Small Steps: Step 1— Meat

When people first start examining their environmental impact, it can get really overwhelming. Some people want to jump right into a perfect zero-waste, vegan, low-impact lifestyle, but get discouraged quickly, and some would rather stick their head into the sand. I’ve put together this series of articles to help you take small steps to a brighter, greener lifestyle and a brighter, greener future. 

People always ask me why I went vegetarian, and then vegan. Now, my reasons are manyfold: I love having a lower environmental impact, I feel better knowing that I am saving animals, and I feel so much healthier, both physically and mentally. But when I first decided to stop eating meat at age 16, I don’t think I could pinpoint an exact reason. Mostly for ethical purposes— I’ve always been extremely empathetic— but I later learned that many people who suffer from disordered eating are also vegetarians and vegans, as a way of controlling their diet in a socially acceptable way.

Now, I’m proud to be on the road to food freedom and self-love, but I can’t imagine going back to eating meat, especially not after everything that I’ve learned about industrial agriculture.

However, I understand that meat is a large part of many peoples’ diets and cultures, and the idea of cutting it out completely can be daunting. In the following article, I want to explain the ways that meat (and seafood) consumption are harmful to the environment and your health, as well as some easy ways to cut down on meat consumption.

Meat and The Environment

Modern agriculture is a vast, multibillion-dollar business that is wrecking the environment. A 6 oz steak requires about 674 gallons of water to produce. That’s about as much water as running your shower for 5 days in a row (at an average flow of 2.1 gallons per minute). If you’re looking to cut down on water usage, skip the steak at Chipotle instead of cutting into your valuable shower time.

Did you know that around 4/5ths of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to cattle ranching? Western demand for cheap beef (and lots of it) is a major factor in deforestation, which leads to habitat loss for many endangered animals, and cuts nature’s ability to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere, which is… less than ideal.

Speaking of CO2, producing a kilogram of beef releases around 27 kilograms of CO2 into the air— compared to just 2 kilograms for the equivalent volume of beans and tofu (source).

You know how every few months, there seems to be a big E. coli scare, usually for raw greens? That’s because the veggies are contaminated with irresponsible runoff from cattle farms. This runoff can also release antibiotics into the water, posing serious health and environmental risks (source).

Many people who avoid meat still eat fish, but commercial fishing is incredibly destructive to our oceans. A study of the Great Pacific Garbage showed that 46% of the plastic waste was from discarded fishing gear. These lost nets, called ghost nets, can strangle and kill many marine species (source).

Meat and Your Health

A major 24-year study of over 100,000 individuals showed that eating a single serving of processed red meat (like sausage, bacon, and hot dogs) increases the risk of premature death by 20%. Unprocessed red meat, like steak and pork, increases the risk by only 13%, which is still substantial (source).

Most Americans only consume 15 grams of fiber per day, compared to the recommended 25 to 38 grams per day. By cutting down on meat, and replacing meat-based meals with foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, you can easily up your fiber intake without resorting to supplements (source).

How do I cut down on meat?

  • If you eat meat at every meal, try to cut down to once a day. Switch out sausage and bacon at breakfast for waffles and eggs, or a bowl of cereal. Pack a salad loaded with legumes and healthy fats in lieu of a sandwich, or stick to a nice PB&J.
  • If you still eat meat every day, adopt Meatless Mondays. If seven people eat meat only 6 days a week, that’s the equivalent of one person being completely vegetarian! Try a baked potato with vegetarian chili, a veggie pizza, or pasta for your Monday night dinner.
  • Try out the alternatives! Veggie burgers may seem weird and daunting at first, but switch out a meal or two a week with plant-based proteins. Check out your grocery freezer section for meat alternatives, or check out some recipes online. I love Morningstar Farms veggie burgers because they’re really tasty and widely available. Most of their products aren’t vegan yet, but several are, and all are vegetarian.
  • Cut down to eating meat once a week. My mother and little sister follow this approach. My mom likes to eat a Philly cheesesteak sub every Tuesday, but that’s her only meat for the week. My sister is less consistent, but usually sticks to eating meat once or twice a week, and really likes these veggie corndogs.

In my ideal world, everyone is vegan and owns a pet cow, but I understand that not everyone is there yet. But if you’re scared of running a marathon, just take that first step, and keep going. Pretty soon you’ll focus on the distance you’ve traveled, and the length still to go will seem insignificant.

Spooky Scary Pumpkin Berry Smoothie Bowl

Happy October! Today is World Vegetarian Day (woo!) and Pumpkin Spice Day (wooo!). I am so excited to kick off the season with this amazing recipe (that I discovered by accident!).

