Seeking Adventure, Armed with a Camera – Chris Burkard, Energized Landscapes and Vegan Lifestyle

Chris, what motivated you to start eating vegan?

Being a photographer is definitely not a 9-5 job and requires me to be shooting long hours for multiple days in a row. Diet plays a huge role for me to have the energy and creativity to keep up.

Since you’re always on the road, what tips can you give to others who want to stick to eating vegan when they travel?

I’d say the hardest part is having limited choices while I am traveling abroad and knowing what dishes are vegan. I believe that culture is a very important part of traveling, and some countries it is impossible to stay vegan. In that case I have the local cuisine in which I can get almost always get something vegetarian.

On the road or at home, are there any foods that you miss eating?

Thanksgiving is always the toughest one for me. Just a combination of the amazing smells and good friends you’re with having a great time makes it hard.  With the dawn of Pinterest, finding vegan Thanksgiving ideas has been much easier.

Way to adapt, and good idea for finding creative alternatives online. Do you have a favorite vegan dish?

Homemade spiralized zucchini pasta from my wife is definitely my favorite meal.

That sounds delicious! What’s your favorite Amazing Grass product?

After a long climbing or bodysurf session I love having the chocolate raw reserve protein mix with half almond milk and half water.

Aside from social or ethical reasons, many people are moving towards a vegan lifestyle for health reasons. What tips do you have for someone that wants to adopt a vegan diet?

I think quality food is a huge part of being vegan.  It is easy to be a very unhealthy vegan. I’ve found the easiest way is to shop at your local farmers market buying organic produce and cooking at home with little oils and soy products.  Even if you aren’t 100% vegan I think it is more important to be aware of and acknowledge what you’re eating.

Be more aware, great tip to end on Chris! Thank you. To follow Chris’ adventures, check out his amazing photographs and more on his website. Be sure to sign up for his newsletter for specials, discounts, and more!

Enjoying Food the Way It Was Meant to Be – Exploring alternative eating and diets with Amie Valpone

Amie, what motivated you to start eating plant-based?

I healed myself from 10 years of chronic illness by eating whole, organic foods and detoxing the junk out of my pantry!

Good for you! I think some of our readers would love to have the same success. Did you find you needed to follow a strict diet?

I’m not 100% vegan, but I eat mostly vegan and I feel so much better eating whole, fresh produce, avocados, nuts and seeds.

As a chef and nutritionist, you must get a ton of questions from friends and clients? What would you say is the most common?

“How do you get enough protein?” But you can use nuts, seeds, quinoa and many other protein packed foods like Amazing Grass protein powders!

That’s great advice. Getting protein from nuts, seeds and grains is key! When you want a treat, what do you eat?

Dark chocolate and almonds.

Yum! With no troubles in the snack department, do you find it difficult to eat in restaurants?

I only eat at organic restaurants, so I usually eat before I go to make sure I’m not hungry. Veggies are always a must!

That’s smart. But how about when you travel? Do you make all your meals before a trip?

Check out my post on how to travel gluten free on my blog. Lots of hummus, avocado, veggies, nuts and seeds!

Cool, thanks for sharing; we will definitely check that out. When you have access to a kitchen, what is your favorite vegan dish to make?Roasted veggies with coconut oil and turmeric!!

That’s a unique combo, sounds great. You certainly know how to create amazing, healthy meals but there has to be some foods you miss indulging in. Not at all. I love creating flavor with fresh, whole ingredients! It’s so much fun.

I heard a rumor that you will munch on our fresh wheat grass pellets when given the chance, is our Wheat Grass powder your favorite Amazing Grass product?

Yes, absolutely!!!

Of course! When working with your clients, what tips do you give for those that want to incorporate vegan meals into their diet or start eating plant-based?

Eat more whole foods. Make a batch of gluten free grains like black rice, quinoa, millet and sorghum on Sundays and use them all week for tacos, wraps, salads and breakfast porridge!

