The Ultimate Foolproof Guide To Eating Vegan While You Travel

Do you remember the last time you took a trip somewhere?

Maybe you found yourself hiking the ancient ruins of cities thousands of years old, watching the waves crash on the shores of a pristine beach, or sweating in the oppressive, unyielding heat of the desert.

Wherever you were, you’d probably agree that traveling is an exhilarating experience.

Nothing gets that heart-pumping adrenaline flowing like an unfamiliar adventure. You discover fascinating places, people, and situations – all of which you’ve never before encountered.

It all sounds so exciting, and it is. But if you’re anything like me, there’s one thing that may trouble you.

Since travel is unpredictable by nature, how on earth are you supposed to stick to your vegan diet?

After all, one of the hallmarks of traveling is the complete lack of control. You’re forced to let go and let the stars dictate your path.

That can be tough as a vegan in a non-vegan world. I know. I’ve been there.

I can recall that anxious feeling in the early days of my switch to veganism, right when I was about to embark on a work trip to a meat-obsessed city in the middle of Texas.

I was afraid of not being able to find anything to eat and being stuck with a plain house salad – because let’s be honest, a plain house salad is 1) boring and 2) not going to fill you up.

Worse, I was afraid that I was going to be a horrible travel companion for my boss. I didn’t want to have to inconvenience her with my chosen diet, but I also didn’t want to have to compromise my own preferences and beliefs.

Yes, the food aspect of travel can be daunting for a newly minted vegan.

But as I quickly learned, with veganism on the rise in many countries worldwide and the growing popularity of plant-based diets in general, it’s actually never been a better time to be a traveling vegan.

All you have to do is prepare yourself by following the four tips below, and with a little patience and a healthy sense of humor, you can be sure you’ll never go hungry (or unsatisfied) while on the road.


1. Don’t be afraid to ask

Whether you’re out at an exotic restaurant abroad or in a town not far from home, you may find yourself frantically scanning the menu for something you can eat – to no avail.

There’s not a dish to be found that’s both meat-free and devoid of any cheese or creamy sauces.

I’ve been there more times than I can count. And I can promise you that the best thing to do in this situation is just ask.

Seriously, go ahead. Don’t be shy.

Ask the waitstaff if they have any vegan dishes they can prepare. It’s really that simple.

Oftentimes vegan dishes can easily be prepared with what’s on hand (think seasonal produce) or as an improvised version of a dish that’s already on the menu – for example, a pasta dish with alfredo sauce and cheese becomes pasta with olive oil or tomato sauce and fresh veggies.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re afraid of becoming that annoying vegan that waitstaff hate to deal with. It’s why many of us don’t speak up at restaurants.

But here’s the thing – as long as you’re polite, accommodating and easygoing, you really have nothing to fear.

Remember – waitstaff are used to dealing with substitutions all day long, whether it’s for vegans, vegetarians, people with food allergies, or even picky eaters.

Also, you’re actually doing a good thing by calling attention to the lack of vegan food in the first place.


Well, if people were asking the waitstaff for vegan food all day, it wouldn’t be long before the restaurant came out with a few vegan entrees on the regular menu, right?

So your request is actually helping you and other vegans who could find themselves in the your shoes someday.

Of course, if you know where you’re going to be eating ahead of time, it’s much quicker to check out the menu online for something you can eat.

If nothing is listed or the menu isn’t available, go ahead and call the restaurant (at off-peak hours, if you can) and ask what your options are.


Traveling abroad? You can still ask the waitstaff to help you out. Really!

Of course, you’ll want to make sure you learn the word for ‘vegan’ (if there is one) in the local language.

You should also learn how to say ‘no meat/poultry’, ‘no seafood’, ‘no dairy’, and ‘no eggs, please’ just to be sure you can describe exactly what you need.

And remember – you can also apply this tip to places other than restaurants.

For example, if you ask for it, most airlines will arrange for a vegan meal for you on long haul flights.

Just be sure to contact them at least a week in advance (and bring a couple snacks with you in case they forget – I found that out the hard way!).


2. Know your back-up dishes

Of course, there are going to be times when you run the risk of being misunderstood (especially in a foreign country).

Whether you’re having communication issues with the staff or you’ve found yourself dining in a restaurant on a super busy night and don’t want to make an issue about your dietary choices, now is the time to pull out what I like to call ‘back-up dishes’.

They’re the dishes you know with 99.99% certainty are almost always vegan. You can pull them out of your back pocket and order them whenever the need arises.

You probably already know some common back-up dishes. French fries usually fall into this category, along with most salads (sans meat or cheese, and opt for lemon juice and olive oil in place of any creamy dressings).

Side note: if you’re a longtime vegan, chances are you’ve made a meal out of these two staples at some point. It’s basically an excuse to eat more fries (my guilty pleasure).


What else? Well, side plates (usually listed at the bottom of the menu, after the entrees) tend to make great back-up dishes.

For example, roasted vegetables are a common side dish, are usually vegan, and can actually be pretty delicious on their own. Combine them with each other, a side salad, or sourdough bread for a meal with real potential.

Traveling internationally? I’m jealous. It’s always a good idea to do your back-up dish research before heading out, but it’s especially helpful before a trip to another country where you may be unfamiliar with the language and food.

Most cultures DO have some kind of dish that’s unintentionally vegan (or vegetarian that’s easily veganized).

Don’t believe me?

You may remember Emilija from my vegan case study. While I was interviewing her about veganism in her country, she turned me on to some pretty delicious-looking, accidentally vegan dishes from her native Macedonia.

The point is, there’s always something. Just be prepared and know your back-up dishes. Keep them up your sleeve for your times of need.


3. Visit local markets and grocers

This is probably my favorite tip, because it’s the most fun.

When traveling, nothing lets you experience life as a local quite like visiting the same spots where they hang out.

So why not visit their markets and grocers, too?

Not only will it give you a glimpse into the everyday lives of the people around you and allow you to be immersed in their culture, but it’ll also open your eyes to all sorts of new and unique foods you’ve never been exposed to before.


The other advantage is that open-air markets and small, locally owned grocery stores are far more likely to cater to your vegan whimsies, with goodies like fresh produce, breads, condiments and chocolate on offer.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: But what if I’m staying at a hotel? How am I supposed to cook anything in a tiny hotel room with barely enough space for me and my suitcase?

To this, I have a two part answer.

First, you can always aim to book yourself an Airbnb or another similar setup. This way, you can truly experience the life of a local through their home comforts, as well as score yourself a kitchen to cook in while you’re traveling.

But if you’re set on a traditional hotel, don’t fret. Remember, being vegan means you can get away with eating basically anything raw. That’s going to work in your favor here.

