Breakfast for Dinner?!?

Want to have more time to enjoy your evening? This is what we are doing and it is working!

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We work hard. We have hobbies. We have chores. We chase passions. We try to always improve ourselves. In short, like you, we are busy. Even though we have no TV, no video games, not even a lot of furniture (1 couch, 1 bed, 1 desk, 2 end tables, 1 dining table), we still struggle to find time just for us, just to relax each day.

I think 2 and a half hours of completely open leisure time is a good amount to have, but after work, making and eating dinner, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, getting ready for bed, prepping for tomorrow, etc… we typically have 45-minutes to an hour to do whatever we want.

If you know me, then you know I love efficiency and I am always seeking ways to do things smarter, faster, or with less effort (I like to automate tasks and create habits). Nicole and I realized dinner is a huge time-suck for us, so we are trying something new and so far, it is showing great results.

We eat cereal for dinner. 

It is not, admittedly, the best dinner but cereal–even junk food cereal–is still full of vitamins, easy to prepare, and tastes delicious. We typically avoid highly processed “food” but for a quick meal, cereal is tough to beat. We still want to be sure we are eating fresh foods and veggies, though (which we would normally have prepared for dinner), so we changed our breakfast routine, too.

Instead of cereal for breakfast, we make smoothies, but with a twist. We prepare our smoothies for the week on Sunday and freeze the ingredients in single-serve baggies (1-quart size). In each bag, we have broken or chopped 3 fruits, 3 vegetables, 3 nuts, 3 grains, and a scoop of brown rice protein powder–more than enough actual nutrition to make up for cereal dinners. In the morning, I drop a frozen bag of smoothie ingredients into the Vitamix, pour in about 3 cups of unsweetened milk of my choice (usually Flax or Almond-Coconut) and blend it up. I drink it before I head to work and it tides me over most of the morning.

The best part is, we have added around an hour to each evening, allowing us to walk, talk, watch Netflix, read, meditate, or whatever we want! Can’t beat that.

If you want to try this crazy experiment, here is what a couple of our smoothies might look like:

Always start with 1 banana and 1 carrot. It is hard to screw up the taste after that, and you get lots of great vitamins between those two alone, like Potassium, Fiber, and Vitamins A and C.

Smoothie 1 (everything chopped and placed in a 1-quart bag, to be frozen):

1 banana

1 peach

6 strawberries (whole, with greens)

1 carrot

1 handful of parsley

1 handful of spinach

A palm’s worth of sunflower seeds

A palm’s worth of raw pecans

1 teaspoon of chunky peanut butter

A palm’s worth of raw oats

A palm’s worth of chia seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder (or vegan protein powder of choice)

3 cups of unsweetened Flax milk (this does not go in the baggie–pour this in the blender in the morning)

 

Smoothie 2:

1 banana

1 carrot

Handful of basil

Handful of blueberries

Handful of kale

5 Mango slices (half a mango)

A palm’s worth of raw cashews

A palm’s worth of raw walnuts

A palm’s worth of flax seeds

A palm’s worth of hemp seeds

Scoop of brown rice protein powder

3 cups unsweetened Almond Coconut milk (don’t put this in the bag, obviously–pour this in the blender, in the morning)

 

Mix and match any of the ingredients. Trade spinach for a cucumber, or blueberries for beets, or parsley for cilantro. Experimenting with the flavors is half the fun. Each morning, I just grab a bag, the milk, toss it in the blender and I’m good to go. That night, a quick bowl of cereal (or sometimes, a bagel with vegan cream cheese–any quick breakfast really) will hit the spot and free up time.

Have fun with that life-hack. If you have more, comment on FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, or wherever you read this blog. Don’t forget you can subscribe to have each post delivered right to your inbox so you can archive and save it for reading later. Whatever works for you. I’m flexible.

Enjoy your breakfast dinner!

The Joys of Being Chubby

Being overweight isn’t ALL bad.

