Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Starter tips and recipes for new vegans

Yesterday, I posted about transitioning to a plant-based diet. Today I'm going to give you a few easy meal and snack ideas for those new to the diet.

The idea is to eat as many "whole foods" you can. Try to ease up on the processed food. That means buying lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. 

Do you have a steamer basket at home? Or a big steamer pot? I steam vegetables ALL the time. It may be one of the healthier ways to eat cooked vegetables, because it doesn't cook them for that long (so they keep more of their nutrients) and there's no oil involved (like frying). Pre-cut vegetables don't last as long as whole ones. Just keep that in mind. If you buy pre-shredded carrots and florets of broccoli in a bag, use them up fairly quickly. I tend to buy whole heads of broccoli and cauliflower, as well as the big whole carrots (not baby carrots, but if you like those, go ahead). 

Cutting vegetables doesn't really take all that long. Or do it in advance....maybe in the morning, before work, or the evening before. Store them in a container in the fridge and then take them out when you're ready to throw them in the steamer. Try to keep the vegetables similar in size so they take the same amount of time to cook. Always throw any greens in for the last couple of minutes only (spinach, kale, collards, etc.). Keep pricking them with a fork to see if they're done. I like mine a little al dente! 

I love meals in a bowl. Three layers: grains, vegetables, sauce. That's all. Cook up some brown rice or barley. Put that in a bowl, and top it with those steamed vegetables and some sauce. You can try this cashew tomato sauce (it's also great on pasta), or maybe an Asian sauce (scroll down to the Asian Ginger Sauce, it's delicious!). Actually, that page has several grain and sauce variations to try, so it's a good link to keep.

How about a salad? Throw all the vegetables you love into a big bowl (I'd chop them up first!), and add a sauce. Be careful with pre-made bottled sauces. A lot of them have cheese and other dairy products in them. I try not to use much oil, so I avoid those dressings. You can try my Avocado's really refreshing! And easy.  Here's another salad variation (and you leave out the kelp noodles if you can't find them).  Maybe you want some potato salad instead? Those are the rare occasions I use vegan mayo (Vegenaise). 

Another easy recipe is this Vegetable Barley Stew. A great meal for the upcoming winter months! Again, this just involves cooking up the barley in one pot and the broth and cut up veggies in another.

What? You want pasta? That's easy too! I prefer brown rice pasta, but you could use whole wheat instead. I'd stay away from all things white flour. That's not a vegan thing, it's just a healthy thing. This is a great pasta sauce, using cashews. Or try some peanut sauce for a change. Looking for parmesan? I've got a super simple recipe for a vegan parmesan substitute! I even have a great pesto recipe, without cheese!

Hummus and guacamole are great healthy snacks. Serve them with cut up veggies or tortilla chips. Or you can try my muesli in yogurt.

Breakfast is easy. If you eat cereal, just make sure there aren't any funny ingredients hiding in there. My biggest worry about cereal is the sugar. The sugar content can be so out for that. You can just switch our regular milk for a non-dairy milk, like almond milk or hemp milk. I find that hemp milk seems to be a bit sweeter and creamier than the others. I use unsweetened plain soy milk in my coffee, and hemp and almond milk for other things, like oats. I love oats. Every which way. You can see my whole post on oats here

Feel free to peruse my recipes page for more suggestions.

If you eat a variety of whole foods, you'll get most of your nutrients and vitamins. You have to include lots of different colors of fruits and vegetables, as well as various grains, beans, lentils, and some nuts and seeds. Don't worry, you'll get plenty of protein if you are able to do this! Sometimes, those that follow a plant-based diet are deficient in Vitamin B-12. You can find this in nutritional yeast and fortified non-dairy milks. You may have to take a supplement, if you don't get enough.

And again, if you have questions, just ask. 

Also, if you have any major health problems, you may want to consult a doctor first, before drastically changing your diet.

Eat smart,


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