Not sure where to start? Think picnic-style food – bread, a couple of condiments or spreads, fresh local veggies, some unique spice blends, fresh squeezed juices, dried fruit and nuts.

Look for prepared ‘to-go’ foods like antipasti, prepared salads, or ready-made dips like caponata, muhammara, or hummus. Throw in some fresh fruit, dark chocolate or whatever local specialty you may find to round out the meal.

Trust me – this tip will blow you away, and not just because it accommodates your veganism.

Markets are one of the best ways to get to know the place you’re visiting on an intimate level that not many travelers are brave enough to experience.

One of the best suppers I had while traveling in Israel was cobbled together from various market finds – creamy, perfect hummus, freshly baked pitas and flatbreads, za’atar pies, and sugary halva for dessert.

But beyond the delicious food, I was lucky enough to experience the lively, bustling Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem at sundown with the locals. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

And hey, you never know – you may find a new favorite food or spice to look for when you get back home! That’s what I call a win-win.


4. Bring your favorites if possible

So you’re away from home, and you’re having a great time on your trip, but what if you can’t help but miss all your favorite foods you left behind?

Maybe you’re a novice cook (as so many of us vegans are, out of necessity) and wish you could eat your own home-cooked meals, or you’re homesick for the vegan diner around the corner from where you live that serves up all your favorite dishes.

The solution?

Bring it all with you!

One of the best ways to conquer those fears about taking your first trip post-veganism is to have your own personal safety net.

I’m not saying you need to pack every single meal, but it helps to have some favorites on hand in case of emergency – especially when you know you’re going somewhere where the vegan choices are going to be few and far between.


First up, air travel. Most airports will allow you to bring solid food through security, so use that to your advantage.

You’ll want to bring food that can be left out at room temperature without spoiling, like bread (use it to make sandwiches on the fly – see what I did there?), crackers, nuts, bananas, avocados, dates, apples, and instant oatmeal packets.

Sometimes, you may be able to bring ‘spreadables’ through security as well, such as peanut butter, hummus, cookie butter spreads, or even nut cheeses (you’ll want to eat those ASAP).

Since these types of foods straddle the line between solid and liquid, though, this won’t work everywhere. Yes, it’s likely that airport security isn’t going to be too interested in your single-serve packets of nut butter.

But just in case, bring an inexpensive spread if you can (like peanut butter) that you can attempt to replace if you’re forced to throw it out.

Try preparing your meals and snacks in advance, such as sandwiches, burritos, homemade granola, energy balls or cookies. That way, they’re ready to eat when you need them.

Does this sound like overkill? It’s not! I actually did this once for a work trip.

I didn’t know if I’d be able to find a vegan lunch while I was busy working and I didn’t want to have to deal with the hassle if I couldn’t (not to mention the hunger pangs).

So I made five peanut butter and banana sandwiches before I left home – one for each day I’d be away. I wrapped them in plastic wrap and tinfoil to avoid too much squishing in my carry-on and put them in the mini fridge in my hotel room upon arrival.

It was a great idea, because I had the option of ordering take-out or going out for lunch like everyone else, but just in case I couldn’t find anything (I really didn’t want plain salads five days in a row!) I always had my sandwiches as a back-up.

I also threw in a few packaged snacks, such as nuts, granola bars, and Hail Merry tarts (I am dead serious, I packed these) to round out the meal.

And speaking of packaged snacks – don’t discount them as a great option to use as building blocks to create a full meal.

While fresh food is of course more nutritionally dense and the healthier choice overall, you can’t be too picky when you’re traveling, and vegan packaged snacks typically abound in airport quick service restaurants and convenience stores.

Nuts, chips, pretzels, and energy bars that happen to be vegan are usually pretty easy to find, but also look for roasted chickpeas, popcorn, oat bars, and of course, chocolate.


Driving instead of flying? Even better – you don’t have to deal with security, and you can bring a cooler, which means more (delicious) options.

Fill it with pre-made overnight oats in jars, hummus (homemade or store-bought), nut cheeses, veggie sandwiches, sliced fresh fruit, even a salad made with hearty greens like spinach.

The sky’s the limit here. Plus, you’ll save money on eating out!

Remember: staying vegan while traveling can be a challenge, but it’s definitely not impossible. I’ve done it, both domestically and internationally, along with countless others.

The best thing you can do is prepare in advance as much as possible, but don’t sweat it if you find yourself in a situation where you haven’t. Simply communicate your needs clearly and politely and work with what you’ve got.

Outside of that, stick to these tips and you’ll find your travel experiences to be so much more enlightening, if only because they open your eyes to new foods you never would have tried before.

I can speak from personal experience here: the trips I have taken since becoming vegan have involved much better food than before. It’s because I knew exactly what I was looking for and how to find it. Research really does pay off!

Tell me: have you found it difficult traveling as a vegan? Where did you go and what did you eat?

Real-Life Vegans Discuss 7 Myths About Veganism

Going vegan is a big decision. It means completely overhauling your diet and lifestyle.

In other words, it’s not a commitment to take lightly.

Because of this, wannabe vegans often go through much deliberation. Sometimes they avoid ever taking the leap because of all the obstacles they believe they might face.

And while it’s true that vegans face some challenges, perhaps the most feared of them all is how a newly minted vegan will be perceived by friends, family, and society at large.

Let’s face it: vegans are highly stereotyped.

We’re all familiar with the cliché of a tree-hugging, pale, malnourished hippie who eats her Tofurky at the Thanksgiving table while surreptitiously eyeing your sliced ham.

You may have heard tales of her dining out at restaurants and demanding that her dietary choices are accommodated, then victoriously chowing down on her raw vegetable plate while extolling the virtues of the latest superfood.

But how many of those perceptions are actually true?

I spoke with four real-life vegans, all from different countries, backgrounds, and walks of life, to discover how much truth there is to the rumors and to answer the question that more and more people seem to be considering these days:

Is it going vegan worth the trouble?

Meet the vegans

Boglarka, 31, hails from Hungary but currently resides in Scotland. A vegetarian for most of her life, Boglarka has been vegan for nearly two years.

Emilija is 21 and is the vegan veteran of the group, having made the switch five years ago. She lives in her native Macedonia but has previously lived in Melbourne, Australia.

Rachel is the youngest vegan I spoke with. At just 17 years old, she made the decision to give up animal products over three years ago, but considers her vegan journey to have officially begun a year ago since her parents had objections to the switch. She lives in Port Macquarie, Australia.

Jessica, 25, began her vegan transition over 4 years ago and has been completely vegan for nearly 2 years now. She is married with two young children and lives in Oregon.

