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The Art of Snacking

So here’s the deal. Initially, my reasoning for becoming vegetarian and then vegan was for ethical reasons-flat out. As long as there wasn’t an animal product on my plate or involved in the food I was eating, I was good. Check! No worries! Health, as a perk to this lifestyle, came in second to me. But I also knew that as long as I wasn’t consuming animals or too too many crappy processed foods, my health-odds were automatically better. After learning more and more, though, I realized that there was a lot more to be said for the health aspect of it if I reduced out most processed foods and added in even more whole plant foods. I could cut my odds of heart disease, cancer and stroke (along with so many other illnesses and diseases) by alarming percentages! I could possibly inspire others to take control of their health and reverse and prevent diseases as well. I realized now that creating my own vibrant health actually played a huge role in my advocacy for animals. I needed to be an example of how a plant-based vegan diet can not only end some unnecessary animal suffering in this world but also end a lot of human suffering as well. So now, along with my concerns for the environment related to this topic (and there are so many to consider), health also plays a huge factor in deciding what I put into my body every time I sit down to eat. It’s a very empowering thing to know that my health is my choice, and my example is a potential voice of inspiration to someone.

…which brings me to my weakness when it comes to eating a vegan diet. Snacking! There are tons of processed foods out there that are and are not intentionally vegan that have called my name. And I’ve happily obliged! If you put an unassuming bag of chips (especially kettle-baked) or a box of Oreo’s in front of me, don’t expect them to last very long. You can even hold your breath because, guess what? You’ll still be alive by the time I’m finished with them!

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I don’t buy unhealthy processed snack foods for our house because of this. Once I pop I simply cannot stop! They weren’t kidding around with with that slogan. It’s almost like I have no self control around these things-but these foods weren’t made with self-control in mind. They were made to create an addiction. There are chemicals and additives and such a concentrated amount of sugar/salt in these products that they actually trick your tongue and brain into wanting more. I can go for months without eating refined sugar or salty chips, but the minute I take one bite of a cookie or have a chip, I’m done. Hooked. Craving more. And this is exactly what the food companies want of course. They want you and me addicted to their products so we continue to crave them and buy them and become a part of the heard of unhealthy consumers ringing in the big bucks for the heads of the company.

When I’m out at restaurant that serves free chips or at a party where chips are available-I do have some, don’t get me wrong. But here’s the dealio-when I’m at home without the judgments of others, who’s to ever know I’d eat THAT many cookies? No one would-except for myself when I break out on my face or when I feel puffy or bloated later on from it. Gross. What kind of example of a health and animal advocate am I then?  Not a very good one. And it never feels worth it afterwards-but that damn taste on my tongue just knows how to seal the deal. So I have found that what works best for me personally is keeping things like this out of easy convenience-out of my house. I try to keep healthy snacks around and that truly works to satisfy my cravings for salty or sweet whenever they arise. I am by no means perfect when it comes to my plant-based diet and I’m not even suggesting that you try to be perfect in your diet and lifestyle. Everyone has to figure their path out on their own. I’m just sharing my struggles and hopefully offering you some suggestions in case you struggle with the same things.

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So here’s my suggestion to you: Clean out your fridge and pantry. Like, right now. Even if you have to have a “last meal” with the junk food in your house, that’s fine-but make it quick and get it out of your convenience. Then replace it with healthy, whole food items for when the time comes around that you just have to have something sweet or salty. Get creative with snacks! Snacking can be so fun and colorful! Dunk veggies in fun dips that you create from plant foods! Blend frozen fruit to create sorbets and ice creams! I’ve listed below some snacks that I keep around to get you started!

  • Apples and freshly ground almond butter/peanut butter (no oil or salt added)
  • homemade hummus and whole grain pita bread or vegetables for dipping
  • frozen banana ice cream (there are way too many fun concoctions you can make with this-or if you want simple-all you need are frozen bananas!)
  • dates
  • homemade date balls/energy bites or granola bars
  • crunchy baked chickpeas (you can make these sweet or salty!)
  • kale chips
  • edamame (Thx Stacy for reminding me of this one!)
  • Freshly popped popcorn  (not the kind you buy and microwave-that stuff is laced with chemicals…)
  • tofu pudding
  • chia pudding
  • nuts and seeds
  • guacamole or kale butter with veggies for dipping
  • green smoothie
  • fruit smoothie
  • frozen fruit sorbet (blend frozen fruit in a high speed blender until its smooth)
  • homemade fruit popsicles
  • dehydrated veggies or fruit (if you have a dehydrator)
  • fresh fruit (bananas, grapes, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, mandarins, pears, mangoes, cherries etc!)

