Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vegan Food Pyramid

This is the food pyramid I'm trying to follow.  I'm still working on substitutions and making sure to balance my nutrition.  Following this will help.

"Keep Moving Forward"

Pinterest Accomplishments

Anyone who has a Pinterest account also has thousands of pins.  Most of those pins are things you want to do: an activity, a workout, a project, different ways to organize, etc.  However, that's what most of those pins do...just sit there. 

I'm challenging myself to accomplish some pins.  I already did some!

Make a habit in 21 days.  Put up 21 post-its with the numbers 1-21 written on them.  Pick something you'd like to make a habit, like working out or drinking more water.  Then do it for 21 days.  Each day you accomplish your plan for the day, remove a post-it.
I have done this with post-its.  However, I am doing it slightly different right now.  I took a piece of paper and wrote down my Going Vegan Checklist with the numbers 1 through 21 written underneath each.  That way I'm making my checklist a habit one step at a time.

I loved this visual countdown to your goal weight with goals and rewards on the side.  I did mine on a piece of notebook paper and posted it on my fridge. 

I'm a visual person.  I love seeing my accomplishments.  So I also set up this project.  In one jar you have beads representing pounds lost and in the other how many pounds to go. 
I love this.  Find your weight, or a weight that's nearest to yours, and drink that amount of water daily.  Many people do not drink enough water.  It is challenging to drink all the water at first.  Maybe tie this in with the 21 day habit project.  After a while it does get easier.  I do find this challenging when I'm busy at work and I'm not paying attention.  I'm working on paying more attention so I take care of myself.  You can't help anyone else until you help yourself.  Staying hydrated helps keep you going.  It's amazing what it does to your energy!
All of the above did not cost me a penny.  I had all the supplies I needed.  You don't need anything fancy.  Work with what you have!
These are the projects I'm planning to do next.
Packing healthy lunches.

Prepping food once so you eat healthy all week.

Prepping food for every part of the day so I don't have to think about it.  I'm so busy now that I need to plan ahead so I don't have to think too much about food except for planning once a month.

Which ties into a month of meal planning.  I'm going to start with one week at a time until I make it a habit and then eventually transfer to once a month.

I need to work on sleeping better.  I don't always have a regular sleep schedule so if I make these a habit, I might go to sleep faster.
Do you have any Pinterest projects that you've been meaning to start?  Why not decide on one to do today?!  I challenge you!
"Keep Moving Forward"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


In the post "shout out to my dad," I talked about Kind bars.  I found out that not all Kind bars are vegan.  The Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew ones are not vegan because they have milk in them.  Read the ingredients on products, especially when you are choosing to eat a certain way (even if it's not vegan, but eliminating dairy or gluten). 

Cheap Workouts

There are millions of different activities one can do for a workout.  The most popular people think of is the gym.  Gym memberships can be expensive!  So what do you do?

I personally dislike the gym.  I might use one if I'm staying at a hotel while on vacation or if I choose to use the guest pass on my mom's gym membership.  I still would rather not go.  I like working out at home or outside.  I also like to take classes. 

How do I work out on the cheap?

