Even though I’ve been out of post-secondary school for over six years now, I still get a sense of anxiety on Labour Day. I actually have to sit down and remind myself that I’m just going to work tomorrow at my regular old job, not spending thousands of dollars on textbooks I’ll never use again, missing the bus because it was too crowded and walking in late for my first class, and reviewing the course syllabus only to see a presentation on there worth 50 per cent of my grade (which pretty much means FAIL to someone who has a fear of public speaking).
Going back to grade school each September was no different. Summer was over, I didn’t know if my friends were in my class or not and if the teacher was going to be nice or mean, and I didn’t know if what I was wearing was considered “cool” or not until I saw what everyone else was wearing (so Nike sneakers and Adidas tear-away pants are out, and platform sandals and black flares are in? Okay then…).
Ugh — school was a stressful time for this overly anxious and introverted kid. (more…)
Meal prep Sunday for the Tone It Up Bikini Series 2016!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed my posts have quadrupled since last week and are littered with hashtags about #tius and #bikinis. #sorrynotsorry.
As I explained in this post, I’ve joined a few thousand other women to take on the Tone It Up 2016 Bikini Series Challenge for the next eight weeks. And aside from keeping up with the group and feeling like a part of the community, all the posts and hashtags = chances at awesome prizes, including a trip to Turks and Caicos. Hence why I’m #sorrynotsorry.
I’ll do a full recap at the end of each week to let you know how it went and my thoughts on the workouts and meals (since they change a bit each week), but I thought I’d share some initial thoughts I’ve had since reviewing the program, doing Sunday meal prep and how changing up my morning routine went on day one. (more…)
As the girlfriend of a typical red-meat loving Canadian man who does manly things like wear plaid shirts, drink scotch, chop wood, build things and play hockey, forgoing animal protein on my plate is usually met with concern. Not just by Matt, but by the majority of my family and friends. Where’s the protein? Are you really going to turn your nose up at a juicy steak or hamburger? Do you want chicken instead?
Even in this day and age, veganism still sits outside of what our North American culture considers to be normal and acceptable—well, outside of Los Angeles, anyway. Although you can easily meet your daily protein requirements on a plant-based diet and can get almost all the vitamins and nutrients you need from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes, people who don’t eat animal products are still perceived as weird, judgmental, hippy elitists. And sure, some of them still are. But not everyone who chooses a plant-based diet is weird hippy who’s judging you for eating meat. Some of us just don’t feel good about eating animals, especially if we’re highly sensitive and empathetic animal-lovers. Some of us have hereditarily high cholesterol and therefore benefit from a diet free of animal products. Some of us might be allergic to eggs and dairy, or have a hard time digesting animal protein. And some of us feel terrible for what we’re doing to the planet by eating meat.
I fall into the category of all of the above (minus the weird judgmental elitist – I guess I’m kind of a default hippy, being from the Pacific Northwest and all). I already avoid dairy because I’m lactose intolerant, and stopped eating beef, pork and lamb about a year ago because A) I don’t like it, and B) I’ve always had a hard time eating flesh from four-legged animals (cows, pigs and sheep remind me of dogs). I’ve considered going vegan for years, but never went through with it because I didn’t want to be “that” person. I didn’t want to be a bother at family dinners, and I didn’t want others to think I was being pretentious and difficult. I also didn’t want to cause concern for my manly plaid-wearing boyfriend.
But after a year of soul-searching that proceeded my 30th birthday last year, I decided it was time to live more in line with my values and to stop caring about what others think. Instead of announcing it to the world, I decided to see if I could go vegan without telling anybody—to be covert about how I ordered food, to cook plant-based without explanation, to avoid using the V word whenever possible. I decided to stop eating animal products on January 1st of this year for at least an entire month, and wanted to see how long it would take my family to find out. Here’s how it went down.
Matt and I planned to go out for Vietnamese, but our favorite restaurant (where they serve pho with miso broth) was closed for the holidays. We went to another place and everything has fish sauce in it, so I opted to slip up on day two of veganism instead of making a fuss. After dinner, we went to Starbucks and they messed up my order, giving me milk in my London fog instead of soy. I tossed it after one sip, but still had to admit defeat that day. North American Diet – 1, Bri – 0.
The rest of the week went fine. I ate my normal breakfast of oatmeal and berries, cooked up a big batch of vegan curry for lunches and made tofu stir-fry, tempeh and rice and other veggie-based meals for dinner (with chicken or beef instead of tofu for Matt). Since I’m the first one home from work, I was able to prepare the meals without having to explain my choice of choosing tofu over chicken. When he raised an eyebrow at our different-looking dinner plates, I said I just felt like having tofu.
Tofu stir fry!
I was confronted about my new diet behavior by the end of week one. “You haven’t eaten meat all week,” he said.
“Yup, and I feel great. I’m eating like an athlete – I want to be in as good as shape as possible for my marathon next month, so I’m cutting out anything that might be inflammatory or upsetting to my stomach,” I said.
Which is true. It wasn’t the only reason why I wasn’t eating meat, but it was all true.
This was a difficult week. Not only did I have a family dinner, but also several dinners out to eat for my birthday. Going out to eat wasn’t too much of a hassle—although I received some concerning looks from my family when I told the server to “hold the chicken” on my chicken salad, no one questioned it. Since I already avoid dairy, my mom got me a chocolate vegan cake for my birthday, which I pretty much ate all to myself (score!).