Myth #1: Vegans eat boring, bland food and are obsessed with health

The general public tends to perceive vegans as overly concerned about their health, believing they subsist on plain leafy greens (and not much else) and pride themselves on the deprivation of all edible pleasures.

But do they?

Emilija doesn’t. “[My diet] has changed drastically. When I wasn’t vegan I ate traditional Macedonian foods – lots of meat, dairy and eggs on a daily basis.”

“What I eat now mostly consists of baked goods, baked veggie burgers, fresh salads, fruit and nuts. But if I feel like having fried chips once in a while I will definitely not resist. I listen to what my body wants. I don’t want to be overly obsessive about how healthy I am.”

Rachel, too, has discovered intuitive eating since becoming vegan. “Before, I used to eat very little fruit. A typical breakfast was toast with peanut butter and jam or processed sugary cereal.”

“These days, I eat depending on what my body craves and what’s appropriate for the season. In summer, I love to eat papayas, melons, or a smoothie to start my day. Now that it’s winter, I love to have oatmeal with some fruit. For a treat, I’ll have a few dates, because it’s hard to resist nature’s candy.”

Myth #2: Vegans, despite being health-obsessed, actually drive themselves to the brink of death and are generally unhealthy due to the lack of a proper diet

Cast your mind back, if you will, to the pallid, skeletal, iron-deficient vegan stereotype we discussed earlier, who looks like she might keel over at any given moment.

It turns out she’s a mythical creature, according to the real-life vegans I surveyed.

In fact, they all reported an improvement in their health after making the switch.

Boglarka described it as a “massive change”: “[Before veganism], I always struggled with belly fat, slow metabolism, bad digestion and migraines. Now, they’re all gone.”

Jessica noted she has “more energy” now, adding, “I was able to give up a few meds. I no longer struggle with anxiety and depression.”

Prior to going vegan, Rachel was carrying extra weight she had tried to shed. “I was overweight for my height, and despite exercising, I just couldn’t lose the weight.”

“I lost around 10 kg [22 lbs] after eliminating dairy. My swimming coach was so impressed and actually became inspired to take better care of his own health.”

After making the switch, Emilija reported feeling “a lot better, a lot more fresh and radiant, because I [didn’t] consume unnecessary amounts of fats, hormones, proteins and whatnot.”

“I used to suffer from rheumatic arthritis as a kid,” she added. “Now, I no longer have any pain. I also had very painful periods, which eased.”


Myth #3: Vegans love meat substitutes – proving their still-burning desire to consume real meat

From veggie burgers that ‘bleed’ to fake’un (fake bacon), all imaginable varieties of faux meat have been popping up everywhere in recent years.

And as they become more ubiquitous, they’re also becoming more sophisticated and are sometimes even marketed to omnivores as well as their herbivorous counterparts.

Even so, popular belief suggests that vegans (and vegetarians) consume fake meat because they miss the taste of real meat, revealing a natural, inherent craving for animal flesh shared by all of humankind.

In reality, none of the vegans I spoke with eat mock meat, and they all seemed to agree that its purpose lies in assisting those who are transitioning to a plant-based diet.

As Rachel put it, “I understand that some people came to this lifestyle for ethical reasons, and not because they no longer enjoyed the taste of meat.”

“I believe [faux meat] is great for people that are transitioning, especially if they are used to consuming a lot of meat,” she continued. “However, these substitutes are highly processed, and if someone wants to follow a whole foods vegan diet, then it’s quite unnecessary.”

Emilija agreed, adding “[Meat substitutes are] definitely not healthy. All the stuff that goes into them…I think they are as bad as real meat. It’s always better to make your own from scratch, but having them a few times a year won’t hurt.”

Myth #4: Vegans are demanding at restaurants and a nightmare to dine out with, and there’s nothing for them to eat there anyway

The viable options tend to be few and far between as far as animal-free restaurant meals go, but, as our real-life vegans confirmed, it really comes down to the restaurant you choose and, of course, the country you live in.

But while that part of the myth may have some truth to it, what about the rest?

Are vegans really less-than-desirable dining companions who, due to their limited options, will shamelessly badger the waitstaff to prepare something that isn’t on the menu in order to accommodate their dietary choices?

Our real-life vegans put this unsavory rumor to rest.

Instead of adopting a ‘demanding’ persona, Emilija admits she simply doesn’t dine out much.

“I rarely ever eat outside my house, to be honest, because there are just not many options available,” she said, adding, “but also because I think of my meal time as perhaps something special in my day, where I sit and nurture my body – like a kind of self-care.”

Rachel had somewhat of an opposite experience with restaurants, noting that “I think what was unexpected [about veganism] was just how many options there are for vegans. [I can find] an abundance of vegan products at the shops and in restaurants.”

That said, Rachel admitted that she doesn’t eat out much either, preferring instead to eat at home. Even so, “I’ve found that if I’m going to a dinner or lunch with family or friends, it’s always easy to call up before and ask if they can do something vegan.”

“They’re almost always more than happy to put together something for me, and I’ve been very pleased with the efforts they go to in order to accommodate a range of diets and lifestyles.”

Jessica noted that while she hates restaurants, she, too, looks at then menu ahead of time for something she can eat.

It all sounds quite civilized, if you ask me.


Myth #5: Vegans must have a lot of hard-to-find, unusual or expensive ingredients on hand in their kitchens

A vegan lifestyle is often perceived as an expensive lifestyle.

This myth is perpetuated by upscale grocery stores such as Whole Foods, which typically carry specialty vegan products you won’t find at your average supermarket.

These vegan replacements for traditional ingredients can really run up a grocery bill. In fact, such products often cost more than their animal-derived counterparts.

So is it fact or fiction that vegans buy into these marketing ploys?

Jessica busted this myth immediately: “Everything [I have] can be found in most stores, I think. I order online just for bulk and convenience. There are very few things I go to Whole Foods for anymore.”

Rachel enjoys experimenting with less common vegan products “such as nut cheeses, dried mulberries, and superfood powders like maca and baobab.”

However, she noted,  “I would easily make do with the basics as the extras are just for fun.”

As Emilija pointed out, however, your definition of ‘extras’ depends on where you live. “I don’t consume anything processed such as vegan cheese or vegan hot dogs, but that is also because we have no such options where I live.”

“I focus more on superfoods like poppy seeds, nettle seeds, chia seeds, [and] natural sweeteners. In Macedonia, it’s definitely an expensive way of living.”

Emilija does have a garden, though, where she grows her own fruits and vegetables. Lucky her!

Myth #6: Vegans are a source of frustration and inconvenience for family and friends

No one wants to hear their child or spouse is renouncing animal products and going vegan, right?

This is probably because many people anticipate difficulties in eating at home with a vegan, since meals will have to be prepared separately – which of course translates to extra work in the kitchen.

