How To Remove Meat From Your Diet (Slowly)

I often get asked how one even begins to start removing meat from their diet. It can seem overwhelming. The diet is rather simple but shifting the mindset from a Standard American Diet to a plant-based one can seem complex for a lot of people. I want to show you how easy it is to make the change.

How to Remove Meat From Your Diet (Slowly)

First of all, you need to determine your motivation behind this decision to remove meat. Is it ethical? Watch Earthlings to reinforce your decision. Is it environmental? Watch Cowspiracy to understand the implications of animal agriculture on our environment. Is it health? Watch Forks Over Knives to solidify your understanding of why a plant-based diet is the healthiest and only proven diet to prevent and reverse chronic diseases. Educating yourself on these matters will help build your foundation to success and staying the course. After taking off the metaphorical blinders, you’ll wish you had known all of these things a long time ago.

The next step is to make a plan. Decide what your comfort level is first. Maybe you just want to try Meatless Mondays and then expand to other days of the week over time. Maybe you want to cut out red meat first, then eventually poultry and fish. I myself started with something as simple as ordering only vegetarian meals every time I went out to eat. I didn’t really know how to cook vegetables at home to make them taste as good as restaurants do and I knew I needed more nutrients in my diet so by eating a vegetarian meal when at a restaurant I was guaranteed to get a couple servings of veggies. Most restaurants have vegetarian options now but a great site for finding veg-friendly restaurants in your area is Happy Cow. Eventually, I wanted to recreate those same tasty meals at home. Soon enough, there was no more meat in my fridge.

Crispy tofu thai curry

Crispy tofu thai curry ordered at restaurant

Have a favorite recipe that includes meat? One of my friends mentioned that she simply left the meat out of her recipe and said it was just as good! If the recipe seems sparse after the removal of meat, just add more of whatever vegetables are already in it or add tofu or beans as a meat replacement. They are both great for absorbing whatever spice/sauce is in the dish and are excellent sources of protein.

easy stir fry

Easy stir fry with chicken omitted

When eliminating meat, remember not to just replace it with processed starches. Bread is okay when it’s whole grain with minimal ingredients (my favorite is Ezekiel) and brown rice is good too. The best thing to do is to think about whole grains as the center of the dish rather than meat and your meals will come together a lot easier. It is the largest food group after all! So load up on sweet potatoes, brown rice, squash, whole wheat items, and oats!

Hearty homemade stew without the meat

Hearty homemade sweet potato stew without the meat

There is also a plethora of fake meats on the market now if you choose to go that route. They are great for transitioning or to have on occasion when you have a craving. Just remember that they are processed and more expensive. You’re better off with the above suggestion of using tofu, beans, and whole grains (for a slimmer waist and fuller wallet).

Also, as you make the conscious decision to remove meat, think about what you’re gaining not what you’re giving up. You’re going to be trying new foods, finding new favorites, gaining back back health and energy, reducing your impact on the planet, and saving lives! And when you slip up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just do the best you can and reevaluate what caused the slip up and what you can do to prevent it next time.

In the end, do it at a pace that is comfortable for you. There is no rush, because any progress is good progress. Ultimately, the end goal should be to cut out meat entirely but setting up a step-by-step plan will ensure you make progress towards your end goal. Set a timeline, plan the steps, then do it!

Hope this helps and inspires you to make the change! xoxo

For some additional resources, check out my series on How Your Diet is Slowly Killing You Part One, Two, Three, and Four.

Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Soft. Chewy. Chocolate chip melty. Just to name a few ways I would describe these tasty morsels.

I wanted to share a simple, delicious recipe that is easy to make and satisfies the sweet tooth. As mentioned previously, I have the biggest sweet tooth and yes, sometimes I do have cravings for it still, even on a plant-based diet–but my cravings are less frequent and less intense. When they do strike, I want to something that satisfies, but also something that won’t make me feel guilty about eating later.  And something to note, you’ll notice after eating a whole food, plant-based diet for a while that your palate has changed and you start to appreciate the natural, wholesome foods more and find the processed items to be sensory overload. Before this lifestyle change, that never happened to me. “Too sweet?” is that even a thing? I get it now, guys. I get it.

But even on a plant-based diet, I still have an appreciation for sweets on the occasion. And although this recipe is not super decadent, it still satisfies the cravings without the excessive calories and fat typically found in sweets.

Without further ado–

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Vegan chocolate chip banana oatmeal cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup of oats (I use quick oats)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • a handful of dairy-free chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life brand)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mash the banana smooth until only small chunks remain. Then, add in the oats, cinnamon, and vanilla extract and mix well. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips. You can add in a small amount of water if the mixture is to dry or add more oats if it is too wet.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture out and place on the cookie sheet. You can roll them up more or flatten them out. I chose to just drop them on the sheet, hence the odd forms. This recipe makes 6 but feel free to double for extra cookie delight.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. If you double the recipe you may want to increase the bake time to 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes before eating. I used a drying rack for speedier cool time (because, in the words of the Cookie Monster, “Me want cookie!”).