I love a loaded smoothie bowl, and I’m always interested in add-ins that make for a prettier, healthier bowl. This summer, I finally bought spirulina powder. This blue-green algae is loaded with protein, B vitamins, and Iron. Plus, it’s so pretty.

But do you know what happens when you add blue-green powder to a dark purple smoothie? IMG_1545It turns black! Not my fresh summer smoothie, but maybe something perfect for a little later in the year…

Spooky Scary Pumpkin Berry Smoothie Bowl

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

-1/2 cup organic frozen berry mix (like Full Circle Market)

-1/2 cup pumpkin puree (like Thrive Market organic pumpkin)

-2 tsp acai powder

-1 scoop spirulina powder (like Kos)

-1 scoop Organic Pressed Juice

-2 scoops protein powder (I swear by Bob’s Red Mill Protein Powder)

-toppings: I used chia seeds, flax seeds, and Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Pumpkin Cinnamon Granola

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients (except toppings) together, adding water to thin if need be.
  2. Transfer to bowl.
  3. Add toppings– for the pumpkin shape, I used a cookie cutter before sprinkling my flax seeds on top.
  4. Enjoy

It’s a great way to add some extra fruit, veggies, and protein to your breakfast. If you follow the Dr Greger Daily Dozen, then you’ve hit 5 of your goals (flaxseed, berries, nuts, and two vegetables).

Happy baking, and stay tuned for more pumpkin! Spooky Scary Pumpkin Berry Smoothie Bowl

What to Do When You Can’t Avoid Trash

And, no, I’m not talking about a rude co-worker or classmate!

I go to college in Iowa. Our grocery store is the size of a large shoebox, and our food options are pretty limited. My meal plan, which cots an arm and a leg, gives me the option to eat in the commons (when I have time), and buy some supplementary snacks from a few other places on campus: ie, food in plastic packaging.

Of course, I am doing what I can to make my school more sustainable, but that means I’m busy juggling everything, and sometimes I fall into the trap of a bottle of juice and a Clif bar in the library. So, what do we do to keep our bad habits as low impact as possible?

Choose glass or metal containers that are easily recyclable or reusable

This is kind of an obvious one, but if you have the possibility of buying a plastic bottle or a can, go for the can– aluminum can be recycled much more easily and more times than plastic can.

Choose recycled plastic

Some companies use only recycled plastic, or at least a large proportion. For example, Naked uses 100 percent recycled and recyclable plastic. If you’re going for a sugary drink in a plastic bottle, opt for a boosted juice instead of a Coke.

Look into recycling options

Did you know that TerraCycle actually has a free program for recycling foil-lined energy bar wrappers and snack bags? Those are two major waste streams for convenience food. Take the extra few minutes to collect the trash and send it to be recycled.

Think ahead

Alright, this isn’t really how to take care of trash that’s already been produced. If you know that you’ll be in a situation where you’ll be tempted by food, try to pack some snacks and a water bottle. The goal isn’t to be perfect all the time, but to improve whenever possible.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

If you use a plastic water bottle, you’re not a demon. The point is to try to reduce waste as much as possible, not to punish yourself for eating a candy bar in a plastic wrapper.

We don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions doing it imperfectly.

Have questions, tips, or personal thoughts? Leave a comment, and don’t forget to subscribe! And check out my giveaway on Instagram!

(header image by Steve Johnson from Pexels)

Easy Kale and Basil Pesto

I love pesto. When I was in high school, swimming competitively, I survived off of pasta and bread, all smothered with whole tubs of pesto. It’s delicious and beautiful and the answer to “how can I eat straight olive oil but make it seem healthy?”

Now, however, a few things stand between me and my love. The first is that I’m not exercising vigorously in cold water for 10+ hours every week. I don’t want to or need to eat white carbs and plain fat every day. Is this what growing up feels like? Yuck.

Most store bought pesto has Parmesan in it anyway, which is obviously a no for me. So if I want it, I have to make it.

Part three: basil and olive oil are expensive, and even if I were to buy $15 of fresh basil leaves, it would blend down to a few sad tablespoons. My solution? This healthier, definitely cheaper alternative to traditional pesto (with all the flavor, of course!). By adding in kale (which is about $1-$2 a bunch, depending on the season) and water (practically free), it cuts the calories and cost, and boosts your greens intake for the day. What’s not to love?

Easy Kale and Basil Pesto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 bunch raw kale leaves (about 3-4 cups)

2 tbs basil paste (the kind in the tubes- or use a handful of fresh leaves)

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp nutritional yeast

3 cloves of garlic (or to taste)

1 tbs raw cashews (or almonds, sunflower seeds– whatever you have on hand)

Water (see instructions)

Directions:

Add all ingredients EXCEPT WATER to a blender or food processor– if not all the kale fits, slowly add it as the mixture is blended. Starting with about a tablespoon, slowly add the water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Pour over pasta (I love chickpea pasta, like Banza or Thrive Market brand) or top garlic bread, use as a salad dressing.