I take advantage of the bike paths along the lake to walk (and eventually run)
I've accumulated a collection of workout DVDs.  Some I bought, but most I got as gifts or from my mom's coworker who no longer wanted them. Ask family and friends if they have any DVDs they might not use or like and ask if you can try it.  Maybe set up a workout DVD swap.  It would be like a book exchange.  Let a friend borrow a DVD of yours that they'd like to try and you borrow one of theirs at the same time.  After a specific period of time, swap back.
Pinterest!   If you have a Pinterest account, I'm sure you've started a board that holds all the workouts you dream of doing.  I say dream because when you pin it, you have a plan of actually doing it, but never get around to it.  I know because I've been there.  It's a great way to get free workout ideas and plans.  You can even find ones that use your body weight so there's no reason to spend money on weights.  If you have some exercise equipment at home, look up workouts for that equipment.  Utilize what you have.
4.  When new gyms open, a lot of times they have deals that they send out in the mail.  I just got one for a new gym.  It would be $12 a month.  I don't know for how long, but it's an option if you prefer to workout in a gym. 
5.  Look to see if there's any free classes or workouts in your area.  Many dance studios will have a free class or a free week for new students.  If you decide you cannot afford the classes, don't register.  There's a dance studio I'd love to attend.  However, I cannot afford to go.  I plan to apply for their work study program.  I'd have to work eight hours a week in their office, but in exchange I'd get unlimited classes. 
I live in Chicago.  They hold free workouts in the park and a dancing in the park festival during the summer.  It's a free workout and you can have some fun.  Check out some clubs, like a salsa club.  Some have dance studios come in to teach you moves.  If you get on the email list for that studio, they'll send you promotion texts/emails for specific days at the clubs they'll be teaching at, which  can get you in for $5 if you show the text/email by a certain time. 
6.  Find a friend to work out with.  Even if it's virtually.  Check in with that friend when you're frustrated, need motivation, when you completed your workout and when you accomplished a new feat.  It helps keep you on track. 
7.  Cleaning.  Yes, cleaning!  Every time you clean something - vacuum, wash dishes - it burns calories.  This is in no way a substitute for a workout.  However, it adds extra calorie burn to your day.  It is also how I make sure to keep my apartment clean on days when all I want to do is sit and watch a movie.
There is my list of how I keep my workouts free or cheap.  Instead of spending money on a gym membership, I would personally save it to take a dance class and for the new clothes I'll need when I lose weight.  I am determined to get in the best shape of my life.  By the time I do, it'll be a habit and I'll be able to live my life to the fullest without thinking too much about diet and exercise.
"Keep Moving Forward"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Motivating Thought

My biggest excuse last winter was that it was too cold to go running.  I would do fitness DVDs and other exercises at home.  However, my biggest motivation is going outside to walk or run.  It acts as a meditation for me.  I find it relaxing.  It's also motivating to see experienced runners or parents running with strollers.  I have a life goal to be able to run so when I have kids in the future I can become one of the running parents.  It's empowering.

My excuse was the cold.  This year I'm going to make sure to buy thermal workout pants.  I'm always warm everywhere except my legs.  If I have the right pants, I have no excuse. 

It's summer!  Why am I talking about winter?  Because I still haven't officially started running.  I started about two years ago and was able to jog for half a mile.  Then I used the cold as an excuse and stopped. 

I've been walking and picking up speed in order to build up to running.  I'm at the point where I need to switch.  So why haven't I started?

I'm scared!

That's right.  I'm scared to run.  I want to more than anything.  It's time to drop excuses and face my fears.  Friday morning when I head out for my walk on the bike path, I will run instead.  It won't even have to be long.  As long as I can, walk, and then try again.  Eventually I will be able to run without stopping.

I even joined a running group.  They have various meetings practically everyday hosted by different members.  I need a push in the right direction.  I'd like to meet other runners who will motivate me to keep going when I feel like I cannot go another step.  Conquering this fear will help me conquer others.

Pick a fear and conquer it!  Big or small, go after it with everything you have!  Be brave!

"Keep Moving Forward"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Going Vegan Checklist

I am slowly going vegan.  I don't want to rush it.  I want to make sure I do it right and don't feel like I'm on a diet.  It's a lifestyle change.  I'm changing habits.  A habit can be made in 21 days.  I need to make sure that I get all the nutrients I need in my diet, either with food (natural ingredients and supplemented food) or with supplements.  I try to get the majority of nutrients needed from food.  Ingesting a million pills every morning is exhausting.  Try to figure out how to lessen the amount with food.

How am I going vegan?  Well, here's my checklist!

1.  Eliminate soda

     - I gave up soda about three to four months ago.  That wasn't too difficult to give up.  Except for ginger ale, soda has always made me feel sick after drinking it.