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Even being vegan and active, I would not classify myself as a “health nut”, and like many people I struggle with weight. I usually carry an extra pesky 20-30 pounds that do no good for my physical health or self-esteem. Also, like many people, I have a mostly sedentary career and a few “sitting” hobbies, like watching movies and reading. I also delicious sweet baked goods and sweet stuff.

I mitigate my diet as much as I can without feeling deprived. For example, I rarely drink soda, I gave up my sweet, sweet welcoming morning lattes, and I don’t eat candy bars or even chew sugary gum. Plus, I am moderately active, especially on the weekends. Still, that pesky 20-30 hang around like a group of jobless, loitering high school hoodlums.

I know what to do to lose the weight but I choose not to. I do not want my life consumed by conscientiously eating small amounts of tasteless food or spending hours of my week walking in place or lifting heavy things up and putting them down over and over.

I guess, for me, having a little extra weight is not all that bad. Think about this… thanks to my being fat:

I am almost never cold. Nicole is petite and she always complains how cold it is (we live in TAMPA, FL). Even when we were inside and the temperature is set to 78 degrees, for Nicole it is sweater time. For me, it’s always shorts weather! Chubby = 1. Skinny = 0.

I can survive for days without eating. I wouldn’t want to, but I could skip a few (well, several) meals if suddenly the vegan store ran out of tofu (people think that is all vegans eat). Not only that, but I would also be bigger than all the scrawny people left and I could take their food without much effort after waiting them out a week or so. Chubby = #winning!

I am more cuddly. Because Nicole is tiny, when I wrap my arms around her, I feel bigger, stronger, and more manly than I probably am, but I also have to worry about crushing her if we are laying next to each other and I roll over. On the other hand, when Nicole cuddles with me, she knows she is safe because I provide a pillowy wall to keep her from accidentally rolling off the bed. I am fat because I care about her safety. Plus, cuddling with me is like embracing a big, warm, hairy teddy bear. Who doesn’t love teddy bears? Probably fish, but they don’t cuddle so it doesn’t matter.

 

I am still going to pursue, with mild to moderate will, eliminating the pesky 20-30 extra pounds I carry but then I will have to worry about being a shivering, starving, unsafe mangy bear.

One problem at a time, I guess.

 

What Is Food?

Today’s Lesson: What happens to any battery that is constantly overcharged?

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Apple iPhone 3GS li-on battery (Wikipedia)

Peter Diamandis is a BIG thinker with a rare ability to explain complex concepts in plain language. While answering a fan question on the Tim Ferriss show, he said something that struck me:

“Food is just a mechanism for turning sunlight energy into (biomechanical) energy.”

That got me thinking. Although we have many emotional, physical, and chemical reactions to food, at its base food is simply fuel. Our bodies are essentially machines designed to transport and protect our brains the way our cars are machines designed to transport and protect our bodies. That means bad things can happen if we over-fuel, under-fuel, or use the wrong fuel to run our body machines.

Over-fueling provides more energy than can be effectively burned off, causing energy storage units to bloat, stagnate, and corrode (all the problems that come with being overweight). Under-fueling means the machine can not run effectively and may lead to premature engine wear and seldom used parts deteriorating and breaking down when needed most (all the problems with not having enough nutrition). Using the wrong fuel is probably the worst, leading to physical, sometimes irreparable, damage. Drug abuse, for example, is like putting hi-octane fuel into a car that requires regular unleaded. It will burn fast, backfire, and possibly ruin the engine altogether.

As with any machine, years of continued abuse will contribute to faster wear and tear, breakdowns, and eventual self-destruction.

If you think of food as simply the mechanism we have to convert sunlight energy into physical energy, it takes away the emotional attachment. Think about what type of fuel, and how much of it you are putting in your tank (I mean, body) the next time you stop to refuel (I mean, have dinner).

Why You’re Fat

Today’s Lesson: Mmph. Can’t typef. eating.

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As I shoveled another forkful of Five Guys fries covered in vegan chili and Daiya cheese into my mouth and followed it with a drink of Squirt soda, which is basically carbonated sugar, I wondered why my pants felt so tight.

I really try to convince myself I am active and physically fit, but I eat a little too much. It is true, being vegan, I eat, on par, healthier food than most people. At the end of the meal, though, it is still a simple equation: Calories In versus Calories Out.