Notes: feel free to use spinach or any other dark leafy green you like! This keeps well on the fridge for a few days, but I haven’t tried freezing it yet.

Happy baking!

30 New Years Resolutions That Aren’t “Lose Weight”

Almost everyone above the age of twelve has probably said that “this is the year I lose weight!” And then repeated it the next year, the next year, the next year. It’s a little passé. Even if you start with the best intentions, little things sneak up and it’s suddenly April, with no progress made– or even a few extra pounds.

The definition of insanity is supposed to be doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. So why would you have the same resolution, every year, and expect to suddenly achieve it without changing a thing.

I challenge you to leave weight loss off your list this year. Here are a few suggestions, in all different categories:

This year, I will:

HEALTH

1. Start doing yoga every day.

2. Start running every week.

3. Go vegan!

4. Drink a gallon of water every day.

5. Get 8 hours of sleep every night.

6. Eat 5 servings of veggies and fruits every day.

7. Stop eating processed foods.

8. Start eating mindfully.

9. Let go of “food guilt”.

10. Listen to my body.

SPIRIT

11. Go to religious services every week.

12. Pray every morning.

13. Do one extra kind act every day.

14. Meditate every day.

15. See a therapist.

HOME

16. Stop buying things I don’t need.

17. Stop buying things with plastic packaging.

18. Get rid of unworn clothing.

19. Get rid of unused items.

20. Clean up every day.

21. Organize my closet.

22. Organize my pantry.

23. Clean the garage.

24. Put money away into savings.

SELF

25. Play an instrument every week.

26. Start studying a foreign language.

27. Take new classes.

28. Read 12 books.

29. Write a book.

30. Love myself.

Let’s make 2019 a little brighter for everyone. Happy Holidays!

Header image by rawpixel on Unsplash

Protein Cookies: Double Peanut Butter Cookies

As promised, I am back with another variation of my homemade protein cookies. And these are my favorite! I looooooove peanut butter cookies so much, and while I can usually justify eating an entire batch of my favorite recipe by telling myself that it has protein… I really shouldn’t.

This recipe, however, has 6 grams of protein per 100 calorie cookie, and taste wonderfully peanut buttery. I suspect it may become a staple pretty quickly.

Ingredients:

  1. Mix peanut butter into cookie dough until it’s even throughout.
  2. Roll into four small balls and place on a cookie sheet.
  3. Press down on each with a fork, to get the classic peanut butter cookie criss-cross.
  4. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.

Nutrition (per cookie): 8.9 grams of carbs, 4.4 grams of fiber, 2.7 grams of sugar; 4.3 grams of fat, 5.7 grams of protein

You could even add some chocolate chips or cacao nibs to give these some extra umph. Comment if you tried this and what you thought. Happy baking!DSC09047

Protein Cookies

Sugar is my weakness. I have always had such a sweet tooth- more like a sweet set of dentures. I can eat an entire row of Oreos without even thinking. But apparently, that’s “not healthy”…

I also need to eat more protein. Up until recently, I tried to eat around 50 grams of protein- essentially enough to survive. But I should be doubling that, which is hard to do without eating pounds of tofu or lentils, or drinking three protein shakes a day. So I had to get a little clever with my protein. So. Protein cookies.

These were originally based off of Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookies. But I wanted something cheaper, healthier, lower in calories, and without refined sugar or white flour. So a true, complete cookie. And I think I succeeded. In this post, I have the base for the cookie, and I will be posting variations over the next week. The first: the classic chocolate chip cookie.

Ingredients: Cookie Base

  • 3 tbs coconut flour
  • 2 tbs PB2 or other peanut powder
  • 2 tbs unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 tbs unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbs stevia in the raw
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • .5 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix together dry ingredients.DSC09032.JPG2. Add wet ingredients. DSC09034.JPG3. Mix well. DSC09035.JPG4.  Add add-ins. This week: cacao nibs. Add about 1 TBS of raw cacao nibs to the mix, and mix well.

5. Roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until tops are slightly dry. Let cool before eating.

DSC09055.JPG

Here’s a sneak peek at the cookies coming later: DSC09047.JPG

Cacao nib, sugar cookie, double peanut butter, and snickerdoodle.

Nutrition (this is for one cookie, a batch makes four): 8 grams carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar; 4.6 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of fat.

Comment what other kinds of cookies, or other recipes you would like to see. Happy baking!