2.  Eliminate meat

     - This was more difficult.  I grew up eating meat.  I loved chicken, turkey, name it (except hot dogs, gross!).  Chicken was the last meat I had difficulty giving up.  I'd go a couple weeks without eating it and then I'd crave it.  I think I need to make sure I'm getting enough protein, vitamin B12, iron, and other nutrients I could be lacking. 

3.  Eliminate artificial sweeteners and reduce sugar intake

     - Right now I'm focusing on eliminating corn syrup (if you're wondering why, check out my previous post called Corn Syrup: Friend or Foe).  I will focus on other artificial sweeteners afterward.  After I eliminate all artificial sweeteners, my sugar intake will dramatically be reduced.

4.  Eliminate eggs, including in baked goods

     - I added "including baked goods" because that's the only egg I need to focus on eliminating.  I stopped eating eggs when I gave up soda.

5.  Eliminate dairy products

     - I have never been a fan of milk.  So switching to soy/almond/dairy-free milk was not a problem for me.  It's more making sure it's not in something I'm eating.  I discovered Earth Balance vegan butter during college.  I've been a fan for years.  That was another easy switch.  My problem is giving up ice cream/frozen yogurt and cheese.  However, now that I've tried vegan ice cream, I don't want to go back to dairy ice cream.  I am currently working at a frozen yogurt store, so I need to figure out how to do my job without eating the product.  I've been working there for nearly a year.  It's getting easier to say no since I've already tasted majority of the flavors.  I still need to look into Daiya cheese products.

6.  Eliminate processed foods

     - I put this last because it would be a clean up.  Double checking products and eliminating any last odds and ends.  There are some vegan processed foods that I like to eat when I'm in a pinch.  Otherwise, I'd recommend eating fresh, unprocessed plant-based food.

There's my checklist.  This is how I'm doing it.  As you can see, I'm not there yet.  I'm focusing on little things at a time.  I predict that I will be 100% vegan by my 25 birthday on Halloween.

Do one thing at a time.  Even if you don't want to go full vegan but want to choose a healthier lifestyle, choose one thing to eliminate or change.  It will make a huge difference.

"Keep Moving Forward"

Monday, August 19, 2013


It's no secret that our country is in debt.  Illinois is one of the top states in debt.  Even though we are in debt, I'm always shocked at how much construction is being done on a daily basis to make Chicago look nicer.  They fix the streets and buildings.  So much money goes into this.  Why not use that money to pay off some of the debt?  I don't understand it.

On top of states and our country being in debt, many individuals and families are in debt as well.  It's not a secret either that a good portion of citizens in the U.S. are unemployed.  I have many friends who are on major job hunts, either because they were let go from a job or simply because they need money.  I was in the same position a couple weeks ago.

I had one part time job.  I say part time because the company I work for only gives its employees a maximum of four days a week and I normally get a maximum of three varies (last week I only had two days and this week I have four).  I was on a job hunt and lucked out in getting a second part time job.  This will just cover my bills with some savings.  However, it will not help me to start paying off my college loans in November.  I was hoping to avoid deferring them again.

Even though I do not like/support the company, McDonald's conducted a study about their employees that puts a spotlight on our current situation.  Even the full time employees being paid minimum wage cannot support themselves with that one full time job.  Our economy is getting so bad that even if you have a full time job, you will need a second job just to pay your bills.

Entry level jobs are also getting increasingly sparse.  Nowadays, majority of jobs require you to have some college or a college degree or experience.  When I was applying to jobs, I got extremely frustrated when I saw the words "experience required."  All my experience is with an office or food environment.  I tried to get a job outside of food.  But most of the jobs I wanted asked for experienced workers.  Well why can't you give me a chance so I can get that experience?  How are you supposed to gain experience without an opportunity?  You can't. 

Like most Americans, my debt isn't getting any lower.  Since I got my second job, I have been able to halt any more debt accumulating.  I know I am luckier than most since I only have one credit card to pay off (I refuse to get a second one since I hate credit cards) and my college loans.  Altogether I have about $26,000 of debt.  If your debt is less than that, even $0, you're luckier than me!  And most of my friends.  I have a friend from college who went on to grad school.  She now owes $93k!  I cannot imagine having that much to pay off.  She can luckily already pay monthly to start decreasing that number.  However, that means she's paying $800 a month!  That's my rent!  I have other friends who are in the same boat as me and cannot start paying them off yet.

