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9 Tips On How To Transition To A Vegan Diet

Wellness

This morning, I vowed to myself that these would be my last few days indulging in unhealthy foods before I start my vegan diet. "It's just a grilled cheese sandwich," I said to myself as I prepared to eat my meal.


Tuh! Let's just say that I enjoyed my grilled cheese sandwich, but my body didn't. It tasted like bull crap and shame, and the whole morning I was plagued with an upset stomach, unclear thoughts, and a headache-- a reminder that it's definitely time to change up my diet.

As I started making my grocery list, I wondered how I was going to maintain my vegan diet. Last week when I talked to Karen Civil about going vegan, what I didn't mention was that I had actually gone vegan for several months back in 2012. While I would love to proclaim the greatness of going vegan, I must admit that the last time I tried it, I focused so much on the next meal and how I would maintain my diet that I wasn't mindful of how I felt after eating clean. Not to mention that it seemed expensive. At least that's the biggest complaint that I told myself. But after some calculations, the cost of eliminating dairy, eggs, and meat had actually cut my food budget in half.

Attempting to be a vegan again has been on my mind heavy lately, and this time I wanted to start my journey with a fresh perspective, which is why I'm happy that I had the pleasure of interviewing a chef on how exactly I could maintain a vegan diet.

I spoke to Chef Ahki, a celebrity vegan chef and author of Electric: A Modern Guide to Non-hybrid & Wild Foods, and the woman knows her stuff. Chef Ahki has been praised by Bradley Cooper, Lee Daniels, and Waka Flaka Flame for her insane cooking skills, and she gave me a lot to think about when maintaining a vegan diet that will carry me through for many years. Here are some tips that she shared with me during our interview.

You Have To Dedicate Time & Commitment To Your Vegan Journey

"It will be difficult in the beginning. It was the first couple months for me, but I was able to attach to a support group which helped. My family was not of support. My family ate traditional southern food.

I was also a good cook, and I enjoyed cooking. I was passionate about making this new food taste as good as what I was used to. That is hard to do! I was frying up tofu with cornmeal and Lowrys [seasoned salt]. It was fish fry with the tofu, and a lot of soy products was a major part of my transition before I knew how awful that soy could be. I was eating soy hot dogs, soy chicken nuggets, soy shrimp, soy steak, everything soy. But like I said, having a support group is what made the transition easier.

It took me about three to four years to fully transition. It wasn't some cold turkey, overnight kind of thing, and I know lots of people would like to think that it's that way, or they imagine it that way, and for some people they can just do that. But not for me. I slowly took out the pork, then the chicken, then the fish, you know? I went slow."

Spices From Meat-Based Dishes Can Make Your Meals Delicious

Chef Ahki's Vegetarian Lasagna

"It's hard to really make something that mimics the exact texture [of meat], but...you can do it through seasoning...[say] if you wanted to do greens and cabbage and black eyed peas, you can use smoked sea salt or smoked paprika. If I cook barbecued tofu, I use liquid smoke, [or] lots of black pepper, onion powder like that to give it that flavor.

[When cooking most of my dishes,] I use a lot of onion powder. I don't really use a lot of garlic, or any really...I love Dulse, which is like a sea vegetable seasoning. I like herbal seasonings like trocomare or herbamare. And I really like coriander. Coriander is like a spice that I think a lot of people sleep on. It's incredible flavor.

Oh, and paprika is wonderful, and I love smoked paprika."

Quinoa, Berries, & Hummus Will Become Staples Of Your Grocery List

Chayote

"Try chayote...some people call it a Mexican squash. It looks like a pear, it cuts like a potato, it's almost flavorless, honestly. It takes on the flavor of anything you cook it with, so it's just amazing for vegan/vegetarian diets, because it gives you that good texture, like a very filling texture but it's not heavy. And you can put it in anything from salads to stir frys to casseroles...it's just the best vegetable ever.

