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Vegan Simplified

The Vegan lifestyle is not boring, complicated, or expensive. This blog was designed in the hopes to simplify the process of healthy eating. I welcome everyone, not just vegans.

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Survival Guides

Let’s Talk About Alcohol

To avoid consuming animal products, many people simply look at the ingredients to determine whether certain foods meet their dietary restrictions or not. But I’ve come to the realization that many things are not as apparent as they seem, and it’s not as easy as just reading a food label. Although any step toward veganism is a positive one, there are still a lot of ways in which many vegans may still be ‘supporting’ animal agriculture without even knowing it. It’s important to become informed in order to make these conscious decisions for yourself.

While most alcohol is vegan, there are still quite a number of beers, liquors, and wines that do not fall under the vegan category. It turns out that animal-derived ingredients may be used in the production of these alcoholic beverages. These ingredients include gelatin, egg whites, fish bladder, and casein (just to name a few). Unfortunately, nutritional labeling is not a requirement for alcoholic beverages so there’s no way of knowing what’s vegan or not simply by just looking at the bottle. So, you have to do a little bit of research before your next alcohol purchase.

I discovered a really great site that every vegan/vegetarian needs to check out. It’s called Barnivore. It is a database of about 22,000 products, in which you can search whether an alcohol product is vegan or not. They’ve done all the hard work by researching and organizing this together for the vegan community, which is pretty awesome. So even if you’re not ready to give up your favorite alcoholic beverages, at least now you are informed!

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Top 5 Ways to Boost Your Energy

Due to our fast-paced lives, most of us are always looking for ways to increase our energy levels to be more productive throughout the day. From personal experience, I’ve found some really great ways to increase my energy without the help of caffeine. Although I still drink coffee once a week, I’m working on reducing that and hope to eventually eliminate it from my diet. Most of us go straight for the coffee when we are feeling fatigued and unmotivated because it’s quick and easy. While it certainly helps temporarily, relying on coffee too often has its negative side effects. It can cause anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, indigestion, and that awful ‘crash’ at the end of the day. So, here are some tips with no negative side effects at all!

1. Start your day with a smoothie. I have a morning smoothie everyday and I’ve noticed some really great changes in my body and in the way I function on a day-to-day basis. My favorite is a banana smoothie, also known as my “banana milk” (for the recipe, click here). I like adding dates to my smoothies because they are great source of energy and it also adds sweetness to my smoothies. So, avoid the sugar and add a few dates instead. The main ingredients I usually gravitate towards when making smoothies are pineapple, bananas, apples, spinach, and mangoes.

2. Exercise daily. This is super important, not just when it comes to your energy levels but for your overall health. I always feel really energized after a workout. I usually like to get my exercise in first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start your day and you don’t have to worry about fitting it into your schedule later on. It doesn’t have to be an intense one-hour workout. You can start out with a 10-minute walk outside and slowly increase the intensity as you’d like.

3. Eat the right foods. Some great fruits for energy include oranges, papaya, pineapples, and bananas. Make sure they’re ripe, ripe fruits are easier to digest and have more natural fruit sugars to energize your body. Vegetables are also good energy-boosters. My favorite include spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. If you’re looking for something more filling,  you can try some rice, avocados, quinoa, and nuts.

4. Get enough sleep. I’ve never understood the importance of sleep until just recently. I was listening to Shawn Stevenson’s podcast and it really motivated me not only to get at least 8 hours of sleep daily, but to go to bed early and wake up early. It plays a huge role in the way you feel throughout the day. It feels so much more refreshing to get an early start, while feeling well rested. I also find that I get much more done in the morning when there are very little distractions around.

5. Drink more water. Proper hydration can maximize your performance. Most of us don’t even realize how dehydrated we are but when you start increasing your water intake, there are noticeable differences. When you feel hydrated, you are able to get more things done and it also helps to eliminate headaches. So, make sure you drink plenty of water and you’ll feel ready to take on your day!

 

The Truth About Protein

Where do you get your protein? This is usually the first question someone asks me after mentioning that I am vegan. I created this guide to clarify the whole protein “issue” that always seems to come up in conversations. I am not an expert by any means. This is based off of my own knowledge derived from books, documentaries, and other credible sources.