Amie, you are always full of great tips, ideas, and recipes, thank you! To hear more from Amie and try out her favorite recipes, check out her blog,


Plant-Based Performance, Bulking and Training

What motivated you to start a plant-based diet?

After having auto immune disorder symptoms such as rashes, itchiness, and random allergies, I decided to eat foods that were easier for my body to work with.

Do you find it difficult to maintain a plant-based diet as a bodybuilder?

Being a vegan while building my body is definitely one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my life. However, I still manage to get the appropriate nutrients needed, including proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Feeling better must help overcome that hardship! What are some common questions you get about your diet from other competitive body-builders?

“How do you handle eating vegetarian?” And I just say, will power. When people ask me how I get what I need through plant based proteins, I just explain that plant-based foods are the best and who wouldn’t want to eat double or triple the amount of food?!

What do you mean by eating double or triple the amount of food?

When it comes to comparing animal protein with plant protein, I do feel like it’s easy for others to think that animal protein is superior because it doesn’t take much chicken, steak, beef, or milk to fulfill a wide array of muscle building nutrients, when on the other hand it may take double the serving size of plant based protein to get the same amount of nutrients.

That makes sense. Supplements generally play a part in the diets of competitive athletes. Can you tell us more about how they impact your diet?

Supplements, like vitamins and minerals in capsule form, I believe, are extremely necessary for the first 1 – 2 years of lifting, but after this time I would personally recommend getting most of your needed vitamins and minerals through foods and Amazing Grass whole food powders. 

We agree that whole foods and whole food supplements are the way to go long term. Do you allow any sweets or treats in your diet?

Watermelon. I have a major sweet tooth so I eat about 1 whole watermelon a day. [Austin’s favorite Amazing Grass Berry whole food nutrition bar also helps curb his sweet tooth, he later explained.]

Wow, a whole watermelon! That’s impressive.

Lastly, what tips or advice would you give people who want to incorporate vegan or plant-based meals into their diet but are still concerned about performance?

Make sure that you get a dynamic range of whole food protein sources, along with the nutrients required to have a proper functioning, healthy body.

Great tips Austin, thank you for sharing and best of luck!

Sustaining Energy for an Adventurous Lifestyle- Vegan Athlete & Human-Powered Mountaineer Chris Bangs

Hey Chris, you have an amazing story. Do you mind telling us a little about your plant-based journey?

In 2004, while riding my bicycle from Montana to Mount Rainier, with the hopes to ski the Liberty Ridge, I suffered from malnourishment and caloric deficit. I was 28 years old, fit, healthy, (thought I could do anything) and it was the first time I had over-exerted myself to the point where I could not recover fast enough to keep going. I was also eating out of gas stations along the way, looking at all the green farms and people gardening, and wondered why healthy foods were not easily obtainable on the road. This was a huge lesson for me even though I didn’t complete the climb on Mount Rainier. I decided while riding my bike back to Montana that I was going to change my life, and maybe help make healthy foods readily available to others, too.

What a wonderful aspiration! Coming from such a meat-eating culture, what was the hardest part for you to begin this new change in your life?

I live in Montana and come from a long line of cowboys. I call it “Meat Montana” because of the overwhelming presence of hamburgers. What I find here is that if you’re honest about your health, people respect it. The most common question is the rhetorical, “You don’t eat meat?” It’s utter disbelief. People just want to be reassured, because it’s just new to them and they are probably thinking you might be nuts anyway. The hardest part for me has been eating out in social scenes, because in Montana there are no vegan restaurants. I still like to eat out with friends, but I know that if I want great vegan food I’ll have to have the party at my house.

While you’re out on a big expedition or mountaineering trip, how do you stick to eating plant-based?

As a human-powered athlete and advocate, I travel heavily by bicycle. I eat mostly fruits and nuts during the day, and those are usually easy to find. At night, I cook for myself on a little camp stove, because it is easier to find what I want at a grocery store than most cafes. When I’m in a pinch, and there are no healthy, fresh options, I rely on protein powders and trail bars because they’re cheap and easy to carry with you.