I walk every day, I ride my bicycle every few weeks, I have a Stand-Up Paddleboard now. I get exercise. I just like to follow it up with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Banana-based ice cream and chili cheese fries with soda.

It is true I sit on my butt about 13 hours a day (of the 16 I am awake) but I feel like I should be a lot thinner…almost as much as I feel like having a donut. 2 donuts.

Anyway, I realize I have 3 options here.

     1. Do nothing. Just be fat and pretend like I accept myself just the way I am because I am beautiful and people have all kinds of blah-blah-blah–tell it to the mirror.

     2. Do something. Sneak in exercise–like, the legitimate, calorie-burning kind, everywhere I can. Give up a little more sleep and hit the gym. Except I hate the gym, so go for a walk or jog or do push-ups or just jump in place. Anything.

     3. Do something else. I know it is simple math. I love sugary foods–lattes, an occasional soda, donuts, ice cream, chips, cereal, etc. All vegan, but still loaded with sugar or cane juice or high-fructose corn syrup, or just plain sugar. I can eat less, or different, foods. Calories In must equal less than Calories Out.

Maybe I will try a little of each (I think that’s a Freudian-diet slip). I do not mind being overweight, by the way. I’m older, I’m healthy, I work a lot, I earned it. I just like the way I look and feel more when I am not so heavy.

If it makes you feel better, I did follow the chili cheese fries and soda with a salad covered in vegan Bac-O’s and Ranch dressing. Hey… I had to start somewhere.

 

There Is No Goal

You will never reach your health goals, but keep trying.

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I have been enjoying my Garmin Vivosmart fitness tracker. Well, mostly enjoying. Okay, maybe “enjoying” is too strong. “Hating”, I think, is the right word. I hate it. It is like having JK Simmons from Whiplash as a fitness coach.

Every time I meet a goal, it sets it higher. There is no end. I walk SO much, now. I walk to the fridge, to my desk, to my car, to the bathroom, to the fridge… sometimes I will just walk randomly, like around the block, without any expectation of food at the end of the walk! I know. Crazy, right? That’s what the stupid Vivosmart does to you. It lets you know you can never walk enough.

I am beginning to get the point, though. Even if I set a weight goal and reached it (which I have not done), I would not be satisfied. I will always want to maintain or walk off that nagging last inch of waistband, or… lift some weights or some other insanity.

I am doomed to walk for the rest of my life.

We all are, because health, unfortunately, does not stop at the fridge. Health is an ongoing cycle, a motor that requires regular maintenance (walking and eating well) to keep running (figuratively and literally). Health is a never-ending quest for self-improvement and self-care. It is clearly one of the primary goals of living well and feeling good.

Stupid health.

I’m going for a walk.

My Vitamin Regimen

Eat your veggies (but still take a vitamin).

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As a long-time vegan (I do not eat or wear anything that comes from another animal), I am often asked how I get my… well, choose your vitamin: protein, Vitamin D, B-vitamins, Iron, etc…

I like to keep my life simple and that includes my vitamin regimen. Here is my strategy and thoughts on why (and, by the way, I recently had a full run of blood-work completed and all my vitamin and mineral levels are perfectly fine).

My strategy, in sum, is: I take a cheap vegan multi-vitamin every morning during the week and I skip taking vitamins on the weekend.

Let’s break that down:

Why take a vitamin at all if being vegan is so healthy (even a cheap one)?

I probably do not need to take vitamins. It is mainly for peace of mind. Vegan or not, I love food and tend to eat a wide variety of colors and types. I love grains, fruits, vegetables, pasta, legumes, you name it… (just don’t name okra or eggplant–so gross!).

I have not found any credible, peer-reviewed evidence showing that taking vitamins (even for non-vegans) offers any benefit for people who generally eat well and spend moderate time outdoors anyway (taking vitamins does, however, make your pee turn funny colors and I guess that’s cool). Also, despite the claims of certain health stores and vitamin chains, there is no scientifically accepted, peer-reviewed double-blind studies showing that any vitamin in any form has better absorption rate in the body than any other. In short, paying $60 for a pack of vitamins or powders will deliver the same effect as paying $4 for a pack of vitamins or powders.