Why do we need protein? Protein is needed for growth, repair from injury, and replacement of worn-out cells.

There is no such thing as “protein deficiency”. There is no medical term for it because it simply does not exist. The truth is, protein is mainly needed for growth after the first few months of being born which is provided by a mother’s milk (about 6% of calories from protein). After we are done growing, we do not need as much protein especially coming from animal products or supplements which contain enormous amounts of fat and artificial ingredients.

High-protein foods cause acidity in our bodies. Foods that are high in protein tend to be too acidic for the body to process. When the body becomes very acidic, the body tries to counterbalance it by pulling calcium from our bones. This can cause calcium deficiency which may lead to osteoporosis. Statistically, Americans consume more dairy than any other country in the world, yet we have the highest number of people suffering from osteoporosis, or calcium deficiency.

Foods perceived to have a large amount of protein tend to have a tremendous amount of fat. For example, eggs, beef, and cheese are high protein foods that contain 60%-80% fat. So, when the percentage of calories from fat increases, the percentage of protein from total calories decreases. This means that people who try to follow a high-protein, animal-based diet tend to consume more fat than protein. An excessive amount of fat in your diet thickens your blood which may lead to heart disease, cancer, and so on.

How much protein do we need? In his book The China Study, T. Colin Campbell states that we require “only 5-6% of our total calories to come from protein in order to replace the protein we routinely lose.”

There are plenty of protein sources in the vegan diet. Below is a chart that shows the protein content of some common foods. These numbers represent the amount of protein content as a percentage of total calories.  You can see that we can get our protein from fruits and vegetables alone. There is no need to actively incorporate protein into our diets because it is found in most foods. Think about this, an adult gorilla which is typically 6 times stronger than an adult human, follows a plant-based diet.

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Table from 80/10/10 book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

Campbell, T. Colin. The China Study. Dallas, Texas. BenBella Books, Inc. 2004.

Graham, N. Douglas. The 80/10/10 Diet. FoodnSport Press. 2006. 

Fulkerson, Lee. Forks Over Knives [DVD]. United States: Monica Beach Media. 2011.

Surviving College on a Vegan Diet

It’s easy to forget about health during your college years. There’s so much to worry about such as studying for midterms, working on projects, and trying to maintain a social life. Remember that health is as important, if not, more important than education. Having an education means nothing if you are not healthy and feeling great. Although sticking to a healthy diet may seem stressful, I think it makes life much more easier. From personal experience, I found that having a healthy diet results in gained focus and greater energy.

  1. Establish a routine. Set aside an hour the night before to prepare your food. Make sure you have enough food to last you all day. Chop up lots of fruits, cook some rice or potatoes, and make a salad. Place them in containers and store them in a bag. During your breaks, you can go to your car to eat or you can throw some stuff in your backpack. This is a great way to save money while enjoying healthy, delicious food throughout the day.
  2. Stock up. Go to the grocery store regularly to avoid running out of food. Create a list of items you need before you go to the grocery store. This list may include fruits, vegetables, rice, quinoa, almond milk, and snacks. Make sure you have to-go snacks on hand like apples, bananas, granola bars, crackers, etc. You can save packaged items for days in which you don’t have much time to prepare food. (I try to stick to raw/whole foods whenever possible.)
  3. Get to know the area on/off campus. Go on your school’s website or visit the dining hall to determine what types of food they offer. There may be a little cafe that you can stop at on your way to your next class. It’s also advantageous to get to know the area around your campus. You can use yelp or happy cow to find vegan-friendly restaurants.
  4. Eat before you go. College is the perfect time to improve your social skills by getting involved and interacting with other students around campus. If you are invited to an event or dinner, make sure you are prepared. If you are unsure whether there will be food options available for you, then eat before you go or take some snacks with you if you can.
  5. If you live in a dorm, you most likely have access to a cafeteria. Check out their menu options and bring some food back to your dorm whenever you can. Investing in a mini fridge will also be very useful to you. You don’t have to place everything in your fridge, there are some items that may be left sitting out. Here’s a quick guide to storing fruits and vegetables: http://www.thekitchn.com/the-kitchns-guide-to-storing-fruits-and-vegetables-tip-roundup-176308.