Black bean and quinoa fiesta bowl
The real test was at Sunday dinner, where the host, a meat-loving family friend, asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner. In this case, I felt like I had to explain myself a bit, but I still managed to avoid using the V word. I asked for spaghetti with vegetarian pasta sauce, a meal he’s prepared before for me while making a separate meat sauce for everyone else since I’ve been beef-free for a year. Dessert was a dairy-free nanaimo bar—there could have been some egg in there, but I felt like I would have been pushing it at that point if I requested a special birthday cake.
Plant-based home-cooked meals continued as normal, with Matt announcing to several people on a few occasions that I wasn’t eating meat. Not in a mean way or in an overall supportive way, but in a matter-of-fact way. I met concerned looks with my usual response: “I’m training for a marathon and am eating like an athlete!” They seemed satisfied with that.
I feel way less bloated after meals and my skin has gotten much clearer. My recovery time between workouts and runs are noticeably shorter. I don’t miss eggs as much as I thought I would have, and I haven’t had a problem meeting my daily nutrient requirements for the day. I started taking a B12 supplement, however, just in case.
Raw Superfood Pad Thai – made with zucchini and black bean noodles
Matt hasn’t brought up my meatless diet this week, and seems fine to sit by my side and eat with different protein sources on our plates.
To veganism and beyond
Going vegan without “going vegan” wasn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be. There were a few slip-ups, but that’s to be expected when you secretly go vegan for a month. I suppose it also helps that I live on an incense-burning, dreadlock-donning, local-food-loving island in the Pacific, so I had plenty of plant-based options available to me.
My hope from this “experiment” was to show everyone eating completely plant-based is not a weird or difficult thing to do; that I’m still the same Bri without eating animal products, only now I’m more in line with my values and feel better because of it.
So will I continue to eat completely plant-based? You bet. At this point, I don’t think I can eat animal flesh again unless my body requires it. I just don’t feel I can support a process that treats animals in this way just because we like the taste of meat and think we need to have it all the time. As my hero Jane Goodall says, “animals are put in terrible conditions to feed our appetites. [Factory farming] demonstrates not only the suffering of animals (remember, pigs are every bit as intelligent as dogs and all the pictured creatures can suffer, know fear, depression and pain), but also the harm we are inflicting on ourselves” in the form of obesity and other diet-related diseases.
Although I won’t be eating meat or dairy, I have added eggs back into my diet on weekends as I’m in a muscle building phase right now and they’re a convenient source of protein. Also, we can buy our eggs from happy hens from our neighbours down the road, which I feel good about.
As for convincing my manly, scotch-drinking boyfriend of the benefits of a plant-based diet…. well, let’s just say I hope to live by example, one tofu stir-fry and Jane Goodall quote at a time.
In an effort to save some cash (after discovering I spent over $1,000 on groceries last month — yikes!), I decided to make my own energy bars instead of dropping close to $5 a bar at my local health food store.
I looked at the ingredients in several of my favourite bars and whipped up this cranberry banana nut and seed energy bar concoction last week. It turned out AMAZING, so I made it again and measured everything this time so I could share it with y’all 🙂
High in fibre, protein, vitamin E, zinc and essential fatty acids, these seedy bars are the perfect snack to fight off those 3 p.m. hangeries.
Raise your hand if you like easy-to-make, healthy and delicious one-pot meals!
This recipe is a staple in my Sunday meal prep rotation. Black beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, especially when combined with fibrous and hearty quinoa. Make a large batch to take for workday lunches or freeze some in Tupperware containers for later.
The kind folks over at Vega sent me a few samples packs of their new Sport Performance Protein to try last week, which of course I was super stoked about because I already use most of their product line and love it all. Since I don’t eat four-legged animals and consume minimal poultry and fish, I use Vega to meet my daily protein, essential amino acid and iron requirements and to help my body recover properly from marathon training and strength training.
In fact — and according to my doctor — if I wasn’t using Vega I’d probably be anemic right now, since I already eat a ton of iron-rich plant foods such as spinach, goji berries, dark chocolate, whole grains, nuts and legumes every day (especially the dark chocolate part). He told me this after I had my blood tested last week — apparently I’m just staying afloat iron-wise with a ferritin level of 18 (since my hemoglobin is good I’m not anemic), but I have nothing left in the tank. He told me I should keep doing what I’m doing but could benefit from a 60mg dose more per day, so I opted to get a ferrous sulfate supplement to stock up my iron reserves. Otherwise I’d be drinking Vega smoothies (or eating animals, which I won’t do) for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin spiced lattes, but love love love pumpkin pie. Although I indulged in a few pieces over Thanksgiving (and will again at Christmas), obviously pumpkin pie in all its variants isn’t a regular snack item on my weekly meal plan (because who’s got time to bake pumpkin pie/I can’t have dairy/store bought is yuck)… until now!
Here’s a super simple recipe for vegan pumpkin pie protein pudding. You only need three ingredients, and you don’t even need a blender to whip it up. I’ve been making this for my post-lunch treat lately and it’s so darn yummy. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could pan fry some oats, pecans and currants with a bit of coconut oil for a crunchy topping, or could even sprinkle your favourite granola cereal on top for more of that pumpkin pie taste.
Looking for an easy and healthy alternative to a sandwich? Try these Vietnamese salad roll-inspired rice wraps — they’re super easy to put together and are a perfect high-protein vegan lunch option. I used a store-bought thai peanut sauce because I was feeling lazy this week, but you can easily make your own.
Simple tofu avocado salad rolls with peanut sauce Makes two rolls
Two rice paper wraps – you can pick these up at mot grocery stores