A lot of people in my everyday life and also in social networks ask me the same thing: What do you eat?
Even though I was a little surprised, when someone asked for the first time (instant answer: normal stuff?!), I started to understand, that people in general have lots of different concepts of a vegan diet.
Since this topic is huge, I am going to stick with the absolute essentials of my diet and explain, why I choose certain foods over others. Let’s begin with the basics.
Since I am not the only living being on planet earth, I would like things to be as sustainable as possible.
First of all it does not taste as good as homemade stuff. Even though it is vegan, it might be high in sodium and low in potassium. Additionally, it is quite expensive in comparison to homemade alternatives. Which brings me to an important point: If I have to pay more for it, I have to work more in order to earn a certain amount of money. So in the end, I won’t really save time, eating convenience food.
I never fully got the concept of it. Yes, we might need a certain amount of energy, for making it through the day. And if we constantly over-consume, we gonna put those extra kilos, that are connected to fatty liver disease, kidney disease and high blood pressure. But: I am not a light bulb or a car, that just needs a certain amount of energy. Since I am a mammal in a certain age group, who does specific activities, I want my diet to be specific as well. So dear calorie counters out there: Do yourself the favor and count your potassium intake, your fiber intake or your omega three intake instead of plain calories and proteins! And of course change other factors, such your overall stress and sleeping habits!
… when there is a local alternative. The other day I watched a stand-up comedian and the artist said the following thing: “Chia: That is Aztec and means expensive.” True thing! So chia might have a great nutritional value. But flax seeds are great as well! Goji berries are a healthy and tasty treat, but why don’t you eat your local cranberries instead? And where is the benefit of buying blueberries during the winter months, when you can pick your own bilberries, strawberries or cranberries during the season?
Strawberries don’t taste great in winter and oranges are no fruits for summer. I try to stick to the seasons instead of buying strawberries in January and eat, whatever grows at the moment. Besides that, seasonal veggies and fruits are usually much cheaper! Sometimes, there is no local alternative and my cravings for the food are stronger, then my idea of sustainability (coffee, cocoa, bananas, coconut etc.), still generally I try to keep it as local, as possible.
I read a nice rule about nutrition. It said: You should be able to recognize 70 percent of what you eat. Meaning: You can identify a broccoli or a potato. But you can not really identify, that bread or pasta are made from grains. You can eat those products as well, but try to keep it as low as just one third of what you eat in total.
Another “rule” I really like, is the rule of eight cups. It is simple yet effective: Just try to eat eight cups of veggies and fruits per day. I have two meals per day, and I am quite certain, that every meal contains four cups at least. If you don’t like veggies, find a way to like them. We are talking about the basics of nutrition here and: “I want to eat cake instead of greens” is a bit like “let’s only drink beer instead of water from now on”. It might give you short-term pleasure, but leads to long-term damage.
Literally everything seasonal. I try to eat leafy greens with every meal and besides that eat a lot of raw, steamed, mashed, fried, or baked vegetables. Carrots, onions, beetroot, cabbage, kale, spring onions, pumpkin, reddish, broccoli, cauliflower…you name it! I also eat potatoes, manioc, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. Especially in the case of mushrooms and potatoes it is not quite clear, if they are vegetables. Some scientists even suspect mushrooms to be living beings, that are more like to be called “animals”. As long, as there is no proof, I will keep eating mushrooms…
Again: Everything! In terms of fruits I figured out recently, that is easier to digest them, if you eat them before a meal.
So, usually I break my fast with a banana, orange juice, a pear or an apple. Then I start to cook my actual lunch or dinner. Until I am done cooking, the fruit is almost digested. No more bloating! For sweetening, I usually use dried foods such as figs, raisins and dates (not the local choice).
I mostly drink them! Rose, jasmine and chamomile make awesome teas. Roses are lovely for baked goods and desserts as well. If you wanna fry a flower, try stuffed zucchini blossoms. They are super delicious!
Again, I eat all of them! Green peas, yellow split lentils, orange lentils, brown lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, adzuki beans, white beans… Generally I like to soak and boil the dried bean by myself, since I it gives me some control over my sodium intake. This seems like effort in the beginning but it is a) cheaper b) tastier c) just freeze the leftovers!
Another great way to eat beans are bean sprouts. In this case you really need to go organic, since the normal ones from the supermarket don’t sprout.
I really appreciate pseudo grains, since I digest them easily. They seem to be grains, but in fact they are seeds of grasses. Some famous ones I really like are buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and millet. Besides that I eat rice, oats (hard to digest!!!), wheat, spelt, grünkern, rye and sometimes corn.
I eat all of them! Especially sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds are a great way, to improve your diet! Other nuts and seeds I consume are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecan nuts, cashews, brazil nuts, peanuts, coconuts (yes, they can be defined as nuts) and poppy seeds. I also like nut butters (especially almond butter). Important: Buy a pure product without added salt, sugar or palm oil!
I was living on a vegan diet for two years without eating them, since they were not available in my country of residence. Since that point in time, tofu, seitan, tempeh and soy are special products for me, that I consume from time to time. I am aware of the fact, that the nutritional value is great, but I am a bit skeptical about anything GMO related.
Bottom line: I eat tofu or seitan maybe twice per month. I had tempeh just once during the last four years (not available here) but I really love it and find it easy to digest. The soy product I use on a daily basis is soy milk, since I like to enjoy my coffee creamy (there are other plant based milks, but I find their nutritional values even worse. Especially almond and rice milk is basically sugar and water with thickeners). There seem to be lupine products as well but again: Not available, where I am living.
I use all herbs and spices, I can find. In some cases I prefer the fresh one. In other cases the dried ones provide a better taste. Besides that, I really like nutritional yeast. It contains almost 50 percent of protein, plenty of b vitamins and tastes great. Since the vitamins can not stand contact with heat, I sprinkle the yeast powder over my food before serving it. Other ingredients, that offer a great taste are soy sauce (low in sodium only!), miso, vinegar, sea salt or kala namak and mustard.
Generally I don’t use a lot of oil for my dishes. One standard of mine is virgin olive oil, since it tastes great and is a local product in my area. I also like Austrian pumpkin seed oil, since it enhances every salad with its nutty taste. Coconut oil is a nice product, due to its versatility. I use it for raw treats and as well for baking and frying. Speaking of frying: Sometimes I like fried and even deep-fried food. I prefer to prepare it by myself, so I keep control over the quality of the oil and the age of the oil. For successful deep-frying it is very important, that you use refined oil, since it can withstand very high temperatures without smoking. If you use virgin olive oil, first press, organic etc… it is quite likely, that you will have a little fire in your kitchen!
If I am very short on time I might use canned beans, a can of tomato pulp or frozen berries. Generally I try to not make the exception transform into something bigger. So, don’t beat yourself up, if you buy cookies or use a can from time to time. Just try not to do it every day!
Before I forget: I usually consume B12, since I had a lack some years ago. I have been vegan for quite some time now and more than 25 years vegetarian (in an industrialized country), so I am not really surprised about it. For a short period I also consumed additional protein (pea protein). Since it causes me bloating, I stopped taking it and could not see any muscle loss since.
Normally I don’t consume additional protein powder. There are exceptions though. Especially during long fasting periods or if I train with a higher intensity, I like to add vegan pea protein powder to my diet. It tastes a little bitter but normally I cover the flavor with loads of bananas. If you are interested in learning more about (tasty) vegan protein powders, check THIS post in Tullys pretty Blog vegansfirst!
That was my list of the most important pillars of my vegan diet. If you are more interested, in HOW I eat, check my post about intermittent fasting!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.