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

 

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

So good!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I love how easy and tasty these cookies are. And you can satisfy that craving in less than 30 minutes, start-to-finish! Watch out Rachael Ray!

xoxo

 

New Year’s Resolutions Check-In

It is 22 days now into the new year and they say it only takes 21 days to form a habit, right? So let’s see how I’ve done so far sticking to these resolutions.

1. Lose body fat by consistently working out with no longer than 4 days between a workout.

checkmarkI have been working out consistently which I am proud of! I think the longest I’ve gone between a workout has only been 3 days. Score!
2. Follow the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study diet

red-xI have been successful adding additional nutrients to my diet like mushrooms and turmeric but I still have processed foods at work. Mostly it’s a handful of wheat thins or peanut butter pretzel bites. However, we are making hummus today and I bought some carrots to go with it as a snack to take to work. I’m also trying to figure out how to get all of my oatmeal fixin’s to work so I can make it there. Most mornings I just grab a banana and then snack at work because I’m always rushing out the door.  The issue is my work only has a mini fridge and it’s usually full of red bull and la croix that my coworkers drink so there’s not much room for storage. I can make it with water instead of almond milk but I love maple syrup in it and that has to be refrigerated. I’m looking in to trying agave syrup. If that doesn’t need refrigeration, I’ll use that. And then I can bring a baggie of fresh fruit with me to top the oatmeal with. Problem solved!

3. Stretch daily for at least 1 minutes.

red-xI have been doing really well to stretch every day. There have only been maybe 2 days that I stretched maybe only 5 minutes, but I still stretched! I can already tell I’ve gained some flexibility. I better be able to the splits by the end of this year!

4. Run 6 consecutive miles

red-xI actually haven’t been running as much as I would like. I think I’m only at 1.5 miles when I should be at 2 based on my gradual increase trajectory. The problem is I’ve only been running once a week instead of 2-3 times like I committed to. After Body Pump I tend to just stretch and head home when I should stick around to go running. This is the week it’s going to happen!

5. Minimize 10 items a month

checkmarkI did it! Check out this post for how I eliminated more than 10 items from my medicine cabinet. My next victim is the bathroom vanity. It feels so good to let go of items that I don’t need/use that clutter up my surroundings.

Wow, not as well as I thought. But I have a game plan for how I’m going to achieve the goals I haven’t been succeeding at.

every new day is a chance to change your life

How are you doing on your new year’s resolutions?

xoxoRachel

Three-Bean Chili

This chili is the best chili I have ever had, and I’m not lying. Ground up shredded animal bits deserve no place in the amazingly, flavorful dish. We’re talking REAL FOOD here–> e.g. beans, tomatoes, carrots, and jalapeños for you spicy folks. We make this dish all the time and the plant-based doctors praise us for such good eating (okay, they don’t know me, but if they did–they’d be commending me for this dish!).

Three Bean Vegan Chili

Three-Bean Vegan Chili

You can make this on the stovetop or in a crockpot. Today I’ll explain the crockpot steps. This recipe fills a 6-quart crockpot and makes enough meals to last for the week. Feel free to cut this recipe in half or freeze the extra for later if needed.

Ingredients

1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired), diced
2-3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 large carrots, chopped
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1 6oz can (6 Tbsp) tomato paste
5 cans of beans, drained and rinsed–our preference is:

2 cans (15 oz) Red Kidney beans
1 can (15 oz) Pinto Beans
2 cans (15 oz) Black Beans

1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Turmeric
1/2 Tbsp Oregano
1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp Cardamon (optional)
1 Tsp Garam Masala (optional)
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions

Turn your crockpot on to high heat. Place onions and garlic in the crockpot with a Tbsp or two of water to keep them from sticking. Stir until soft and translucent for few minutes. Add the jalapeños, celery, bell pepper, and carrots and stir for another few minutes, adding water as necessary to reduce sticking. Add the tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste and stir well. Next, add the beans, cumin, turmeric, oregano, chili powder, garam masala and cardamon (for an added sweetness), salt, and pepper. Stir everything together, cover, and leave on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-8 hours or until heated through and the liquid has reduced.

What is great about this recipe is that it is so versatile. You can really add whatever vegetables or beans you prefer, add more or less spice depending on your preference, and even the cooking time is variable to your needs–Going to be at work all day? Put it on low in the morning and leave it until you get home. Need to run a few errands before dinner? Leave it on high for 1-2 hours.

Serving Suggestions

In a bread bowl!

Vegan Soup in Bread Bowl

We like splurging on a bread bowl or two to serve our chili in.

Add sweet potatoes, corn, or even lentils! Get creative with your fave ingredients!

Three Bean Vegan Chili

Or add some delicious vegan cheese on top like this guy–>

vegan cheese model

Be like him. He knows what’s up.

Or maybe you’re a sour cream kind of pal.

Dairy free sour cream

Vegans have your covered.

So don’t fret that you can’t enjoy your chili the way you like it! Hope you give this recipe a try! xoxo

Eliminate 10 Items Resolution #1

One of my goals this year is to live more simply by reducing household items that take up space and don’t provide me much value. As I get older, I can’t stand having clutter around. It seems to add more and more stress to my life. I have this undeniable urge to purge.

