5 Vegan Game Changing Products

So I know its been a WHILE since I last posted on Artistically Organic. Summer for me tends to be a little crazy. Its when the place we live comes alive with tourists. We have to make the best of this time before it ends and we go back to a ghost town.

I have been experimenting like crazy with recipes and new vegan products that let us kindof be like “everyone else” or as some would say “normal people. For those of you interested the recipe book I am writing “Back to Plants” is still in the works. I plan on having news of an official release very soon. I just wanted to make sure my recipes were polished. I wanted to ensure that they would not only help you stay healthy and fit but be delicious and hard to believe acceptable as healthy choices.

Even being vegan myself I have noticed my own weight fluctuating a little lately. Things feel a little tighter and don’t fit the way they always have. Summer time is where I kind of let loose and eat whatever I feel like, I have strayed away from eating the greens and fruits I should be relying on to keep my body healthy and in check. I know many people who are focused on getting their bodies to a healthy goal weight that they have in mind, or maybe preparing for a wedding, event or something coming up. So I want to stress that these products I am listing here are not something we eat all the time. We mostly rely on plant based meals with little additives. However sometimes you need something you are craving and there are some amazing products you can use to achieve that without meats or dairy products. I am going to list several products that are vegan and what I use them for.

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1.) Daiya Vegan Ranch: So before I was a vegan I LOVED ranch on my pizza, ranch with cucumber slices and ranch on many other things. I readily gave it up when I chose this lifestyle and never thought I would enjoy it again. Well, let me tell you, this stuff is amazing. I dip my cucumbers in a little of this and drizzle a little on my vegan pizza (from whole foods) and it is heaven. This feels like such a spoil to a vegan who has given up hope on enjoying ranch delights. They also have two other dressings, blue cheese and caesar which I have not tried but if you are looking for those options then I would give it a shot!

2.) Veganaise or Vegan Spread: Who doesn’t love a fresh coleslaw or potato salad especially during the summer time. Well when you are vegan its rare you get to enjoy such delights. Vegan mayonnaise has created so many possibilities! Fresh vegan coleslaw, pasta salads, potato salad, add a little nutritional yeast to warm pasta and a vegan mac’n cheese is what you will get! If you are having a get together and want to make one of those awesome salads or just want to enjoy it yourself give these options a try!

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3.) Kite Hill Vegan Yogurt: You could call yogurt a staple for not only breakfast foods but lunches as well. Its a wonderful source of helpful bacteria, its delicious and refreshing, and now vegans can enjoy it too! As a vegan family I get so excited knowing I can serve my son a cup of vegan almond milk yogurt from Kite Hill with blueberries and chia seeds added. If you love yogurt but are dairy free or vegan then definitely give this product a try!

4.) Light Life Veggie Dogs & Light Life Vegan Ground Meat: This company has done it right. Veggie dogs that satisfy that summer hot dog on the grill craving and meatless ground meat substitute that makes killer tacos, chili and burritos. If you have a hankering for something that calls for a ground meat of some kind or a veggie dog that even meat eaters could enjoy, then check out the Light Life section of your grocery store.

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5.) Califa Farms Vegan Cold Brewed & Regular Iced Coffee Selections: Okay lets talk about coffee. Coffee can be complicated when you are non dairy or vegan, finding the right cream replacement, the right combination. Califa Farms has done something incredible. Much like the pre-made starbucks iced coffees you can buy on the go to satisfy that caffeine boost you need, they have made exactly that, with almond milk. These coffee selections are deliciously creamy, exciting, and cruelty free. Furthermore, they have very clear recycling directions on the bottles to encourage less waste than other products. We tried these on a long road trip and I was so excited about them. They even make these iced coffees in large bottles you can keep in your fridge and use through a whole week to grab pre-made coffee on the go quickly. Thank goodness for companies like Califa Farms for making products like this to make life convenient for even us non dairy folk.

So I hope this list is helpful to those of you who are looking for substitutions for certain things in your diet. I work hard to pair these products with a substantial amount of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh salads and plenty of water. These products are not really intended to be eaten alone but to accompany and accent other amazing healthy foods for well rounded meals not very different from those meals you may have enjoyed previous to giving up meats or dairy products. I think these items are a great tool to use when making a slow transition into veganism or just a healthier diet in general. None of us want to deprive ourselves of the foods we love so just finding better options that are just as delicious and maybe a little lighter on our bodies is a great idea. Please let me know what you think about these products and other suggestions you might have! So excited to share more with you all soon!

Why A Meat Lover Went Veggie…

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This post is for the meat eaters, I understand you and I want to make a connection that is not often made with these two sides. I loved meat, all my life, up until I made big changes in my lifestyle. I don’t attempt to force or persuade anyone to change what they are doing, they have to make that choice for themselves. However, I think its worth a discussion. I was that person who made fun of vegans, I proudly stated that the way they lived was unhealthy and un-necessary. I had no information that backed up my view I just said it. I am certain I posted things and said things about vegans that were very hurtful and harsh. I feel badly about that especially since I am now in the position of the people I made fun of. I now know that people who are vegan and vegetarian most of the time are only trying to do the best they can for themselves, their families and their environment.

So why? Why would I change my opinion on something so crucial? What made me think that what I had always been taught and believed to be true was suddenly wrong? The answer to this question is… I was searching myself because of my own motivation and found the true facts. I can tell you even to this day I am as surprised as you are that I am vegan, but I’m never going back.

