This is probably the most common question I get when talking about my veganism with people. They will often ask "Where do you get your protein from?" or "How do you get enough protein in the day without eating meat?" And truly, it isn't that hard. As a disclaimer, this is my personal experience and not the opinion of licensed doctors. If you are having protein deficiency or are just interested in learning more about veganism, here are some tips. Absolutely consult your doctor if you are having serious issues because it might not be protein but vitamin deficiency!
There is a protein in every plant. Some have more than others, but it's always present. When I first went vegan, I focused on my calorie intake (yes, I counted calories but not for THAT reason). I used an app to log how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates I was getting. At first, I focused a lot on protein but we can't ignore carbohydrates and fats. That's where we get our energy from. Many people think eating lots of fatty foods is bad, and over-indulgence can be. But healthy fats are really good and boost your energy. Fat is basically stored energy. That's why diet culture has you cut down on fat because it will stop storing in your body. Or diet culture tells you to work out a lot because when you use up the energy from the carbohydrates in your body it will start taking energy from fat (aka using up the fat). I don't hate eating fats and carbohydrates because I know my body needs them and I like having energy!
Back to protein, a lot of people do not make the jump to go plant-based because they are worried about getting enough protein. I am not here to guilt anyone into becoming vegan but rather break it down for you!
An important thing to note with veganism - it does require you to eat higher quantities and this is something people do not always think of when they are transitioning. That's where the shakiness may come in; your body is telling you it needs more food. Sometimes that's protein and sometimes its carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are known for being low-carb (YAY!) but this also means in order to get your daily amounts of carbs to stay healthy, you simply need to eat more.
When I first went vegan, I looked for protein in the form of smoothies and plant-based meats. And it really was helpful. It helped me to kind of gage how much I needed to eat during the day. Smoothies are a lifesaver because you can get in a lot of healthy carbs and protein quickly. Your body views it as less food because it's liquid so you can have more quantity. Another important factor is how much protein your body needs because everyone's body is different! Your daily protein grams will be affected by how active you are and if you are trying to build muscle. For example, I try to get around 64g of protein a day. This works with how much I weigh and how active I am. There are different formulas you can plug in to find your daily protein goal or you can consult your doctor.
Here are some high protein foods you can incorporate for a vegan diet:
So to meet my daily protein needs, I'll break it down for you a bit meal-by-meal.
Breakfast: smoothie (pea protein, soy milk, blackberries, raspberries). Protein total: 29.75. With that, I am almost halfway to my daily protein goal!
Lunch: quinoa bowl (quinoa, mushrooms (2.2g/cup), butternut squash (1.4g/cup)). Protein total: 9.3 (for the servings I would eat).
Dinner: lentil loaf, potatoes with nutritional yeast, and asparagus. Using the items in this list for a meal you can easily up your protein intake! Total meal protein: 19.5. This is without me adding in the other proteins in lentil loaf (solely just the lentils so anticipate this being higher with an actual lentil loaf recipe).
Snacks: edamame (17g), a BIG spoonful of peanut butter (8g). These are small amounts of snacks but still with a protein total of 25g.
Eating these meals would give me a daily total of 83.55g. This is WELL over my daily protein goal and must of it was from foods you probably already eat too. Being vegan certainly has its challenges but it is easier than many people think!
And I do not eat these foods every single day but I do find ways to get my protein from them some days and eat other foods not on this list too!
Keep in mind, this is without fully diving into nuts and seeds (and their amazing amount of protein and fat). I hope this is helpful for anyone trying to go plant-based or even just eating more meatless meals!
When traveling, eating vegan can always be a bit of a struggle. For example, if you are flying and get an airplane meal but forget to mark that you are vegan when you check in, you are basically SOL.
However, London is a very vegan-friendly city and had many options during my 2.5 days stay. I'll walk you through everything I ate, where I ate, and how delicious it was to prepare you for your next trip to London!
