How to get healthier by eating a vegan diet

by Beth Graham
These veggies are what to eat on a vegan diet

Just like fashion, I’m prone to jumping on the trend of the moment. I followed the Paleo diet for the past couple of years because it lets me bacon at every meal. But the more attention I paid to my daughter’s vegan diet, and then reading about how it changed Bill Clinton’s and James Cameron’s lives, I decided to give it a try. Not to mention having the bejesus scared out of me by watching “Forks over Knives”.  I prefer to call it “plant-based eating” as I think the word “vegan” has become too Kardashian. I wondered what to eat on a vegan diet so I began to spend all of my time searching for vegan recipes for beginners.

I love food. I love eating food. I love reading about food. I love making food. Are you seeing a pattern here? Sitting down at night with a glass of wine and an exciting new recipe to taste is sport to me. I’m talking I’d-win-the-gold-medal sport. I’m not going to lie, my Facebook feed is 90 percent food posts. Sadly, I also love devouring food. I did more research and learned what to eat on a vegan diet.

So when I decided to embark on this vegan plant-based journey, I downloaded dozens of the best vegan recipes for beginners to try. I love veggies. So how hard could it be? Finding vegan family recipes is much easier these days and the many magazines and websites now feature the most popular vegan recipes. And if you’re like my daughter, you’re always looking for cheap vegan recipes.

Day 1, I woke up blindsided. What vegetables go with breakfast? My obsessive planning was already feeling like a failure. I was starving and didn’t want to take 40 minutes to roast some sweet potatoes. So I drove past Chick Fil-A to Whole Foods and got a smoothie. Not a good start. Lunch was equally as challenging. I’m busy and I wait until the last minute to think about eating – prepping fresh vegetables for a meal is not necessarily quick. Many (most) days, I found myself starving with no quick fix. I ultimately found a few go to recipes but the monotony got old real quick. I pride myself on being a pretty inventive cook, but come on, there are only so many ways you can cook broccoli. 

I printed, pinned and posted recipes and started planning better. Four weeks later, I was down a few pounds which was never my intention (but an added bonus – I won’t lie).  But here’s what I learned. 

1. I was no longer at the top of my sport. I would never make the podium in my beloved sport again. When I couldn’t choose my food, I didn’t love it so much. Food choices are definitely limited when eating plant-based so that craving for a burger? Forget it. That awesome new barbecue pork recipe? Nope. I found that I didn’t love reading recipes, preparing meals and eating as much as I did in my free-for-all eating sport. I was so unmotivated to eat (guess that’s why I lost a few pounds). It’s like they say about the French. They don’t eat – they dine, slowly sipping their wine, nibbling on bread and savoring small portions. Personally, I love eating (American-style porkfest) and dining but not so much when my meals didn’t include my favorite indulgences. Although I’ve found some lovely vegan recipes for breakfast, like avocado sourdough toast!

2. I could eat pasta! Yep. Dried pasta is considered vegan. But having it three times a day to supplement my veggies was not an option. It certainly helped knowing that I could top a plate of pasta with roasted veggies or tomato sauce. This is perhaps the best news when searching for vegan recipes for picky eaters.

3. Hunger pains are true pains. I think our culture has become accustomed to always having access to food so we rarely feel true hunger pains. But because I was so uninspired by the food I was eating and I was eating very little, I felt constant hunger pains. And they are pretty damn annoying! Especially at 3am! I’ve found that many keto and vegan recipes are designed to help you feel full.

4. I think the fake-meat industry has ruined the vegan movement. There’s cheese without cheese, porkless bites, meatless meatballs, and taco meat made out of nuts (which I actually enjoy). If the whole point of going plant-based is to avoid processed, unnatural foods, then hello?? How does one make meatballs taste like meatballs without meat? Why not just call them fake processed meatballs? These processed vegan foods are not for someone looking for vegan recipes on a budget.

5. Sauces are key. I’ve had some of the most awesome veggie curry dishes and even my meat-eating husband would not miss the meat. I also had the most amazing Kung Pao cauliflower (which tells me you can put lipstick on a pig – sorry notsorry cauliflower). I make a decadent green tomatillo sauce that I normally pair with chicken but I’m thinking it would go great with veggies and rice. So sauces are the key to adding some oomph to the flavor to fast veggie recipes.

I learned plenty of other things too. I don’t like to drink my meals. Green smoothies are just unnatural and a real stretch for getting your greens in. Tofu is gross no matter what. The commercial that says “Next time you order kale, use a silent “k”. It’s so much better.” is spot on! Whose idea was it that we should start eating weeds

Despite all of this, I do think that eating a primarily plant-based diet is the healthiest way to go. Because everyone wants to get healthy these days, there are plenty of simple vegan recipes for beginners. I’m not giving up but I’m also not going to strive for 100 percent. I’ll eat the occasional egg for breakfast or a piece of fish now and then. And cheese! Yes, cheese. Although you won’t find cheese in vegan recipes to lower cholesterol.

Instead of planning my meals around a protein/meat (as restaurant chefs still do), I’ll start with vegan and vegetarian recipes. Truth is I’ve never liked chicken so that won’t be difficult to give up but I do love me a nice big burger or steak every now or then, so we’ll see how long I can resist that craving. But for now, I’ll continue to disguise my veggies with hummus and tahini and asian sauces and bacon.

Since I originally wrote this article, I’ve now returned to a ‘mostly’ plant-based diet. I subscribe to Purple Carrot, a fabulous meal delivery plan for vegans and it’s expanded my palate.

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