(Hint: Not Just Tofu and Salads!)
The phrase “a vegan diet” is generally associated with a way of eating that is bland, restrictive and tasteless, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of people automatically assume that vegans are living off lettuce, bananas and tofu. Although vegans may not eat common foods like meat, cheese, dairy or eggs, the selection is never ending and chock-full of delicious, versatile and healthy choices. In fact, I can’t even begin to describe how much more of a variety I eat now as a vegan than I did before I going vegan. Going vegan means you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and when you do that, you are guaranteed to stumble across some amazing food choices that you wouldn’t have discovered other wise.
Fruits and vegetables
Yes, this may be a bit obvious that vegans eat fruits and vegetables but because of the amount of food that is no longer an option, vegans tend to eat a larger variety than carnivores/omnivores do. Vegans consume traditional fruits like apples and bananas but they are more likely to eat the not so traditional fruits and vegetables like kale, collard greens, goji berries, pomegranates, mulberries and so on.
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are a convenient and healthy addition to a vegans diet. Black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, and green lentils are popular choices for those living a vegan lifestyle.
There are a ton of meat substitutes on the market that taste exactly like the real thing (no, really!). Different brands work for different people and it’s a matter of trying them out until you find the one that you like best. Not only are there meat substitutes for popular meats like chicken and burgers, but vegans can also find meatless meatballs, fish, turkey and more.
Quinoa is so good that it gets its own category. Quinoa is a seed that’s used like a grain. It’s packed with complete protein, has essential vitamins and minerals and eight essential amino acids. Quinoa is gluten-free and is a great base for meals, an addition to salads, or a side dish.
Whole wheat, rye, oats, brown rice and millet are a staple in the usual vegan diet. I highly recommend staying as gluten free as possible to avoid digestive disruption. Brown rice and millet are the better choices here. In saying this, keep your portions to half a cup and fill your plate with amazing and colourful vegetables to keep your vitamin and mineral consumption super high!
Tofu, seitan and tempeh
Great additions to spice up any lunch or dinner options are tofu, seitan and tempeh. Tofu is made from soybeans, seitan is wheat gluten (known as the “vegan/vegetarian wheat meat”) and tempeh is made from fermented soy. They all offer a different kind of flavor and texture and can be cooked plain or marinated in a sauce of your choice. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are extremely versatile and can be added to stir fry, salads and many other meals. Be very wary of tofu and seitan however. Gluten is hugely disruptive to the digestive tract so unless you know you have amazing digestion which is unaffected by gluten, I’d advise against it. Tofu and unfermented soy can have negative oestrogen effects, so again, I’d advise to not go too heavy on this food choice. Be sure to always choose Non-GM soy products and when you do consume soy, aim for fermented soy like tempeh.
Most chocolate bars and desserts are off limits for vegans as they are made with milk chocolate (boo!). Actually, even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, commercial, highly-processed chocolate bars are best off-limits too as they contain far too many nasty additives and huge amounts of sugar! Beware and stay clear! Cacao is the unprocessed bean that comes in a variety of forms and it is what chocolate is made from. However, the majority of chocolate products that are available contain dairy and are not vegan friendly. Fortunately there are a lot of new products like dark chocolate bars that are cacao based and dairy free. Also, cacao comes in powder form, which can be added to shakes and other recipes to create a real chocolate flavour.
Fresh pressed juice and smoothies
Fresh pressed juices and smoothies are a great way to get a lot of servings of vegetables and fruits for anyone, not just vegans. Since vegans don’t eat animal protein, adding vegan protein powder to a smoothie is a great option. A blender or a juicer is a great investment for a vegan to make because of the unlimited amount of options you can make.