For me the plant-based diet has been a journey- a never-ending one to be sure. The way I eat now is invariably different from how I ate in the beginning. Giving up animal protein left me with incredible energy; I was lighter on my toes and in my spirit. However, I stopped losing weight within a few months after eliminating dairy, the main reason I started this diet in the first place. I was met with an incredible amount of frustration at one point a couple years ago, thinking I had already given up so much and I still was not where I wanted to be.
Was it my age? Was it my genes? Was it just my body type? Was it fate???
I knew there was more work to be done before I'd give in to believing I was just getting older and getting heavier is just what happens as a result. I took a good look at the amount of oils/overt fats I was still consuming and cut them out. I began releasing unwanted body fat again (and still am, albeit slowly but surely) and my cholesterol numbers came down significantly.
Much of my resistance during that time I attribute to my mindset and perspective of "giving up" so many foods already and not seeing all that I'd be gaining by taking my diet to the next level. I know this much:
In order to have a different outcome, we need to do things differently.
It's uncomfortable. Change. Especially when we see it as deprivation. The uncomfortable-ness is how we know we are growing and changing. As Lindsay Nixon has recently said in her Shortcut to Slim podcast, Seek discomfort. Then you know you're changing; if you're feeling comfortable, then you're probably not.
Here's an updated blog post from the archive on why I gave up oils and how I make it work. There's also a little caveat on being vegan vs. plant-based. It's cathartic for me to go back to where I once was, remembering that what I have done to release unwanted body fat is what I will have to continue to do to keep it off. I hope you'll find some inspiration here, too.
Why No Oil?
I get this question A LOT. It comes right after my refusal of the French fries or the dismissal of the house salad dressing when eating out and often after I’ve been outed as eating a plant-centered or "vegan" diet: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no oil. The confusion comes primarily because many of the more trendy oils out there are typically not derived from animals.
So what’s the problem?
Let me back up a sec. 7 years ago I began my plant-based journey first giving up meat, then eggs, then dairy. I had read about the elimination of oils in many plant-based books, scientific studies and resources. That is to say, the plant-based “diet” is stipulated by medical researchers and leading experts in the field to not include oils due to, largely, their direct correlation to heart disease and obesity epidemics.
Vegan vs. Plant-Based
By and large, this is what separates the plant-based movement from the vegan community. By definition, being vegan is to not eat or use animal products. Period. It states nothing about health. Veganism is a philosophy deeply rooted in animal rights and activism.
A plant-based diet is, by definition, a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products and eggs, as well as highly refined or processed foods like bleach, flour, refined sugar and oil.
So it can be said that someone who is following a plant-based diet is a vegan, but it doesn’t go the other way around. Surprisingly, there is an endless list of "accidental" vegan foods, meaning foods that are not created to be or marketed as such: Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, Duncan Hines Creamy Homestyle Frosting, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Betty Crocker’s Baco’s Bacon Flavor Bits and McCormick's Bacon Bits.
(Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan).
Wow. I totally got distracted by that. It seems like such good news, doesn’t it? We know this list of familiar foods is vegan, but we also know they are NOT plant-based...or healthy.
Ok. I think I beat that drum long enough.
The Problem With Oil
Here's the problem I, personally, have with oil. Oil is 100% fat, has very few nutrients and contains NO FIBER. Oil is also a huge calorie bomb. In 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, or any other vegetable oil there is roughly 120 calories and 14g fat. And we haven't really had any food yet!
Pushing Through Weight Loss Plateau
It took me 2 years to get my head around giving up the oils. The fact is that oil is in just about every item that lives on the shelves of the grocery store. Giving up oil meant I would have to eliminate even store-bought condiments like barbecue and teriyaki sauces, salad dressings, chips and crackers.
But, as far as my weight loss and cholesterol levels were going, my progress had really slowed and even stopped a short time after giving up meat and dairy. Even then my cholesterol was still over 200, just being vegan. I had lost weight early on because plant foods naturally have fewer calories and fat than the animal-derived foods of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
I had made obvious changes, but the hidden oils/fats prohibited me from continuing to create that caloric deficit needed to lose more body fat. (The only simple thing about weight loss: If there is no caloric deficit, there is no weight loss.) This is the reason that it's harder to lose those last few pounds; the closer we get to our goal weight, the harder it is to create the deficit, leaving very little room for error.
