This section is all about determination, effort, and action. Without your effort this journey will be short-lived, but if you have found this page it means your serious about changing your life and you’re ready to put the necessary effort in to become energized and healthy. Below you will find the Act section. At this point you have learned the basics of nutrition, have planned out a meal plan for you, or you and your family, and now you just need the information needed to act on your plans. Read below to continue your journey!
Goal 1: Mentally prepare yourself
During your first week Start slow, eat your normal diet and create a Food Diary. A Food Diary is a week long log that you use to document what you eat, how often you eat, and even your mood when eating. It is a great way to see if your meal ratios are scheduled or erratic.
The goal of this week will be to recognize what we eat, and how often we eat.
After the first week we can start to replace the unhealthy aspects of our foods with healthier choices.
If you subscribe, you will have the opportunity to receive a Free Food Diary to utilize this week, just send an email to subscribe and request a food diary. A fun perk is when you finish the food diary you can send it to the general email at email@example.com to receive feedback!
Goal 2: Research healthier options
After your first week take a look at your food diary and determine how you can make your diet healthier? For example, fast food is not always bad. Maybe we will choose the plant based burger with a salad, or a salad and fries rather than a Big Mac and Fries.
During week 2, we will determine what healthier options are out there and where we can fit them into our diet. Make sure your options coincide with your LIKES. Get your creative juices flowing and see how you can make healthier options tasty. How far into a plant based diet are you willing to go? As a side note, consider a family history (FHx) analysis, this will help you determine exactly what diet may be best for you. This can be done by any nutritionist, sign up for one of our programs for your own FHx analysis, or if you subscribe to our website you will be the first to hear about our family history analysis quiz coming soon.
Now consider what kind of diet you’d like to follow, or that you’d like to eventually follow:
- Will you be vegan, vegetarian, or continue to eat meat in moderation?
- How will you add your favorite sauces and seasonings to your new meals?
- Will you start with replacing certain products you use daily. For example, will you replace butter with plant based butter? Or replace milk with soy milk?
After determining the new lifestyle you’d like to follow (vegan, vegetarian, or a lifestyle with low meat intake) use a second Food Diary to write down your new food schedule, and input your new foods based on servings, calorie intake, and your own preferences (Refer back to the planning page).
Goal 3: Determine your Meal Prep routine
There are multiple ways to meal prep. The main reason meal prepping is beneficial is because it saves you money! It also allows you to control your consumption and avoids temptation you may have at a restaurant or fast food joint. Although it seems like 1 method may take more time than the other, generally they all take about 30 minutes of your time for prep. Below there are a few popular methods of meal preparation. As you will see there are three types of people, those who use left over dinner as lunch, those who meal prep, and those who bulk prep:
Social media has turned “Meal prepping” into the most common method of weekly meal preparation. The idea is fun, organized, and seems very realistic. But why does the method seem to fail often?
As with anything, its the time, and effort that makes this method hard to stick to. Although it is a great way to prepare for your week, your mind sees this as tedious and time consuming, although it does not take much time. But for this reason your brain automatically wants to push it off when you think of filling 5 meal boxes with a meal. We are our worst enemy! This is ideal for an individual but if you have a family it will be tough to fill multiple containers and you may note less room in the refrigerator.
Bulk prepping is basically the beginning steps of meal prepping. BUT you stop after cooking, and place your meal into a large container. This allows you to scoop the meal out for dinner or lunch each day.
This seems to be easier on the mind, and just as simple as meal prepping. The best meals to bulk prep are whole wheat pastas, quinoa, homemade fried rice, or nutrient dense stews/soups. It seems this prepping method is easier on the mind. You make a big pot of soup on Sunday and each night you take 2 minutes to fill a dish for lunch! It also prevents the need for multiple meal prepping dishes. I recommend becoming acquainted with quinoa, it is great for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so a bulk prep of quinoa can be a life saver each week.
Now that you know the 2 most common ways of meal prepping, below you will see examples of how they are utilized, you will also find the third way to meal prep.
Examples of A Meal Preparation Routine
- Bulk prepping tends to be the most ideal for families. If you think about meal prepping for a family of four, 5 days a week, you may go insane. But with bulk prepping the food is scooped out for each family member throughout the week. (SIDE NOTE: One thing to consider, is if your children eat lunch at school, there servings can be saved for dinner.) Now, this method works best if you choose 1 day out of the week to make a large dish. Most people choose Sunday as the prep day. On Sunday make a large dish that will serve as lunch for the week. Bulk prepping is simple because it only takes ~30 mins to cook your meal, and you do not separate all of your food. You simply keep your food in a large bowl refrigerated and use the same lunch container each day by scooping your bulk prepped meal into your container. This is so simple you can do it while rushing out in the AM or right before bed in the PM. This is ideal for those who do not have the means to buy meal prepping containers or feel prepping multiple meals is inconvenient.
