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meal planning

8 Things I've Learned as a Vegetarian

HealthAmanda Walter | Maple AlpsComment

I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time now. Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me about it and just the other day, I sat down and wrote out a few things I’ve learned from my experience. It’s so natural for me as I view it as a lifestyle rather than a dietary restriction. It has become second nature to me, and I feel better and more intentional with my food choices. Vegetarian is the only title I exclusively “subscribe” to when asked about my diet, though we mostly eat completely plant based at home.

There are a few things I’ve learned over the years, and I’m going to share 7 of them with you today!

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8 Things I've Learned as a Vegetarian |

Cravings Change, and so do taste bud preferences. This has definitely been true for me. Tastes and even certain smells (like meat cooking) that used to be so good to me now make me feel ill. I remember a time when I thought I could never go completely vegetarian, and I was totally wrong. Now, I can’t imagine going back.

One can still be an unhealthy vegetarian! I know a lot of people who are vegetarian who are unhealthy. I also know a lot of people who don’t understand that it really is possible to be healthy as a vegetarian. Crazy, right? Even as a vegetarian, it’s important to eat your daily servings of vegetables, fruits, and grains! Getting the nutrition one needs is important. Substitute meat products are oftentimes even less healthy than the actual stuff, so I’m careful about them and limit the amount of processed foods I consume. I’ve caught myself from time to time not eating as healthy as I could be, even as a vegetarian! Making sure I plan meals ahead helps reduce the amount of processed and unhealthy food we consume!

meal planning guide |

B12 is important. There are a few supplements to consider when going vegetarian. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. Vitamin B12 is necessary for us to function properly, and yet it is hard to get on a vegetarian diet (and especially on a vegan diet).  Finding vegetarian supplements (I use this B12 from Amazon) and buying fortified nutritional yeast flakes to add to food help with B12 levels. A few other supplements I’ve needed as a vegetarian have been iron and vitamin D.

Protein is actually pretty easy to get enough of. Besides finding out that protein is easy to get, I found out that so many people became concerned with my protein levels once becoming vegetarian. It turns out, however, that protein is not the main concern when going vegetarian after all! I mean, of course cows get protein somewhere, right? It is indeed possible to get plenty of protein on a vegetarian diet. Some examples of some high protein foods are edamame, beans, dark leafy greens, and my favourite, tofu. By the way, my doctor of many years has never once asked me if I get enough protein and she knows I’m a vegetarian. She doesn’t seem too concerned.

Reading Food Labels is Key! It’s interesting what foods we may assume are vegetarian are indeed not! Reading food labels ensures food really is animal-product free or vegetarian-friendly. Barbeque chips, marshmallows, and even some vitamin capsules are just three examples of snacks that are not usually vegetarian-friendly. Ideally, one should be eating foods with no labels at all (fresh produce, bulk grains, etc.).

It is not that weird after all. When I first went vegetarian years ago, there were so many people who thought it was the strangest thing. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who choose to go vegetarian, either for health or ethical reasons. It is much easier to live and eat out and enjoy lots of different foods now. I enjoy food more because experimenting with foods is enthralling and fun! I’ve met so many new people who have taught me how to enjoy life as a vegetarian.

Being a vegetarian has made me more mindful. Instead of just being okay with everything I eat, once I decided to be vegetarian, I became more mindful of what I was putting in my body. I want to make sure that my food nourishes me, not just fills my stomach. Of course, you don’t need to be vegetarian to be mindful of your consumption habits, but it has helped me on the course of healthier living.

Vegetables are tasty AND pretty! I love experimenting with different vegetable combinations to make delicious meals! And I love the color that is added to my plate. because of them! If I have a meal that has too many brown tones, I immediately start to miss my fresh veggies - I can’t go without them!

Are you a vegetarian? What have you learned about it?

vegan pantry |

Healthy Vegan Snacks for the Road: 3 Easy Recipes

Health, RecipesAmanda Walter | Maple Alps8 Comments

Eating healthy on the road is a feat. Whether you’re on a road trip, on a hike or you’ve decided to get out of town for a few days, you still need to take care of what you’re going to eat while travelling. Sure, you can always go for some greasy junk food in diners along the way, but you better believe that those calories will stay right where you are and they’re not that good for you to begin with. This is why we come to you with healthy vegan snacks suggestions that are perfect when you’re hitting the road and you need to eat right.