 

Eating at a Non-vegan Restaurant

I prefer eating at vegan restaurants with the ease of knowing that anything I order will be 100% vegan. While I love eating at vegan restaurants and supporting them as much as I can, it’s not always an option for me. For the most part, I prepare my own food at home. However, there are times when I find myself in unfamiliar places in which I have to rely on google maps to find vegan-friendly restaurants near me. Also, when people invite me to lunch or dinner, I don’t always have the opportunity of choosing the restaurant.

Although some may disagree with me, I believe eating at non-vegan restaurants may actually be a good thing. There’s an increasing number of people who are converting into a more plant-based lifestyle. By requesting vegan food at non-vegan restaurants, we are creating a demand and many restaurants are starting to include vegan-friendly items on their menus to fulfill those needs. Even though this may seem like a long process, it assures that you will be better prepared when eating out.

  1. Research and be prepared. Find their website, or look at reviews from Yelp or Happy Cow. This will give you a better idea of the type of food they offer. You can also call before you go to determine if the restaurant suits your needs.
  2. Look at the menu. Some menus have “vegetarian/vegan” labels next to certain dishes. If it is not labeled, make sure to ask about the ingredients. Many items such as pasta or bread may seem vegan, but always double check to make sure. Also, you can try customizing or creating your own dish whenever possible.
  3. Talk to your server. When ordering, make sure to mention your dietary restrictions. I find that doing this will allow them to better assist you. For example, they may confirm with the chef whether they can prepare a dish for you or not.
  4. Inspect your food. Sometimes, there may be misunderstandings between you and the server, or the server and the chef. It happens, so always make sure you get what you ordered. There’s been a few times in which my dish had to be remade. No big deal, just kindly mention it to your server.
  5. Give feedback. Make sure to comment on their service or leave an online review about your experience. This will help other people who are on a similar diet.

How to Get Inspired and Stay Motivated

Many of us struggle to stay on the right path when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Thinking about all the changes we need to make can seem overwhelming. It’s all about taking baby steps. The transition to a vegan lifestyle rarely occurs overnight. We need to prepare, become educated, set goals, meet goals, and maintain our driving force.

  1. Do your own research. All the information we need is readily accessible. By reading books and doing other research, you will gain a better understanding of the vegan life. This will help you answer the many questions you may have and will help you prepare for certain situations, such as ordering food at a non-vegan restaurant. I recommend reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and The 80/10/10 Diet by Douglas N. Graham.
  2. Set goals. It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself. For example, you can start by eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet. This can be a gradual change and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Maybe start by eliminated one dairy product, such as milk. When you are frustrated and feel like giving up, take a moment to reflect on your goals. Remember that you are contributing to a greater cause and ultimately saving your health. Don’t stress out if you mess up. It’s all part of the journey.
  3. Experiment in the kitchen.  Have an open mind and try new foods. You can find so many delicious vegan recipes online. My favorite website is ohsheglows.comI’ve also being using the cookbook, Veganomicom by Terry Romero and Isa Moskowitz. You want to start becoming familiar with vegan substitutions. There are so many dairy, meat, and egg alternatives available. You can substitute cow’s milk for soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and so on. Experiment and have fun!
  4. Surround yourself with others who are on a similar journey. Connect with others who are also interested in a vegan/healthy lifestyle. It’s incredible to be able to share my progress with others who are also trying to be healthy. These good influences in your life help you stay motivated and focused. This also creates a system of giving and receiving different types of information. Maybe your friend can give you some advice in areas where you’re struggling and vice versa.
  5. Follow Social Media accounts. Since we spend a good amount of time on these social media platforms, it’s important to become more aware of the type of things our minds are consuming daily. There are so many accounts you can find inspiration from. I have found some inspiration from other people and their journeys. Here are some of my favorite accounts to follow:
  • Blogs: ohsheglows.com, anniejaffrey.com, thisrawsomeveganlife.com
  • Youtube: Annie Jaffrey, Fully Raw Kristina
  • Instagram: @nourishandevolve, @happyandhealthy96, @fully_vegan, @befitrecipes

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