That is why I buy the cheapest vegan multivitamin I can (I am fond of Deva brand because I can usually find the 90-packs of mini-pills at a cheap price on Amazon).

Why take the weekends off?

Again, mostly for peace of mind. Many vitamins, like Vitamin C, are water-soluble. If you get more Vitamin C than you need, your body will usually flush the excess out (which is why vitamins make your pee turn funny colors). That is probably why Vitamin C is pushed so hard as a cold-remedy. There is no credible evidence I am aware of to support its effectiveness at preventing illness, but if you take way too much, marketers know you will likely urinate the rest–all you lost, besides Vitamin C, is money.

(I should mention it is still possible to have too much water-soluble vitamins. It is just difficult to make it happen without overdosing on supplements.)

There are some vitamins, however, that are not water-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). That means if you take too much of these, your body will not flush the excess and you will likely suffer from vitamin toxicity, which can create all kinds of health issues. Non-water-soluble vitamins are stored in fat and used only as needed. The excess is not usually flushed.

I feel better knowing I let my body flush or pull vitamins from storage for a couple days each week. I do not actually know if this is an effective strategy (I said I do it for peace of mind) but all I can tell you is I have never been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency after close to two decades of being vegan.

Do vegans need special vitamins?

To be clear: there is no vitamin, mineral, or nutrient that exists in animal form that can not also be found in a plant-based form (where do you think the animals get their vitamins?), with one exception, and it is not protein, which can be found in peanut butter, spinach, beans, and just about everything else.

Only vitamin B12 is elusive for vegans but for an interesting reason: our society is too clean. B12 is normally found in soil and would normally be ingested by eating fresh fruit, for example (traces of soil would be on the skin of the fruit). With our modern highly industrialized and sanitized food system, it is difficult for vegans to get enough B12 naturally. However, it is found in almost every vegan product–most alternative milks are fortified with B12, as well as Orange Juice, tofu, veggie burgers, soy cheese, etc.

A cheap vegan multivitamin is a perfect solution.

What makes a vitamin vegan, anyway?

Not all packaged vitamins are vegan. Gel caps are usually made with gelatin, which comes from animals. The smooth coating on a vitamin (or any pill) is sometimes created from animal-based glycerin or gelatin. Sometimes, even the source of the vitamins themselves can be animal-based. For example, if there are Omega-3 fatty acids in the multivitamin, they are almost certainly fish-based. If it is cheaper for a vitamin manufacturer to source some or all of their product from dead animal meat factory waste, then you better believe that is where it will come from (enjoy those $60 GNC pills made of $3 hot dogs).

In other words, in the case of vitamins, make sure the product is actually labeled “vegan”.

Incidentally, you do not have to be vegan to take vegan multi-vitamins. They are the same vitamins, except the vegan ones do not require any murder of anything that feels pain.

 

That is my vegan vitamin regimen in all its glorious detail. In a nutshell: Take a vegan multivitamin five days per week.

Hope that helps. Here’s to your health (and weekends off)!

One Easy Way to Get Your Veggies!

Eat your veggies, however that works for you.

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Nicole is spearheading a new experiment for us. We have begun ordering vegetables online. Every week we pay about $57 to have fresh, organic fruits and vegetables show up on our doorstep. (We are going through Tampa Bay Organics but there are many services that do this near most populated areas.)

At first, it seemed like a risky waste of money. We have a tendency to let veggies go to waste because we are too busy to cook them. Plus, $57 per week?!?

We spend about $120 per week on groceries (our grocery bill definitely went up when we moved to Tampa, by quite a bit, which seems counter intuitive since much of the fruits and veggies in the U.S. comes from Florida). We were worried breaking out the veggies this way would end up driving the bill higher. We are only on week two but so far it hasn’t.

It turns out, since all of our fruits and veggies are covered for the week, we spend less time browsing at the grocery store and only grab the stuff that isn’t delivered.

