The No-Stress, No-Guilt Approach to Meatless Meals


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  104 comments   :  118,877 Views

I'm thrilled to announce that SparkPeople has just published the first in a line of ebooks, "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet."

As many of you know, I am editor of SparkRecipes and dailySpark, and co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook." I love food--writing, editing, researching, and, of course, eating it.

What you might not know about me is that I'm vegan, meaning I don't eat meat, dairy, eggs or anything else that comes from an animal. About 1% of Americans eat this way (for reference, 3% of Americans are vegetarian), but that number is growing. Due to my love of creating tasty, easy plant-based recipes, I was really excited to launch our ebook series with a vegan cookbook and guide.

Don't worry--SparkPeople isn't taking the stance that we all need to ditch meat forever. But with at least 325,000 vegetarians and vegans on our site, we know that many of our members are interested in eating less meat and more plants. This book fills a niche, and I wrote it with the SparkPeople philosophy in mind--moderation, no fad diets, and taking small steps along the way to a healthier you. 

I am passionate about sharing the vegan lifestyle with others, but I (and SparkPeople) will never pressure you or guilt you into giving up meat, cheese, or eggs forever. I'd rather have each of you take one step toward a healthier you than alienate even one reader with a "diet" that seems complicated and stressful.

Why vegan for me?
In 2010, I adopted an all-plant diet accidentally, unintentionally and without fanfare--all the while claiming that I could never be a vegan. (That's a good story--I explain in the ebook.) My excuses varied depending on the situation: it would be too costly, I loved cheese too much, I couldn't imagine interrogating every server at every restaurant for the rest of my life. I admit: I was wrong about veganism. Today, I remain happily, healthfully vegan.

I've discovered that a plant-based diet is neither restrictive nor difficult, neither expensive nor time-consuming, and I'm hoping you'll give it a try--at least for a little while. 

My body is the strongest and healthiest it has ever been. A vegan diet allows me to maintain a rigorous six-day-a-week Ashtanga yoga practice while training for half-marathons and teaching yoga.  My boyfriend, a competitive cyclist, fuels with a plant-based diet as well. We each became vegan shortly before we met (within a week of each other, it turned out!), and the early days of our relationship were spent cooking up vegan feasts in my tiny apartment kitchen. 

The motivators for a vegan diet can be pretty heavy topics, but what they all have in common is compassion and kindness: for others, for yourself, or for the earth and its animals. That's why I believe in the "no-stress, no-guilt" approach to meatless meals. 

That's also why, along with other experts and members here at SparkPeople, I wrote "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet," which is available for $2.99 on and

To celebrate this new e-book and encourage others to embrace more plant-based meals, I'm launching the 30-Day Meatless Challenge, starting March 1.

As I said, this isn't like other books on veganism. We focus solely on the positive aspects of a plant-based diet. Whether you are looking to add a few vegan recipes to your weekly meal plans, experiment with plant-based eating for a few weeks during Lent, or make it a lifelong journey, I hope you'll be inspired to embrace meatless meals at least for a little while from a healthy, whole-foods perspective using the new book.

If you want to eat plants 100% of the time and get healthy while doing it, I'm thrilled--and this is the book and the challenge for you. But remember that if you want to experiment with more meatless meals, learn how to cook for a vegan in your life, or just learn what the heck vegans eat, this book is for you, too.

Click here to buy or preview "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople: The No-Stress, No-Guilt Way to Reap the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet" on and

(If you have no interest in meatless meals, that's OK. Would you mind helping us Spread the Spark by sharing this blog post with others in your life who might be interested?)

This ebook comes as a follow-up to "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight," which I co-wrote with our own World Master Chef, culinary instructor and healthy cooking expert, Meg Galvin. Meg and I spent two years researching, writing and editing that book, and it was a real labor of love. What we heard from the hundreds of SparkPeople members and yo-yo dieters we interviewed was that healthy cooking had to be easy, affordable, and, most of all, delicious. We agreed. While Meg maintains an omnivorous diet and I a vegan one, we realized that our diets have a lot in common. As a result, that book contains dozens of vegan-friendly recipes and a healthy cooking education that suits every dietary need.
SparkPeople knows that an "all-or-nothing" mentality is not fun or the secret to success. We aim to make healthy living fun--and maybe that's why we don't like to use the word "diet," because we're all about life, and living!

