How to Keep Within a Budget: Eating Plant-Based and Vegan in the Winter

Holiday times can be tough, and living in a cold climate makes fresh produce availability in the winter skyrocket! (not to mention, freshness is usually seriously lacking) It is unfortunate that winter makes healthy eating tough, but over the years, I have been able to stay healthy without spending all of our money on overpriced foods.

I do switch gears in the winter, and move towards lunches and dinners being more starch and legume-based. Our meals shift from being mostly veggies to things like: brown rice, potatoes, squash(in fall and early winter), lentils, beans, whole wheat pasta and couscous, oats, quinoa, etc. These items tend to stay their cheap selves all year round, making them more affordable in the winter than fresh produce.

We also really shift towards frozen produce. I get lots of different vegetable mixes, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, etc. and the process of flash freezing also means they really don’t lose much of their nutritional value as well. While not all of it will cook the same as fresh, they are still easy options to work with and very affordable options in the winter. Always make sure to get plain options! Seasoning your own veggies helps avoid hidden salts and fat that make frozen veggies with sauces unhealthy.

When looking for fresh produce, I look for two things. Quality and Sales/Affordability. Bananas are usually fine and always cheap throughout the winter, and are a staple in our house year round. We also check the local ads for good deals, but will only make purchases at the store if they look fresh. Winter is tough, and on occasion I have looked through 30+ packages of berries only to discover they all contain mold (YUCK!) I will never sacrifice quality of my produce for a good price. When it comes to fruits, we often have fresh fruit in the freezer as well.

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Breakfasts:

For winter breakfasts, I still like my smoothies even though drinking frozen fruit may sound crazy! At least I am still inside and warm. I have these less though, maybe only three times a week.

Other options include some homemade bread with nut butter and bananas, oatmeal with some frozen fruit (thawed out) and a bit of maple syrup and cinnamon, and on the weekends we like making waffles or pancakes at least one day.

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erry Smoothie, and Chocolate Banana Pancakes with Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Lunches:

For lunches, I usually have leftovers 2-3 times a week. I like being able to grab something quick, and heating up some leftovers (of a healthy dish) is awesome when chasing around 2 toddlers. Definitely a bonus for convenience, but we do not always have leftovers available.

When leftovers aren’t an option, I like to do other simple dishes. I will do a quinoa, pasta, or couscous with some veggies and light seasonings. With this I will add in a (sugar free) tomato sauce, a (low sodium) broth, a small amount of vegan butter, or a dash of olive oil. If I prepare ahead of time, I will also use this combination with rice as well. Simple grain and veggie bowls are a nice light lunch that I enjoy, and often make heartier and more complex versions for dinner.

A big favorite of mine for lunch are baked potatoes. I will usually have 2 medium russet potatoes topped with fresh pepper, pink Himalayan sea salt, a “cheese” sauce made with nutritional yeast, and broccoli. I will mix up toppings, but this is definitely my go to. If I have sauteed veggies and beans from the night before I will top it with that instead, or I may just add a bit of vegan butter and salt and pepper. As long as your toppings are healthy (and you aim to keep processed items low) you can have delicious healthy potatoes!

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eftovers: Bean and Veggie Soup, and Mac ‘N “Cheese” with Broccoli

Dinners:

Dinners are my favorite! I love using a huge variety of flavors and I am a big fan of ethnic flavors and spices. I try to make a variety of dishes with Italian, Asian, Indian, American, Mexican, and other regions throughout the week. Often a different country each day of the week.

A highly utilized item for dinners for me are lentils, and I love them! I often make lentil dishes in the crockpot, making cooking time little to zero on these nights as well. Some nights I will make a curried lentil dal with potatoes and coconut milk, an Ethiopian mesir wot, a french white wine lentil soup, and even some classic sloppy joes! Lentils are so versatile and tasty, making them a favorite of mine.