Progress Over Perfection
Full disclosure here: it’s hard to eliminate oil completely. In fact, I have found it nearly impossible to 100% eliminate 100% of the time. It's a mindset thing. Those little allowances (lies) or rewards (justifications) I give myself when I'm unprepared at a restaurant or those times when "life happens".
I fall down. I get back up.
Making it Work
The truth of the matter is that it gets tricky when you haven’t made the food yourself. You can sauté vegetables beautifully with water or vegetable broth. And applesauce, pureed pumpkin or mashed bananas make excellent substitutes for oil when baking. I have DIY recipes for the barbeque and teriyaki sauces, but, more recently I've have found oil-free brands pretty easily in our local grocery stores.
Salad dressings have been the hardest to transition from. I was once married to bleu cheese dressing. But, it’s not impossible and I’ve come to love new favorites using dates, tahini, lemon and lime juices, miso, Dijon mustard, vinegars, salsa, hummus, nut butters, avocado, Sriracha, vegan mayos and spices.
As you evolve, so will your food choices.
I know what you’re thinking. First, I made you get rid of all your stuff, then had you cancel the cable, quit your job, revoked your Sam’s Club membership and now I’m asking you to ditch the oil: the olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, truffle oil, walnut oil...
Maybe this will help! Here’s a recipe that’s adapted from the Whole Foods No-Oil Balsamic Dressing and happens to be my husband’s favorite. I start small with the Dijon mustard, working my way up because it’s strong for me. The dates give the dressing a nice and familiar body and the quantity can be adjusted for a sweeter variation. This makes about 1 3/4 cups of salad dressing. Click the picture below for the recipe!
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.
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!
Initially, we often lose weight easily after switching to a plant-based diet. This is typically due to the natural caloric deficit that is created by eating plant foods in lieu of calorically dense foods such as meat, eggs, dairy and oil. But after a while we might find ourselves leaning too heavily on simple carbs and vegan junk food in an effort to feel normal again.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I’ve been at this weight loss thing for nearly 30 years so believe me when I say, I know what foods I need to eat to be slim. It’s one thing to know what to do….we all know what to do! But if you’re susceptible to overeating and emotional eating, as I am, we often need to look to our behaviors around food and our environment to support the overall efforts of a lifestyle change. To wave that final goodbye- or middle finger- to those last 10 lbs.
I recently participated in Lindsay Nixon’s Slim Team through her Meal Mentor program and while I lost a few more pounds, I also learned a few tips, or heard them in a different way, that helped me turn another corner. I’ve also been fan-girling out on Chef AJ recently after my friend turned me onto her Weight Loss Wednesdays she hosts on Facebook. I’ve been following Chef AJ for years and have enjoyed using many of her recipes overtime, but unbeknownst to me, she has maintained a 50 pound weight loss for 5 years! So, I stand on the shoulders of these two women as I pass on what might be new ways to think about how we eat.
Brian Wansink, PH.D, author of the book Mindless Eating and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, says his research shows we make well over 200 food decisions a day! In this country, we seem to have constant and unending food messages in every direction cueing us to eat. Billboards, television commercials, social media, well meaning relatives and social gatherings, advertisements pasted to the backs of trucks passing us on the interstate and even our very own kitchens are beckoning us to soothe our downtime with food. We are up against many persuaders each and every day, often without knowing it , and making a few modifications and rules for ourselves can help tighten the screws and put us back in the driver's seat on our journey to a healthier weight. Here are a few ideas we can consider:
Bonus Tip: If we are feeling bored with our "healthy" food- if we are eating to be entertained by food- we are probably eating outside the parameters of our true hunger. It can be helpful to consider that when hunger is the problem, then any food will satisfy and taste good. And we can also turn this around when we contemplate eating mindlessly!
This is an edited version of a blog post I first published in December, 2016. When making a big lifestyle change, to make change that lasts, it's important to go back and revisit why it is we're doing what it is we're doing. To remember why we've made certain changes in our lives. I was recently reminded that living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight or achieving weight loss is like training for a marathon. Except, there is no finish line.
I very much related to this analogy because a handful of years ago I became an avid runner. Admittedly, I wasn't a "natural"; running was something I had to work at. I would participate in local 5K races fairly regularly and even completed a 16 mile trail run a couple of years ago. Not exactly a marathon, but, still, I had to train and run regularly to increase my time, run more efficiently and prepare to be my best for the big race day .
