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 Reasons I LOVE Eating Plants!

I used to think vegans were weirdos.  Now that I am one, I can verify that, yes, we are weirdos!

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It’s weird to not eat like everyone else in the restaurant.  It’s strange to eat salad every day.  It’s not normal to have a digestive system that functions freely.

There are so many reasons to eat a plant-based diet, but if you don’t think about lowering your blood pressure, eliminating cancer risks, improving your heart health, and other science-based reasons, consider the following 5 reasons to join the “weird” side and go vegan:

1.)  You’ll have no digestive issues.  Seriously.  No constipation from too much cheese.  No bloating from white bread products.  No odors after eating meat.  In fact, you’ll kind of forget about your system because it will finally function so freely and easily that you won’t even think about it!

2.) It’s fun to eat what looks good!  Not what SOUNDS good, but what LOOKS good.  God gave us two eyes with which to see a rainbow of colors, and that includes when looking for nutrition.  It never fails – when I am at a restaurant with my family and my nice, big, beautiful salad is delivered next to their (brown) fried shrimp, (brown) french fries, and mashed potatoes smothered in (brown) gravy, everyone else marvels at how good it looks.  I daresay they wish they’d ordered something as colorful as my salad!

3.) You don’t have to count calories.  Once you get the correct replacements for animal products figured out – plant-based protein is the most difficult piece to the vegan puzzle – you will be eating a TON of food (Dr. Fuhrman recommends a pound of cooked vegetables and a pound of raw vegetables PER DAY), but you will be losing weight without points and portion sizes and food scales.  AND you can eat until you feel full!

4.) There are no temperature sensitivities to fret about.  When you are traveling, like we do frequently, you don’t have to pack a cooler anymore since only animal products are temperature-sensitive!  You don’t have to worry about how long this food sat out or if this dish was cooked to the “right” temperature.

5.) You may discover a new favorite food!  I didn’t know what a parsnip was before I started eating vegetables every day.  When I asked a lady in the produce section what it was, she directed me to PARSLEY…apparently she didn’t know what it was, either!  But I used it in a medley of roasted root vegetables and discovered its buttery, carrot-but-not-really flavor and loved it!  I quickly added it to my list of favorite vegetables.  My husband recently discovered he likes the taste of artichokes and green olives, and told me I could make a pasta salad using those two things any time I wanted to.  Around our house, that’s as good as the Good Housekeeping seal of approval!

So be weird for a few days and see if you like the vegan diet.  You don’t have to tell people what you’re doing – they may judge just because of the name.  Just tell them you’re trying to eat healthier and you’re adding more vegetables to your diet.  At least, they’ll applaud you; at most, they may even be encouraged to do the same.

Best wishes to you as you make progress toward your healthy goals today!

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.

Throw Away Perfectly Good Food?

In a moment of nostalgia over Christmas Break, I bought boxed cereal.  Besides Cheerios for our toddler, I haven’t purchased boxed cereal since I began eating better (about 9-10 months now).  The cereals I bought were for my aunt’s famous party mix recipe, a holiday favorite with my family.  You mix butter, Worcestershire sauce, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and lemon pepper seasoning together, then drizzle over several cups of toasted wheat, toasted corn, and toasted rice cereal, as well as pretzels, cheddar-flavored crackers, and a can of mixed nuts.

Photo by jakesglutenfreestore.com

Photo by jakesglutenfreestore.com

Do you feel blah yet?  Just writing out those ingredients makes me feel like shouting, Ugh!  Definitely NOT gluten-free.

Anyway, the recipe only used about a half a box of each kind of cereal, leaving half-empty boxes in my cabinets.  I moved them around for a couple of weeks, thinking my daughter might try them (she didn’t like them and really doesn’t even eat Cheerios any more!).  I eventually moved them to the top shelf, where they have sat for the last two months.  Last weekend, we made a big Sam’s trip and I needed more room to put extra peanut butter, coffee, yeast, and other bulk items, so I had to move those half-empty boxes.  Know where they ended up?  The top of the fridge in the basket where I keep foil, plastic wrap, and sandwich bags.

As I grew frustrated with moving the boxes out of my way each time I needed the foil or sandwich bags, I remember yelling at my husband, who offered his help, “I don’t need help, I need more room in this kitchen!”  At the time, I was too upset to realize I should just throw the cereal away.  We don’t need this food.  There’s a reason it has been sitting on the shelf, untouched, for nearly 3 months now.  I should just throw it out.

But the “Don’t Waste Food” voice in my head says, “I can’t throw it out – there’s nothing wrong with it!  It’s perfectly good food!”

I think we all know the answer to that – perfectly good for no other animal consumption.  It’s enriched, bleached, nutritionally-deficient, full of salt and sugar and all kinds of unpronounceable things…no other animal will eat this perverted form of wheat/corn/grain that humans eat and call “yummy” in all kinds of cakes, breads, and baked good.  (See my post on The Shocking Truth about Wheat.)

So join me in a victory yell for throwing out those half-empty boxes of junk.  I finally did it!  Thanks for letting me share my progress toward eating healthy, whole foods.  Good luck to you as you make progress toward your healthy goals today!

