Keepin' it real. I'm interviewing my family. again. I asked them their thoughts on plant-based snacks and eating out. This interview is best read while assuming everything that my family says is sarcastic because they think they are funny, I guess (insert eye-roll emoji).
Me: Ok, guys, people liked your last interview so we are going to try this again. What do you think?
Me: Do you find snacking on a plant-based diet is difficult?
Me: I thought you'd say something different.
Me: Uh, I thought you said it isn't difficult?
Saul: It is difficult.
Me: Then, why did you say it wasn't difficult?
Me: Because why?
Saul: I guess, it's not, no.
Me: Ugh, then why did you say it was?
Saul: Because they only thing I snack on are those cookies (Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookie) and granola bars.
Me: What are your favorite snacks?
Eastyn: ummmmm those cookie things, those are good, granola bars, apples, bananas. Bananas are like ehhh, but I'll still eat them. That's about it.
Saul: I like bananas and peanut butter (what he means is peanut butter and bananas because he eats about a half a jar of peanut butter with one banana), cookies, and hummus.
Me: and hummus and hummus
Saul: and hummus. And that's all I eat.
Me: That's all?
Saul: Yup. What other snacks do we have?
Me: How about snacking on the go? How do you make that work?
Saul: Same stuff in a snack bag
Me: As long as I pack it.
Eastyn: Yeah just the snack bag.
Me: Do you guys like going out to eat?
Eastyn: Ehh not so much, no.
Saul: It's getting better. I used to love going out to eat because I would get whatever the hell I wanted. It was hard to find plant-based stuff in restaurants, but they are starting to get better and better.
Me: I've never liked going out to eat. I feel like it's just a big waste of time.
Saul: Ummm. If you're going somewhere you gotta eat.
Me: What are your favorite restaurants now?
Saul: I like Chipotle and.....uhhhhhhh Sheetz
Eastyn: hahaha that's not a restaurant!
Saul: Oh, uhhh what other restaurants are there? I don't think there are anymore.
Me: How about Japanese food?
Saul: Oh yeah that's good.
Eastyn: Oh yeah I love sushi and lo mein. I like Chipotle.
Me: How about Wegman's?
Saul: That's not a restaurant.
Me: I know, I'm asking about eating out.
Saul: Oh yeah. You could try pizza places and get no cheese and just vegetables. Although pizza places have a hard time making a pizza without cheese.
Saul: Because you emphasize that and they still put it on.
Me: What are some of your favorite foods when you eat out?
Saul: My favorite foods would include 1, 2 and C, in that order.
Me: *eye-roll. More specific, please.
Saul: Oh. I like black bean burgers or some type of burger like that.
Me: I am so sick of bean burgers.
Saul: Yeah but you gotta go to a restaurant with a speciality burger with a special sauce or something.
Me: How about burritos.
Saul: Oh yeah I forgot about burritos.
Saul: Sofrita burritos are muy deliciouso.
Me: How about when we went to that Melt restaurant?
Saul: What the hell is Melt?
Me: You know, that one that's like all grilled cheese...when we were in Cleveland for hockey? and we got the tofu wings?
Me: you and I shared. It was peppers and onions on a grilled cheese
Saul: it had cheese?
Me: yeah it was vegan cheese.
Eastyn: Dad, it was literally a grilled cheese place.
Saul: Oh, oh
Me: You could sub out all the cheeses and meats with vegan options. It was super cool.
Saul: yeah that was good
Me: I can't wait to go back there. We are definitely going back there when we go for hockey.
Eastyn: Mmmhmmm and we are going to that froyo place.
Me: Oh yeah Picadilly.
Saul: yeah that was good
Eastyn: Putting the toppings on was fun.
Saul: Pretty expensive
Me: Yeah but fun. It was awesome that they had coconut milk ice cream.
Me: Can you think of any other restaurants? I feel like Otto's in State College always has good options.
Saul: Four Mile Brewing in Olean is good.
Me: Yeah they always have good options.
Me: What would be one piece of advice that your would give somebody to help them go plant-based?
Eastyn: Just buy everything online and have it around (hmmm I may be getting too many packages)
Saul: They say quitting cold turkey is never easy to do, but if you ask me it's probably a lot easier. If you have the bad stuff around you are like "Well, I'm going to eat the rest of that crap" and then you don't really transition.
