Category Archives: Food

Best Packaged Vegetarian and Vegan Foods

These days, many of us are doing our best to be healthy and avoid “processed” foods and eat lots of fresh veggies and protein and all that jazz. But hell, we’re also busy, sometimes in a hurry and sometimes just plain lazy/tired/hangry! There’s nothing wrong with that! These options are especially helpful if you are new to eating vegan/vegetarian and are looking for some help and inspiration. I didn’t realize how many amazing options there were.

These are my go-to foods when I just want a quick meatless meal that’s also tasty and filling.

SWEET EARTH BURRITOS

burritos

I am sort of embarrassed to say that since discovering these burritos, I practically live on them. But they are just SO good. There are several flavors including a few breakfast versions. They are all really high in protein and made of pretty healthy ingredients. Please note that the Kyoto, Curry Tiger, Anasazi and Big Sur Breakfast flavors are fully vegan. The others contain eggs and/or cheese.

GARDEIN MINI CRABLESS CAKES

crab

I admit I love seafood, especially shellfish, and my previous efforts at being fully vegan failed mostly because of this. UNTIL I DISCOVERED THESE BABIES! I went to a vegan restaurant a while back and had vegan crab cakes and didn’t stop talking about them for days. They were just SO good. When I was in the freezer section and WF and realized Gardein also made a version, I was skeptical. I didn’t think they’d be that good but I had to try them. I was so excited to learn they’re really good!! I don’t know how they make vegan ingredients taste like fish. I’m not sure I want to know. But regardless, I am thankful that I can enjoy the taste of crab cakes without thinking about murdered crabs. You really can find vegan versions of EVERYTHING!

BEYOND MEAT BEEF CRUMBLES

feisty

Another thing I loooved as a meat eater was beef tacos and nachos. I haven’t had beef in 5 years and I can’t say I miss it honestly. But I still love Mexican food and try to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes as often as possible. I was so excited to find the “Feisty” Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles because it has a great taco seasoning flavor. I won’t lie, the crumbles do have a bit of that funky fake meat aftertaste if you eat them alone, but if you slather salsa and guacamole on top, you’ll never notice. The texture is just like crumbled beef.

BEYOND MEAT SINGLE SERVE MEALS

meals

Stop the press. These meals have SAVED me at times when I am craving restaurant food (and also times when I have very low blood sugar and I am within 5 minutes of a meltdown). There are only 4 flavors so far – Indian Curry, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili; however, they are really good. My favorite is the Korean BBQ. They are all super high protein and have a good balance of fats/carbs too. They heat up in 5 minutes and will keep you full for hours, but also keep your taste buds happy.

SWEET EARTH BREAKFAST SANDWICHES

break

I used to live on my homemade Egg McMuffin sandwiches. I had a hard time saying goodbye to Canadian bacon. However, Sweet Earth has made all my breakfast sandwich dreams come true! They have several flavors – Harmless Ham & Chickpea Patty (the only vegan one), Meatless Sausage Egg and Gouda, Harmless Ham Egg & Swiss and Benevolent Bacon, Egg & Cheddar. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

ORGANIC VEGETARIAN CHILI WITH RED BEANS & ONION

chili

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s recently changed the packaging/label on the veg chili and I have to say I’m in love with this new 1970s Brady Bunch theme. I just want to stuff my face with chili every time I see the new cans on the shelf. Anyway, the recipe itself didn’t change at all (or if it did, I can’t tell) and there have been many times when I’ve lived solely off this chili for several days straight. Unlike a lot of chilis, this one really strikes a perfect balance of salty, spicy, beans, and “meat” (it’s tofu). It’s a great all-around meal that’s very filling and has 15 grams of protein….pa pow! It’s a tad spicy but in a very good way. Add a little sprinkle of shredded vegan cheese and green onions (because I am obsessed with green onions) and you have yourself a tasty meal.

 

 

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Why Drinking Milk is Worse for Cows than Eating a Hamburger

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about animal welfare issues. I have done a lot of research and have a TON of passion for promoting kind treatment of animals. After watching terrifying PETA videos and reading awful things about the meat industry, I abruptly stopped eating meat 5 years ago. I didn’t stop with the dairy though. Like most people, even health- and environmentally-conscious ones, I thought it was relatively harmless to drink milk and eat cheese.