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So it all started when I was reunited with the love of my life. Things change when you are a couple, you start eating together, merging your lives together and in turn making life decisions together. We had tried going “vegetarian” once before, but we didn’t do it properly and ended up always been tired, exhausted and hungry. We mostly ate what we liked to call “lettuce wraps” which you can imagine were not filled with any sort of nutrients and did not keep our bodies satisfied. We went from a full meat dairy diet to cutting several of those things immediately. Knowing what i know now, our bodies were freaking out. I can see why it didn’t work then. So maybe about two months in, we quit. That little false representation of vegetarian lifestyle convinced us “we just needed meat.” However we did decide that we needed more real fruits & veggies in our diet. So we started just slowly incorporating more plant foods into our meals. I truly believe this was the spark that ignited the transition that took several years to complete, but was the right way to do things.

So after telling our friends and family that we tried being vegetarian but it “simply was not practical” and “did not work for us”, we set back on a more “regular” diet as we knew it. We did eat meat again, but we were more selective. We choose our meat carefully and we paired it with salads and veggie dishes. Slowly but surely we began to really enjoy some of our vegetable sides, we got more creative and better at cooking.

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Little by little we began to learn more about food in general. We learned what health benefits came from which foods, we tried new recipes. We watched documentaries and read books about different effects of certain lifestyles. The more we learned, the more concern we began to have about the way we were eating. This led to realizations that we really needed to change the way we lived more drastically, if we were going to protect our health in the future. Many of our family members were shocked to hear we were considering going vegetarian again because they knew how it did not work for us in the past and they thought this was just another phase we would be in and out of quickly.

A key moment in our lifestyle transition was when a close family member developed cancer and began treatment. Seeing that person go through what they did. Seeing what it did to our entire family, learning what they went through to attempt fighting the disease. Eventually saying goodbye loosing them to the fight. We wanted to know where this disease came from, what fueled it and what seemed to stop it. Many books and studies on experimental treatments with organic and raw vegan diets seemed to suggest that diet could have a strong effect in the growth or deterioration of the cancer cells that can take over your body. This information linked plants to possibly stopping or preventing cancer cell duplication and processed foods, meats and dairy contributing or fueling the disease. More and more we began to dive deep into information and research.

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The trick was, how do you know that something you read or learn is right and what exactly to change? We checked and double checked all the information we could find on healthy living and the relations or links to disease. Of course there were doubts. However, from all the information we went through there did not seem to be any negative effects from incorporating more plants into your diet so we started there. We learned about studies that showed organic food being far less toxic without those pesticides and chemicals all over them. So we started shopping organic, we bought at local farmers markets as much as possible.

It was then that we really discovered the facts about meat and dairy that we had never seen before. We learned that in a Harvard study, cutting out red meats and processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, cold cuts) lowered risk of death by 20%. That was ONLY cutting out red meat. This information floored us and we decided to make some changes. We cut red meat out right away. Little by little we began focusing on plant based meals and avoiding red meat and as much meat products as we could. Then we learned more about dairy, about how the animals are treated with harsh antibiotics and they end up in the milk, how puss and other substances end up in milk and we ingest it. We learned about the biology of our bodies and why many humans have digestive problems as a result of these substances. We were thoroughly disgusted and this was all before the ethical information came to us about the treatment of animals who produce milk. The forced insemination and taking baby cow calves away from their mothers the moment they are born. It was heartbreaking and we could not stomach being part of this industry any more for the sake of our own health, our future family and environment.

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We sought out all of this information ourselves so I know my explanation in this blog post will not change the minds of others who are meat and dairy lovers. It was really hard to learn this was the way things were. It was really hard, at first, to give up things we thought we really liked. However there was light at the end of this transition and I truly believe the reason we completed it and feel so great about it, is because we saw the potential. The true reason for the transformation in our lifestyle was health. If we could lower a risk of death by disease by 20% by just cutting red meat, what else could we do? If the only thing standing in our way was making vegetarian and vegan food replacements as delicious as the meals we had come to love, then that was a challenge we would gladly accept. The more we cut out the questionable things and replaced them with quality healthy produce, the better we felt. The proof was in the results. We scoured the internet for amazing vegan and vegetarian takes on “traditional meals.” Some we liked and others we didn’t, we even made some of our own and they are now staples in our home. We prefer our vegan nachos or tacos recipes to going out any night!

We are not doctors obviously, I am finishing a certification on nutrition and health, but I do not have a masters degree. I only know what I have read and heard and seen, and of course how I now feel having changed my entire lifestyle. What all this information is telling me, is that we are meant to eat plants. The science and the facts show that we need plants for optimal survival. Eating more plants and becoming vegan, I have eradicated any trace of my asthma I suffered from as a child, I can concentrate better, sleep better, have more energy and remember more accurately. We feel amazing and we only started feeling this way when we found the perfect balance and truly started giving our bodies what they needed to thrive.

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It is so easy to look at vegans and vegetarians and poke holes in their lifestyle because many of them truly, are doing it wrong and depriving their bodies of what they need. They are not eating enough, they are still counting calories and depriving themselves of essential nutrients. The facts are clear you do need to eat more when you have this lifestyle, but focusing on the right things. This lifestyle is not taught when you grow up, its not explained and sometimes its unclear how to do it right. We are not “meatless product” vegans, we do not live on processed foods and vegetarian products. A yummy veggie burger is fine once in a while but its real food from the earth, grown on trees, bushes, in the ground, on vines that is going to sustain true health and that is what we live by.

