The first thing you need to do is free yourself from the idea that a vegan diet is a restricted one. Meat and animal products are only a few out of hundreds of different kinds of foods you can buy and cook yourself. It’s just a matter of knowing which ingredients to use, and building up a big repertoire of good, healthy vegan recipes.
If you think of it as eating healthy on such a restricted diet, you’ll inevitably end up cooking boring things and only using veggie burgers and beans for your protein. While there’s nothing wrong with these vegan protein sources, the key to maintaining a healthy and interesting diet is variety! You’ll need to learn how to cook in lots of different ways, and learn about lots of exotic ingredients and spices to keep your menu fresh and interesting. Here are some tips for eating healthy on such a restricted diet.
ONE: Get some new recipes. The first thing you need to do is invest in a good vegan cookbook. A quick search on Amazon will bring up loads of great vegan cookbooks from $10 to $30. Start with the easy ones and then build up your collection. The main thing you’ll learn from trying loads of different recipes is how to use all of the different ingredients you find in the vegetarian and fresh produce sections of your local grocery store and health food stores.
TWO: Learn where to find protein. Protein is often a big worry for new vegans, as we’ve all heard people say that a vegan diet lacks a good source of protein. This is anything but true, although you do need to know where to look to find vegan protein sources. Legumes are going to be one of your main sources of protein, so try to find a store that has a great variety of them. Legumes are dried beans and peas, and are a great base for loads of stews or salads.
THREE: Look to the East. A lot of Asian food is vegetarian, and no animals have been involved at any stage during its preparation. One only needs to look at vegetarian sushi to find a great sources of vitamins, minerals and essential oils. Seaweed also contains iron and vitamin B12, which are both essential in maintaining your body’s immune system and repair mechanisms.
FOUR: Try out vegetarian and vegan dishes in local Japanese and Thai restaurants – most Thai curries contain only coconut milk and no animal produce. A Thai green vegetable curry with crunchy bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, peppers and broccoli makes a delicious, balanced and healthy meal that’s full of good protein, vitamins and minerals and involves zero animal products!
FIVE: Stock up on healthy carbohydrates. ‘Good carbs’ are things like whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice and seeds. Keep Low-GI bread around the house and have it with some margarine and marmite if you’re feeling like a snack. The slow-releasing sugars in the bread will give you energy and keep you feeling fuller for longer, and the whole grains will provide protein and fiber.
SIX: Find new places to shop. Yes, being a vegan does sometimes mean going out of your way to buy interesting things to cook. Look for weekend farmers markets or fruit stalls in your area, and talk to the people who run health food stores for some ideas about how to cook things like tofu to increase the variety in a vegan diet.