So this year I have resolved to removing 10 items a month from my life. This includes trashing, donating, selling (like on craiglist/poshmark) or giving things away to friends.

My first victim this year was our medicine cabinet in our bathroom. There are three mirrors that hide three shelves of storage each. We have lived in this house for almost a year and still haven’t truly organized it from the original dumping of its contents into a spot just to feel moved in.

Here was the original state it was in:

Medicine Cabinet Before

The mirrors partially hide some of the chaos in the photo, but believe me, it wasn’t pretty. (And yes, having the light off centered from the cabinet does bother me.)

We have it set up where each of us have our own side–Daniel’s is the left, mine is the right, and we share the middle–except for our toothbrushes which are housed in Daniel’s. And yes, we do have a ridiculous amount of toothbrushes. We have a habit of keeping our old one’s even though we have new ones. But you don’t care!

Moving on!

So starting with my side, I really wanted to cut down all of the items I don’t use regularly or are full of harsh chemicals that I don’t want on my body anymore. Here’s what I decided to get rid of:

my side clutter removal

I apologize to anyone reading this who may have given me one of these things. I think they all were gifts at some point except for the deodorant, makeup remover lotion, and a few samples. Some of these items were really old, like the Bath & Body Works items in the back which ranged from 5-8 years old. It was time for them to go. As for the perfumes, although the scents are nice, I just honestly don’t wear perfume that often so I decided to keep only my full sized items. Although, that purple perfume was one of my favorites for a long time, it is almost empty and has taken on an alcohol-ish smell from age. The older items I threw away, but I am planning to give away some of the almost full items like the Avon lotion and the makeup remover lotion, and some of those little perfumes that are newer.

So here’s the result:

my-side-decluttered

It looks so much better and only has (mostly) the essentials I use. I am planning to get a new deodorant though since that Tom’s of Maine one on the bottom shelf just isn’t working for me. It seems to make me smell instantly of B.O. when I apply it. Anyone else? Maybe it’s because I have the unscented one… And yeah, I have my old and new retainer stacked there on the second shelf because I told you I’m a hoarder. I’m slowly trying to transition my personal care items to all natural, vegan, cruelty-free. A good website I’ve been using to determine whether it’s “all natural” or at least safer to apply on my skin is Skin Deep by the Environmental Working Group or EWG. They have compiled thousands of products and the ingredients in them based off of the current research available to give each product a score for how safe it is. Some products are even starting to use the “EWG Verified” certification on their packaging if they are rated as safe. Pretty cool stuff!

Alright enough rambling. Here’s the middle section decluttering action:

center-clutter-removal

It is mostly expired medicine and eye drops. I had a major issue with dry eyes when I wore contacts but now after PRK (a similar surgery to LASIK) I only need one bottle of drops as seen on my side of the cabinet. Oh and we condensed our bandages into one box so we could get rid of the other half-empty box. And we got rid of some almost-empty and “unsafe” sunscreen.

Here’s the after:

center-after

We kept the itch-relief stuff since Daniel had a bad bout of poison ivy a couple years ago and wants to have it on hand at all times. We also have some sunscreen in that orange tube that a friend left and we’ve been meaning to return… sorry friend! And I keep baby powder around to make my own dry shampoo. It smells like lavender! Then we’ve got a random assortment of first-aid stuff on the second shelf, plus my “safe” sunscreen! Goddess Garden is an awesome brand! And we have a ton of extra floss that accumulates from the dentist. I prefer the pre-strung flossers but Daniel says once we run out of them we have to use all of this floss before buying more *first world problems*. Then on the bottom shelf we have some flosser tools (not sure what they’re really called but for those of you who have a permanent wire bottom retainer from braces, you know what’s up), plus a spare tooth brush, rubbing alcohol, nasal spray, tweezers, and a tube of shaving cream.

And now Daniel’s side decluttering:

daniels-declutter

Yeah he really didn’t have much to get rid of. Some cologne that makes him sneeze, an old razor, and some cream that was actually mine when I had eczema. And not featured, we threw out our old toothbrushes. Because, progress, ya know?

Daniel’s after:

danies-side-after

Up top he has some shaving stuff and his deodorants, middle shelf he has his colognes/more shaving stuff, and the bottom shelf he has kindly donated to our dental hygiene. Pink toothbrushes for the win!

So here’s the final result:declutter-after

And side-by-side for perspective:

before-and-after-cabinet

It doesn’t look like much improvement, and we could certainly cut down on more, but it is progress and these things take time. I basically have to rewire my brain to assure myself that it’s OKAY to get rid of what I don’t need/use. I don’t have to hoard all the things. But I was able to get rid of more than 10 items!

Just like I try to focus on physical health, I want to improve my mental health, and decluttering my surroundings really helps to improve my mood!

I plan to tackle the bathroom vanity next. I have taken it over with all of my hair and makeup products and it is worse than the medicine cabinet…