Click here to read about the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet.

A variety of health problems prompted JULIE-V-SAVOY to swear off animal products. Her highest weight was 360 pounds. She dropped 50, just by giving up fast food. However, she was far from healthy and plagued by depression and anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and more.

"I was on so much medicine it could have choked a dinosaur," she said. A car accident after a seizure-like attack prompted her to change. She became vegetarian and later vegan.
Today, at age 42, she weighs 183 pounds--less than what she weighed at age 22. Her goal weight, interestingly enough, is 170 pounds, which is just about the exact same amount of weight she has lost!

More importantly than the numbers on the scale, she says, is her improved quality of life: "All those health problems I had, including the need for medications, the depression, blood pressure issues and all the rest are simply gone. I am healthier now, as a mostly raw, whole food vegan, than I have ever been in my entire life!"

Are you ready to take the 30-Day Meatless Challenge?
The challenge itself is simple, with very few rules. Whether you eat vegan meals thrice daily or once a week is up to you. Do what's right for you.

If you're new to a meatless diet, start small. Try eating vegan meals once a day and build from there.

If you're already vegan, use the month of March to clean up your diet (less processed foods, more green veggies, fewer treats).

And if you need help along the way, reach out to others, both on the blog posts here on dailySpark and in the Vegan and Vegetarian SparkTeam.

Each week, I'll blog about various topics related to the challenge. From protein to snacks to being vegan on the go, we'll cover it all! (If you have any questions you'd like me to answer in the blogs, please send me a SparkMail.)

While you don't have to download the ebook to participate in the challenge, it will be a helpful tool. Here's what you'll find inside "Easy Vegan Meals by SparkPeople":

  • 122 simple, delicious recipes, made from ingredients available at your local supermarket

  • Two 7-day meal plans, each about 1,600 calories for three meals and two snacks. One meal plan is aimed at those new to a plant-based diet and those who don't have much time to spend in the kitchen. The other requires more cooking but still relies on easy recipes made from unprocessed foods.

  • Tips and tricks from members who've lost weight and improved their health by eating vegan meals

  • A chapter on Key Nutrients for Vegans, plus info on foods that are rich in those nutrients

  • The low-down on going vegan on a budget--how to save time, money and the planet 

  • Lists of foods that aren't vegan (but should be), advice for those who have a vegan in the family, and endless inspiration for healthy, plant-based eating.

Take a sneak peek at some of the fantastic recipes you'll find in the ebook:

·Quinoa-Black Bean Casserole

·Walnut Better-than-Cheddar

·Queso (Sin Queso) Dip

·Lemon-Roasted Tempeh and Tomatoes with Arugula and Basil Farro

·Vegan Chocolate Macaroons

·Simple Zucchini Caponata

Download the ebook on and

TIP: You don't need to have an e-reader to download this book. I use Kindle and NOOK for iPhone and for PC to read ebooks, and the apps are available on other platforms as well. (This isn't available in any other ebook format right now, but we hope it will be soon.)

Will you take the 30-Day Meatless Challenge? What is your goal for the challenge?

A huge thanks to all the SparkPeople members who helped me research this book!

Want more healthy recipes from Chef Meg, me and fellow SparkPeople members? Be sure to subscribe to SparkPeople's Recipe of the Day email. Click here to sign up!

