Road Trip & Spring 2013 Healthy Vegan Challenge

Good morning and happy Monday to you. As mentioned, Alan and I traveled about 300 miles yesterday from the Palm Springs area back to our home on California’s Central Coast. It is a journey we make a few times a year because we live in both places. They are vastly different communities, each with its own weather, landscape, vibe, attributes and issues and I feel so lucky to experience both.

Life Update:

Before we left our desert retreat, we went for one last hike on Saturday:

Photos from hike in Palm Desert in February.

I made two big salads for lunch on the road, plus some fresh mango for dessert. I didn’t have any salad dressing to use, so I just put a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter on each salad along with some balsamic vinegar. The other ingredients in the salad were romaine, chickpeas, bell pepper, onion, broccoli slaw and sunflower seeds:

Road trip salads.

We left early Sunday morning with both kitties safely stowed in their travel crates in the back seat. Our journey started with the windmills that are so iconic to that part of the desert (thanks to Alan for taking these road shots):

Windmills of Palm Springs.

Hours later, we reached the coast and I was so happy to see the ocean again:


After a lunch stop, a visit to one of my favorite farm stands for fresh produce and a few more hours of driving, we were home amidst the green rolling hills and vineyards that make this part of California so beautiful:

Vineyards and rolling hills of the central coast.

Once there, we unpacked, fed the hungry, hungry cats and had a snack of Cherry Tahini Ice Cream.Β We thenΒ got back in the car to run some errands, including a visit to Costco for more fresh produce:

Fresh fruit from trip to Costco.

I just can’t start the week without a full kitchen of fruits and vegetables, you know?

Healthy Vegan Challenge:

Speaking of healthy foods, that brings me to my next order of business:

Spring 2013 Healthy Vegan Challenge photo

If you follow me on my Facebook page, then you know that I’ve decided to re-commit to building some healthy habits this spring. For me, that means going back to the principles of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live guidelines. In spite of eating an overall very healthy vegan diet, I tend to slip and develop bad habits over time. That’s human nature, right? Anyway, I find that I do really well when I have a structure and a goal, so I’ve decided to commit to 8 weeks of cleaner eating. Do you want to join me?!?

Originally, I was going to start this week, but I wanted to give all of us time to set our goals and make the commitment. So, let’s plan to start a week from today, February 25th, and go through April 22nd. That is 8 weeks which is not too short and not too long. Mark your calendars and do what you need to do to set yourself up for success. For me, that means:

  • Setting clear, specific goals and writing them down.
  • Planning ahead to make sure I have the right foods and access to resources.
  • Telling other people about my intentions so I have support.
  • Asking for help when I need it.

Even though my goals are centered around specific eating behaviors, you goals may be vastly different and may be bigger or smaller. Your goals could be anything from quitting smoking to incorporating exercise into your life to making the commitment to go vegan. I am not here to judge your goals, but my role is to help with structure, accountability and support.

Also, I should note that I’m not a health professional and I am not making any recommendations for changes you need to make. You should consult your physician or health professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Are you excited? I am!!!

If you are ready to accept the Health Vegan Challenge, then please leave a comment on this post. It would be great if you would write about your goal(s) in as much detail as you feel comfortable. That way, during the Challenge and at the end, you can refer back and gauge your progress.

I actually wrote out a contract for myself with my specific goals, signed and dated it:

Healthy Vegan Challenge contract.

I’ve made a few refinements to my goals and the most current version is:

  • No oil
  • No sugar
  • No dried fruit (except in salad dressings)
  • No sweeteners (non-nutritive or artificial)
  • No refined grains or flours
  • No cacao or cocoa
  • Added salt only 200-300 mg per day

It works for me to list my goals as things I am not going to do, but it might work better for you to list them as things you want to do. Β We are all going to be different, so figure out what works for you, but write them down.

My hope with this Challenge is that we can support and encourage each other over the 8 weeks. I can’t wait to hear about your goals.

I’ll be back here on Wednesday with a short post because I have to leave early that morning for my doctor’s appointment. Until then, have a great start to your week.


  1. says

    Good luck with your challenge. I look forward to following along with you. I do nearly everything on your list so far, but have yet to kick out oil. I will work more towards that goal in the next few months. In fact, I made a dal without any oil recently. Sadly, not as flavourful without the tarka, just different.