Until we made sure we were eating enough, plenty of fruits and veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, we did not feel the best we could. Getting good sources of proteins, (beans, avocado, tofu & tempeh, nuts) and healthy carbs (rices, grains, oats) and all the nutrients the human body needs (iron, vitamin c, vitamin K, calcium, and more) is essential to satisfying your body. It is totally possible to do this as a vegan, meats and dairy are not essential to health. Those products may even inhibit your body from being as healthy as it can be.

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Again we know we will not change the minds of others, but if you are curious or asking yourself why vegans and vegetarians are always talking about food and it seems like they are always trying to convince you that this is the way to go, its not because they think they are superior, despite what many people say. The reason they want to share so much is because they care about you, your health, and the environment too. It takes dedication to your health, your family’s health, and the environment to make these changes and live this way. We have a great deal of difficulty going out to dinner because everything is covered in dairy or served on meat. Believe me, we wish it was not so hard, but we do it because its the right thing for us. Not everyone is ready, not everyone will be able to do this now, or as soon as we did, it takes time. We only share because we believe with proper information people can make changes for the better. Its true just like Maya Angelou said “I did then what I knew how to do, Now that I know better, I do better.”

The world is slowly waking up to the reality of food, the harsh realities of the meat and dairy industries. People are choosing organic, they are choosing sustainable they are choosing life and color in their food. I encourage you to choose for yourself, to discover and find out what is in the foods you are eating. I know there is a chance I could be wrong about many of the things I believe about food. However, when I think about it, adding more fruits and veggies into peoples meals everywhere really can’t hurt right? So if you don’t want to give up meat, then don’t! If you want to keep your glass of milk then do so! You can still make changes without giving things up day one. Maybe choose some organic milk next time you are at the store, or buy a smaller carton. Maybe be mindful about drinking more water. You could choose more responsibly raised meats, learn about grass fed, cage free, antibiotic and hormone free. Maybe visit your local farm and see what they have to offer? Then you are not giving up something you really like but instead fueling your local economy. Just making these small changes and adding more fresh foods into our diets can make a great deal difference. I hope this article does not offend you but helps you, I hope its relate-able. I truly only wish to give information to those searching for it like I once was and I only wish to help those who want the help I offer.

You’re almost two my love…

You’re almost two my love, so life is exciting. Everything is new, there are so many things to do, to learn and to explore. Whether it’s building, playing, creating or even destroying there is a lesson to be learned.

You’re almost two my love so, you now have strong preferences. The foods you loved yesterday might not be your favorite today. You certainly let us know when you do and do not want something. Some days you want to eat bananas one after another and frankly that’s alright with us, other days bananas are the last thing you will ever eat.

You’re almost two my love so we have to remember that life is still so new, there is so much you don’t know so we need to be patient. When you’re unsure of how to do something, when it’s bed time but you don’t want to be alone, or when you just want someone to cuddle with you. Mommy and daddy like you to try new things and we try new methods to help you grow and learn but sometimes those things take time and so we must wait.

You’re almost two my love, so dumping out every single toy bin on to the floor, is exciting and fun. Even if it’s not exciting for mommy you had a blast and it won’t be the last time you do it. You’re very certain mommy sewing table makes an excellent race track for your cars and that she loves it when you line up all your cars on it as she is trying to work.

You’re almost two my love, so routine can be tough, oh man it’s time to brush teeth already? That makes you want to throw your toys and yourself on the floor in despair. It’s time for bed and no you cannot stick your fingers or your toys in the sewing machine because it’s dangerous, oh the outrage! These things are sometimes hard for you.

You’re almost two my love, you’re asserting your independence. Like tonight you fell asleep at 8:30 on the dot, boy weren’t we proud. However you then awoke at 9 and resisted sleep for two hours while we desperately went through all the usual remedies and tricks trying to figure out why you wouldn’t sleep. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Hot or cold? Wet or stinky? Maybe is your teeth or do you have a fever? When all these things didn’t work for you tonight we couldn’t help being upset, after all this is the only time mommy and daddy get to just be ourselves and relax, when you’re safe and sound asleep in bed.

You’re almost two my love, so I cried tonight wondering if I was doing the right thing when I laid beside you talking to you trying to get you to sleep, and then again when I left the room because maybe you needed to be alone because I was distracting you from falling asleep. Tears ran down my face when I returned to the room, laid down next to you again and you wrapped your little toddler arms around me and said “mama, my mama, my mama.” You opened one little precious eye to glance at me, pulled me close and gave me a cute little baby boy kiss. In that moment I didn’t care how long it took to help you sleep I knew you needed me.

You’re almost two my love, so I thought about that as I hugged you back so tight and thought about someday when you won’t be almost two, you might be almost twelve or almost twenty. More tears streamed down my face thinking of all the days trials triumphs and tribulations. How you had spent most of the day outside on your tricycle and I was certain you would go down so easy for bed because you must be tired. I thought about you on that bike, so proud looking back at me to see if I was watching. Why couldn’t bed time be as easy as riding that tricycle seemed today? The truth is nothing is easy, everything is hard for you, and that’s because you’re almost two…

5 Common Misconceptions About Vegans & Vegetarians

Sometimes, the comments I read, the remarks people make about individuals who choose a more plant based lifestyle just makes me so sad. I have been criticized by strangers I don’t even know, I have lost friends, even some family members who don’t respect our lifestyle have made it clear what they think. To think, all this grief and hurt because we are trying to eat more plants and be as healthy as possible.