Another unexpected benefit is by breaking the bill out, we focus more on ensuring we are eating what we paid for (isn’t that odd?). I took a nectarine for lunch, snacked on an avocado and kiwi fruit, and we have fresh kale for our orzo instead of boxed spinach.

So far, it has been a smart move, and I like the way it works. They send us a list of what they will be dropping off each week and we can plan around it or trade some items (like disgusting okra or eggplant–the antidote for taste buds) for other items (like delicious beets or extra bananas). We can save our preferences, too, so I never even have to worry about seeing gross, hairy, slimy Hulk-colored okra on our list.

I am not sure this approach is for everyone but if you have been on the fence about having fresh food dropped off at your door, I encourage you to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, the worst that happens is you have more food than you need, but at least it is healthy food.

 

Don’t Worry About the Starving Kids In Africa

Throwing food out is not a crime.

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Almond milk, it turns out, is not Nicole’s favorite addition to a latte. She tried one today, and drank about half of it.

She debated over throwing it out because it didn’t taste great but it was not a cheap cup of coffee either.

I understood. I often finish meals because I don’t want something to go to waste (especially if it was expensive). If you think about it, though, it is probably better (for most of us) to throw away an unfinished meal than it is to try and stuff ourselves (assuming for some reason we can not take home leftovers), in an attempt to get our money’s worth.

I would rather pay six dollars not to eat an additional 450 calories than to force myself to eat an extra 450 calories I will never burn off. I would rather lose a few bucks instead of trying to lose a few inches.

Nicole tossed the latte and we headed to the beach. Good trade off.

5 Common (Hidden) Animal Ingredients

We are what we eat. Maybe we should care a little more about both.

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Here are 5 common animal-based ingredients I wish I knew about when I first went vegan. Unless you are a food scientist, you would not recognize the names without doing research. There are far too many “secret” animal ingredients to list (and other people have done a great job of it–just search for “vegan ingredients”). I will try to save you time with this short list of common animal ingredients, the names of which are really just another way of saying, “the gross parts of animals we could not sell you directly as food”:

1. Gelatin. Crushed up animal bones and throwaway animal material that can not be consumed otherwise (like hooves, bones, skin, cartilage, etc.). Gelatin is in Jell-O. It creates the gummy texture in marshmallows and “Gummi Bears” but also shows up in many cosmetics and cereals like Lucky Charms (the marshmallow bits). There are great vegan substitutes such as Agar-Agar or Arrowroot powder but it is much cheaper to feed your kids yummy horse hooves.

2. Whey. Basically, milk powder. This is the same stuff you hear weightlifters talk about for bulking up (rice protein would do the same thing without torturing animals) and it turns up in many places you would not suspect, such as “Non-Dairy” Creamers. Ironically, “non-dairy” creamer absolutely contains dairy. Look at the fine print below the ingredient list and see for yourself. Watch for whey in sauces, powders, and breads.

3. Glycerin. Also known as “glycerol”, this can be made from vegetable oil but it is usually more economical to produce it from animal fat. Because it is a sweet, colorless liquid it shows up in a lot of desserts and dairy-based foods like yogurt. It also helps add moisture to skin so you will find it in most soaps (who doesn’t like to rub a little animal fat all over their body?) and many pharmaceuticals (including the “casing” around vitamins). If the label does not specifically say, “vegetable glycerin”, it almost certainly is animal-derived.

4. Casein. This is another milk protein, like whey. It shows up mostly in cheese, butter, ice cream, and other dairy-based products. Just for kicks, it is also used in many adhesives and paints. Casein is also a tricky one for new vegans because it shows up in a lot of “vegetarian” products you might assume are vegan, such as soy-based cheese.

5. “Natural” Flavors. This is the worst of the worst, in my opinion. It is like listing “stuff” as an ingredient. Listing “natural flavors” is a way to help protect a company’s recipe from being reverse-engineered, but it does not help the consumer. The problem is, the phrase is so loosely defined by the FDA that it essentially means, “anything”. From the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21, Section 101, part 22, revised April 1st, 2014):

(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

Blecch! What the hell is natural about that?!? 

