veggiefueled.

adventures of a plant-based athlete


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Preaching to the Choir

Not sure this is something to admit… but I was actually shocked to find out that people I know are reading my blog! I mean if you put something out there to be read you should expect that people are going to read it, right?! I guess the shock wasn’t in the fact that people are reading it, but that people who are not vegetarians or vegans are reading it, and continue to read it.

Like my experience with most events, blogs, social media pages, etc, I assumed that I was just preaching to the choir; that I would only be sought out by people who have that one (very big) thing in common with the theme of my blog. Myself included, I tend to gravitate towards sites that share my interests.

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And that brings me to my second admission: I’m kinda, sorta, just a little bit, a “closet vegan.” It’s not that I won’t admit to others (not sure if that’s really the right word) that I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs or any animal products… I’m not going to eat a steak because I wan’t to keep it a secret… but I tend to keep to myself about it. That’s why I decided to use the blog and instagram as an outlet to share my thoughts, ideas and questions with the veggie community.

But I do try and let people know that I’m vegan (when necessary) with as little detail as possible. I typically will just avoid certain foods, then if asked I’ll say that I don’t eat [insert particular animal product here]. I usually don’t blurt out “I’m vegan.” I’d have to say that its mainly done to avoid the barrage of questions and comments that always come after that kind of statement. To avoid the feeling that I’m some kind of specimen in a petri dish or an alien from Mars.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly LOVE my healthy and athletic lifestyle. The second I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon I was hooked and knew I should share the benefits of health and fitness with the world. So I suppose that I should embrace the questioning as a chance to share the reasons behind my choice to follow a vegan diet. Just like I am willing to share all I know and love about running, I am now going to willingly share the same about vegan diets. (No worries – I won’t come knocking on your door).

Typical questions/comments I get about being vegan

*Disclaimer – These answers are all personal feelings and opinions. Please see my reference page to find better scientific and nutritional support for a vegan diet.*

“What do/don’t you eat?” – I don’t eat meat (that includes chicken, pork and fish*), eggs, dairy or any other product that comes from an animal. I also try to avoid things that are made using animal products (examples include certain types/brands of sugars, beers, wines and candies). Click here for the reasons why these items aren’t vegan. I do eat whole foods: mainly fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts/seeds. I also eat the occasional sweets and unhealthy, but still vegan, foods (think vegan cookies or vegan breaded/fried zucchini!).

*Some people don’t understand that “meat” applies to ALL animals, not just beef.

“How long have you eaten like this? Do you miss meat?” – I stopped eating meat in September 2012 and cut out all other animal products January 2013 (can you say New Year’s Resolution? hehe). No, I do not miss meat. I was never really a big meat eater, from the time I was young I was more of a rice, bread, pasta kind of girl. I never really liked the taste of meat and pretty much only enjoyed it when it was breaded and fried. So no, I don’t miss it and I couldn’t imagine eating it again at this point.

“Hmm, that’s great… but I could never give up the cheese.” – My response, ditto. I loved cheese. Like, love love looovvveeeed cheese. Food I’d eat if I was trapped on deserted island: three way tie between cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwich. I could down half a block of cheddar with some crackers in one sitting. One of my favorite parts of grocery shopping was the free slice of provolone at the deli.

But I learned how cheese affects my health and decided that the short-term enjoyment was not worth the long-term detriments. Not to mention, my body doesn’t digest dairy very well… so…

After giving up cheese I started to feel better in many different ways. At this point, I have lost my taste and desire for cheese and it’s no longer an issue.

“Why do you deprive yourself of the things you like?” – I don’t look at a vegan diet as one of deprivation. Since I’ve changed my eating habits I have expanded the foods and cuisines that I consume. I have become a better cook and more creative in my meal planning. Yes, I like cake and cookies. Yes, it’s hard to stay strong. And fortunately, YES there are vegan dessert options that taste amazing! I often “live a little” but see no need to eat things that have animal products in them when I can eat things that are just as good without them.