Healthy Vegan Snacks for the Road: 3 Easy Recipes |


Yummy Vegan Granola Bars

There are many recipes for granola bars that taste great and are really filling, but we decided for this chocolate chip one that is very easy to make and can last for a few days. With these, you don’t have to buy chocolate bars or any other sweet; they’re scrumptious enough.

  • 1½ cup of oats

  • 1 cup of pitted dates

  • ¼ cup of maple syrup

  • ¼ cup of almond butter

  • ¼ cup of vegan chocolate chips

  • ½ cup of raw cashews

  • ½ cup of raw almonds.

Bake the oats for up to 15 minutes in the oven, the temperature should be 350 degrees F. While they’re toasting, pulse out cashews and almonds in your food processor just until they’re in chunks and then mix them with roasted oats in a bowl.

After that, take your dates and use your food processor to make them pasty and finely chopped, and then add them into the bowl as well.

Take a saucepan where you can warm up the maple syrup and peanut butter (on a low heat) and then pour it over the oats, nuts and dates mixture. It’s mixing time, so don’t give up until you get a well-combined sticky mess. Line a tray with parchment paper, pour the mixture into it and press it down firmly, after which it’s time for the chocolate chips. When you’ve pressed them into the mixture too, you should put it all into the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. After the granola is hardened, you can cut it into even pieces, put it in a plastic container and take it on the road with you.



Fresh Veggies and Hummus

Though it might be a bit rough to preserve fresh veggies for a longer period of time, you can always restock on the go and it’s actually more affordable than buying chips and snacks. Carrot sticks and celery are always a good way to go, because they don’t have to be refrigerated to stay nice and crunchy, but you can also go for some sliced bell pepper, cauliflower and even cucumber. You can add some spices into the combination and we always suggest taking some hummus along with you because let’s face it, hummus goes well with everything. If you want to go all out and make your own hummus, there are some excellent recipes out there, but we’re giving you our favorite and simplest one. Anybody like garlic?

Take your garlic bulb and cut off the top, so that you can clearly see the cloves. Generously drizzle olive oil over it, add a bit of salt and wrap it in aluminum foil. Roast it in the oven at 375 degrees F for an hour.

When the garlic is done, make sure to gently squeeze it out of the peel and put all the creamy garlicky goodness into the food processor. Add the rest of the listed ingredients into the processor and then mix it until it gets smooth and hummus-like. Get it into a container and you’ve got yourself a healthy and delicious vegan dip.

  • 1 large garlic bulb

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (don’t forget to rinse them)

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 3 tbsp. tahini

  • ¼ cup water

  • 3 tablespoons EVOO

  • ¼ teaspoon of sea salt



Energy Bite

These little balls of joy and taste are a great way to go when you’re craving something sweet, and there’s no vegan treat in sight. Besides, nothing beats eating healthy food you’ve made yourself. Here’s one recipe that can be taken anywhere you go, it won’t get bad easily and it’s filling. When you’re on the road and filling a bit hungry, reach for these ginger-fueled energy bites and enjoy.

Put the walnuts into the food processor and pulse until they’re chopped well. Add the dates and pulse continually so that you get a mixture that resembles a dough. Chuck in the rest of the ingredients and mix until you’re satisfied with what you have, after which you can roll the dough into balls and have them on the go. Portion yield: 15+ gingerbread bites.

  • 1 cup of quick oats

  • 2 tbsp. of maple syrup

  • 1¼ cup of walnut pieces

  • 3 tsp. of ground ginger

  • 2 tbsp. of blackstrap molasses

  • 1 cup of dates

  • ½ tsp. of sea salt

  • 2 tbsp. of cinnamon


As you can see, preparing vegan snacks for the road doesn’t have to be complicated nor expensive. These munches are simple to make, they will help you stay full longer and what’s most important, they will allow you to eat healthy even when the conditions for it are not ideal. 



