Help! I’m a Vegan at a Backyard Cookout. What Can I Eat?

I live in Texas, where the weather changes every few days.  Today, for instance, it was in the 80’s; tomorrow, the high is only supposed to be in the low 50’s.  We flip flop from freezing to beautiful and back in a whip-lash fashion.

During one of these roller coaster weather patterns, when it was in the 80’s, my family went to the lake with some friends from our church.  It actually got so warm that day that our friends turned on their A/C in the camper after we all began sweating!

As per any camping trip, a cook-out ensued.  *cue dramatic music*

I actually knew what the group was doing for dinner (hamburgers and hotdogs), and I came prepared.  But I realized that a backyard cookout/camping trip chuckwagon/barbecue was never going to be easy as long as I am eating a plant-based diet, since nearly every outdoor eating experience seems to revolve around meat.

As I said, I came prepared; armed with Cowboy Caviar (a bean/raw vegetable salad marinated in Italian dressing) and homemade fresh salsa with tortilla chips, my family and I had the opportunity to share a meal AND eat well.  I’m not going to lie – I was a little grossed out when a plate went by with not one but TWO bacon cheeseburgers and homemade potato chips (deep fried in oil and doused with seasoned salt).  Not grossed out because it came from animals, but because of how I would feel if I ate that.  I would feel bloated, gassy, and a little bit nauseated from all the oil (I have found when I eat fried foods, or even popcorn cooked in oil, I get that same nauseous feeling).

But I was happy when I saw others putting salsa and the fresh guacamole someone brought onto their burgers.  At least that’s SOME improvement, right?! 🙂  And of course I beamed when someone asked who brought the delicious bean salad and who made the yummy salsa?  Score two points for Team Vegan!

As the days get longer and summer months draw near (hooray for DST, right?), our friends and families will want to eat al fresco.  So what’s a vegan going to do?

1.) Be prepared – bring your own protein.  Know in advance what’s on the menu.  If that’s not possible, ASSUME IT’S GOING TO BE HAMBURGERS AND HOTDOGS.  Bring your favorite broccoli recipe (broccoli has more protein in 100 calories than a steak), or black/pinto/kidney/soy bean recipe.  The Cowboy Caviar is awesome because it’s got 3 different kinds of beans and a myriad of vegetables, plus it’s light and refreshing in contrast to the barbecued, cooked, and otherwise charred-with-carcinogens food.  Just look up a recipe on your favorite browser.  You can put what you want in it – mine had black-eyed peas, black beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, corn, green, yellow, orange, and red pepper, red onion, cilantro, avocado, and a package of Good Seasons Italian seasoning made with white vinegar and EVOO.  SO ADDICTIVE!

2.) Don’t make a big deal out of it.  If you are new to eating a plant-based diet, you may want to shout it from the rooftops so everyone knows…however, that may alienate people or otherwise make them feel inferior.  You may get this reaction – “Oh, well SHE is too GOOD for OUR kind of food…” or something to that effect.  Just set your stuff out with the other food, fill your plate when it’s your turn, and be sure to thank the host/hostess for a generous spread.

3.) Accept offers with a thanks.  Remember that eating a meal together is more important than the food itself.  I admit, I ate a couple handfuls of those homemade potato chips that were deep-fried and covered in salt.  You know why?  Not because they would fuel my body in a positive way, but because it built the relationship with the person who made them.  It would have been rude to refuse them.  One piece of meat won’t wreck your diet.  It may not feel great on your system, but all things will pass.  🙂  So whenever possible, as long as it doesn’t violate your own conscience, eat what is set before you with thanks.  (I feel like we all need to go read 1 Corinthians 8 – the chapter about food sacrificed to idols!)

4.) Go for more of the same.  If the only option is lettuce, tomato, and onion as toppings for a hamburger, load up!  Make a salad out of it and keep eating vegetables until you feel full.

5.) Help your host/hostess think outside of the “hamburger and hotdog” box.  What about black bean burgers?  Tofu burgers?  Vegetable skewers?  A southwest style baked potato with black beans, salsa, and avocado is a viable option.

Knowing is half the battle.  If you have other tips for vegan eating as the temperatures and the barbecue grills start warming up, please share!  Let’s help each other make progress toward our good health goals.


