Friday, December 31, 2010

11 Top Tips for Kicking off the New Year Vegan Style

I made the switch from a Vegetarian to a Vegan exactly one year ago tomorrow. I’ll be going on 7 years of veggie goodness which ever way you look at it. I’m hoping to write soon about the thought process behind the lifestyle switch, however for all you ambitious, positive vegan-trying (or vegetarian-trying) folk out there, I’ve compiled the “11 Top Tips” to help you kick off 2011 with a swagger in your step and refrigerator full of veggies.

So… here is my advice to you!

1. Make sure you’ve got the HEAD - HEART - BELLY connection going on.
The head – heart – belly connection is an important one. Making a major life change without assessing your current thought process can lead to frustration. Ask yourself these questions, answer them truthfully and make sure you have a clear perception of where you are in the thought process before trying to make the transition.

Heart measuring cups. A want, almost a need.
Head: Have I thought through the transition and I am mentally prepared to make this life change? (Or try this way of living, or eating, etc.) 
Heart: Am I compassionate about saving the planet, animals and/or the environment?
Belly: Is my body craving healthy food that will be satisfied on a vegan diet?

My advice: Don't give up anything you're emotionally or physically attached to before you're ready. This isn’t to say don’t try being vegan before you’re 100% sure, there’s always some doubt, however measure your odds and try to give yourself a fighting chance.

2. Purge the cabinets of non-vegan/vegetarian items. 
Guess what? If the Oreo fudge ice cream isn’t in you’re freezer, you won’t be tempted to eat it… Think of it as a cleansing, a new beginning and a fresh start.

My advice: Give any extra food items away that you can. Being wasteful is not ideal.

3. Make a list and head to the grocery store. 
Check. Check. Can I get a little lettuce in here?”

You’ll need to take a scan of your cabinets, pantry and refrigerator. Make a list of things you’ll need. This may be an investment at first, but I’ve found that a little bit of safflower oil goes a long way! It’s the same with Quinoa, rice, and lentils. Stock up and you could save in the long run.

My advice: Find recipes that look yummy and buy the ingredients needed for that recipe only. Each week pick a new recipe. Your kitchen supplies will grow without taking a complete hit to the grocery bill.

4. Listen to your body. 
Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Drink when you’re thirsty. Stretch when your shoulders are slumped over the computer too long. Hunger and body cues are important. During a transition it is important to plan out your meals and the snacks that you can eat, but also make sure you’re listening to the natural cravings of your body.

My advice: Walk through the produce department and see what fruits or veggies jump out at you. Keep your eyes open for things you can easily pack for the office or eat while traveling.

5. Buy quality food storage containers. 
You need something to hold all of that fabulous food you’ll be making. Funny but true, invest is some quality food containers.

My advice: Get all different sizes – you’ll need bigger ones for soups and salads – and you’ll also need a size you bring to the office for lunch. Tupperware variety is key.  

6. Inspiration - Books, blogs, sayings, vegetarian food pyramid on your refrigerator. 
Sometimes it’s not easy being vegan (Kermit should have sang a song about that…). You may feel a little alone, or not understood, or lonely. So in the words of MJ, "You are not alone" and you can find resources and inspiration from a number of things. 

Here are my favorites. But there are so many more resources you can find!

The Kind Life. By Alicia Silverstone. Great for inspiration, recipes, and facts.

Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. By Deanna Burton Recipes!

The Streets I Know: A Vegan Fashion Blog

Vegan Craftastic

Manifest Vegan

7. Buy a journal: Write it out and start tracking.
Writing for me is a way to track my thoughts. You could keep a food journal, or write about the way your lifestyle choices make you feel, or note your aspirations for 2011. You could even make a comic strip about your life becoming a vegan. It’s your journal you can make or write whatever you want. Journaling has helped me understand my patterns better and could probably help you too.

My advice: Pick a journal that gets you excited to write. Size, color, no lines, blue lines… it’s completely up to you. On a budget? If you have a Christmas Tree Shop store by you, journals with recycled paper are about $3.00.

8. Read the labels. 
Those darn labels get me every time. Why? I’m usually moving at the speed of light, and because food packaging can be utterly deceiving. So if you can stop to do something, you should stop to read the labels.

Also, the find what those ingredients actually mean in the back of books like Skinny Bitch and on the Animal Free iPhone app.

My advice: Keep a list of the foods in the vending machine that you can eat. If you buy a bag of something and you realize it’s not vegan make a note of it.

9. Get to know your spices! 

Food needs a little flavor kick every now and then. Get what you're looking for with a variety of spices.

My advice: Buy Indian spices. Cumin, Masala, and Tumeric will make your dishes flavorful.

10. Variety is sanity. 
I love Mexican food. I also love Thai food. I also love Portuguese food. My point? If you eat veggies burgers, peanuts, and hummus everyday you’re going to get bored, fast. So make the mental effort to switch things up.

The best advice I got from a friend (and my chiropractor) when I first became a vegetarian was to pick a protein staple for the week. So for example: If you choose tofu one week, pick seitan the next, lentils the week after, etc. Please note: I’m not a nutritionist, this method has just worked for me and my diet.

You can plan a few more meals knowing that tofu is going to be your staple protein. You don’t have to only eat that chosen protein, I would actually recommend that you don’t. But again, choosing one may make the meals easier to plan for the week.  

Since protein is a large concern when it comes to a Vegetarian or Vegan diet, here’s a nice blog post entitled Protein 101 from Sara Bourgault at Eat Well Nutrition that can help answer some of your questions.

Mix it up with Chips and Guac.

Mix it up with Peanut Butter. 
Mix it up with veggies!
In NYC @Candle Cafe for my birthday!
My advice: Browse through online recipes and blogs for new ideas. Don't be afraid to try something new!

11. Become a snack carrying soccer mom. 
You don’t have to have a kid in tow for this one, but I would recommend carrying fruit, trail mix, or bars while you’re out and about. This way you can always reach for a vegan friendly snack and not have to worry about vending machines.

My advice: Bring on the apples - easy to find, easy to clean and easy to eat.

Hope these transition tips help. More tips to come throughout the year.  In the meantime, I would love to hear what helped you make the transition?


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