I’ve been on this wonderful plant powered adventure for over a year now, and I thought I’d share some thoughts and tips I would’ve found extremely useful when embarking on my journey. If you’re planning on going plant based or even just meatless Mondays, I hope you’ll find my tips useful!
My Vegan Basics series will not be a nutrition guide; it’s more like friendly advice with some basic recipes and observations I’ve made along the way. As a mother of two small children, it is natural for me to take a kid friendly perspective, but the tips I’m going to share are for everyone. If you want to know more about my cooking philosophy and my vegan story, you can find them here.
When I began my healthy vegan life there were some bumps on the road. Here are the first three challenges I faced:
1. Where to begin? What am I supposed to buy from the grocery store now? What am I supposed to cook now? What can I eat now? I was at home with my baby boy and I didn’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen, nor did I have the energy. I was a tired mama with a strong determination to find a quick and easy solution to get my plant powered life rolling. So I started with the very basic: by adding tons of rainbow colored fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens to my diet. I did this in a very simple way by blending a daily green smoothie. The outcome of my blending experiments wasn’t always perfectly green, and I got used to drinking freaky brownish-green liquids. Sometimes though they turned out beautifully sparkling green, kid-approved too.
I noticed a change in my health in two weeks: I had more energy and I just felt overall lighter and happier. I honestly think that adding green smoothies to my diet is one of the single most important and easiest tasks I’ve done to improve my health. When my whole family joined the green smoothie train, I didn’t want to scare them with pond colored greens so I began with very tasty light green smoothies. Here’s my simple guide if you’re not already familiar with greens.
1. start with GREEN SMOOTHIES.
2. How to replace dairy products with vegan alternatives? Replacing milk, yogurt and cream was really easy as there are so many alternatives available on the market. But after a while I began experimenting with plant based alternatives at home. Two examples of creams which I whip up frequently can be found here (coconut cream) and here (cashew cream). I’ll be sharing some tips on making nut milks and yogurt later on.
I found a great alternative to basic butter – coconut butter, which you can find in many stores but is really simple to make at home too. Here’s the recipe. Now I like to experiment more with spreads which have a lot of flavor. Here is a super healthy green spread and here a flavorful carrot spread. I also love spreading cashew sauce on top of bread and in vegetable burgers. This is a delicious fresh sauce to try.
Giving up on cheese is another story – I found it really difficult as I’ve always loved all kinds of cheese, cottage cheese and feta being my favorite ones. Cheese was the last dairy product I left out of my diet 6 months ago. I’m not a big fan of vegan cheeze alternatives but I do eat them occasionally on top of pizzas and warm bread (this is the brand I use). I’ve found a way to satisfy my cheese cravings with a simple cheesy flavor, which I like to add to our dishes. The cheesy flavor is easily achieved with a combination of nuts and nutritional yeast, a pinch of salt and a little garlic. I shared my cheesy crumble recipe here. I’m experimenting with a variety of vegan cheeses and I’ll report success stories here. I’m currently obsessed with making the perfect vegan feta 🙂 Update: two delicious vegan feta recipes I’ve made: Cashew-almond feta and Almond feta. These are the perfect dairy-free alternatives to satisfy cheese cravings!
2.learn to make your own vegan alternatives to dairy.
3. How to change my attitude towards food? I’ve followed many diets in my life and they’ve all left me feeling miserable. I’ve been starving myself and then felt guilty when I’ve eaten something unhealthy. Before my healthy vegan life, I hardly ever enjoyed eating. I didn’t know how to enjoy eating because it had always been such a struggle for me: counting calories, feeling bad about myself for not being able to stick to a strict diet or eating too much sugary unprocessed foods. There was a whole bunch of negative emotions revolving around the food I ate, and it was sucking up my energy. Not to mention the food itself was making me feel physically bad – bloated and foggy.
I needed to make sure I wasn’t just “going on another restrictive diet” when changing to a healthy plant based diet. That’s why I wanted to change my attitude towards food. I didn’t want to see food as just good calories or bad calories, I needed to understand the whole picture: food isn’t just about calories it is about the QUALITY of food, the nutrient density.
I cleaned up my diet and began feeding my body and soul with real food. This required major changes in the kitchen: I began experimenting with seasonal vegetables and fruits, and with gluten free grains and nuts, I started using healthy alternatives to white refined sugar. I began cooking from scratch much more than I used to and cooking only with plant based whole foods.
After a few months of clean eating I noticed a major improvement in my physical health and I also noticed how my attitude towards food had altered. Now I look at food in a completely different way – I appreciate nutrient rich food, all the shapes, colors, textures and flavors. To me vegan food is simply beautiful, and it makes me feel good. And this is a feeling I want to share with you here along with my vegan recipes.
3.start COOKING with REAL FOOD ingredients, start feeding your body and mind with QUALITY nutrient rich foods.
The second Vegan Basics will delve deeper into the anatomy of a flavorful and nutritious vegan meal. Hope you’ll stay tuned 🙂
Sending happy thoughts from the forest,