Week 1 Update: Plant-based Lifestyle

Happy Monday y’all! I hope you had a fabulous start to your week and aren’t riding the struggle bus after staying up late last night watching the Super Bowl. I’ll tell you one thing, the only hangover I have today is from lack of sleep…no better reminder of your old lady status than a late night with your threenager! (He was a trooper, but me? Not so much.) It was waaaayyyy past our bedtime, BUT I’m SO glad I saw Lady Gaga slay the halftime show… she’s the best isn’t she? (Total #girlcrush ) I’m also glad I didn’t call it a night after the 3rd quarter- my how quickly things can change! Am I right?
Speaking of change, this post is going to focus on a serious change I’ve made in my life over the past week.  A change that I’ve been thinking about for a while, but didn’t know where to start or how to manage it. I’m starting a new weekly series on Styled Sugarplum that will focus on a clean eating, plant-based lifestyle. Whether you’re on the plant-based train or just interested in healthy recipes, this series will document my journey in the search for a healthier life. Gather ’round y’all…I’m going to give you a quick little backstory.

So, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily struggle with my weight. I held on to my baby weight a little longer than I’d like to admit after having my son and I roller-coastered the “Freshman 15” a few times long after my Freshman year, but overall…I’m a pretty healthy person. But that’s just it. What was holding me back from living the healthiest lifestyle possible? I don’t want to be pretty healthy…I want to be healthy. Working out (in any way, shape, or form) is a great way to maintain balance and I would say that I exercise semi-regularly. I’m actively working to make it a more frequent weekly habit, but I needed to work on my diet. With this new change to plant-based living, I’m not saying that I won’t have wine and cheese from time to time or that I won’t splurge and eat fries or order dessert (what am I, insane?) I’m simply talking about sustaining a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. A life change…enough with the yo-yo effect.
Over the past few months, I felt as though I “let it go”. Our move caused us to live out of boxes for an extended period of time and we had a ton of travel time back and forth from city to city. Kitchen items weren’t as accessible for meal prep and daily cooking use, which then led us to take advantage of the convenience of fast food and take out. January hit hard after the holidays and I felt like I was in a serious physical rut. I would get a good work out in, even a few consecutive days of being active here and there, only to find myself bouncing back to my binge snacking ways and making poor choices. I needed to reconnect with REAL food.
Two weekends ago, our besties visited us from Charleston and we had a BLAST. We drank champagne, beer and ate authentic Italian pizza on Friday night, catching up on life and laughs. Saturday, we took our kiddos bowling and ate mozzarella sticks and fries (hangover food), then went out to dinner that night at one of our favorite spots (I had a chicken and shrimp alfredo pasta dish). When we got home and put the kids to bed, we indulged in Skittles and chocolates while watching TV. Now, this was not normally what I would eat on a day to day basis before, but on top of already not feeling my best…these two days of carb loading and being a serious junk food junkie had me feeling like TOTAL SHIT. Yeah, ooooo I said a bad word. Because well, that’s exactly how I felt. Something had to change.
My friend mentioned that she was interested in a plant-based diet. I was familiar with being a vegetarian (another friend of mine has been a vegetarian for years) and also familiar with the term vegan…but I was very intrigued by this plant-based life. We watched a documentary on Netflix called Food Choices and it was a serious game changer for me. It made me reflect on my daily choices and shed a new light on food prep, nutrition, and the food industry itself. Living plant-based means you can eat anything that is grown from the Earth in its most natural form (if it doesn’t have a mother or a face, it’s fair game.) This means cutting refined sugars, all processed foods, foods with unnecessary additives or preservatives, meat, fish,  dairy, and most oils. We began eating clean on Sunday and in the span of just one week, I already feel less bloated, shed several pounds, and have less fatigue with more energy. I’m not kidding when I say that I already feel like a different person. My plan is to sustain this type of lifestyle to the best of my ability. This is bigger than just me, there are some really important environmental benefits to this type of lifestyle that you may not realize. One huge one (that I’m the most passionate about) is the animal agriculture that leads to deforestation. (90’s kid reference: it’s Ferngully all over again…childhood scarred me with that one!) If you’re interested in learning more about the environmental benefits, check out this quick list: 5 Ways Eating Plants Benefits the Environment
I’m going to give you a few starter tips that have helped me throughout this first week and share some resources and standout recipes that I enjoyed (and were even hubby and kid approved!) I’m not saying this is for everyone, but small changes can make a huge impact!

