Plant-Based On A Budget

I am happy to say that in May it will have been two years since I stopped eating meat. It’s truly been one of the best decisions I made for myself and I can honestly say that I don’t believe I will go back to eating meat. Before I became a vegetarian (I’m not vegan and I’m not sure whether or not I will eventually go that route) I would go through phases of cutting out meat before declaring it to be too difficult, giving up and stuffing my face with some sort of underwhelming meat-filled sandwich. After watching Earthlings it all clicked for me (if you want to weep for humanity, watch that documentary) and I decided that I was going to figure out how to do this right. In the last couple of years I have realized that eating a plant-based diet is actually super easy, delicious, healthy and, wait for it, CHEAPER. People always complain that being a veggie is so expensive, but if you skip some of the gimmicky vegetarian foods and do it right, it’s actually more affordable than eating meat! Don’t believe me? Read on.


1 // FROZEN IS YOUR FRIEND

Frozen is not a dirty word and buying several bags of frozen vegetables is not only way cheaper than buying all of the individual components of the bag’s contents fresh, they are also nutritionally just as healthy, if not more so, because they are picked and harvested at their optimal time (unlike other produce which is often picked when it is still unripe and left to ripen artificially). Frozen veggies are a staple on my grocery list and I use them to make stir-fries, curries, roasted vegetables, taco bowls – you name it. Scoop up a few bags on your next grocery trip and I promise you will be amazed at how versatile they are and how fresh the veggies taste.

2 // NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE ORGANIC

Sure, if your name is Gisele Bündchen or Miranda Kerr then you can afford to make sure that everything in your fridge was grown completely organically, watered with unicorn tears and harvested on a new moon at peak ripeness for optimum nutrition. If not, don’t worry, not everything you eat needs to be organic to be healthy. There are certain foods (the dirty dozen), like strawberries, tomatoes and apples, that you should try and buy organic. But you don’t need to exclusively buy your produce from the organic section of the store. There are lots of vegetables and fruit – like avocados, asparagus, onions and cauliflower – that are considered to be clean. The cost of buying organic does quickly add up and if you’re going to shell out, make sure it’s worth it. Sometimes a good wash is all your veggies and fruit need.

3 // BUY IN BULK

Before switching to a vegetarian diet, I always thought the bulk food section of the grocery store was overwhelming. Those big containers filled with beans, nuts and lentils just seemed to not correlate with food to me (they looked more like what you would use as filling for sandbags or pillows). The thing is, you can make a million dishes with beans, nuts and lentils and you can buy bags of them without breaking over $10-$15. Try it and be amazing at how long it will be before you have to grocery shop (although you might want to anyways because you’ll be inspired by all the creative vegetarian dishes you can make).

4 // THE FEWER INGREDIENTS, THE BETTER

Honestly, one of the best parts about eating vegetarian is that it forced me to expand my cooking skills. My family are all omnivores and my boyfriend loves nothing more than a plate of ribs so I knew I couldn’t rely on there being vegetarian food available in the house. My need to cook led me to love cooking and become passionate about vegetarian food! While at first daunting, I have since discovered that the world of vegetarian cuisine is diverse, delicious and so creative. I’ve learned that meat is so not necessary for a meal to be filling and tasty, lots of veggies can stand in for meat (mushrooms, artichokes, eggplant, jackfruit, etc.), and the simpler your meals, the better. You don’t need to go ham with your meals (pun obviously intended). For example, one of my favourite dishes is a marinated tofu bowl. Tofu, sticky rice, carrot, cucumber, seaweed and avocado. Boom. So good and so healthy. Keeping it simple also helps you ensure that your groceries last you longer which saves you money in the long run.

A few of my favourite vegetarian meals.

5 // GET CREATIVE WITH CANNED VEGGIES

Here’s another aisle I never visited before becoming a herbivore! Allow me to let you in on a little secret. You can find almost every vegetable in a can and they only cost a couple of bucks. Tomatoes? Check. Potatoes? Yup. Corn, artichokes, olives, beans, lentils, beets, carrots, peas, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and mushrooms? Oh, yeah. You can stock up on an armload of inexpensive vegetables that are full of nutrients and last longer than fresh produce. Wins all around.

6 // FREQUENT FARMER’S MARKETS

There’s nothing more reassuring than meeting the people who are growing your food. The people who have planted the seeds, watered the roots and nurtured the soil to ensure that the food you’re buying is top quality and optimally nutritious. Farmer’s markets are a great way to find new vegetables, fruits and spices you’ve never tried before, all the while conversing with those who are the most knowledgeable about produce. Prices are usually reasonable and you also get the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting local farmers. It’s really a fun experience shopping at the farmer’s market!

