love hummus and there are so many flavors to choose from. One of my favorites is crushed red pepper hummus which is not only delicious, but is also a really awesome orange (Halloween themed) color. You can use it as a dip with your favorite vegetables such as carrots, celery, and green peppers. You can make this yourself from chickpeas in your food processor/blender or you can purchase it at your local grocery store. I usually buy a huge tub of it from places like Aldi or Wegmans because we eat so much of it.
  • Salsa and guacamole – Who doesn’t love salsa and chips? It is one of my guilty pleasures and has been for years. One of my friends from nursing school used to send me photos whenever she was eating salsa to tease me because I love it that much. You can always make it yourself or buy it from your local grocery store. Guacamole is another awesome dip that is great for parties. Guacamole is made primarily from avocados which is an awesome source of healthy fats that are important in a whole food plant-based diet. I love to make my own guacamole. I will be posting a guacamole recipe in the next week or two. This dip goes great with corn chips. You can even buy festive orange and black corn chips to go with your theme. (I found some of these colored chips at our local Wegmans)
  • Popcorn – Buy the kernels, pop them yourself, and sprinkle some nutritional yeast over top of it for a buttery/cheesy taste. This is a great snack idea that will be familiar to non-vegans and easy to make. If you want to be a little extra, buy some small festive Halloween paper bags at the dollar tree for guests to fill with popcorn or trailmix or whatever other snack you want to have at your party.

 

No matter what food you have at your party, remember to take a deep breath and enjoy your time. Plan ahead and do what you can before the party, so when your friends get there you can just sit back and have a Spooktacular time.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Sweet & Spicy Chickpea Salad

I used to be so hesitant about eating chickpeas, but they have become one of my favorite foods. (not to mention they’re a great source of fiber) They are super versatile and super easy to add to meals to make them more filling.

 

Here is one of my favorite salads that I like for lunch, snack, or with dinner.

 

Ingredients:

-Greens (spinach, kale, or lettuce)

-Raisins or dried cranberries

-Lime/lemon

-Red pepper flakes

-Chickpeas

 

  1. Start with a large handful (or two) of greens (spinach, kale, or iceberg lettuce will do). I used kale in the photo above – be sure to de-stem the kale and massage it so it has a softer flavor and consistency.
  2. Add half a can of rinsed  and drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  3. Add half a small handful of raisins or dried cranberries 
  4. Sprinkle red pepper flakes to taste
  5. Squeeze half a lime or lemon over top as dressing
  6. Mix it all together

 

ENJOY!

 

There are so many add-ins and substitutions you can make, but this simple salad is not only beautiful and easy, but also delicious.

 

What’s your favorite way to cook with chickpeas? Share in the comments below!

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth

What Can You Eat?

“You can’t eat ______?!” This is a question I have become accustomed to in the past four to six months. When I was ovo-lacto vegetarian it was “You can’t eat fish?!” or “You can’t eat chicken?!” Now that I am eating a whole food plant-based diet, people are even more bewildered and horrified. Everyone seems to focus on what I can’t eat when there are so many things that I can eat. I can eat any fruits or vegetables that I want. I can eat any nuts and legumes that I want. Balsamic vinegar? The best salad dressing I have ever had. Quinoa? You better bet I will eat it. Avocado? Give me all of the avocados.

 

Don’t worry, I still eat all of my favorite foods, but they are no longer guilty pleasures. They are now just pleasures. This lifestyle has already restructured my way of thinking about food. Tacos are no longer filled with ground beef and covered in shredded cheese. Instead, they are over cauliflower rice and topped with salsa and avocados. If you still use the taco seasoning packets, you are missing out. Seasoning food yourself is such an eye-opener. Tacos have never tasted this good. But what about mac-n-cheese? Don’t you fret. I have an amazing solution for that one and it is definitely a million times better than the ninety cent boxed stuff we used to make. I have learned to block out the thoughts of “I can’t eat that” and have started thinking about everything that I can eat.

 

So you’re vegan?  Well yeah, technically. But there are a ton of vegan foods that are not whole food plant-based approved. For example, oreos are vegan. They are not, however, plant based. But trust me when I say that my sweet tooth is still satisfied on the daily. Not to mention that once you change your diet, foods taste so different. Fruit tastes so insanely sweet now and peanut butter is practically heaven on earth. My latest addiction has been bread-and-butter pickles and I’m not even sorry about it.

 

It’s time to get real with you guys. I sometimes struggle with the instances when we are out and about and I find myself hungry. My current solution is to simply keep trail mix, almonds, or a piece of fruit in my bag. If I start getting hungry (and am sure that I’m not just thirsty – more on that later) I will grab a snack from my bag and continue on my way. Planning ahead is such a savior. Additionally, I try to research restaurants local to where we will be. If I figure out what we will be able to eat there ahead of time, mealtime is so much simpler. This is not a big inconvenience since I used to figure out what I would eat at a restaurant before we got there anyway. I am way too indecisive to wait until we get seated to look at the menu.

