On social media, January is also known as Veganuary - a month with lots of promotion to try a vegan or plant based diet. What's the difference?
Eating plant based means incorporating more plants into your diet and replacing animal products with plant based options. Instead of that piece of chicken perhaps having a serving of white beans or tofu. I view someone who is consciously incorporating more veggies and eating less animal products to be plant based. It's a spectrum. Perhaps you start by replacing one meal each day with fruits & veggies or one day each week. For many of us, starting slowly can result in more lasting results.
Veganism is a lifestyle where one does not purchase or consume animal products. This means avoiding anything that comes from an animal including leather and wool. If you are just getting started with veganism, please do not take this to mean that you should get rid of all animal products! I'm an advocate of using what you have. It's more sustainable and better for the environment. In fact, if you have a good pair of leather boots, by all means wear them! Likely they can be repaired and will last far longer than vegan leather alternatives. Again, start slowly and build into this lifestyle. Increasing your awareness of what is in various products and making the best choice for you can go a long way.
Stay tuned as I will be offering more tips on making the switch to plant based this month.
Mise en place means everything in its place. This is technique where you prepare all of your ingredients before you start cooking. Measuring out your spices and oils and placing them in small dishes, chopping all of the veggies and arranging them in the order you will be cooking them. Getting everything prepared so when it's time to start cooking, you aren't rushing around trying to find the Coconut Vinegar you are sure you have on hand but cannot find. Taking time to get organized will save you time (and stress!). And it looks beautiful to see everything organized, prepped and ready to be cooked and assembled.
Lately I have been loving the Miyokos butter and it inspired me to share some of my other favorite vegan convenience foods. Here are my top 10 in no particular order:
I'm sure I'm missing some, but all of these are items I purchase again and again. And while I prefer cooking with whole foods, it's nice to have the convenience and the variety that these products offer.
I consider myself to be a dedicated vegan. I became vegan for animals and the environment after learning the impact of climate change on both animals and human beings. I believe the choices I make about what I purchase and eat make a difference on this planet and I hope sharing my experiences helps others to explore eating more plants and less animal products. What this means is I need to stay healthy and eat a well balanced diet. For the most part, I eat intuitively and try to have variety in my meals throughout the day which provides me with all or most of what I need (I do supplement with B12, D3 and a mulitvitamin daily). To make sure I am getting what I need, I occasionally spend a few days plugging my meals into cronometer.com to see how I'm doing. Recently I learned I'm not getting enough Selenium in my diet. Selenium is a mineral which acts as an antioxidant (which means it protects cells from damage) and protects the heart and brain, supports healthy thyroid function and can boost the immune system. The good news is, increasing this important mineral in my diet was an easy fix. One to two Brazil nuts a day provide more than enough recommended daily Selenium allowance. The amount of Selenium in Brazil nuts can vary depending on the soil that they are grown in so it's always a good idea to have a variety of sources. Selenium is also found in smaller quantities of sunflower seeds, couscous, whole wheat pasta and shiitake mushrooms.
As I listen to the blustery wind and observe the red and golden leaves blowing off the trees and down the sidewalk, I find myself reflecting on how positively agitating that sound once was for me. Several years ago I lived in an apartment near the lake where my window faced the alley and next to that alley was a very tall building. In the fall, it was a virtual wind tunnel. The sound of that wind positively filled me with anxiety and agitation. I could not get relief from that sound or the feelings it provoked in me. Between the wind and the colder, darker days, I absolutely loathed this time of year.
It’s no coincidence that I found Kundalini Yoga in October (of 2007!), the month where I historically began to steel myself for the winter by staying indoors, isolating myself. It was not an enjoyable or peaceful way to live. As I began my Kundalini Yoga journey, I gratefully noticed immediate shifts. The darkness was not as bothersome. I went out in the evening regularly for classes. I felt more relaxed, not as sad or alone.
As I continued on my journey, I was introduced to Ayurveda and learned that this time of year has the qualities of the Vata constitution or dosha, meaning it is a windy, cold, dry season that can aggravate those parts of me. Understanding this, I began to support myself with new tools, which have allowed me to embrace the beauty of this season, rather than resist it. Simple things like sipping hot water throughout the day, eating well cooked veggies prepared with olive or sesame oil, consuming seasonal foods especially root vegetables, hot peppers, ginger and squash. Enjoying sweet treats like warm apple crisp and fruit pies. Taking time to massage my skin with warm sesame oil before I shower. Running regularly, breathing through my nostrils to ground myself and keep a calm and steady pace. Engaging in suspension of breath pranayam meditation. And slowing down, focusing on walking more slowly, eating and drinking more slowly and being intentional in my thoughts, words and actions.
Using these tools, which I have incorporated slowly, over time, have contributed to a calmer mind; improved digestion; happier feelings; a deeper level of satisfaction with my life; a stronger sense of self, self-love and compassion; enhanced well-being; feeling connected with others; enhanced, more loving & understanding relationships; a deepened spiritual connection; an open heart and softer, more comfortable skin. I am a more open, loving and compassionate person because of these tools and my dedication to practicing them. And for this I am beyond grateful.
And the journey continues… Wahe Guru.
If your cutting board slides or moves on your counter when you are slicing veggies, place a damp cloth under the board. This will keep it firmly in place, allowing you to chop your veggies safely. When you are done, use the cloth to wipe down your counters and stove top.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.