I hear often that "giving up meat would me easy for me. Cheese is hard!" Many times I give those people perspective when I point out that almost every meal they eat contains meat.
When I went vegetarian in December 2015, my boys declared “We will never give up meat! We love meat!” I prepared the same meal for all three of us, just adding in a little chicken, beef, or fish for them. When I decided to go vegetarian, it was plain and simple; “I don't like meat, why am I eating it?” So, I stopped. I ate eggs everyday, mostly, because we had chickens and we had a lot of eggs to use. I also LOVED cheese. Once I started studying holistic nutrition and learned about the plant-based lifestyle and it's ability to reverse disease, I was SOLD! I'm a type A personality. You've heard me say this before, I'm an all or nothing kind of gal. My poor husband, he loves me anyway!
I started sharing all the information with my boys, educating them on the amazing health benefits of a plant-based life...they were not as excited as me, but I'm happy to say they were a little frightened by what they learned about animal products. *cue evil laugh. I told them that if they wanted meat, they had to cook it themselves. Well, that was easy because no one cooks around here but me. I win, again!! So, that was it, no more meat. That's where we started and then, eventually, weened off of the cheese and eggs. Well, eggs were not difficult for us to cut out of our diets after an eye-opening article that described the chicken's egg as part of their menstrual cycle!! REALITY CHECK! GROSS!!
Our transition consisted of some “fake” meats...meats made with soy protein, vegetable protein, and/or vital wheat gluten. These are not health foods and I would never want to advocate for that as they are highly processed foods. However, they made our transition A LOT easier. These “fake” meats have helped us get on track and stay the course.
Vital wheat gluten, when used to make vegan meat, is referred to as Seitan. I have practiced with this numerous times coming up with some pretty delicious and fun recipes like “chicken” and bbq “ribs”. It's actually really easy to work with, but takes a while to cook. Confused as to what vital wheat gluten is?
My son has always loved pepperoni. After eliminating meat from our diets, he would say “I'm craving pepperoni”...he's a weirdo. Well, being that I love him so much, I went in search of a plant-based pepperoni and came upon the Fat Free Vegan Blog. I haven't adapted her recipe at all, other than subbing what ever nut butter I have on hand when she calls for cashew butter (I have never had cashew butter so I have used peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower butter on separate occasions.) This recipe is spot on for the “taste” of pepperoni!! The texture is a off...I would describe it as soft and maybe a little doughy. My son likes the softness, but I have tried adding more time to the baking time and have had success with a firmer and drier pepperoni; play around with the baking time and see what works best for your taste buds. I shared this with our nutrition workshop participants and everyone seemed to really like the flavor! Even some of their kids gave it a thumbs up. So, if you are already plant-based give this one a try for some new meatiness, but even if you're not plant-based, yet, give this a try and maybe we can convert you!!
Here are a few tips:
-Get your hands in there and work the dough! It will be too tough to use a spoon.
-The recipe calls for a 7 inch log, this will give you about a 1.5 inch in diameter slice of pepperoni. If you want smaller slices (like you'd find in regular pepperoni), you can create (2)-7 inch logs with the logs being narrower in circumference. Just wrap them separately in foil and decrease baking time by 10 minutes.
-You may prefer a drier pepperoni...just add a little time to the recommended baking time
-I always double the recipe...it lasts for about 2 weeks when sealed in the refrigerator.
-Eastyn's favorite is a pepperoni and mustard sandwich!
Veggeroni (Seitan Pepperoni)
Trying to think of what to put on your Christmas list this year?
12 Gifts for Giving.....Yourself
Well, the days of grand vacations are over as we have upgraded to a new home and our son’s hockey schedule consumes our free time. We still make Thanksgiving about us and keep the focus on fun and not food. We take that day to celebrate our family of 3, where we don’t have to stress over family and what we need to “make”. We now take mini-vacations that are usually part of a hockey tournament. We plan the meal like any other. We are usually in a hotel for Thanksgiving so we bring food from home and give thanks to be together.
We usually host a small meal for our parents in our home before Thanksgiving. Last year, we made a 100% vegan Thanksgiving dinner and the in-laws were impressed with the meatless meal. Thanksgiving may be one of the easier meals to make vegan as most of the side dishes are some sort of fruit or vegetable. Also, you may find you can navigate an omnivore Thanksgiving table fairly easily while still eating plant-based.
If you are hosting your own Thanksgiving dinner, we have created the perfect Guide to the Holidays, which you can download here.
If you are a guest at an omnivore Thanksgiving here are some tips to help you stay stress-free and enjoy the time with your family.
- Bring A Main Dish: You know the turkey will be the center piece so bring a dish that serves as the focal point of your plate. Our holiday guide contains two dazzling entrées: Seitan Mushroom Loaf and Lentil Walnut Loaf
- Focus on the Sides: For some people Thanksgiving is all about the sides! Most people’s plate is piled high with green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, oh my!! Play it safe and bring a few of your own side dishes. It’s super easy to fill up on those goodies. We have some great ideas in our holiday guide like Quick & Hearty Broccoli Slaw, Simple Vegan Stuffing, Creamy Green Bean Casserole, Onion-Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Holiday Gravy, Mushroom Gravy, Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque, Harvest Cornbread
- Ask for Help: If your hosts are aware of your lifestyle, they may offer to make some vegan dishes for you or ask your advice in supporting you. Don’t feel like a burden, embrace their love of you and the support they are offering. Thank them and offer to help them out. If you are comfortable, ask your hosts if they would be willing to make a few of the recipes using vegan ingredients and offer to help veganize the recipe.
- Fill up First: Bring an appetizer or two or three! Fill up on appetizers that you bring, knowing that are fitting with your lifestyle and then take some small samples of the items on the dinner table. Our suggestions for appetizers: Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Basil Cheese (vegan) Spread.
- Bring Dessert: When all else fails you know you will have dessert waiting for you! Desserts are, probably, the easiest part of the meal to please everyone. Keep it simple. You could go with cookies, cakes or pies. Some of our favorites, from our holiday guide, are Pumpkin Pie and Rum Cake.
- Stay Positive: Experience tells me that people will tease you and some people will just be rude. But remember that this day is about celebrating the bounty in our lives and being grateful to be alive so don’t let the naysayers dull your sparkle. Give them a smile and pass them some dessert.
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?
Vegan vs. Plant-Based
(Yeah, you read that right bacon bits are vegan).
The Problem With Oil
Pushing Through Weight Loss Plateau
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
I fall down. I get back up.
Making it Work
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.
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!
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,
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.
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.
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.
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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