I remember how I was raised, eating rare steaks for dinner, large quantities of chicken, pork, and fish regularly. In moderation of course we still ate veggies, salads, grains and starch sides. That is completely different than how we eat now. If someone had asked me 6-8 years ago if I would ever consider being a vegan I would have laughed in their face. That is perhaps the reason why this bullying hurts the most, because I know I was one of those people. I was not bold and open about it but privately and to my close friends and family I would occasionally remark on how I thought vegans were a little bit extreme and how that couldn’t possibly be healthy.

That is how I was raised, your family doesn’t eat meat? Don’t consume dairy? That is “weird”, its “un-natural”, its even “un-healthy” These are the types of things I was taught to believe about people who chose to live a more humane and plant based lifestyle. Its ironic actually because my family was very politically liberal so racism and sexism were terrible, not okay, not acceptable in any way. However this idea about a specific group of people seems similar to discriminating against someone because of any other difference.

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As I became an adult and entered into those years where you really begin to understand the world, what being an adult is truly like and who you are as a person in this life, I changed many of my opinions. I was so shocked to learn the truths of the food we eat every day thinking its healthy being told its “balanced” discovering that isn’t exactly the full story. I began to feel very concerned about what I was eating and all the disease and sickness I saw around me. I began to educate myself. I read articles, lots of articles, read books, speak to my own doctor, a nutritionist, and people in my life who I once had thought were weird for the way they lived that I was now going to for information and advice.

Once I discovered I was going to have my first child I got even more into my research. My own parents made comments that I was “going overboard” and that It was “unhealthy” to be this concerned for what I ate and consumed. The more I learned, the more I realized that what was best for me was completely the opposite of what I learned growing up about health. The more I discovered about the meat industry, the dairy industry and what was done to innocent animals with no rights or choice, I was sickened. I was astonished that most people are not aware or concerned about these incidences. I was desperate to talk to people about what I had learned and so because of my passion I was most often bullied and told to stop talking about it.

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I lost friends because of my beliefs. I lost people in my life and I was made to seem like a lunatic because my fiance and I had agreed to give up meat and dairy and try our best to focus our diet on raw fruits and veggies. This was so saddening to me, I felt like I was loosing people because I wanted to be healthy, I thought for sure once they learned what I learned that they too would be on board or at least understand why we were doing all this. Sadly, it was not the case, in fact I think it only made them more steadfast in their choices to continue their lifestyle. People would flood my inbox with articles on how organic vegetables actually hold more carcinogens than “regular vegetables”, articles on how vegans are slowly starving themselves, articles on how raising a child vegetarian or vegan is basically child neglect. I was so upset, sad and scared.

I felt like not only was I trying to make a huge shift in my life as far as what I ate and what I consumed, but I was getting so much push back was it even worth it? The answer was, yes, it was. Even though it was hard, even though people didn’t like it, it was the best thing I have ever done, maybe aside from having our son. Immediately I felt the benefits of eating healthier, I will never go back. I should say we will never go back, because my fiance and I are both in agreement that this is truly the best way to live, for us anyways.

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I want to share a few myths about how we live because I know this lifestyle is not for everyone and I would never ever push it on anyone else if it was not what they wanted. Because I am so sick of being made to look like a bad mother, a crazy person, an extremist in the nutrition department and many other things I thought maybe this list would shed some light on the subject. For those of you who are vegans, vegetarians you will totally agree with these and hopefully be happy that someone said it!! Haha!

1.) Vegans & Vegetarians only eat lettuce:

I have heard this one MANY MANY times… “So what do you even eat….. like lettuce?” I seriously just laugh now when people say this because, not to toot my own horn but I FEAST as a vegan… I think the only explanation needed for this one is a few images of some of our REGULAR meals that are incredibly easy and delicious. These meals could even make a meat eater’s mouth water!!

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2.) Vegans & Vegetarians are always tired and starving.

Again, I would like to refer you to the photos above. After one or sometimes two portions of any of those meals i think we can all agree that hunger isn’t possible at that point. Our meals are focused on plant based protein, vitamins and minerals. We eat a ton of beans, avocados, tofu, tempeh, grains, nuts and of course fruits and veggies. Below is an image of a basic shop for us. With all this food eating ENOUGH is essential to being vegetarian or vegan, but once you have had enough you feel incredibly satisfied without the heavy uncomfortable weighed down feeling that meats and dairy can cause. I can officially say I am not starving, hungry, exhausted, or lacking in any way. Taking one look at my fiance and our son you would understand, my son has boundless energy we cant contain and my fiance is a very healthy over 6ft. man who doesn’t look like he is lacking at all!! Trust me when I say none of us are!

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Take a look at those boys! Healthy as can be and enjoying some apples while apple picking this fall!

3.) You are only vegan/vegetarian to be better than everyone else, that’s self righteous and pretentious.

This is a tough one to hear. When someone completely calls out your life and explains that you are only making this big life decision because somehow it makes you “better” or above others in some way. Aside from the fact that if someone is choosing to be a vegan for the right reasons which most of us are, this is completely not true. I have heard this one on several occasions. Members of our own family have accused us of this and said that there is no need for us to take these actions regarding our diet and that we only do this to seem above them. This is incredibly hurtful to say to someone especially when they are only trying to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. I have had lots of time to think about an appropriate response to this accusation and my best success has come from a very direct and matter of fact calm response. Something like this is usually what i go with…

“I am really sorry to hear that, Its upsetting to me to hear that you think I would make decisions in my life just to be “better” than someone else. I assure you my decisions are not for that reason or any reason like it. I do feel terrible about animals raised suffering only so humans can eat their meat, and I do personally feel wrong about eating meat, that is my decision. I personally believe dairy from mammals is for their offspring only, I don’t feel I have the right to separate baby calves from their mommies, and see animals tortured and harmed so I can have eggs and milk when there are so many healthy alternatives. These are my feelings but I would never force them on you, this lifestyle is not for everyone. I do however, expect that you respect my decision and stop remarking on how wrong you think I am if we are going to stay in each others lives.”