- Meal Prepping is best for individuals who do not need to consider other family members. Like Bulk Prepping it also works best if you choose 1 day out of the week to make your designated meal of the week. It can be a large dish like you make with bulk prepping or it can be a 3 serving meal; such as chicken, broccoli and strawberries. Most people choose Sunday as the prep day. On Sunday you would first set out 5 sets of meal containers. These containers usually have spaces for 3 servings of food. Scoop each food into each space and voilà you have a meal prepped for the week. After about 30 mins of meal prep and 5 mins to place in each containter you are ready for the week. Unlike bulk prepping, you dont have to place your food into a container when rushing out in the AM or right before bed in the PM. You can just grab your meal and head to work. This is ideal for those who do have the means to buy meal prepping Tupperware and do not mind the extra meal prep time.
- Prepping with Dinner. This can be convenient for either a family, couple, or individual. Being that you will cook dinner 3-5 nights a week, this method will utilize left overs from dinner. This method requires that you make enough dinner to cover lunch for everyone for the next day each night that you cook dinner. For example, if 9 meals are made, 4 of you will eat this for dinner. Then 4 of you will take this for lunch Monday. That leaves one serving in the fridge for anyone who wants it for lunch or dinner this week. Monday through Thursday, do the same with other recipes and save any left overs for lunch or dinner. Pros of this method is that you kill two birds with one stone by preparing dinner each night leading to lunch each day. You may also have left overs that keep you from needing to make dinner a few days out of the week. Cons, cooking time may be longer and a bit more strenuous, consider making this a family event each night depending on the meal!
Final word on meal prep
Each method is designed to prevent you from eating out, save money, and increase homemade nutrient rich food in the diet. Remember, all things take time and effort. Also, consider writing down dinner plans for Monday-Friday each sunday so not only are you prepped for lunch but you are also planning for dinner. After your first 30 days, this will be a habit and it will no longer be a hassle. But we should be honest with ourselves and note that this will be hard at first, and like all things it will get easier. Sure you may slip up once in a while but that’s human! If you order out for convenience be mindful and order something healthy, but avoid overeating.
Remember when cooking for multiple family members measurements are key until you develop the skill to “eye ball” a serving. Measurements will allow you to feed each member of your family the proper amount of food and will allow you to keep up with each family member’s calorie intake. Consider keeping extra measuring cups around to scoop servings from your rice, quinoa, or other loose grains.
Goal 4: Go through your food at home. Out with the old and in with the new.
Part of our Struggling Vegetarian program is a Truthful Cleanse, where you will go through all food items and dispose of or donate your bad foods (If you sign up for an in person package we can do this together). As you go through your food items, write down the following list of 6 groups on a piece of paper and write each food item under it’s proper group:
Once the list is completed, ask yourself:
- Which group do you buy from most often?
- How does that make you feel?
- Why do you think you buy so much in this category? (Cost, upbringing, culture, etc.)
- How do you think this effects your health?
- Where would you like to shift your spending?
If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe and become an official member of the SV family. Once you have signed up you may send a photo of your list to firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback. You must be a subscriber for this perk.
Goal 5: Determine the cost of your new lifestyle, and cost of Healthier Foods
When you buy things look at servings and determine how much you need for your family to eat these foods daily. Refer back to the Learn and Plan sections for guidelines on reading servings. Generally some foods will last all month and some will have to be purchased weekly. Those that may require weekly purchase are fresh veggies and fruits such as spinach, bananas, apples, avocados,etc. Remember you can eat as many veggies as you want. And a good limit on fruit would be 4-7 fruits per day. Below you will find general pricing for the most common nutrient dense foods. These prices are based on Wal-Mart pricing. Wal-Mart has been at the forefront of all grocery stores when it come to afforable healthy items. Whole foods tends to be on the higher end of cost. A Costco or Sam’s Club Membership seems to provide the most bang for your buck as they have affordable prices on the most expensive items such as oils, and plant based replacements, but their plant based meat and dairy are very limited. With multiple plant-based meats, non dairy items, organic options, and low prices, Wal-Mart seems to be the most affordable way to eat healthy and/or plant based. I recommend shopping at multiple grocery stores virtually to get the most variety and the most affordable foods.