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  • 54
    Are there any plans to introduce a vegan or diary free option for the meal planner? While I don't normally use the planner the rest of the time, I thought I would try it during Lent to help free myself from the constant thinking of "what should I eat for my next meal" that I tend to fall into. I found that wasn't going to work though because by the time I'd gone through the options trying to find one that didn't include diary, I would have thought even MORE about my next meal than I would have otherwise. (Diary substitutes aren't really an option for me, as they are too expensive/difficult to find here).
    I did just go and have another look at the planner, and there seem to be a few more options than there were a couple of weeks ago, but not nearly enough to make using it a realistic option for those who choose not to eat any animal products.
    And now I'm off to join the challenge (is it a challenge though if I'm used to doing it twice every year???) - 3/5/2012   5:23:20 PM
  • 53
    Congrats and kudos for developing the recipes and the book - options and information for people to make informed choices is invaluable. - 3/2/2012   2:40:15 PM
    No, I very rarely lean on those "faux" ingredients. They're pricey, hard to find, and often full of not-so-great ingredients. I use real foods whenever possible. - 3/2/2012   10:05:01 AM
  • 51
    Does the book make much use of 'faux' ingredients? Eg Daiya cheese, soy yoghurt, tofutti cream cheese, mock meats like gimme lean, etc?
    Apart from soy milk, rice milk, tofu and tempeh, it's pretty hard to get those things here, and the book wouldn't be useful to me if there is a lot of use of those things in recipes. - 3/1/2012   4:44:14 PM
  • 50
    Although I'm not going to join the 30-day challenge, my husband and I do eat vegetarian/vegan meals 1-3x a week. Just haven't felt pulled to completely changing our lifestyle in that way, but we are making a lot of healthy substitutions and don't buy nearly the amount of meat, dairy or cheese that we used to. I will also be getting Stepf's ebook on my kindle because we have enjoyed many of her recipes on SP! - 3/1/2012   1:38:21 PM
    Hooray! Thank you--I am newly Vegan, and this is just the boost I need! - 2/29/2012   12:55:54 PM
  • 48
    I forgot to mention something. I'm forty something and feisty, but I became a vegetarian by choice at the tender age of 15. It had a lot to do with how they were treating the animals way back then. Don't even wanna THINK what they're doing to them NOW... I'm not where I want to be, weight-wise, but I'm not where I used to be either. I've learned to forgive myself, and live my life. And to let others be free to do the same. - 2/29/2012   12:19:24 PM
  • 47
    It's loaded on my Kindle now. Looking forward to some time to check it out. Thank you for creating it, been vegetarian since 2000, vegan since January 2010. - 2/29/2012   12:07:14 PM
  • 46
    I so enjoyed your article, Stepfanie, and now I have something else new on my Kindle wishlist... many thanks for sharing. Sometimes us vegetarians are made to feel we're weird, and now I'm inspired to share the spark! Great job! Kari - 2/29/2012   12:05:11 PM
  • 45
    I love this!! I tried going "vegetarian" on my own a couple weeks ago, it's only now I realize I basically went vegan except for eggs...and chocolate; That is a love I cannot give up! But I gave up meats, milk, cheese, basically all dairy, and went for the produce, and replaced milk w/ almond milk. I'm still testing out other "milks", but I found out it really wasnt at all as hard or bad as I thought it would be. I enjoyed it! So when I saw the vegan cookbook I was so stoked! Thank you for posting this, I needed some help and guidance and ideas for some tasty epic recipes. :) As for my husband...while he's open to trying new things, he doesn't think he can go all vegan. So to compromise, (don't hate me vegan-arians) I agreed to make sunday meals with meat. :) it's working great thus far! But you shoulda seen his face the first time I told him there was no meat in the house! ROFL!!! Like, terror and disbelief. :D He's adjusted now, but I'll certainly never forget it! :D - 2/29/2012   9:06:22 AM
  • 44
    Is there a link that takes us to where we sign up for the challenge? I looked at SP's Challenge Central and did not see it. Thanks! - 2/29/2012   8:59:32 AM
  • ANNE94
    So glad to see this. I have been a vegan for 2 years and before that I thought I would never do it because it would be so much trouble and I would feel so deprived. Not the case at all - I have tried so many different dishes and really enjoyed the wonderful taste of many of them. - 2/29/2012   8:21:50 AM
  • 42
    I bought this and I am very glad I did. Thanks for the information and the inspiration! Some things I am already doing "right". - 2/28/2012   10:00:48 PM
  • 41
    My dinner tonight was vegan except for a little butter on a veggie. I do not eat a lot of meat and often go meatless, but then I don't get enough protein, so sorry, I won't go completely meatless. - 2/28/2012   8:52:53 PM
  • 40
    Synchronicity! Planned doing so on the very same date!
    Absolutely will take part in the challenge.
    - 2/28/2012   8:28:23 PM
    Thanks for reiterating that, TANYAKA! :) Yes, the "Kindle for various platform apps" are free. - 2/28/2012   5:56:42 PM
  • 38
    For those without a kindle.. there's a little paragraph near the end of the page

