I’m lucky when I travel because my parents have a time share that I can use that gives access to small apartments or condos all over. I’m just off the Strip in Las Vegas in a quiet hotel with a kitchen – and a jacuzzi but for the purposes of this story the kitchen is more important.
Haing a kitchen is great but I don’t rent a car for this convention. How was I going to get food? When I was here last year I realized that you could get groceries delivered. I used Vons.com. You order online and pick a time for delivery. They came right on time and this is my haul for the week.
I mainly needed breakfast and snack food in the room since I’ll be eating other meals out. I can make smoothies and I have hummus because I’m alone. I love hummus and the husband has life-threatening food allergies. Sad. He liked hummus the one time he tried it until he had to be rushed to the ER.
Now I’m off to start getting educated at the convention. My first class is a lunch meeting but I’m bringing some Larabars in case nothing is vegan. Veterinarians seem to have more vegetarians than the average crowd but we also have more rabid hunters than other groups too. Feeding veterinarians is a delicate balancing act.
I’m flying to Las Vegas today. It is my first time flying while trying to maintain a vegan diet.
Of course I’m carrying a lot of my own food. I have a bag of baby carrots and lots of Larabars. I have some veggie chips too.
I started out at the Akron airport. It is small with only a few food options. You can get a bowl of fruit from the Cinnabon though if you need to.
Then I got bumped from my flight! I got a $400 flight voucher and they drove me to Cleveland for my new flight.
At the Cleveland airport I found UFoodGrill. They offer a veggie burger, a tofu bowl, and a variety of veggie sides. I ordered the veggie burger and a side of brown rice.
Disgusting! Actually that’s the wrong word. There was absolutely no taste to it except for the ketchup on the burger. But, it filled me up and I was glad to have options. So, A for effort but no points for execution.
I didn’t get a chance to eat in Minneapolis because I was running to make my connection.
Now I’m at my hotel in Vegas. I have a grocery store delivering food in the morning. For tonight I’m ordering a calzone. The lady taking my order was distressed by my request to have it cheese less. “Oh, sweetie. No cheese? Are you sure?”
Hopefully it is good. Tomorrow I start my exploration of vegan food in Vegas. I know from other trips and some research that it is pretty amazing! I’ve been looking forward to this!
The world is starting to align itself against him. He lives with me. His father has recently gone vegetarian because of his diabetes.
So the husband is trying it – with caveats. He doesn’t want to be vegan. He isn’t promising that he’ll never eat fish. I’m sure there are more but I just nod.
He says that when he doesn’t eat meat he feels lighter and cleaner. He is having troubles with energy though. I gently explained that that happens to new vegetarians because they don’t eat enough calories. He didn’t just eat some meat. He ate large quantities at a time. Just taking out meat at dinner easily cut 1000 calories from his diet. He doesn’t need to replace them all but he needs to replace more than he is.
Yesterday he told me that he ate some eggs before his workout and he felt better. “Protein, hah!”
“Eggs are more calorie dense so you got more energy out of a similar volume of food than just vegetables alone. Protein doesn’t break down and give energy easily. Biochemistry, hah!”
He told me to quit being a doctor. I take that to mean quit contradicting his notions with science.
So for Valentine’s Day I set him up with another woman – a nutritionist. She is a vegan so she is well versed in vegetarian nutrition. She can help him with his energy questions and tell him what I’m telling him but it will be real because she’s not his wife.
We had a breakfast speaker at work yesterday and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to eat the food they brought so I came prepared.
I made chia seed pudding and the Sexy Low-Fat Vanilla Cupcakes topped with cherry preserves from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. To make it Engine 2 Diet friendly, I omitted the vegetable oil and just upped the amount of applesauce used. I used whole wheat flour too which made them a bit more muffin-like.
For lunch I made a quick chili and poured it over some rice pasta spirals.
The chili is 1/2 a bag of soy crumbles, a can of red beans with chili spices, a can of tomatoes with garlic and onions, and a can of water. It takes about 2 minutes to throw in a pot and then just heat it all through.
The people who ate the cupcakes loved them. There are other people at work who got suspicious at the sight of fruit instead of icing and accused me of trying to sneak healthiness into them. They were sure there were carrots or oats or at the very least flax seeds lurking in there. They know I’m sneaky.