Day 1: After exploring some of the sights in London I was starving and dying to check out the McDonald's vegan scene. Although McDonald's in the US has... well nothing really, McDonald's in the UK has plenty of vegan options. I got the vegetable deluxe sandwich and LOVED it. I ate it on the floor of the subway because that was my level of exhaustion.
For dinner, I treated myself to a delicious meal at the French restaurant Le Pain Quotidien on my way to see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The meal was French Onion Soup, sourdough bread and vegan yogurt, and potatoes. Add a glass of Merlot and tell me I have not been craving this meal since I left. I plan to stop here again (I loved this location in Victoria) when I am in London next!
Day 2: I grabbed a small breakfast at my hotel then headed out for another day of exploring. My mid-day stop was Covent Garden so I began searching for a vegan restaurant nearby. I was looking for a different restaurant but stumbled upon Cold & Press'd by PLNT instead. This cafe is small (I was looking for by. CHLOE but this cafe just looked too heavenly to not go inside). I had a matcha latte and vegan BLT. I loved getting to chat with the owner who was American too!
For dinner, I tried to head to a pub to have a vegan Sunday Roast, did not understand how pubs worked, walked right back out, and found a cute restaurant on the street corner a few blocks from my hotel in Pimlico. Uno, an italian restaurant, had quiet music playing and an excellent wine selection. It would have been a great date night had a not turned down an evening with my German coffee date from earlier in the day. I opted for another merlot and got a potato dish with a side of potatoes (was still craving them from my last dinner). The dish was called Consistenze Di Patate Con Soffritto E Tarallo Croccante and was a mixture of different forms/textures of potato. For dessert, I had Panna Cotta Alle Mandorle e Limone that was delicious and quite different from anything I had before.
Day 3: On my way out to visit my last few stops, I grabbed a smoothie from Pimlico Fresh on my way to take the underground to Kings Cross Station. After a few stops and crossing Abbey Road, I grabbed a coffee and reflected on my amazing trip at Cafe Nero. This small coffee shop down the road from Abbey Road Studios and filled with Beatles regalia. Then I boarded a train and headed to the airport. After perusing the airport vegan options, I decided upon Pret because it had some great options. I got a vegan mushroom grilled cheese and savored the fantastic weekend spent across the pond.
Next time you're in London, check out some of these great stops. I had a wonderful experience at all of them. Who knows, maybe you'll see me back in one of these cafes or restaurants someday!
In the past two years, I have tried to make meaningful New Years Resolutions. Last year, I made "environmental resolutions", which eventually led me to go vegan in February 2019. This year, I resolved to visit one new place each month. The first three months were incredible. I went to London for my first solo trip and first time to Europe. February was Yosemite and I still dream of going back. March was Utah. We spent about a day in Arches National Park, but we did not get to venture much outside of that because of COVID-19. My April and May trips, of course, did not happen. I had planned to go back to Europe for an extended stay at the beginning of June-Early July. The rest of 2020 was going to be spent exploring North America.
The funny thing about life is it rarely goes as you planned. Of course, I was bummed about not getting to travel to these places. That's partially where I got the idea to start a bucket list in my state.
The idea came from seeing a friend post a picture from a place that looked like Utah. I clicked the link and quickly realized the location was only a few hours from me at Gloss Mountain State Park. I sent the location and pictures to my best friend/travel buddy and my little sister, my other travel buddy. Both were down to take a trip and SHOCKED something so cool could be found in Oklahoma.
This led me to start searching for and making my list. After a couple of hours and getting suggestions from friends, my list is at 37 places to visit in my beautiful state. Some places I had visited as a kid and do not remember much. Some places I had visited more recently but wanted to go back to see again. And some places sounded amazing, and I had never been to before! Number 2 on the list, but the first stop, was Black Mesa State Park.
Black Mesa State Park is in the panhandle of Oklahoma, a less-traveled part of the state. The Mesa itself is the highest point in Oklahoma, a fact I remembered from 4th grade when we learned about Oklahoma at school. Oklahoma is not known for having high heights most of the state is relatively flat, which leads to excellent farming. However, Black Mesa is at the very tail end of the Southern Rockies, before things flatten out the further south you go.