Unfortunately, I hurt my knee on that last trail race which has inhibited me from running ever since. If I tried to run a race today, I probably wouldn't be able to do it very well or at all because I'm no longer running.
Maintaining weight loss or losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is quite the same. What it takes to be able to run the marathon or 5K (lose weight or maintain a healthy weight) is what you have to do every day. Even after the race. Even after you get there.
Life has a way of managing the mystery in our lives. Catching us off guard with those life-changing events you couldn't possibly see coming. The one that forces you to take a left when you never considered not going right.
The first of these often happens when we are young. We develop a self soothing/sabotaging behavior to cope and often go through much of our life operating from that wounded place , until we make the conscious decision to choose differently.
My first realization of my toxic relationship with food came during a weekend visit with a relative not long after the death of my 3 yr old brother in 1983. I was 11 years old and had gone to spend time with family... to get away, to play and forget about life for a while. I overheard this relative talking with my mother over the phone sometime after I’d arrived.
“She’s HAD to have put on 20 pounds since the last time I saw her! What have you been feeding this child?!”
It is my very first memory of having felt shame around my body and what I would put in my mouth, in the presence of others or in secret, from that day forward. I tell you this not to place blame on or fault my relative, whom I love dearly, or even the tragic event that brought my family to its knees, but rather, it’s a bookmark in my early life where I can make my first connection to COMFORT = FOOD.
I went on to spend the rest of my life on a diet...any diet. ALL the diets.
Weight Watchers, through all its evolving phases, Atkins, The Cabbage Soup Diet. My roommates and I actually went on a hot dog diet of some kind during my sophomore year in college (strength in numbers). I took diet pills (the over-the-counter and over-the-border kinds), seriously restricting my calories, and once even tried to purge after feeling really bad about what I’d eaten; a scene that just ended in tears, not even being able to get that right. Desperation leads to desperate measures. I was chasing down every "magic pill" out there. I was a runaway train of sorts...and by the time I pulled into the station the only thing I was able to find were a few extra pounds.
In 2007 I began a new focus of healing old wounds and my toxic relationship with food. By this time, I had my share of life changing events; marrying my high school sweetheart, becoming a stay-at-home mom to three growing daughters, relocating multiple times, reuniting with my birth mother and with a promise of a bright future and new business venture, we packed up our family and moved back home to where it all began.
I started looking at my connection to food, not only my emotional connection, but my lack of connection; my unconscious, self-soothing behavior that began when I was a child. I also began to pay more attention to what I was eating and began noticing the food commercials on television in a whole different way; the clever marketing, the way grocery stores will fill their end caps with shitty food, signaling us to get it while it’s hot and feed it to our children. I started reading nutrition labels and scanning the ingredients lists. It took forever to grocery shop and at one point I thought I’d gone blind from reading such small print. I read Kathy Freston’s book, Quantum Wellness which laid out the benefits of following a diet that didn't include animal products, and in the middle of reading the chapter on factory farming decided to close the door on meat forever, to go vegetarian and I have never looked back. (They say if slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarian.)
I was always one of those people who said, I could never give up cheese. But, after several failed attempts, in 2012 after watching the documentary, “Forks Over Knives” and with the support of friends in the plant-based community, both real and Facebook, I did. And then real magic started to happen. No more constipation or bloating, which, frankly, I just thought was normal. (People poop every day??? What a wonder!) And 10-15 unwanted pounds sort of fell away (you know, like you hear people talk about, but you just can’t relate?).
At this point, my primary goal had shifted from weight loss to simply eating real food and just plain... feeling good. I began to discover that my behavior and my environment were also critical in reaching my nutritional goals. It wasn’t really enough to have a shelf-load of fabulous recipe books and gorgeous produce in my fridge. I had to actually do the work of prepping meals ahead of time and have them on hand. Healthy food needed to be ready and waiting for that moment when I would come home from my crazy-busy day, emotional baggage in hand, having a could-eat-the-ass-end-out-of-a-rhino moment.
Throughout my trials and many errors, I had made an obvious discovery: I am the gatekeeper of the food that comes into my kitchen, of what’s in the pantry, of what’s in the fridge. I know I have to eat mostly home cooked meals to have that sort of quality control over what I eat and to be successful in managing a healthy weight and prevent disease.
Over the years I have learned a few things...implemented some short-cuts to cooking and preparing food, learned a few "work-arounds" for trigger situations and have found ways to be more satiated eating plant-based. It has been an evolution, really; how I eat today looks very different that it did even just a few years ago.