    • Rebecca M says

      Hi Janet,

      I make a lot of Indian food and when I first transitioned to it without using oil, it was definitely tough. I eventually acclimated to the new flavor and don’t miss the oil, but I also increased the amount of spices I used. I don’t use salt, and if you don’t as well, I would maybe suggest adding some dulce for natural salt-like flavor, which will also help increase the flavor while your taste buds adjust!

      Be well,

      • says

        Awesome tip! I can be quite a spice wimp but it is true that I should compensate by adding more spices. Toasting helps, too, but not as much as I had wanted. Good call on the dulse! I’ve started to add that to my stews lately. πŸ™‚

  2. Tracy says

    HI Carrie,

    I have been trying to do the same as yourself. It is harder to do here in WI in the winter. There is a definite lack of fresh produce and fruit. My goal has been for the last 2 weeks to eat primarily vegan and increase my vegetable intake. I am mostly vegan with an occasional bit of cheese. I will join you in committing to no sugar or refined grains, along with increasing my overall intake of fresh fruits and eating 100% vegan.

    Good luck!! I am with ya!!

  3. says

    The coast looks beautiful.

    I’m in on the challenge. I just finished 2 weeks of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live. I’ve lost 5 pounds and I’m starting to feel an increase in my energy levels. So, my goals are to stick with the plan and to start adding exercise at least 3 times a week. The eating part has been fairly easy for me. Making the time to exercise is more challenging with full time work and school.

    Good luck with your goals!

  4. Carolyn says

    Hi Carrie,

    I was just curious why you put “no cocoa” on your list of goals as I thought some chocolate was healthy.

    • says

      Hi Carolyn! Great question. I find that cacao and cocoa are too stimulating and addictive for me and that’s why I need to take a break from using them.

  5. Rebecca M says

    Perfect timing, as I had just recently made the plan to re-commit as well! I first began Eat to Live in May, 2012, and all of my life-long digestive problems disappeared within weeks and I lost 60 pounds by November.

    The past few months I’ve re-introduced several habits that are definitely not health promoting, and my digestion and weight are letting me know it!

    The first step of my plan is eliminating alcohol from my diet (which I did when I first began ETL). Then, re-committing to the basic ETL plan that works for me: green smoothie in the morning, an apple mid-day, a BIG salad and veggie/bean soup for dinner. Dessert, if any, is a simple sorbet of plain, blended, frozen fruit.

    Along with all of this is an underlying foundation that I will stick to eating foods that I preprare myself- drastically reducing any eating out, and eliminating any so-called “healthy, vegan” prepared foods.

    I love that we can all be in this together!

  6. Sarah says

    I’m in! Recently I’ve noticed that the Standard American Diet really does make me sad. While I’m following a nutritarian diet, I often experience moderate anxiety stemming from junk food cravings β€” but if I give in, I wake up the next morning fervently wishing I didn’t have to face the day. (This doesn’t seem to be related to “eater’s remorse” or any unpleasant physical symptoms, but feels like a direct, chemical impact on emotions. Before I started trying to change my diet, this was the norm for years β€” and not one health professional ever suggested anything but SSRIs.) What’s more, the junk food gives me migraines and doesn’t even taste good!

    I think social pressure/lack of support network (helped along by good-old-fashioned habit) has been a major contributor to my relapses over the last several months, so I’m hoping that recommitting within the context of a like-minded community will help me stick with it!

    • says

      Interesting thoughts, Sarah. I’m glad you’re up for the Challenge. I find that habits play a huge role in continuing my indulgences so I am hoping the Challenge will provide motivation to replace the bad habits with healthier ones.

  7. Ania says

    I order two books of Dr. Fuhrman this weekend. I’m so glad that I find you, where have you been Carrie ?My husband is diabetic so this is double important to me. I’m so sorry about your diagnosis. Ten years ago I have removed tumor from my thyroid so I thing your story drag me to your website . I’m so with you on this journey and thank you to allowed me to be part of. I’m sorry if my English is different, but I came from Poland and learn English watching Sesame Street with my two boys. I’m very exited.