I also like to make chili filled with beans and veggies and hearty soups on cold days, perfect to dip homemade bread in. These items can have so many components and spices added to them, making them simple and easy dinners to make. I also like that I can make these in the crockpot or on the stovetop, and both are relatively easy prepping.

I often make the standard Italian pasta or Asian pasta, using a variety of noodles. Making bowls with rice and other grains (like at lunch), are also great options. In the winter I use a combination of frozen and fresh vegetables, and both are easy to mix in and can absorb the flavors of the dish. Making sure to have the correct spices and condiments is crucial to bringing flavor to your dish, if the flavors are not right, the dish can be boring. (Have you ever had pasta with a plain pre-made tomato sauce and nothing else??) Having a grain and veggie bowl, you can really make the dish any style you want. I usually don’t write down my recipes, I kind of just throw the flavors together, but I will post recipes on occasion.

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uick Asian Sesame Noodles with Veggies, and Lentil Dal, Kidney Bean Tofu, Curried Quinoa

Here is a list of spices I have on hand that I use often on five basic styles of food I cook: I mix and match to add my own flair and adjust to my tastes. I will do this with all recipes I use, and will never follow a standard recipe when I find them. Cooking should be all about adding your own flair and creating tastes that are unique that you love!

  • Italian: Italian seasoning, basil, parsley, red crushed pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, fresh ground pepper, garlic, diced tomatoes, and chunky sauces (or whatever consistency you prefer) in a jar where no sugar is added.
  • Asian: Soy sauce, tamari, lime juice, orange juice, other citrus juice, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil (toasted is best), chili sauce/paste, coconut milk, miso paste, rice wine, ginger, cilantro, curry/curry paste.
  • Indian: Curry/curry paste, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, vinegar, coconut milk, pepper, crushed red pepper, turmeric, sesame oil, bay leaves, cardamom, coriander, sesame seeds, fennel/fenugreek, mint, paprika.
  • Mexican: Chili powder, cumin, salsa, oregano, cilantro, diced tomatoes, garlic, cinnamon, enchilada sauce, and lots of beans!
  • American: Pepper, olive oil, tomato sauces and diced tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, occasional use of brown sugar, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, vegan butter, rosemary, crushed red pepper, soy sauce.

I know I do use some processed items in my cooking, but I don’t ever use them as the base or as a primary item in a dish. They are used in small amounts to add moisture to a dish or enhance a flavor only. It is a really personal choice that each person and family will feel differently, and the choice for how you use (or don’t use) these items, is up to you. I always suggest moderation though!

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Why you REALLY aren’t losing weight.

The traditional method of workout and eat less to create a calorie deficit sounds easy enough. It can work short term, but most of the people who actually succeed shortly after regain the weight they worked and starved for to lose. Instead of spending 60 minutes on an elliptical while eating a meager 1200 calories a day, have meaningful workouts and eat a diet that is sustainable in the long term.

From the time I was 13-19, I was vegan. Mostly healthy, didn’t drink, and had a non-excessive workout routine. I was healthy, fit, and 110ish pounds.  Moving to college, I ended up drinking and partying. (I also studied a large amount of the time, and maintained a high GPA as well.) This left little time to workout and eat well. I gained weight.

Then I moved to Boston, and lived with a family who ate very unhealthy. I ate much of what they ate, and also for convenience became vegetarian (instead of vegan.) This, of course, was not their fault. I could have eaten healthier, but I did not. I was to blame. I gained weight.

At this point, I was in between 130-135 pounds at 5’4″. Not an obscene amount, but 20-25 pounds heavier than I had every been. My lifestyle had changed so much in 3-4 years, and my body was the physical evidence of that. I was tired, stressed, sick all the time. I did not like it, and while I am still embarrassed by this phase in my life, I do have a couple pictures that show it. I know I am not huge, but I was huge for myself. This was not me.