Me: So you were really happy when I took everything out of the house?
Saul: I didn't say I was happy.
Me: But in hindsight, you think I'm super awesome because I did that.
Saul: NO no
Saul: no no don't put words in my mouth
Saul: I guess the best idea would be to join your meal plans so you don't have to be like "what the hell am I going to eat?" because it's all right there.
Me: That's a great plug. I think that's a great way to end it.
I think Saul gave some great advice! He's a smart guy and you should listen. You can try our meal plans out for 7 days for FREE when you sign up here.
Peace, Love, Plants,
Retail therapy. That's what this is.
Trader Joe's IS the total package. A triple threat, you might say. I guess it's the well orchestrated combination of enthusiastic, helpful employees, the Tiki culture theme and Polynesian style of the space, a manageable, intimate atmosphere reminiscent of the neighborhood markets of my youth and the seduction of beautifully packaged, affordable specialty foods (without Whole Foods prices) that lures me. Just thinking about it now makes me go all heart eyes, eager with anticipation for my next trip.
But, can I just tell you something?
Just a little something to think about.
Just because something comes from Trader Joe's, we can't assume it's healthy. We still need to be reading labels and checking ingredients. There is a thrill that can be found when hunting healthy food. Don't be afraid to go in there, like the super sleuth that you are, find your inner Food Babe and hunt that shit down.
Here are my top picks for Trader Joe's grocery items that are healthy AND delicious. (and oil-free!) I would love to know of your TJ's finds as well, so definitely leave them in the comments below. It takes a village, my friend.
Oh! And don't miss the super simple seasonal recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie! (down below)
1. Whole Grain Crispbread: These are more cracker-like than bread-like. And, let's face it. Oil-free plant-based crackers can be hard to come by. These are delicious with any hummus or nut butter. They are very nutty/seedy, but the flavor is neutral so will compliment a variety of dips, tapenade and spreads.
2. Organic Peppermint Cinnamon Herbal Tea: A soothing blend of organic peppermint leaves and cinnamon, this tea goes easy on the tummy when feeling under the weather. Plus with a hint of cinnamon, it feels a little festive this time of year and warms you up from the inside out in a very light and subtle way.
3. Organic Split Pea Soup: Though I like to mostly cook my own food, it's nice to have a few things in the pantry I can have in a pinch when I'm short on time. Like the other day when I got called into work and had nothing prepared. This soup was delicious over brown rice and a drizzle of hot sauce.
4. Sriracha Sauce: Speaking of hot sauce, Trader Joe's has their own brand of Sriracha sauce. I use Sriracha more than any other condiment, to be sure, except it might be a close second to Frank's Red Hot. Pizza, pastas, Asian dishes and noodle bowls, sushi, anything with avocado....pretty much anytime a dish needs a little somethin' somethin', Sriracha is the answer.
5. Organic Spaghetti Sauce with Mushrooms: Unless you make your own, it's challenging to find a spaghetti sauce that is oil-free. So when I find one (and this one is organic!) I buy as much as I can. It's a nice sauce that can be doctored up if you're feeling frisky. And for all of you who are turned off by mushrooms, there aren't any mushrooms to be found! This is a smooth sauce...no chunks.
6. Savory Thin Mini Rice Crackers Multi Seed with Tamari Soy Sauce: Phew. That was a mouthful. This was the first time I tried these crackers and I have to say they were pretty good with hummus. My husband wasn't a big fan and if you're allergic to soy than these would be out. They have a nice crunch and would lend themselves to more savory dips and spreads.
7. Nutritional Yeast: Admittedly, when I first started my plant-based journey, I wasn't so sure about "nooch". But I kept using it and now, looking back, I can't imagine ever letting myself run out of the stuff. Buyer beware, not all nutritional yeast is the same! But, TJ's has a tasty one, and finding this new addition in their product line is a sign of the times. Plus the bag is so cute, isn't it?