5 Easy Ways to Lose Weight

If someone told me losing weight was as easy as eating plants, I would have started a lot sooner than I did.

If someone told me I would feel better if I cut out bread, meats, and dairy from my diet, I would have done so a lot sooner than I did.

If someone had told me I would CONTINUE to lose weight, even when I ate foods that weren’t good for me, just because my diet was plant-based, I would have done so a lot sooner than I did.

Photo by

Photo by

These five easy steps are what I wish I had known 30 lbs ago:

1.) CUT IT OUT.  Eliminate red meats, sausages, pork, poultry, then chicken, tuna, and seafood.  Go one at a time.  Then cut out white breads/pastas of all kinds, especially the ones with sugar and preservatives.  Then get rid of dairy products, which are full of fat and hard on the digestive system.  Immediately stop consuming foods with artificial flavors or colors (like sodas), anything processed or fried, anything full of fat (I had to stop making pies because my pie crust recipe used Crisco), and anything with unpronounceable ingredients.  If you can’t find it in nature, don’t eat it. Click here to tweet this

2.) ADD PLANTS TO YOUR DIET.  Any kind of plant – green leafies, cooked carrots, beans of all kinds, fresh or frozen berries, nuts, seeds, and LOTS of fruit.   These are your cancer-fighters, your blood pressure lowering soldiers, your blood sugar stabilizers…you get the idea.  Your body will function so much better once you get on a plant-based diet.

3.) Exercise when you can, but aim for 3 times per week.  I was able to walk 3 miles 3 times a week and saw tremendous changes in my muscles and body shape.  Besides just feeling good, you will LOOK good, too!

4.) Don’t count calories.  Forget about how many points something gets or is this on so-and-so plan.  Just eat plants and get rid of all the other junk in our American diet.

5.) Don’t obsess.  This is a journey, not a destination, so there is no race to the finish.  Food is made to serve you, not the other way around.  It’s designed to make our bodies function so we can live LIFE.  You won’t be perfect every day, so accept that.  Give yourself some grace.  Stick to the 80/20 rule if you are going to splurge – 80% of what you should eat (plants) and 20% of what you WANT to eat.  Losing weight and eating whole foods can become a “god;” an idol; an obsession that your life revolves around and distances you from  your loved ones.  God never intended food to be divisive – see THIS ARTICLE from someone who shared her own journey from food idolatry (shared with permission from the author).  There are more important things in life than food.

If someone had told me losing weight was easy, I would have started on this journey a whole lot sooner. Click here to tweet this I hope this has helped you make progress toward your healthy goals.  If you know someone who has struggled with their weight and wants to learn more, please pass this on!  Let’s all help each other make progress toward our health goals.

The Great Animal Product Hoax

Quick! What did you have for dinner last night? How much of your dinner consisted of animal products? How much consisted of plant products?

One of the most surprising things about being on Dr. Fuhrmans’ Eat to Live plan (which, btw, is essentially “going vegan,”) was how big a part animal products played in my diet. I didn’t realize how much my diet relied on animal products – eggs, cheese, milk, beef, chicken, ham, bacon, turkey, etc. I also didn’t realize that YOU CAN GET EVERYTHING YOU NEED FROM PLANTS!*

I used to believe that people who ate a vegan diet had some sort of philosophical reason they didn’t eat animal products. I always believed for myself that God made animals for us to eat, so there was nothing wrong with eating meat. After reading his book, however, I see how the studies show the risk of lots of different kinds of cancers go up in societies that base their nutrition on animal products. Dr. Fuhrman also points out that the opposite is true: societies that eat a plant-based diet have significantly lower risks of all kinds of cancer. ‘Nuff said, for me, anyway.

Going “meatless” was not difficult for me. When I first got on his plan, I eliminated breads and meats, and saw a large amount of weight loss. It was not a difficult thing since I didn’t like how I felt after I ate meats, especially red meat like beef. Now, I will occasionally eat chicken, tuna, or fish, but in the main, I look to plants for protein – peanut butter, quinoa, and lots of different kinds of beans.

Going “vegan,” however, is a different story! I REALLY like cheese, and it is very difficult for me to cut that out. I have no trouble drinking almond milk instead of cow’s milk, and using egg substitute in place of real eggs, but I’m not quite ready to give up cheese. I do notice the extra pound or two my body retains when I eat cheese every day. I know that some day, I will be ready to say goodbye, but for now, I limit my cheese intake.