We stayed in Boise City after some confusion with camping at Black Mesa State Park (the website says first come, first serve but now all reservations have to be made online). We left before sunrise to drive the 45 minutes to the trailhead. The views with the rising sun on the drive were gorgeous and we arrived at the parking lot of the trailhead right at dawn. And that's when things got interesting.
Now, I have been in my fair share of nature bathrooms. Whether that be flushing toilets or vaulted toilets. However, I have never quite experienced anything like the bathrooms at the Black Mesa Summit Trailhead. I'm not one to have a weak stomach but these bathrooms did me dirty (pun intended). Knowing it was a longer hike, we decided to all use the bathrooms beforehand. My sister went first and quickly warned us of the stench as soon as she got out. Next, was our friend Jamie, whose advice was to "Breath through your mouth." As I went in, I joked about how I am incapable of breathing through my mouth (there are some snorkeling stories to go along with that one but I'll save those for another time). I was in this restroom for maybe 1 full minute and as soon as I emerged I knew I was in trouble. I was gagging while in there, from the stench, and ran out to say "I am unwell."
We started to walk towards the trailhead and I knew something was very wrong. I said I needed to stop to get gum, hoping the mint would deter nausea. Two steps later, right at the trailhead, I threw up. I hoped for the best and thought that might be it and immediately said "I'm okay" and kept walking. About five feet later and my entire vegan protein shake and all the water I had drunk on the 45-minute drive in were coming up rapidly and uncontrollable. My sister starts laughing, an appropriate response. Jamie starts panicking and repeatedly asking me if I am okay and if I can make it while I am hunched over purging that horrid bathroom from my body. I left a little bit of my dignity and soul on that trail.
After a fresh piece of gum and some adrenaline, I was ready to go and killed the first mile. At mile two, with the high from the hilarious moment behind me (serious apologies to anyone who had to pass my vomit on their way starting the hike), I realized my stomach and body were going to have to slow it down a bit. Aside from lots of nausea and several stops to settle my stomach, we made excellent time hiking to the summit and I felt much better after having a little bite to eat.
Most of the hike is relatively easy, aside from being rocky. The first mile is mostly flat and you meet some local cows along the way. Mile 2 consists of a slight inline then a series of switchbacks to the 3-mile marker. The 3-mile marker is in the midst of a heavier inline (and rocky) but goes up for about a quarter of a mile until you are on top of Black Mesa. You have a slight incline for just over a mile until you get to the summit. The views are incredible and well worth the hike. Most of the hike is not strenuous at all but you need to have the ability to do the actual climb up the plateau, as it is steep for about a mile and very rocky. Hiking boots are preferred! We decided we started our hike at the perfect time, 7:30 am, and would have preferred to begin earlier. We got back to our car around 11:30 am and would not have been able to handle the dessert-like heat much later than that. Start early! The total time was four hours but we did stop several times for water and to hydrate the world's best hiking dog! We spent a good chunk of times resting, eating, and exploring on top of Black Mesa.
Overall, Black Mesa was a wonderful hike, and if I can do it having puked two times at the very beginning, then there is the motivation for you to do it!
Fun fact: at the mile 2 bench, if you look under the tree, you will find a weather-resistant box containing notes and trinkets from hikers. We added a note and a granola bar to help the next lucky hiker!
Let me start by saying this recipe does not contain any sugar or salt. I know, now you're hooked and all curious. To be clear, I have nothing against sugar and salt. They have never once offended me. However, I ventured to make this recipe with my parents in mind, and sugar and salt are a no-go for them. My mom has recently started a strict vegan diet (yay for more vegans in the family) but sugar and sodium are a no go on this diet. My dad cannot have sugar or salt either because he has a super rare disease called Trigeminal Neuralgia. We've known for a while sugar is a trigger for his nerve shocks, but we are recently discovering salt could be problematic and lead to some inflammation (which could cause nerve flare-ups with his disease). So before you @ me for not including salt and sugar, I HAD A GREAT REASON.