8. Apocryphal Pita 100% Whole Wheat: I have been buying these for years. It's so difficult, like so many pre-packaged foods, to find oil-free whole grain pita bread. I don't indulge in bread items on a regular basis, but these large pitas make for super quick pizzas of any kind. You can also slice them into triangles and toast them up in the oven to serve with dips, hummus, guac, etc. I stock up on these and keep them in the freezer and fridge as they are not shelf stable.
9. Black Bean Rotini: Ok, I love this pasta for two reasons. First of all, it has 1 ingredient: organic black bean flour. And second, it's got the body of regular pasta, kind of. Some of the gluten-free and rice pastas out there just can't hang for a second round, tending to fall apart when reheated. Like it's cousin, red lentil pasta, the black bean rotini is delicious and works well with a variety of sauces. Though, my favorite way of preparing it is to simply mix it in with a can of seasoned diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. Oh and some "nooch". Always.
10. California Style Sprouted Wheat Bread: In my opinion this would be TJ's answer to Food For Life's Ezekiel Bread. It can be difficult to not only find oil-free pre-packaged bread, but it's equally hard to find one that doesn't have a zillion ingredients. TJ's has a good handful of oil-free breads with clean ingredients to choose from and I mix them up from time to time. I love this bread toasted for paninis or grilled sandwiches.
11. Organic Refried Pinto Beans Salsa Style: I am super happy to find this little gem! Refried beans without lard...and they're saving me the hassle of adding my own salsa, a tip I learned from my mom in making semi-homemade refried beans. These beans make a great filler for wraps and burritos and also, it makes a great base for my 7 Layer Dip.
12. Sweet Potato Ribbons: Truth? Everyone is always making such a fuss over zucchini pasta or spaghetti squash...and I like them alright, but I love sweet potato pasta best with a good marinara. And I'll take it one step further by adding chopped Kalamata olives, capers and red pepper flakes to the mix. Oh and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
13. Steamed Lentils: I know I can make my own...I know. But I don't want to. I've burned lentils and turned them to mush too many times because babysitting the stove just isn't my thing. You can find these pre- cooked lentils in the produce section. Who knew!? I take them home, divide them into 1/2 or 1 cup portions and freeze for later use for soups, burgers, wraps, bowls or salads.
14. Organic Cold Brew Coffee: They had me at nitro, tbh. And let me just say, I've been on the hunt for this for MONTHS. So maybe cold coffee isn't sounding so hot now that we are nearing the end of October? Check this out.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Smoothie: 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled, 1/2 cup nondairy milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp allspice), 2-3 small pitted dates, optional and 1-2 ice cubes or frozen coffee cubes, optional. Whiz in high speed blender until smooth and creamy.
November 2015, I declared “ I’m not eating meat anymore.” My family was like “What the heck, you crazy lady!!” I never really liked the taste of meat, but cheese ugh! Loved it!! Anyway, I declared myself a vegetarian and 100% stopped eating meat. Then, I began studying for my holistic nutritionist certification. After learning about the benefits of a plant-based diet (and the diseases/problems that animal products cause), I proclaimed our house free of animal products. That day, I packed up all the meat, cheese, dairy, and eggs and gave them away. At that time, I was in it for the health benefits, but as I researched and learned more I find myself pushing for the environment and the animals as well as the health benefits. I shared what I was learning with my family and they knew they needed to make the change as well, but it didn’t come without resistance.
I get asked a lot how my family feels about eating plant-based…so, I decided to interview them and let you hear their answers.
Me: What did you say when I said I’m not eating meat anymore?
Saul: That’s fine but I’m going to eat it.
Me: Did you think I was a crazy when I declared I was getting rid of all the animal products in our house?
Me: Do you think I’m crazy regardless of the food?
Me: Were you mad at me when I said I wasn’t cooking meat anymore?
Saul: I was.
Me: Why were you mad?
Saul: Because I liked meat, I lived on chicken
Me: Did you think you would survive without meat?
Saul: No, because I was like “What the hell am I going to eat?!”
Me: Saul, did you think you would still be able to do all the physical stuff and still have energy without meat?
Saul: No way. I said what everyone says “I won’t get enough protein.”
Me: Eastyn, do you hate all the food I cook?
Eastyn: No. Some, but not all haha.
Me: What are some of your favorites?