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When I finally made the change to live a healthier life again, it was a gradual shift in my lifestyle. First, I cut back greatly on unhealthy convenience foods. Vegetarian foods can still be processed and as unhealthy as the Standard American Diet. I still ate animal byproducts, but went back to home cooked meals and cut back on drinking. Actually, this started when I became pregnant with my first child. Better time than any to become healthier. (Note: I did gain the recommended 25 pounds at this point, leaving me at 154 right before birth.)

2 months after giving birth, I had dropped 34 pounds (down to 120), from the simple step of cutting out much of my junk food intake. I felt better, but still was tired and not at my best.  I made some further lifestyle changes and cut out most (but not all) dairy intake, and made sure to watch oil and fat consumption. I became pregnant again (YAY!) and gained 22 pounds during this pregnancy.

2 weeks after giving birth, I lost the 22 pounds. None of this focused on dieting or excessive workouts. Actually, I did not work out during any of my postpartum recoveries for 2 months each. I was at 120, and felt good, but I still didn’t feel like me.

When my son was 9 months old, we found out about his dairy allergy. We immediately changed our diet to vegan. (A diet I truly love, and always have.) In 10 days, I lost 10 pounds. This was not a cleanse, diet, or strange weight loss trick. I cut out dairy and eggs while still eating abundantly. I felt energetic again, and I felt like myself. I was looking through pictures, and I don’t have many “body shots” but I took these a month ago at 10 weeks pregnant. I have my small bump, but nothing that makes me look too different from my non-pregnant self. I know they are not great, I never planned on using them. This is me, 10 weeks pregnant. I can still fit into a size 0/2 at this point (except for my high-waisted jeans)

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The key to sustainable weight loss, is finding a healthy diet that you can maintain forever! Low calorie diets and focusing on calorie deficits will only be a short term solution that will ruin your metabolism in the long run. Eating well will bring you to your ideal weight, while giving you energy to boot! I love my food, there is so much flavor and diversity in my menus. Not only do I love my food, I love my body! How many women say that?! (maybe 4?) Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, I focused on creating a healthy relationship with food. Building this healthy relationship built an even better one with myself and my body. I have confidence in my body, and I could not be more grateful for this!

Now that I have shared a little about my personal journey (not a diet), I also have some important info about creating an ideal exercise routine. Don’t be afraid to build muscle! Putting a greater emphasis on building muscle and strength training routines are far better than a workout on an elliptical. Also, did I mention that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is?  Yes, building muscle is beautiful. Cardio is still important, and it still needs to be a staple in your workout regime though.

If you workout 5x a week for 60 minutes, do 30 minutes of your preferred (High Intensity) cardio, and 30 minutes of strength training. Mixing it up is ok if you are bored, but the best/most straightforward way is to use those weight-training machines in the gym and circuit training with free weights. Circuit-cardio training with weights is also a good way to to get in a full body strength and cardio workout at once too! If there is interest, I can do more in-depth posts on workouts, but always check with your doctor before starting any sort of exercise program.

Above everything, love yourself and focus on being healthy. Not on your jean size!

Vegan Baby #3 Due May 3rd, 2016!

We are excited to announce that I am pregnant with our third child, and due in May. During this time, I am also breastfeeding our 16 month old son and special dietary considerations are needed since I am nourishing 3 vegans at once!

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I have stated before that I do not count calories ever, but I do consume larger portions in order to maintain an adequate food intake for all of us. (Breastfeeding statistics say you need an extra 500 calories, and your second trimester requires an extra 300 calories daily. Although these are just general reference points.) If you are breastfeeding AND pregnant, eating an extra (and nutrient-rich) meal is a great way to ensure you are getting enough nutrients. I generally eat 4 plant-based or raw meals per day and 2 nutritious snacks.

Extra Food Intake

If you are pregnant, eating one extra nutrient rich snack per day should be implemented into your diet. Look out sometime soon for posts regarding healthy snacking for adults and kids! Again for reference: 1st trimester = 100 extra calories. 2nd trimester = 300 extra calories. 3rd trimester = 500 extra calories. If you are in your first trimester, eating an extra piece of fruit would suffice.