Rachel, as a minor, had a unique point of view on this. “I told my mom that I no longer wished to consume meat and that I had a desire to go vegan,” she explained of her experience over two years ago.

“She was skeptical due to the misconceptions that you cannot meet all your nutritional needs on a vegan diet. So she said that I still had to eat fish and eggs occasionally. However, once she saw how much I was thriving [without meat], she allowed me to go vegan a year ago.”

Eventually, Rachel found she was actually influencing her family’s eating habits.

“My dad was generally supportive,” she described. “When I transitioned to a more plant-based diet, he also urged my mom to lower their meat consumption.”

“Now, he eats almost fully vegetarian at home and advocates a diet with less meat to his friends. He has seen improvements in his blood pressure, cholesterol and liver health. Even my mom, who was a little bit reluctant, has lowered her meat intake and she consumes a lot more veggies than she did in the past.”

But how did they make it work as a family that once favored dishes centered around animal products?

“I’m Malaysian Chinese and my mom found it a bit difficult that I wouldn’t be able to eat the food she grew up eating and enjoying,” Rachel recalled. “However, we have found ways to work around it, such as using rice noodles instead of egg noodles and tofu instead of meat.”

Emilija was also living with her family when she made her decision to go vegan.

“My mom used to cheat and make non-vegetarian food and only separate the meat from it so I would eat it,” she remembered. “I used to be very angry, but looking back on it now, I find it funny!”

“[My parents] weren’t very supportive of my going vegan, but they didn’t make it harder for me, either. Most of their [objections] were due to the fact that they know nothing about veganism, but I am actually getting my mom into it more and more.”

Jessica, who had a husband and two young children to contend with when she made her switch, decided the best solution was to involve the whole family in the transition.

“When we started [to go vegan], my oldest [child] was just a year old. It went quite smoothly. There’s been some debate occasionally with my husband, but he has accepted our household transition and we have come to an agreement on how to teach our children.”

Family members tend to influence each other’s eating habits. So it seems that getting the whole family involved in eating more plants – whether intentional or not – is a common result of going vegan.


Myth #7: Veganism is just about quitting animal products

Veganism is about giving up animal products, of course.

Some interpretations involve only dietary matters, while others extend to ethical issues as well, including the wearing and use of animal products (think leather handbags and body lotion with lanolin).

But beyond these lifestyle changes, is there anything else to veganism?

Emilija thinks so. “[Going vegan] made me feel very compassionate and very aware of things. It didn’t just change my view of animals, but also human beings and Mother Earth. It [expanded] my horizons. I realized how much damage is done, and if we don’t stop it, there will be no turning back.”

Rachel agreed. “I really believe it has allowed me to become a much more spiritual and easygoing person. Before, I was very stubborn and judgmental and I was never willing to open my mind or try new things.”

“I’ve become more patient with friends and I’m more in tune with how others are feeling,” she added. “I’ve become far more approachable and compassionate with people[…]which is leading me to want to study psychology in university.”

Jessica feels she has changed as well. “I’m mentally and physically a stronger person [than before]. My personality has grown into what I feel it was meant to be.”

These experiences seem to prove that making the decision to go vegan is indeed a big deal – just not in the way you might think.

You may notice significant changes in your digestion, your well-being and your overall health.

But perhaps more unexpectedly, you may also experience changes in the way you view yourself and the world.

So, while the decision itself may seem like a giant leap into the unknown, remember that it seemed that way for everyone at first – including these four women. They journeyed through twists and turns and unforeseen obstacles along the way.

But despite all that, and though they may be four very different people, they did agree on one thing about their experience with veganism: They’d never go back.

Are you vegan or vegan-curious? What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

How to Ditch Cheese For Good (Even If You’re A Serious Addict!)

Does this sound like you?

You’ve heard of plant-based diets and how great they can be for your health. You like the idea and have seriously been considering a transition to a diet that relies on plant-based foods exclusively.

But there’s something holding you back.

You can deal with giving up meat – you’ve proven that to yourself on more than a few Meatless Mondays. No eggs, no problem. And milk and butter have genius plant-based substitutes already that work just as well as their animal-derived counterparts.

No, the problem isn’t any of those.

It’s cheese.

Yes, cheese. Gooey, stinky, hard or soft, it can be embarrassing to admit the hold it has over you. I’ve certainly been there.

And many people that currently follow plant-based diets confess that eschewing cheese was actually the most difficult part of their transition.

If you’ve landed on this post and you’re still reading, chances are you’ve been thinking the same thing. You’re asking yourself how on earth you will ever be able to live without the most delicious food ever to hit your taste buds.

And you may be prematurely giving up, resigning yourself to the fact that you just don’t have the willpower to be “one of those people”.

But I’m here to tell you that despite all evidence to the contrary, you CAN do it!

Just follow these three simple tips and I guarantee you will be wondering why you ever doubted your ability to do something so simple.


1. Find Your Flavor Replacements


First, we need to consider the goal here. It’s really more about replacing cheese and the flavors it imparts than giving it up altogether.

The trick is to find the right plant-based substitute – just like you probably did (or can certainly do) with meat, milk, butter and eggs.

So, the first tip is to figure out what it is that you love about the taste of cheese, find a similar flavor, and replace it in your diet. Pretty simple, right?

Since cheese comes in many different varieties, flavors and textures (blue cheese is completely different from American cheese or mozzarella, for example), it’s important to figure out which cheeses are your favorites and why.

Do you love the richness of cream cheese? Or the sharp tang of an aged Cheddar? Maybe a creamy Brie is more your style.

Once you’ve nailed down your favorites and the reasons you love them, it’s time to start thinking about substitute flavors in the plant world.

For an acidic tang, lemon juice is a great alternative. Cashews or almonds (or almost any other nut), soaked and then blended with a little liquid, can stand in for creaminess. Miso paste gives you that unique, elusive umami flavor. Mashed ripe avocado is an easy substitute if it’s richness you crave.

It’s worth mentioning that many people who give up cheese swear by nutritional yeast flakes. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast sold in many grocery stores (sometimes in the health food section). You can simply sprinkle it over a dish or add it to sauces – it’s easy to use and has a nutty flavor reminiscent of cheese.

What now? Well, for low-level cravings, this is all you need.

Throw some chopped avocado in your salad instead of goat cheese crumbles if you’re craving something smooth and rich. To add an edge to your dish, use lemon juice in sauces for some brightness and acidity. Or, for that unmistakable cheesy flavor, try mixing miso paste into homemade salad dressing.

Now, you may be internally rolling your eyes at me right now.

You’re probably wondering if I’m seriously suggesting that your favorite rich, delicious, creamy cheese could be replaced with a mere squeeze of lemon and a lowly mashed-up avocado.