Monica Nichols is a 32-year-old fashion designer and freelance writer from Omaha, Nebraska. She's been writing for since 2014, and in her free time, she likes making pottery and playing with her pet cat.

Connect with Monica: Blog // Twitter



How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries

MoneyAmanda Walter | Maple Alps35 Comments

Food is one of those things that you need to survive. I have not yet met anyone who does not require it in some capacity; it’s just not how we’re made. Unfortunately, groceries are not always the cheapest, and it seems that every time I go out, prices have escalated! With not much extra money to spare, a lot of planning and strategizing goes into our grocery shopping. Being intentional about our purchases translates into our necessities as well, so I decided to share a few of the things we do (and one we hope to do soon) to keep our food bill down.

How Not To Go Broke From Buying Groceries |


Check your fridge and pantry first!

Shop your own home! On occasion, we have done a “no-spend” month, where we try to use up our staples in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. We will allow ourselves fresh produce because we need it, but it has almost become a game to see how little we can spend.


Meal plan

I talked about why I meal plan here and more about my process here. We’ve since added a giant chalkboard in our kitchen where the meals for the week are outlined so that everyone can see. If we need to switch it up or swap some meals, it’s not a big deal! Meal planning is definitely one thing that keeps our grocery bill down.

Make a list - and stick to it

This is so important! So many times I’m tempted to get waylaid by the specials or see items that aren’t on my list that I want to get. Most of the time, if I do get them, they don’t get eaten, which results in wasted money. It is so much better to stick to your list. This is also why I usually do the grocery shopping by myself and leave the husband at home :)


Get Creative + Embrace Leftovers

If you have looked through your crisper and see some carrots and celery, think about what kind of meal would use those ingredients. Voilà! One of the meals for the week! You're welcome. Also, embrace leftovers. Don't let food go to waste! Get creative with this too; make new meals out of existing ones, or designate a day in the week where you tackle leftovers (or take them to work for lunch). 


Buy in bulk

Depending on the store and product, it is usually cheaper to buy in bulk. Explore your area’s stores and prices, and you will likely be pleasantly surprised! We like buying my spices, nuts, beans and flours in bulk. This has saved us a lot.


Use Coupons Responsibly

Use coupons only for the items you are going to buy anyway (and make sure they are actually the best price!). This goes along with sticking to your list! You will end up spending more if you buy according to what coupons are available. Coupons are great, but use them wisely!


Related: 10 Apps and Extensions We Use to Save Money

Use Rebate/Coupon Apps

I use a few rebate/coupon apps for my grocery and other shopping. One of my favourites is Ibotta. As I said with the point above, use these rebates responsibly as well. No use buying something only because you have a rebate. When you do that, you are not saving. You are spending extra. PS: Use my referral link to download Ibotta and get a $10 welcome bonus!


Grow your own food

We are working on planning our own little garden in our yard. I cannot wait to grow some of our favourite produce and save a bit of cash!

save money on groceries |

Check out the farmer's market

Local food is usually cheaper and good for you too! Don't be intimidated; I promise you'll love going to the farmer's market once you try! 


Do Your Research + Consider Unit Prices

I had a spreadsheet where I had all of the local stores I frequented (Aldi is a favourite!) and the unit prices for each product or staple we buy listed. I also have the sales prices and vague dates, so I know exactly where to shop, and when to buy what. We have since moved and I haven't updated my list, though we have mostly the same stores to choose from. You can try this too! Opt for a simple notebook and pen to keep track if you don't want to mess with a spreadsheet. You can also keep a photo folder on your phone (taking snapshots of price labels).  Comparing prices can be a great money saver - plus, there is a certain satisfaction you receive when you know you bought something at the best possible price for you. 


Take Your Calculator to the Store

Just in case your store doesn't display unit prices and your mental math doesn't go that quick.


Learn How To Store Food Properly

If you do not store your food properly, chances are it will go bad before it has to. Increase the life of your groceries by learning what is best kept where and how.


How do you save money on groceries? I would love to hear your tips, and I hope you have been able to add to them with this post!