What I didn’t realize for a very long time was how devastating the dairy industry is for animals (not just cows, but also goats, sheep and any other animals that produce milk)….perhaps even more devastating than the meat industry (if that’s possible). The reality is that the females are continually impregnanted (basically raped) so that when they give birth, the farmer can separate the baby from his mother immediately to steal her milk. These newborn babies, brand new to the world and wondering where their mothers went, are usually sent straight to slaughter. These so-called farmers do this over and over to ensure that the mom is always lactating. When she’s finally spent, after all the abuse she’s endured, for who knows how long, they haul her off to slaughter too. So they not only kill the babies, but they kill mom too. Females usually fare worse than the males for this reason. Because the farmers want their babies/milk, their abuse is prolonged but they meet the same fate as their babies eventually. In the end, all the animals are hauled off to slaughter because at some point, they stop producing and they are worth more dead than alive. This is disgusting to me and it makes me embarrassed to be human at times, to be perfectly honest.

THIS is the reality of the meat and dairy industry. How does that milk taste now?

Vegan Nachos

My favorite thing to eat when I got out is Mexican food. I could literally eat it every day of my life. And who doesn’t love a margarita? So I try to replicate Mexican dishes at home as much as possible so I can enjoy the flavors without all the added calories (and margaritas…sad face). Here’s my go-to recipe for nachos:

10-12 Tortilla chips

1 cup Beyond Meat crumbles (Feisty flavor)

1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)

1/2 cup vegan refried beans

1/4 cup salsa or pico de gallo

1/2 avocado (chopped)

2 tsp sliced or chopped black olives

Warm up the beefless crumbles in the microwave. Arrange your chips on the plate, sprinkle the cheese and briefly microwave to melt it a bit. Add the meatless crumbles, beans and pico de gallo layer by layer with the chopped avocado and olives on top. Easy peasy!

These go great with my favorite margarita recipe!

nachos

 

What is IIFYM?!

If you are at all interested in dieting or fitness, you’ve probably heard about IIFYM which stands for “If it Fits Your Macros.” It’s all the rage lately, especially with bodybuilders/fitness types. This is essentially an alternative, more flexible eating approach than most standard (and outdated) diet plans that basically tell you what foods to eat and in what amounts. Or they give you a total calorie count for the day. In the past, bodybuilders and other fitness athletes would eat X number of calories a day which was usually broken down into 5-6 smaller meals which basically consisted of the same boring foods over and over.

With IIFYM, you are given “macros” for the day that you must follow. Macros are macronutrients, which are otherwise known as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. With IIFYM, you are given the total number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats that you can eat during a given day. For example, my current macros are 135 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat. This doesn’t mean I eat 135 measured grams of a protein. It means that I eat foods totaling 135 grams of protein. For example, a 4 oz piece of fish is about 20-25 grams of protein. I eat about this much protein at each meal. The concept is very simple – each macro has a calorie amount. Protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram. If you total all my macros up for the day, it equals 1800 calories:

(4 x 135) + (4 x 180) + .(9 x 60) = 1800

To be honest, this doesn’t really matter though. Calories don’t matter at all with IIFYM, which is nice because if you are a compulsive calorie counter, this means you can stop thinking about them. But if you wanted to add up your macros for the day, you could. Just do the math like I did above. I track all my meals in MyFitnessPal and totally recommend others do. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt at first but once you have your “frequent” foods you will be able to find things quickly and add them in no problem. Make sure you’re adding accurate info since it’s all user-generated (sometimes people literally just make up macros I think). I also track my workouts (which is a slightly bigger pain in the butt but useful to track progress and stay accountable). It can be hard to track foods that you can’t read the nutrition labels for (like at restaurants) so you can try finding the info online but in general you kind of have to just do your best. The longer you track, the easier it gets to look at a plate of food and immediately be able to guess the macros off the top of your head. If you are dieting, always err on the side of caution by overestimating the macros in foods you aren’t sure about.

The beauty of IIFYM is that it’s simple and flexible. You do NOT have to eat the same boring foods over and over, nor do you have to eat food you hate. If you want a piece of cake, you work it into your macros. Some people “macro hoard” which means they eat light meals all day so they can pig out at night. The world is your oyster with IIFYM.

You can eat a variety of foods which is not only great for dealing with cravings and unexpected work lunches or dinners out with friends and family, but it’s also a great way to make sure you get a variety of nutrients. You don’t want to just eat donuts all day but if you want a donut, work it in! Macros to me are exactly like having a budget. If I have $100 to spend, I can only spend $100 and no more than that. Depending on how strict you are, you may not want to go under your macros (particularly if you are trying to gain weight). I try to stick to my macros within + or – 5 grams. Some people add up their macros for the week too so if you are off a bit one day (over carbs, for example), you can make it up a different day (by eating less carbs).