    "TIP: You don't need to have a Kindle reader to download this book. I use Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for PC to read ebooks, and Kindle is available on other platforms as well. (This isn't available in any other ebook format right now, but we hope it will be soon.)"

    So I assume you can download Kindle for PC somewhere and read it on your computer :)

    (Though I don't know if that costs money! I do know that the iphone kindle app is free though) - 2/28/2012   5:11:08 PM
  • 37
    I am interested in doing the 30 day challenge, at the moment I have two meat free meals per week, increasing that would be good. I looked at downloading the book; I don't have a kindle, unable to afford one at this stage and it wasn't clear for downloading to my PC, any suggestion on advice, Regards Sandra - 2/28/2012   4:38:01 PM
  • 36
    I would like to read the book and take the challenge but I don't have a kindle. I also don't understand why people who do not want to take the challenge comment. And those people who are worried about leaving out food groups. Animals are not a food group. Protein and calcium rich foods are the food groups. Eating animals and or their products can meet the requirements for those food groups but so can beans, nuts, whole grains, vegetables etc. I say "eat meat" if you want to but don't insult people who choose to eat their food groups from non animal sources. Thank you. - 2/28/2012   4:03:37 PM
  • 35
    Yes I am excited to try the recipes from this book. While I don't think that I can go totally animal free, I do enjoy vegan and vegetarian foods often. Thank you for writing this book and marketing it so inexpensively. - 2/28/2012   3:34:07 PM
  • 34
    Yea. I used to say "I could never give up meat. Love it." too.. but then I saw footage of the cruelty involved and what actually happens to get the meat on your plate. Now I value another creature's life more than one option of food on the plate.
    Have been happily vegan for a few years now and definitely healthier. Every meal I used to eat has a vegan equivalent. And it involves real, healthy foods.
    My partner isn't vegetarian, but he loves my cooking and has never felt like he's missed out.
    Those that are so heavily against it are usually just pulling the blinds down at the mention because they know there is something wrong about killing to eat.. We don't need it. The health benefits of a vegan diet are incredible so it is stupid to attack veganism because we need to watch one vitamin, which is easily monitored. All the meat and cheese related illnesses are very real yet people seem to struggle to even reduce their intake! It's all conditioning. Just like getting off the potato chips and the couch in order to lose weight.
    Make and effort, educate yourself and have fun doing it!! :)
    Thanks for the e-book and the post! Great to see! - 2/28/2012   3:08:13 PM
  • 33
    Meat free is TASTY! :) - 2/28/2012   2:23:30 PM
  • 32
    no, would not work for us as my husband likes meat at every meal. Plus I worked in a meat dept of a large grocery chain for 40 years and would have been unemployed instead of able to take early retirement if there weren't so many meat lovers in this world.
    Neither of us like any kind of beans or lentils so it is hard to make many meatless meals. - 2/28/2012   1:32:59 PM
  • 31
    Sorry, going vegan is not in my plans. During Lent, my husband and I observe meatless Fridays, but we do eat seafood. I'm not crazy about any eating plan that eliminates a food group entirely, unless it's for health reasons. - 2/28/2012   1:27:29 PM
  • 30
    Can anyone recommend vegan information/recipe sources for those of us who cannot eat soy products? I'm familiar with nuts, combinations of grains/beans/vegetables, seeds, etc, but many vegan recipes I see also use soy products. - 2/28/2012   12:35:41 PM
  • 29
    I found this blog to be very interesting and informative. We do eat vegetarian/meatless meals frequently and enjoy them. My husband has recently been diagnosed as B-12 deficient so we will never go strictly vegetarian or vegan. Our youngest son chose to become a vegetarian a year ago while a freshman at college. I've learned a lot about cooking for him when he's home. Love the spring, summer and fall when the farmers markets are open and we can get such a great variety of vegetables. Getting a weekly CSA box also exposes us to a lot of vegetables that I wouldn't otherwise opt to purchase. - 2/28/2012   12:34:14 PM
  • 28
    I have bought the e-book, but I cannot figure out where to sign up for the challenge.