Luckily, I can start decreasing my credit card debt.  I keep my credit card at home.  I never use it if I can help it.  I only use it when I really need to and I don't have the money in my account.  When I say need, I mean toilet paper or toothpaste...necessities.  I'm waiting to get my first paycheck from my new job to figure out a budget.  But I'm hoping that I will get enough to pay off more than the minimum on my credit card each month.  During college, I paid off my credit card every month.  I didn't really use it until after graduation and it became a necessity.  It's interesting how much changes in a short period of time.

My favorite blog,, gives wonderful frugal tips.  The blogger, Danielle, has a family of four (her, her husband and two kids).  They are currently debt free and live on $14,000 a year!  They eat all homemade and she even makes some clothes.  If they eat out, go shopping, or do anything, it is budgeted.  She meal plans for an entire month and then goes grocery shopping at the beginning of the month (yes, only once a month!).  I'm slowly trying to adopt her tips.

After I see what I will be making at my second job, I'll be able to figure out my income.  That will help me budget.  I already have my set bills (rent, internet, utilities, Netflix, credit card, and public transportation card).  After that, I need to see what I have left to work with every month and see where I can decrease costs.  I will post a detailed entry about budget and another about being frugal while grocery shopping.

Remember to keep calm, breathe and focus on a little bit at a time.  I'm only focusing on paying off the minimum every month for my credit card.  I pay extra when I can.  Just focus on one thing you can change to decrease your debt.  If you are debt-free (lucky!), what can you change to save more money?  Think of something you might want to do with that money - go on vacation, take a dance class, go back to school, go skydiving - and print a picture you can put where you would most likely see it everyday.  That way you will have a visual of what you want.  Then when you have the money, you can go ahead and do it! 

Make sure to stay calm and breathe when it comes to money.  And breath again.  It'll get better.

"Keep Moving Forward"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shout out to my dad

Both my parents have been so great about me switching to a vegan diet.  They both are showing their support.  I'll get emails from both of them with websites for meal plans/recipes or asking about products.  I couldn't thank them enough for being so amazing.  Thank you mom and dad!

My dad emailed me last week asking me about Kind bars.  As I told him, I'm a bit obsessed.  I just can't afford to buy them.  I buy them when I'm in a hurry and want a snack.  I could usually find them in Starbucks or some convenient stores.  They are 100% vegan (except, according to some people, for the ones with honey, which I personally ignore.  I think honey is fine, but I don't eat it enough to really pay much attention anyway.  It's a hot topic in the vegan community.  If I buy honey it's once a year at a farm when I go pumpkin picking.  That's a topic for another time).  Yesterday I came home to a box with two cases of Kind bars from my dad.

My favorite is the Cranberry Almond bar.  I just love the flavor.

I have been wanting to try the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew ones for a while.

These are the two cases I received.  I've already tried the Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew and it's fantastic!  I recommend both of these or any Kind bar.

Thank you dad for the bars!

"Keep Moving Forward"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Corn Syrup: Friend or Foe

I've had many conversations with my mom about corn syrup.  Even if they don't last long, the conversation is always the same.  I've watched many documentaries about eating a vegan diet.  All of them say the same thing: corn syrup is bad for your health and is not vegan.

Why?  That's what many people ask and what my mom always asks.  If corn syrup is made from corn, why is it not vegan?

Now I could never remember the reasoning behind it.  I know that it has something to do with how it's made.  The whole point of eating a vegan diet is to eat as naturally as possible with very little processed foods.  The more natural the food is, the more it will naturally heal/restore your body.

I did some research to find the answers.  The best article I found was written by Michael Pollan.

