Are you thinking of becoming plant-based, vegan or vegetarian? Are you confused about what those terms mean? Are you still on the fence because you don’t know where to begin? Have you become victim to extreme dieting for general health or weight-loss? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I am here to help you.
Not unlike most people, in the beginning of my own plant-based lifestyle journey I often found myself giving up because I wasn’t mastering holistic nutrition. I fell into traps of extreme clean eating, feeling weak and binge eating processed foods when I pushed myself too hard or missed a meal.
Fitting selective eating habits into jammed packed modern lifestyles without proper at-home meal preparation spells doom for sustainable mindful food habits. The lack of accessibility to un-processed and un-refined snacks to combat cravings as well as healthy plant based restaurant options can make or break a lot goals.
Despite my own initial setbacks, I’ve stayed committed. I realized that my health came with organization, patience, will power and frankly just not being too hard on myself.
I’m reminded of how difficult it is to stay regimented with every new client or friend that I meet. Supreme health by way of diet is an intimidating fete to achieve when for decades most food products and beverages available to consumers in the U.S. are loaded with refined sugars, hormones, chemicals, pesticides and, genetically-modified-organisms (GMOs) which research suggests leads to auto-immune disorders, obesity and increasing cancer rates.
The first step in undertaking a plant-based lifestyle is identifying what kind of diet you are willing to commit to.
For example, I follow a PLANT-BASED/FLEXITARIAN diet (mainly plants with little animal protein.) I define this as 90-95% plant foods and by products (Vegetables, Fruit, Nuts, Grains) with an allowance of no more than 5-10% of animal protein and by-products (Beef, Chicken, Pork, Seafood, Dairy) in my overall diet with an emphasis on organically farmed foods and scratch recipes excluding processed ingredients.
This type of diet works best for me and frankly, I’m not ready to go 100% vegan. I don’t know what I would do without the super-occasional bowl of Pho and cheese board. Overall, I maintain great nutrition and wellness by way of organic plant nutrients and any animal protein I encounter, I do my best to ensure it’s of the highest quality.
VEGAN diets consist of 100% plant food, non-animal by-products and beverages (not excluding processed foods or GMO’s.)
VEGETARIAN diets consist of plant foods and by-products with the allowance of dairy (milks and cheese) and eggs. Some eat minimal amounts of fowl and fish and consider themselves vegetarian but could also fall into the Pescetarian (plants and seafood) Flexitarian group.
Vegan cooking doesn’t have to be boring nor consist only of smoothies, salads and bland steamed vegetables. There are plenty of global cuisine influences from Asia to the Mediterrean that I love packed with valuable nutrient dense plants cooked in aromatic herbs and loaded with medicinal properties making for delectable dishes.
Integrating plant foods like mushrooms and beans as the focal point of a meal as opposed to chicken or beef is the best and easiest way to get started. Choose an ingredient and build your way out choosing complimenting vegetables and flavors. Campaigns like Meatless Mondays, dedicate an entire day to meat-free eating. You don’t have to be plant-based on Mondays, any day that works with your lifestyle and schedule works. Making time for cooking is almost as important as deciding what to eat. Simple, at home scratch cooking will turn eating habits into a lifestyle. If your schedule doesn’t permit last minute food decisions, make sure you meal plan for the week.
Meal planning isn’t difficult, but it does require planning and organization. Meal prepping is best completed on a Sunday or the day just before the start of your work/school week.
To get started, you will need to purchase food/meal storage containers for seven days. These should be in a variety of sizes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and, snacks. You may also want to acquire beverage containers or mason jars for tea or water flavored with fresh fruit to prevent your intake of sugary drinks and soda.
Next, you have to plan the week’s menu. This is completely up to your own culinary discretion. If you don’t mind eating the same things everyday for a least the first week, I find that replicating a simple menu centered around your chosen plant proteins and carbohydrates creates a sense of ease for newbies overwhelmed by it all.
WHAT TO COOK
To get you started, here is a simple breakfast recipe featuring quinoa an incredible source of plant protein that boasts 24 grams of protein per 1 cup.
SWEET POTATO QUINOA PORRIDGE
*Gluten Free & Vegan
· 1 cup dry quinoa rinsed and drained
· 1 and ½ cups almond milk, divided (nut allergy: use coconut milk)
· ½ cup sweet potato puree
· 1 teaspoon cinnamon
· 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
· 2-3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup, more as desired
· ¼ cup chopped walnuts
1. In a pot, add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of almond milk. Bring to a boil and add the quinoa, sweet potato puree and cinnamon. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated.
2. Once the liquid has evaporated, take off the heat and stir in the ground flaxseeds. To serve, place some of the porridge in a bowl and add about ¼ cup almond milk or desired amount. Top with the walnuts, honey or maple syrup and coconut.