What To Eat On A Vegan Diet
The vegan diet is a tricky one. Although healthy, and trendy, it's not for the faint of heart long term. In fact, without the proper balance of nutrients, it could be detrimental to health.
Oils are the number one culprit in calorie excess, but when used correctly, they can provide much-needed fats. This is especially important with the vegan diet, as it’s a diet that doesn’t naturally have a lot of fat content in it.
Think extra-virgin olive oil, and canola oil. Some have even said coconut oil, which is also an option. Just don’t mistake any oil for being healthier than another. They’re all serving a purpose, to flavor meals and add fat.
Nuts And Seeds
If you want more protein and healthy unsaturated fats in your diet, then look no further than nuts and seeds. While most people would get these nutrients from meat, you’re opting to use plants for the same thing. And you certainly can!
Try adding walnuts into your oatmeal in the morning. Use flaxseed eggs in your cookies, rather than real eggs. Use cashews and nutritional yeast to make cheese.
As an added bonus, you’ll get nutrients such as vitamin E, iron and zinc.
Think beans like black beans, kidney beans, even edamame. Lentils and dried peas are also counted as legumes. All of these options, and more, are great sources of plant-based protein, which are low in calories, but big on flavor and nutrition.
You can even make food from them, such as hummus, traditionally made from chickpeas. Other options include falafel, tempeh, and even tofu. Some vegans even use black beans and a mixture of vegetables to make burger patties. Serve them with potato wedges, and being a vegan seems super easy!
The crown jewels of all carbs, whole grains are packed full of vitamins B, E, zinc, copper, magnesium and iron, to name a few. Think oats and breads.
A good vegan breakfast would be oatmeal with some berries, such as blueberries in it. Or even whole grain toast with avocado, or banana slices and peanut butter.
Pantry essentials include quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, barley, and oats, to name a few.
Fruits and vegetables are obvious to any vegan, it’s the stuff that everyone knows. However, bananas should be a focal point. They should always be on hand in a vegan household.
Here’s why: bananas are good egg substitutes when baking, especially if you want to cut back on some sugar without sacrificing flavor. They’re also great by themselves as a snack, or added into rice as a pudding creamer.
Banana smoothies help as well, and they add an element of sweetness and creaminess, without having to use those ingredients at all!
Finally, the best way to use bananas as a vegan is freeze and blend them to make what’s known as “nice cream,” the vegan take on ice cream. You can eat is as is for banana nice cream, or you can add chocolate, peanut butter, berries, caramel drizzle, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Vegans don’t drink any form of animal milk, obviously, so nut milks are going to be your saving grace. Everything from smoothies to cookies, cereal to mac n’ cheese requires milk.
That means you should always have nut milk on hand. Think almond milk, soy, coconut, oat, hemp, or even cashew. Stores sell the more common varieties, like almond, soy and coconut, but health food stores specifically carry the other varieties.
You can also make your own nut milk by soaking nuts in water overnight, for a minimum of 8 hours, and then blending them. You can sive the milk to get rid of any gunk, and then use a cheesecloth to extract any straggling bits.
Then, you can simply pour the milk into a clean glass jar with a tight seal!
Here’s another vegan essential: nutritional yeast. It’s the ultimate cheese substitute. This is essentially jarred flakes that are mustard yellow in color. They’re almost powdery in texture, like the crumbs leftover in the bag after you’re done eating “cheese” crackers.
Only, nutritional yeast is actually a single-celled organism. It’s actually grown in molasses. But don’t worry, it’s heated through to deactivate it, and then coated with vitamins, including B12, which is absolutely essential for vegans, as there’s no real way to get this vitamin aside from supplements, or meat. Without it, you could have severe nerve damage and health issues that would lead to permanent damage to vital organs.
It also features folic acid, selenium, zinc, protein, and vitamin B, all while being basically the healthiest thing on the planet. Think gluten-free, low fat, sugar-free, etc.
And you can use it on just about anything. Think topping your pizza, using it on pasta, and even using it as a base for your “cheese” sauce.
Finally, last but not least, there’s tofu. No vegan can live without it for long, as it’s one of the main ways to get protein on the diet. It’s also super easy to find, and shockingly affordable.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s also highly versatile. Think smoothies, fried “popcorn” bites in place of popcorn chicken, and of course, puddings. You can make dips with it, faux meat loafs, the sky's the limit.
All because it’s generally flavorless. But before you write it off as a weird, flavorless substance, think of it this way: tofu is like a sponge. Anything you marinate it with will seep into it. The longer you marinate it for, the better it will be.
And because it’s so versatile and low in calories, you can even fry it guilt-free!
A quick recipe would be to mix vegan mayo with salt and pepper, onion powder, chili powder for heat and some herbs of your choosing. Then marinating cubed tofu in it for at least four hours before coating it in nutritional yeast and vegan breadcrumbs.
Then you can fry them, pat them dry, and serve with roughly chopped, fresh parsley. Voilá, you have popcorn tofu, ready to serve with rice, salad, or just alone. You can even use it in a sandwich, like a sub, with vegan cheese and vegetables.