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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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Going Plant-Based? Here are 15 Things to Think About | www.maplealps.com

 

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.

 

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:


 

Creamy Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta (nut free)

RecipesAmanda Walter | Maple Alps11 Comments

I suppose everyone has a staple that is always in their pantry. When I was growing up, we always had rice. I would eat rice for every meal and I had no qualms about it. Now, it's all about pasta.

We love pasta in this house. It's quick, it's easy, and it's delicious. There are all different varieties - the kind made from black beans or rice or gorbonzo beans. They can be red or green or brown. Pasta is just so much fun! I know many people who would agree with me.

So because of my love for pasta, and becuase of my love for creamy sauces that contain no yucky ingredients, I bring to you: creamy roasted garlic and tomato pasta! It's nut free, but still creamy!

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Creamy Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta (nut free) | www.maplealps.com

This dish is the perfect main if you're expecting last-minute company. Seriously. It takes 30 minutes to whip up, but still looks good and impressive on a table. It's perfect and light and tasty! Plus, if there is a nut allergy, no need to look any further!

I love making a full batch of this just for the two of us and packing it up for lunches the next day too. Leftovers are the bomb dot com!

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta | www.maplealps.com

It's all about the sauce! You can use any kind of pasta with it and add any kind of additional vegetables! The tomato and spinach by themselves is fabulous too. Obviously, you can add less pasta if you want a higher sauce to pasta ratio too. I'm super hungry just thinking about it. 

The roasted garlic adds that extra kick of flavour it needs!

I love enjoying this on a warm summer evening out on the deck. Yes! Don't tell me I'm the only one who loves eating outside!

Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta | www.maplealps.com

Creamy Roasted Garlic & Tomato Pasta

Makes about 8 servings

what you need:

  • 1 bulb garlic

  • 1 large onion, sliced

  • 16 ounces (1 lb) pasta of your choice

  • Olive oil

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • Pinch sea salt

  • 3 TBSP arrowroot powder

  • 3 TBSP nutritional yeast flakes

  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened plain non-dairy milk

  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

  • 4 cups fresh spinach

what to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Clean the outside layer of the garlic bulb, keeping the whole thing intact. Cut the top off the bulb, and brush the exposed garlic with olive oil. Roast entire bulb for 30 minutes.

  3. Wash and halve the tomatoes and place them on a baking tray. Toss with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt and add them to the oven to roast for 20 minutes.

  4. While the garlic and tomatoes are roasting, cook pasta and set aside.

  5. Once the garlic and tomatoes are finished, set aside.

  6. Prepare the sauce by adding onions to a large saucepan on low-medium heat. Begin cooking the onions, adding a pinch of salt. Cook until soft.

  7. Add onions, roasted garlic, almond milk, 2 tsp sea salt, arrowroot powder, and nutritional yeast flakes to a high speed blender.

  8. Blend until smooth.

  9. Add mixture back to saucepan and slowly bring it to a simmer.

  10. Add the spinach to the mixture, cooking until wilted. Then add the pasta. To finish, stir in the roasted tomatoes.

  11. Serve right away. Keep leftovers in an airtight container up to 3 days - though it won’t likely last that long!

 

 

 

Vegan Tofu Ricotta

RecipesAmanda Walter | Maple Alps5 Comments

What a sad thing: I have gone SO MANY YEARS without trying to make a tofu ricotta. Why has it never crossed my mind? Well, besides the fact that I hardly ever ate ricotta and didn’t know what it was or what it was used for...

Anyway, I finally got around to doing it, and I'm so glad I tried something new!

Simple and Delicious Vegan Tofu Ricotta | www.maplealps.com


A few weeks ago I wanted to try my hand at a new vegan lasagna. I’ve been making them for years, but wanted to try something different. I decided to put the tofu into the food processor to make it more ricotta-like instead of just crumbling it finely like I usually do. The result? Well, let’s just say that my cheese-loving husband told me that he never wanted the real stuff ever again. That’s pretty strong. Of course, all the other elements of the lasagna were playing a part, but this ricotta was one of the VIPs.

Turns out this is great for a lot of things - spreading on crackers or bread, and stuffing manicotti noodles with. I’m going to be trying it in some meatballs, so stay tuned for that experiment as well.

ricotta-2.jpg
 

Easy Tofu Ricotta
Makes about 2 cups

  • 14 ounces super firm tofu (get as much moisture out as you can)
  • 2 TBSP nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP basil (dried)
  • 2 small cloves garlic (or one large)

1. Drain the tofu, getting as much moisture out as possible
2. Add all ingredients to food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as you go.

 

What do you use ricotta for?


 

Vegan Corn Chowder

RecipesAmanda Walter | Maple Alps3 Comments

The best thing about Autumn (besides fireplaces, candles, fuzzy blankets and cuddling, that is) is soup. I love soup. All sorts of soup. I could eat soup year-round to be completely honest. I have been holding on to this recipe, just waiting for the perfect moment to share it with you all, and I decided that instead of waiting until it was cold out, I would share it now so that you can brace yourselves for it!

Autumn is indeed coming.

Vegan Corn Chowder | www.maplealps.com

So my mom and brother came to visit and just left after two weeks. I hadn't seen the two of them in two years, so I was so excited and was literally bouncing off things I couldn't wait! Two weeks went by way too quickly, and even though we did a ton of fun stuff, I felt bad because they came just as I was prepping my life and classroom for the school year to start. It was a total bummer, but we are hoping to visit them for a few days at Christmas. They allegedly had a good time despite helping me haul desks and label books, so that is good I suppose. 

Anyway, back to the soup: Growing up, corn chowder was seriously my favourite. I actually loved (and still love) soup in general, but I could down bowls of this if I was in the mood. Even today, I love enjoying a hot bowl of this on a chilly day. Since we just concluded a lovely visit with my family, I thought it would be appropriate to [finally] share this recipe. It's a bit different than the original but still tastes delicious.

By the way, this soup has cashews in it. If I get enough nut-free requests, I'll share that version too ;-)

Vegan Corn Chowder | www.maplealps.com

Vegan Corn Chowder
Makes About 12 Cups of Soup

3 small potatoes
1 medium onion
1 red pepper
1 TBSP homemade vegan chicken-style seasoning
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 stalk celery
3/4 cup cashews
2 cups water
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup fresh parsley (or 1 TBSP dried)
4 cups corn
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth

1) Dice onion, pepper and potatoes and put in a large pot with 4 cups of vegetable broth.
2) Bring to a boil, and then a simmer. Add salt and garlic powder
3) Blend the cashews, celery, water and rice until smooth. Add the parsley and blend for a few more seconds
4) Add cashew mixture to the pot
5) Put 2 cups of corn and 2 cups of water in blender. Blend and then add to the soup.
6) Add the remaining 2 cups of corn to the pot
7) Add salt to taste
 

 

What's your favourite soup when the weather starts getting chilly?


 

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 | www.maplealps.com

 

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 www.diet.st since 2014, and in her free time, she likes making pottery and playing with her pet cat.

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