Tomato Roasted Almond Spread

RecipesAmanda Walter | Maple Alps10 Comments

It's time to talk about spreads. I first was introduced to spreads other than cream cheese, spinach dips and the like when I lived in Europe. Those people really know how to dress their bread! When I came back to North America, it was pretty clear that we were lacking in that area in our grocery stores. My husband complained about the same thing, so it became my goal to figure some kind of spread out. Thank goodness for the internet and creativity because I did finally come across some. Today, I share one of our favourite simple spreads.

It's extremely easy and fast to whip up. Crushed tomato and almonds make up the base and everything else adds the deep flavours.

I can't wait to make one with red pepper to imitate one of my favourites from over yonder!

Tomato Roasted Almond Spread (vegan gluten free) |

I've made this both with fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes, and it turned out delicious every time! In the summer, fresh tomatoes are the way to go though!

This spread is super yummy on fresh homemade bread or with crackers!

Tomato Almond Spread (vegan) |

Tomato and Roasted Almond Spread
Adapted from Katy She Cooks

3/4 cup almonds
14 ounces crushed or whole tomatoes (canned or fresh tomatoes with the seeds scooped out)
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
juice from half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil

1) In a skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds about 5 minutes until slightly browned and fragrant., about 5 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Let the almonds cool slightly (You can also do this in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes).
2) If using fresh tomatoes, be sure to seed them.
3) In a food processor or good blender, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Pulse/blend until smooth, scraping down the sides.
4) Add the 1/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream while blending until nuts are completely ground and the spread has reached your desired consistency (should be thicker).
5) Store in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

FREEZER FRIENDLY: This spread freezes well, so I will often double batches. When ready to use, defrost overnight in the fridge. Stir well the next morning and you are good to go!

Try this in a sandwich or on bread all by itself - you'll love it either way! Are you a spreads kind of person?

Tomato and Roasted Almond Spread (vegan) |

Women of Intention Week Fourteen: Intentional Health

Women of Intention, HealthAmanda Walter | Maple Alps3 Comments

It is now week fourteen of the series, Women of Intention! This is the second last post and I'm so very glad you've come along as we interview Women of Intention! For more information, and a list of topics, visit our introduction post HERE. 

Women of Intention Week Fourteen; Intentional Health |


Today, we are going to meet the sweet Keila of Veggie-Fit Keila!

Keila is a health and fitness coach with a passion for sharing her lifestyle with others in order to help them better their lives. I won't say too much because I would rather let her tell you herself!

After reading this post, be sure to check out Kelia's blog and share this post :)

Find Keila on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.

Tell us a bit about yourself: What are your passions, work and interests?

My passion above all passions is helping others.  This takes many forms, but my greatest love in helping others is in the area of health and fitness.  My initial exposure to this line of work was with the elderly.  I worked in nursing homes, taking care of the sweetest of people in the final stages of life.  I loved listening to them tell stories while I cared for their physical and social needs.  I would have to help them move and encourage them to get their exercise whenever possible.  Some had so greatly neglected this part of their health for so many years that they could not move their joints and had horrible muscle atrophy.  While I loved the people I worked with, I felt that this wasn't my calling, and I sought to determine where God wanted me to be.

I next worked with children in the hospital setting.  As a patient care tech and phlebotomist, I worked with the greatest kids.  From newborns to young adults, I saw kids suffering from all kinds of ailments, some even lost their battles with illness.  I worked hard to make their time in the hospital as comfortable as it could be, building relationships and sharing smiles, I knew that this work was important and very rewarding, but God wasn't through with me yet.

Fast forward several years.  I now have two children, a husband, and a new outlook on a lifelong passion.  I now work as a health and fitness coach, teaching people the importance of a healthy lifestyle.  This started first with me.  I have made very intentional changes in my personal health and fitness habits, to facilitate the changes in me that I am encouraging others to make.  This has allowed me to greater understand the struggles that exist in going against the flow of society and its outlook on food, drink, and exercise.  I gain so much joy from helping others and seeing their lives transformed from making simple changes to their daily routines.  I have made so many new friends and feel an absolute sense of certainty that I am living out God's will and plan for my life.  The health message is a message of hope and one that is empowering.  At this point in life I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.