During the first week of the Engine 2 Diet 28 Day Challenge I lost 5 pounds and that sort of makes me mad.
There were only two major changes to my life in the last week.
Cutting out dairy
Being intentional about my food choices
I’ll talk about dairy in a later post because I think the biggest change is intention. That makes me mad because I’d rather have a magic diet to follow. Intention is hard. Intention doesn’t end. It means making the healthy choice over and over. It means making sure to pack my lunch instead of eating out. Intention isn’t sexy or fun.
What does intention look like? Take today for example. For breakfast I had chai oatmeal. That’s oatmeal mixed with a bit of honey, raisins, and garam masala. I had decided to make rice pasta with salsa and beans for lunch. I realized that today was looking pretty light on vegetables and fruit.
I challenge myself to get as many fruit and vegetable servings as I can a day. I started looking at this after a coworker showed me a food journal that she kept for a week. In a week the only vegetable or fruit that crossed her lips was a potato in the form or either fries or chips. I wasn’t the healthiest eating vegetarian at the time but even I was doing better than that.
If I have a day where the main meals are light on veggies I snack on them. I made sure I had an apple on the way to work. I ate baby carrots as a snack. I mixed a 1/4 of a can of pumpkin into the salsa on my pasta. A little bit of pumpkin will disappear into a tomato based sauce really well. It adds nutrition and fiber – it is amazing for bowel health – I recommend it all the time in dogs and cats. I added a few pumpkin seeds too. It is easy to add in great food if you are thinking about it and not just on autopilot.
Our kitchen was unusable because of some work being done in there. We went out to breakfast to a local gourmet market. (Most of the grocery stores around here have restaurants in them.)
I’ve been a vegetarian a long time. I’m used to not having many choices in what I eat when I go out. But there was absolutely nothing available that I could eat here. I was shocked. The husband asked at the counter. The staff was baffled. And so started a conversation that consisted of every bad vegetarian/vegan cliche out there.
I suppose you could have a salad.
Yeah, I could. There’s nothing wrong with salad but we’ve already covered that restaurant salads are pitiful excuses for salad.
Do you eat shrimp?
Um, no. This was followed by, I kid you not, “What about tuna?” I was bracing myself for the ultimate question – How do you get your protein then? When another person behind the counter stepped in.
She heard the word vegan and lit up. Perhaps she is one of the tribe. She recommended their veggie wrap without the cheese and mayo and substituting honey mustard dressing “if honey is ok with you.” I wanted to kiss her. It didn’t end up to be the greatest meal but I was glad to just get food.
Later we had to go out again for dinner. We were going to another supermarket restaurant but this one is super vegan friendly. They even have vegan carrot cake. I was focusing on vegan carrot cake. They were closed.
We ended up at a place that has a decent veggie burger – hold all the cheese they normally top it with – with a side of “vegetable rice” that contained 5 kernels of corn in a bowl of rice. There was no carrot cake.
I don’t think I would have been so frustrated if I hadn’t been drooling over the menus for vegan-loving restaurants that I’m going to go to next week when I’m at a conference.
I came home and whipped up some chia seed pudding. I’ve never successfully made this before. It always tasted like sludge. This time it was good though.
Chia Seed Pudding Formula
1.25 cups plant milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 T maple syrup
Mix these all up and refrigerate. Stir every so often until it looks like tapioca in about an hour.
You can mix in flavors as you want. I added unsweetened cocoa powder to make chocolately pudding which makes everything better.
I get variations of this question a lot when I talk about what I eat. I’m lucky. The husband knew what he was signing up for when he met me. We eat very differently. We’ve been this way from the beginning so we’ve always cooked mainly for ourselves. We also have different schedules so he usually eats dinner before I get home from work.
There have been times though when I’ve been in charge of cooking for omnivores. There was a month when we had Z here and one of the husband’s nieces. I actually had to feed non-vegetarian people. Here’s some things I learned.