I’m not (remember, I said low-level cravings!).

On to tip #2.


2. Substitute Plant-Based Cheese You Can Buy


Yes, of course you can buy plant-based cheese!

Maybe you already knew that. Maybe you’ve even tried some. Maybe you think they taste like you’re chewing the rubber off your car’s tires.

I’ve been there.

But plant-based or vegan cheese has actually come a long way in recent years. It’s now at the point where even true turophiles find themselves fooled.

So which faux cheese tastes the best? Well, it depends on what you plan to do with it.

Here’s a list of the best plant-based cheeses for each potential application:

  • For a gooey, delicious grilled cheese sandwich, try Chao or Daiya cheese slices.
  • For pizza, try Daiya cheese shreds.
  • For cream cheese, nothing beats Kite Hill’s almond-based varieties. This stuff will fool everyone you know. It’s great for bagels, cheesecakes, frosting – you name it. If you’re looking for a simple bagel spread, Treeline has some tasty cashew French-style cheeses that come in unique flavors.
  • For traditional Italian-style mozzarella (think buffalo mozzarella), try Miyoko’s cashew based VeganMozz. It’s actually got a better flavor than the real stuff!
  • For ricotta, Kite Hill makes another fantastic almond-based substitute. It’s great in lasagna or in any recipe (hello, pancakes!) that calls for traditional ricotta.
  • For a fancy cheese board, when you just want to enjoy the flavor of the cheese all by itself (with some wine, of course), try any flavor of Miyoko’s cheese. I also highly recommend Treeline’s aged nut cheeses, especially the cracked pepper variety. Serve these at a party and no one will know they’re dairy-free!

Most popular chain grocery stores will carry at least some of these cheeses. You’ll have better luck with stores geared toward the health-conscious as they’ll generally carry a better selection.

But what if you’re in a rush and need to satisfy that cheese craving NOW?

What if you live miles away from any chain grocery store?

Fear not.

Check out tip #3.


3. Substitute Plant-Based Cheese You Can Make


Yes, you can make plant-based cheese!

What’s that? You don’t want to make your own cheese? Well, you don’t have to, strictly speaking. See tip #2.

But what if I told you that making your own cheese can be very, very simple and mind-blowingly delicious, too?

Most plant-based cheeses that actually taste like dairy cheese use a combination of the flavor replacements in tip #1 to mimic the familiar flavors and textures you know and love.

For an easy beginner’s cheese, try this almond feta recipe first. It’s laughably easy and you can also skip the overnight refrigeration and use as-is for a creamier cheese that’s ready to eat in minutes.

Pro tip – add a couple teaspoons of miso paste. I do this with every cheese I make at home to give it that cheesy sharpness. Note that miso paste is naturally salty, though, so you’ll want to reduce the amount of salt you’re using in your recipe if you add miso.

Ready to move on? Try a tofu-based cheese if you’re feeling brave and ready to kick those dairy cheeses to the curb.

Simply crumble up a block of tofu in a food processor and add a tablespoon each of miso paste, olive oil and tahini. Add whatever seasonings you feel like – dried herbs or garlic powder come to mind – a squeeze of lemon and salt to taste and blitz it up.

You can form the resulting blob into whatever shape you like and either serve as-is or refrigerate for a couple of hours to solidify it a bit and then pop it in the oven at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes for the warm, gooey cheese of your dreams.

Another pro tip: after removing your cheese from the food processor, roll it in cracked peppercorns. The pepper adds a great kick and a hint of spice.

But what if you want a cheese worthy of topping your favorite pasta dish or sprinkling over garlic bread?

Not a problem.

For a plant-based parmesan, simply combine 1/2 cup of nuts (try cashews or pecans), 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil, 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of garlic powder in a food processor.

Blitz until the mixture resembles coarse sand, and you’re ready for faux-parmesan magic.

Want your cheese to double as a dip? Enter queso. Queso-less queso. Typically cashew-based, it’s another dead ringer for its dairy cousin. You’ll swear you’re at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

There are plenty of plant-based queso recipes all over the internet – try this one or this simplified version.

In fact, once you’ve tried a few of these starter plant-based recipes and are feeling more confident in your cheese-making capabilities, feel free to go forth and search for more recipes all over the internet.

There are plenty of plant-based cheese recipes available to keep you experimenting once you get your feet wet. Be forewarned, though – making your own cheese is addictive!

I hope these tips have inspired you to believe that you CAN give up dairy cheese. Although it may seem impossible now, remember that many former cheese addicts have been in your shoes.

Those people managed to give up cheese and lived to tell the tale – of better health and better-tasting plant-based cheese. Follow these tips to replace your own dairy cheese cravings and there will be no stopping you!

Have you ever thought about giving up cheese? What’s holding you back? Let me know!

5 Delicious Plant-Based Swaps for Your Favorite Meals

In the beginning, including more plant-based foods in your diet can seem daunting. Where do you begin? Do you have to give up your favorite meals? Can you only eat salads and raw veggies now?

What are you, a rabbit?

No. You’re not a rabbit. And you fully deserve to continue eating delicious food. Only now, that delicious food can also be healthy. Win-win.

Here, I’ve rounded up five easy swaps designed for you to add more plants into your favorite meals in the most delicious way possible.


1. Tacos


Ah, tacos. Who doesn’t love them?

One of the best things about tacos is that they’re completely customizable – you can put almost anything in them that you like. Just a few basic fillings and a sauce is all you need, and you’re well on your way to taco heaven.

While it’s perfectly common to put fresh veggies in your taco, allow me to suggest you put one around your taco. Instead of a soft tortilla or a hard taco shell, try wrapping your delicious taco fillings in a lettuce leaf.

I’ve found Bibb lettuce or romaine hearts work best for this, but you can use any lettuce leaf (or any leafy green) you like. Not only does it pump up the nutritional value of your taco, it also tastes refreshing and adds a satisfying crunch.

Bonus: you can also do this with burgers – just wrap the patty in a couple of lettuce leaves, top with fixings of choice and serve!


2. Pasta


Pasta is another favorite weeknight meal of many. It’s simple to prepare which makes it a great choice when you’re pressed for time, especially if you already have a sauce on hand.

You have a few choices when it comes to increasing your plant intake via your pasta dish. For starters, you can top your pasta with as many veggies as you’d like.

But let’s not forget that “spiralizing” a variety of vegetables to replace pasta noodles has gained popularity in recent years.

You can use a store-bought spiralizer for this, which is fairly inexpensive, or you can also use a vegetable peeler to create “ribbons” of your vegetable of choice.