Full Disclosure here…
I’m not perfect. I fall off the wagon from time to time... and I start again with the next meal..and again if I have to. It’s PROGRESS over PERFECTION for me. It’s how I can stay honest and stay on track. I look back on the past 3 decades of my life, losing and gaining those same 10 pounds. I had just grown so tired of it. Since April 2012, I have had a 23 lb. weight loss, my cholesterol numbers have dropped into the normal range, and having just celebrated my 45th birthday, I have, really, never felt better.
I now practice yoga, meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature as a recipe to live more intentionally and manage my emotional eating. We cannot choose exactly what comes our way, but WE CAN CHOOSE how we show up in the face of change and adversity in a way that allows us to not only survive, my friends, but to THRIVE.
I hate the word “diet”. Like….I really, really do. I’ve been on a diet almost my entire life, so, for me, the word evokes a major feeling of restriction and deprivation. It also suggests, by the name alone, that we are either “on it” or “off it”. When we go off it, and we always do, we’re most likely to end up right where we started before we went on it in the first place. That’s why when talking about the plant-based diet, I’d rather use the word "lifestyle".
Last week I was talking about when I first started eating plant-based, I felt deprived of eating sandwiches. I remember missing my favorite ham, cheese & mustard combo on squishy white bread. I realized I had actually been grieving that sandwich. It was nothing fancy...not even the mustard was fancy, but my mom would stop whatever she was doing to happily prepare that sandwich for me, slicing it diagonally and serving it on one of her treasured, beautifully decorated dishes as if I were the Queen of England.
It’s important to note here that ALL change is grief. Even good, positive, healthful change. Change signals the end of something and the beginning of something else. And where that happens, there is grief, my friends; especially when we find ourselves emotionally attached to our food at a very deep level. This isn’t to be confused with emotional eating, although they often go hand-in-hand, as they can in my case.
Like, when you're crying and eating out of a bag of chips at the same time.
It’s having that unwillingness to let go of certain foods because it’s what we know or the recipes have sentimental value, having been passed down through generations, or it’s holiday tradition, it’s the way our friends are eating...it’s how my momma use to make it.
And when you boil all that down, folks, eating certain foods gives us that feeling of safety and comfort, reassuring us that all is right with the world.
And if it’s not, well then you at least have your favorite sandwich.
I was the girl who used to say, “I could never give up cheese.” I was also the girl who thought…”Well if I can’t have the sandwich I like, then I’m having none at all.” So, I didn’t eat them for a long time. But over the years, as my taste buds have changed and healed, I’ve learned to like new foods and unique combinations that would never have appealed to me before.
Last week I shared some cold sandwich variations from my repertoire and this week I’ve promised to deliver some warm sammie creations perfect for the summer meal rotation. I hope they ease the pain of breaking up with the sandwiches of yesterday...and seduce you to fall in love all over again.
1. VBLT- I LOVE BLTs...especially in the summer time. Veggie Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and light vegan Mayo. You can buy pre-packaged vegan bacon (check the ingredients list to be sure it doesn't contain dairy or egg) or simply sauté some sliced Portobello mushrooms in a little vegan Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup and a few drops of liquid smoke. Sautéing mushrooms in soy sauce, tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free) also does the trick for me.
2. Loaded BBQ- Sauté shredded sweet potato or carrot in your favorite barbeque sauce until warmed. Trust me. Top with shredded cabbage, guacamole and/or jarred pineapple salsa to give it that Caribbean flare. Alternatively, top with your favorite coleslaw using eggless mayo, such as Just Mayo. Make a quick, fresh pineapple salsa with diced pineapple, red onion and squeeze a lime wedge mixed in.
3. Grilled Cheeze- There is something about a grilled cheese sandwich. Whether you’re dipping it in creamy tomato soup or taking it up a notch with a thinly sliced tomato and spread of Dijon mustard, it may surprise you to know the sky can be the limit. Any good vegan cheese recipe always starts with potatoes, carrots and onion...I don’t care who you are. Oh and cashews just take it to a whole 'nother level as it does in this recipe. I like to skip the vegan butter part and just slather it on two pieces of whole grain toasted bread.
If you really want to go down the rabbit-hole for some swoon-worthy grilled cheese combinations, check out Peta's top picks for #nationalgrilledcheese day.