1. Use vegetarian and healthy food as the basis for all meals…
I planned meals with the idea to make something that I would eat that could be added to by the omnivores if they wanted to. For example, make spaghetti with a meatless sauce and then cook meatballs on the side that could be added in. Make casseroles and then portion out the part that you are going to eat. Mix in some store bought rotisserie chicken in the part that the other people are going to eat. Make pizzas half with veggies and half with meat.
2 …unless they are going to cook it themselves.
I scheduled in meals that the kids could make themselves. Kids need to learn to cook so they don’t starve (or rely on takeout) when they get older. Hamburgers or hot dogs are a good starting point. I had a veggie burger.
I’ve been vegetarian long enough that no one wants me to try to cook meat for them anyway. Besides, I won’t do it for ethical reasons and also because I won’t eat it I can’t taste the dishes to make sure they are seasoned correctly. I hosted Christmas this year for my family. I had a big vegan spread. I told the husband that if he wanted any dead bird on the table he had to order it pre-cooked and go get it. It worked out fine.
3. There is nothing wrong with only offering healthy food.
This one is aimed mostly at kids and not spouses. Neither kid that was here was used to not having junk food available in the house. Guess what? Neither one died from a lack of junk food. Oh, there were wailing and lamentations. I’m mean. I don’t care about their feelings. These were captive children without driver’s licenses or jobs. They didn’t have a choice in what they ate. I figure my job as parental figure isn’t to make them happy. It is to make them into the best adult members of society that they can be. Turning out junk food addicts isn’t in anyone’s best interest except processed food makers.
I gave in one day because we were going to a lake and I told them they could each get a bag of junk to take with them for the day. I ran into my trainer while checking out with an armful of chips. Yeah, not worth it.
When Z is here now we make sure there is plenty of fruit available if she wants something sweet. That’s as good as it gets. She still hasn’t died.
4. Don’t be preachy and have a sense of humor about your differences
You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind about their diet by harping on them. I do my thing and answer questions if asked but otherwise don’t try to influence the husband. He’s into healthy, high quality food too and sometimes slides dangerously close to vegetarianism. He’s on a slide right now. He’s not happy about it. I think deep down he knows that he should but he doesn’t want to make that leap. Last night we went out to dinner and he had his usual extra meat side dishes. Afterwards he despondently put his head on my shoulder and whined, “The meat didn’t even taste good.”
I patted his back and said, “It’ll be ok, baby.”
Today I was at work and got an email that my order of 2 large All The Meats pizzas was ready to be delivered. I texted him – “All the meats? Way to shove all those vegetarian feelings deep back in the closet where they belong!”
He answered that they were for the contractors working on our kitchen.
I typed. “It isn’t yours..you are just holding it for a friend…”
I discovered a dangerous website. It is called ThredUp. Have you seen this? It is an online thrift store. The really dangerous part is that you can filter your search to designer brands. That’s how crazy cheap hardcore of a thrift shopper I am. If I’m going to pay $20 for something I want the merchandise to be amazing.
I ordered some designer jeans. I never heard of the brand but they retailed for over $130 dollars new. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around paying that much for a pair of jeans. Of course, until I became horseless a few years ago jeans were what you wore to clean stalls so why would you pay big bucks for them? I just wanted to try on some fancy jeans so I ordered a few pairs. I figured I could always return them.
I put on the first pair and suddenly understood the appeal. I looked in the mirror and thought, “These jeans make me look like I lift!” I do lift so I don’t think it is all the jeans doing but my butt doesn’t look all squat-defined in my cheap jeans. I figure that when you are over 40 if your butt is just in its normal place and not all saggy then your squats are doing a magnificent job and let’s not get greedy. These jeans close but are just a bit too tight to be worn out in public. So these are going to be my goal jeans.
I didn’t have a firmly defined goal when I signed up to blog for the Engine 2 diet this month. Now I do. I want to wear these jeans comfortably in public.
I have another pair of the same brand in the same size that I can’t zip. Ah, the insanity of women’s sizing! I’m keeping them though because the first pair is amazing. These will be my aspirational jeans. I want to fit into them too.