“You can’t tell me those fake meats/vegan cookies/alternative milks taste good or like the real thing!?” – Ok about the faux meats, I really just try and avoid things that are processed and not whole foods. Fake meats with chemicals and fillers are not good for you, vegan or not. I have made meals with cauliflower as my taco “meat” and recently enjoyed a jackfruit cuban sandwich and veggie bacon B.L.T. in Colorado that were amazing… but those are made using whole foods (check out this recipe from No Meat alternative milks – delicious, I love them, they’re just as good, probably better… case closed! I think as you start to eat healthier your taste buds really start to adjust. I GENUINELY enjoy the foods I eat and don’t feel shitty after eating them.

“Ok, but it’s not about the animals, right? You’re not some hippie?” – When I first decided to stop eating meat I didn’t really consider how it would affect the animals. But is it not an added benefit that I’m saving innocent animal lives (and the environment) by cutting animal products out of my diet? If that makes me a hippie, so be it. Just do me one favor… watch the documentaries and really educate yourself before you accuse me of being a “hippie” for caring about the animals. I’ve heard too many times that people don’t want to see it because then they won’t want to eat meat anymore… I guess “ignorance is bliss.”

“You think you’re better than me?” – No one has actually ever asked me this question, but I always get this feeling that people think, that I think, that I’m better than them. Or that I’m judging them because they eat meat. No, I don’t think I’m better. I’m not judging you for your decisions. I do advocate a vegan diet. I do think that it has provided me and others with better health. I have seen the benefits first hand. It would be awesome if you adopted a vegan diet. BUT, you don’t judge my food and I won’t judge yours.

I have so much more to say about this new vegan lifestyle and from now on I will be more comfortable with sharing with those that are interested. If they’re being antagonistic about it… oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Have more questions for me? Put them in the comment box below – If I get enough I’ll write another post with answers. If not, I’ll just answer below.


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You’re having WHAT for dinner?!

Sometime throughout history it was determined that dinner should consist of a meat, a grain/starch and a vegetable (or at least that was my impression). In fact, growing up I was a huge fan of those divided plates… you know, the one’s that ensured none of my food would touch any of my other food because THAT would be disgusting and I couldn’t possibly eat my potatoes after they were contaminated with vegetable juice…but I digress… Even when you google images of “what should your dinner plate look like” you’ll see an array of divided plates.

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Unfortunately, this rule of how a dinner should be served causes some problems for new vegetarians/vegans. I remember when we first started our meat-free lifestyle it was very difficult to find recipes that I felt were appropriate dinners. I was desperately searching for a main course in a world of what seemed like side dishes. The most ironic part was that I was determined to have my plate look a certain way because I felt it was healthier. Oh and don’t get me started on how worried I was to make sure we had a replacement protein source… *slaps hand to the forehead*

Luckily, it didn’t take too long to breakaway from this dinner plate stereotype. Thanks to the wonderful, delicious and nutritious brussels sprout… the vegetable that saved the day (or more so the dinner plate). We had a great brussels sprouts dish at a restaurant and decided to try them out at home. (Check out the recipe here, just leave out the parmesan cheese to make it vegan – it rocks!) We planned on the sprouts being a side dish for our dinner, but they were done a little earlier than expected. We started to munch on them until dinner was ready and next thing you know… we ate them all, the entire 1lb. bag between the two of us! We topped it off with a little green juice and we were good to go for the night.

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And that, my friends, was the start of the random “whatever we’re in the mood for” dinners. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a typical divided plate meal every now and then, but we no longer stress to have a traditional plate planned. Here are some things we’ve been known to chow down on for dinners:

  • Bowl of roasted brussels sprouts
  • Roasted cauliflower with buffalo or barbecue sauce
  • Just juice
  • Guacamole, taco seasoned veggies and chips
  • “Tapas” style leftovers
  • Random vegetables (either in salad or non salad form)
  • Cereal (not too proud of that one…)

Just remember, a dinner (or any meal for that matter) can be anything you want it to be as long as it consists of whole, natural and plant strong foods!

Speaking of stereotypes… My husband was at WholeFoods the other day purchasing The Complete Vegan Kitchen when the cashier said to him “You’re not a vegan, are you?” Well, maybe he’s vegan, maybe he’s not… but what exactly does a vegan look like? Can we break that mold too? By the way, he was surprising me with a new cook book! Isn’t he wonderful! 🙂

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veggiefueled, a testimonial.

