Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Thirteen years ago, I told my mom that I no longer wanted to eat meat anymore. Growing up my family didn't consume a lot of meat but it was still ingrained in our diet. My mom supported me and I slowly phased out different animal products, first beef, then pork, then chicken and here I am today transitioning into a vegan diet.
There are so many different diets out there - keto, whole 30, weight watchers, paleo, gluten free, low fat, low carb, etc. I was never one for dieting or cleansing, I just wanted to do good to my body and give it the proper nutrients it needed that worked for my body. When I first became vegetarian I didn't understand the importance of nutrients and balancing your diet. My first couple years being vegetarian was carb heavy with not nearly enough vegetables or protein my body needed, resulting in me having very low iron. I was never a fan of taking supplements so when the doctor prescribed me iron pills I thought to myself that was a quick fix to my body, I wanted to do it the right way. From there on I decided to learn what I needed to do to become a "good" vegetarian.
During my research on the environment and climate change I learned how much the cattle and animal industry impacts the environment - I always thought to myself well good thing I don't eat meat. But then the lightbulb went off and I realized that while I don't eat meat, I still consume a lot of animal products in my everyday diet - in every meal. After watching a few more documentaries and reading some books I learned the benefits of a plant based diet and was intrigued to see if this was something I could do. I also knew that a lot of environmentalist that I admired ate a plant based diet. There didn't seem to be any downsides (besides cutting out pizza, ice cream, and creamy pasta sauce). So I gave it a shot in January but decided to take it slow and put my health (and sanity) first.
7 months later I can say I'm 95% of the way there. I've found alternatives to all my favorite junk foods and enjoy cooking fresh food rather than heating up processed food. My body feels better, I don't get bloated or have as many breakouts, I don't get as sore after working out and recover quicker, and I feel my energy is more balanced throughout the day. My weight is the same but I feel stronger and more balanced. I've learned that there are endless options for vegans, it's not just salads like everyone thinks (eye-roll).
So why should you consider cutting back on your animal products intake? Or eating more plant based meals? Here's some notes I have taken throughout my research:
28 billions animals were pulled out of the oceans last year
An acre of rainforest is cleared every second - one of the biggest reasons is to graze livestock
Livestock is responsible for 51% of emitted gas pollution
1 gallon of milk needs 1,000 gallons of water to be produced
All dairy animals end up in the meat industry once they stop producing eggs or milk
1.5 acres of land could produce 37,000 pounds of vegetable or 375 pounds of meat.
The documentaries Game Changers and Cowspiracy on Netflix are great resources. The book How Not to Die by Dr Michael Gregor is another great resource on how specific plants can reduce or completely eliminate disease.
I'm not here to tell you what to do, I'm giving you information that I have learned and think it's important for everyone to be aware of - it's up to each individual to what they want to do with that information. Whether it's having one day a week be plant based or simply adding more fruits, vegetables and grains into your diet, there is no right or wrong way to eating plant based foods.
Being home and out of work since March, I have had a lot of time to explore different plant based recipes and wanted to share some of my easiest, go-to recipes that anyone can make.
Sambazon Frozen Acai Smoothie Packet
1/2 Frozen Banana
1/2 cup Frozen berries
1 tbsp sweetener (agave/maple syrup)
1/2 cup non dairy milk
Blend all ingredients together until well blended, add a splash of water if necessary or more milk. Top with anything you want - granola, fruit, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax, shredded coconut - etc. Experiment with ingredients swap out berries for mango or greens, the options are limitless.
Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
.75 lbs of Broccoli cut up into small bite size pieces (I buy the pre cut bags at Wegmans and cut them up smaller, otherwise it's probably 1/2 head broccoli)
.75 lbs of cauliflower cut up in small bite size pieces, same as above
1/4 cup of chopped red onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of vegan cheddar shredded cheese (optional)
Mix together mayo and vinegar and whisk until smooth.
Add cauliflower, broccoli, onion, and cranberries into a bowl. Add the mayo vinegar dressing and mix until evenly coated
Stir in sunflower seeds and shredded cheese. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator up to 4-5 days.
*no photo :(
Vegetables of choice (ex broccoli, bell pepper, carrot, mushroom)
Boil rice noodles according to package.
In a frying pan add oil to pan and toss in veggies on low/med heat to cook.
Add equal parts of soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar to frying pan (the amount depends on how many people you are cooking for, start with 2 tbsp of each and go from there)
Cut tofu into cubes and cook in oil on high heat in separate pan. Then add to pan with veggies.
Once noodles are cooked, drain and add to vegetables, toss to coat.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 24 hours
4 cups of water
1 tbsp sweetener (agave or maple syrup)
Dash of himalayan pink sea salt
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Dash cinnamon (optional)
Blend ingredients together and strain well through a cheese cloth. Can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
No bake Protein Balls
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 semi sweet mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup agave
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix ingredients together, let chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Roll into 1-inch balls, serve immediately or store in refrigerator or freeze. *I often add 1 scoop of protein powder to add in more protein but not necessary.
No bake chocolate shortbread bars
4 tbsp vegan butter melted
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp coconut flour
1 cup semi sweet or vegan chocolate chips
1 tbsp vegan butter
1/4 cup nut butter
Shredded coconut (optional)
1. Mix ingredients together for crust and press into pan (I used an 8x8 brownie pan but didn't spread crust across the entire pan). Put into refrigerator to set.
2. Melt ingredients for chocolate layer on stovetop or microwave and add on top of crust. 3. Top with coconut flakes and let it set in the refrigerator or freezer for at least an hour.
1/3 cup tahini
2-4 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves chopped
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
1 can of chickpeas (15oz)
1. Add tahini, water, olive oil, cumin, salt, garlic, and lemon to food processor. Blend until smooth.
2. Add chickpeas and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust to preference (more garlic, lemon, salt, water etc.)
3. Serve immediately, add desired toppings - I like to add a spicy tomato pesto and olive oil.