The Shocking Truth about Wheat

Photo by griggsdakota.com

Photo by griggsdakota.com

Have you gone gluten-free?  Have you heard people say they feel so much better without gluten in their diet?  What counts as “gluten-free?”

Many of us have questions like this as we make progress to a healthier diet and a healthier body.  I LOVE this article that talks about the truth about our wheat today, and why “gluten-free” is not really the answer we think it is.

Mother Nature knows best, so we should eat what she provides: plants!  Keep making those good decisions, folks, and when in doubt, look to nature.  God gave us JUST what we needed!

Let’s be smart about what we’re fueling our bodies with: fresh, whole grain, not the imitation processed stuff that is so convenient.  Good luck as you make progress toward your healthy goals!

Get Rid of High Blood Pressure Once and For All!

Do you have high blood pressure, or do you know someone who does?  Do you have a family history of high blood pressure?  If yes, keep reading!

I am not a doctor or a registered dietician; I just love passing on the research that others have done.  I’ve never had high blood pressure (except when I’m very angry and stressed, but that hasn’t happened since I quit work as a high school band director!), but my husband does.  I can tell you that our own “independent research” revealed the same truths as what I read in a recent article.  At a recent doctor visit, his doctor actually praised his blood pressure readings – something that hasn’t happened in YEARS.  I feel strongly our diet has a lot to do with that, especially since he is more stressed and overworked than ever before.

According to this article, research suggests that a vegetarian diet may lower blood pressure.

As I can attest, Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live plan DEFINITELY lowers your blood pressure.  The first thing you can do to help yourself lower your blood pressure is to eliminate red meats and other animal products. Click here to tweet this
Start with one specific type of meat (I chose beef products), and be amazed at the absence of craving for those products after just a few weeks.  Remember, when you take something out, you need to replace it with something plant-based.  Broccoli, for instance, has more protein per 100 calorie serving than a steak.  Beans are a great way to get plant-based proteins, as well.

Read this article in Health magazine about the vegetarian diet, then buy Dr. Fuhrman’s book and read why his plan is even better.

Best wishes as you make progress toward your healthy goals, specifically lowering your blood pressure!

10 Foods To Help You Give Up Gluten For GOOD!

This is a reblog, with permission from the author.  Find her blog, Officially Gluten Free, here – http://officiallyglutenfree.com/2014/02/04/10-foods-to-help-you-give-up-gluten-for-good/.

Keep in mind that anyone eating a vegan diet needs to alter this list.  See Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book for reasons why animal proteins are harmful to your health.

10 Foods To Help You Give Up Gluten For Good

 Keeping yourself satisfied with delicious food, is one of the keys to going Gluten Free. 

The bread and cookie cravings do go away eventually. In the meantime, you just have to keep your self satisfied with delicious Gluten Free food. There are still plenty of great things to eat, if you can’t have gluten. You just have to find them.

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Planning meals ahead, cooking your own meals at home, packing a lunch and planning your shopping list before going to the store, are all great ways to keep you on track.

Here’s a list of 10 foods that helped keep me satisfied, while getting used to my new Gluten Free diet.

1. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit 

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Premixed fruit and nuts are an easy snack, for when you just need something right now.

2. Dark Chocolate

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Any kind chocolate as long as it’s Gluten free.

3. Sweet Potato Fries

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Oven baked sweet potato fries are perfect for those days you want something starchy.

4. Popcorn

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Try using white vinegar and salt instead of butter for a lighter snack.

5. Fresh fruit and Yogurt

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Satisfying, fast and easy.

6. Veggie Sticks with Dip

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Pre-cut and left in the fridge for an easy snack.

7. Cheese and Pickles

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Make yourself a fancy cheese plate. Add your favorite pickles and olives.

8. Eggs

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Hard boiled or deviled. Pre boil and leave in the fridge for the week.

9. Gluten Free Corn Flake Breaded Anything

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Giving up breaded food was one of the hardest things for me. Being able to make my own chicken Fingers at home helped a lot.

10. Gluten Free Pasta

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There are many brands of Gluten free pasta available. Find the one you like the best for pasta salads or spaghetti and meat sauce.

What are some of the things that helped keep you satisfied for the first month of going Gluten Free?

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!

5 Ways To Gain 5 Pounds in 7 Days

As you know, I try to make good food choices as part of my own progress toward a healthy body. Sometimes, however, I fail miserably.

Last week, we went on a trip to San Antonio, where my husband and I attend an annual convention. I’ve done this trip 16 times now, and yet I still haven’t figured out how to stay on track with eating and exercising.

So here’s what I did to gain what must be at least 5 pounds in the last week (the battery on my digital scale is broken…I don’t know the actual amount of weight gained…just guessing!):

1.) Eat pizza with lots of cheese and a white flour crust.
2.) Don’t take fitness walks.
3.) Eat fried chicken at least twice.
4.) Neglect drinking enough water to stay hydrated.
5.) Put ranch dressing on every salad you eat.

Obviously, this is all tongue-in-cheek. I hope you will choose the OPPOSITE of these 5 things above to help you LOSE weight on your journey toward health and wellness. Good luck as you make progress toward your healthy goals!