  8. says

    Hi, Carrie,

    I am SO glad you shared this post today. It could not have come at a more perfect time. I have FINALLY fully decided to be vegan; I have been vegetarian for over two years but giving up animal by-products has been tough.

    But there is such a thing as a very UNHEALTHY vegan. I can be one of those people. As an emotional eater, I find comfort in soy ice cream and vegan cookies, but I just feel like crap afterwards. I have begun Dr. Fuhrman’s plan several times, and have even made some of your yummy creations from your Vegan Delish app, but I always end up slipping when I go out to eat or when I am at someone else’s house. I don’t slip in the way that I used to by giving into cheese or butter, but I may indulge in chips and salsa and eat way too much, or I may grab an overly processed vegan meal at the store on the way home from work because I am too exhausted to prepare something healthy.

    I am going to take this week to decide what my eight weeks will look like. Admittedly, it is VERY difficult for me to fully follow the Eat to Live six-week plan, as it is quite strict. The no-snacks thing is tough, because I teach all day and a banana or an apple between meals REALLY helps with the energy levels. πŸ™‚ Anyway, my focus will be on WHOLE foods and cutting out added salt and oils. I will stop giving in to processed crap that is not good for me, even if it is vegan.

    I am just so ready to lose this weight and finally feel as healthy as I want to! πŸ™‚ Thank you for your beautiful blog and for all you share with us. I so look forward to reading every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  9. says

    I love the fact you have two homes! They both look stunning.
    I was just thinking the same thing myself that I wanted to try and adopt a few more healthy principals that have slipped. I find it much easier to be healthy when the weather picks up and we’re just starting to see a bit more light and sun here (although it’s still freezing) so I’m motivated to do more exercise outdoors now. I want to go for a daily walk each day, drink at least 3 pints of extra water a day (which had slipped since I got pregnant) and continue my healthy eating, snacking on fruit. I am currently learning how to make healthy bread so I’m going to experiment with that and see if I can introduce bread back into my diet. But at the same time I’m toying with the idea of eating a lot more raw food towards the end of my pregnancy to see if it makes a difference with my labour.

  10. Lisa says

    I am with you Carrie! I just started EFL just a few days ago, and started the Aggressive Vegetarian Daily Menu today. I thought the menu would change each week. Maybe I haven’t hit the change day yet! My main goal is to try and stay on the plan for the 8 week period! Good luck to everyone!

  11. Joy says

    Sarah I was the same way! I found that as soon as I went vegan my depression symptoms & occasional anxiety stopped!

    I’ve recently gone off the wagon & have been eating chocolate or chips and have suffered the consequences with my weight & emotions. I’m recommitting to the vegan lifestyle! Can’t wait to feel better again!

  12. Michaeol says

    OK so part of the fun of this challenge is not knowing what is going to be the outcome. What I mean by that is that I have not sat and planned out anything since I went VeeGunn 1 year ago August (Cheer and the choir sings alleluia) ….my goal becomes simple stay on the VeeGunn Powered Diet with the goal of losing 20 more pounds over the 8weeks. Number one goal more regular movement at least 3 times a week walk up and down the giant hill in front of my house. It may sound modest until you realize the hill is at about 26 to 30 degree grade. Thank you I will keep you all posted….smile

  13. says

    Hi Carrie,
    I look forward to joining you and others for the 8 week healthy vegan challenge. For the challenge, I need to give up anything and everything sweet. This would mean no dates (I love dates) and to stop experimenting with making vegan desserts for a while. I have a horrible sweet tooth, and this is the one area that I need to get better control over. And I also want to try to eat only when hungry. I don’t use oil, I never ate salt because I never cared for the taste (thankfully, because kicking this sweet tooth habit is hard enough):) I also need to drink more water…

    • says

      I hear ya on the sweets, Jeanette. I can’t wait to get off this sugar ferris wheel. I find when I don’t eat sugar or oil, then only eating when I am hungry comes much easier (and it’s also easier to stop when I am full). So glad you are joining the Challenge!!!

  14. Stephanie in NC says

    I have never completed 6 weeks of the six weeks plan. That is my goal in addition to adding in some exercise which I know will help my stress management.

