Creative Ways To: Eat Vegetables
Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet
Okay, this doesn't happen all the time, but three people brought up wanting to switch to a vegan diet lifestyle, THIS WEEK. I was thrilled! People are taking the initiative to do better for themselves and the planet at large. Hell yeah. I also realized I should compile some information to get people started, since it's such a hot topic. Yeah, it's Summer, it's hot, let's do this. First, some terminology, followed by tips to get you in the mindset.
Vegan: nothing derived from animals (aka plant-based), including honey, dairy, and meat
Vegetarian: includes dairy from animals in diet but no meat
Pescetarian: includes dairy from animals and fish in diet
Organic: free of pesticides
Local: made within state/regional parameters (not imported); besides typically being fresher ingredients, buying local directly supports your community's economy
- Think of food like fuel
- Start small, keeping in mind the big picture
- Replace meat on familiar dishes
- Learn to love the taste of vegetables for their unique characteristics. Consider:
- Texture: mushrooms, cauliflower, eggplant, sweet potatoes, peppers, polenta
- Spices: garlic, black pepper, chili pepper, curry, cumin, tamarind, turmeric
- Essences: dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, lavender, rosemary, green onion, mint
- Zest: lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
- Zing: vinaigrette, apple cider vinegar, citrus juices
- Fill your fridge and pantry with fresh ingredients that are exciting to use and eat
- Plan meals ahead of time on a calendar; get excited about trying new things
- Have fun
Choose organic vegetables in a variety of colors. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, seeds, and nuts are your staples. You cannot overeat this stuff. Go nuts. (Pun not intended, but welcome).
Fuel to Function ⛽️
Your physical, emotional, and mental quality of functioning are direct results of the quality of fuel you put in your body. As well, the quality of food is a direct result of the care put in to growing it. Foods grown in organic soil (free of pesticides) retain more nutrients and do not pass along contaminants. Look for local food made or harvested closer to the consumption date.
A balanced diet contains protein, carbohydrates, and fat (macronutrients) as well as supportive vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). Not all foods have each component nor in the capacity the body needs, so incorporation of a variety of sources is necessary to ensure you're getting them all.
- Proteins break down to amino acids.
- Carbohydrates convert to glucose.
- Fats emulsify to fatty acids and glycerol.
Protein, meaning "of first importance", is essential for tissue and bone growth, muscle activity, hormone production and general functioning of all body systems through the facilitation of cellular communication, catalyzation of chemical reactions, gene expression and molecular transportation.
Plants high in protein are primarily legumes and seeds.
- Rice, oats, lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, potatoes, spinach, corn, avocado, broccoli, and brussel sprouts are all good sources of protein.
Carbohydrates are starches and sugars and all break down to sugar (glucose), which is necessary for energy, satiation, and keeping organ systems running. The body cannot store carbs for long, so they are the ones to burn quickest. Carbs are absorbed through the small intestine then sent to the liver for processing. The liver will either send glucose into the blood stream to be used, or store it in the body as fat, saving it indefinitely.
Carby veggies are starches and grains, as well as most fruit.
- Potatoes, corn, peas, legumes, grains (wheat, corn, rice, barley, millet, buckwheat)
- Bananas, broccoli, apples, pears, leafy greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, figs, blueberries, raspberries, jackfruit, and squash
Fat is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K and is important as a part of cellular membranes, as well as the backbone of steroid hormones formed by cholesterol. Vitamins E, A, and C consumed with fatty acids improves their absorption. When carbs are not prevalent, the body will use fat for energy. Fat is stored in the form of triglycerides until needed to produce energy. Most of the fat the body needs is synthesized internally.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) are unable to be synthesized in the human body and must be obtained through the diet. The two main EFAs are omega-3s (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6). A ratio of n-3 and n-6 is important to synthesize other n-3 fatty acids [4:1 (n6:n3)]. EFAs are essential for glandular activity (namely the adrenal glands), growth promotion, protection against excessive radiation, overall development of skin and mucous membranes, are considered important for lowering cholesterol (thus preventing heart disease), and have been implicated in preventing breast cancer as well as tending to mental health. Symptoms of deficiency of EFA include: skin disorders, kidney disorders, hormone imbalances, and varicose veins.
Healthy fats are found in nuts, seeds, and some fruit.
