Tag Archives: healthy eating

How to Avoid Processed Foods

As most of you know, I’m a mom of boys and that keeps me pretty busy. In addition to that, I write for this blog and I am a contributor to the Vegan Housewives blog, which is such an honor. As a mother, it is hard to make time to cook healthy meals and especially snacks. Even if you’re not a mom and you work full time, you probably have the same problem. We live in a culture where everything is “go, go go” we barely have time to run our errands, much less to stop, sit and just be.

I go back and forth between giving my kids convenience foods for snacks and going overboard on making them not eat anything processed. My conscience beats me up every time they’re eating something processed. I decided there has to be a balance. I found that there definitely is. I decided to share my tips and tricks to avoiding processed foods and on the occasion that you can’t avoid it–some ideas for healthier options.

One thing I noticed, is that when I’m making lunch for everyone I usually want to cut corners. I don’t want to sit there and chop up fruits and veggies. Lunch was definitely the one meal a day that I noticed my kids were getting mostly processed foods. I found that if I had already chopped up fruits and veggies in my refrigerator I was more likely to give that to them than crackers or chips. After I do a grocery store run or a Farmer’s Market run, I chop up my fruits and veggies and put them in air tight containers (BPA-free plastic or glass ones of course!)

Here I am chopping up my onions. A fun cooking tip: By breathing through your mouth and wearing big glasses you can stop yourself from crying while cutting onions. I cut up 3 large onions I got from my sister’s garden and I didn’t even shed a tear.

To recap, storing veggies and fruit chopped up means you’re more likely to use them in a hurry.

I also like to make my own snack foods. I make muffins in large batches as well as my mother-in-law’s infamous “Protein Balls” (really they should have a better name). I find by keeping a large amount on hand, the kids can grab them if they’re hungry. I control the ingredients that go into them so I know they’re organic, vegan and preservative free.

Protein Ball recipe:

1 cup oats

1/2 cup raisins or dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 tsp pure vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and then roll them into a small ball (like cookie dough before you bake them) then put them in an air tight container and let them set in the fridge. After an hour or so they’re set. They remind me of the filling inside a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. I usually triple the recipe and make a huge batch because my kids go through these like crazy.

Usually 2 nights a week I dedicate to my baking night, my sweet husband will stand with me in the kitchen and we spend quality time together while baking, cutting up veggies and fruit, talking and sometimes we read books together while cooking. I actually look forward to those nights. If he has an event he has to be at one night, I’ll make that my baking night and turn on some music and bake the night away.

We all have those weeks where we are exhausted! The kids have a bunch of events, we have a full schedule and baking nights did not happen that week. Been there! We have to pick something up at the store real quick, so what do we do? READ LABELS, “natural” doesn’t mean anything, it could be filled with chemicals and considered “natural” by FDA “standards”. Look for organic labels, read the ingredients to see if you can pronounce the ingredients, if you can’t, don’t buy it! Some of my favorite snacks I get for the kids are Clif Z Bars (vegan, organic and totally delicious, plus you can buy them in bulk at Costco) and Clif Z Ropes (fruit ropes that are 100% fruit). Look for whole grains, organic labels and foods with few ingredients. While these are not processed I think we over look some things like whole fruits that are easy to eat without being peeled or cut up such as apples and grapes. Organic baby carrots, raisins, peanuts (for kids over the age of 3).

What are some of your tips to avoid processed foods for your family?

Where do you get your protein?

One of my favorite vegan jokes:

Q: How many vegans does it take to screw in a light bulb
A: I don’t know, but where do you get your protein?

If vegans had a dollar for every time we were asked, “So where do you get protein?” we’d all be millionaires. Truth is, it’s extremely rare for someone who isn’t malnourished to be protein deficient. A lot of people have the misguided notion that protein only comes from animal sources. When in reality, many plants, grains, beans, nuts all contain protein without the saturated fats and cholesterol that animal products have. 

This chart shows just a few ways to get protein, but keep in mind there are many vegan protein options. You don’t need to supplement protein with a healthy diet. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein. Fruits, sugars, fats, and alcohol do not provide much protein, so a diet based only on these foods would have a good chance of being too low in protein. However, not many vegans we know live on only bananas, hard candy, margarine, and beer. Vegans eating varied diets containing vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough energy (calories) to maintain weight.
(gm) (gm/100 cal)