It’s all a psychological thing, eating animal products. Don’t buy into this hoax about “needing” animal products. YOU CAN GET EVERYTHING YOU NEED FROM PLANTS*! The sooner you realize you don’t NEED animal products to survive, the sooner you will be on your way to a slimmer, healthier body and mind!

*I should clarify that the only thing you can get from animal products that you can’t get from plants is Vitamin B12. Most vegans and vegetarians take a supplement for this unique vitamin. Read Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Revised Edition to find out more.

Holy VitaMeataVegaMin!

Remember that episode of the I Love Lucy show? Lucy was filming a commercial as the spokesperson for this liquid substance that is supposed to contain vitamins, meats, vegetables, and minerals, and the horrible taste was disguised with alcohol. Of course, by the end of the shoot, she was drunk and actually believed the stuff tasted good! See the whole episode on YouTube here.

I’m reading through Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book, and I’m in the chapter about the naturally occurring cancer-fighting chemicals found in plants. He keeps reiterating the fact that there are many phytochemicals that are still undiscovered.

His point is that you can’t just take a pill to get all the benefits of plant-based food. You have to EAT the plants to get all the benefits, including some that we don’t even know about yet! How can scientists replicate in pill form what nature hasn’t even revealed to us yet?

One other thing I thought was fascinating was that the process of eating our plant-based food causes some phytochemicals to work in tandem with others, giving you even MORE cancer-fighting coverage. Awesome!

If there was a doubt in your mind about taking a supplement, then let this be your catalyst to stop relying on sub-standard methods of getting your phytochemicals. READ HIS BOOK and you will understand why it is SO important to eat your plants – fruits, vegetables, beans, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and berries. You’ll be so glad you did.

Good luck as you make progress toward your healthy goals today!

6 Weeks of Beans: Part 2

Here’s the second of our favorite bean main dishes: White Chicken Chili.

2 Cups chicken, cooked and cubed
2 cans garbanzo beans (chick peas)
3 cans Northern beans, undrained
1 small can green chilis
3 1/2 Cups chicken broth
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Cup white onion, diced
1 1/2 Cups green peppers, diced

Throw it all in the crockpot for a few hours on low. It’s usually better the longer it sits. This feeds an army, so make room in your freezer for leftovers!

6 Weeks of Beans

I love the month of December because it means the holidays are here. Holidays mean time with family and that always means good food! I love baking cookies with my mom and enjoying almond tea punch with my mother-in-law.

The only thing I don’t like about the month of December is the fact our paycheck comes the week before Christmas. That’s not such a bad thing, in and of itself…it’s just that it stretches the pay period into nearly 6 weeks! In fact, there are 6 weekends in this pay period – from December 19 until January 27. Yikes!

Since I’m taking a break from eMeals for a bit, my job as SAHM is to determine how to eat comfortably for six weeks on our seemingly shoe-string food budget. The easiest solution? Beans!

Rice and beans have been endorsed by Dave Ramsey for a long time as the go-to food of choice while you are working to beat debt, and there’s a good reason: cost. They are both the cheapest thing per ounce in the entire grocery store!

I thought I’d present a few recipes we’ll be eating during this pay period. The first one is a recipe from some folks we knew in Minnesota about 15 years ago. It’s called “hot dish” up there; you may know it as a “casserole.” I think my family has shortened the recipe title to “Bean Hot Dish.”

Bean Hot Dish Recipe
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and chopped
1 lb hamburger, cooked
1 onion, chopped
1/2 Cup ketchup
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons mustard
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 15-oz. can each kidney beans, butter beans, pork and beans, and chili hot beans

Cook the meats; combine all ingredients in a 9×13 pan. Simmer for 2 hours or more (on low in the oven).  Yield: A LOT!  Enjoy for a week (ok, I might be exaggerating a little).

My spin on this recipe:
I made it in the crockpot on high for 2 hours and it turned out great! Since I don’t like raw onions, I sautéed mine in a little bit of EVOO before I added them to the crockpot; I eliminated the hamburger meat altogether; and I also used apple cider vinegar for a sweeter flavor. Hubby liked the end result!

So that’s it. Happy eating! Let all we do be done for God, who has blessed us exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined. ~Eph. 3:20-21