If you are in your second trimester, having one substantial snack in between a meal would be your best option. Having a small fruit salad (3-4 pieces), apples and peanut butter, piece of whole wheat toast with avocado or hummus and veggies, or veggies and hummus are all great options. Occasionally, a small serving granola or trail mix is also an option as well. If you choose to make this an occasional treat, look for options without added sugars or oils. If you are in your third trimester, having two of these snack choices should provide adequate extra nutrients.

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If you are a dessert lover, banana “nice” cream is one of my favorite and guilt-free indulgences. Simple taking 2-3 bananas, fruit or cocoa powder, and a dash of unsweetened almond milk can make for a decadent treat. Just throw it in a food processor until it is smooth and creamy.  Below is Raspberry Nice Cream, (2 bananas, 1/2 cup rasberries, 1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder, and 2 Tbsp of Vegan Chocolate Chips)

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Supplements I Take

Any supplements you begin taking, especially while pregnant, should always be approved by your doctor. This section is just a reference point of what I take personally and are not required by everyone. 

  1. Prenatal Supplement with Vegan Sources of Omega-3s
  2. Iron (I take this at night to avoid stomach aches)
  3. B12
  4. Folic Acid

Making sure to take needed supplements is important during pregnancy to ensure you and baby both get enough nutrients. With my other pregnancies I was not nursing and only took a prenatal vitamin that included iron. My diet was also different, so I did not need a supplement for b12 at that point.

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Don’t beat yourself up if you eat something ‘bad’ though, pregnancy is tough and those cravings are hard to withstand! Some days I personally eat non-stop. I figure on the occasional days I can’t fight eating more, I just try and make healthy choices and eat what my body is telling me I need.

The Power of a Fruit Breakfast

Eating fruit for breakfast is not only delicious, but there are so many health benefits. Many people worry about consuming too much sugar, but the sugar naturally found in whole foods is far different than the refined junk many of us can find in our morning coffee and donuts. Another perk of eating fruit in the morning… IT IS QUICK! Even as a stay at home mom, I barely have time during the week to cook and eat an entire breakfast, and I had even less time when I was working.

Eating a large serving of fruit is also full of fiber, which can help keep you regular and fuller for longer. The Standard American Diet causes many to seriously lack an adequate source of fiber in their diet, and taking fiber supplements just isn’t the same. You NEED fruit and vegetables to get the proper amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber each day. Luckily, there are a million types of fruits, and by sticking to a fruit breakfast, you will still never run out of a variety of foods to eat.

1. A Fruit Smoothie

One popular method to a fruit breakfast is making a smoothie. Many mornings I have a half gallon smoothie, and it definitely does the job in keeping me full until lunch. A half gallon may seem a bit much to you, but that is the portion I think is best for me. Another option would be to make two 32 oz servings, one for breakfast and one for a snack.

This tends to be my favorite breakfast, because I can make it the night before (huge emphasis on quick) and I don’t have to worry about having a ton of fresh fruit on hand. My base recipe is 4 bananas, 2 cups of frozen fruit and 4+ cups of water. I have a variety of frozen fruit in my freezer at all times, so I am not constantly drinking the same thing. Right now, I have a mixed fruit and cherry, mixed berries, raspberries and a tropical fruit mix.

BONUS: Using the four cups of water will fulfill half of your daily water intake (something many of us are also seriously lacking!). Some optional add-ins I recommend are vegan protein powders (my favorites are Naturade Vegan Smart and Garden of Life Raw Protein), unsweetened almond milk, fruit juice without added sugars, spirulina, chia seeds, spinach and other dark leafy greens. I recommend against any milk-based products or protein powders, since they counteract many of the benefits of a pure plant-based breakfast and do not add any benefits flavor-wise. If you need a creamy texture, almond milk is an amazing option.

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A Berry Vanilla Smoothie (two 32 oz. jars); and a Cherry Berry Smoothie (64 oz. jar).

