In the health and wellness community it is a well-known fact that a plant based diet is best for optimal health and wellness. Chances are, you have heard that as well and are convinced. You probably want to make the change and embrace this new lifestyle but you have grown up on meats, fish, refined foods, highly processed and sugary foods and lots of junk food. This is how you ate all your life. I know some of you really want to make a change but you have no idea what to eat on a plant-based diet. Well, let’s find out what you can eat.
It’s true some of you might not be convinced that this diet change is necessary. After all, you have been eating junk all your life and you are still around. Yes you are still around, but are you experiencing the best quality health. If you are, then good for you.
Then again you might only think you are enjoying great health. When you try a plant-based diet you’ll realize that what you thought was great before, is not so great after all.
Right fuel, better function
Suppose you spent a load of money to buy your luxury, high performance, dream car. Your car manufacturer’s instruction says that your high-performance engine needs higher octane fuel. That’s because your engine was designed to generate higher compression and increased power …. or some such technical stuff. Higher pressure and lower octane aren’t a good match. If your high-performance car doesn’t get the required higher-octane fuel, it will deliver decreased power and performance and may damage your engine.
Now… Will you go to the gas station, drive up to the pump and put 87 gas in your car?
I am sure you have figured out the point I am trying to make.
I say all of this to say that the body needs the right fuel from the right foods so it can feel good and perform optimally.
What can you eat?
When you are on a plant-based diet, your meals will consist of whole, unrefined or minimally refined foods from the following groups.
You will eliminate from your diet, foods such as chicken, fish, meat, dairy, eggs, sugar, refined foods, processed/packaged foods, junk foods.
Don’t panic over the thought of what you have to omit from the diet. If you can’t do it all at once, just take your time and eliminate the foods you want to remove from your diet. Remember it’s not a race. You are trying to accomplish a lifestyle change. Find out the steps to take when starting on a plant-based diet.
You are going to be surprised after a few weeks how your taste buds will change so that you no longer crave the foods you thought you couldn’t do without.
Speaking from experience
I remember the days when I used to eat only white bread. You would never, ever get me to choose brown bread if there was a choice. As a matter of fact, it was white bread or no bread. I could not stand the taste or texture of brown bread. Now I can’t imagine not having my delicious whole wheat, brown bread. White bread is totally unappealing to me now.
I also remember my early experiences with tofu….. Yuk…An awful tasting, white block of ……stuff.
Well not anymore. Nowadays, when I prepare tofu, it is in danger of being eaten out before it makes it to the dining table. So delicious.
Don’t worry. Your palate will acclimatize to your healthy new way of eating.
You very likely will notice some change in your grocery shopping. What changes, you ask? Well you are going to find that you will now do most of your shopping in the produce area. Don’t leave out the farmers market. It’s also a good place to visit as well.
Go all out. Buy all the fruits you desire. The ones you are used to and the ones you have never tried before. You will be eating lots of fruits everyday. Make sure you get berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, which are high in antioxidants.
Don’t forget bananas. You can’t have enough. They are a rich source of potassium and they are ever so versatile. They are delicious just by themselves and they play a major role in many recipes. Think smoothies, banana pancakes, banana ice cream. Banana is also used as a sweetener in many dishes. When your bananas gets overripe, please don’t throw them away. Peel them and put them in the freezer for future use in your many and varied recipes.
Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale and collards, are rich in iron. They are also a great source of cancer-fighting antioxidants. They are high in folic acid and vitamin A and even contain calcium. Steam them, eat them raw in salads….whichever way you choose.
Don’t leave out your zucchini, artichokes, brussel sprouts, cucumber, pumpkin, squash… and you can’t forget your other root vegetables such as beets, carrots, potatoes.
This is just the tip of the iceberg (oh yes, we forgot to mention lettuce). Go international and try vegetables from other cultures as well.
There is quite a variety to choose from when it comes to grains.
Choose whole grains such as brown rice, bulgar, quinoa, millet, barley, oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads such as 100% whole wheat bread. Grains are high in fiber and an important source of B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). Even popcorn falls into this whole grain category.
These play a vital role in plant-based diet, providing loads of protein and fiber as well as important vitamins and minerals. This food category is so wide. There are so many different peas and beans to choose from. If you don’t like one type, try another and another until you find the ones you really like.
There is the ever favourite lentils. You can’t go wrong with these. There is garbanzo beans, split peas, pinto beans, red kidney beans and this list could really go on and on.
There are actually about 18,000 species of legumes around the world. That is truly mind boggling. Of course, not all of it is used for food. Some is used as green manure, some is utilized for grazing but a whole lot is left for human consumption. Find out some more about the legume options available to you here.
There are so many to choose from; almonds, walnut, pecans, cashew and the list goes on. Not only are they eaten as snacks but they can also be used to make milk and nut butter. The nut loaf is a popular vegetarian choice for the dinner menu especially at Christmas time. These energy rich, super foods are packed with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Examples are flax, chia, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and hemp.
It is good to have these seeds in your pantry. They provide healthy fats as well as proteins and fiber. They can be had as snacks or added to various recipes. Flax seeds for example makes a good replacement for eggs.
You very likely will notice some change in your grocery shopping. What changes, you ask? Well you are going to find that you will now do most of your shopping in the produce area. The farmers market is also a good place to visit as well.
Let’s walk through a typical day
If you are someone with a sweet tooth who is used to donuts and danish and other sweet stuff in the morning, then you will probably be craving sweets as usual. For you, it’s best to start off your day with some ripe fruits. This will provide the sugar that your body craves. A fruit breakfast might consist of a large fruit salad with multiple types of fruits. Seeds and nuts added to this salad not only provides proteins and healthy fats but keeps you feeling full longer.
If you are not such a sweet tooth or if you desire something else, oats make fantastic, nourishing breakfast. You can cook it as porridge, or you can have it as cereal. Just imagine a large bowl of oatmeal porridge, sweetened with banana and raisins and topped with your choice of fruits. This is such a nourishing breakfast.
You can also try overnight oats. Crush 1 ripe banana (serves as sweetener) in a bowl. Add about 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats, 1tbsp chia seeds, some raisins for added sweetness and about 3/4 to 1 cup non-dairy milk. Cover bowl and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, just pop open and eat.
The good thing about overnight oats is that you can prepare several different flavours and servings and store in the refrigerator until needed.
A new take on salads
For lunch you can have a salad and a salad doesn’t necessarily mean just a few leafy greens. You can build a whole meal around the salad. Add as many things as you desire.
Your very large salad could contain a cup or two of chopped romaine lettuce, a large handful of spinach, some shredded carrots, cucumber, tomato, mushroom cooked with onions and frozen veggie mix, sliced radishes, few sliced olives, some diced tofu, about a quarter cup of beans of your choosing, diced sweet potato.
Can you see that this salad is a whole meal. When I mentioned salad you were thinking of a little side dish with a few tossed vegetables, weren’t you?
For dinner, you can have rice and beans or maybe a nice vegetable wrap. You can even have some delicious lentil soup or any other type of soup you fancy.
One thing you are going to realize very soon is that there is a wide variety of meals available for someone on a plant-based diet. Check out the various recipes available on line and enjoy delicious, healthy, plant-based meals.
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