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Sunday
Jul152012

Thoughts on Going Vegan: Meal Ideas & Afterthoughts

Blueberries, Blue.

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

I've had many requests in the last week to share a few vegan meal ideas that I enjoyed over the last month. The requests were from people just starting to eat vegan or vegetarian diets to those of you who were simply looking for a few alternatives to try out for Meatless Mondays. I do understand that trying a new diet can be very overwhelming in the first couple weeks and I hope that sharing meal ideas and tips with you can help ease any transitions. To preface this, I can be a little boring when it comes to cooking for myself and I often find myself preparing and eating similar meals week after week simply because I enjoy them. I don't, however, think that's necessarily a bad thing.

Breakfast
I am a fan of big breakfasts. I don't feel experimental in the mornings, so I often enjoy the same meal day after day.

  • Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa with a glass of orange juice (I ate this nearly every morning—I love it and it's packed with protein!)
  • Cold cereal with almond milk and fresh berries

Lunch
I pack a lunch during the week so I try to eat foods that fit into a lunch box and can be kept fresh with an ice pack.

  • Hummus & veggie sandwiches (toasted bread spread thick with hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach) with apple slices or carrot sticks
  • Vegan cream cheese & veggie sandwiches (toasted bread spread with vegan cream cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and sprinkled with sunflower seeds) with fresh fruit or cut-up bell peppers
  • Vegetable soup (since I could not find a vegan canned/bagged soup, I would make a big batch of my own soup on Sundays so I could nibble on it throughout the next few days)
  • Peanut butter and jelly with a banana (it's a classic and perfect to whip up when I needed to be out the door five minutes ago)

Dinner
Dinner was often my biggest meal of the day and I'd usually take some time to cook up a nice meal.

  • Spaghetti with a fresh tomato and basil sauce (though vegan sauces are very easy to find in jars)
  • Tacos made without sour cream/cheese (though you can buy vegan sour cream—I'm just not a fan of sour cream on tacos in general). The taco meat was made of meatless ground crumbles and taco seasoning [note: these meatless ground crumbles were a staple for any meal where I wanted a ground hamburger/turkey substitute. I'm absolutely in love with these and highly recommend them (and I'm not being sponsored to say this). They make the transfer from traditional food to vegetarian or vegan food much easier.]
  • Pasta with sauteed vegetables in a wine/olive oil sauce (sometimes I used spaghetti noodles while other times I'd use penne pasta and added the meatless ground crumbles for a more robust meal)*
  • Potatoes with beans and roasted corn or asparagus
  • Stir fry with vegetables and tofu on a bed of rice
*I made dozens of variations on the pasta/vegetable dish depending on the kind of wine I had, vegetables, or noodles so it was different every time I approached it.

Snacks
I do like to enjoy at least one snack a day and these were a few foods I'd reach for when I just wanted something to munch on.

  • Bowl of a healthy cereal with dark chocolate almond milk poured on top and sprinkled with fresh berries (it's a little sinful and tastes kind of like ice cream)
  • Ants on a Log (celery sticks or apple slices spread with peanut butter and raisins)
  • Vegan cream cheese toast sprinkled with sunflower seeds (I really feel in love with vegan cream cheese and almost prefer it to the real deal)
  • Fruit smoothies with tofu (this Banana Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie is one of my favorites and it's super filling)
  • Almonds and a glass of dark chocolate almond milk (since dairy-free chocolate can be hard to find/expensive, a few sips of this milk would nix any chocolate cravings that would pop up)
  • Vegan baked goods (for better or worse, I do actually eat quite a bit of the food I share with you. It has to go somewhere.)

It has been a couple of weeks since the challenge ended, but I still eat an almost exclusively vegan diet when I'm preparing food for just myself. During the vegan challenge I developed a new way of cooking, with new recipes, and I just don't want to give that up. To put it simply, I don't miss or crave meat and will choose the vegan option if I have the right ingredients in the house. That said, when I am with friends or family, I will eat meat when I'm at a restaurant or enjoying a home cooked meal from my mother. I found this is a good balance for me, though it may not be the right one for everyone.

I did see an allergist and was tested to see if I did have a milk protein allergy as I believed. In reality, I do not have one. However, the general consensus seems to be that my body does not know how to process dairy products efficiently, which results in symptoms very similar to a milk protein intolerance. Since the vegan challenge, I still eat a dairy-free diet whenever possible; I feel much healthier without dairy than I ever did with it. However, dairy in very small amounts seems to be okay, which means that soon butter may once again find a place in my heart.

I still encourage you to try out new vegetarian or vegan meal options. While I'm certainly not going to try to convince you to go on a particular diet, I think trying out new foods and recipes can be a good experience for everyone. Meals based around plant based diets are often healthier than animal based diets and, in addition to helping you to enjoy more fruits and vegetables, they can open a little window into a world of food you may not have explored.

Reader Comments (6)

This is a great entry! I'm not a vegetarian, but I enjoy experimenting with meatless dishes. Have you tried cooking with lentils? They work pretty well as a ground meat substitute in things like chili. My sister makes a delicious Sloppy Joe Lentils (So. Good.). They are actually fairly easy to cook with and have a lot of protein.

Okay. My lentil rant is over now :)
07.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
love the idea of a hummus sandwich...sounds great with cucumber and maybe some chilies/peppers. I've been vegetarian for about 3 weeks now. It sorta started by accident, but I love it. I love to cook and i definitely agree that this has totally opened a new world of cooking.... and i find it easier...besides the fact that i still cook meat for my husband.
07.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Very interesting article for all people who wish to try vegetarian / vegan diet, or simply, wish to eat less animal products : for the health, or God Mother health :-)

I am a vegetarian, and since a few weeks, my diet is more vegan than before.
I feel SO much connected & full of energy than before... ✿
It's incredible !

I continue to eat pollen, tough (but sell by a little producter & bee lover).

I do eat a lot in the morning to : it is my favorite meal of the day ♥
At lunch, I usually eat a small portion (rice, pasta... served with a yummy sauce made by vegetables, nuts & sometimes a little seaweed : this is a meal so digest, full of energy & healthy !).
At dinner, I love eat homemade organic bread, with a huge plate of vegetable (creamy soup, purée, or sauté).

Hum...

Go vegetarian & vegan ✿
07.15.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMély
Your venture into the vegan world is definitely inspiring! I don't think I could go all they way vegan, but I would love to learn to eat and cook healthier foods.
This is really interesting and I think may have tipped me back to eating a predominantly veggie diet. I was veggie for 10 years but had so iron issues and was advised to eat some meat again. Now that it's sorted out, I really just don't want meat anymore and you illustrate with such beautiful food how delicious and nutritous a meat-free diet can be. I'm not sure I could go all the way and go vegan at the moment (although I suspect I have dairy issues too) but you make a very persuasive argument for it! :-)

I don't know if you have heard of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? He is a popular TV-chef and food columnist (but he not quite since he runs his own farm and restaurant) in the UK and he was a MASSIVE meat fiend. However, recently, he has done a show about embracing vegetables and not being snobby about meat-free cooking! (The TV series is River Cottage Veg if you're interested!)
07.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Just for fun: Remember in a pinch - starvation and worse! - Fritos are vegan. Honest to God, cross my pinkies and swear. Corn, vegetable oil, salt - that's it. Not healthy, but in an airport, no food except the machines? Plus I use them to add crunch to a salad occasionally, or to perk up my fourth black bean burger of the week (I get stuck on food choices, too, just like you mentioned re: breakfast - because sometimes it just saves time). Anyhow, have fun going V, and remember to combine those proteins!

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