Eastyn: I like the mushroom potato stroganoff (This kid hated mushrooms). Your pizza is good, roasted buffalo cauliflower mac n cheez and burritos.
Me: Saul, you lost a lot of weight when we first transitioned, why do you think that is?
Saul: I still eat a lot of calories every day, but I guess it was the animal products that kept the weight on. I struggle now to eat enough calories to maintain my weight because the foods I eat now are not as calorically dense as the meat and oils I used to eat. I run, cycle, and weight train a lot so I need to eat a lot of calories each day. I’m always eating.
Me: Do you find you have more energy now?
Saul: Yeah. I don’t feel like shit all the time after I eat. I used to have a big meal and feel shitty and tired afterword, but now the foods give me energy. I feel like I recover a lot quicker now after activities…like, I don’t get as sore. If I do get sore, it’s better in a day rather than a few days. I feel like I make gains more quickly, too.
Me: You run a 50k every year and do a lot of mountain bike races. Do you feel any improvements since going plant-based?
Saul: In terms of cardiovascular endurance, I feel way better. And energy and physical endurance, I feel extremely better…I feel like I could go forever, but my knees don’t agree with that haha.
Me: Eastyn do you have any problems going places with friends or do your friends have any problems with it?
Eastyn: No. I usually take food with me when I go to friends’ houses. The parents are always really nice about trying to make or get food I eat. My friends are usually curious about what I eat and always seem to want to try it.
Me: Do you hate being plant-based? And why or why not?
Eastyn: No. I eat a lot of different foods now. They are healthy foods so I’m proud of that. I used to think if you were vegan you ate disgusting food and ate like a rabbit. But I’ve learned that there are so many good foods.
Me: Do you feel like you are missing out?
Eastyn: Not really. Pretty much anything that isn’t vegan, we can find an alternative or you can make it.
Me: Do you feel any different eating plant-based?
Eastyn: I feel like I have more energy. I hardly ever get sick and when I do, it goes away a lot quicker.
Saul: I feel like I rarely get sick now. A cold now, is like a one day thing.
Me: How about mentally, guys? I feel like you both have become less aggressive and calmer.
Saul: Yeah, I definitely don’t get as mad as easily. I feel calmer.
Eastyn: Yeah me too.
Me: After a year and half, do you still want meat?
Saul: No. I’m not interested. I really don’t think about it most of the time. Although, when someone is eating pizza I feel like I could go for that haha. But I think that’s a mental thing from the social aspect.
Me: Do you feel like you are missing out socially.
Saul: Initially, yes. I would just not bother even going out with people because I felt excluded. But now, I’ve learned what to eat when we are out and everyone is really great about choosing places where we have options.
Me: Do you get any push back from friends and family?
Saul: Oh yeah. People are always saying “you won’t get all the vitamins you need” or “you won’t get enough protein”.
Me: Do you think people are more receptive to our lifestyle than they are negative?
Saul: Yeah because everyone will do the initial poking fun at it, but I think that is just their way of opening up the conversation to talk about it. They are curious.
Me: Will you ever you go back to eating animal products?
They are not big talkers, but I hope this has shed a little light on how they feel about living plant-based. It's like any other big change in our lives, at first, it seems scary and insurmountable. As we move forward and persevere, it gets easier and easier; then, before you know it, this is the new normal and your life is so much better.
Thanks for reading!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Two weeks ago I began a two-part series on navigating the food table and other situations at social gatherings. I find this to be perfect timing as I'll wrap this up with a few more tips to consider as we march our way straight into the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and celebrating the New Year.
I lOVE the holidays. I really do. The anticipation of the American holiday season has a way of sustaining good spirits, extending our happy moods from summer another 3 months...and it's a good thing because as the last leaf falls, things can get a bit dreary.
I don't think there's another part of the year where you'll see your family, friends and coworkers, socially speaking, more than you will in the coming months. And social gatherings set the perfect stage for diet disaster if you don't have your head in the game and a few tools and tricks up your sleeve.
Failing to plan means planning to fail.
But NO WORRIES! Cristy and I are committed to seeing you through it all. Stick with us and this will be your healthiest holiday season yet!