To determine what your macros are, first you need to know what your goal is. You will need to figure out if you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. This was hard for me since I want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time (which is possible in some cases but not all). You should have a good idea of what your current weight (and body fat, if possible) are, as well as your current activity level. The more info you know and the more accurate it is, the better calculation you will get. Then once you have that figured out, you just plug your info into a calculator. This is a really good one: http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/. There’s also more info about IIFYM on that site.

Easy peasy!!!

Food Cravings

When it comes to sugar, I’m worse than crack addict. I am full blown addicted to chocolate. I can give up any other food without any problems. I stopped eating steak (my favorite) 3 years ago without ever looking back. I once gave up alcohol for a year. I just LOVE chocolate. I crave it every single day.

I’ve given up sugar a few times using different tactics, all with varying degrees of success. Once I tried going cold turkey. It was after a Valentine’s day binge on chocolate and cupcakes. I decided to do a full food detox. Basically I didn’t eat.  Instead, I subsisted on water, veggie broth and Bentonite and Psyllium husk concoction. It was so disgusting that I ended up not drinking it at all after day 1 and only drinking the broth/water.  I had the worst headache of my life for 2 days. By day 4, I stopped thinking about food altogether. It was kind of nice to not think about what to eat, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. But it also felt weird to not eat at normal meal times. It’s the same feeling I got when I got laid off from my job and I was sitting home feeling weird, like I should be working, but also excited that I didn’t have to. So anyway, my cold turkey plan worked until my “detox period” was over and I caved and ate everything in sight.

I’ve also tried replacing sugary food with healthier substitutes. I did this while I was preparing for my fitness competition. I completely cut out all forms of sugar but then tended to eat too many of the healthy substitutes without ever getting the satisfaction of eating what I really wanted. So the cravings never went away. I just tried to suppress them. I’ve also tried slowly eliminating my favorite sugary foods over a period of time. This has been a flat out failure for me.

So this time around, I’m cutting out just the obvious danger foods — cupcakes, cookies, donuts, etc. I am still drinking my beloved wine and not worrying too much about hidden sugars since my diet is pretty healthy overall. I’ll eat a protein bar even if it has a few grams of sugar in it because it’s not traditional white sugar. I’m watching my macros and trying to be as balanced as possible. I did cheat last weekend when I went to a winery and had a fancy food and wine tasting. One of the pairings included a tiny little cake. It was only 2 bites and wasn’t worth cheating at all, but I felt like I had to eat it. It was not a good decision. Oh well. Balance is a new tactic for me.

I do feel better and I feel like after my cravings intensified, they started to subside. I am not craving chocolate but I am craving other foods. I think of them as replacement foods since they’re foods that aren’t my traditional go-to addict foods but somehow still give me some satisfaction. Last week, I ate no less than 8 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after not eating one for probably at least 5 years. The jelly has sugar in it but it wasn’t just the jelly I wanted — it was the whole meal. And a BP&J with natural PB, whole wheat bread and natural fruit jelly is actually not bad for you. It has a nice balance of protein, fats and carbs which is perfect for my “balanced” approach. In fact, it fueled one of the best workouts I’d had in a long time. This week I can’t stop thinking about Starbucks skinny cinnamon dolce lattes (another thing I haven’t had in forever).

I’m going to continue with this modified sugar detox as long as I can and just see how it goes. I really can’t see myself giving up desserts permanently but I do think I need to pick and choose which ones are worth it. I have a one cheat meal a week rule and will eventually allow that to include sweets again.

What I’ve noticed about giving up sugar is that the sugar cravings intensify at first. They get REALLY bad, I get headaches and feel anxious. Then that goes away (not completely, but enough that it’s manageable). If you are thinking about doing a food detox, remember it’s going to be tough at first (like anything that is new and different). Try to push through the first couple of days or even weeks, depending on how addicted you are, and it will get easier. (Take it from me, the girl who used to have her nightstand full of candy bars, M&Ms, Nutella and cookies!)

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is all the rage because of its apparent health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits I’ve read about:

  • May lower blood sugar levels (improves insulin sensitivity)
  • Kills bacteria
  • Prevents indigestion
  • Can aid weight loss (specifically belly fat!)
  • May lower risk of cardiovascular disease
  • May protect against cancer
  • May lower cholesterol
  • Cures hiccups
  • Clears acne
  • Gets rid of dandruff
  • Boosts energy
  • Cures leg cramps
  • Soothes a sore throat
  • Clears stuffy nose
  • Whitens teeth
  • Lowers sugar cravings
  • Increases energy

Pretty hefty claims, huh? I bet you’re wondering…. how can it aid weight loss?! Well, the acetic acid in it can actually suppress your appetite, increase metabolism, and reduce water retention. And though not all of the claims have been proven, apple cider vinegar has been used for thousands of years as an antiseptic amongst other things. It’s worth a try, right?