Speaking of protein powders and nutritional trial bars, what’s your favorite Amazing Grass product?

My favorite Amazing Grass product is the Amazing Meal protein powders. With an active lifestyle like mine, it is awesome to know that I’m getting the best ingredients available for muscle building and faster recovery times. And when I am in training I need the extra protein.

What tip would you give people who want to incorporate vegan meals into their diet or start eating 100% vegan?

There are gateway foods that can be fun to eat at first, like the fake meats and cheeses. But beware that most store bought fake meats are not healthy. It is best to find healthy recipes and make them yourselves. Another thing is hunger. When you become vegan, you will feel hungry at first. You are not hungry if you just ate. It is the fact that eating vegan makes you feel light not heavy, energized not tired, and it takes a while for this feeling of being hungry to become normal. Again, it’s not that you are still hungry, it’s just that you’re used to a certain feeling of being full, that doesn’t happen on a healthy vegan diet.

What a great take away, Chris. Real food for thought! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Healing Yourself, Clearing Your Mind & Eating Clean: The Insight of Cari Merriam

Cari, what motivated you to start eating a whole food, plant dominant diet?

It all began with my “roaring” twenties. It was a pretty rocky time for me. I was living a hard partying lifestyle and making choices that really hurt me both mentally and physically. It was a dark period in my life, yet when I discovered yoga… the blinders were taken off. I quickly learned to love myself and took steps to heal. Once that happened I realized how important it is to make nourishing choices for both my body and mind. I eliminated the processed foods that seem to be forced upon us… and chose a whole food, plant dominant diet. The impact was huge; each day I feel fully charged to take on the day because my body is running on awesome nutrients. This has both allowed me to heal and to take on my life passions with meaning and purpose. It’s amazing the switch that can happen, and how your life changes for the better when you feed yourself the nutrients Mother-Nature intended for us.

That’s amazing. What was the hardest part about switching to this new diet?

The hardest part sometimes, is when I don’t have options. Restaurants are extremely tricky to eat in. I am blessed to have a love for cooking. I cook a ton at home because I would get so sick when we ate out. The most common question I receive is why? “Don’t you miss this amazing cheeseburger drizzled in cheddar cheese?” Well of course I do… however, I bet I can create a dish in less than 19 minutes that will satisfy that craving.

Great attitude! 19 minute dishes? Which is your favorite?

Ok. For real, I don’t have a favorite dish per se. I love to EAT, I love FOOD, and I LOVE to cook. Hands down my two favorite ethnic flavor pairings are Italian and Asian.

We love hearing about your passion for cooking and food, I bet a lot of people can relate! What about when you want something sweet?

I love making gluten free, vegan pies and peanut butter choc vegan ice cream…it is so easy…just frozen bananas, peanuts, organic cacao, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Amazing!

That does sound easy, and delicous! I imagine your schedule is tough to organize your meals, how do you stick to clean eating on-the-go?

When I’m out and about I often make my own food and bring it with me in my travel cooler. Yes, I really have one of those. But, this is because I am very intolerant to gluten and cow dairy…and butter is in everything. Traveling can be super fun though too. I get to research the local vegan restaurants and gain tons of inspiration to incorporate when I get back home.

Very true, it is always great to get inspiration from one’s travels. What would you say is your favorite Amazing Grass product?

Each Amazing Grass product I have had is pretty baller. If I had to pick it would be the Chocolate Green SuperFood first, and the Energy Watermelon Green SuperFood second.

We love the compliment! Lastly, what tips would you give people who want to eat plant-based or 100% vegan?

Start to truly recognize how food makes you feel. If you are eating processed junk all the time, it is going to stop you from being your best. Become aware of your choices. The more you love yourself, the more you will want to take care of your body, mind and heart. The best way to do that is simple: eat a clean, non-GMO, non-processed, whole food, plant-dominant diet.

Thanks Cari! We can all learn from your experiences and I know the AG team is ready to give your vegan ice cream recipe a try. For those of you in the Denver area, check out a yoga class with Cari.