  15. Karen says

    I’m in! My goals:

    * Eliminate caffeine (again.)
    * End reliance on dairy coffee creamer (high sugar)
    * Reduce salt use
    * Start making home-made vegan cheese and cut out dairy cheese
    * Weight loss of about 10 pounds

    Looking forward to the journey. Thanks for getting this going, Carrie!

  16. says

    Hi Carrie!
    I started a vegan detox/cleanse over two weeks ago and I’m still going strong. My goal is to keep going with it through the end of February. Basically, it’s eating vegan with the additional restrictions of no sugar, caffeine, alcohol, corn, soy, fried foods, processed foods, artificial anything and wheat (or any other gluten). I’m doing daily blog posts listing everything I eat and any observations —which is helping to hold me accountable. After this cleanse is over at the end of this month, I will be doing a 92-day juice fast! My goal is to successful complete this! It is a huge goal, I know, but I’m ready!

  17. says

    Welcome back Carrie! I love your orange holder – it’s pretty cool.
    Count me in on that challenge! I really need to find my way back on the healthy path, I have been slipping lately… I will make some goals and look forward to having the support of others to get through it =) Thanks for initiating this great plan!

  18. Ryann says

    OK, count me in. I will think on my goals and post them before next Monday. I just finished 6 weeks – though I have to say that I really fell off the last week of that six weeks. I was down 14 lbs, but the scale shows a 4 lb gain.
    One thing I am going for in the 8 week challenge is a 90% adherance rate – I need to find focus in the “life” part of “Eat for Life” as I found that some of the slacking off in my last challenge was due to feeling deprived on certain things. (Hello, cocktails…)

  19. sherri kaye says

    Hi Carrie, I’d like to join the challenge! Will you be posting the basic ETL plan or tips for us to follow? My goals are:

    -Smoothie or fresh juice for breakfast.
    -Stop eating by 6:30 p.m.

    • says

      Hi Sherri! I’m glad you are joining the Challenge! To answer your question about the ETL plan, I didn’t plan to write about it because not everyone who reads the blog follows it, ya know? Let me know if you have any specific questions, though, and I’ll try to help. πŸ™‚

  20. Kathie Kiefer says

    I would love to join your challenge and get this weight off, become heart healthy and more active. I hope to increase fruit and vegetable intake, no oil, no sugar and no snacking other than allowable foods.
    Thank you, Kathie in Fl

  21. Michael says

    Good list. I am curious why no dried fruit. I am one of those who
    would like to gain weight, so I usually finish a meal with a hand full
    of nuts, some dried fruit, and avocado. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Michael. I have had problems with sugar addiction in the past and find that dried fruit triggers the craving for sugar. No, alas, no dried fruit (or any concentrated sweeteners) for me during the Challenge.

  22. Andrea says

    I want to adopt the ETL lifestyle but have been having a hard time. Maybe the group support will help. :). I’m not going to start til next week as I am moving this week and don’t want to set myself up for failure by starting in that chaos. But then the 6 week plan.

  23. says

    Your road trip looked absolutely amazing! Some really beautiful scenery, and what a great idea for the healthy vegan challenge! I’m the same as you in that I know I eat really well majority of the time but slowly more and more naughties will make their way into my daily routine, so it’s nice to bring back some structure and go back to basics.

    I’m definitely on board πŸ™‚

  24. says

    I think this challenge is exactly what I’m looking for! I just finished Eat for Health last week, and while I know what I want/need to do, I struggle with my bad habits. So – this comes at a perfect time for me. It’s going to be extra interesting because I’m traveling for a week to New Orleans in early March, and want to be sure I stick to healthy options while away.
    I think a self-help/support group is a fantastic idea!
    My biggest goal is to stop relying on quick and processed foods so often, be more prepared, and stick to fruits and vegetables the majority of the time. I’ll have to think about the rest!

    • says

      Travel is the hardest part of sticking to my healthy habits, Crissie. In fact, I have to travel the weekend after next and I am already thinking about my plan.

  25. Michelle R says

    I am so in also!! Can’t wait. Goals: eliminate coffee (1 cup in the AM), looking for salad dressings that I can use daily, and eliminate corn completely. Looking forward to 2/25

  26. Robin says

    Boy, I’d love to join in and work on my own goals. However, I’m a CPA and this time of year I just do my best to maintain and stay healthy. I’ll read your posts and the reader comments and start my challenge after April 15!

