Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What to Eat as a Vegan

I hear a lot of people saying they want to go veg, but they don't know what to eat or how to plan their meals. Or what to use as a go to meal when they're short on time. The obvious answer would be a lot of vegetables, but here are a bit more specifics. This is how I generally eat on most days, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I would describe my diet as being a high raw vegan diet, but I'm not married to the idea that a certain percentage of my diet needs to be raw. I try to incorporate at least one raw component at every meal, but it varies. I also avoid gluten(it makes me feel tired), and try to steer clear of processed foods. I like taking raw food principles of food prep, and then sometimes cooking a few of those ingredients. I love the way raw food makes you exclude refined sugar, wheat products, and additional ingredients which aren't really beneficial to your health.

Curried Tofu Bowl

For every meal I try to incorporate either fruits or veggies, a protein source, and a source of carbs. I also try to keep conscious of my intake of healthy fats. For breakfast this looks like Chocolate Protein Oats(protein+carbs), and a serving of fruit. For a snack I'll have fruit and a handful of nuts, or a protein bar. Lunch is usually tofu/beans as a source of protein, a cup and a half of veggies either roasted or stir fried, and 2 cups of greens, half a sweet potato(carbs) or quinoa(carbs+protein), topped with lemon juice and hummus. Sometimes I'll add hemp seeds and nutritional yeast, which also add protein and fiber. Dinner is usually fairly similar, but I'll use different veggies, and different seasonings. I like to eat 5 times a day, but some people prefer 3. There's no right or wrong!

Snacks are super important for me, I find my body does best with lighter meals and frequent snacking as opposed to 3 huge meals. Snacks include veggies and hummus, fruit, nuts, protein bars, smoothies, and juices(fresh). I love mixing a bunch of berries and banana in a bowl and topping it with almond milk, cinnamon, and goji berries.

Wraps, salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, stir fries, burgers, and pizza are all things that are easy to veganize, it just requires a little creativity on your part. There are an endless array of veggies to try, and the more you can try the better. Same with fruit!

A list of some veggie proteins to try:
beans(chickpeas, edamame, black beans, navy beans, white beans, etc.)
soy products(tofu, tempeh, seitan)
quinoa(contains all the amino acids!)
spirulina(in smoothies or juice)

Not to mention that most veggies contain protein in some form. Usually more than meat, when measured calorie to calorie! Protein isn't the magical be all end all, and the North American population generally over consumes it. Too much protein can, in fact be bad for you. But this is the question I find I am asked most, so don't let anyone tell you vegetarians aren't consuming enough protein. Protein is great, it grows you muscles and keeps you full. But it isn't the golden unicorn that a lot of people seem to make it out to be.

Carbs are what your body runs off of as fuel(fat as well, but your body uses carbs as your primary source). Fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables are all good sources of carbs. They fall into 2 categories, simple and complex. Simple carbs are found in fruit and are a great source of fuel because your body can access them easily to use for energy. Complex carbs are found more in starchy vegetables, and grains. Stick with unrefined grains when possible, since refining removes vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber helps fill you up and keep you full, so you are less likely to overeat.

Healthy fats are also an important component of your diet. Fats help keep you full, and fill you up. The type of fat you intake is important though, and bad fats can increase your cholestrol. Good fats protect your heart, and support your overall health. Omega 3's are essential to physical and emotional health. Saturated and Trans fats should be avoided like the plague(although some saturated fats aren't bad, such as the ones found in coconut oil). Good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are found in nuts, avocados, olives, seeds, soymilk, tofu, and an array of natural oils.

Hopefully this helps give you a basis, let me know if you have any questions!

Curried Tofu Bowl
This is a favorite of mine at the moment, and really easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes top, and can be easily adapted to feed several people, or just one!

Sweet Potato Fries
Chop up 1/2 sweet potato into thin strips(the thinner they are the faster they'll cook), and spread flat on a baking sheet. Heat your oven to 450, and bake for 15 minutes or until they look crispy on edges.

Curried Tofu:
1/3 block firm tofu
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tbspn soy sauce
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup chickpeas

1 cup chopped kale

Heat coconut oil in pan, add onions, tofu, chickpeas, soy sauce, curry powder, pepper and garlic powder. Stir fry until the onions are soft. Add kale and place a lid over, cook until kale turns bright green and soft.

Top 2 cups of greens with curried tofu and sweet potatoes. Dollop some hummus on top and the juice from half a lemon. I like Nutritional Yeast on it as well, and hot sauce!

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