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I really think this needs to stop going around. Being a vegetarian or vegan is hard work. Society today is made of quick easy places to eat meat and dairy products and hardly any places where veganism and vegetarianism is accepted and honored. Its hard to even go out to dinner to celebrate an occasion. We often find menu options for us to be minimal, everything is covered in meat and cheese. I can confirm no one would ever choose to do this just to be cooler, or better, because that is quite a sacrifice.

4.) Its impossibly expensive and costly to be vegan/vegetarian

Yet another thought among many people who have not tried this lifestyle. Its widely thought that its unrealistically expensive to eat vegan/vegetarian diet. I have found the exact opposite! Once we did a grocery shop for the first time without meats, dairy, cheese, eggs, and minimal packaged, processed products we found we were saving money!! Once we were regularly shopping this way we would put this extra savings to more fruits and veggies we liked, buying a bag of oranges to juice and a watermelon for dessert! As long as you are good at budgeting you can make this lifestyle work for you! I have a post on this blog about budgeting a shop and what we spend on average every week and how to keep costs down! Read about that here!!

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5.) You cannot be athletic, build muscle, and get enough protein while on a vegan/vegetarian diet

This is another common one. Honestly if someone asks me if I get enough or how I get protein one more time, my goodness! I am actually fine answering questions as long as someone is being respectful about what I am all about! SOO PROTEIN!

There are so so many plant based protein sources that you can learn to love as a vegan/vegetarian. Here is a list of the protein sources we use and eat in quantity and regularly!!

~Beans (Black, Pinto, Kidney)

~Nuts, Nut milk & nut butters (Peanut, Almond etc…)

~Tofu & Tempeh (great meat substitutes, eaten organic and in moderation are so great for protein and nutrients!)

~Dark Leafy Greens (YES! They contain protein! We eat LOTS OF GREENS)

~Quinoa & Other Grains

These are only some of the excellent sources of protein we use in every one of our meals!! Many athletes, body builders, trainers go by a more plant based diet.

So I am hoping these small tidbits of info, these common misconceptions corrected help those who are not versed in the facts of plant based diets to understand. I hope that those of you who are already onto this amazing healthy natural lifestyle are happy to read this and hopefully agree. I think in this society whatever is different is always going to be strange and not understood. I think people are always going to fear something they dont do themselves, questioning your own lifestyle is not easy, but making small changes is! I would say for anyone who is looking into this lifestyle and is confused, doesn’t know where to start, there are easy ways to begin and see if this is for you! I have a post about starting to get into a more plant based lifestyle if you want to read about it HERE. Thank you all for reading, thank you for giving my words a voice. It feels so good to come to this platform and express my feelings about these issues some of us face and be met with understanding. I know and understand not everyone agrees with me but I know some of you are looking for this information and I hope to provide that.

Thank you! -Alexa-

Making Changes | Why It Is Important

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Wow, its been nearly two weeks since I have posted. SO sorry about that! See, lots of things have been happening! Things that are very relevant to a topic I have really been dying to write a post about. Another aspect of health that I think is sometimes neglected, is mental & emotional health. I don’t know about you, but for me, my mental and emotional state plays a pivotal role in my ability to be healthy on the rest of the spectrum. If I am feeling stressed, depressed, angry or emotional it can really impact my healthy eating and my healthy mindset.

Something I want to share which has just developed recently is a big change we have made. A change that really effected how we live. Well many changes have naturally occurred since the birth of our son, but we have made certain adjustments as well. Since Augustus was born, we have fallen into this kind of routine, Daddy works all day every day, we miss him, mommy works from home and when daddy gets home she runs out and takes photos and comes home and continues to work. This looked promising in the beginning. Daddy was making good money at his job, although it was not the work he saw himself doing for a lifetime it was a good temporary income source. Mommy has her photography business which she has been working on growing and cultivating for years and is finally starting to gain some recognition. This was our life, our dynamic.

However, there was more than met the eye with this scenario. Mommy was up all night with baby by herself because daddy had to do lots of physical labor at work and needed his sleep. Then she still had lots of editing and computer work to do during the day while juggling baby. When daddy returned home in the evening he was exhausted and was not in the mood to go out or do any activities, work was draining him. Mommy craved a few moments of personal time but felt bad because many days were very difficult for daddy. It was really hard. The last thing mommy wanted was to stay in the house all evening when she had already been there all day and the last thing daddy wanted to do was go out when he had a hard day at work in the elements. Clearly we noticed before long that this was not working.

We would sit together in the evening after dinner, while settling the baby down to sleep and discuss why this was so difficult. We wanted to bask in the joy of our new family, our son, we wanted to be happy. We felt so lucky in so many ways but we also felt like all happiness and joy was missing from our lives many times. We had this beautiful new baby boy and instead of enjoying him we were stressed and arguing because we just missed each other and felt like we didn’t recognize ourselves anymore. So it wasn’t long before we were searching for a change. The first change we made, lowered our expenses and moved, this was in preparation to shop for our first home. We decided if we were going to bust our butts paying for a home it might as well be our own. That helped. Then after an arduous and stressful move we decided to search out other changes. Daddy made a job change that provided him more income, this seemed great at first but the job was miserable and he didn’t find he was surrounded with anyone like minded during his work day and that really brought him down.