  27. says

    Totally need this right now, I’ve been eating loads of dried fruit and snack bars lately so need to get back to cleaner eats! Starting the day off with a green juice/smoothie always sets me up for a good day! It’s just been so cold here lately that I crave warm food constantly!

  28. Lakshmi says

    I am in, I really need to recommit and get these last 30 lbs off. I think I will use the same goals as you since dried fruit and chocolate are my weak areas.

  29. Ginny says

    Hi Carrie! First, I want to say how sorry I am that I don’t follow your blog like I used to and I miss it so much. Life has become very busy so oftentimes the internet is low on the priority list. Although, I long for those (kinda) lazy days again. πŸ™‚

    Both you and your blog look AMAZING!! I’ve never done any sort of “challenge” before, but REALLY feel like it’s time to try and cut some of the yuckies out of my diet. I’m currently enrolled (and committed to) a 10 week / 4 days per week workout program. There’s really never been a better time than now.

    Since Thanksgiving, I’ve tried eating only detoxifying foods, but only to veer away a couple weeks later; either bc of a party I attended, homemade bread that I had a little too much of, or whatever else helps me lose my way.

    Anyway! For this challenge, I am going to commit to the follow……G-d help me! ha! πŸ™‚

    *No sugar (except from fruit, dates, and prunes)
    *No flour (gluten really bothers me, so the bread I will continue to make, for the fam, will have to be off limits)
    *No pasta (I only eat brown rice pasta, but even that bothers my tummy)

    There you have it! Thank you for your awesome energy and for putting this challenge together!

    • says

      You’re welcome, Ginny!!! It’s so nice to hear from you and I totally get it about being busy. I’m tied to my computer for school so I can’t get away from it. πŸ™‚ Any plans to head north to the Central Coast anytime soon? Hugs!!!

  30. Devon says

    I would love it if you would post your meal plans for the week- I could most use help with figuring out how to balance the ETL plan. I’ve mostly just tried to make recipes from the site without a lot of thought about how many greens vs beans etc.

    • says

      Hi Devon! I don’t actually have a meal plan except I follow the general outline of either a smoothie or fruit/buckwheat groats for b-fast, salad for lunch and soup or veggie dish for dinner. I will be having fruit after both lunch and dinner, too. I’m just not that organized to make a real plan other than having a general idea of what I’m going to make at least a day ahead of time.

  31. Tracy says

    I’m in! I just started the E2L plan five days ago, and I’m feeling great! My goodness, I can’t even imagine how amazing it will feel after 8 weeks! Thanks and good luck to everyone!

    • says

      Your comment is such great motivation for me, Tracy! I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing well and I can’t wait to start this thing already!!! πŸ™‚

  32. Kathleen says

    Here is my list. I followed Dr. Fuhrman’s plan before having my son (I was struggling with infertility for a year and a half and got pregnant the cycle after starting the plan) and then was nauseated by smoothies, beans, avocado, nuts, seeds and greens, the horror! I want to get back to it because it was even I felt by absolute best. Honestly I had energy all day and felt so great. I have to modify the 6 week plan because I am breastfeeding. My goal is to lose the last 10 lbs from having a baby 6 weeks ago, and be healthy. I am allowing 1 date daily because they are not a trigger for me and I add one to my salad.

    Carrie on vegan 8 week challenge:

    February 25, 2013:

    2. 1 date daily
    3. No sugar or other sweetener
    4. No oil
    5. No refined grains
    6. No gluten-limited grains if any
    7. Eat when hungry, stop when full
    8. 1 cup of beans a day
    9. 2 ounces nuts/seeds and perhaps half an avocado (breastfeeding)
    10. No salt or sprinkle a small amount on top
    11. No cacao as much as it pains me, it is so a drug and very stimulating, gives me a headache and makes me want more and more.

  33. Michelle says

    Hi Carrie! Love your blog! I’ll be joining you on your challenge, but for 6 weeks as I’m going on vacation on April 6. I’ve been following ETL for about 5 years now, and although I had been eating 100% ETL and was at my fighting weight of 115, I’ve been eating before hungry and past fullness, and have been eating too much comfort food, and I’m up to about 124 lbs!