If we are what we eat, I suggest we care a little more about both.

New vegans or pro vegans can still be caught by vague, misleading, or downright deceptive ingredient names. Remember, the food manufacturers interest is to sell us food, not ensure we are healthy or taking care of our fellow creatures and the environment. That is not a stab at food manufacturers. I am only saying it is our responsibility as individuals to take care of our bodies and world (though it would be nice if the manufacturers employed more ethically conscious people to help with that).

In an increasingly complex food system, another piece of old, traditional advice from grandma still holds true: “watch what you eat.” (Because no one else is going to.)

5 Super-Easy Ways to Be Vegan

Eat the Rainbow, by Markus Spiske / raumrot.com / CC-BY

Changing your life is scary, but your life is truly a matter of life or death. Making your life better does not have to be all or nothing and it does not have to happen all at once. Just take one step. Then another. Stumble. Try again. Remember, that worked for learning how to walk…

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Friends and family often come to me for advice on how to be more vegan or adopt a more vegan-friendly diet. The question has come up lately–“How do you do it?”, which means, “How can I do it?”

Usually someone is asking for advice on eating a plant-based diet to enjoy some of the many health benefits I have experienced being vegan (needing less sleep, thinking faster, losing weight, having more energy, lowering risk of diseases, etc.).

I think better health is a fine reason to go vegan. I hope that also leads to more people thinking about a better system of care-taking for the world’s other inhabitants. It would be pretty cool, I think, to have as many cow friends as people friends, or deer friends that have become dear friends. I remember the thrill of learning our cows and pigs had names when I was a kid, and then the horror of learning we were going to eat them. That was long before I would become vegan but it stuck with me.

The mistake most people make when considering being vegan (or vegan-ish)  is thinking it is an “all or nothing” game, that it is going to be a drastic and miserable life change. It can be, but it does not have to be. I see all change in life (positive or negative) as simply a system of habits. Eating one bad meal won’t kill you. Eating one good meal won’t heal you. It is the habitual practice of one or the other that will lead you to your results (good or bad).

I have five tips to offer that will help you on your way to taking the first step (which you will practice, and stumble, and practice again–remember, it worked for walking–it works for eating). I want to note, however, these are not necessarily healthy tips. These are to help you take the first step. I am not going with full-on tofu love and crazy-sounding ingredients (except one) to make you vegan like a pro just yet. This is for those of you who do not live in vegan meccas or even really have an idea where to start. These tips are training wheels to get you moving the right direction. That being said (and apologies for the long intro), here are 5 Super-Easy Ways to be Vegan (or more vegan-ish):

1. A vegan meal is just a regular meal with one or two things traded out. It’s not all tofu, tempeh, and seitan with Nori salad. Check this out.

Non-vegan plate: steak, mashed potatoes, and a side of corn.

Vegan plate: baked potato with broccoli and McCormick Bac’n Bits (the original–they have always been vegan!), corn, and a side of asparagus (or just an extra helping of corn).

Non-vegan plate: burger with beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke sucks).

Vegan plate:  burger with Portobello mushroom cap patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard. Crinkle-cut french fries. Pepsi (because Coke still sucks). To note, the buns probably are not vegan, but just worry about the basics for now.

2. Replace meat with potatoes. Potatoes are hearty and filling like meat. If you feel like Spaghetti Marinara is not real spaghetti because you need meat sauce and meat balls, then chop up some potatoes, pan-fry or roast them, and then toss them into the sauce. Add a few other veggies too, like, zucchini, mushrooms, and green pepper. Or make gnocchi instead of spaghetti. (If you have never had gnocchi, they are like ravioli but made with potatoes and super-easy to make from scratch–just search online). With all the other flavors and hearty starches, you will never notice the meat missing.

3. Replace butter with olive oil. Many top chefs already do this and the idea has been advocated on America’s Test Kitchen. Olive Oil is heart-healthy and delicious. In fact, it is not actually oil like other refined oils (including vegetable and corn oil). To make olive oil, you crush olives. That’s it. Olive “oil” is really just olive “juice”. It can replace butter on anything. Try a little olive oil instead of butter on toast (it’s awesome!). Use it on popcorn, mashed potatoes, literally anywhere you would use butter.