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We struggled with surrounding ourselves with positive encouraging people that would help propel us forward so that we could in turn do the same for them. All that we heard were comments like “get used to it” or “this is life” we could not imagine this was all our life would be for the years to come. We watched documentaries about successful people and listened to podcasts about bettering ourselves and doing what we love. We knew there was a way we just needed a better system.

So we ended up deciding, in one of our many discussions about our future, that my photography skills had to be worth more than I was getting from them presently. I had studied for years with Photoshop and mentored with other photographers, updating my equipment and learning more and more each year. We thought, there must be a way for me to make more money and not be chained to my desk all day and night. So I began searching online. Scrolling through freelance photography opportunities and graphic design job listings.

Finally I came upon a job listing for a real estate photographer looking to have more full time work in the field. That was a field that I had experience in, and found relatively simple and enjoyable. So I applied. I called them every day, I learned as much as I could about the company and realized very quickly this was my dream job. I would imagine some must have thought me insane for a few reasons. One, I have always been an advocate for my own business and why I would never accept just a “job” and two because I was applying for a job in the middle of a bustling end to summer and a hectic start to fall. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but I was excited. So after phone interview and a grueling photo test that made me question everything I knew about photography, I got the job. I was offered a position as an official professional real estate photographer for VHT Studios.

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Many of you might be asking things like… “after running your own business why on earth would you want a job?” or “I can imagine you get paid way less per job than if you were independent, why would you want that.” Well if you wondered those things, you are not wrong. However to me, not having to search for work, not having to scavenge for my jobs was attractive and more consistent work was great too! Also I would not be required to do any editing, which was a huge plus, that meant more time with my family rather than on my computer. This was something totally unexpected that if I was approached with two years ago I would have turned down instantly. However, I have learned life is full of surprises and you have to take things one step at a time, right now it could not be more perfect for me, for our family.

So we started discussing how this was going to work, how could I take on this job. I won’t go into the boring details of how and what we discussed but in the end we decided Augustus was NOT going to daycare. That was something we both agreed we were NOT comfortable with. So we figured out how we both could make it work. Its a risk we are taking, me starting a position like this one. It is a large change in our usual routine. However from our extensive search for keys to success and happiness, it seems to me that no one who got where they wanted to go, ever did so without taking some risks. This feels so right, we feel like we are on the verge of some great new things. We see light at the end and we breathe air with new possibility.

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For the first time in so long, I don’t spend most of my time in my lounge clothes juggling a baby and my work. I get to dress up more often in the nice clothes I used to wear before I was a mommy, and I get to chat with clients, go on lunch meetings, enjoy being a working woman. I get to see GORGEOUS homes with impeccable decor and style!! I get to see amazing design inspiration and talk to amazing people. However I get to do this knowing my baby is safe, with his daddy, happy. Not to mention his daddy is happy to be with him getting to spend more time with him, not killing himself every day working a job he dislikes. On the days where I am at home with my boy and daddy is working I enjoy it, I love being in my yoga pants and playing blocks with my baby.

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However the best part of all this change, is some days, we are all together. We have breakfast together, we stay in our jammies and watch a Disney movie together. We finally have some balance and believe me we are looking forward to more of it. It is amazing when you actively search for how you WANT to live and make the necessary changes to get there. We almost though it was impossible to do this being new parents with a small baby, we were having so much difficulty taking any risk because of fear that we wouldn’t be able to provide for our son. Little did we know that we would be able to not only provide for him but enjoy him and be present if we just tweaked our life a little bit.We are discovering that we do not have to accept what is handed to us all the time. We do not have to work jobs that we hate because we are afraid, we do not have to stay stagnant because we fear risk. We can create our own destiny and our own lifestyle and love it. We want to set a healthy example for our son in all aspects of health, including how we life our life. We want to show him that he can do whatever he wants and he can also have goals that are attainable.

We recently celebrated our son’s baptism, it was a beautiful occasion. We both got to be a part of the planning and we both, along with friends and family, were able to make it a joyous day. It felt like we were being blessed in so many ways, more than just our son’s beginning to his own spiritual journey. We are looking forward to more joyous occasions and celebrating as we end our 2016 year and begin 2017. We are looking forward to celebrating our son’s first birthday, a beautiful holiday season, shopping for and purchasing our first family home, and much more.

Oh… and to anyone concerned about the future of Alexa Johnson Photography, and Artistically Organic, do not worry. I am still going to be doing portraits and weddings in my time aside from my new job and I will be sharing my healthy living ideas and thoughts here regularly. Thank you for following and being a part of this amazing life.

How do you make changes in your life to live the way you want? Are there some changes that you have considered making but are afraid to? How do you make sure you are staying in a healthy emotional and mental state? I would love to know what your story is! Message me directly or comment below!

 

 

Avocado, Spinach, Tomato, Pita Wrap!

This wrap was delicious and easy!!

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First I started with pita bread, I sliced avocados and put them in the pita pockets. I spread some hummus on the inside of the pita bread also. Once I filled it with avocados, spinach and tomatoes I also added some peach salsa. It was so delicious!!

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You can customize this recipe with other things you like. You can use different veggies or hummus. Or even substitute the salsa for hot sauce or something else you like. I hope you like this quick recipe!

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Healthy snack tips when cravings hit!!