Even though it was still above 90 degrees in Oklahoma this week, I have been craving Fall and all the Fall foods. Hence the pumpkin pancakes. This recipe is pretty easy to whip up, and if you skimmed the top and are just now tuning in, it's very healthy too. I had pancakes for dinner with this recipe and was immediately in a better mood.
Drum roll, please!!!! And here we go.
1 1/4 cup of flour
2 tbsp of baking powder
1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove)
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cup of unsweet non-dairy milk (I use almond)
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp maple syrup (and more for drizzling on top)
1 tsp olive oil (for the skillet)
1/4 cup of walnuts
I hope you enjoy this sweet treat as much as I did. Remember to check out my other recipes or tips on my instagram and blog!
Now, this might sound weird, but our wellness is affected and influenced by so many things, including our environment. Environmental wellness is about both the Earth and your physical environment. We must take care of the Earth because it gives us life. Likewise, your physical environment, where you exist, needs to be healthy and sustainable. Being surrounded by a healthy environment can help us thrive.
Think about it this way, when we go on vacation and get out of the city we always come back feeling better and refreshed. That’s because we are breathing in cleaner air, we typically get more exercise, we ignore things in our physical world that may be harming us (think sitting on your computer working all day), and we can connect again with the earth. When I go hiking or on vacation I almost always sing “Below My Feet” by Mumford and Sons in my head because it truly embodies what I’m feeling.
But what if we could have more of those “being in the mountains on vacation” feelings more often? Living in an apartment, I can’t completely recreate that but there are things I can do to create a similar wellness experience.
Here are my tips for physical environment wellness:
Likewise, there are things I can do to promote the wellness of the earth.
As an environmentalist, environmental wellness has made a rather large impact on my life. However, the physical environment wellness is more of a new concept for me. I am excited to continue to find new and healthy ways to help keep our planet healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
I love working smarter not harder. And I am not the type of person who has perfected recipe-making. Maybe someday, but until then I will continue to use recipes from the genius brains of others.
This recipe comes from the genius @amylecreations and I fell head over heals. My sister was the one who first found this recipe and tried it out for me when we were living together. Although she is not vegan, she eats vegan with me a lot! After eating this recipe, you will quite literally die and go to heaven. Amy has PERFECTED this creamy pasta. It's healthy and delicious. What more could you want?
Pro tip: there are lots of steps in the recipe but many you can do simultaneously. For example, while the sauce is first heating and combining, chop up the sun-dried tomatoes for the blender. Likewise, you can cook the pasta while you are blending the sauce. It seems more complicated than it actually is. Just be smart about it and ENJOY.
Thank you, Amy, for this fantastic recipe. I am so happy to *borrow* it and share with others.
Peep below for some pictures from when my sister and I made it last week!
Self-care is a term that’s been thrown around work environments and wellness scenes more prominently within the past couple of years. My relationship with self-care has been...strained in the past to say the least.
I had never even heard the term self-care until after I graduated college. I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how to take care of myself from within. I had no relationship with my emotions and didn’t understand my stress in the slightest.
I started hearing about self-care in the sense of doing things for yourself, but it always seemed to be about one’s physical self. For example, people would talk about self-care as getting pedicures, online shopping, going for a run, and meal prepping. Which, don’t get me wrong, those are all great ways to take care of yourself. But self-care is much deeper than that.
It’s true, taking care of yourself can be doing things to relax, like those pedicures or a massage. Or making yourself feel happier through retail therapy (I love it, no shame). However, it can’t be just that. Eating healthy, endorphins from exercise, and releasing tension will all help me feel better, but sometimes (most of the time) I need more.
I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes self-care means I need to physically remove myself from situations or spaces. Self-care, even dissecting this term, is truly caring for oneself. To look deeply into that, we need to look deeply into ourselves.
To care for ourselves, that means doing what we need to be our very best selves. In our society, taking care of oneself is viewed as being selfish. It’s like if we don’t give all of ourselves to our work, relationships, the world, then we are selfish. If we put ourselves above others, even once, it’s viewed as selfish. I’m not saying we should be putting others down to get to where we want to be. But putting ourselves first is necessary for our overall health. We cannot continue to destroy ourselves for someone or something else.
