In 2010, I adopted an all-plant diet accidentally, unintentionally and without fanfare--all the while claiming that I could never be a vegan. 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. Since making the transition to a vegan diet, the belly bloat that had stubbornly refused to leave is gone! And within three months, I was down 15 pounds, to my previously unattainable goal weight. 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.
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, despite my passion for sharing the vegan lifestyle with others, I am not going to 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. (After all, SparkPeople isn't about diets!)
That's why, along with other experts and members here at SparkPeople, I've written our first e-book, "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 Amazon.com. To celebrate this new e-book and encourage others to embrace more plant-based meals, we're launching the SparkPeople 30-Day Vegan Challenge, starting March 1.
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 veganism 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.
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!
So how does a plant-based diet affect your health?
Regardless of your motivation, plant-based meals can improve your health. According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet include:
- Lower risk of dying of heart disease
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower rates of hypertension and diabetes
- Lower body mass index
- Lower cancer rates (especially colorectal cancers)
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!"
So what will a vegan diet do for you?
A vegan diet WILL:
Are you ready to take the SparkPeople 30-Day Vegan Challenge?
- inspire you
- help you improve your health
- encourage you to try new foods
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 already vegan, use the month of March to clean up your diet (less processed foods, more green veggies, fewer treats).
If you're new to a meatless diet, start small. Try eating vegan meals once a day and build from there.
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
·Queso (Sin Queso) Dip
·Lemon-Roasted Tempeh and Tomatoes with Arugula and Basil Farro
·Vegan Chocolate Macaroons
·Simple Zucchini Caponata
Download the ebook here.
: 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.)
Will you take the 30-Day Vegan Challenge? What is your goal for the challenge?
A huge thanks to all the SparkPeople members who helped me research this book!