Every year Mercedes Benz puts on a 5K for the corporate world. It’s called the Mercedes Benz Corporate Run. There is one in West Palm, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The Miami race is huge; there were about 25,000 runners last Thursday night! (That’s a lot for a 5K!)

I had a great run and was the second place female and 13th overall in my company with a 25:40 minute time. I set a new personal record! That always feels great…

But I can’t take all the credit. So I wanted to explain how I got to this point in my running “career.”

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(Ok so not from the Corporate Run – but they haven’t posted the pictures yet.)

Running has really been the catalyst for my current healthy vegan lifestyle. I decided to train for the Disney Princess half-marathon a few years ago and…long story short… here I am.

Hehe just kidding, what kind of blog would this be if I didn’t tell the whole story?!

Because of running and training, my husband (then boyfriend) and I started to transition to healthier eating habits. First it was learning about trans fats, eating organic, counting calories, and eliminating processed foods. The full transition to veganism really has taken about 3 years. That’s not to say it can’t happen faster, we just weren’t really aware or considering it at the beginning.

But the main points I want to get across in THIS post are what I believe to be some of the results/benefits of my newly vegan diet in relation to running. (I’ll post later about the transition to veganism!)

Injury

Since high school I have had lower back and knee pain. So bad that I missed a season of cheerleading and had to go to physical therapy to help alleviate the pain. Then when I started running, the pain returned. After my first half marathon I couldn’t run for months. I had a horrible pain in both knees and was on prescription NSAIDs to help suppress the inflammation. I went in and out of physical therapy trying to figure out how to run without pain. Unfortunately, because I had to wait so long to start running again I wasn’t able to stay in peak shape. I figured it was the cost you pay to be a runner. Then I injured my foot right before my full marathon but luckily recuperated in time for the race. Where again after the race, I was out of commission for months. I thought that was the way it was going to be… race… recovery…start all over.

Since cutting meat, dairy and eggs out of my diet I have competed in a half marathon and two 5Ks without injury or discomfort. (KNOCK ON WOOD!!). After I completed the half marathon I was able to run within 2 days (only because I decided to rest, not because I wasn’t capable). The whole time during training I hadn’t had a single issue with my back or knees. I felt and feel great!

Speed

My fastest half marathon before going vegan was 2:12, about 10:04 min/mile. My fastest 5K before going vegan was 26:39, about 8:34 min/mile (mind you this was in the midst of my FULL marathon training). My typical 5K time was closer to 28 minutes. If I ran my training run at a 10 min/mi pace I was happy… that was a great run!

After becoming vegan, I set a P.R. with my last half marathon 2:02, about 9:18 min/mile and past two 5K’s at 25:43 and 25:40, about 8:16 min/mile (without major training – 1 to 2 runs per week, slacker I know…). All you runners out there will know that a 10 minute improvement on a half marathon is HUGE! And the best part is that I know I haven’t yet reached my peak speed. I feel it in me… I know that I can hit the under 2 hour mark for the half and run a 24 minute 5K!

Before keeping a vegan diet I swore I was a 10 minute/mile girl… now I start my training runs at a 9 min/mile pace and that’s taking it easy!

I know that the above has not been scientifically proven to be a result of changing to a vegan diet. But it’s an awfully big coincidence. And really, the point is that I feel better than ever, stronger than ever and happier than ever with my new eating habits. I feel like a true athlete and am so glad that I’ve learned how to properly fuel my body… veggiefueled.


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Work Late. Eat Great.

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It’s all in the planning. Taking a little extra time to plan and prep one day a week will help save time later and ensure that you still eat delicious healthy meals for lunch and dinner. Time and convenience may be one of our biggest enemies when it comes to eating well.

Trust me, I completely understand what it feels like to get home from work late and be completely unmotivated to cook (or do anything you need to do). I’ve been known to chow down on bowls of cereal (notice I said bowls not bowl) instead of nutritious meals because I simply can’t bear the idea of having to cook and clean after a meal! Not to mention that I’m usually famished when I walk in the door.

