You’re concerned about the environment.
I know you are. You tote your aluminum water bottle. You would never buy plastic. You recycle like a boss. You always bring your own bags to the grocery store. You vote for people who vote for the environment.
You love animals. You’ve read about the factory farms and how tragic life is for animals who are raised for food. You really don’t want to be a contributor to that kind of torture anymore. And, really, you don’t like meat that much anyway.
You’ve read all the latest articles about how good a plant-based diet is for your health. You have a history of diabetes and heart disease in your family. Cancer, too.
You know that, statistically, vegans have better odds at beating those diseases. You’ve heard it’s good for maintaining a healthy weight and, well, you know you’d like to drop those seven pounds.
All of this tugs at your heart. You’re a good person. You want to be of benefit. You’ve toyed with the idea of becoming vegan. You sense that you’ll be healthier and happier.
You’ll be proud of yourself for making this kind of significant contribution on behalf of the animals, on behalf of the planet, and for your own well-being.
But there are a couple of things stopping you…
First of all, you have a busy life; you don’t have time to add another project to your to-do list. Learning to cook a vegan diet seems like a big project you’re not sure you can take on.
You’ve learned ways to streamline your meal preps. A little chicken on the grill, a salad, and veggies on the side—bam! Dinner in less than 30.
You have your favorite go-to recipes. Your shopping list is dialed in. Meal planning has become a no-brainer.
You don’t like the idea of studying a bunch of cookbooks to learn how to “cook vegan.” It all just sounds like too much work.
Okay, okay, take a deep breath and let Mama K help you out.
Here are six suggestions for starting your exploration of a vegan diet (I’ll keep it really simple):
1. Make this your new mantra: I will eat a variety of vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The combination of vegetables with these grainy, beanie things will give you a complete protein. There is no magic equivalency. Just make sure you’re eating a variety. And when you choose your vegetables, pick them based on color. Lots of color in your veggies means a diversity of nutrients in your diet.
2. Always keep these grains on hand.
Buy quinoa, farro, and oatmeal and learn to cook them. Quinoa and farro are tasty, high-protein grains. Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice.
Both quinoa and farro cook up in 15-20 minutes. A simple, whole protein meal can be made by combining your cooked grain with your choice of steamed, roasted, or stir-fried vegetables. Add a sauce of your choice, toss the whole thing, and you have a delicious, easy-to-prepare vegan meal.
You can Google “vegan sauces” and find lots of options. Try some and choose your favorites. There are also lots of bottled dressings and sauces that are vegan.
3. Always keep beans and legumes on hand.
My cupboard always has a can or two of black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans. I also always have green and red lentils on hand.
Throw the beans into your grain and veggie dish for variety. Cook up the lentils and throw them into a salad or add them to some roasted vegetables. Make veggie tacos out of your black beans. Lots of things can be done with beans and legumes.
4. Google is your friend for vegan recipes.
Put this into your search bar: easy, quick, vegan recipes.
You’ll be delighted at what pops up. Look at the pictures and the recipe descriptions and choose just two recipes to try each week. Keep your favorites to add to your recipe file.
5. Stay away from packaged foods and “fake meat.” Eat whole foods.
Do I sometimes buy packaged food? Yes. One of my favorite dinners on an I-don’t-want-to-cook night is Amy’s brand roasted vegetable vegan pizza. Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes and what comes out is comfort food perfection. Do I do this often? No.
Remember, one of your goals is better health. Just because it’s vegan and organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Packaged foods have additives that you don’t want in your body—oils that are unhealthy. So, for the most part, avoid them. This goes for all the meat substitutes too. Buy and cook whole foods: whole, fresh vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruits.
* One note on packaged things: there are lots of good vegan cheeses that come packaged. Most are nut or soy-based. These aren’t bad on occasion.
6. Try your hand at making some sauces.
When you’re throwing together simple vegan meals (remember those grains and veggies meals I talked about), the sauce you stir in is what makes the meal delicious. Go back to the Guru Google and search recipes for vegan sauces. Try some and discover those that make your dishes come alive.
I hope my suggestions help you feel like becoming vegan is not quite so overwhelming.
Start gradually and build your vegan muscle.
Give it a try. Enjoy the journey.
Soon, you’ll be a pro.