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 peek into what I eat in a day plant-based!
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Foreword: plant-based vs. vegan
I’ve talked about veganism quite a bit, but let’s take a sec to define it. 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 whole foods: fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains. 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 house 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.
If you want more advice on how to eat healthily as a vegan, check out 6 tips to make healthy vegan food like a pro.
Anyhoo, after that long intro, let’s move onto what I eat in a typical day!
I actually have two breakfasts because I wake up much earlier than my boys. The first one is more of a snack, like a slice of toast, before my workout and then I have my “proper” breakfast with my family.
When I have smoothie bowls for breakfast rather than something quick like sugary cereal, I feel healthier and fuller for longer! I tried porridge for a little while but that made me feel too full 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! I also like to have a berry smoothie bowl (see above).
In any case, I always accompany my breakfast with my “magic coffee”, aka adaptogenic mushroom-based coffee. I get two selection boxes every month as a subscription – I love choosing a coffee based on my mood and what I’ve got planned for the day!
Selection box – try 3 adaptogenic coffee blends!
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 big pasta bowls 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, sometimes including tahini or olive oil. I then add something acidic (vinegar or lemon/lime juice), and sometimes some chipotle chili flakes (a gamechanger – I love their smoked flavour).
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 four mouths to feed! My fiancé and I used to cook dinner together most of the time before kiddos, but now we alternate. 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). We used to have two staple meals that we ate several times a week: 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.
But now we have a weekly rhythm with different meals every night. You can find the full rotation here: A week of tasty plant-based dinners that tick all the nutrition boxes or just check out the photos below and come up with your own version of a grain, a green, a bean.
As you can see on some of these photos, what I eat in a day plant-based isn’t always 100% in line with the “ideal” guidelines. Some of the meals don’t have a grain or don’t have a green, but that’s what I aspire to most of the time.
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. I’m currently on a quest to give up by biscuit addiction, so stay tuned to know how that goes!
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 used to volunteer at a youth club and every week we’d grab some chips and mushy peas from the local fish and chip shop. Since having the boys, we haven’t done that, but we do occasionally get takeaway pizza.
And more generally when the boys are at home, I’m a bit more flexible about how I eat – and that’s fine. I have crumpets on a Saturday morning, or “fish finger” sandwiches if by some miracle there are some fish fingers left over from the night before. On the rare occasions we have lunch or dinner out with family, 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 in 2015 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 used to be cheese at other people’s places, especially blue cheese. I’d tell myself “Well, they’ve bought it anyway now, does it matter who eats it?”. I’m sharing this not to celebrate eating animal products, 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!
I’ve been (as close as possible) to 100% vegan since September 2019, but I wasn’t between 2015 and 2019. Hopefully you now don’t feel alone or like you’re a “bad vegan”. Every little helps!
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!
Extra resources for eating plant-based
- No Meat Athlete podcast – this is a brilliant all-round resource, where two vegan ultrarunners chat about food, exercise and much much more! I’d also check out their newest creation The Plant-Based Morning Show to stay up-to-date with all things vegan food.
- 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!).
- 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. It seems like they’re not sharing new episodes anymore, but you can still dive into the archive.
- 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!
This post was all about what I eat in a day plant-based
You may also like:
- The baby steps guide to going vegan & plant-based
- 6 tips to make healthy vegan food like a pro
- My “Food” Instagram highlight for more inspiration from what I eat in a day plant-based
This post was originally published in August 2020. It was fully updated in April 2023.