So, I’ve come up with a few ideas that seem to help keep me on track and have provided for about of month so far of home-cooked meals.

Menu Planning – Think of your kitchen as your family Café. Plan a menu for the week and try your best to stick to it. Make sure to be realistic with the amount of time you want to spend prepping and cooking for the week. Also, we like to include a date night (or night eating out) so that we can have a break from the cooking and dishes.

Menu planning also helps with staying creative and finding new recipes. If you don’t know what to make each night and you simply go by the ingredients on-hand, you’re likely to fall into making the same old thing, week after week.

Strategic Recipes – When making your weekly menu, try and keep prep and cook time in mind. Save the extravagant gourmet meals for the weekend and look for quick, easy and healthy meals for during the week. Found a recipe that requires rice? Make the rice the night before you plan on eating that meal. Then you can prepare the rest of it right when you get home from work instead of having to wait on the rice for 40 minutes.

Leftovers – I’m not a huge fan of leftovers, but I’m willing to make enough for leftovers if its a meal that I really enjoy.  During my husband’s busy season (he’s an accountant) I would usually cook one night that way he could bring dinner with him instead of ordering food every night. The important thing with this tip is to find recipes that keep well – rice w/ beans, baked potato w/ grilled veggies or one pot pasta dishes. The simpler the better. You definitely don’t want a meal that makes a point of it to “serve immediately.” It’ll probably lose its luster if reheated the next day, yuck! Also, avoid things that should be crispy, as they will likely be soggy leftovers.

Afternoon Snacking -This is a big one for both my husband and me… and I’m assuming lots of other people. When I walk through the door with a growling stomach I’m very short sited and can’t envision how great it will be to eat a healthy home cooked meal. Instead I have the “I want it and I want it now” mentality. That’s when take out, cereal, or binge snacking occurs.

The way to combat this issue is to either eat a small snack (apple, small handful of nuts, larabar, etc) on your way home from work or to have “appetizers” planned to munch on while you cook. Having Mexican? Make some quick and easy guacamole (see our recipe at the bottom). Asian? How about defrosting some frozen edamame?

The trick is to make sure your snacks or appetizers are healthy nutritious options. That way if you do accidentally fill up on snacks and appetizers at least it was still nutritious.

Walk in and start – The number one trick I can think of is to start right away. Don’t change, don’t sit down. Walk in and turn on the oven (if it needs to preheat), or pick out all the ingredients that you need from the fridge and pantry. Then change into comfy clothes and continue cooking. Too many times I’ve become a prisoner of my couch; it usually goes hand-in-hand with my bowls of cereal. As exhausted as I am when I walk in, I’m always happy and proud of myself when I stay strong and cook anyways.

Unfortunately these tricks may only be useful if you enjoy cooking in the first place. If you despise cooking, you may require a little more motivation. It might be helpful to buy portions of your meal pre-prepared and cook part of the meal at home. Whole Foods has all their hot bar foods available in large or small portions in the refrigerators. You could always pick up some rice and beans and roast some veggies at home or make yourself a green salad. Start small and hopefully when you see the benefits of eating home cooked meals you’ll start to change your mind about cooking!

If you’re not quite as organized or a planner like myself, then maybe you’d be interested in having someone else plan your meals each week. So I figure, why don’t I share? I’m going to plan my meals each week anyways, how hard would it be to send you my file with the recipes, menu and grocery shopping list!

So here’s my offer: Send me an email at veggiefueledblog@gmail.com with your name and email address and I’ll send you my file each week. Feel free to rearrange when you cook particular meals, how many days you choose to cook, the serving size of the meal and when/whether you have a date night or family night out – but it should be helpful to have a general guideline of dinner ideas. I’ll try and have the list out by Friday night for you Saturday morning grocery shoppers.

What’s that? You think that’s such a nice offer that you’d like to do something for me in return? Aww shucks, you don’t have to do anyth… ok well since you offered. In return for those weekly menus I would love a follow on instragram and twitter @veggiefueled, on my blog http://www.veggiefueled.wordpress.com and to share my blog with friends who might be interested! Thanks!

