Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of veganism. But how is that different from a plant-based diet? And what the heck do these people eat all day? Here’s an attempt at answering those questions through a sneak peak into what I eat on a typical workday!
Foreword: plant-based vs. vegan
I’ve talked about veganism on the blog before. For some people, vegan and plant-based mean the same thing: a diet devoid of animal products (e.g. meat, fish, dairy, eggs).
Others consider that plant-based means a diet of primarily fruit and vegetables, but which can incorporate some animal products.
I’m using it here to describe a diet with no animal products (i.e. vegan), with a strong emphasis on fruit and vegetables. Because believe it or not, it’s possible to eat a junk food vegan diet (Doritos and Oreos come to mind). So I personally try to be vegan and plant-based.
Eating plant-based is good for you for two simple reasons:
- You eat fewer animal products which are bad for your health (feel free to disagree, but elsewhere, ha!);
- You eat more fruit and veg – turns out mums are right: they are good for you!
Therefore, I incorporate a fruit and/or vegetable in the vast majority of meals and snacks. My approach is to actually centre my meal on plants, starting from which fruits / vegetables we have in the flat and then developing a meal around them. As opposed to starting with “I’ll have toast for breakfast” and then trying to shoehorn fruit or veg into the meal, which is what I used to do.
Anyhoo, after that long intro, let’s move onto what I eat in a typical day!
I used to start my day with toast, but now that I’ve started having smoothie bowls for breakfast I feel healthier and fuller for longer! I tried porridge for a little while but that made me feel too full for my morning workout and even a little sleepy.
So what is a smoothie bowl? Well if you’re on Instagram, you probably already know the answer to that question. A smoothie bowl is a smoothie (blended stuff) in a bowl! The bowl format – beyond making it more Instagrammable – allows you to add toppings. Topping the smoothie with chocolate granola (I like the Fuel 10K brand) adds some crunch and makes it feel like a proper meal.
I haven’t experimented much with this, because I’ve already found something I’m happy to have everyday. My current smoothie bowl formula is a variation on this recipe – super easy! WordPress won’t currently let me upload a picture of it so you will just have to use your imagination!
When I work from home (which is most workdays), I like to have a big salad for lunch. Now that doesn’t mean I eat a couple leaves of lettuce and call it a day!
I choose one of our biggest plates and start with whatever leafy green we have as a base. Whatever happens next though depends on how creative I’m feeling. Sometimes I go with a theme (“Mediterranean” or “Mexican” for example). Or I include whatever I’m craving – I have been known to add Doritos to a salad…
I any case I like to have things that add colour (tomatoes, various fruit…) and crunch (cucumber or carrot). I often add half a can of rinsed beans (chickpeas, black beans…) and some healthy fats (sunflower seeds, hummus…). The dressing depends on the “theme” I have chosen, but almost always includes olive oil. I then add balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, and sometimes some hot sauce.
I love trying new things with my lunch time salads so they never become boring. Please comment below with the weirdest thing you’ve ever had in a salad!
With dinner there’s two mouths to feed! My fiancé and I cook dinner together most of the time. And despite not being vegan himself, when he’s at home he very kindly joins me on this little plant-based adventure of mine!
Because he’s often quite hungry and I’ve generally been quite “virtuous” during the day, we tend to have slightly heavier dinners. Nothing crazy though, as it’s still all vegan!
I really like the guideline of “a grain, a green and a bean“. We more or less apply it to all our dinners. For instance you can have a soup with barley (a grain), various chopped up veg (a green) and red lentils (a bean). Our staple meals that we eat several times a week are pasta / gnocchi with a tomato sauce (we make a fake bolognese with lentils instead of meat) and stir fry with tofu, vegetables and soy sauce.
I’m definitely a snacker! As I work from home and I could easily graze all day, I need to add a bit of structure to calm the madness. (As a side note, the thing I could snack on all day is crackers – anyone else? Just me?)
So if I’m hungry, I have one main snack in the morning and one main snack in the afternoon. I might have some toast with peanut butter and a fruit, or just a coffee and a fruit. I do like vegan “cheese” so I might include that too.
Let’s be real
Nobody’s perfect, and I’m definitely not. I’ve just outlined how I eat on most days, but there are quite a few exceptions to this. Thursday evenings the man and I volunteer at a youth club (not right now though as it’s the summer holidays!). When we do go, we grab some chips and mushy peas from the local fish and chip shop.
And more generally on the weekend I’m a bit less organised about how I eat – and that’s fine. I have toast in the morning, or “fish finger” sandwiches if we both get up and make something. And then lunch or dinner can often be out with family, so I’ll have whatever veggie option is available. Very occasionally I will bake something vegan – but this is something I want to do more of!
Another thing I would like to point out is that the vast majority of vegans have not been vegan their whole life. There was a time when I ate dairy every day and probably meat every day too – it seems quite gross to think about it now! I have made loads of progress since then, but I have stumbled quite a few times.
I decided I wanted to be vegan almost three years ago and I’ve definitely fallen back into eating animal products a few times since then. For instance when we went on holiday to Mykonos and Santorini, I “downgraded” to vegetarian for convenience. I’ve since travelled to Switzerland and the Netherlands and managed to not eat any animal products though!
Another failing seems to be cheese at other people’s places, especially blue cheese. I tell myself “well they’ve bought it anyway now, does it matter who eats it?”. I’m sharing this not to celebrate this shortcomings, but so that if you’re reading this and considering becoming vegan or struggling with it a bit, I want you to know that it’s all OK and part of the journey!
On that note, please check out the various resources below and do pop any questions you may have about plant-based / vegan eating in the comments section!
- No Meat Athlete podcast – this is a brilliant all round resource, where two vegan ultrarunners chat about food, exercise and much much more!
- Vegan on the Cheap: Great Recipes and Simple Strategies That Save You Time and Money by Robin Robertson – the clue’s in the name, this little book will help you to start your vegan journey with recipes and cooking methods that won’t break the bank (not that vegan cooking generally does!);
- Conquering Cultural Stress: The Ultimate Guide to Anti-Aging and Happiness by Howard Murad – despite its strange title, this book is all about eating more fruit and veg, and what that does to your body and life;
- Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek – this book is about the veganism and running journey of “one of the most dominant ultramarathon runners in the world” – if eating plants works for him (and the Williams sisters!), it will probably work for you!
- The Chickpeeps podcast – this podcast is a great intro to “why do people go vegan anyway?”, with some Harry Potter bonuses for fans of the series;
- Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack podcast – this is a great podcast to listen to if you’re already sensitive to social and environmental causes and keen to hone into what’s really important;
- The Daily Dozen app – this handy little app helps you keep track of the nutrient-rich plant foods that you are eating, thus focusing on nutrition rather than obsessing over calories or macros!