Corn has become the king of all crops.  It costs over $3 for farmers to grow but it sells for $2.  The government pays billions of dollars every year to make sure farmers continue to grow more.  There is always excess corn on top of what the government makes farmers grow.  The companies that buy the excess corn are profiting from the excess growth, not the farmers.  This type of agriculture is bankrupting them.  The excess is used to make corn syrup, cereals, snack foods, soda and to feed animals that are used for food (beef, chicken, pigs).  Corn syrup has replaced sugar in foods.  The corn fed to animals is harmful to them and makes them grow faster.  Since the corn is harmful to the animals, they are also injected with antibiotics which can remain in the meat you eat. 

We also make sure that the corn is not harmed in any way by the environment.  So trees are cleared and tons of pesticides are sprayed to make sure the corn continues to grow.  The corn is hurting our environment and our animals.

Since there is an excess in corn production, what happens to it?  Majority of it gets turned invisible into corn syrup and put into products we eat.  Corn syrup is believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes.

Read Michael Pollan's article for more detailed information.

I made a decision to go vegan for my health and to eat more naturally.  I also try to be conscious of the environment and to be green.  It's my decision.  You have to make your own decision.

"Keep Moving Forward"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Vegan Ice Cream Nutrition

My mom asked me what the difference in nutrition is between regular dairy ice cream and vegan ice cream.  So I figured I'd share my findings.

I looked at So Delicious Coconut Milk Chocolate ice cream.

Calories (based on a 1/2 cup serving): 150
Calories from Fat: 81
Total Fat: 9.0g
Saturated Fat: 8.0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 5mg
Carbohydrates: 20.0g
Dietary Fiber: 6.0g
Sugars: 12g
Protein: 1g
Vitamin A: 0%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 0%
Iron: 10%
(This information was acquired through
And compared it to Ben & Jerry's Chocolate ice cream.
Calories (doesn't specify what a serving is): 260
Calories from fat: 144
Total Fat: 16g
Saturated Fat: 11g
Cholesterol: 50mg
Sodium: 50mg
Carbohydrates: 25g
Dietary Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 22g
Protein: 4g
Vitamin A: 10%
Calcium: 15%
Iron: 6%
(This information was acquired through
In many ways vegan ice cream is healthier than regular dairy ice cream.  It definitely has less calories, cholesterol, sodium, sugar and has more fiber.  Regular dairy ice cream does provide more Vitamin A and Calcium.  But vegan ice cream provides more Iron.
You'd have to decide for yourself whether or not it's worth it.  I think it is.  I don't get iron from meat, so I try to eat foods that are supplemented with iron in order to keep my levels at a normal level.  My body has always had issues with ice cream and dairy.  For me, eating an ice cream that doesn't make me nauseous after eating it is a good buy!
"Keep Moving Forward"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vegan Ice Cream

I had a craving for ice cream today.  It's a beautiful sunny, summer day with sporadic rain.  Perfect for ice cream. 

I've only had vegan ice cream from the Chicago Diner, so I was curious to try some.  On my way to Whole Foods, I thought I'd get two different brands to try: So Delicious and Tofutti.  However, when I arrived, I saw that Tofutti was not there.  So I decided on two flavors instead.

The Pomegranate Chip was delicious.  It's a good flavor when you want a refreshing and fruity ice cream.  I like that this brand gives you a dairy free and soy free option.  A lot of vegan products use soy, but it's not the only ingredient to make it vegan.  Some other ice creams I saw used almond milk.  I did taste the coconut a little.  Still delicious, but I wasn't expecting to taste it.

Oh my goodness!  Peanut Butter Zig Zag is fantastic!  I only allowed myself a couple spoonfuls of this one since I had already tasted the Pomegranate Chip.  This is so rich and scrumptious!  The name definitely describes it perfectly!  It truly is Purely Decadent!
I am hoping to try to make a milk shake with a couple scoops of one of the ice creams and a little soy milk.  I'd also like to try other vegan ice creams, like the ones made with almond milk.
If you're unfamiliar with the different milks vegans can have, here's a list:
Soy milk
Almond milk (or any nut-based milk)
Coconut milk
All are very delicious and can be used in their own way.  For certain recipes, you might prefer a certain kind of milk.  Some recipes specify what kind.  I love soy milk for cereal, hot chocolate, and many recipes.  However, my favorite for smoothies is almond milk.  I like the flavor it adds.
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer day like I am!
"Keep Moving Forward"

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Do you ever have one of those days where all you want to do is sit and do nothing?

