If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know up until recently, I would eat anything and everything put in front of me. And while that is still the case 20% of the time, I’m shooting for an 80/20 plant based lifestyle. What this means for me is eating meat-free and dairy-free 80% of the time, which we strive to do when we cook at home and if we’re able to do it while we’re eating out, then great! I try not to be overly strict because this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. So while my freezer may be stocked with dairy-free ice cream, I may have the real deal during the week on occasion and I don’t feel guilty about that.
If you’re considering giving up meat or dairy on the occasion, but think it’s too difficult or you just want some new and exciting ways to pack more plants into your diet, read on my friend…
Literally six months ago, I would have never thought to become somewhat vegan. It sounded WAY too restrictive. Cooking with meat is easy and I LOVE dairy – in all forms. It wasn’t until I watched the What The Health documentary on a flight a few months ago that I was intrigued. I watched it again with Will 24 hours later and not only was I still intrigued, but so was he. Now while I know documentaries are going to show as much one-sided research to prove their position, there was something about this that shook me. I had read a lot about Keto as well, but I couldn’t argue adding more plants to my diet. So we decided to give it a try.
The first week we were shocked at how easy it had become to give up meat. Dairy was a little harder. But every time we’d eat a meal without meat or dairy, we’d celebrate! It was exciting to look up new recipes and new products on the shelves together. Every time one of us would find something new, we did a little happy dance – I hope to soon replace this with a celebratory glass of wine!
Fast forward roughly two months later and we consider ourselves pretty darn good at this whole giving up meat and dairy thing 80/20. It’s all about balance to us. We realized neither of us had a problem really giving up meat. And I actually enjoyed giving up dairy because my heartburn has been at an all time high with this pregnancy and I noticed it was worse every time I ate dairy. Again, there are times, I gave into the cravings, popped the tums and called it a day. But using dairy alternatives has been a game changer.
A lot of you have asked me to share my favorite vegan recipes. I started thinking that I’ve actually used a few meal delivery service plans, purchased cookbooks and just threw a bunch of things together in this effort to become more vegan. So while there are a ton of vegan recipes out there, I haven’t tried a whole lot of them outside of those efforts. This post is going to include what I’ve been doing to make the intro into veganism painless and then as I try more and more recipes, I’ll share those too!
- Hot For Food Vegan Comfort Classics
Stand Outs: Green Pea Pesto Linguine, The Ramen Burger, Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich, Spicy Black Bean Taquitos
- Thug Kitchen Party Grub
Stand Outs: Poppy Seed Potato Salad, Buffalo Pizza, Black Bean and Pumpkin Mexican Lasagna
- Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking
Stand Outs: Southwest Sweet Potato Black Bean Dip, Spicy BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches, 5 Ingredient Peppermint Patties, Masala Chickpea Curry, Sweet Potato Sage Ravioli
- Love and Lemons
Stand Outs: Grilled Eggplant Summer Veggie Pasta, Spring Pea Mint Crostini, Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos
The number one recipe I’ve been asked about is the infamous Carrot Dogs that I posted on Instagram recently. Don’t get me wrong, I was skeptical too. It’s not like I eat hot dogs on the regular, but being told I can’t have them during pregnant PLUS the whole going vegan thing, I figured I’d try this substitute before knocking it. HOLY WOW! I followed this recipe to a T and I was completely shocked. It satisfied my hot dog craving and even Will said he was impressed.
- This recipe is for Carrot Dogs 4 Ways – I kept with the original (pictured below), but all the options sound great too.
- One Pot Vegan Fajitas
- Baked Sweet Potato with Garam Masala Chickpeas
- Oil Free Crispy Potato Wedges
Vegan Household Staples
We’ve found some brands and items that make this Vegan thing like a walk in the park. Some are only found at specialty stores such as Whole Foods or Roots Market (local in MD), but so worth it.
- Beyond Meat Burgers have been a staple in our house since its grilling season. At first I didnt realize there was a difference in the Beyond Meat Burgers and Beast Burgers. I realized most grocery stores only had the frozen Beast burgers, so I went on a hunt for the regular Beyond Burgers, which we came to find out were out of stock EVERYWHERE. Finally, we visited Roots Market in Clarksville, MD (35 minutes from us) and they had stacks of them so naturally, I stacked up, I walked out of there with fifteen packages of burgers #noshame.
- Kite Hill produces a great line of dairy free products, everything from yogurt to cheese. The Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli has been one of my favorites. I make this for lunch on a regular basis, top it with a little dairy-free Parmesan and peas.
- Upton Naturals is a brand I just found out about this week, but had to include it. They make a variety of vegan meat alternatives, but the jackfruit is a game changer. I recently tried the Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit – popped it in a taco shell with black beans and avocado..WOW. Its great as a meat alternative because there’s no soy or other chemicals. The package I bought was literally jackfruit and some spices. I am super pumped to try the other varieties.
- Follow Your Heart has a wide variety of dairy-free cheese, mayo, dressings. My favorites have been the smoked gouda style cheese slices and the vegan ranch.
- Generic Staples
- Cauliflower Rice
- Black Beans
- Dairy-Free Ice Cream
- Red Onion
When we first started on the vegan train, for some reason I thought it was going to be way harder than it actually is. So because I’m a loyal customer of Terra’s Kitchen, I decided to try out a few vegan options for our first week of going vegan. Everything was SO good! I didn’t miss the meat or dairy at all. I also am a huge Terra’s Kitchen advocate because it’s SO easy. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that a lot of items already come prepped for you aka I’m not spending an hour chopping every little thing. Plus I notice the ingredients stay fresher longer than some of the other meal delivery plans. Use this link to get $40 off your first order.
Purple Carrot is another ingredient delivery service that is strictly vegan. There’s no choosing of meals, it’s a strict 3 meal system, which I don’t love – I enjoy flexibility. And I noticed with Purple Carrot, the ingredients weren’t always the freshest and again, I ended up putting A LOT of work into a small portion. I would end up purchasing my own ingredients to supplement or put a spin on the lackluster recipe. I went ahead and cancelled that subscription, but may try it again sometime soon.
I know this is a long post, but I wanted to share the journey of a non-dietitian, non-healthmaster trying to incorporate more plants into her life and to reassure you giving up meat and dairy is NOT as hard as it sounds. Moral of the story is do what works for you, if you feel better after cutting out meat and dairy, then awesome! if you feel better after washing down a bucket of fried chicken with a glass of whole milk, do you! No judgment here, just sharing of stories and experiences.
Let me know what else you’d like to see as I continue this journey!