Whenever I am working on eating clean I end up packing up vast quantities of food when I leave the house. For some reason I’m fairly certain that I’m going to staaaaaaaaarve and since I can’t run to a fast food place I will never, never have enough food again. This has never happened in case you are wondering. If it did, I have enough fat on me to last for a sufficient time. There is no need for me to go all Scarlet O’Hara.
Anyway, I usually have some snacking food with me in case. For a while I carried around a bag of carrots and cherries with me last summer like a security blanket. I never ate them but I felt better having them.
I’ve moved on to keeping Lara Bars in my purse. I like the peanut butter and jelly and the blueberry muffin ones. They are made with just dates and berries and nuts.
This is what I packed this morning to take to work.
There is an apple, an orange, a bag of carrots, and my lunch (rice, beans, salsa). I have the bars too. I packed this much because I didn’t trust my breakfast. I had oatmeal with an entire apple chopped up mixed into it along with some applesauce and cinnamon stirred in. Oatmeal never fills me up but this did good. I’ve had a few carrots mostly out of boredom because we are slow at work and they are sitting here.
This morning I ate a date before my workout. I exercise at 6 am and I am not getting up early enough to be able to have a meal ahead of time. It would probably make me sick too. A date is enough for an hour workout.
Afterwards I had a smoothie with banana, almond milk, blackberries, a spoonful of peanut butter, and spinach. I know the Engine 2 isn’t big on smoothies because they want you to chew. I like smoothies because I can put in a lot of vegetables and fruits at once. It isn’t like I’m blending them instead of chewing them. I’m blending them instead of not eating them at all. I’m not going to sit down with a bunch of spinach and gnaw on it in the morning.
Lunch is going to be salad. I used to have a problem bringing salads from home. They’d get soggy. Then I learned this tip.
You put all the toppings you want in the bottom of the bowl. I have chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cucumbers, dried cranberries, olives, carrots, and pickles. I throw everything in there.
It takes up about 1/4 of this medium mixing bowl I use for salad. Then, if you are going to use dressing, mix it in with the toppings. I don’t always have dressing if the toppings are juicy. That’s enough flavor. If I do use dressing it is just a little bit like 1-2 teaspoons for a big salad. I add the lettuce on top. The lettuce doesn’t get soggy at all.
I like making my own because restaurant salads tend to be wimpy and small. They don’t fill you up. This is a really filling lunch.
My main barrier to eating healthy all the time is just plain laziness.
My worst time is at breakfast. It seems ludicrous that a person can be too lazy to make a smoothie in the morning but I manage it. I tell myself that it is too much work to go into the kitchen and make food so I’ll go to the bagel place or worse, McDonalds, on my way to work. It takes about 5 minutes to get food handed to you. It takes about 2 minutes to make a smoothie. The math is not in my favor.
So, one of my goals for this week is to make breakfast an event.
This morning I sliced up a banana, an apple, and an orange and arranged them on a plate with a few dollops of peanut butter. Look at how much food that is!
That’s one of the nice things about eating a clean plant-based diet. You can eat vast quantities of food. There is no excuse for being hungry.
At the same time as making breakfast I started some quinoa cooking and started baking a sweet potato. I haven’t had a baked sweet potato since the incident when I caught the microwave on fire last May while baking one. I guess I didn’t have one that day either, come to think of it.
Lunch will be the baked potato with black beans and salsa. Dinner will be the quinoa (cooked with veggie broth and tomato paste) with leftover lentil sloppy joes adapted to the Engine 2 Diet by not cooking with oil and decreasing the maple syrup a bit.
I’m starting the Engine 2 Challenge today. If you aren’t aren’t familiar with Engine 2 it is a plant-based, no processed food, low sugar, and no oil diet. It seems like an easier version of Whole Life that I do in the fall. I like the structure of a diet challenge. It keeps me on track.
So, for the next 28 days I’ll be posting about food and cooking and making better choices.
Thanksgiving is one of my absolutely least favorite holidays. It is all about the food and I pretty much can’t eat the food.
Last year I rebelled. I made my own stuffing (to eliminate the chicken fat and turkey bits and broth) and gravy. I made enough stuffing to share last year but most people didn’t try it so this year I am making a personal pan stuffing and I’m guarding it like a hobbit with a ring.