    If you need inspiration about the benefits of eating plant based I recommend viewing Forks over Knives. Excellent information to be had.
    At least it allows one to make a more educated choice.

    B-12 is a very easy supplement to find and many foods are already fortified with the vitamin.

    - 2/28/2012   12:31:57 PM
    I find no mention of the necessity of taking vitamin B-12 supplements on a vegan diet. Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal products, and there are a variety of not-so-nice things that happen from a deficiency, not the least of which is early onset dementia. Since vegans eat *no* animal products (i.e. no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc.), vitamin B-12 supplements would be required.

    I support the idea of more plant-based nutrition in the diet. I cannot support a diet where supplements are absolutely required without dire consequences. Such a diet does not seem appropriate for a human being to be on.

    Also, most people don't realize that being a *true* vegan also means using no animal products in any part of your life--no leather, wool, etc. - 2/28/2012   11:38:04 AM
  • 26
    I will not be taking the challenge. I love meat and I love dairy. - 2/28/2012   10:28:48 AM
  • 25
    Am I the only one who cannot find the challenge? I just bought the e-cookbook. I've been sort of flexitarian for a while, and now is a great time to try vegan for a month, because I need to go grocery shopping. I'll browse the cookbook for things I will need to purchase. - 2/28/2012   10:23:27 AM
    I struggle with the idea of any diet that cuts out entire food groups, especially multiple food groups (meat and dairy.) To me, that is unhealthy and unwise. That being said, if it works for you, great. I, however, am a farmgirl through-and-through and will continue to eat my healthfully conventionally raised beef, lamb! Chicken, and eggs from our farm. - 2/28/2012   10:20:22 AM
    after reading Eat to Live, hubby and I are following in our son's footsteps and going more vegan every day. - 2/28/2012   9:13:47 AM
    I have been vegan for four years now. I've discovered foods I had never eaten before, new tastes, and I never eat the same things.
    My improved health was only an extrabonus, a very pleasant one :) - 2/28/2012   8:54:39 AM
    I've been vegetarian for over 1/3 of my life, and vegan for the past 5 years. I will say that it would be harder for me to maintain this lifestyle if I wasn't very personally motivated by the non-health reasons. The fact that my diet is much lower in fat and totally absent of cholesterol is just an added bonus! That being said, it is possible to be an unhealthy vegan, so you basically have to make sure you're following the same nutritional guidelines as when you're eating meat (watching the amount of oil you cook with, getting enough servings of fruits & veggies, limiting the carbs, etc). My parents have started replacing one or two meals a week with a vegan or vegetarian one -- I highly encourage you to give it a try! - 2/28/2012   8:42:15 AM
  • 20
    I am a very new lacto-ovo vegetarian, ready to see what this challenge is all about and maybe take it to the next level. This is great timing for me! Thank you! - 2/28/2012   8:40:53 AM
    I am more on the veg diet all the time, I may have meat about once a week at the most. - 2/28/2012   7:46:29 AM
    I am going to get it a try. I will work on this for a few days. - 2/28/2012   7:26:56 AM
    i've been vegetarian for 18 years now, with the last 5 or so being vegan. my 3 kids (10, 8 and 4) have been vegan since birth! i always tell people that being vegan is WAY easier than you think it will be... most people eat alot of vegan food already, and just don't realise it. getting some awesome vegan cookbooks (check out ones by Dreena Burton or Isa Chandra Moskowitz) is a great way to start. - 2/28/2012   6:56:18 AM
  • 16
    I love eating vegan food although I often eat chicken and fish as well. I'd love to go vegan or vegetarian for a month. This blog contains all the information and inspiration I need. Thanks Spark People! - 2/28/2012   5:47:28 AM
    I'm "playing" with a vegan eating plan as a means of ridding myself of allergies. Frankly, it's working. I feel better, don't really miss the meat! - 2/28/2012   5:29:19 AM
  • 14
    I grew up in a meat and potatoes family, no meal was complete without meat or eggs. My family is also plagued with obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fatigue and depression. But after I saw Dr. Colin T. Campbell speak in the fall of 2010, I decided that the SAD (standard american diet) wasn't working and that I needed to change if I really wanted to be healthy.

