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9 Tips From A Chef Who Went Vegan And Lost 50 Pounds

Eating less meat is good for the environment and can be good for your health and your wallet.

In 2016, professional Chef Nathan Akeem (aka Chef Wierdo) went vegan and lost 50 pounds. Today, he preaches the good word of a meat-free life through his Atlanta-based catering company and meal prep business, as well as the numerous pop-ups he organizes across Atlanta, NYC, and Los Angeles.

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His mission is to remove the stuffy, privileged stigma around veganism, make it more accessible and above all, help a mainstream audience see it as an enjoyable cuisine. We spoke to him to get his take on the nine easiest ways anyone can transition into a plant-based lifestyle.

1. Out of oil or want another way of cooking vegetables? Use liquid aminos.

@tmbcolombia / Via instagram.com

Sauteeing or roasting in oil isn't the only way to cook vegetables. Next time you have a head of broccoli, chop it up and cook it in some water, lemon juice, and half a tablespoon of liquid aminos.

For those not in the know, liquid aminos is a gluten-free, sweet, soy sauce-like seasoning. It's super low in calories, high in flavor, and every vegetable lover's secret sauce.

Get a 6 oz. bottle from Amazon for $7.04.

2. "Beef up" any meal with beans and mushrooms.

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If we want to get specific, Chef Wierdo prefers black beans for beans, and shiitake and lion's mane mushrooms (they're furry and literally look like a lion's mane) because of their meatiness and thick texture. But honestly, all mushroom varietals will add a savory chewiness that's totally meat-free.

3. Invest in a Ninja blender (or your favorite affordable option) to easily make dozens of vegan dishes.

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A blender is the easiest way to make one of the most popular vegan recipes around, the black bean burger patty. Here's the recipe Nathan uses: Combine and blend half a can of black beans, half an onion, a tablespoon of flax seed (the binding agent), and half a tbsp of cumin and chili powder. Shape into patties and bake in oven at 350°F (180°C) for about ten minutes on each side. Then dress it up with your choice of condiment.

Get a Ninja from Amazon for $99.98.

Get an Oster blender from Amazon for $29.99.

Want more blender recipes? Here's one for vegan stroganoff and vegan nacho cheese.

4. Switch from white rice to farro or wheat berries if you want to sneak more protein into your diet.

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Try farro or wheat berries over standard rice for a change. It's a tasty way to attach nutrients into your carbs, and a quarter cup serving of uncooked farro has seven whole grams of protein. By comparison, the same of amount of white rice has about half the protein.

5. Satisfy a cheese craving with another fatty food like nuts, nutter butter, or avocados.

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Cheese is nearly all fat, so you might be able to substitute it with another similarly fatty ingredient like roasted nuts or avocado (sliced with a sprinkle of salt and pepper).

If not, Chef Wierdo recommends Daiya cheese (Chef Wierdo's favorite brand of dairy-free cheese), or making your own cheese using a blender. Here are 14 recipes to get you started.

6. Stock up on cumin + paprika + chili powder, the only spices a vegan really needs.

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These three spices can be added to any vegetable dish to lend it a savory, smoky flavor. Take this chili dish, which uses beans as a primary protein, and jazzes up every bite with a drool-worthy zing. Of course, there are dozens more spices you could try, but cumin, chili powder, and paprika have especially flavorful, vegetable-transforming powers and can be found in any grocery store, says Akeem.

Get the recipe for vegan chili (just skip the cheese topping to make it completely plant-based).

7. For a quick lunch, make mushroom meat tacos with just mushrooms and taco seasoning. 🌮

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For a meat-free twist on tacos, heat skillet over high heat, add into pan diced mushrooms, water, and taco seasoning. Then cook until liquid thickens or has evaporated. Serve with your favorite toppings.

8. For IG vegan inspiration, check out @avantgardevegan.

@avantgardevegan / Via instagram.com

It's one of Nathan's favorite vegan accounts, and includes tons of daily recipes, plating inspirations, and tips and tricks for your best meat-free life. Follow the account here.

9. Hit up Trader Joe's for cheap vegan favorites like vegetable spring rolls, veggie burgers, veggie wontons, and cauliflower pizza crust.

Check out more of Chef Wierdo's vegan cooking tips and inspiration @WierdosKitchen. And if you're in the New York area on April 3, consider buying a ticket to his pop-up dinner organized by To Be Hosted.

Check out even more Black History Month content here!

BuzzFeed / Ellie Sunakawa