Maybe not absolutely nothing.  Maybe watch movies and give yourself a mani/pedi; create art/scrapbook/craft; read a book.

Well I have been having many of those days this week.  I just watch as my to do list gets longer and I'm not doing anything to put a dent in it.  I just sit and watch movies/TV while reading articles online, giving myself a mani/pedi, or looking at pictures.  Most of these days are because I've been so tired.  I haven't been sleeping well.  I'll stay up late from work or from anxiety in starting a new job.  Then I'll try to wake up early in order to get my to do list done. 

Today I am putting a dent in that to do list.  I allowed myself to sleep in, which caused me to sleep for twelve hours!  I still feel tired.  However, I do need to get things accomplished. 

Like most people, sometimes I need something to inspire me to get things done.  I decided that today's inspiration will come from movies.  I organize my movies in categories and then by alphabetical order.  (I know I'm a little obsessive. haha)  I do have an inspiration section that includes all the movies I find inspiring.  Today I turned to my movie series section which includes TV shows and movies that were extended to more than one movie. 

What's my inspiration?


The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings saga.  And being able to watch movies that features Viggo Mortensen is a giant plus!

For some reason I always get a lot done while these movies are in my DVD player.  Maybe because they're so long and that they are filled with adventure (even if it is a lot of walking).  I also don't have to sit and watch them.  There are movies that I cannot watch and do other things...if it's on, I'm watching.  These, on the other hand, allow me to get things accomplished.  I've already put a dent in my to do list.

What gives you inspiration to get things done?

"Keep Moving Forward"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tired of looking tired

Three co-workers at work tonight asked me if I was okay.  I responded, "fine, why?"  Only one responded with, "you look tired." 

I was tired today.  But when I headed off to work, I thought I looked like this:

Alert and pretty.

But I guess I looked more like this:

I can't wait until I get my hours for both jobs straightened out soon so I can have a regular sleep schedule and not feel like I need a caffeine drip in my arm.  I'm sick of looking tired.

"Keep Moving Forward"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Broadway in the Park

This past Monday I went to Millennium Park with my friend Heidi to go see Broadway in the Park.  It's all Broadway in Chicago's musicals that are currently on stage or are coming up this theatre season (October to May). 

I had so much fun watching the show!  I love musicals, but I can't afford to go to see shows at the moment.  It was so great to see a free concert full of musical theatre!  I'm glad I brought towels because we couldn't get actual seats and sat on the grass.  But we had a decent view of the stage.  I wish we brought a picnic.  I saw so many people who brought small tables to set up a picnic.  It was such a great idea.  I wish I had it!  Next time!

We saw songs from the following shows:

We Will Rock You
Evita (I ignored this one since I hate the show)
Once (this sounds like a wonderful show and I'd like to see it)
Wicked (this is a classic that I've seen three or four times)
Elf the musical (the actor who plays Buddy is simply perfect!)
It's hard to see but that's Sam the Snowman on stage, the narrator of Rudolph. The costume is actually very comical because the body of the snowman is huge but they used the actor's head as the head of the snowman.  It just looks weird.  Makes you laugh though.

Santa is in Chicago!


Santa!  I know him!  I know him!

Buddy the elf and Santa
Ghost the musical (I didn't understand where the song was supposed to be in the show...maybe you need to see the whole thing)
Million Dollar Quartet (I really want to see this)
Motown (They had the "Jackson 5" sing and the kid who plays Michael Jackson sounds almost exactly like him!  It's amazing!  I want to see this.)
They handed out free stuff, like this awesome mustache promoting Peter and the Starcatcher (which looks amazing and I want to see it).

A fan

And a Flashdance snap bracelet!  It's pink!
I had so much fun with a good friend.  Definitely something to do again in the future!