    Since then I have adopted a mostly plant based diet (not 100% but 90%). I think that I always assumed that vegan food would taste awful, but that is completely not true. In fact I have made some of the most delicious meals since adopting this lifestyle, and all the fresh foods and spices really wakes up your palette. I don't miss the taste of meat at all!

    The writer missed a few great resources for people who want to learn more. Check out the recent documentary 'Forks over Knives' and Dr. Campbell's book 'The China Study'. There is some serious science that exists in support of plant based foods that are worth checking out.

    I have to say it is the best thing I have done for my health. - 2/28/2012   4:12:26 AM
  • 13
    I can honestly say vegan is the most unappealing eating style that I have ever read about. I like my yogurt, cheese, and steak. - 2/28/2012   2:50:51 AM
  • 12
    Honestly, I could care less. -- ALL things in moderation would be more my motto! - 2/28/2012   1:52:51 AM
  • 11
    Thank you so much for writing this. I'm a college student currently studying Public Health and after learning about the incredible impact meat consumption has on our health, the environment, and animals, I decided to drastically reduce my intake of meat. I now only eat meat a few times a week, and when I'm eating out I always opt for vegetarian options. I see several people saying they "could never go vegetarian" in these comments - that's fine, but how about just trying to reduce your meat consumption to only one meal a day? Or go meatless just once a week? It's amazing how cutting back just a little can reduce air and water pollution, reduce your cholesterol, and help you lose weight. - 2/27/2012   9:56:23 PM
  • 10
    I will NEVER give up my meat- but having said that for me supper isn't supper without a salad. - 2/27/2012   9:35:26 PM
  • 9
    Great article. I can't say that I am vegetarian, definitely not vegan but I do enjoy eating plant based foods. I am seriously considering joining the challenge and would love to purchase the book for more recipes. - 2/27/2012   9:02:05 PM
  • 8
    My family is not vegan, so it would be hard, especially since my husband does most of our cooking. I could try it for breakfast and lunch, and I'm definitely curious to see the book. One of the things I'm even more curious about, however, is how you became vegan accidentally and unintentionally. That's got to be an interesting story! - 2/27/2012   8:13:48 PM
  • 7
    Great Blog, thanks. I would love to try the challenge for a month with the exception of eggs. I have chickens and it would be a shame not to eat their delicious, free range eggs :) - 2/27/2012   8:13:17 PM
  • 6
    Thanks for posting an an entry about the benefits of a plant based diet! I'm vegan for a combination of reasons, but the health improvements were so drastic (in a good way) that I can't imagine ever going back to the S.A.D. diet. - 2/27/2012   8:12:24 PM
  • 5
    Well, I would love to try this challenge, but I'm on a financial fast until the middle of March. I will, however, return at that time to purchse the ebook. Hope 3/1 is not the only time the challenge will take place. - 2/27/2012   8:11:16 PM

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