January is Veganuary for many in 2015. The point? Not necessarily to make a complete life change by pledging to never eat meat, eggs or dairy ever again. Instead, many will try to be vegan for the four weeks of this month. Anyone can do that … take four weeks to be intentional about what you do eat and what you do not eat. Interested?
Going vegan for a month is likely easier if you do it with a friend or group of friends. Peer pressure works in positive ways, too. But you can do it! If you start now, you can complete four vegan-filled weeks by February. Or perhaps you’ll extend it to six weeks, through Valentine’s Day, which gets you halfway through American Heart Month. A vegan diet is heart-healthy, after all. Maybe you’ll decide to go all the way through February as a tribute to heart health? Eight weeks? You decide. Regardless, commit yourself to eating lots of veggies this month (and all year!), no matter if dairy and meat stay on the menu. Here are some useful pointers to help you succeed:
Think Outside Your Comfort Zone
A common pitfall of the vegan lifestyle? Loading up on carbs via pasta, fried food, bread, alcohol and vegan cupcakes. These types of things will only make you feel miserable, and you’ll miss the point. Take these four weeks and indulge in fresh vegetables that perhaps you haven’t tried. Learn to like kale, Swiss chard and avocados. Stock up on grapefruit and oranges, and make delicious salads incorporating healthy ingredients like bee pollen, seeds and nutritional yeast. Yes, you can still have margaritas and chips with salsa, but use this time to get outside your comfort zone and add lots of color to your plate.
Also, consider adding some fresh juices to your routine. If you’re new to juicing, start with ones that are heavy on fruit and see if you can wean your way down to juices that are mainly vegetables. You think your coffee gives you a rush and a pep in your step? Try a green smoothie instead. It’s like an energy shot that helps you embrace your day with gusto.
Where to Eat
In Nashville, we suggest taking this month to check out a few restaurants to help you on your quest for vegan health. Each of these five restaurants specializes in vegetarian and vegan food:
Located in Berry Hill, Sunflower Café serves up delicious, vegan and vegetarian specials every day. Soy and nut-, dairy- and gluten-free options are also available. The chefs create seasonal dishes from locally sourced ingredients. All the food is made fresh in-house daily and displayed beautifully, buffet-style. They strive to make sure all dishes have high nutritional value, while still focusing on great taste and amazing flavors. You can also order to-go for a healthy weeknight dinner. See the complete menu, hours and more at sunflowercafenashville.com.
The Wild Cow
This lovely spot in East Nashville dishes up vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options daily. The menu has a large assortment of appetizers, entrées, salads, tacos, sandwiches, smoothies and house-made fresh juices. Carnivores and veggie peeps alike will leave satisfied. If you don’t live in East Nashville, one visit here will make you realize that this is a destination worth going out of your way for. Find hours, daily specials and more at thewildcow.com.
This Indian restaurant, located just east of where West End crosses over 440, has seen many a StyleBlueprint lunch gathering! Available buffet-style at lunch (and off the menu for dinner), we commonly see some of Nashville’s most influential chefs enjoying a meal here. Options include both vegan and vegetarian. See the complete menu at woodlandstennessee.com.
My Veggie Chef
Not exactly a restaurant, My Veggie Chef is a meal delivery service that brings vegan yumminess right to your door if you live within 30 miles of downtown Nashville. Each entrée serves four people, and you receive five entrées (20 meals) for—are you ready for this?—$80. Yep, just $80! If you need gluten-free, the cost is $90. The meals come frozen and preprepped; all you do is throw it together, which can be pulled off in 15 minutes or less. Order by 12 p.m. Wednesday for Sunday delivery. We’ve heard fabulous reviews and have this on our list to try. See the latest menu options and more at myveggiechef.com.
Opening on January 9, 2015, in The Factory at Franklin, Thrive Café is the next step in the evolution of plant-based Spark of Life Healing Foods. You won’t find any of the following in the food at Thrive Café: gluten or wheat; dairy or casein; or added, refined sugar. Sustainable seafood is on the menu, and care is taken to make sure each ingredient has healthy benefits. There are even macrobiotic options! Check out their website at thethrivecafe.com to learn more and find additional details closer to opening.
Where to Drink
How about adding some fresh juice to your dietary mix? Nashville, once a desert for fresh juices, is now teeming with options. Here are the ones we’ve tried and love:
The first juicery in Nashville, and the first to serve up cold-pressed juice in the state of Tennessee, juice. Nashville continues to set the bar for the finest ingredients and customer convenience (yes, they deliver!). Cold-pressed juicing ensures that each bottle is packed with the maximum amount of nutrients, three to five times more than standard juicers. Each carefully crafted juice features a specific blend of ingredients designed to power your body. Purchase them individually or as part of a cleansing kit. Also try their fresh almond milks! Located in the Gulch and Hendersonville. Click here to learn more.
The Urban Juicer
Devoted to fostering a healthy community, The Urban Juicer makes healthy eating fast, fresh and accessible. Their delicious smoothies and juices are made from the freshest produce and blended to perfection. They even allow you to customize your beverage with added superfoods for an extra punch! Look for vitamin-rich snacks, wraps and salads if you are seeking more than juice. With a mission to make healthy eating a habit everyone can adopt, The Urban Juicer offers delicious products that are a fabulous alternative to fast foods. Locations include one on Eighth Avenue South and inside the Bellevue and Green Hills YMCAs. Click here to learn more: styleblueprint.com/nashville/guide/the-urban-juicer
The Juice Bar
The Juice Bar menu features power blends of tasty greens and roots, or tailor your drink to your taste. In addition to fresh juices, The Juice Bar makes smoothies loaded with fresh fruit. Proteins, pollens and other boosters can be added on request. Have you ever filled a growler with beer? Do the same thing here, but with fresh juice. When looking for more than juice, this eatery serves gluten-free, savory vegetarian snacks, like quinoa salad and select soups, making great nutrition available on the go. Middle Tennessee locations include Brentwood, Franklin and Berry Hill, with plans for a Germantown location very soon. Learn more at styleblueprint.com/nashville/guide/the-juice-bar.
While getting an incredible workout is what Barry’s is best known for, anyone can wander into its Gulch location and order a juice or smoothie at their amazing juice bar. Each menu option features the calorie count, and blends are made fresh while you wait. Better yet, go in for a workout and order your smoothie or juice to be ready when class is done! Brilliant! Visit styleblueprint.com/nashville/guide/barrys-bootcamp for details.
One More Reason to Try Veganuary
For another reason to try the vegan lifestyle, read this StyleBlueprint article by Katherine Michalak, our Atlanta contributing writer, about why her family went vegan after her fit and active husband, Joe, ended up in the hospital with chest pains. It’s well worth the read!
So new year, new you? Perhaps it doesn’t need to be that drastic. But minor dietary tweaks can’t be a bad idea. And now it’s easier than ever to try the vegan lifestyle. So, are you ready to take the pledge? For support and advice, check out veganuary.com, which includes a product dictionary, an eating-out guide and information on the benefits a vegan lifestyle has on animals, the environment and your overall health. Here’s to you and your health. Happy 2015!