I thought eating a plant-based diet was going to be hard to learn how to do, but I was wrong. I found that I already knew how to make the foods that I would eat most of the time. This helps a lot if you are anxious about leaning new recipes or worried about taste.
Tip #1 New recipes and products can be fun and bring more variety into your diet, but to start out with, it helps to go with what you already know and enjoy eating.
I spent my first year eating dishes with cheese and other dairy products in them. There are a ton of those types of recipes we already enjoy. This was the easiest way for me to transition away from meat to a more plant-based diet because we had gotten in the bad habit of eating out whenever we were too tired, busy, or lazy to cook. I also knew I may not be willing to give up on turkey at holidays or filet mignon on birthdays. So I let myself do that for the first year. Now I am pretty sure I don’t want to eat meat any more. I hated the way it made me feel afterwards. I like having my arteries clean. My nail beds are pink for the first time in a long time. So, the way I am transitioning off dairy and egg products this year is to allow them on weekends for the next few weeks while I learn to cook more purely vegan dishes.
TIP #2 Be flexible. Even the most staunch vegans or raw foodists have that one favorite dish or product they use for cooking that doesn’t adhere 100%. For example, there is a bacon flavor liquid you can use to make pinto beans more like down home Southern cooking. It has a bit of milk in it. The important thing is not to be a perfectionist. Eating should be a joyful experience so don’t make this into a drudgery like going on a diet is. If you fall off, don’t feel like you have failed.
Anyone who has been on a diet before knows what it is like to be without something to eat when you are hungry because you were just too tired to dedicate any major time to meal preparation. So be prepared by following this next tip.
Tip #3 Have five or six easy-to-prepare staple meals that you always have ingredients on hand that you can use in a pinch, e.g., quick soft shell tacos, grilled cheese (or vegan cheese) and tomato soup.
I try to eat only raw, uncooked food during the day for weight loss and health purposes. Consequently, I have two meals that I eat almost every day: a green smoothie with protein, oats, and flaxseed/chia seed and a salad. This way, I never forget what I need to get at the grocery when I am out. It takes the guesswork out of meal preparation for 14 out of 21 of my weekly meals. This works for me. I may change it up a bit by skipping the smoothie until lunch or dinner to eat bananas instead. But because this means I will likely skip out on my smoothie, I usually don’t because I don’t want to miss the nutrition it provides.
Everyday Raw-Till-Four Menu
Here is what I eat consistently just about every day before supper. When you see the nutrient content, you will understand why.
Typical Entrees at Suppertime
You’ve probably made all of the following meals before. That’s what makes them easy and more likely to make your taste buds happy.
Tip #2 Have a few convenience foods on hand like Amy’s frozen bean and cheese burrito, canned vegan chili (there are two versions by Amy, with or without soy meat substitutes) that you can pour over a baked potato you microwave or eat alone, vegetarian baked beans to pour over a sweet potato.
When you consider that most people will prepare many of the following items as side dishes to add to their meat dish, is it any wonder why so many people are obese?
Easy, Throw-Together Meals
The Main Ingredients: All you have to do to learn how to eat vegan or vegetarian is to make your meals around the following starches: pasta, breads, wraps, and other grains (oatmeal, barley, quinoa…), nuts and seeds, root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, carrots), rice, corn, beans/legumes. Pasta, rice, legumes, grains (oatmeal, flours), and canned goods stay in your cupboard for a long period of time. Nuts, seeds, and root vegetables and some wraps will last a good while, too, depending on how you are storing them. Of these, breads are the most perishable. Keep this in mind so that you never go without.
Staples I Keep On Hand (I recommend organic):
- Vegetable broth (grocery store)
- Mushroom broth (Pacific Farms, Vitacost)
- Mushroom gravy (Pacific Farms, Vitacost)
- Organic lemon and lime juice (bottled, Amazon.com, to coat veggies)
- Balsamic vinegar (to coat veggies)
- Onion and garlic powder
- Peanut butter
- Butter Buds (spice aisle, has dairy with no fat)
- Butter Spray (dairy case, has dairy with no fat)
- I stay away from oil, but if I must, here is the order of healthiest to worst:
- water (stir fry in a couple of tablespoons of water)
- nut oil
- coconut oil (expeller pressed has no coconut flavor)
- olive oil
- nondairy butter
Staple Fresh Ingredients I Keep on Hand (organic is best): Onions and garlic have the best length of time in storage and are important for adding flavor.
Here are a few ideas for dinner. They are made pretty much the same way as the original, meat-based version with a few exceptions.
Just cut them up, toss them in some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and/or spices then roast them until tender.
Use an already made crust or line your pan with sliced potatoes. Quiches are great if you include cheese and eggs in your diet. But you can probably convert one into a vegan version using vegan cheese and chia seed (for the egg). I have never tried this, though.
Soups, Chilies, and Stews
It’s not hard to make a vegan chili. Just leave off the meat. Add more veggies if you like. The other two will take a recipe to get right.
For a hearty meal: a) pour a can of chili over a potato you baked in the microwave or stove, add cheese and sour cream (vegan or dairy) b) pour some vegetarian baked beans over a
All but the spaghetti has cheese. The chunks in the sauce contains loads of veggies. But you can make a vegan versions of the other two dishes using nondairy cheeses or just leaving off the cheese altogether on the pizza.
The burritos, below, have no cheese and are, therefore, vegan. The others will work for the lacto-vegetarian. But vegans can eat these favorites with nondairy cheeses. Consider using Old El Paso’s green chili sauce or make a red sauce to smother burritos in.
Use onion soup mix in beans or some sort of bacon flavored substitute or liquid smoke to make beans taste like down-home cooking. Use hotdogs from Field Roast brand products to to make your own corn dog or go buy the ones already made by Morning Star for convenience but at a price (contains carageenan). Make your own meatless version of the hamburger or use any number of varieties of frozen garden burgers.
Make the hoagie with everything but the meat and cheese, or substitute with vegan cheeses and meats. Peanut butter and jelly or banana is always a crowd pleaser. Then there is the all-time favorite of the tomato sandwich with mayo. Grilled cheeses are allowed even for vegans using Daiya or some other nondairy cheese.
These are just a few examples of the quick and easy meals you can make to get you started down the road to becoming a vegan with a few meals thrown in for those allowing themselves some days as ovo-lacto vegetarians. I had to go ovo-lacto vegetarian my first year. Now I will only allow some cheese on a couple of meals per week, but my ultimate goal is to be as close to a full vegan as possible.
Please share, like, and subscribe! Let me know the easy or favorite staple meals you used to help you transition over to a plant-based lifestyle!
Go here to learn more about intermittent fasting, another strategy I use for weight loss:
To understand how to get a good ratio of raw to cooked calories, check this out:
To learn what I feel I must eat every day to make sure I get enough nutrients and to simplify my diet, read this.
Copyright Tracey Porter Nelson January 17, 2017
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