Tip 1:
Gather resources and meal plan. I purchased two cookbooks that I use for meal planning and have been pinning on Pinterest like a maniac (follow me- username: styledsugarplum // I have a board called Plant Power dedicated to plant-based recipes). I bookmark recipes that spark my interest and make a grocery list on Sunday based on what I’ve researched that week for meals the following week.

These two cookbooks have been my new food Bibles. Forks over Knives gives you recipes along with a fantastic synopsis of this lifestyle, while “schooling” you on the benefits of living plant-based (based off the Netflix documentary which I also recommend.) Eating Clean provides a TON of delicious recipes. There is a breakfast recipe that I can’t WAIT to make and share with you (that’ll be included in next week’s update.)

Tip 2:
Start a food journal and document your meals. This has helped me tremendously to hold myself accountable. It’s not like the paper is going to judge me for eating something that I shouldn’t, but this definitely keeps me on track. Also, check in with a buddy. Having my besite along on this journey makes it fun and we check in with each other daily about our progress. It’s also nice to share recipes and as you become more comfortable with clean cooking, you’ll find that a ton of regular recipes can be altered slightly to fit in with this lifestyle.

Tip 3:
Obtain the tools you need. One night last week, I made black bean burgers and sweet potato chips from scratch. After crying my mascara off while chopping onions and practically slicing my fingers off attempting to slice skinny sweet potato slivers, I knew a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond was necessary. I purchased the OXO Chopper ($19.99) and the Cuisinart Mandoline ($49.99) to make my chopping and slicing woes a thing of the past. I cannot express to you how much time this has saved me. It also makes it more fun and I feel like Gordon Ramsey could seriously benefit from having a chef of my caliber in one of his restaurants…potential career change? HA Those of you who know me understand that I’m far from a master chef, although I have come a long way! You will make everything from scratch, so don’t be intimidated by that if you happen to lack kitchen confidence. Definitely make sure you have the proper tools for this type of intense food prep, otherwise you won’t be motivated to sustain it!

Tip 4:
Don’t forget the power of water. Drink lots and lots of it. I literally have my water bottle within three feet of me at all times. And EAT! That’s the beauty of this lifestyle- you can literally snack and eat all the veggies and fruit that you want! This is one of the biggest changes that I’ve noticed…I love food again, not regret it!

Here are a few standout recipes from last week. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me! I’ll be happy to answer any specific questions you may have!

BLACK BEAN BURGERS- don’t those look delish!? I topped these with avocado and then made sweet potato chips as a side.
Burger recipe here: Black Bean Burgers

Roasted Teriyaki Mushrooms and Broccolini Soba Noodles
With this one, I just used regular broccoli and also substituted the soba noodles for brown rice noodles. Recipe here: Roasted Teriyaki Mushrooms and Broccolini Soba Noodles

This Mexican Quinoa Pepper recipe is amazing! This picture is from the pin on Pinterest (I was at my mother-in-law’s house when I made it and didn’t get any pictures), but this was a serious winner in our book. I used the same ingredients for my hubby except I substituted the quinoa for ground beef. It was very simple to set aside some of the mix to accommodate both of us and these were great leftovers the next day. Recipe here (scroll about half-way down for this particular one): Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I can’t function without coffee. Every morning, 2 full cups. I was using a store-bought creamer before and always used waaaayyy more than the recommended serving, to the point that I didn’t even really taste the coffee. The ratio was so off. Since I can no longer use creamer, I’m using unsweetened almond milk and a few drops of pure honey. It’s refreshing to being able to really taste the coffee bean flavor with just a hint of sweetness from the honey. Also, I’ve switched to Ezekiel Bread (made from sprouted grains with no added sugars) and as shown in the picture above, topped it off with almond butter and strawberries. (Naturally sweet and filling!) This is a quick go-to breakfast for me. I’ve also been eating avocado toast topped with tomatoes and a few drops of balsamic vinegar and sea salt. YUM!

One thing I’m learning through all this so far is that to achieve a healthy lifestyle: it takes work… AND time. It will not all magically happen in one day.  This is the case with any sort of health and lifestyle change…it’s about taking baby steps and making conscious efforts to sustain and conquer every single day. I hope you enjoyed this post and be sure to check out some of the resources that have truly transformed my way of thinking about food! Thank you for reading and stay styled, sugarplum!

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