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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 | www.maplealps.com

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!

 
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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?


 
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Going Plant-Based? Here are 15 Things to Think About

HealthAmanda Walter | Maple Alps5 Comments

Different individuals want to go plant-based for different reasons. Some are told by a medical professional to do so, others just want to because they see the benefit (or saw too many documentaries). Whatever your decision, it’s important to note that going plant-based should not be seen as a diet. It is a lifestyle that will greatly improve your wellbeing and life!

Several times this past year I’ve been asked about how I went about going on a plant-based diet, and so I decided to share some tips on the blog. My plant based journey started for health reasons, and as I learned more and saw the benefits, I kept adding to the list. Ethical reasons, for example, were not something I originally thought of, but now is something I strongly advocate for. I feel satisfied with what I eat, because choosing a plant based diet has really forced me to be intentional about what I put in my body.

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Motivation & Commitment

Remember your motivation for wanting to start a plant-based diet. Do you want to make healthier choices? Lose weight? Have more energy to accomplish your daily tasks? Live longer? Save animals? Remember your why!

 

Eat A Lot

Fresh plant-based food has a lot less caloric density than foods filled with empty and fatty [the bad kind] calories. Expect to want to eat a lot. I remember first transitioning and wondering why I was eating double the food, but losing weight.

 


Fill Your Fridge & Pantry with Healthy Food

It’s harder to eat unhealthy foods when your home is stocked with the good stuff! Purge your pantry and refrigerator and don’t feel guilty about tossing the food that is of little to no benefit for your body! If you’re thinking about money, think of it this way: a doctor bill in the USA will cost more than it costed for your junk food! A note: many products out there marketed for those on a plant-based diet are more or less “vegan junk food.” Be sure to read labels to ensure you’re getting nutritious foods - not just unhealthy alternatives to products that normally contain animal products. More on that later in this post.

 
vegan pantry | www.maplealps.com

 

Focus on Vegetables & Fruits - & Don’t Forget: Legumes Are Your friends.

Stock up on vegetables and fruits (bonus points if it’s all mostly in season!). Legumes are filling and so delicious! Best part? No nutrition labels to read! Try to avoid having to read them by getting foods that do not have a nutrition label (ideas: fresh produce, bulk beans and rices, etc.)

 

Make Food Swaps

Avocado on toast instead of butter or cream cheese, tofu instead of chicken, water instead of sugary drinks; there are plenty of easy food swaps to make your new plant-based diet doable

 

Take Food on the Go

We live in a time where we are always on the go. Eliminate the temptation to eat junk food or fast food by making sure to have wholesome snacks with you. Keep almonds in your bag and pack your own lunch - it’s not as hard as you might think! If you’re like me, using pretty, waste-free food storage containers might motivate you more!

 

Start One Meal at a Time

Eating plant-based is more than a diet. It is an entire lifestyle change. Ease into by starting with just one meal a day being completely plant-based. A good one to start with is breakfast. It’s so easy to make vegan pancakes, smoothies, granolas, muffins, and other great breakfast foods. Gradually add a plant-based afternoon meal, and you’ll soon find it is easy to have all of your meals completely free of animal products.

 

 

Get Educated and Get Resourceful

Watch documentaries, read books, talk with nutrition professionals. Just a few of my favorite resources: The Cheese Trap (book - get it here on Amazon), Forks Over Knives (documentary, cookbook, magazine, website), What the Health (documentary), How Not to Die (book - get on Amazon)

 

Get a Support Group/Friend

Everything is easier when you have someone supporting you or keeping you accountable. Enter the journey with a friend, or have your best cheerleader support you along the way. Have someone to report to if you need accountability. Maybe enlist someone to be your guinea pig for all the tasty recipes you’ll be whipping up.

 

But Start Your Change Quietly

Instead of telling everyone you know about your decision, you may want to start quietly. To be frank, you will avoid a lot of scrutiny and questioning as you answer these questions for yourself and figure out how to listen to your own body and deal with your own addictions (mine was cheese!). Focus on yourself and your mission. Remember your why and think about how much better you will feel.

 

Equip your Kitchen

Some plant-based foods require different kitchen tools. For example, you’ll likely scarcely use steak knives, but you’ll definitely need a high powered blender (definitely a kitchen essential)

 

Don’t Worry About the Protein

Those on a plant-based diet get plenty of protein. Unless you have an extreme medical condition, you do not need protein shakes to get it. Great sources of protein include beans, soy products like seitan and tofu, quinoa, hemp seeds and even nuts. Chances are, you’ll get more protein than those who are concerned about you getting that protein.

 

Keep Things Exciting

Try new foods and prepare ingredients in different ways. Blend flavors, experiment, and have fun! Start a dinner club. Buy a cookbook or two. Browse recipes on the web. Test out restaurants. There are also a ton of ethnic foods that are plant based and wholesome! Just have a blast trying out new things.

 

Be Mindful: Read Food Labels

This may shock you at first - especially if you were not in the habit of reading food labels. The first thing to look at is not the nutritional value, but the ingredient list. You may be surprised about what exactly is lurking in your favourite vegan snacks, but you will start feeling good about others! Remember: aim for have to read as few food labels as possible by buying whole foods that don’t require them!


 

Be Kind to Yourself

Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. You’re human. Just get back up, dust yourself off and try again! And again(!) if need be.

 

 
Meal Planner | www.maplealps.com
 

Some Recipes to Get You Started:


 

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 | www.maplealps.com

 

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 | www.maplealps.com

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!