Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Starting A Vegan Diet and What I Ate Wednesday (with a day of vegan eats) #Veganuary

Seeing as our thoughts turn to healthy eating in January, I felt it was an appropriate time for me to resume my What I Ate Wednesday posts. Additionally, January is known in the plant-based eating community as "Veganuary," a time when people are encouraged to try (and hopefully permanently adopt) a vegan diet.

I was a vegetarian for almost 20 years before switching to a vegan diet. Sometime within those two decades I also stopped drinking cow's milk. I did, however, eat milk chocolate and cheese pizzas. When I went fully vegan a few years back, it wasn't a big transition for me. In other words, I can't speak with any personal experience about going directly from a meat-eating diet to veganism. But I can tell you I've never regretted making these dietary changes - not for a single moment.

Maybe you feel you can drop your meat-based diet cold turkey. Or maybe you would be more comfortable slowly introducing more vegetarian foods into your lunches and dinners. I'm not here to judge. But I am happy to help. Throw me your questions and I'd be pleased to answer.

My Humble Advice For Adopting a Plant-Based Diet

First and foremost, approach the change to a plant-based diet (whether gradual or sudden) with the attitude that you are enriching your eating experience, rather than depriving yourself. Don't think about limitations, but rather adding on. Think of the wealth of beautiful food possibilities that are available to you - health-promoting whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, quinoa and oatmeal. Simply focus on adding more whole foods to your diet. And drink lots of clean, filtered water.

If at first you rely on meat replacements such as veggie burgers and vegan ground round, so be it. Top your veggie burger with lettuce, sauteed mushrooms or whatever other veggies you like. Stir the ground round into a simple vegan chili like this one (my favourite).

Many of your favourite foods can easily be switched to plant-based. I like to top my pizzas with olive oil and broccoli that has been steamed with fresh minced garlic and salt. No sauce needed. I also like to use rapini as a pizza topper - I boil it for a few minutes and then saute it with minced garlic, salt and olive oil before cooking it on the pizza. We often have pasta in our house - sometimes we have plain homemade tomato sauce; other times we add chickpeas or beans to the sauce. Or we fry up some packaged frozen veggie "meat" balls. Soups, stews and chilis make great plant-based, simple meals too.

Educate Yourself

If I had a dollar for everyone who has told me they once were vegan, but gave it up along the way, I might not be rich, but I'd have several extra dollars. My heart sinks a bit when people tell me this. I'm not a doctor and I'm not here to tell you what's best for your health. But I know that anytime you make a dietary change, you should do your research.

Watch tons of YouTube videos about vegan eating. I like Madeleine Olivia and Lisa, The Viet Vegan, for their accessible, delicious plant-based meals. I love this video that Lisa made about what supplements vegans need.

Buy or borrow plenty of vegan cookbooks. I favour simple recipes with a lot of whole foods ingredients. I can't overstate the importance (to my life) of the first vegan cookbook I ever purchased, How It All Vegan! Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet. It doesn't have a ton of photos, but you won't need them, because the book is rich with easy-to-make, family-friendly, plant-based recipes that even your meat-eating friends will love.

I also love The Garden of Vegan, the follow-up to How It All Vegan. My book club friends, Sarah and Connie, and I, rely on these two books for the delicious spreads we put together for our meetings. Check out our last vegan brunch in this post.

In cooler weather, I love the simple, warming recipes in Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week.

Busy, busy? Check out this post for 40+ vegan school and work lunch and snack ideas.

Visit the Veganuary website for resources including vegan meal plans.

I have many easy vegan recipes in my recipes section. If you are a Pinterest enthusiast, please also visit my Easy Vegan Pinterest board, where top vegan bloggers pin their recipes.

Where are you in your eating journey?

Obviously there is much more that could be said about starting a vegan diet, but I thought I'd offer up some thought-starters for Veganuary. Please do let me know in the comments where you are at with your journey - meat-eater who dabbles in plant-based, vegetarian or devoted vegan (or other).