4. Quick Portobello Panini- Cooked mushrooms do make a repeat appearance in many of my sandwiches. The surprising part is I use to loathe mushrooms only a few years ago. If I can learn to like new foods after hating them most of my life, anyone can. Sauté sliced portobello mushroom in soy sauce, tamari (gluten free) or coconut aminos (soy free) and serve on toasted bread slathered with hummus, your favorite mustard and fresh spinach leaves.
5. Breakfast McSandwich- This Happy Herbivore, Meal Mentor inspired breakfast creation is savory and satiating for the soul. And it’s a perfect way to start your Saturday morning when you have a little more time to indulge in distant memories of Egg McMuffins past...with a south of the border twist.
Years ago, when I was transitioning to a plant-based diet, I remember feeling deprived of eating sandwiches. I was really stuck in the mindset of the deli meat and cheese-filled sandwiches of my youth and quickly grew bored with the comforts of peanut butter and jelly.
Over the years I’ve gotten creative in layering up a good ‘sammie’ and put together a solid list of go-to hot and cold creations to give me that fix.
Here are the makings for a healthy delicious sandwich. Conventional store bought breads often have small amounts of dairy and egg products, so always check the label to be sure!
Here are 6 COOL summer sandwich ideas to curb your cravings.
1. Chik’n Salad- Pulse soy curls or chickpeas in a food processor or mash chickpeas in a bowl with a fork until no whole beans are left. With vegan mayo ,such as Just Mayo, you can make up a chik’n salad just as you always have. I like to add chopped celery, red onion, dill relish and poultry seasoning or celery salt. My picky daughter prefers only the mayo, and salt & pepper to taste.
2. ALTO- Meet the better looking younger sister of the BLT: sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato & red onion. Toast up some bread, slather hummus, vegan mayo and/or your favorite mustard and layer it up for a delicious summer sandwich.
3. 7 Layer- 2 slices of whole grain bread, spinach leaves or lettuce, sliced red onion, tomato or roasted red pepper, cucumber, avocado or guacamole, hummus and add a drizzle of your favorite mustard!
4. Mediterranean- I like to top a bagel or toasted pita bread with a slather of hummus, spinach or lettuce leaves, sliced or diced tomato, sliced kalamata or green olives, capers, cucumber and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or glaze. Alternatively, you can roll it up in a wrap.
5. Tea Room- Vegan cream cheese and sliced dates make for a nice alternative to pb&j. I like to do this combo on a bagel or toasted whole grain sprouted bread. This is also a great one for your next afternoon soirée, serving on smaller cocktail store-bought breads for ease. Alternatively, you can do vegan cream cheese and cucumber, sprinkled with white pepper.
6. Italian- This is a fun combo to have on a baguette or sub roll. Slather vegan pesto on both sides of bread and layer chopped artichoke hearts, seeded and diced tomato or roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, red onion sliced into thin rings, vegan cheese (optional) and top with shredded romaine lettuce, sprinkle of dried oregano and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
BONUS RECIPE! Check out Cristy’s Mock Tuna Salad! It's simple, delicious and you probably already have all of the ingredients.
Check back next week for some HOT melt-in-your-mouth variations you can whip up in a snap!
Over the past several years I have taken a few courses in online business marketing and was introduced to the relatively new organizational strategy for time management, batching. The idea is to perform similar tasks using similar resources all at once during a designated block of concentrated time, increasing and optimizing productivity and decreasing distraction, fatigue, stress and procrastination.
So what does that have to do with anything?
Well, I’ve found this to be a viable tool when it comes to getting dinner on the table. The truth is, I’ve never been particularly good at doing the family dinner thing. I mean, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years, so I don’t have any real excuses. It’s just that, in our family, like many of yours, we often find ourselves eating on the fly, going to this game or that lesson, or one kid doesn’t like what we’re having while the other isn’t eating carbs this week. Sometimes there are only 2 of us home at dinner time and other times we have a full house. The struggle is real.
But I am determined to eat well. No matter who’s coming for dinner.
In order to eat well every day I had to develop a method to this meal madness. Contain the chaos. Come up with shortcuts to getting dinner on the table rather than succumb to pre-packaged meals to reheat in the microwave, ordering out or eating out of a bag.