Do you have this issue as well? What are your favorite go-to healthy snack foods?


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Feeling “Full” on a Plant-Based Diet

A friend of mine recently asked me if it was normal to feel hungry a little while after eating a meal based mostly on vegetables. She made a vegetarian pizza at home to be exact. I always welcome questions like this because it gives me an opportunity to share what I have learned over the past few years about what it means to be healthy and so on.

Also, with veganism on the rise, you may be wondering, “How can anyone feel satisfied on a diet of plants?” I’d love to help you with this question!

Plants Are Satisfying!

If you are starting out on a plant-based diet, or are just adding more vegetables while minimizing animal protein as my friend is trying to do, you may feel like you aren’t quite full after you eat, or even a little while later. I like to compare it to this. Remember a few years back when everyone drank whole milk? Then all of the sudden health headlines stated we should be drinking skim milk instead-so many people switched to that. When you first switched, the skim milk probably tasted very watery. But your taste buds adjusted and so did your body. Then, did you ever taste whole milk again after getting used to skim? If so, you probably thought it tasted too heavy-like cream, and couldn’t imagine how you ever drank it before. So that’s a good analogy for the change that you might feel.

More importantly, make sure you are eating enough. One of the most common things that people new to plant-based diets do is not eat enough. Don’t limit yourself. Eat until you are really satisfied. 400 calories of meat compared to 400 calories of vegetables adds up differently, as shown below. So eat up! That’s one of the beauties in this lifestyle; you don’t have to count calories if you are simply eating a diet based on beans, vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds! Come on, did you really think you were destined to be counting calories your entire life? Nah, not necessary.

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Also, it is very much worth noting that feeling “full” on a plant-based diet is different than feeling full eating the standard American diet. Since moving to a plant-based vegan diet, I have noticed how much lighter I feel after meals versus when I was also eating dairy. So going from eating meat, dairy, and processed foods to eating whole food plant foods will feel very different for you. I used to not feel “full” until I was uncomfortable, stuffed, and tired, sitting on the couch-done for the night. Now when I eat, I feel satisfied and still have energy afterwards! There is a real reason for this. Your digestive system is built to break down starches, natural sugars and complex carbohydrates. It is not set up to digest animal protein. Therefore, when you eat animal protein, it takes a lot longer for your body to process it along with a lot more energy focused on it. Plants tend to make a quicker “exit”, as you will notice. This is a great thing that you will come to enjoy, as crazy as that may sound right now!

Hunger Can Be Mental – Pay Attention

The feeling of being hungry is not only physical for most people, but also mental and emotional. We want to eat when we are happy, when we are sad, when we are watching a movie, when people around us are eating, etc. Food is not just a need today, but a want-and we are used to indulging whenever we may feel the slightest “hunger” coming on. So, first and foremost, know that it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to a diet change. Be aware that you’ll have cravings and may feel odd at times. A certain amount of detoxing occurs when you stop eating the bad stuff and start eating the good stuff. It is normal to experience headaches and cravings when transitioning. Don’t worry, you’ll feel better than ever after a few weeks. Some people experience no detoxing effects and just start to feel great immediately. Everyone is different. I suggest you get to know your body and pay attention to the signals it sends you. Typically, true hunger comes on quite quickly and feels more like a need. Try to learn to pay attention to yourself to figure out if your hunger is real or if it’s more emotionally-charged.

Tips

1. Along with fresh veggies, be sure to eat whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, etc), beans, potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Complex carbs are your friend!

2. Eat variety. Explore different fruits and vegetables. The more variety, the more you broaden your taste palette. You’ll eat more once you discover of all the wonderful flavors out there that you haven’t yet experienced. You’ll also develop a true appreciation for the real flavors of vegetables because they won’t be covered in butter or cheese. You’ll be shocked, I promise! 🙂

3. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. This goes without saying as an all-around health tip, but it is worth paying attention to. Here is a simple indicator for you-if your urine is clear, you are hydrated. If it is yellow, drink more water!

4. Eat enough! Don’t make yourself uncomfortable or anything-but don’t limit yourself the same way you may have in the past with food. This is a guilt-free zone from now on!

5. Buy a plant-based cookbook! There are TONS of great ones on the market today! Check out Happy Herbivore, Engine 2 Diet, Eat Vegan on $4 A Day, Forks Over Knives Cookbook, The Vegan Table, Dr. McDougall, Veganomicon, the list goes on!