I hope you find these tips to be helpful! Are any of you transitioning to a more plant-based diet? How are you finding it? Let’s talk veggie stuff in the comments!

xoxo,

Alicia

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My Favorite Healthy Snacks 

I wholeheartedly believe in eating healthy as consistently as possible (with a little room for my favorite indulgences – dirty martinis, pineapple and olive pizza, and cheese plates) and that treating one’s body right benefits every aspect of a person’s life. Since it’s the start of the new year, I feel even more motivated to keep my diet clean and work out more than I used to. While I mainly keep my meals healthy, I have found that one of the biggest diet-busting culprits is snacking. It’s easy to overindulge on decadent treats like chocolate, ice cream, and chips but it’s also easy to over do it on seemingly healthy nibbles like cheese and crackers and even nuts. That being said, snacking can (and should) be a part of a healthy diet, as long as it is done right with nutrient dense, low-calorie options. With this in mind, I have rounded up 7 of my favorite guilt-free snacks.

1 // Dried Seaweed

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth and I can easily pass on the rich, calorie-laden desserts that make most other people weak in the knees. However, if you put a plate of cheesy nachos or salty fries in front of me, it’s game over. Dried seaweed manages to curb my salt craving without making me forego my healthy diet. It’s crispy, savory, and just as addicting as a pack of chips but with a small fraction of the calories. Rich in magnesium, potassium, selenium, and vitamin A, B, and C, dried seaweed packs a serious nutritional punch.

2 // Goji Berries

I decided to give goji berries a try after reading an interview with Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr in which she deemed the tart red superfood one of her go-to beautifying snacks. While no amount of antioxidant-rich berries will transform me into a Victoria Secret angel, I was intrigued to try them and see if they a) would make my skin glow and my hair bouncy and b) if they actually taste good. Well, guess what? They are actually pretty tasty, they keep me sated in between meals, and since I’ve started eating them regularly I do notice a healthier glow to my skin (but maybe that’s just wishful thinking). They are a bit tart, like dried cranberries but a little bit sweeter. Plus they are chock full of antioxidants, fiber, and beta-carotene. I keep this low-calorie, nutrient-high snack in my purse to nosh on at work and when I’m feeling a bit peckish.

3 // Popcorn with Olive Oil & Sea Salt

I’m obsessed with popcorn and it’s my favorite movie-time snack. It’s also surprisingly healthy – so long as you pop it yourself, either with an old-fashioned air popper or a healthy oil like coconut or olive oil. It’s low in calories (1 cup of air-popped popcorn has only 30 calories) and actually has a ton of antioxidants. I choose to skip the artery-clogging butter and instead drizzle mine with olive oil and add a sprinkle a bit of sea salt for an added dose of healthy fats and flavor.

4 // Edamame

My boyfriend loves edamame and is the one who got me hooked on them. Edamame has become a trendy food and its stellar reputation is well deserved. Edamame is a young soybean which has been harvested before it has had a chance to harden. These delightful green gems are low in calories, high in protein, and are packed with vitamins, protein, magnesium, and iron. They are also naturally free of cholesterol and gluten. I also love them because they are delicious and super easy to prepare. Simply steam them on the stove or pop them in the microwave in a bowl with a bit of water. They are delicious on their own but are even tastier with a bit of salt and cayenne pepper.

5 // Frozen Fruit

When I’m craving ice cream but don’t want to splurge, a bowl full of frozen fruit totally hits the spot. Sometimes I’ll blend the fruit in my food processor for a sorbet-like treat that feels like an indulgence but is completely healthy and free of added sugar. Pro-tip: if you are feeling creative, blend a couple of frozen bananas with a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa powder. Voila! Chocolate ‘ice cream’ that is full of vitamins and totally guilt-free.

6 // Plain Yogurt and Honey

I’ve always loved yogurt, but a lot of the flavored versions that are available in stores are way too sweet for my taste and are loaded with unnecessary junk like gelatin and processed sugar. Instead, I prefer to eat plain yogurt (greek yogurt is my favorite) with just a little bit of honey. Sometimes I will toss a couple of frozen blueberries on top for some extra sweetness and added vitamin C. It’s not too sweet but is very flavorful and fills me up without making me feel heavy or bloated. It makes a great breakfast or late snack and is filled with satiating protein and calcium.

7 // Veggies and Hummus

I have to say, I’ve never come across a vegetable that I didn’t love and I don’t need any dips, dressings, or seasonings to make me want to eat them. That being said, if you don’t love veggies, dipping them in garlicky hummus is sure to change your mind. I like to make my own with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic and a bit of salt. I’ve seen recipes with spinach and beets added and they look amazing as well. Hummus can be pretty calorie-dense but it has tons of nutrients. As long as you keep your portions under control, this is a completely diet-friendly, healthy, delicious snack for any time of day.

xoxo,

Alicia