Have any ideas that would help you stay motivated to make home cooked meals? Let us know!

Dylan’s Quick and Easy Guacamole

Serving size: 2 people (as a snack or appetizer for dinner) You may want to double, triple or quadruple for a party sized portion!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe haas avocado
  • 1 large spoonful of Green Mountain Gringo salsa
  • Green Mountain Gringo Sesame Blues Tortilla Chips

Directions:

Mash avocado. Mix in salsa. Enjoy!

*Note: Dylan wanted me to add that I was in fact very against the creation of this recipe. I had always made my own guacamole, with lime juice, spices, etc… and didn’t think there was any way mixing some salsa in with avocado would be any good. So here, on this day, I will put in writing… He was right. IT’S AMAZING!


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Tricked ya! It’s vegan.

 

So I just had a genius (okay maybe that’s subjective) idea today!

I brought some leftovers of my Asian veggie stir fry with spicy peanut sauce to work today. Apparently, my eyes were bigger than my stomach so I decided to share with a coworker. I didn’t really give him much detail about the meal (except for the peanut sauce – in case of allergies) and he welcomed my offer of free food.IMG_1316

This coworker of mine is very much a meat eater, a regular ‘ole “man’s man” if you will… not someone that would be welcoming, at least not without mocking comments, of a vegan meal. So after I handed him the food I wondered what he would think of this dairy free, meat free, no salt, little oil and plant strong meal. He handed me back a completely empty (and surprisingly, clean) container and said he enjoyed it!

I’ve often wondered, as I chow down on my self-proclaimed amazing dishes, if others would find it as tasty. Not sure if I’ve just trained my taste buds to enjoy a particular style of food or if it would be considered good to outsiders.

This got me thinking, can I get other people interested in a meat free lifestyle by showing them that vegan food can be both nutrition and delicious?!

Here’s what I’m going to do – every few weeks I’m going to bring leftovers into work to share with different people. I won’t put too much emphasis on the vegan aspect of the meal, only offering information about potential allergies. I’ll let you know what they think…

And by the way, I’ve been sneaking loads of spinach and kale into my little brothers’ smoothies when they spend the night. Not only do the suck it down, they ask for refills! Maybe I can figure out how to get them to enjoy other vegan meals as well!

Let me know if you share your vegan food with unsuspecting patrons and what they think about it. You can share your stories or pictures with me on instagram and twitter: @veggiefueled, #veggiefueled, #TYIVegan

(Remember: Allergies are serious – make sure they don’t have allergies to any odd ingredients you may include).


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What?! You can’t eat meat?

What is with this question?

I mean, I know as veggies we all get the “But where do you get your protein?” Q&A sesh. But really, is there anything more annoying than being interrogated by patronizing people who are not actually concerned about your well-being and nutrition?

Here are my Top 5 annoying questions or comments from meat-eaters: 

1. What?! You can’t eat meat? No, I’m not unable to eat meat. I choose not to eat meat. As crazy as it sounds to you, while you chow down on your hamburger, I’m actually enjoying my roasted veggies, baked potato and dark leafy greens. Really, I like it.

2. But where do you get your protein? Ahh, the typical protein question. We’ve all heard it. The provoking question masked as concern. I understand that some people may have a genuine concern for your health (like my mother, who really does care). But others… well others, they’re just trying to prove your lifestyle wrong. (And most likely make themselves feel better while they’re at it.)

3. I could never give up (insert non vegan item here). Um, yes. Yes you could give it up. You choose not to… and that’s fine and dandy. But quit making excuses. I’m not braver, crazier, stonger-willed… I have just made the decision and worked hard to stick to it. If you don’t want to… that’s fine, I’m not on a crusade to convert you. But don’t make excuses.

4. I’d rather enjoy my life than be restricted with what I can eat. Otherwise said as YOLO. Hmmmm. Is that cheeseburger really going to help you have a meaningful, exciting and fulfilling life? Is it so damn good that you’ll still be talking about it years from now? This really goes for vegans and non-vegans alike, a healthy lifestyle is key to having that YOLO experience. Healthy and happy, and not bound by medications, limitations and disease.