This is the Most High Holy Vegan Gravy Link. I have shared this with other vegetarians and there has been rejoicing. I make it with 1 cup of vegetable broth and one cup of almond milk instead of water. It is enough to make you like Thanksgiving.
I am planning a day of complete and utter debauchery.
I finished the Whole Life Challenge this morning. I’m giving myself this day to indulge in an absolute bacchanal of badness nutritionally speaking and then I’m going back on the wagon.
The wagon is:
No grains except brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, buckwheat, and amaranth
No soy except tempeh and miso
No processed food
No sugar except fruit
No fruit juices
I did this for 2 months and I did very well. No cravings or anything. My results were good too. I lost 10 lbs which is actually less than I wanted to lose. I lost 15 last year. But I lost 7.5 inches from my waist and hips.
When I started I could wear most size 14 pants but some were too tight. Now I can wear all size 14s and many size 12s. In shirts I usually wear a L or XL but I’m wearing mediums without them being skin tight.
I redid my intro workout yesterday. I improved by 25%. My running actually got a little worse but my squats, pushups, and situps improved enough to pull the whole thing up to 25%.
The plan for debauchery used to be Mexican food but the husband pooh-poohed it. He pointed out that I eat beans and rice at Mexican restaurants and I’ve been eating beans and rice daily on the challenge. I said that there would be cheese dip and chips at the restaurant but he launched into a tirade about low quality cheese in dips and then I quit listening.
The new plan for lunch is:
Biryani – yes, it is rice but it comes with yogurt sauce
Kashmiri naan – wheat, sugar
Mango lassi – dairy and probably sugar
Dinner will be:
Pizza – wheat and dairy
Cheese dipping sauce – so bad yet so yummy
Root beer because I’m a wild one!
I’m pre-meding with lactaid and immodium because this is going to make me so sick and then I’m heading to the Indian restaurant. Wish me luck!
1. Soak 1 lb of pitted dates in 1 cup of liquid overnight. I used almond milk with a splash of vanilla.
2. Combine them in a food processor until it is a smooth paste.
3. Spread on an apple. It will be very sticky so you won’t be able to put it down until you roll it in a topping.
4. Pick your topping. I used unsweetened coconut and raw cacao nibs but you can use chopped nuts too.
5. Put in a cupcake liner and keep refrigerated.
The date paste doesn’t set up hard like caramel so it was easiest for us to cut these up in a bowl and eat them. They are so rich that the husband and I shared one – and that is coming from some Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company apple lovers.
I’m back to smoothies in the morning instead of spaghetti like last week.
I’ve started soaking some cashews first before making the smoothies to make them really creamy. This one was cashews, almond milk, banana, and spinach.
For lunch I had soup made with mushroom broth and miso. There were carrots and green beans in it too. I added some kelp noodles. I really like these. They don’t need to be cooked and they take on the flavor of whatever broth they are in. I like to add them to a soup in the morning and let it sit until lunch. The noodles get soft that way. If you eat them right off they are a bit too crunchy for my liking.
A question I get a lot recently is “Are you still on your No Fun diet?”
Yes, I’m in the middle of the Whole Life Challenge. Yes, it is restrictive. But, I’m eating great food. I’d hardly call it “No Fun.” So, I decided to list what I ate yesterday as an example of what all I get to eat.
Here’s a quick overview of the rules – no dairy except small amounts of butter, no grains (vegetarians are allowed brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice, and amaranth), no sugar or other sweeteners except for stevia, no corn or potatoes, no fruit juice, no alcohol, no processed food, no soy except miso and tempeh for vegetarians. It is designed to be a Paleo challenge with allowances made for us “poor” vegetarians. The rest of the challenge involves daily workouts and stretching and taking a supplement of our choice. I’m taking B12.
Normally for breakfast I’d make a smoothie. Of course on the day I was going to post I had a craving.
Yeah, I had spaghetti for breakfast. This is a pasta made out of brown rice and water. I figured that was legal for me. I was craving the mouth feel of pasta. The sauce is a bottled sauce with no chemicals or sugar.
At 10:00 I had a Lara Bar.