    I want to get back to basics: lots of GBOMBS, and most importantly, eating only when hungry and stopping when satisfied.

    Thanks for the Spring Challenge!


    • says

      So glad you’re joining the challenge, Michelle!!! I like what you said about your fighting weight; I’m hoping to reclaim mine during the next 8 weeks. I love that you’ll be celebrating with a vacation at the end of 6 weeks; that’s great motivation!

  34. Cathy says

    I will join the challenge. For me I will eat according to the Dr.Mcdougall program.
    No coffee drinks
    Eat out less & eat less take out
    Walk or other form of exercise daily.

  35. Lauren Weiss says

    I am in!!! I would love to re-commit to Eat to Live. It’s easy to slip up in February when its zero degrees and staying indoors sound MUCH better than going out to the gym and getting an additional produce shopping trip in. My biggest challenge will be preparing family meals that make everyone happy, including my three and six year old, yet are still healthy and within E2L guidelines. As my mother-in-law told me once, “You are NOT a short-order cook.” I just don’t have time to make my meal and a separate family meal. Tomorrow on the menu is actually Carrie’s lemony lentil stew, salad, and quinoa pilaf. Thanks for setting up this challenge and for the great recipes and inspiration!

  36. Christine Randazzo says

    So excited about the challenge, Your inspiration couldn;t of come at a better time. I have been trying and only following ETL about 50%, I believe this is the motivation I need to stay on track. My main focus is superuior health as I have a few medical issues that quickly resolve or improve greatly when I am 100% compliant and losing my mother to cancer very unexpectedly in December has made me truly evaluate all I can do for optimum health. In my family of five, 3 of us eat healthfully , where two are still “not quite there” which makes meal preparation challenging. I would like to drop ultimately 35 pounds but my goal for this challenge is 15. Looking forward to this journey, Thanks!

  37. Kim Sterner says

    I’m totally recommitting with you! I need to make a change… I have slowly started adding a SAD food here and there, and I must put a stop to it now! Thank you for starting this challenge again! Day 1 – off to a good start! I must go grocery shopping at lunch today if I wish to succeed to day 2. LOL! I’m ready!

    • Kim Sterner says

      BTW… my main goal sin this 6 week challenge is…

      1. to cut way back on my carb intake. 1 cup a day max!
      2. have my raw salad everyday!
      3. smoothie every day… I’ve noticed I am craving sweets, and smoothie was my desert. So back to smoothies! YAY!

  38. Ginny says

    Hi Carrie! Oh, how I wish we were headed up near you soon, but most likely not until Summer. I will keep you posted!

    I’ve added one more thing to my list, alcohol. Wine is my favorite, but I know if I don’t commit to removing it from my intake too, the next 2 months will not be as great as I know it could be. I’ll miss it dearly over the next few days, but I definitely know after that – I’ll be feelin’ good! πŸ™‚

  39. says

    I just saw this, but I’m up for it! I’m ready to lighten the foods that I’ve been bingeing on all winter and feel confident wearing less clothes once spring rolls around. I’ve noticed my weight creeping up and I just feel sluggish.

    Some specific things I’d like to do:

    Cook at home more. I know that I’m not going crazy with oil and salt like they would at a restaurant.

    No alcohol during the week. One or two glasses of wine a night can really add on the calories!

    Exercise at least a little every day. My yoga mat has been neglected for too long.

    Bigger portions of vegetables and legumes, smaller portions of calorie dense food.

    Fruit for dessert, less chocolate.

    Try out some new recipes from cookbooks with healthier recipes (Appetite for Reduction, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, Eat to Live, etc.)

    Overall I just want to get myself into some better habits. I’m already vegan, but I just want to tip the balance more towards whole foods and less processed πŸ™‚ I’ve definitely been on a slippery slope!

  40. Courtney says

    Is it too late to join? I just saw this post today…the first day of the challenge. Can I join in for tomorrow?? I need to get back to my “normal” healthy habits…I have become way too lax and have been gaining weight and picked up some not so healthy habits. I need some accountability and support!



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