Ok ok, so I would actually call us "plant-based", but not everyone understands what that means and so I find it easier just to say we are "vegan".  What's the difference?  Plant-based is just what it sounds like, a healthy diet based on plants.  So, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, grains and beans are our go-to.  Vegan? You can be vegan and still eat an unhealthy diet.  As long as someone doesn't consume animal products, they can call themselves a vegan.  Oreos and bacon bits and a bunch of other junk foods are vegan.  So, do you see what I mean?  Plant-based is healthy, but vegan doesn't always mean healthy.

I loved Hawaii and all the fresh coconuts on the road-sides!

Do you want to go plant-based/vegan, but don't know where to start?  Here are my 11 tips:

1.  Replace dairy products.  Instead of milk, you can easily use almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk and rice milk!  Instead of cheese, you can use nutritional yeast.

2.  Replace meat products.  Everyone asks us, "where do you get your protein?".  The answer is, we get it from beans, nuts, grains, seeds and veggies.  Also, don't forget spreads like almond butter and hummus and ingredients like nutritional yeast and spirulina.  Plus, you can always find a vegan protein powder...Young Living has one that I love in their Slique line!

We found this juice and smoothie bar in Hilton Head!
3.  Do your research.  Go to the library and book store to look through vegan recipe books for inspiration.  Or, if you prefer, browse Pinterest.  You can find all sorts of ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the snacks and drinks in between.  Also, take time to look up restaurants in the area that have vegan options, so that you are ready the next time a friend wants to meet you somewhere for lunch.  Tell her (or him) that there is a great new, healthy place you want to try!

4.  Make a plan.  Don't wait until you are hungry and freaking out to try to figure out what to eat.  Research ideas and come up some new recipes that you are excited to try.  You can meal prep and make some things ahead of time if you are super busy.

My new favorite is smoothie bowls!

5.  Go shopping.  Stay on the outside perimeter of the grocery store to find the freshest options.  As soon as you head down the isles, chances are you are going to be picking up packaged, processed foods.  Concentrate on filling up your cart with fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds with some beans too, if your recipes call for them.  You may also want something like rice milk and nutritional yeast if you love dairy and need to replace it, instead of eliminate it.

6.  Start with a good breakfast.  I love to have a fresh smoothie full of fruits like pineapple, mango, apple, orange and pear.  You can mix and match fruits until you find what you love!  Ironman, on the other hand, likes to start off his day with my homemade granola and rice milk, topped with berries.

Don't have time or want to shop?
Sign up to have smoothies, overnight oats, chia parfaits and soups delivered to your door!

7.  Grab a colorful lunch.  You can pack your own lunch, which is much easier when trying to follow a certain type of diet.  Or, you can search for places like Chipotle, which has veggie rice bowls!  Or, grab a salad at any restaurant (like this one) and ask them to hold back the meat and cheese.  Whatever it is, make it colorful with lots of fruits and veggies!

8.  Prepare a good dinner.  I love anything that I can cook in the crock-pot.  I do all sorts of soups and stews and usually serve them on top of brown rice.  All afternoon, I smell it cooking away and by the time Ironman walks in from work, it's ready to enjoy.  One pot, super easy.  We ate this last night and it's so good!

Ironman and I filled these rolls with our favorite veggies and quinoa!

9.  Treat yo'self.  You're going to have some cravings hit, so be prepared.  Dark chocolate is an easy option.  Nice cream is amazing when you want something cold and sweet.  Lara Bars are great to throw in your purse.  And when you're craving something that's rich with peanut butter and chocolate, make these!

10.  Focus on what you can eat.  Instead of focusing on what you can't eat, focus on what you can.  You can eat pretty much every kind of real food there is...veggies, fruits, beans, seeds and grains.  The options are endless.  The recipes are endless.
Ironman loves to make fresh juices...lucky for me!

11.  Be a learner.  Read books and watch documentaries frequently to stay motivated about your lifestyle change.  The China Study is a good read.  Some documentaries I would suggest are What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc, Food Matters, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead...I watched them all for free on Netflix.

12.  Don't expect perfection.  Tell your fiends and family that you are starting out on this lifestyle change so that you have their support.  You may have to have a sit down and explain your reasoning so that they take you seriously.  And chances are, you will eventually fall off the bandwagon at some point.  Sometimes you will find yourself eating dinner at your parents home or cooking out with friends and there are no vegan options for you.  If you can, take something of your own to eat and share.  However, if you can't avoid the animal protein for some reason, just graciously eat it.  Not everyone will understand and you definitely don't want to hurt their feelings over food.

I have never been a big meat eater after growing up overseas and going to the market and butcher to buy our meat.  All the tongues laid out, entire cows hanging from a hook on the ceiling, blood and guts all over, flies and the absolutely horrible smell.  Because of those memories, I've never liked handling or cooking meat, let alone eating something that I saw before it was ready.  Yuck.  Lucky for me, Ironman was already plant based when I met him.  I remember him juicing carrots until his hands turned orange and eating spinach like it was candy.  So, as a newly-wed, I was learning to cook vegan/vegetarian from day 1.  It was a very slow learning curve and I've had over a decade now to find what we love and makes us feel good.  Going plant-based usually can't be done cold turkey.  It's going to take time, research, learning, failed attempts at cooking and baking.  And one day, maybe in a few years, you'll wake up and realize that you're completely vegan without even having to think about it anymore!  But give yourself some grace, even Ironman and I enjoy a good Marcos pizza every now and then.  However, the secret is always looking to improve yourself and your habits.  So, even in this area, we are currently looking for alternatives, without having to cook our own Friday night pizzas!

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