If a recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, just use 3 tablespoons of olive oil. There are many kinds and flavors of olive oil. Find the one you like best. Most grocery stores charge outrageously high prices for olive oil and I have no idea why. You can find absurdly cheap prices if you have a Mediterranean grocery store or deli nearby (Italian deli or Arabic grocery store, for example).  If nothing else, even Amazon.com has better prices than most grocery stores, including shipping.

4. Replace cheese with Nutritional Yeast. This is the one weird-sounding ingredient that is an absolute must in our house. Nutritional Yeast is a flaky, yellow powder that adds a tart, cheesy flavor to anything. You can sprinkle it on macaroni and stir it in with olive oil for a light, zesty mac and cheese flavor. Use it on soups, salads, pretty much anything. If you can not find nutritional yeast at your local grocery store, order it online for a pretty good bulk price. In my experience, no specific brand is better than any other so just go with the cheapest (although you might prefer flakes over powder, but they taste the same).

5. Replace dairy milk with any other milk. In most local grocery stores, you can now have an abundance of non-dairy milks, either in the health food aisle or in the refrigerator section. This was tough for me, at first, because I used to drink cow’s milk with every meal. Now, this is one of my favorite parts of being vegan. There is a type of milk for every meal!

The choices are amazing. The biggest part of this tip is to try them all until you find a few that you love. You have lots of milk choices here and they are all healthier than normal cow’s milk (which was made for baby cows, not baby humans): Soy, Oat, Almond, Coconut, Almond-Coconut Blend, Hemp, Flax, Rice, etc. They are all great. My personal preference is unsweetened Almond-Coconut for cereal, Soy for coffee/lattes, Oat for drinking with dinner or just as a treat. Think of them as flavorings for whatever you are eating.

Also, you might find you like a particular brand of milk over another. They are not all created the same, so take your time trying different types of each milk. There is definitely something for everyone.

If you live where there are no store-bought options or if the alternative milks are still outrageously priced, consider buying a milk powder from Amazon or other online retailer (there is soy, almond, rice, etc…). The powders can be mixed with water and you get a lot more for your money, but in my opinion, they are not as tasty (you have to get the water to powder ratio just right!). Nonetheless, they are often a better value than what you will find in the store.

Bonus Tip: The more colors, the more nutrients. Since this applies across the board, I am not considering it one of the 5 tips. Both non-vegans and vegans have heard this advice: “Eat the rainbow,” which basically means the more colors your meal has, the healthier it is likely to be. The reason is the colors of fruits and vegetables is determined by the amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients within them (their only ingredients).

A dark, leafy lettuce, for example, will likely have more vitamins than a lightly colored leafy lettuce (it will also have a stronger taste). Have fun with colorful meals. Try to have at least 5 colors in each meal: white potatoes, red tomatoes, green broccoli, yellow corn, and orange pepper, for example, could make an interesting veggie soup! Purple shredded cabbage, brown mushrooms, tan chickpeas, dark green spinach, and blueberries might make a great salad!

 

There you have it. Some super easy starter-tricks to start adopting a healthier, closer-to-vegan lifestyle. You can worry about getting good and reading ingredient labels later. You don’t have to fall in love with tofu to start (or ever). Just focus on the big three for now: meat, dairy, and cheese (I know “cheese” is dairy but a lot of people do not–it really is practically its own food group).

In the future, I will share a few super-easy vegan recipes I use for every day meals, and I mean SUPER-easy. I am the laziest cook in the world because I am busy and I need meals that are even easier than ordering from Chipotle! I’ll share a few that work for me and maybe they will help you, too.

Feel free to toss questions my way via your social media of choice (I’m “Michael Salamey” everywhere) and share with your friends–having a supporter can help you go a long way. Plus, questions help me create new blog posts without having to come up with ideas myself!

Good luck on your journey to better living.