 

Now let’s talk about meal structure for a minute. To me, a meal used to be a meat, a carb, and a vegetable. For example, one night we might have spiedie sandwich(es) with broccoli for dinner one night for dinner. I would find myself bloated and hungry a few hours later and would pig out on something in the cupboards (usually crackers and cheese or cookies). I had to break the thought process of meat needing to be a part of a meal in order for it to be complete. Now a night’s dinner may be a large bowl of creamy (dairy free) potato soup that will keep me full for hours. And what about when I get hungry at night? It’s okay! I just eat again. Smaller portions more frequently are not only good for weight loss, but also for digestion! I’d say that’s a win-win.

 

Do I have your attention yet? What if I said my next health post will include a whole food plant-based recipe that will have even you carnivores salivating? Well be on the look-out because deliciousness is on its way.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth

My (Never-Ending) Journey to Health

Health is a funny thing. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and it is always changing for me personally. What does “health” mean to you? For some it means disease free. For others it means exercising regularly.

 

When I was younger health was determined solely by the number on the scale or the number on my clothing. I was never happy with the numbers I saw, regardless of how much they decreased. I wasn’t eating much and I wasn’t happy.

 

Later on in my life health had transformed to mean eating foods that I thought were healthy and exercising for hours a day. I stressed myself out so much about food. It was to the point where I would break into tears while out to dinner with family if there was cheese and croutons on my salad. I would never miss a day of exercise because the guilt wouldn’t let me sleep. I was miserable.

 

I couldn’t maintain that lifestyle while juggling work, nursing school and other responsibilities. So I decided to give up completely and had the mindset that if I can’t do things right, I might as well not do them at all. I gained about twenty pounds that year. My clothes didn’t fit anymore and I had zero energy. I told myself that I was getting older and this is just how it is – that I would have to choose between a healthy body or a successful life. I thought that I couldn’t have both.

 

A few months after graduating nursing school, I became pregnant. I was sick right from the get-go and if I wasn’t eating, I was vomiting. So I justified eating junk food constantly. And I told myself because I felt dizzy and tired, I couldn’t exercise. At that point I didn’t have a job – that’s a story for another time – and my self-esteem was pretty pathetic. I was gaining weight rapidly, but told myself it was okay because I was pregnant.

 

I was about ten weeks along when I lost the pregnancy and fell into a depression. I continued to eat due to stress, sadness, and hatred toward myself. I obviously continued to gain weight. It got to the point where I was up another thirty pounds over the one year after losing the pregnancy.

 

Within about two years I had gained fifty pounds. I was terrified to see anyone that might recognize me because I knew I had let myself go. I would try these all-or-nothing diets to try to lose weight, but I always would end up gaining any weight back that I lost. Binge-eating became a part of the crazy dieting experience. No-carb would make me crave bread. Low-sugar would make me crave sweets. Diet foods would make me bloat or crave bad foods even more. All I wanted was to lose weight.

 

Fast forward to about four months ago. I had joint pain, fatigue, back pain, painful periods, depression, increase in anxiety, dizziness, increase in hunger… I went to my doctor and he ordered blood work. I was convinced that something was wrong with my thyroid or that my hormone levels were out of whack. When the results came in and everything was within normal limits, I was devastated. This meant that it was my habits that were causing me distress, not that my body had a disease. My doctor sat me down and told me that I needed to start eating healthier and exercising. He, very politely, told me that there was no excuse for me to not exercise and that I needed to start taking control of my body. I went home feeling ashamed.

 

I started doing a lot of research about lifestyle changes. I was educating myself about other cultures and I was learning a lot about the meat industry and effects of meat on the human body in particular. My husband and I decided that we wanted to try being ovo-lacto vegetarians for two months and see how we felt. That lasted about three and a half months until I decided that I wanted to cut out eggs too. At this point I had lost about twenty-five pounds. The only dairy I was eating was cheese and one night, after eating ice cream for the first time in awhile, I had severe abdominal pain that lasted for hours. I became terrified to eat dairy products, so I decided to cut them out too. I wondered – “When people ask me what my diet is, what label do I give it?” Because at this point a lot of people were asking me about vegetarianism and what I “can’t eat.” The differences between my vegetarianism without dairy and vegan were minuscule. I decided that I would just go vegan. I planned to try it for two months and see how I feel. A week into being a vegan I realized that I was just eating a bunch of junk vegan foods that would satiate my cravings instead of changing my taste buds and my brain’s idea of food. So I did more research and we decided to eat a whole food plant-based diet. (Don’t worry, I will explain what that means in my next post). I have now lost thirty-five pounds total and have the more energy than I have had in the past two to three years. I have started implementing exercise into my routine without the guilt of missing a day. I am eating intuitively and allowing myself to eat until I am full. No more counting calories or prohibiting carbohydrates.

 

I am hoping that this new meaning of health will allow me to live my best and longest life. I hope that as I share my journey and the things that have helped me along the way, you too can get a new lease on life.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth