My conversations around this topic used to go like this:
Well-Meaning Friend Making Casual Conversation: “I’ve never had vegan food before.”
Me, Sans Filter: “You’ve never had an APPLE?!”
But since I’m trying to be nicer (see earlier post re; being nicer), I’ve instead responded with descriptions of the glorious combinations of amazing foods that folks can make! The universe has given us SO MUCH abundance, it seems insane to trade in the colorful fruits and veggies for something that was tortured, killed, and is now slowly decaying.
I remember when I first cut meat out of my diet, I had the same few meals. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but you can’t really bring your weekday rice-and-beans to a dinner party and expect folks to be impressed. So, I expanded. And with that, I now have an arsenal of meals that go into the regular rotation.
Below is a list of what I would stock my pantry and fridge full of for one week, for two people:
I’m not a nutrition expert, but here is generally what I eat during the week. Warning: it’s not fancy but it gets the job done.
- Breakfast: SO MUCH COFFEE, oatmeal with blueberries and chia seeds, usually eaten standing-up by the sink because I’m an animal
- Snack: A banana and/or granola bar
- Lunch: Usually leftovers – chickpea salad, soup, sometimes a frozen burrito from Trader Joe’s when I haven’t had time to cook (don’t @ me), various fruits
- Snack: Almonds, eaten off the top of an appellate brief, or a granola bar
- Dinner: Tacos, rice & beans, big salad with hemp seeds and sometimes “fake meat” or beans, pasta with vegetables and chickpeas (I’m trying to cut down on pasta though because I have gotten “soft” in my 30’s)
- Dessert: I’m also a big hot-cocoa-before-bed gal. I try to make it “healthy” by using almond milk and cacao – the rich-person version of cocoa – cinnamon, and no sweetener. This has a lot of magnesium, which is something many Americans are lacking in their diets.
What are vegans missing in their diets that you should watch out for? Well, it’s not protein, for one thing. But, that being said, make sure you’re having a balanced meal plan and not just eating Oreos.
Here are some tips to keep nutrition in check so you can perform your best, daily:
- Eat a variety of colors
- Fortified non-dairy milks and cereals generally have lots of vitamins and minerals if you feel you’re lacking
- Combine foods – for protein and iron, I recommend combining grains, beans, and veggies like kale
- Eat from a bowl! Mixing in veggies in a “Buddha Bowl” is a great way to get variety
- Put hemp seeds and chia seeds on literally everything (lots of magnesium, protein, and fiber in these suckers)
- Cook in advance – Ty and I cook on Sundays for the week
- Bring a healthy snack with you in case you end up
in hellsomewhere without a vegan option
When I first cut out meat, I was worried about iron. The only iron source I knew came from red meat. I was constantly anemic from age 12-22 (fun fact – I had never given blood before because I had either gotten tattoo, come back from Mexico, OR did not have sufficient iron to donate). My anemia stopped when I completely cut out meat and added leafy greens. I was amazed and gave blood for the first time in 2015!
Caveat – it’s easy to go carb-heavy when you’re vegan because it’s convenient and comforting. It’s also easy to whip up broccoli and rice and fake meat and call that dinner. Don’t 👏 get 👏 stuck 👏 in 👏 that 👏 rut! Explore other cultures’ foods! Indian, Thai, and traditional Mexican dishes are usually low on animal products and high on vegetables. My palate opened up when I stopped doing the typical chicken-vegetable-grain dinner.
I also regularly employ the following books and blogs to find inspiration for recipes:
There are SO MANY blogs about plant-based life. This particular website was really helpful to me in making swaps for animal-based products I was accustomed to.
I refuse to gather recipes from blogs that start out “The hubby and I love spicy food…” or have names like “Vegan Noms” but even with THAT narrow scope, I still find plenty of recipes to mix things up.
(^ Hear me out on this point, though – no one cares that your kids and husband have busy schedules, and why your “family really looks forward to taco night”, or whatever. Get to the recipes, I’m hungry! Also, the more people do this, the more formulaic it feels, eventually becoming perfunctory rather than inspired, which kind of belies any attempt at being more personal in the first place. Ok, rant over.)
And at the end of the day, if you’re exhausted and you just don’t want to cook, a meatless burger is fine. You’re still using 99% less water, 93% less land, consuming a product that produces 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, and takes 50% less energy to produce than a typical cow burger.
Do you have any questions? Do you have any recipes that you need help swapping out animal products? Do you have any recipes you loved and would like to send me? My mom sends me lots of recipes now that she is vegan, as well, and I’ve loved making them. ❤
And, just one funny meme because life is heavy and if you can’t laugh at yourself, then what kind of psychopath are you?!