5. What do you eat? Salads? Yep, that’s about right. Salad is the only food item approved for vegans (note the extreme sarcasm). Cutting out animal products should be viewed as expanding your horizons instead of limiting your options. After going vegetarian I was forced to find new recipes which lead to a plethora of new and exciting cuisines.

6. [Your experience HERE]What’s the most annoying or most frequent question/comment you receive about being vegan/vegetarian?

YOLO

Don’t get me wrong – I love to share my knowledge, experience and passion for health, fitness and becoming vegan. And if you’re genuinely interested, I have no problem defending my decisions. But if I don’t comment on your dinner plate, don’t comment on mine.


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10 reasons you should follow me (online of course).

Hello there, welcome to my blog! After spending some time as a minor foodie and major annoyance posting all my food on instagram, I was convinced to start a blog. And as I have more to say than the proverbial “1000 words” or 140 characters, I thought it wasn’t too bad of an idea. But here’s the thing, I never really get past the first paragraph when reading a blog and almost ALWAYS head straight to the list of bullet points. So I figure, if I’m gonna hook ya… why not try a list?

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Reasons you should follow my blog:

1. I love cooking and experimenting with new recipes. As long as I don’t have to do the dishes (luckily my hubby and I have a great deal where I cook and he cleans!). I have always loved to cook, maybe it comes from having both parents as great cooks? I’m not really what you’d describe as the creative type, but when I’m in the kitchen something just clicks and the creative juices start flowing.

2. I’m a new vegan/vegetarian, so I haven’t forgotten the struggles. Sometimes the blogs I read about veganism/vegetarianism seem like the authors forget what its like in the beginning; When you’re still new to the struggle of giving up meat, dairy and eggs. When you’re still learning how to deal with people who don’t understand. When you’re still figuring out what seitan, tofu and tempeh are and whether or not you even want to eat it. I haven’t forgotten, because I’m still learning. So learn with me…

3. I’m passionate about my healthy lifestyle. Although I grew up with a fairly healthy diet, snacking on fruits and eating mainly home-cooked meals, I wasn’t always a “health nut.” But now that I’ve seen the light there’s no going back and I feel better than ever. I’d love to inspire people to cross that line, never look back and enjoy their lives to the fullest!

4. I love being fit, but hate working out. I know it seems inconsistent but it’s oh so true. I was never one to work out or visit a gym. From a young age I played sports and had an active lifestyle. When I stopped playing organized sports in college, there was a time where regular exercise was a rare occurrence. But I can let you in on my secret… training ≠ working out.

5. I am limited on time. I am not a professional athlete and I am not a professional blogger. I am a 9 to 5er (I wish it was just till 5) who drives 30 miles each way to work. I am tired and unmotivated when I get home from work and the last thing I want to do is cook a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal or get in a workout that I missed in the morning… but I do… and I can share my tips and tricks!

7. I am concise and efficient. I guess this could be re-worded as “I don’t like to read long, wordy blogs.” I plan on having TONS of lists, bullet points, pictures, and get-to-the-point posts.

8. I am funny. Ok this point may be debatable depending on your source. My mother thinks I’m hilarious, a regular ‘ole stand up comedian. My friends think I’m a hoot, I can entertain the lunch table for hours on end. My husband, not so much. I am told regularly that I am not funny at all. (Although every now and then I catch a laugh).*

9. It would make me happy. I don’t know what it would do for your emotional state, but it would make me so happy to have people reading my blog, learning from my trial and error and just simply sharing my passion for a healthy, fit and fulfilling lifestyle.

10. I am slightly OCD. I could only think of 9 reasons, racked my brain for 10. But to no avail I am left with only nine. But because I am slightly OCD, I only listen to music on volume intervals of 5, have the most organized pantry you’ve ever seen and just HAD to leave it as a list of 10. Nine would just not work.

So there’s my plea to get you to follow my blog and join me on my journey. You can also follow me on Instagram: @veggiefueled.

*I had my husband proof read the post, not a single chuckle.  -__-