Editor's note: Just Salad provided the author with store credit and some of the meals featured in the below story but opinions are the author’s own.

I’ll be the first to admit, I tend to go a little overboard with New Year’s resolutions. This year, to take my Veganuary challenge up a level, I decided to start out the New Year by eating salads from Just Salad every day for a week. (For sticklers out there: In addition to their salads, I also had a few wraps and Housemade kits) There’s a good reason I'm such a superfan of the fast-casual restaurant, from its wide array of options for the plant-based set to labeling its menu with carbon emissions.

There were highs (um, more please on the Housemade Taco Tuesday Bowl with Beyond Beef meal kit), there were lows (how many servings of edamame can one girl eat?), but overall, it was a heck of a way to start my new year on a healthy note. I’ve lost weight, my energy is sky-high, and I don’t even miss the french fries (yet). Below, five lessons I gleaned from my vegan Just Salad adventure.

1. However you go plant-based this month, mix things up.

Before I created this challenge for myself, my Just Salad go-to never varied: A base of romaine and red cabbage with edamame, pita chips, beets, and sweet potatoes with balsamic vinaigrette for dressing. Add the free slice of bread, please. If I’m particularly hungry, I’ll boost my basic build-your-own salad with avocado and their impressively flavorful organic sesame tofu.

As I braced myself for a week’s worth of salads, I knew I’d have to head outside of my salad comfort zone. My takeaway: If you, too, are a salad loyalist, experiment a bit. Not only does it make sticking to a healthy diet more sustainable but you may discover a new favorite. Now, I’m all about swapping beets for apples for pears and the occasional crouton switch-up for pita chips. Who knew?

Bonus: The Just Salad app makes it super fast to place orders from your phone, and in addition to a $5 reward for new users, you get a $9 credit for every $99 you spend.

2. Stretch your budget by adding proteins at home.

I knew it was going to be a lot of salads this past week and though each salad clocked in between the reasonable range of $8.70 and $13.36, I knew that would add up quickly. Since Just Salads gives you four essentials topping with your build your own salad order, I often thought creatively about what else I had in my pantry or fridge at home to add to my meal before I placed my order. Getting something Asian-inspired? Time to break out the sliced almonds or clementines. Want to add a little heat? I cracked open my jar of banana peppers or drizzled on some hot sauce.

The good news: Eating vegan at Just Salad can help you save money without having to pay extra for cheese or certain proteins (FYI, the organic sesame tofu is $1.99 and Beyond Beef Meatballs are $4.99 in my home base of New York City). But if you’re looking to make your salad more filling, consider adding your own toppings like tempeh, tofu, beans, quinoa, nuts, and the like from your own kitchen.

3. Order a Housemade meal kit.

If you just can’t do another salad, but you’re looking to spice up your vegan journey, opt for Just Salad’s convenient meal kits, Housemade which just launched these easy-to-assemble meals within delivery range of all of Just Salad’s locations in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Chicago, and South Florida through Grubhub. Housemade also launches on UberEats on January 13.

The meals arrive with all the ingredients prepped for you, just follow the recipe card to heat up in one pan, season to taste, and add the included dressing. On the vegan front, the Healthy Stir Fry and Taco Tuesday Bowl with Beyond Beef are completely vegan. Tweaks can be made to other kits to make them plant-based, like leaving out the cheese in the Harvest Bowl or using the dressing of your choice in lieu of the  Spicy Thai Peanut dressing, which contains seafood, for the Thai Bowl. They take about ten minutes from zero-plastic packaging to table and are priced from $10.49 to $11.49 per meal.

Next time I tire of my build your own salad concoction, I know that Taco Tuesday with Beyond Beef will be calling my name.

4. Treat yourself to a smoothie.

Just Salad’s smoothies are 100% plant-based and during this hectic time that is Pandemic Life, a smoothie was the difference between an afternoon doom-scrolling crash, and a feel-good lift. The Detox Cleanse with baby spinach, lemon, apple, pineapple, and fresh zinger may fast become your new Just Salad fave. Or the Strawberry Banana with oat milk, banana, strawberries, flax seeds, and agave. Or, heck, try all four of their vegan smoothies and do a little taste test.

5. Going forward, I’m committed to eating a salad or a veggie-filled wrap a day.

Before spending a week of eating vegan salads galore, I probably ate at Just Salad once or twice a week and maybe made one or two salads on my own at home. Now, after realizing how satisfying and filling a salad or wrap for lunch or dinner can be, I’m making a pledge to incorporate these dishes more regularly into my diet. With an emphasis on immune-supportive foods amid the ongoing pandemic, easily a daily salad or wrap is one of the easiest ways we can ensure we’re getting all the nutrients our bodies need to promote good health. First up: This vegetable salad with avocado and hummus for lunch tomorrow. Then I think I’ll reward myself for a week worth of healthy meals with, well, Just Another Salad. Really, how that sweet-potato-edamame-pita-chips-pear combo makes my taste buds sing.

From January 18th to January 24th, all-vegan menu items at Just Salad are 20 percent off in-store, online and on the app.

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