What does intentionality in health look like and mean to you?

One of the first areas of intentionality that I address with people is meal planning and goal setting.  So many people look at health and fitness as short term diet binges to reach small, insignificant goals.  I look at health as a lifestyle.  When we take a look at it from a wider view, we can create much bigger longterm goals that can be accomplished one small goal at a time.  It all starts with understanding and establishing your "Why." The temptations and social trends are too strong and conflicting to the health message to just go at this willy nilly.  You have to understand why you would choose to live andintentionally healthful lifestyle, internalize it, own it, and then align your life with this as the current that drives all of your decisions.  It's really not so difficult on paper and in our heads we can understand this very easily.  Day by day living can be much more challenging though.  That's where the planning comes in.  Once you know why you need to make the choices that you're going to make, the motivation is much easier to come by and planning to succeed will become a regular part of your routine.  For example, I know that there are very few places out there where my family and I can eat out when we're on the road, so we always pack healthy food and take it with us.  This helps avoid having to make the uncomfortable decision to go against our commitment to health and eat somewhere that compromises what we know to be best.  On the same token, everyday life is so busy that many people just don't want to take time to fix healthy home cooked meals.  However, intentional healthy eating requires that we do what needs to be done to eat healthy in our homes.  This simply means planning out your meals for the week and doing the shopping and chopping on the weekends.  Having the majority of the prep work done ahead of time makes all the difference in finding success with healthy living during busy workweeks.

The second piece of the health puzzle is exercise.  I have to take time to exercise.  It is part of my daily routine just like brushing my teeth and doing daily devotions.  It's something that is pretty much non-negotiable.  With this mindset, it's not about "finding time" to exercise, it's about "making time" to exercise by scheduling it into your day.  I do short intense workouts that are designed to give me the greatest benefits in the least amount of time and I teach my clients how they can do the same and have great success in reaching their fitness goals.  We waste so much time doing sedentary activities that serve no purpose in improving our quality of life.  An intentional adjustment to make exercise a part of our day will have drastic positive effect on the life that you live. 

health | | unsplash

In your work with coaching, what would you say are the negative effects of not being mindful about what one consumes?

Bad eating habits will sabotage even the most intense fitness plans.  People gain weight and get frustrated very easily, giving up on their goals and losing sight of their "Why", because they can't manage what they put into their bodies.  This is tragic in my eyes.  Eating clean and healthy is so very simple and it's the easiest way to start the momentum towards a healthful life.


How does intentionality in this area affect the other the rest of your life?

I have gained so much confidence in who I am as a person through my intentional decisions to care for my body and the health of my family.  I feel stronger because I am stronger.  I am healthier inside which brings the natural affect of looking better on the outside.  We are beautifully and wonderfully made, and as we care for our bodies, we can come closer to the health and strength within our bodies that God intended for us all along.  I also find it so easy to make friends now.  Everyone loves to talk about their health, good foods, and how they can improve on both, that conversation comes very easily and I am eager to share my loves with others.


What would say to encourage someone who is struggling in the area of intentional health in their life? 

Start small.  Set a short goal that you know you can succeed at in the area of your health.  Do this day after day, until days become weeks.  Baby steps will get it done.  The other thing is to start with a reason and purpose for making the changes that seem to be alluding you.  If you start with a big enough "why" (reason) for improving your health and making the changes that need to take place, holding yourself accountable is much easier.  Also, get an accountability partner of group!  I put all of my clients into accountability groups, surrounding them with others who are working at the same goals they are.  I work as their coach, but they lift each other up as well.  Finally, I would say, don't quit, don't beat yourself up over an indiscretion here and there.  This is a long road, a journey, not a sprint quick fix.  Stay the course, knowing that there will be moments that challenge you.

What about you? Were you inspired by this post? Are you intentional when it comes to your physical health? Do you perhaps want to work on it? Why don't you tell me about it in the comments, and connect with me on social media?

(Don't forget to use the hashtag #WomenOfIntention16 so no one misses it!)