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.
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
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 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.
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)
- Veganbakedgoods (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.