And vegans love quinoa. I prefer red quinoa. I also have to have berries of every sort. I go out of my way to get blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, I get berries always. I could go on and on with this because my grocery list honestly looks the same every single time...It never gets old, and it's what I eat in various combinations.

Use avocados for your fat. [It] makes you feel full. I [also] keep my hempseeds for protein, I always have sea vegetables as well.

I can tell you some items that are surprisingly vegan, or when I became vegan I was like, "Thank God I can eat something similar to this," and that was hummus. Hummus for vegans is like crack. All vegans eat hummus until they get tired of it. That's what happens."

Try Having Potluck Dinner With Vegan Friends

Via Instagram

"I was in Dallas, Texas when I made my transition, and fortunately I attracted a group of girlfriends who were eating that way. And we would potluck, and it was a really nice support group where we could learn from each other on how we could make it tasty for us.

Of course, finding vegan restaurants or places to go to was great, and once we started it kind of took off. So definitely the moment you make that decision, you start shopping at those places, you start frequenting those stores and restaurants, you will attract other people who eats the way you do, and you'll get that support."

Upgrade Your Kitchen

Via Instagram

"Definitely upgrade your kitchen first. Because that kitchen will destroy you. If your kitchen is working against you, you're assed out. Because if you walk in there, and there's a microwave on one side, there's a loaf of bread over here, then there's frozen chicken nuggets over there, and cookies...You know, you're going to crash.

Go and just do a sweep of the kitchen, and then make that kitchen absolutely inviting. Pull out the cutting board, pull out that chef's knife, pull out that blender and that food processor, get your freezer bags ready, because you'll need plenty of those for all the veggies and freezer goods, and fruits. Get some Pyrex, get some glass tupperware with lids, cause you're gonna totally need that to store [your foods], and lay all the beautiful foods out so you can see it.

Most foods don't need to be refrigerated, and a lot of people don't know that until they stuff their freezers. But a lot of fresh foods can be left out, and should be left out, like your tomatoes, your onions, your winter squashes, even zucchini and squash to leave a lot of foods out so it makes it inviting..."

Blow Your Whole Grocery Budget At The Store

Via Instagram

"Take your grocery budget, find out what that is, go to the market and spend it all. Go to farmer's markets and spend it all so you don't have any options...And you go home and you just crank it out. Get on some blogs, like gochefahki.com, grab a cookbook, like Electric!...and get yourself motivated and inspired by food. That way, you'll be excited."

Meal Prep Is Key For Larger Families

"Meal preparation is important. Can it make or break you? If you have a family of four, it absolutely can. If it's just you, you may be able to wing it depending on where you live. You can hit up a lot of places and eat meat free. There are a lot of [restaurants], even traditional Italian restaurants [where you can] and simply say, "Hey, I love this dish, I love this sauce, but don't add meat. Just cut up a bunch of vegetables, and thank you kindly. You can kind of wing it at restaurants and things like that."

Remind Yourself Of The Health Benefits

"It's really based on principles, and it's based on a lot of self care and preventative care. You got to remind yourself what food is, and what it isn't. And that's what's going to come down to. You've got to remind yourself that you are eating this way so that you do not have to suffer later on. So whether or not you feel like it's taxing on your time and energy, it's expensive, all these things.

You want to pass on health to your children, you don't want to pass on disease. When you're putting food in your mouth, ask yourself, "Is it dead or alive? Is this giving me energy, or is it going to take away my energy? You have to remind yourself of that every time. And keep it fun. Visit some blogs, check out some Pinterest pages, get inspired, check out some new vegetarian restaurants, go to some farmers markets, you have to keep inspired and motivated. It can get boring after awhile![laughs] "

Chef Ahki has some delicious recipes on her Instagram page that will keep your mouth watering. Check out her cookbook “Electric!, A Modern Guide to Non-Hybrid and Wild Foods" on Amazon, visit her website at gochefahki.com, or follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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