Most of the items in this group are affordable, which is important being that we are supposed to eat about 50% of our calories from this group. When you see ranges of cost, the high end is usually Organic foods or Non GMO foods while lower cost is usually conventional or non-organic. If you have questions visit our contact page for further information.
- Any Pasta Sauce ($3-6) bi-weekly purchase
- Consider making homemade sauce – If you like your sauce sweet, add a 1/2 tbsp or 1 tbsp of agave syrup to your sauce and that will provide a mild sweet taste with less sugar.
- Avoid sauce with high added sugars or high fructose corn syrup (Remember the 5-10 ingredient rule)
- The most affordable is the 67 oz Prego Traditional Sauce (~$5) with only 4g of added sugars per serving (so it does not require any addition of sweetener). This sauce is NOT organic. The upside is the ingredients, other than tomatoes, are surprisingly low!
- Great Value Whole Wheat Rotini or Penne ($1) biweekly purchase – Serves 8 people
- Great Value Whole wheat Spaghetti 16oz ($1) biweekly purchase – Serves 8 people
- 5lb bag yellow or red potatoes ($5) monthly purchase – Potatoes and other starches should be consumed in lower amounts when compared to the grains.
- Brown Rice ($1.37-2.16 per 32 oz) bi-weekly purchase – Serves 20 people
- Orowheat 12 grain bread ($3-4) bi-weekly purchase – Serves 18 people
- Quinoa ($4.98 per ~14 oz) – Serves 8 people
- Oats ($4-5 per 32 oz – 48oz (2-3lbs) of oats) – serves 20-30 people
- Peas ($2 per 32 oz frozen) monthly purchase for individual, biweekly for family – Peas and other starches should be consumed in lower amounts when compared to the grains.
- Corn ($2 per 32 oz frozen) monthly purchase for an individual – biweekly for family – Corn and other starches should be consumed in lower amounts when compared to the grains.
Total: ~$40 for 1 month if all items were purchased
Frozen veggies are 2nd to fresh veggies. The problem with fresh veggies, as most of us know, are they spoil quickly. A HUGE misconception is that frozen veggies, and canned veggies are not good for you but this is not the case. Frozen veggies are a great alternative and can be added to any meal; such as soups, sauteed veggie meals, smoothies, in pasta, or as a side. Canned veggies are actually the 3rd best form but the problem with canned veggies is the nutrient loss, which is more significant in canned foods when compared to frozen. As seen below I recommend frozen veggies, being that they are very versatile. If you would like fresh veggies keep them in low amounts to avoid spoiling:
- Pinnacle Foods Birds Eye 48oz Green beans frozen ($6) Biweekly purchase
- Pinnacle Foods Birds Eye 52oz Broccolli frozen ($6) Biweekly purchase
- Great Value Pepper and Onion Blend 20oz ($2.33) Biweekly purchase
- Frozen spinach – great for smoothies weekly purchase
- Pound of fresh Roma tomatoes (50 cents – $1) Biweekly purchase
- A great alternative is Diced Canned Tomatoes which is great in Soup, sauteed meals, and other recipes. Diced canned tomatoes actually cook much better than fresh tomatoes do, so I prefer them over fresh. Cost is generally (88c – $1.70 organic) for 28 oz canned (that’s 3.5 cups).
- Spinach bin for sandwich or sauteed spinach at dinner (16oz $5) Biweekly/Triweekly purchase (~ 2-3 weeks)
- Bell Peppers (about $5 per pound)
- Kale (~$5 per pound)
- Zucchini (~ $1 per pound)
- Squash (~ $1 per pound – butternut and yellow)
Total: ~$50.00 for 1 month
Fruits are amazing! Our fruits contain so many vitamins and minerals it is insane! What we should talk about are the protective nutrients fruits contain such as antioxidants, and phytochemicals. In research, antioxidants and phytochemicals have been found to be very beneficial when treating/preventing multiple different diseases including cancer; there is not enough research to support these claims but there is research available. Simply put, antioxidants are compounds that STOP oxidants. Oxidants damage cells and increase risk for disease and cancer. But research is mixed being that patients given antioxidants in supplement forms seem to have no benefit. Therefore eating whole foods have been found to be the best way to get antioxidants and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are only found in plants and are what make up the beautiful colors of a berry. These phytochemicals protect plants against predators and environmental threats. Phytochemicals have also been noted to protect us in many nutrition based research studies. Vegetables have similar properties but fruits are more abundant with these benefits which is noted in their color. Find out more about phytochemicals here: Harvard – Fill Up On Phytochemicals.