Tips for Staying the Course at Social Gatherings
5. Don’t Talk About Being Plant-Based Unless You’re Asked:
Often, people tend to feel your healthy food choices automatically make them inferior. They may assume you are judging them and you might be met with a good measure of snarkiness, and even hostility. A good way to get out of the “hot seat” is to say you are experimenting. People generally accept this and you all can move on. Some people may find it very interesting that you’ve made some changes and will be inspired to ask questions. You’ll find sharing your experience with these people easy breezy...be sure to observe them while you're talking and know when to shut’er down when their eyes start to glaze over.
6. Call a Restaurant or Venue Ahead of Time:
When it comes to dining at a catered event or restaurant, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by calling ahead and/or checking the online menu. Explain that you have a limited diet and see what they can do for you. I have never had this conversation and been told…”Sorry, we don’t have anything for you to eat.” Chef’s are usually enthusiastic about offering a vegan dish or creating an entrée to meet your needs. And in a time when there are countless people suffering from food allergies, it’s just not that uncommon.
Bottom line...Ask for what you want ahead of time. It will save you in the long run and leave you to enjoy yourself and not cave into ordering “the usual” in order to avoid feeling like you're being difficult. You can find more tips on dining at restaurants and eating on the road in a blog post from the archive, Traveling Plant-Based.
7. Assess the Situation:
Ok, you’ve got this thing coming up. If all else fails you can always eat beforehand. This will make it less likely to have a slip if you’re not actually starving when you arrive. Alternatively, you could pack food to leave in your car, excusing yourself periodically to chow down your veggie lo mein in the back seat along the floor boards. Look. It’s all doable, you just have to keep your eye on the ball. Revisit your goal and do what’s necessary to stay in alignment with that.
8. Remember Why You’re Going to Whatever it is You’re Going To:
Celebration is usually what our social gatherings boil down to. The coming together to enjoy ourselves alongside others at weddings, birthdays, bowl games, office morale boosters, holidays, friendships, anniversaries, love...even funerals. Remembering this will shift your focus (obsession) away from the food.
There’s no such thing as “Everything in Moderation” or “Cheat Days”:
These are cleverly worded excuses for going off-the-wagon and can easily lead to getting back on the yo-yo diet hamster wheel. Look. We all slip. So if you screw it up, just call it what it is and move on with your life. Or better yet, make the decision that you’re going to eat off-plan and do it consciously, “I know this cheese is bad for me, but I’m going to eat it anyway.” That way, you’ve made a conscious choice that you can live with and not a mindless one that you berate yourself over the next few days. Simply start again with the next meal.
Listen. Come closer.
Not next Monday, not next month, or at the New Year. Start again with the next meal...this is one of the secrets. This is, in part, how it becomes a lifestyle and not just another diet.
Today I'm arming you with a delicious, seasonal, homemade favorite Salted Caramel Dip to enjoy at your next gathering or celebration.
New? Begin Your Plant-Based Journey HERE!
Try Vegan Meal Plan FREE!
I posted this one a while back, but I think it's great to be reminded of tips to keep us going.
On average, Americans eat just ONE serving of fruits and vegetables per DAY. “If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.” What? Crazy! Just think how amazing it could be if Americans added two more servings?!?! *Mind Blown* All kidding aside, it really is important to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet. EVERYONE needs more and you can not eat too many fruits and vegetables. They are called superfoods for a reason! Did you know all fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting compounds?!?! People who eat just five servings of fruits and vegetables a day lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions!
I know what you are going to ask me: “what's an easy way to add in more fruits and veggies?” That is what you were going to ask me, right? I am always looking for easy ways myself! The best way to make a change is to Set Goals! Don't just say “eat more fruits and vegetables”; make it actionable! Set tangible, specific goals! So, let's make this a list, I LOVE lists!!
Are those doable? Can you find some time to fit more fruits and vegetables into your life? Your life depends on it;)
Do you have any tips that can make my life easier?!?! I'd love to hear them; post in the comments, Facebook, Instagram, or throw an email my way!
Peace, Love, Plants,
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Jeanmare and Cristy are creators and contributors of the Living Simply Nourished Blog. Grab a cup of tea (or coffee!), find a cozy spot, scroll around, read some stories, find some inspiration, and enjoy!
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