I made this creamy vegetable soup yesterday morning. It is mostly this 7 Vegetable Soup but I was missing a few of the vegetables. I finished it right before work so the jar was hot when I was carrying it in. By lunch time it still hadn’t totally cooled in the frig so I didn’t need to warm it up. People realized that I had made it before work. “You made homemade soup before work? Who DOES THAT?”
“Um, a person who was up at 5:30 for 6 AM CrossFit class?”
It isn’t that hard especially since I don’t leave for work until 10. Plenty of time to make some food.
I ate about half of the jar of soup and another Lara Bar too.
I had an orange when I got home from work and then went for a walk with the husband and the dog. After that I had a bowl of rice with salsa and pumpkin. Being allowed to have rice on the challenge this year is amazing. Last year I did this and I kept craving something chewy. Now I’m totally satisfied with my rice options.
I’m always surprised that I don’t crave sugar when I do this. I eat a lot of fruit and dates so it isn’t like I’ve cut all sugar out of my life but I’m satisfied. I always wonder when I’m in the midst of this why I don’t continue after the 2 month challenge is over. I guess I get lazy about making food. After last year I kept the no processed food ban in place. This year feels more like a lifestyle change than a diet challenge.
We signed up for a half share at a local Community Supported Agriculture farm this year. Every two weeks we get a box of produce. We’ve been pretty wasteful so far because the early boxes didn’t have a lot of stuff we liked.
Last night I decided to use up stuff in the box. It was Iron Chef time.
First up was Eggplant Napoleons based on a dish I had at a DoubleTree hotel in North Carolina.
The eggplant was sliced thinly and wiped lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was baked for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
It was layered with mashed red potatoes and slices from a roasted purple pepper. Then a slice of fresh mozzarella was put on top and it was broiled until melted. It was topped with a reduction of balsamic vinegar and honey.
It doesn’t look all the pretty but it was yummy.
Next up was yellow watermelon mixed with feta and some fresh mint that I have growing outside.
I’ve been having trouble finding an eating plan that works for me. The problem is that I work weird hours. I leave the house at 10 AM and I don’t get back until 7 or 8. I usually don’t want a meal then. After some trial and error, I found a plan that seems to be working.
The husband makes smoothies in the morning when he gets up. It is a banana, some sort of fruit, almond milk, and spinach.
I need a snack of some sort about the time I leave for work. I’m either having juice or something like carrots. I have to fight the temptation to just pick something (unhealthy) up on the way.
I get lunch (hopefully) between 2 and 3. I need to get out of the office. I like to go to a restaurant and have time to sit and read. It helps clear my brain from the morning and get me ready to face the public all afternoon. I’ve tried to cut this out by bringing lunch but going out helps me mentally. I’ve decided to make this the main meal of my day. Everything else is smaller and snackier.
After I get home I have something small like juice and/or nuts.
I’ve been doing a lot of juicing lately. I’ve done juice fasts in the past and I feel great on them. Then I get out of the habit and don’t feel as good.
Beet, red cabbage, carrot, and orange.
I know that people aren’t always big fans of juicing because it strips out the fiber. I like it for a few reasons.
The argument that you would be better off eating the whole food is misleading. First of all, you wouldn’t normally eat that volume of food at one sitting. Second, let’s get real. The voice in your head isn’t asking, “Hmm, should I juice this or should I cook up the beet and cabbage?” It is asking, “Should I have juice or a doughnut?”
I think of juicing as bathing my body in nutrients. It is a quick shot of the vitamins and enzymes of produce that I don’t normally eat. I hate beets but I’m ok with them in juice. I like to count up the number of different fruits and vegetables I’ve had in a day.
Liquid diets are good for my body type in Chinese medicine. My weakness in this system of thought is digestion. The more easily digestible my food is the better. Soups, juices, and smoothies are easier for my body to process. One of the ways of measuring health is by looking at your tongue. My tongue gets swollen indicating a low chi if I eat junk. When I juice, the swelling goes down. This leads to me staring into mirrors admiring my tongue from different angles. I want to tell people to, “Look at my tongue! Isn’t it amazing?” but that might be weird.
I don’t use specific juicing recipes. I just buy what is available and throw it together. I think of juicing as being a bit like quilting – everything goes together if you mix it up enough.