Zucchini is a great veggie to substitute for noodles because they tend to be small yet firm – perfect for that spiralizer contraption – and don’t require any cooking. In fact, it will take you less time to spiralize zucchini than it would to boil water and cook traditional pasta. Another win!

You can also try spiralizing (noodlizing?) any other firm vegetable that lends itself to the process, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, potatoes, daikon radish, and celery root, to name a few.

Another option for a noodle replacement? Spaghetti squash, of course! Cooking spaghetti squash is a bit more time-consuming, but well worth it, and you can always cook your squash on a Sunday and refrigerate for consumption later in the week.

Simply slice your squash in half, drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the flesh, place on a baking sheet with the cut sides down and roast in a 425 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Then, once cooled a little, scrape the strands out with a fork, toss with your favorite sauce and tell me your mouth isn’t watering.


3. Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is such a versatile spread. From sandwiches to dips to dressings, mayo lends a tangy, creamy mouthfeel that’s difficult to replicate. But not impossible.

Mash a ripe avocado, add a little lime juice and salt, and hey presto! You’ve got yourself a plant-based mayonnaise. Spread on sandwiches or thin out with water and add herbs or spices for a (vibrant green) salad dressing.

Of course, if you’re in the mood for a dip, guacamole is always popular and a good substitute for mayo-based dips. But why not get creative and add unexpected ingredients to your avocado dips?

Toss in some caramelized onions and onion powder for an onion dip, or puree with chipotle peppers for a spicy dip. Avocado, much like mayo, is a blank canvas.

You can even substitute avocado for butter in some applications. Talk about a win-win – delicious and healthy!


4. Nachos


Everyone’s favorite game-day appetizer is an obvious great base for veggies. Nachos are often already loaded with onions, tomatoes, olives, jalapenos and the like. But just wait until you take them to the next level.

I’m talking, of course, about replacing the tortilla chips with veggies.

Slice a sweet potato on a mandoline or very thinly with a knife. Place slices on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees. Top with all the fixings and return to the oven to heat everything through. It’s that easy.

Not a fan of sweet potato? Want to switch it up? Zucchini also masquerades perfectly as nacho chips. Just remember to toss with a little cooking oil first before throwing them in the oven.


5. Chips or crackers


I once ordered a delicious edamame hummus appetizer at a local sushi restaurant. Along with the usual crostini, it came with thick-cut veggies sliced on the bias (diagonally) for dipping.

Ever since then, I’ve been stealing this idea whenever I need chips to go with a dip I’ve made. Cucumbers and carrots work well for this, but don’t be afraid to get creative and try whatever veggie you have on hand. Jicama, radishes, and parsnips come to mind.

Your veggies-disguised-as-chips can also do double duty as crackers. Serve as hors d’oeuvres with the fixings of your choice on top. You can also try this with endive leaves and make ‘boats’ – fill with hummus and top with a sprinkle of chili powder and chopped nuts or olives.
As you can see, it’s easy to substitute fresh veggies for the components of some of your favorite dishes – all you need is a little imagination. I promise that every one of these swaps tastes delicious and, since the end result is a lighter meal, can even leave you feeling more energized.

The best part is that you get to amp up the overall nutritional value of your food without sacrificing taste – and you can still enjoy your go-to favorites.

Did I miss your favorite veggie swap? Let me know in the comments below!

The Only Tip You Need to Start Feeling and Looking Your Best

Let’s face it. We’ve all been there.

Sooner or later, each and every one of us has gone through a time in our lives where we’ve spent days, weeks, months or even years eating the foods we know we should avoid, or at least limit, in our diets.

And unfortunately, this usually goes hand in hand with spending quality time on the couch after a long day at the office, when we know we should be making more of an effort to move our bodies.

Then comes that one day when you suddenly realize what you’ve been doing (or not doing). You’re sick of feeling tired all the time with zero energy for activities you really enjoy.

You’re sick of eating food that, while undeniably delicious, makes you feel awful as your body struggles to digest it.

You want to completely overhaul your lifestyle. You’re overcome with guilt and you can’t fathom how it could have gotten this bad.

You might even resolve to make a change.

But what?

As you try to pinpoint exactly where to begin, time passes. You become distracted.

Before you know it, you’re back to the same old habits. Or worse.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been in those shoes. It took me years to stop, look around, and focus on what was really going on in my life.

I was not leading a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t feel good, and I didn’t look my best, either.

Admitting these things to myself was hard. But consciously acting to resolve them was even harder.

The thought of where to begin was overwhelming. After all, thanks to the media and social networks, we are constantly bombarded every day with tips – both good and not-so-good – on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you’re anything like I was, you end up ignoring them simply because they seem insurmountable.

Then, one day, I figured it out. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The best tip I can give you? Start small.

No matter how small, your chosen avenue of progress is exactly that – progress. It will (eventually) take you to where you need to be.

In other words, start with a small change to your lifestyle, and gradually add more small changes as you feel you are ready for them.

What kind of a change should you make?

First, just simply pay attention to your everyday habits:

• What are you eating?
• How much of it?
• When?
• How does it make you feel?
• Are you getting any exercise?
• If not, why not?
• Can you find time for ten minutes of activity per day?
• If so, when would you fit it in?
• If you’re already exercising, how do you feel after you’re done?
• How do you feel when you skip working out for a few days?
• How do you feel when you wake up in the morning?
• Are you exhausted when you get home in the evening?

I highly recommend writing down all your answers to these questions so you have a record and can compare them to how you feel later on.

After a week or so, read what you’ve written. Notice which habits lead to you feeling your best, and which habits….don’t.

Perhaps you feel at your worst when you wake up in the morning, because you’re always incredibly exhausted. Or maybe your low point is every Sunday night, after eating take-out pizza for dinner and your stomach is in knots.

For me, it was definitely overeating. There were times when I had no portion control and didn’t know when to cut myself off, so I kept eating and ignoring my body’s cues that I was full. This led to stomachaches and feeling sluggish for half a day or so.

Pick one of your observations of a habit that isn’t working for you, and decide how you will implement a small change.

Can you commit to making your bedtime just fifteen or twenty minutes earlier? Can you order something besides pizza on Sunday that might make you feel better, or are you willing to make your own pizza instead of ordering out?

In my case, the best change for me to start with turned out to be portioning out my food. Instead of eating as much as I wanted, I began deciding ahead of time how much I would eat at each meal, and that’s how much would go on my plate. If I was eating out and I knew the portions were huge, I’d order a side or an appetizer instead of a main meal.

Next, implement your change – now.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not on a Monday – begin immediately. Leaving yourself room to procrastinate will only end up making you feel worse in the long run, because you can put it off indefinitely. There will never be a perfect time for this change to happen, so you may as well start right now.