2. Fruit Salad

If you absolutely need to chew to feel full, fruit salads are another great option, and one that I love to use as a breakfast as well. There really are no rules to creating a fruit salad, so pretty much any fruit can be chopped up and thrown in! Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, plums, mangoes, and anything else your heart desires.

I don’t count calories, but I like to make sure I have a certain amount of fruit in my salads. I make sure to include at least 6 whole pieces of fruit in each fruit meal, but my goal is to have 8+ in a meal. These get me seriously full, and are perfect when you feel like chewing over drinking.

To keep it affordable, I like to base my meals off of fruits that are on sale/in season. Any specialty or pricey fruits I use more as a garnish or in smaller quantities. Optional add-ins would include pomegranates, 1/4 cup of an all-natural/sugar-free granola, unsalted nuts like pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, pecans.

Another variation on a fruit salad would be a monomeal, meaning eating a large quantity of one fruit. Many people feel it is easier on their digestive system to eat this way, but I have never had a problem. I do occasionally eat a monomeal, my favorite being half of a giant watermelon when they are on sale. If you choose this route, eat at least 6-8 pieces of fruit or half or all of a melon, depending on the size.

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A plain fruit salad; and a fruit salad topped with a cocoa coconut granola and pomegranate.

3. Vary It Up

I almost always eat an all-fruit breakfast, but some days I may not. Whether my fruit supply is low, or I just don’t feel like it. These days I will still have fruit, but I will add other complex carbs. Sometimes a piece of toast with avocado or hummus and topped with vegetables, oatmeal (not instant), or a granola cereal.

Sometimes, you may also want a savory breakfast as well. If this is the case, make a savory breakfast! Here are few tips to make a healthy “American Style” breakfast.
1. Load your eggs with vegetables, and skip the cheese and salt. Make                    sure to use plenty of spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes!                Extra Credit: make it a tofu scramble!
2. Instead of potatoes fried in oil, cut them up and roast them in the                        oven. Use a vegetable oil spray in the bottom of the baking dish, and                    top with pepper, rosemary, garlic, etc.
3. This may sound blasphemous to many, but just skip the bacon. The                    only substitute (which is nothing like it), would be to thinly slice and                  saute some portabella caps or just include a side of sauteed                                  mushrooms. Not substitute bacon products are good, just ask the                          World Health Organization.
4. Use a healthy whole wheat or whole seed bread. Light on any sort of                   buttery spread and jam. Extra Credit: Skip the butter altogether and                     top with hummus or avocado. Much more healthy and delicious!

The biggest thing to remember is to keep it healthy! No refined carbohydrates like white bread or sugar. Also, read the labels. Just because something looks or sounds healthy, does not make it healthy. Many wheat breads have both refined sugar and flour in the ingredients as well. Making sure you read the ingredients can help you avoid accidental unhealthy choices.

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 chocolate banana protein shake with chia seeds and a granola almond cereal; and a fruit-filled Belgian waffle with a tofu scramble.

Making healthy choices every day takes an effort, but always remember, healthy eating is NOT about deprivation! I love my food, and I am excited to eat every day, and I love eating food that tastes good (who doesn’t). Everyone’s journey with food is different, but food should make you happy and healthy. Never feel that making healthy choices would be depriving you, healthy options can be just as good and often times better than their unhealthy counterparts.

 

Making Quick Healthy Pizzas Everyone Can Enjoy!

Making a pizza from scratch is ideal, but prepackaged crusts are OK too! You can find healthy options by trying to stick with whole wheat and thin crusts, and using low or reduced fat cheese is your healthier dairy option. I recommend finely shredded, because you can use less with it spreading over the pizza more. When choosing sauce, tomato is my go to option, since even a small amount of olive oil spread on the pizza is a lot of unnecessary fat. When choosing the right tomato sauce, you should look ones without added sugar (often ones that say 100% natural or organic, but don’t let that fool you! Read the ingredients).