What I Ate Wednesday, A Day of Vegan Eats

I don't feel like I seriously over-indulged at Christmas, but I did eat a bit more chocolate and cookies than usual. I'm moving forward without guilt and focusing on adding more fruits and veggies to my diet (as I do each January and periodically throughout the year, depending on my mood). For this WIAW day of vegan eats, I started the day with a breakfast of oatmeal topped with other whole foods goodies, such as walnuts, raisins, blueberries, raspberries, diced apples and hemp hearts. And maple syrup for sweetness.

Admittedly this was a bit too much oatmeal for me. If you would like to make one portion (half of what's in the photo), add 1/2 cup of quick oats to a small pot. Add 1/2 cup non-dairy milk, 1/4 cup of water, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Serve oatmeal in a bowl with a drizzle of maple syrup and whatever toppings you wish. I add more non-dairy milk (usually soy or almond) before eating.

I had a cup of decaf green tea later in the morning. Tea keeps me going in winter. I cannot even believe how cold it was this past couple of weeks. We are excited to see anything above (or even close to) zero.

I put bars of Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate with Peppermint in the kids' Christmas stockings and I guess they didn't like them much because it's the only candy that's sticking around. I ate a square of my daughter's chocolate bar while I was tidying up. (Fyi, if you are sensitive to dairy, the label says it may contain traces.)

I had put dry pinto beans to soak the night before and I boiled them in the morning. I let them dry and then put 2-cup portions in freezer bags to freeze for soups and chili.

Speaking of soup, lately I'm addicted to Healthy Happy Life's Vegan Chicken Soup. I heated up leftover soup for lunch, adding some of the cooked pinto beans as well as baby spinach. I forgot to buy more of the little stars pasta that I love, so I used what was left of the previous package for this soup, along with alphabet pasta. This is the type of soup that's completely without broth by the next day. I had to add water and Herbamare seasoning when I re-heated my lunch portion. I also had a piece of toast with hummus spread on it.

I put dinner in the slow cooker earlier in the day. I am making an effort to use my slow cooker more often in 2018. And not just for soup. I tried out Yup, it's Vegan's Tofu Tikka Masala, because I completely love tofu. Surprisingly, the tofu stays nice and firm in the slow cooker. I used my large slow cooker and I think I should have used the small one, though, because it was less than half full and I feel like the tikka masala may have been over-cooked. It was once a lovely yellowish hue and then the tomato really took over. I made rice in the slow cooker just prior to serving dinner. I had plans to make a nice salad too, but then I got tired of being in the kitchen. I did stir baby spinach into my tofu tikka masala. That's something.

I had one of these vegan banana muffins in the evening too, while playing Yahtzee with the fam, but I didn't take a photo...because it would have been a terrible photo, cast into darkness as we now are after 6 p.m.

Are you eating healthier for the new year? What changes are you making to your diet?

Linking up to WIAW at Sprint2TheTable.

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  1. Oooh, this is what I wanted to hear. I'm a big dairy person, wait, cheese is my main dairy splurge but I want to try a more veggie lifestyle. My 3.5 year old is steering us in that direction lemme tell you! I was going to read the book "How not to Die" - a vegan cookbook as I do believe we are sort of killing ourselves with all the artificial crap. Anyway I'm glad you blog my friend as I'll be trying a ton more of your recipes!! (P.S. Happy New Year!) xo

    1. Hey Lidia! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I'm so happy if I can provide any useful content. I think many people find cheese the most challenging to cut out. It's hard watching others have pizza at first. But now I'm so totally used to not having cheese and I don't crave it. I have known several children who don't want animal products and usually their parents talk them into eating them. So good for you for respecting your child's wishes!I noticed a lot of people are using that cookbook now. I haven't tried it...yet. I have so many cookbooks! Definitely all the artificial crap needs to go. I'm so happy you'll be trying my recipes. Do let me know how it goes. And Happy New Year!!! xoxo Jo

  2. Thank you for sharing the advice! Gonna try that Tofu Tikka Masala, looks so good and I also love tofu so much.

    1. You are most welcome! I hope you enjoy the tofu dish!