Try to record how you’re feeling once you’ve put your change into practice. Aim to write something down every day, even if it’s just one sentence. I know it sounds like a drag, but this really is an important part of tracking your progress – you’ll want to see how far you’ve come!

Allow yourself time to adapt to your small change – a month is good for most people. After that time has passed, consider how you feel and then read through your notes.

Perhaps you have a few extra hours of free time on Sunday now that you’re not nursing a stomachache. Or maybe you’re finding that getting just twenty extra minutes of sleep – or even just being in bed and resting twenty minutes earlier – is having a small effect on your energy levels in the morning.

Once I started cutting back on portions, I didn’t even need to consult any notes – I felt better, I looked better, and I lost weight. It was only a few pounds, so I didn’t think much of it, but other people noticed, too.

If you discovered your change yielded positive results, fantastic! Focus on why you think that happened. Then use that same reasoning to decide what your next tiny change will be.

Didn’t notice a difference? Read through your records from the past month to ensure you stuck to your goal enough times for it to be effective.

If you’re sure you did everything as you’d envisioned, consider what you’ve changed and whether it needs to be tweaked in some way to be effective. For example, if you’re religiously getting to bed twenty minutes earlier every night and then laying there with the TV on while playing games on your tablet (AKA exactly what you were doing before “going to bed”), you might need to try switching off all screens, dimming the lights and reading a book or meditating instead.

Once you’ve taken an effective first (baby) step towards a healthier lifestyle, think of where you want to end up and write down all of your goals. Don’t hold back. Work backwards from there to figure out all the small changes you will need to make to arrive at your destination.

Then, simply continue putting one foot in front of the other. Each month, implement a new small change. Remember to write down how you feel. And, of course, don’t forget to continue to practice your changes from previous months.

If you feel ready to add another small change before a month is up, by all means, do it. The most important thing is to be comfortable with the changes you are making in addition their timing and to do what is best for you.

This is all it takes to start a journey to a healthier, happier you – small, incremental changes that are relatively easy for you to incorporate into your current lifestyle. When one change has you feeling and looking better, it will naturally motivate you to move on to the next change, and the next.

And before you know it, the day will come again when you suddenly realize what you’re doing (or not doing). Only this time, you will be delighted with where you’re at and amazed at all you have accomplished. I know I was.

Do you have any other tips that helped you journey to a healthier you? Let me know!

Surprising Health Benefits of Ginger (That You Didn’t Already Know About)

Ginger is commonly used in the culinary world as an herb, spice and flavor enhancer in a plethora of dishes, as anyone who has visited Asia (or a local Asian takeout spot) will know. But what about the medicinal uses of ginger? Most of us have a vague idea that ginger can be used to treat some ailments. But aside from steeping it in hot tea to soothe a sore throat, ginger is capable of reducing or even eliminating symptoms of other malaises that may afflict you or someone you know.

Ginger, in its purest form, grows underground in a root-like form called a rhizome and belongs to the Zingiberaceae family along with turmeric, cardamom, and lesser-known galangal. Ginger contains active compounds called gingerols, which are housed in oils extracted from the root. Research has shown that gingerols could contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s good news, even if you’re healthy!

Of course, if you’re suffering from any variety of mild annoyances, ginger can probably help you, too. Many studies have proven it effective in reducing the severity of nausea, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms. It’s also helped many people in regulating their digestion, eradicating diarrhea (yes, really), and ridding the body of excess gas.

But what about more serious illnesses? Can ginger actually be effective in fighting those? While it’s true that we don’t quite have enough information yet to answer this affirmatively, some studies have indicated that ginger could help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as prevent blood from clotting. This would be great news not only for those already suffering from heart disease, but for anyone looking to prevent it. As if that weren’t enough, some researchers have discovered that ginger also appears to help lower blood sugar in diabetics, though as of yet, the reason why is unclear.

Ready to up your ginger consumption yet? Ginger is available in many forms, from the plain root in the produce section of your local supermarket to the powdered variety yprobably have in your spice rack at Christmastime. But it doesn’t end there. You can also buy ginger extract, distilled ginger (made from the oil extracted from the root), powdered ginger in capsule form, pickled ginger (usually adorning your sushi plate) and crystallized ginger, which can be used in baked goods. Some stores even carry chewable ginger candies to freshen your breath.

However you decide to get your ginger fix, you can rest easy knowing it’s been a popular natural cure for everything from A to Z for thousands of years. Hippocrates must have had ginger on the brain when he famously proclaimed: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

Please note that this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Make 2017 Your Year: 7 Tips to Begin Living a Healthy Lifestyle Today

Yes, I know we are almost one-third of the way through 2017. (Insert the requisite “my, how time flies!” quip here). But it’s not too late to start acting on those New Year resolutions, and it’s never to late to kick off a healthy lifestyle.

Now, before you lose all interest and get back to that Netflix marathon you have paused, let me explain. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to mean a boring existence spent running on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel, or eating leaves of raw kale and pretending it’s every bit as delicious as the pancakes you were craving. It doesn’t have to mean a lifestyle you don’t thoroughly enjoy. In fact, the best part about adopting new habits is that it’s all about you. You can tailor a healthy lifestyle to fit your needs and preferences.

The best way to begin a healthy lifestyle is gradually. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: new habits “stick” better if you ease yourself into them like a hot bath on an icy day. Well, it’s true! Here are 7 ways you can transition to a healthier lifestyle and start feeling fantastic.

1. Meditate.

Ok, you probably weren’t expecting this to be the first tip for a healthy lifestyle. You probably weren’t expecting it to be on this list at all. But hear me out! Healthy living isn’t just about exercise and eating right – that’s a great way to look after your body, but don’t forget that a healthy mind is just as important. Meditation is a great way to begin the journey to a healthier you, in part because it sets you up with an ideal foundation. Begin with a healthy mindset, and everything that follows becomes easier.

What is meditation, exactly? For a beginner, it can be as simple as taking ten minutes every morning or evening to sit in a comfortable spot with no distractions, close your eyes, and follow the rhythm of your breathing. It will be natural for thoughts to enter your mind during this process. Don’t indulge them, but don’t stress yourself out about chasing them away, either. Just let them be, and go back to focusing on your breathing. You can also try the same technique for a shorter one to two minutes when confronted with stressful situations throughout the day. It may be a little challenging at first, but you’ll get the hang of it – before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of a calmer psyche.