Tempeh 1 cup 31 9.6
Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 29 9.6
Seitan 3 ounces 21 17.5
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 18 7.8
Black beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.7
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.8
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 15 5.4
Pinto beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.3
Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 15 6.8
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1 cup 13 6.7
Veggie burger 1 patty 13 18.6
Veggie baked beans 1 cup 12 5.0
Tofu, firm 4 ounces 11 10.6
Tofu, regular 4 ounces 10 10.7
Bagel 1 med. (3.5 oz) 10 3.9
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 8 3.7
Peas, cooked 1 cup 8 6.6
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked 1/2 cup 8 15.0
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp 8 4.1
Veggie dog 1 link 8 13.3
Spaghetti, cooked 1 cup 8 3.7
Almonds 1/4 cup 8 3.7
Soy milk, commercial, plain 1 cup 7 7.0
Whole wheat bread 2 slices 7 5.2
Almond butter 2 Tbsp 7 3.4
Soy yogurt, plain 8 ounces 6 4.0
Bulgur, cooked 1 cup 6 3.7
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 6 3.3
Cashews 1/4 cup 5 2.7
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 5 13.0
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 4 6.7
Plant-based proteins are high in fiber, free from cholesterol and alkaline the body. Meat based proteins are devoid of fiber which acidify the body, it causes calcium to be leached from your bones, decreases oxygen in your blood and negatively impacts the digestive/lymphatic system. There a lot of myths regarding meat as being a “complete” protein and plant based protein as “incomplete”. The term “complete” protein refers to having all 9 essential amino acids. “Incomplete”proteins refer to foods that have all of the essential amino acids but is low in one or more of them. Plant foods do have “incomplete” proteins, however if you eat a wide variety of plant based proteins i.e. dark green leafy veggies, legumes, beans, grains and fruits our body will take what it needs from each of those and form a “complete” protein. You also get phytonutrients and antioxidants, both are things meat can’t offer. By eating a variety of plant based whole foods, you get the best of both worlds. Quinoa, spinach and tofu all are complete proteins and don’t need to be mixed with others proteins. If you have beans and rice you get a complete protein as well. 
I always recommend that people make meals with beans, nuts and tofu rather than the fake meats. When I cook for my family, 90% of our diet is whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, tofu, etc. I rarely use fake meats because to be honest they’re processed and not great for you. MorningStar Farms uses genetically modified ingredients and usually has milk and eggs in their products. Gardein, Yves and Tofurky are brands that don’t use genetically modified ingredients but in the end it’s still a processed food. I do use them frequently on my blog because I want to show people that if you’re craving your meats and usual foods that you don’t have to give up good eating completely. When I first went vegan I needed the fake meats while my tastes evolved. The purpose of my blog is for people thinking of going vegan or beginner vegans to get comfortable with it. I know what you’re thinking, well if fake meats aren’t very good then why shouldn’t I just eat real meat? Well real meat generally has 3 times the amount of fat than the fake meat version. Plus, the animals were given antibiotics, fed genetically modified corn or soy and contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats. Eating fake meat is a lot better for you than actual meat. I’ve tricked many non-vegans with the use of Gardein fake chicken products, LightLife’s Smart ground, etc. Here are some of my favorite meat substitutes for beginner vegans that need “meat” in their life.
Ground Beef: LightLife’s Smart Ground, Gardein’s Burger Crumbles and Boca Naturals Beef Crumbles (make sure it’s in a tan bag otherwise it’s genetically modified) are my favorite versions.
Beef Cutlets: The only kind I’ve found that I liked were Gardein’s Beefless Tips
Hamburger: If you want one that tastes just like a hamburger try Gardein’s beefless burger
Chicken nuggets: Boca naturals has a great chickenless nugget (again make sure that they’re in the tan package)
Chicken Strips: Gardein’s Chipotle Lime Chickenless fingers and their seven grain chickenless fingers are the best in my book
Chicken breast: Gardein’s Chikn Scallopini is amazing!
Turkey: I hate Tofurky’s “turkey” it tastes rubbery to me so I recommend Gardein’s stuffed Turkey, truly wonderful!
Italian Sausage: Tofurky’s Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Italian sausages
Hot Dogs: Yves Jumbo Dog is hands down the best!
Pepperoni: Tie goes to LightLife’s Smart Pepperoni or Yves Pepperoni
Salami: Yves Deli Salami
Bologna: Yves Deli Bologna, tastes like the real deal
Deli Turkey: Yves Deli Turkey
Breakfast sausage: Field Roast has amazing variations of these my favorite is the Smoked Apple Sage, it’ll blow your mind
Wings: Gardein’s Spicy Buffalo Wings or their Sweet n Tangy Wings
Meats for stir fry: My 2 favorites are Gardein’s Mandarin Orange Chikn or Teriyaki Chikn Strips
Chicken Patties: Boca Naturals Spicy Chikn Patties
 Those are my personal favorites that I love, I’m in no way getting compensation from them for saying that. I’ve just tried everything and these are the ones I found that most resemble meat in taste and texture. I highly encourage you to get most of your protein from whole grains, dark leafy veggies, nuts/legumes, tofu, etc. 
Happy vegan eating!