So I implemented batch cooking. I didn’t invent it or anything. I actually learned it from my meal mentor Lindsay Nixon, The Happy Herbivore. One strategy is to batch cook all your staples to freeze or refrigerate in single portions for later use. And it works beautifully, saving time, money and more importantly food waste. I hate throwing food away. Batch cooking staples ensures that I always have something I can throw together to create a meal that is plant-based and oil free. It's just a matter of reheating.
beans + rice + salsa + corn pasta + marinara + frozen veg quinoa + beans + frozen veg + soy sauce
Batch cooking also gives me back time out of the kitchen, because let’s face it, summer’s coming and I don’t want to have to be in the kitchen all day. I want to be by the pool with the rest of the fam.
Sipping margaritas. Listening to my jams.
What is more telling is what happens when I don’t batch cook my staples.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. No matter what diet it is you're following.
I have a few other batching shortcuts in my repertoire you can read about next week.. In the meantime, here are some staples I batch cook mindlessly while listening to the latest podcast or while streaming one of my favorite shows. I hear the new season of Orange is the New Black debuting June 9 (praise hands emoji):
Beans: Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and brown or green lentils are what I use most for soups, salads, hummus, dips, bowls, wraps, tacos. I use the pressure cooker which eliminates having to soak legumes before cooking or having to stand watch over the stove. You can certainly cook your beans in a large pot. I like to make the whole bag and freeze in single serving portions.
Marinara Sauce: I prefer an oil-free marinara sauce, reducing my fat intake and keeping ingredients simple where I can. I use a Crockpot to batch a triple recipe and freeze in 1 cup portions. You can use a family favorite recipe for traditional spaghetti sauce and eliminate using oil quite easily by sautéing any vegetables in ¼ cup water rather than oil, adding more water to prevent sticking as needed.
Whole Grains: Cook entire bags of whole grains such as rice or quinoa to use for bowls, side dishes, soups or salads and freeze in 1 cup portions.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: I cook a bunch of these for the week and store in the fridge. Potatoes can be easily reheated for soups, loaded potatoes, dry-fried potatoes or snacks with your favorite condiment. Don’t forget the many reasons why you should be eating plenty o’ potatoes!
Vegetable Broth: Check out our video on getting a second life out of your veggies by turning your scraps into vegetable broth. This makes a great base for soups and can also be used for sautéing.
Pasta: Pasta can be cooked al dente at the beginning of the week, stored in ziplock bags and reheated in 30 seconds in boiling water on the stove. Sometimes even boiling pasta can seem like too much after you’ve worked all day. This method works great for weekday meals.
Salad Dressings: I also like to prepare a big batch of salad dressing at the beginning of the week as I don’t really like pre-packaged bottled dressings. My friend, Trisha, introduced me to this delicious salad dressing created by Dara Dubinet for the fastest salad in the west. You could also check out this Sweet & Tangy Salad Dressing from My Plant-Based Family!
BBQ Sauce: While there are plenty of tasty barbeque sauces out there, I enjoy making my own oil-free version. It’s just so simple and gives me a little more quality control over the amount of fat and sugar I’m consuming. It all adds up, and sauces and condiments are sneaky culprits for causing us to consume more than we think.
So maybe you’re thinking of giving this plant-based thing a go? Summer parties and gatherings have already begun and sometimes before we know it, the scale starts creeping back to where it was on January 1st when we pledged we would lose those last 10-15 pounds for The. Last. Time. Here in the northeast we go all-in, celebrating the warmer weather with Happy Hour all day, every day. But, Summer is actually THE perfect time to go plant-based; to eat more seasonal veggies and fruits and crowd out all that stuff that’s threatening to sneak back into your diet and cause the slippery slope of sabotage….again.
Stay tuned for more practical and doable solutions for getting your next health-giving plant-based meal on the table quicker and with ease. Let's do this!
We have a cultural obsession with weight loss, but despite that, right now 1 in 3 Americans is OBESE. And if that isn't cringe-worthy: 18% of our children are MORBIDLY OBESE!! With skyrocketing numbers in increases of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers our healthcare costs are rising and 75% of those costs are attributable to the aforementioned diseases. AND ALL of those diseases can be avoided or possibly reversed with some fairly simple diet and lifestyle changes. Being overweight is the number one cause of most diseases...here is how to make some changes:
1. You are Not Getting Enough Water - Studies show drinking more water may help you lose weight and keep it off. Drinking water increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure(REE)-the amount of energy expended by a person at rest- possibly increasing REE by 24–30% within 10 minutes of drinking water. This lasts at least 60 minutes. So, if your day is filled with water you will have a continuous increase in calories burned...YES, PLEASE! I notice that when I don't drink enough water I become very bloated because my body is hanging on to the little water it has...eliminate the bloat by drinking more water. There is no magic number, but most people need between 1 and 2 liters a day. Drink when you're thirsty and stay away from caffeine as it dehydrates. Also, water is calorie-free so you can reduce your calorie consumption by swapping water for soda or other sugary, high-calorie drinks.