This could mean to care for yourself, you need to take a break from relationships. If someone causes you physical or emotional harm, you owe it to your self to take a pause. Self-care can be pausing work. I have heard plenty of stories of people being miserable at their jobs, but trudging through it for years because they think it’s something they have to do. Then they switch jobs eventually and *BAMB* feel better. Sometimes caring for ourselves is moving. Maybe the city you are in is not helping you be your best self. Then, move. Another is allowing others to help. For me, I have a fear of not being in control, and it’s affected a lot of my life and my relationships. Something I am trying to do better to care for myself is allowing others to take on responsibilities.
Caring for ourselves goes so much deeper than just doing little things on the weekends for ourselves. Although this is still necessary and we need to do more for ourselves, self-care is also about making changes in our lives to be happier and healthier.
We need to do what is necessary to take better care of ourselves. So get that pedicure, go on that run, and then dump your partner who makes you cry every night. Let’s do some real self-care and start putting ourselves first sometimes.
This weekend I took a camping trip with my friend, Katie, to the Ozark National Forrest in Arkansas. After an 8.5 mile hike and a humid night tent-camping, we were ready for a well-cooked meal. We drove up to Bentonville to visit the Crystal Bridges art museum (amazing), but before we got there we stopped downtown for a patio meal. After surveying the vegan options (it’s hard to find vegan options during Sunday brunch) we settled on a restaurant called Table Mesa and I had a, you guessed it, quinoa bowl with butternut squash, mushrooms, and spinach.
This meal quite literally brought me back to life and tasted as good as it sounds. The portion was on the smaller side so of course, I was craving more when I finished! A couple of hours later and I am adding it to my meal plan for this week.
Now, this meal was INCREDIBLY easy to make and very cheap. So if you are looking to ball on a budget, then this is a great option. That’s another myth about vegans, everyone assumes it is expensive. Which, a lot of the processed vegan foods like cheeses and pre-made meals are more on the expensive side and can break the bank, but eating like a healthy vegan, what many people refer to as whole food plant-based, and making things from scratch is way cheaper than what my carnivorous friends pay.
-dash olive oil
-2 tbsp of minced garlic
-one package of sliced mushrooms
-two handfuls of spinach
-¾ cup of quinoa (any kind will do but I used a tri-color blend)
-1 bag of frozen cubed butternut squash
-salt and pepper to taste
This meal is great for whole-food plant-based and vegan eaters, but can be enjoyed by anyone else too! Also, it has lots of anti-inflammatory foods to heal your insides and make you feel great all day long.
In my conversations with people who want a more plant-based lifestyle, there is one thing they are never willing to give up: cheese. And I get it. That melty goodness is straight addicting. There are plenty of bad vegan cheeses out there (not naming any names) that just don’t do the trick for me. But HERE is how I make a yummy plant-based grilled cheese to snack on when you’re driving to your 4:25 class OR just as a regular meal.
Start by grabbing a saucepan and turning the heat up to medium. Put a little bit of butter on the saucepan and let it heat up. Once it has melted, place one of your slices of bread into the heated-butter goodness and let it toast for 1-2 minutes. Take it off, set it to the side, and replace it with the second piece of bread, doing the exact same thing. On this second piece, you’ll put two slices of the Chao vegan cheese, and let it cook for a bit. I am not a recipe expert so I always eyeball it. Try 3 minutes, check the bread using a spatula, and if it needs more time place it back down. When it is ready, time for you pre-toasted bread! Grab it and place it toasted side up on top of the cheese. Once steady, grab your spatula and FLIP. Follow the same eye-ball-it-and-guess method as before. Once ready, place it on a plate and voila!
And in less than 15 minutes, your meal is served! Tag me on Instagram if you make your own plant-based grilled cheese here. You never know when you'll need a grilled cheese for the next time you see Sterling Shepard.