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 webmd.com

Photo by webmd.com

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.

Travel and Exercise: Can They Coexist?

If you are like me, my whole exercise routine gets interrupted when we go out of town.  Even if the trip is only a 2 or 3 day trip, my body forgets that it is supposed to move and be active.

The hardest parts, of course, are sitting in a car for extended periods of time, and the often-altered schedule of staying up late, sleeping in, and eating at odd hours.  All of these things work against you when you get the urge to exercise.

When we travel, I also find myself saying things like, “Well, I don’t want to take away from this time to visit with my family member,” or, “I’m not comfortable with someone else’s equipment/living room/tv/walking video, so I’ll just wait until I’m back in my own house with my own stuff.”

These are all legitimate reasons not to exercise.  But I think we can find a compromise.  Here are some suggestions for fitting in your exercise session while traveling:

1.) Get up earlier than everyone else.  Commandeer the TV for your Walk at Home DVD or other exercise video.

2.) Invite others in your family to exercise with you!

3.) Organize a game of flag football that involves the whole family.  Or backyard volleyball or other calorie-burning activity of your choice.

4.) Go on a walk.  One of my favorite memories of visiting my grandpa’s house when I was a kid was going for a walk in the woods.  He has 88 acres of farmland in central Missouri, filled with oaks and other trees I don’t know the names of, cattle and wild turkeys.  It was always a treat to go for a walk in these woods after a big holiday meal.

5.) When traveling, if at all possible, stop every hour or so and walk the trail at the rest stop.  Or find a city park and stretch your legs for about 15 minutes.  People traveling with dogs, children/babies, or pregnant women have to do this by default, anyway, so take advantage!

On one of my walking DVD’s, Leslie Sansone says this: “Our bodies were designed for movement.  They weren’t designed to sit in a car or sit in a chair/sofa/recliner.”  Let’s get moving, America!  Pack those tennis shoes and get moving next time you’re away from home.  Blessings to you and safe travels this holiday season.  ~Eph. 3:20-21

How Is Satan Attacking Your Family?

I recently sat in a Bible class where we discussed different weapons we have to fight temptation.  Our teacher mentioned how Satan throws “fiery darts” at us that not only hurt on impact, but the flames spread throughout our bodies.  Satan’s fiery dart for my family this time of year is busy-ness. 

Image photo by http://www.northjersey.com

Last Sunday, my oh-so-talented husband was gone from the house for 12 hours straight doing church- and music-related activities.  Then it’s back to work Monday-Wednesday, with a band concert thrown in there, and a trip out of town for three days, then a potluck at church on Sunday, followed by musical orchestra rehearsal, and then we get to Memorial Day, where he will have to mow the yard (he doesn’t know this is on his To Do list for that day!).  I’m sure your calendar is the same way – filled up with lots of good and productive things to do.  Are any of these things bad?  No, not inherently.   

However, they can become harmful, much as Satan’s fiery darts spread flames.  As I’ve learned from Dave Ramsey and our Financial Peace University material, if you spend money on ABC, you DON’T have money to spend on XYZ.  The same goes for time.  If you spend time away from home, you aren’t spending time at home.  Makes sense, right?

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

One of Satan’s most effective ways of winning the war between good and evil is to attack our families, breaking them down little by little.  Sometimes it’s a job loss, sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes it’s a devastating illness, sometimes it’s just never being together as a family.  We need to identify which dart he is throwing at our own families so we can defend ourselves against him. 

So once you identify the weakness, how do you ward off the “fiery darts?”  These are what I do to protect my marriage and my family:

1.) Schedule your “together time.”  Whether that is family time or husband-wife time, you need to keep that session intact, and it needs to happen every day (personally, I think you need both).  One baby-raising book I read recently said that Mommy and Daddy should have “Couch Time,” where they sit and talk to each other in a face-to-face conversation on the couch, before bedtime, where the kids can see.  Nothing should interrupt (phones, tv, kids) this sharing time.  This shows the children how important your marriage is, and how your spouse comes first, even before they do.

2.) Just say no.  There are so many wonderful opportunities for us to use our talents and gifts.  Sadly, Satan uses these (through guilt or other destructive emotions) to his advantage and our disadvantage.  Back to last Sunday, I think in hindsight, we should have said no to the things we had control over.

3.) Consider what you would give up to take on whatever is presented.  Is it worth giving up family time?  Is it worth neglecting your personal devotional time?  Is it worth skipping your exercise time?

4.) Pray for guidance.  Psalm 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.”

5.) Forget about others’ expectations of you.  This is one of Satan’s most destructive tools for me, personally.  What will so-and-so think if I do this?  Or what will they think if I don’t do this?  You have to do what is best for you and for your family.

I’m no expert in family dynamics, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to share what we are doing and how we have been blessed.  Protect your family as you would protect your home.  Lock things out that need to stay out, and lock things in that need to stay in.  In doing so, God will bless you exceedingly abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine.  – Ephesians 3:20-21

Making Memories

I just heard a spot on the radio advertising Dallas as a great family vacation spot.  The tag line was, “Vacations don’t last, but the memories do,” or something along those lines.  This got me thinking about my own mantra, of late: making memories with my family.

This past weekend, Guitardude, Pride&Joy and I went to our favorite place on Earth: Searcy, AR.  Why Searcy?  Because it is home to our beloved alma mater, Harding University.  Every year on Easter weekend, Harding hosts Spring Sing, a huge production of singing, costumes, jazz band, and “choreography.”  It is usually the highlight of our pilgrimage, but this year, we didn’t even get tickets to the show.

This year’s trip was more a social visit than anything else.  We introduced P&J to our former music professors, we caught up with some former students of ours, and we made time to visit with our friends who live in Searcy.  I think fellowship – camaraderie – is one of the biggest and richest blessings God gives us.

A few weeks ago, Guitardude, P&J and I traveled to my parents’ home to visit with them and my brother’s family.  Usually, we all just sit around and watch tv while the kids play.  This trip, however, I wanted to make memories: I wanted the kids to remember that time we did XYZ activity with Aunt Guitargal and Uncle Guitardude.  So I organized a trip to the movies, which just so happened to be the first time one of my nieces had ever been to a movie theater!  Now she will remember her first trip to the movies was with Aunt Guitargal.

Next trip, we are celebrating our November birthdays in June with a big shrimp boil!  We will make some wonderful memories then, I’m sure!

What do you to do make memories with your loved ones?  Do you snap a picture at every outing?  Do you scrapbook?  Do you visit every theme park in America?  

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine, to Him be the glory…” ~Ephesians 3:20-21