If you want to give it a try, mix 1-2 tbsps. (or more if you’re brave) into an 8 oz glass of water. I add lemon to mine to make it more tolerable but that’s up to you. Drink it first thing in the morning (and watch the magic effect on your digestive system!).  Make sure to buy a good brand such as Bragg’s  — it is organic and unfiltered. More importantly, it also contains the “Mother”…which I know sounds a little creep but it just means that it contains strands of enzymes, proteins and friendly bacteria.

Bragg’s also makes apple cider vinegar drinks. I know, sounds tantalizing, right! But they’re actually pretty tolerable. You can taste the vinegar but it’s not super strong. (I can barely choke it down in lemon water so this is much better). I personally like the Concord Grape but there are other flavors too!

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The Perplexing Trifecta: Bodybuilding, Protein & Veganism

If you’ve read my other posts you probably know a frequent theme on my blog is my internal struggle between wanting so desperately to be a super ripped, lean bikini competitor….and wanting be a true vegan. I was always taught I could not be both and I’ve had that engrained in my brain for years. I’ve done loads of research to try and find anything that backs up the idea that it’s possible to do both. If I eat meat I feel bad. If I stop eating meat I convince myself I’ll never be lean again.

The major problem, if you aren’t familiar with competing, is that most competitors follow a very high protein diet (a minimum 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight) and because of that, they eat meat… A LOT of meat. Yes, of course, there are vegan sources of protein, but most are high in carbs, which is not ideal for getting lean (or is it?!). And yes, there are vegan competitors out there (mostly males) but they are few and far between and the ones you find will usually be the first to tell you it’s not easy. I would argue that I think it is easier for men than women, but that’s a whole other blog post.

But it’s a new year and I am determined. I refuse to eat meat even if I can’t get a six pack, but deep down I still want to look like a competitor so who better to prove it can be done than little old me? I officially cut out the meat (that was the easy part since for the most part I already had). I should say that in general I don’t and will never call myself vegan because to me that implies that you know the entire history of every single food you consume and product you use in your daily life and honestly, that’s not possible in this day and age (unless you grow your own food, make your own clothing, etc.). But I do use the word “vegan” on this blog a lot because it just makes life easier. For the most part people know what vegan means…it means you steer clear of eating animal stuff…and I do that. I just can’t write out “I try very hard to not harm animals inadvertently each day, but sometimes I eat at restaurants and don’t know if my food is truly vegan…and every now and then I will probably screw up and eat honey or cheese…and I don’t make sure every soap I use isn’t tested on animals…etc…” so I just say mostly vegan. I’m like 89.6% vegan on an average given day. “Imperfect mostly vegan” is probably more accurate. I might go with IMV from now on.

Anyway, long story short, I am steering clear of meat (obviously), eggs, fish and other blatant animal products like dairy. So I started up MyFitnessPal yet again and I tried desperately to hit my macros. For those who don’t know, macros  is just short for macronutrients. Protein, carbs and fats are the 3 macros that are most important to any competitor and most of them will have a very good idea of how many they should consume daily. I pretty much know what my macros should be from years of research, working with several different trainers/coaches, and just experimenting with my own body. But everyone is different, so do your research if you have similar goals and aren’t sure of yours.

The good news is that I have zero problem getting all my carbs in (believe it or not this used to be hard for me!) and fats are always a breeze because I LOVE me some healthy fats. But every day, I have consistently come up short on protein. When I say protein, I mean “clean” protein sources and I am talking about eating 120+ grams per day. This is actually not a surprise given all of the anti-vegan competitor info I’ve read. Damn those meatheads! They were right. It is really hard to get enough protein as a vegan. :-/

But wait! It’s actually not that hard. It just takes way more effort and creativity than it did as a meat eater, at least for me. I am NOT a fan of protein shakes, vegan or otherwise, and there is just no way around them at this point which is unfortunate. I really hate choking down fluids of any kind (except wine and margaritas and by choke I mean voluntarily inhale at a rapid speed). I am picky about protein. I want my protein powder to not only mix well, taste good and be made of a handful of super clean ingredients, but also provide me a solid 25 grams of protein in one shake. THAT, my friend, is tough. I can’t be the only one with this problem.

So on that note, I’ve decided to do a comparison of every vegan/vegetarian protein powder I can find and do a blog post on it. It is hard to find sample sizes and I really don’t want to buy entire containers, so I’ll do the best I can with what I can find. I am super excited to review them because I really hope I find a good protein that I like and can use on my quest!

STAY TUNED!!!