(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sun-Gazette Assistant Lifestyle Editor Julie Reppert is trying to live a dietary vegan lifestyle, which means she is eliminating the use of animal products in her diet. Her stories will be published each week in the Wednesday Food section.)
Two weeks down, and I already was feeling better! I mentioned in my first column that I am an asthmatic athlete. After cutting dairy out of my diet, I have noticed a huge difference in my asthma - in a good way!
I used get winded just walking up a few steps to get into my office at work, but now, I have been able to run and jog a half mile and I've even jog-walked a mile, followed by a two hour intense roller derby practice. A major improvement in a short amount of time.
With one healthy victory under my belt, I noticed I have been falling into some rather unhealthy ruts, too.
Sometimes people tend to get a little lazy when it comes to food, especially when you have a busy life, like I do.
When it comes to fast food - burgers and fries - (ew, I never liked hamburgers), people don't even like to get out of their cars for their food. The faster it is in their hands, the better. No matter that it is extremely unhealthy and expensive when visiting fast food joints on a regular basis.
Be on the lookout for baked foods, as opposed to fried, if possible. When oil is heated to a very high temperature, the fat becomes difficult for the body to process or use as energy, and it also provides no nutritional value.
When I first decided to try a vegan diet, I looked up recipes, got cookbooks from friends and created a lot of different meals at home. But even as a vegan, it's very easy to fall into an unhealthy routine of french fries, potato chips and Nutter Butters.
At first, I made the mistake of going to the grocery store and buying too many things that I wanted to try, all at once. When you do this, you tend to throw a lot of it away before you have a chance to use it.
Wasting food never is a good thing, especially when you are paying a good deal more for it than you used to, because vegan alternatives tend to cost more.
I also don't usually have much time to go grocery shopping or to cook, and I started to buy pre-packaged items - things that didn't require me cooking with multiple ingredients - chips, veggie burgers and other boxed foods, that I could quickly heat up in the microwave.
That's fine, just not in excess.
Keeping it healthier, on a budget with little time to shop and cook is the challenge.
Bottom line is, you need to pick a day out of the week to give yourself some time to grocery shop and to cook. Remember to go to the grocery store after you have already eaten, because grocery shopping while you are hungry can be dangerous. You probably will wind up with a cart full of food you wouldn't have bought if you weren't hungry.
Fresh vegetables always are the way to go because you can make them quickly and do so many different things with them. Steam, roast, grill, saute, raw, add spices to them - you can eat the same veggies all week long and feel like you are eating something different every day, depending on how you make them.
My personal favorite is roasting a variety of them in the oven. It's quick, they taste great and you can make enough to last you a few days.
A couple of other quick snacks I like to make that are fast and fairly inexpensive are homemade salsa and mini pizzas.
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
10 asparagus spears
4 or 5 medium mushrooms
1 large red, orange, yellow or green pepper (or combination)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bottoms off of asparagus and slice other veggies about a quarter of an inch thick.
Spread all veggies out on a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, making sure to hit each veggie piece with some oil.
Season with salt and pepper and place in oven for 20 minutes or until all veggies are tender, but not soggy.
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 small onion, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons cilantro
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon chili pepper
Salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together. Add more spices to your liking, and chopped jalapenos to add kick.
Serve with baked tortilla chips and sour cream, or vegan alternative.
2 slices of bread or mini pitas (vegans, check the labels)
Pizza sauce from a jar
1/2 cup shredded
mozzarella cheese or vegan alternative OR 2 slices of mozzarella cheese or vegan alternative
8 slices of veggie
Mushroom slices, black olives or other veggies (optional)
Place bread or pitas in toaster. After toasting, spoon pizza sauce onto bread then spread cheese on top of sauce.
Place veggie pepperoni or veggies on top.
Put in microwave or in oven under broiler for 30 seconds to 1 minute to melt cheese.