- Pound of Gala apples ($1.14 per pound)
- 5 Pounds of oranges ($6.28)
- Pound of peaches ($1-2)
- Frozen black berries (16 oz $2-3)
- Frozen peaches (16oz $2-3)
- Frozen strawberries (48oz $7.50)
- Frozen blueberries (48 oz $7)
- Frozen pineapples (48 oz $8)
- Frozen Mangos (48oz $7)
Total: ~ $60 – 90 depending on servings needed
Protein comes in many forms. Drinks, legumes, Nuts, Seeds, Meat, Eggs, Dairy products, granola bars, and nut butters are all forms of protein that can be utilized in meals.
When purchasing legumes, do not shy away from canned forms. As discussed in the vegetable section, canned foods are a great alternative to frozen or fresh foods. They allow you the convenience to cook a healthy nutrient dense meal. Legumes are sustained very well in the canned form. Being that most home cooks hope to have a meal done in 15-30 mins, it is imperative that these convenient forms of foods are utilized in cooking.
- Kidney Beans (58c – $1)
- Black Beans (58c – $1)
- Lentils (98c [1lb] – $5 [5lb])
- Garbanzo beans (58c – $1)
- Soy beans/Edamame/Tofu ($4-5)
- Pinto beans ($1)
- Almonds 2$-7$
- Cashews 2$-$9
- Pistachio $8-$12
- Pumpkin seeds $2-$3
- Walnuts $3-$12
- Brazilian Nuts $5
- Sunflower seeds $3
- Flax seeds ($4-5)
- Chia seeds ($8-10)
- Peanut butter filled pretzels as a snack (18 oz bin $4) Biweekly – consider carbs
- Peanut butter ($2-$6) depending on size and whether it is pure or processed monthly
- Granola bars ($3-$7) Bi weekly
- Steak lean and just enough for 4 people Beef Choice Angus Sirloin ($10) weekly
- Chicken lean non antibiotic tenders (enough for 4-8 people) ($6) weekly
- Sandwich meat ($2-5) Bi weekly
- Eggs ($1-5)
- Vegan Eggs (e.g., Firm Tofu, Just Egg) – Very Variable Pricing
- Plant based meats and black bean meats ($4-10)
Total: $60-80 depending on the amount and type of protein you buy, this number is very variable
Non-dairy vs Dairy products
This is where a plant based diet can become pricey. Although Soy Milk and Almond Milk have become more affordable over the years, they are still much more expensive than regular milk. The other most expensive products will be those that are just hitting the plant based market such as sour creams, ricotta alternatives, and there are even cream cheese alternatives now! We have come a long way and eventually these items will be more afforable as we switch over. As you will see below plant based cheeses seem to be the most affordable as of current. This category is the most important when transitioning to a health conscious diet because if we can substitute dairy with plant based products it will remove many unecessary calories, sugars and cholesterol from our diets. So take a look at the options below and find areas you are willing to substitute! I will say from experience the butter and milk are the easiest to start with!
- Dairy butter ($2-4)
- Plant based butter ($3-4)
- 2% Milk, 1% Milk, Skim Milk ($2-3)
- Soy Milk 1/2 gallon ($2.58)
- Oat milk 1/2 gallon ($4-$5)
- Almond Milk 1/2 gallon ($2.26)
- Ricotta ($3.64 2lb)
- Sour cream (16oz $1.98)
- Mozzarella ($4.22 16oz)
- Cheddar ($4.22 16oz)
- Vegan Mozzarella ($4-$5)
- Vegan cheddar ($4-$5)
- Vegan Ricotta ($6-$8)
- Vegan Sour cream ($3-$4)
- Vegan cream cheese ($4-$5)
Total: $40 – $70 , this is variable, the higher price will be based on plant based alternatives
Plant Based Brands I recommend you start with:
- Follow Your Heart Cheeses
- VioLife Cheeses
- Plant based Earth Balance Butter
- Oat milk is expensive but tastes the best
- Almond Breeze almond milk is the second best plant based milk but is low in protein
- Soy milk (any) has the most protein and is best for smoothies and baking (Organic or Non GMO)
- Just Egg alternatives (the Just Egg folded plant eggs provide large servings when compared to the liquid form) – this egg has the best taste but is expensive.
- Follow Your Heart has great egg alternatives – this is a powder
Overall Total: The general total comes out to about $230 with meat for 1 family. If you will eat all plant based food items that are also organic, that number can jump up to $400 for a family. You may notice that there is a huge range of cost, and hopefully one of these ranges may work for your family! If you reduce your variety, the cost will be closer to $180 for a family and our nutrition programs will help you develop a healthy and affordable grocery list.
