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Veganuary! Going vegan for 1 month

cookies, health, recipe, vegan, wellnessAmanda VinciComment

It's cliche but the new year inspires us to try to make some life changes — and that's a good thing. Any kind of motivation for this spoonie, even if it is short lived, is a wonderful thing. To celebrate the death of 2016, I drank and ate whatever I wanted all over the city of New Orleans, but I did so with one thing in mind — Veganuary.

Veganuary is going vegan for the month of January of course. No animal products at all — no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no butter. Easy peasy I thought. I'm already vegetarian, what's a month without cheese?

Hard. That's what it is. It's damn hard. It's only been 5 days and the brie in the fridge is screaming at me from 3 rooms away. To make matters even more difficult, I'm doing dry January too... no alcohol. 

Why go vegan? Of course there's the obvious benefit of not contributing to the mistreatment of animals and the reduction of environmental pollution — which is a big part of why I went vegetarian. But there are also plenty of health benefits too!

  • a vegan diet is richer in nutrients
  • vegans tend to have lower BMIs
  • helps in weight loss more than other controlled diets
  • lowers blood sugar levels
  • improves kidney functions
  • may protect against certain cancers
  • lowers your risk of heart disease
  • can reduce pain from arthritis!

Read more about the health benefits of a vegan diet here.

To help myself stick to my new diet, I've collected a variety of delicious vegan recipes to try, from sweet to savory. I've also made a pact to not buy any products made from animals either — no leather, no wool — to fully commit myself to the lifestyle. Click each image below for the recipe.

Whatever your new year, new you health resolution may be, start with January — who knows, it might just stick around for February too.

Happy new year spoonies!

Sunday Sweets: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

recipe, cookies, sunday sweets, veganAmanda VinciComment

I've been eating healthy all month (give or take a few dishes of pasta) and I'm pretty happy with the results. More energy, a clearer mind, and not one day of feeling totally terrible. But hey, a girl's got to have some cookies now and then. 

Today my little sister woke up dying for some of her favorite vegan chocolate chip cookies. She's a spoonie too — just this year she was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, amongst her usual digestive issues. She's only 14, so adjusting to a new dairy-free diet has been hard for her. Luckily, we have a handful of great vegan bakeries in NY, but sometimes you just want to whip up something on your own.

Arguably, vegan deserts are even tastier than non vegan ones. They're creamier and richer and stay fresher longer. Even if you don't have a vegan diet, you're going to love these. 

Recipe inspired by Daily Rebecca with some changes made.

RECIPE

Prep time:  15 mins
Cook time:  7 mins
Total time:  22 mins
Serves: about two dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup turbinado brown sugar (can use regular brown sugar, but turbinado gives them a nice crunch)
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (we love Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Thoroughly mix together the coconut oil & brown sugar, then add the almond milk & vanilla. It's okay if the mixture is liquidy.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Combine the wet & dry ingredients, then fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Roll into small Tbsp sized balls & place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (or on a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet).
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes. We baked for 8 and they were perfect!

The result? Soft, warm, chocolatey deliciousness – with a hint of coconut and a slight crunch of turbinado sugar. Have a sweet Sunday, spoonies!

Spoonie Shape Up Plan

wellness, physical therapy, exerciseAmanda VinciComment
Photo -  The Recreationalist   

I look in the mirror and I don't recognize myself. My body looks bloated, my joints look swollen and moving around isn't as easy as it used to be. What sucks is, I don't just have my chronic pain to blame. I've lost control of my health — eating too many sweets, exercising only once in a while, giving in to cravings. And sure, my chronic pain holds me back from being active, and my medications make it hard to lose weight, but it also doesn't force me to eat macaroni and cheese instead of apples and kale. It was time to commit to a healthier lifestyle.

Different plans work for different people, especially people with different chronic illnesses. Here's some of what's been working (and not working) for me and what I plan on tying as part of my Spoonie Shape Up Plan.

FOOD SWAP
From the beginning, I knew I wouldn't be able to go cold turkey and only eat healthy foods. I decided to start small and work my way up to big changes. On a recent trip to Texas I was introduced to mangos with fresh squeezed lime and Tajin seasoning, and I've been hooked on this snack since. To my little sister's amusement, and probably nobody else's, I started to post my #dailymango on Insta and Snapchat and it just kind of stuck as part of my daily diet. Mangos are awesome super fruits, packed with antioxidants, they help alkalize the body. They're also the perfect solve for a sweet tooth. Check out a few of my favorite recipes to get my #dailymango:

EXERCISE RIGHT
Oh exercise, the enemy of every spoonie everywhere. Finding the right type and the right amount of exercise for where you're at physically is pretty much a guessing game. I was tired of going to the gym now and then and just trying what everyone else was doing. It wasn't working for me and it definitely wasn't helping my pain. I joined a new gym, one that's closer to home and felt less intimidating. I bought some new comfortable work out clothes. This makes a HUGE difference in your ability to exercise for a longer period of time. Check out Outdoor Voices — a new brand with a wide variety of cuts and fabrics that are gentle on an achey body. I purchased a pair of these amazingly lightweight Flyknit sneakers from Nike, which I do almost everything in. They're worth every dollar. For me, it was learning that getting physical activity doesn't mean going hard at the gym once a week. It's daily choices. Taking the dog for a walk instead of letting her out in the yard, walking to the train instead of getting dropped off, helping my sister practice volleyball in the driveway for 30 minutes. Every bit adds up, and eventually becomes easier to fit into your day.

Physical therapy has become a staple in my week for the past 3 years. During my visits my therapist works with me to complete exercises that help what's bothering me at the time. Here are some Injury Prevention Exercises from Real Simple that I've found helpful when suffering with muscular and joint pain. I especially like the dying bug, since that's usually how I feel.

This is just the beginning of a lifelong commitment to being healthy, but instead of thinking about it as a grueling life sentence, I'm focusing on the daily challenge of getting my spoonie ass into shape. And don't get me wrong, I love my curves, but I know that with a balanced diet and a little less weight to carry around, my conditions just might improve. I'll post more as my plan evolves and let you know how my Spoonie Shape Up is working out.