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It happens to all of us right? After lunch, late at night, it can happen often! We get a craving for a snack.  If we are out and about it’s easy to grab something quick but not always a healthy choice.  I’m going to go over some tips to avoid grabbing those not so healthy craving snacks and to keep you on a healthy track!

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1.)   Don’t buy it: DO NOT BUY JUNK!! This is the number one way to avoid eating junk foods and sugary snacks that have us craving more. Instead buy a bag of apples, oranges, a bunch of bananas. Reach for those things when you are hungry.

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2.) Don’t limit yourself:  If your hungry and you would really like some bananas don’t trick yourself into thinking that you can only have one banana a day, have a few, slice them up and put them in a bowl with some  almond butter or peanut butter.  When I say don’t limit I mean produce, I don’t mean processed foods. Bananas are one of those fruits that are very inexpensive and great for your body so if that’s going to fill your craving then have as much as you need! If you want to  eat an entire carton of raspberries then do that! Many people would say “that’s way too expensive you shouldn’t do that” but if we think about it a coffee and a pastry can run more than $5 at some places where as a carton of berries can be anywhere from $3-$5.  The cost is relatively the same but the benefits are incomparable.

3.) Have healthy snacks on hand: Maybe my pregnancy taught this but I’ve learned that it’s much easier to stay healthy when you have snacks on hand all the time.  I like to have a lunchbox with me in my car full of bananas apples oranges figs and even trail mix.  This way if your hungry it’s easier to grab some healthy snacks from your car or lunch box then run through that drive-through and get that coffee and donut.

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4.) Be creative, try something new: Try a smoothie, there are SO MANY recipes and healthy snack ideas!! Create your own snack using healthy ingredients you love! I love to experiment with different snack ideas and find something I love!!

5.) Don’t be fooled: Many companies make processed foods claiming to be “healthy” and “natural.” Don’t fall for this nonsense. Many dieting companies make snack bars claiming to be under a certain amount of calories, but they are filled with preservatives and chemicals. Even if these snacks are lower in calories than produce that you love, it’s still not healthier. You are much better off snacking on a piece of fruit. These fake “healthy alternatives” actually make you crave sugary processed foods more, so they are the opposite of what you want.

6.) Prepare Food Ahead of Time: Take a little time in the kitchen maybe when youre making another meal and prepare some snacks for another time. Slice some fruit for layer, maybe a pineapple, watermelon. Cut up some vegetables to eat with some hummus. The more preparation you do, the more likely you are to make good choices.

I hope these tips help! Below are some of my favorite snack ideas!!

Assorted fruits and veggies

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Multi grain toast with almond butter and a side of fruit

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Avocado slices with red pepper hummus

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Fruit

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Sliced bananas with raspberries and dates

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Banans almond butter and dates

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Fresh fruit and veggie juice

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fresh homemade avocado tomato salsa

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What kind of healthy snacks do you like? Share your ideas I would love to hear them!!

 

Health & Beauty | How they go hand in hand

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Beauty. For many of us it requires lots of work and sometimes time we don’t have. I know so many women who wish their hair was healthier, thicker,longer, and wish for a clear complexion. This post does not exclude men either, I know many men who wish for thicker hair, clearer skin etc…

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My appearance is something I have struggled with since I was young. Looking back now it’s so sad how young girls have a negative image of themselves. I hated my long curly hair so much as a young girl, I couldn’t tame it, I just wanted it to be straight and style it like all the other girls. I was always trying to change my hair. What I never realized is that in order to be my most beautiful self I had to accept and honor my hair the way it was.

I don’t think I learned to love my hair and my self until just recently in the last few years actually. I’m sure we all know the feeling, searching for anything to make our beauty routines easier. What I never would have guessed is that healthy eating and healthy lifestyle was the most important step I needed to take for myself and my body.

When I was a teen, I used to straighten my hair as much as I could. I would spend hours on end taming my long locks to look like the other girls at school. This was really damaging to my hair but luckily then I didn’t have as much time to do it constantly. Once I became about 18-20 I experimented with my hair and my looks a lot more. I dyed my hair, straightened, curled, and much more. This is when my hair really started to suffer.

From all the chemicals, hot tools and abuse my hair started to break. To make things worse I wasn’t even sleeping properly or eating right. I was always breaking out with blemishes and trying to cover those with more makeup. I had no clue how to make this situation better, I was so embarrassed of my skin and my hair. Never had I ever had such a problem with my skin and hair. I struggled to hide my flaws and keep up my makeup and hair routine.

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It wasn’t till my hair was literally breaking off in chunks I decided to do something different. My mother in law gave me some advice, to use a more natural olive oil curl treatment. It never occurred to me to use something more natural in my hair. But it wasn’t really until I started eating right, sleeping, and taking flax seed oil that I really noticed an improvement in my hair and skin.

My curls came back and they were healthier than ever. From then on I vowed to use only natural products on my hair and take better care of myself. I learned a valuable lesson about my beauty routines. I needed to give my hair and skin respect. I couldn’t pile on makeup every day it wasn’t great for my complexion. I learned to not wear makeup as much and in turn my skin got so much healthier. Now I rarely get a breakout and when I do it can be easily remedied. I make sure to keep hydrated, that helps with my skin and hair, I eat lots of healthy foods that help also.

Of course during my pregnancy my hair and nails were especially beautiful. I was eating very healthy, sleeping and taking prenatal vitamins. Now I still take meticulous care of my skin, hair nails and just myself in general. Here are some tips if you are struggling with keeping clear skin or want healthier hair.

1.) Keep Hydrated: Drinking enough water is so important to keep your skil lively and healthy. Make sure you are drinking a few glasses a day, carry a water bottle with you to encourage hydration.