- avocado, coconut, walnuts, almonds, cashews, olives and flaxseed
- oils (flaxseed, canola, soybean, olive, coconut)
Some ideas for meal planning
Start off small and work gradually.
Prioritize it in your mind as a lifestyle change you're committed to and that every day takes you closer to your goal. Small steps add up. Eventually you will get used to it and it won't seem so strange. Then your body might start craving this food because it feels better to eat and you won't have to try.
I found it easier to transition to a plant-based diet through replacing the meat I was eating. I cut out red meat first, followed by turkey and chicken, and finally fish. There are several no-meat options these days. Veggie burgers and portobello mushrooms are common go-to's that you can usually find at restaurants. Other surprising options include jackfruit and grain meat.
Jackfruit: This plant is incredible. Great as a sub for pulled pork or chicken as it has a stringy, meaty texture. It works well as a base for other flavors to shine (like a homemade BBQ sauce or marinade?) You've gotta try it.
Almond, cashew, coconut, soy, and hemp milk are all vegan alternatives to milk. Made also as cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and string cheese, some varieties will make you forget why you drank milk in the first place.
Brands that offer quality dairy alternatives:
- Road's End Organics
- Earth Balance
- So Delicious
- Amy's Kitchen (not all vegan, but lots of vegan options)
- maybe your local co-op has other options?
- Homemade Veganaise Recipe]
- see what you can make yourself
FOOD. Eat up.
Fooled Pork Tacos
Jackfruit, avocado, cilantro, lime juice
Classic Vegetable Soup
Vegetable stock, celery, carrots, spinach, potatoes, garlic, onions, jalepeno
Cooked, with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, halved walnuts, and mint (per my mom's savvy)
NotDogs & Yamburgers
Field Roast link & sweet potato veggie patty in a vegan bun topped with all the fixin's you desire! Sweet relish, mustard, veganaise, ketchup, hot sauce, onions...
Vegan Benedict with Crunchy Slaw
(per North Fork 53, a delightful bed and breakfast in Nahalem, OR serving farm-to-table family meals) Bursting and vibrant heirloom tomatoes straight from the garden, creamy and spicy chipotle cilantro veganaise aioli drizzled over avocado and sprinkled with cracked black pepper atop a baked-fresh-this-morning english muffin. Paired with a side of red and green cabbage slaw, tossed in lime juice and sunflower seeds- a perfect complement. This dish was garnished with delicate cilantro flowers and bold nasturtium. I love the colors and can still taste the fusion of phenomenal flavors.
Used as a pasta alternative, spaghetti squash is incredibly nutritious and delicious. Cut this gourd in half and it's stringy on the inside- scoop it out and use it like noodles. Excellent cooked or cold, topped with tomato, basil and garlic oil and cracked black pepper and salt
Entrees &/or Sides:
Sautéed kale and sesame seeds, roasted sweet potatoes, curried lentils, beans, polenta, potato gnocchi, falafel and hummus, Saag Paneer...
Think of your classics and see how you can put a vegan spin on it. Consider grating vegetables such as raw beets, pumpkin, or zucchini over a salad to incorporate these veggies without cooking them. Start to view your food differently.
As always, have some fun! The beauty of eating vegan is that it forces creativity. For instance, I made up all the names for these food dishes- pretty punny, huh? 😊
At Cushy, there's nothing more we love than something that inspires us to think creatively. Put your personal flair on it! Think about what sensations you want to experience when you eat your food: do you pay more attention to texture (the way it feels), or to the flavor (tangy/sour/sweet, robust/smoky/gritty, maybe characteristics of specific ingredients), or maybe presentation is more important to you. There is a way to do it vegan. You don't have to skimp or miss out. You can eat a ton of delicious food and feel great doing it. Self-love, for the win! <3 Now go clean out your fridge and pantry with what no longer fits with your lifestyle. Donate it to a homeless shelter or a family you know in need. It doesn't have to be thrown out. But it's a lot easier to stick with not eating animal products if they are not staring you in the face when you open the fridge or freezer. (Some of you of hunting descent know about the freezer full of animal limbs.) Didn't mean to end on death! I won't:
Be sure to check out Erin's interview with Farmer's Daughter on how they're successfully farming sustainably in New Mexico and educating others how to do it, too. Start your home garden with foods you love to eat. Having them so accessible will encourage you to return to them.
Congratulations on your commitment to yourself. 🌺💐