Sure you may not be able to eat organic, but conventional fruits and vegetables are still nutritious and their benefits outweigh their risks. Therefore if you cannot eat organic I recommend you wash your fruits and veggies very well in salt water (soak for 5 minutes) and buy more frozen produce than fresh to save and because the high heat used to clean them will help lower contamination. Now that you have made it to the end, let’s go grocery shopping!
It is time to take action!
You have made it to Week 5 and I have to say I am very impressed! At this point it is time to start utilizing all the tools you have gathered from your new knowledge. Now you will start incorporating all of the nutrient dense foods into your lifestyle! Below you will find some simple ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner and I hope you utilize them! At the top of our website you will see a Recipes tab with simple recipes containing simple ingredients to get you started. As you get the hang of things consider incorporating 1-2 recipes into your diet. Doing so, you will improve your cooking skills and eventually find things you like. If you do not cook often RECIPES ARE IMPORTANT! Cooking recipes will help you learn how to put a meal together! It is hands down the best way to learn how to cook. Believe me, I am cooking much differently due to increased knowledge from simple recipes! Read on to get an idea of what a balanced meal looks like.
Simple Meal Ideas (Changing The Norm)
Get your creative juices flowing! Below you will find simple meals that you can try and use to spark ideas on what a healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner may look like. Once you become comfortable with these meals you will be able to adjust your cooking accordingly.
I know it is not an American custom to eat veggies with your breakfast, but you can and you’re body will love you for it!!
Example 1: Tofu eggs or Just Eggs cooked in avocado oil with a peice of whole grain/whole wheat toast and asparagus or broccoli or spinach or a fruit/smoothie. (Calories 300-450)
Example 2: Quinoa serving with 2 servings of plant based eggs sautéed with tomato, onion, spinach and 1 tbsp oil (400 or less calories)
Example 3: 1 cup of puffed Kamut Cereal with 1 tbsp of Agave and 1 cup almond/oat/soy milk. This is so low calorie I recommend you have a second bowl.. that’s right I said have a second bowl of this cereal!
Example 4: Healthy breakfast burrito 2-3 servings of Just Egg, 3 tbsp of plant based cheese, 1 slice of bacon (animal meat or plant based)/1 sausage (plant based or animal meat), 1/2 cup sautéed spinach and a whole wheat flour tortilla. (450 calories)
Example 5: Smoothies (Perfect for kids who are picky) range from 170-500 calories depending on what you add to your smoothie. A 500 calorie smoothie should be considered a meal whereas the lower calorie smoothies may do better as a snack or drink with low calorie meals.
Example 1: Whole wheat spaghetti with bell peppers, Beyond Sausage, mushroom sauce, and a side of green beans or asparagus. (Inspired by my my father) (~400 calories)
Example 2: Corn tacos with black bean or plant based meat, with a side of red rice (made with brown rice) and refried or whole beans (black beans or pinto) (~400 – 500 calories)
Example 3: Stir fry Quinoa – cook quinoa first. Add avocado oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, broccoli, with a side of spinach. (~400 calories)
Any fruit, peanut butter and an apple/celery, whole wheat crackers, almonds, peanut butter filled pretzels, low ingredient granola bars less than 15 ingredients, half sandwich with whole wheat bread.
Now that we have come to the end of our journey, I am sure there are tons of questions you may have! Feel free to ask, and do not forget the SV website is here to help. As you continue forward, reference the Learn, Plan, and Act pages to keep your mind up to date on your goals. Subscribe to the Struggling Vegetarian Blog to continue receiving updates on new and creative ways to make healthy food and to educate yourself on the various topics of health. Lastly do not give up! You will fall off the wagon over and over again, and as long as you get back on track, you’ll be okay; YOU ARE HUMAN!
Use this quiz entry as your first step of action by creating a grocery list: Take action!
Share your experiences on social media and tag us #thestrugglingvegetarian @thestrugglingvegetarian_ on instagram and @strugglingvegetarian on Facebook! We look forward to seeing you progress through your journey!
*All of the information here is from the author’s nutrition education, and continued education via nutrition textbooks, eatright.org, and pubmed research articles that are not biased and have good accuracy. This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition. This information is to be read and utilized at your own will, and the author is not responsible for any outcomes that come from utilizing this information. This information may be discussed with and adjusted by your dietitian, nutritionist, or medical provider for a more personalized plan. If you have any questions feel free to contact us via the Contact Page. For sources Click Here.
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