2. Focus on the food you’re eating.

No, I’m not going to tell you to lay off the potato chips or give up dessert. Instead, try thinking about what you eat and how it makes you feel. Yes, really! You’ll find that the more consideration you give to what you put in your mouth, the more mindful you’ll be about the foods you eat in the long run.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re headed out for lunch with a couple of friends, and you’re perusing the menu at a chain restaurant. Perhaps you’re dying to try their mac and cheese, or you’re really jonesing for a juicy burger. That’s ok. Now – before you order, imagine yourself digging in to your chosen dish. How will you feel while you’re eating it? What about afterwards? How do you think your body will react to the fuel you are providing?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying your cravings will magically disappear. Maybe you’ll still want the burger, but you’ll choose to order a side salad instead of french fries for a more balanced meal. Maybe you’ll order the mac and cheese, but have the foresight to ask for a to-go box alongside it because you know the portion is larger than what you need right now. Or maybe, you’ll remember that the last time you ate a burger and french fries, you didn’t feel so great for the rest of the day. Maybe that memory will be enough to make you want to try something new. I hear the lettuce wraps are dynamite.

3. Try exercise.

No, seriously – just try it. I’ve heard plenty of people tell me how they “don’t like to exercise”. Why?  They “just don’t like it”. Really? Well, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

First, what exactly are you doing? Are you forcing yourself to work out to one of those fitness DVDs you know you hate? Can’t stand running? Would you rather die than set foot on the Stairmaster? (I might have to agree with you there.) The answer is simple – don’t! Being active is great, but you’re always going to dread it if it’s something you don’t enjoy doing. And if you’re hating every moment of your workout, how healthy can it really be?

Instead, try picking something you know you’ll enjoy. If you can’t think of anything that will really get you going fitness-wise, pick something you’ve never done before that sounds interesting. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try Zumba but are afraid to take the leap, or you loved riding your bike as a kid but can’t justify purchasing a grown-up bicycle as an adult. (If that’s the case, try renting a bike at a local park!)

Maybe you already know which fitness activity you enjoy, but you just can’t bring yourself to get outside for an hour-long trail run after a long day at work. Perhaps a ninety-minute hot yoga class at 5 AM sounds…exhausting. If you’re new to exercise, or you haven’t made it a routine in a long time, it’s going to be tough to get started – and keep going. Well, the other side of this two-pronged tip is to keep it short – at least in the beginning. Make sure your workouts are beginner level and as short as ten to fifteen minutes in length. That way, when you really don’t feel like doing anything besides taking refuge on the couch under your quilt, you can say to yourself, “It’s just fifteen minutes. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye.” You’ll find it really will be, too – and you can gradually increase the duration (and intensity) of your workouts over time. In fact, you’ll actually want to.

4. Sleep better.

Not more (or less), necessarily. Just better. Better quality sleep will not only add benefits to your work and personal life (think more productivity and energy), it will leave you with a better state of mind, too (much like meditation in tip #1). Many people don’t realize how much some good quality sleep could affect their lives until they try switching up their routine – or lack thereof. How to get started? Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even weekends) for three weeks straight and see how you feel. Aim to be in bed with the lights out 7-9 hours before you plan to wake up in the morning. Also, have a nightly routine so your brain can get into the rhythm of bedtime: turn the lights down low, try to keep digital screens to a minimum, and sip on a cup of herbal tea while reading a book, flipping through a magazine or just reflecting on the day.

5. Indulge yourself.

Part of being healthy, as we discovered previously, is having a healthy mindset and maintaining a positive attitude. You’re not going to be able to do that if you’re constantly forcing yourself to do tasks you don’t enjoy – make the bed, clean the bathroom, cook your lunches for the week, meet a tough deadline at work. It’s important to balance tasks like these that you feel obligated to do with activities and experiences you enjoy to keep your attitude upbeat and give you something to look forward to each day. Go for a picnic every Saturday when the weather’s nice, have a standing date to meet your best friend for coffee every week to catch up, bake cookies if you’ve skipped dessert all week and just want to treat yourself (there are plenty of healthy recipes for cookies on the internet!), or just turn on some nice music and relax in the bath with a glass of wine and a good book. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you make time for it regularly – once or twice a week is good – and make sure it’s something you really enjoy, and not something that involves anything that remotely feels like work.

6. Spend time in nature.

These days, most of us spend a lot of time indoors – we exercise in gyms or fitness studios, we work in air-conditioned offices under fluorescent lights, we eschew the patio to sit inside at our favorite eateries, and to top it all off, we drive to get to all these places. If you think about it, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to get fresh air in your lungs. Studies show that time spent out of doors can improve vitality, boost energy, and even have a positive effect on mental health – connecting with nature can work wonders on reducing stress levels. You can (obviously) coordinate this tip with your exercise routine – take a walk outside on your lunch break, go for a morning run or a sunset bike ride – or you can simply sit on a park bench and read. Picnics are a fun idea to get the whole family outside, or you can even try a new hobby like bird-watching. There’s just something about nature, whether it’s the feeling of the warm sun on your face, getting caught in the drizzle of a fresh spring rainfall, or hearing the wind rustle the leaves, that seems to instantly calm the spirit.

7. Stay hydrated.

Yes, hydration has plenty to do with your health, as you’re probably already aware. Regular H2O guzzlers enjoy benefits such as clearer skin, keeping their hunger in check, efficient kidney function, and much more. If you’re already drinking water, good job – keep it up! If you’re not, or you know you’re not drinking as much as you should, consider the reason why. Do you favor other drinks, such as soda or coffee? Do you dislike the ‘plain’ taste? Do you simply forget during the day? Once you’ve discovered the problem, it’s time to figure out a solution. If you have a hard time remembering, try purchasing a brightly colored, inexpensive reusable water cup with a straw and keep it on your desk. Set a timer on your phone for every couple of hours. When the timer goes off, it’s your chance to get up, stretch, and refill your cup. If you only drank a little, refill it anyway and try to “beat” your previous “record” next time. If you dislike the taste of water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime, or even adding fruits or vegetables such as strawberry or cucumber to give your water a more pleasing flavor. If you’re a coffee or soda addict, keep a water cup on your desk next to your drink of choice. Make a deal with yourself that before refilling your soda or coffee, you’ll make sure to empty your water cup – twice.

Healthy lifestyles don’t happen overnight – and that’s ok. The journey is actually more rewarding with gradual changes and progress you can measure by how you feel. Try incorporating one of these tips every week or even every month into your daily schedule. When you feel ready, add another – and so on. Make sure to check in with yourself each week and see how your new healthy habit is making you feel. Now that you’re going to bed at 10 PM every night, do you feel more rested? Does your 15 minute walk around the block during your lunch break energize you? If something isn’t working, tweak it until it feels right. Maybe getting up to exercise early isn’t your thing, but a bike ride in the park after work really melts away your stress. Whatever ends up working for you, I hope these tips make you feel happier, healthier, and more energized. You deserve it!