2. You are Underestimating Your Calories - Most people underestimate the calories they consume. We forget about the “tastes” we have while cooking or “not wasting” what the kids leave on their plates. Don't shoot the messenger, but those calories count! We also, tend to underestimate serving size. Serving sizes are usually much smaller than we like to admit and if we are counting calories, we need to be honest with ourselves in order to see results. If you are using technology to track your calories burned, you are probably not getting accurate information. A study was done analyzing wearable technology for tracking calories burned and they found that the majority of the trackers were very unreliable; overestimating calories burned by up to 40%!! When you are mislead with the thinking that you have burned more calories, you assume that you can now eat more calories which leads to more calories consumed than burned = weight gain.
3. You are Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables - Eating more vegetables is the single most important thing you can do to achieve weight loss AND better health. Vegetables tend to be lower in calories than most other foods; especially, processed and refined foods. Their caloric density-calorie content relative to weight or volume-is one of the lowest. Which means you can eat MORE food and consume LESS calories. Also, fruits and vegetables contain the most fiber. Fiber leaves us feeling full and satisfied. Fiber also, takes more energy to burn, which means you will burn more calories just by eating these foods. Choosing more fruits and vegetables means you will eat less processed food which is very calorie dense and unhealthy. Aim to add fruits and vegetables to every meal.
4. You are Eating Too Much Fat – Eat fat? Don't eat fat? Which is it? It's been a controversy in the media for decades. Let's look at the facts: NO oil is healthy. None. They are all stripped down and processed, and contain no nutritional value. More importantly, oil has a calorie density of 4,000 calories per pound!! So are there good fats and bad fats? Yes and no. Dietary fat is very easily converted into body fat; whereas, carbohydrates are more easily burned as fuel. So, if you are consuming any kind of fat, it can easily be converted to body fat instead of being used for energy. Choose your fats wisely, choose ones that are nutrient dense from plant sources like avocados, seeds, and nuts. Animal-fat sources are the worst, which contain mostly saturated fats. They also contain cholesterol, hormones, carcinogens, dioxins, antibiotics, and bacteria, while also devoid of fiber and antioxidants.
5. You Are Stressed the F@ Out! - RELAX! Easier said than done, I know! I struggle with this one myself. I like to be in control so the food aspect of this, I got! But, the stress, OH THE STRESS!! The facts: Levels of "the stress hormone," cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. This can turn overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the hormone cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. Exercise can trigger the release of the “feel good” hormones so this is a great stress-reliever. Also, meditation has been scientifically proven to significantly decrease stress levels with just 10 minutes of daily mediation. Love yourself—do the things you enjoy and forget about the rest. It is OK to say no!
6. You are Not Moving Enough - Nutrition is the most important factor in weight loss. Calories in vs. calories out. You must burn more calories than you consume. Our bodies do a great job at burning energy in the form of calories, but if we want to lose weight we need to eat less than we burn. But we can also burn off some of those calories in the form of exercise and while we are at it, reduce stress, too...WIN! WIN! Exercise isn’t just about that 30 minutes on the treadmill; it’s about creating a lifestyle that isn’t sedentary. But, the great thing about eating healthfully and exercising is that all that good stuff makes you have more energy!! Then, you want to move! Find an activity that you really like/love and that is the one that you can form a habit around. It can be anything that keeps you moving for at least 30-40 minutes; walking, running, hiking, yoga, biking, etc. Consider weight training: more muscle = more calories burned. While a pound of fat burns only two calories per day, a pound of muscle burns six—and takes up a lot less room.
You can find these tips with more details and also more tips in our NEW FREE eBook “9 Steps to Losing Weight and Feeling Great”, but the best part about our book is we not only give you the tips, but a guide to help you along the way which contains a 7 day meal plan with recipes and grocery shopping lists!! Sound great? Sign up here.
Peace, Love, Plants,
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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