Finding toppings can be a bit tricky, and many kids just enjoy a simple cheese pizza. Traditional Pepperoni and Sausage products are generally filled with unhealthy preservatives, salt and a number of other things, so as a general rule I recommend to steer clear of these options. For the ‘adult’ pizza (or adventurous kids) toppings like tomatoes, bell peppers, zuchinni (lightly sautee this before hand), onions, fresh herbs like basil and rosemary. So many healthy vegetables can be put on your pizza to boost your vitamin and mineral intake!

Making these simple changes can turn your highly processed, fat and sugar filled pizza into a healthy and delicious option! Pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy, and can still be enjoyed. When making a pizza, you can follow directions on the crust package, but generally cooking at 400 for 15-20 minutes will get you a crispy pie. When making a homemade crust cooking in between 450-500 for around 10-12 minutes will get you a crispy crust, and will avoid having a soggy middle. I also like to throw in the crust alone for about 5 minutes and letting it cool before adding my toppings, when I am not in a rush. Below are what two typical pizzas look like for our family (we don’t eat dairy anymore). Bonus points if you serve up a huge salad to go with it!

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Session Prices and Packages

Free Initial Consultations (via phone, Skype, or in-person visits): All consultations will be approximately 45 minutes. Going over your personal goals and desires as well as answering any questions you may have for me and a basic evaluation.

Nutritional Deficiency Assessment: Now for only $25, a short questionnaire can be filled out in the comfort of your own home and an assessment will be made about vitamins and minerals you may be deficient in. For an additional $15, a list of foods to incorporate into your diet rich in these vitamins and minerals will be included, as well as a few documents involving sample meal plans, tips on snacking, and a 46 page pdf collection of healthy recipes!

Single Sessions: A single accountability and/or planning session (up to 90 minutes), will help check your current health and dietary goals. In this session, a current assessment will be completed, and a plan for progression will be set in place. Single sessions are available for $30, and are individualized for each client/family.

Starter Pack (6 session package): This package includes 6 meetup sessions (any combination of phone, Skype, and in-person meetings). An Initial Consultation and Nutritional Deficiency Assessment will be included first, followed by six consecutive sessions to help you work towards your long term health goals. This package is available for $150! Sessions do not expire, but it is recommended to use these within a six-month time period. All household members are welcome at these sessions. Provided in the initial 3 months also includes answering questions via phone, text and email to answer any small questions. These advisory check-ins will not count towards sessions usages.

Ultimate Package (15 session package): This package not only includes 15 sessions, but also starts with an Initial Consultation and Nutritional Deficiency Assessment. These 15 sessions will work towards you personal health goals to help you gain the confidence to stay healthy for life! This package is available for $350, and sessions will generally run between 9-15 months. Also included in the initial 6 months are advisory check-ins via phone, text or email for any small questions that need to be answered. All household members welcome!

Other Services:
Pantry Evaluations: In-home assessment that includes a thorough evaluation of pantry and refrigerator and recommendations for any changes that need to be made. Some of these changes may include: foods to eliminate, healthy substitutes, new foods to add in to diet, and proper storage techniques for food items. Sessions run around 120+ minutes and are $75 per session (or 2 sessions for package holders).

Starter Meal Planning: This session will include a sit down session centered around creating a healthy 7-day meal plan for you and your family.  Planning a menu the week before is an easy solution to never wondering “What are we going to have for dinner?” again! This meeting will focus on picking recipes based on your time and capabilities, and creating a proper menu for the week. Included are tips on making a grocery list for your dinner menu, and finding a starting list of recipes to have at your fingertips. Sessions run around 120+ minutes and are $75 per session (or 2 sessions for package holders).

Grocery Budget/Shopping List Planning: This will include a sit down session that involves how to prepare a shopping list and a budget for a healthy week of eating. Includes tips on saving money during shopping, sample grocery lists, and ideas for healthy snacking, and help creating a personalized list for the week for you and your family. Sessions run for 120+ minutes and are $75 per session (or 2 sessions for package holders).

*Always consult your health-care professional prior to beginning any new diet and exercise program. *