2.) Limit Hot Tools: Accept your hair for what it is! Give it a break and try styling it in non envasive ways without heat. Try some braids if you have unruly hair try some natural leave in conditioner or gels.

3.) Eat Healthy: Eating the proper fruits and vegetables can seriously aid in helping your beauty routine. Many foods are proven to clear skin and give hair beautiful shine. How much easier will it be to not have to cover those blemishes with concealer or try to get shine back with hair products.

4.) Respect Your Skin: Give your skin a break as much as you can, I know many of us can’t go without makeup for our professional jobs, but take it off when you get home. Try going without concealer or makeup when outdoors, expose your skin to sun, it’s good for it.

5.) Use Healthy Products: It’s best to read everything you use on your body. I always make sure I am making my best effort to only use natural safe products in my hair and skin. There are so many products out there that can do harm to your body. When you’re using natural products you will find clear skin and healthy hair are a lot easier to obtain.

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I hope these tips help you. I hope you can make your own connection with healthy lifestyle and beauty. Let’s face it, we all would love to have a shorter beauty routine, so if being healthier can help why not right? Just another excuse to make some better healthy living habits. What do you do to stay healthy and beautiful? I would love to know!

Six Healthy Lunch Ideas

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Sometimes in the middle of a busy day getting a good lunch together can be a challenge. Since becoming a mother I have learned the especially challenging task of juggling a baby and taking care of myself. Some days I struggle to make a simple healthy meal, instead reaching for easy snacks sometimes not always healthy. I have noticed that if I create healthy meals that I crave, then I am much more likely to make time to make those meals then grab quick snacks.

1.) spiralized zucchini and tomato sauce with vegetables

This meal is so simple! I have an amazing spiralizer which takes only a moment to turn a zucchini into a delicious bowl of noodles! I often top it with some delicious tomato sauce and some of my favorite raw veggies. I usually leave the zucchini noodles raw and warm the sauce then the temperature is perfect to eat! This takes no time at all for a delicious healthy lunch!

2.) spiralized summer squash and pesto or tomato sauce 

Just like I said above this easy spiralized meal is so delicious! The spiralized can be used with many vegetable, my favorites are definitely zucchini and summer squash. I often pair this with a dish of fruits and vegetables and it makes a delicious and healthy meal.

3.) fresh raw salad 

Another delicious and quick lunch is a fresh raw salad! I love to mix it up with different greens, arugula, spinach, then adding my favorite toppings, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, almonds, sunflower seeds etc… This is a refreshing and delicious meal that makes me feel like I am staying true to the healthy lifestyle I live to lead.

4.) sautéed veggies and tofu on a bed of greens

Sometimes I need a little something more filling when I know I will be tackling a long day. I love to sautéed some veggies with some tofu and put that atop a bed of my favorite greens. This satisfies my savory taste craving and is healthy and delicious.

5.) fresh veggie salsa with chips or pita bread

Is there anything better than fresh salsa? I love to chop tomatoes, onion, peppers and sometimes add cilantro or beans to a delicious home made salsa. I also add some sriracha sauce to this amazing meal. I often use some organic quinoa or flax seed chips to enjoy this delicious lunch!

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6.) sautéed veggies and sweet potatoes

Sometimes if I have a little more time on my hands then I enjoy some sweet potatoes. I chop them very small so they will cook quicker. I slice beets and sautéed them as well. This makes a delicious mid day meal. I often pair this with some raw veggies on the side and on a bed of greens. This is a fantastic healthy choice!

I hope some of these meal ideas will work for you too! I will write another article on tips to staying healthy for busy mommies. What are some easy healthy meals that you make for a mid day lunch? I would love to know!!

Tofu, Mango, Spinach Salad

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Sometimes it’s hard to make just the right salad. Sometimes salads get boring. My goal is to inspire people to love their greens, love their salads. My photos aren’t the best this evening, I’m dealing with a teething baby, but I plan to take better quality images later on. I wanted to share this amazing salad that I threw together in less than ten minutes.

We were hungry this evening dinner time was here but we had a long day and didn’t feel like making a huge mess in the kitchen. I knew we needed something healthy, something delicious, something easy.

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I decided to make a healthy delicious, filling, fun salad. I started with a few different types of greens. Baby kale, romaine, spinach and arugula, I find mixing different greens makes it more interesting. After arranging my bed of greens, I chopped some veggies for my salad. I also decided that I wanted a sweet taste in my salad too. I chopped some mango, red pepper, onion, radish, and tomato. After arranging the veggies on my salad I chopped some firm organic tofu and lightly cooked it in some olive oil on an iron skillet. I seasoned my tofu with cayenne pepper, paprika, and black pepper. I cooked the tofu lightly and then tossed it on top of the salad. Lastly I added some avocado halves and walnut pieces to my salad.

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Most dressings are filled with sugar and additives so I’m always careful which dressings I use on my healthy salads. I used an organic, sesame ginger dressing on my salad. I only drizzled a small amount on top of it.

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This bright salad was fresh, delicious, filling and healthy. The flavors of the sweet mango, the avocado and the spice on the cooked tofu went perfectly together. We devoured these salads, big smiles on our faces. The best part was it was easy quick and didn’t dirty too many dishes! We were even able to share our salads with our little guy, he enjoys crawling around from one of us to the other begging for another slice of mango or avocado hehe! There are so many ways we can make eating our greens and veggies more interesting and fun! Hope you enjoyed this recipe more to come soon!

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