“But what do you eat?”
I’ve been asked that question more than once since switching to my plant-based, whole-food routine. My food list is not exotic. And sometimes I mix it up with Asian takeout and side dishes I make at home, such as what we did last night:
What I eat:
The list below is what I’ve worked out to give me the best energy and pain-free experience for my own health.
Beans and legumes
Rice and grains – all kinds; I usually avoid white rice and refined grain pasta (white) but won’t turn it down if it comes as a side dish at a restaurant
Vegetables – pretty much everything found in the produce department of a grocery store
Nuts and seeds (limited use, more for flavorings in recipes and a one-time snack rather than handfuls through the day)
What I don’t eat:
Red meat, poultry, fish and eggs
Dairy (milk, cheese, dairy-based ice cream, butter)
Heavily processed food (I’m talking packaged goods with never-ending ingredient lists; I still buy pastas which come packaged, but with very limited ingredients)
If you are new to this line of eating, you may look at the “do eat” list and think, “How do I ever make a dessert out of any of that?” or “How do I replace my favorite things — tuna salad, egg salad, brownies, cakes, cookies, hamburgers, Parmesan cheese, any cheese for that matter … and what about my daily glass of milk with my cereal?”
Lucky for all of us, I am not the first person to go on a plant-based nutrition plan, which means there is a WORLD of flavor-packed options for you to ease into it and not miss most of your favorite things. Here are some go-to tips for those who may be curious or just starting on your path of trying to eat better and break a meat/cheese/oil addiction.
Nuts and Tofu Can Be Your New Best Friends in the Kitchen
Full disclosure: I am not a Pacific Northwest hippie ready to lay some heavy tofu rap on you! When I started this routine, I actually avoided the nut and tofu recipes. I was never crazy about either ingredient when I was still eating meat and ingesting dairy products. Tofu seemed flavorless and spongy. I saw nuts as something that took up valuable real estate in a Hershey bar or block of fudge and would later cause flossing fits with my teeth. My thought was “Why ruin perfectly good chocolate with nuts?”
These two things revolutionized my world when it came to nuts and tofu: The blender and the mini-processor (much more economical than a full-sized unit).
Where’s the Tofu in this Store?
When I decided to branch out from my beans/potatoes/sautéed vegetables and salads regimen, that meant seeing what nuts and tofu had to offer. I didn’t even have a clue where tofu was sold in a grocery store, and that is kind of tricky. There are two different stores I frequent in Olympia/Lacey area. One sells it in the cold case next to raw mushrooms, and the other sells it in a cold case by the deli that also includes gourmet pasta, dips, Asian noodles and Miso. Start in the health food cold case section of your grocer, and if you don’t see it, ask. I have found that no two stores sell tofu in the same place, as it’s one of those healthy odds and ends like Miso that could be anywhere. Once you find it, you are golden.
What to Do with Tofu
Shakes and smoothies (any flavor you want)! Vegan mayonnaise! Scrambled eggs without the eggs! Eggless salad sandwich spread! Ranch dip! Key lime pie! I have made all of these with blocks of tofu, and that’s really not even an all-encompassing gourmet list. The possibilities really are endless. If you can think of a creamy, dairy or egg-based item, tofu has you covered as a quick and satisfying replacement, generally with an accompanying how-to video or recipe online. A block of firm/extra firm tofu and your blender can give you a new reason to live as a foodie. But don’t take my word for it, watch this:
Nuts Equal Flavor
I process nuts at home with my mini-processor. You even can soak nuts such as almonds or cashews in water from 30 minutes to overnight and throw them in your blender or processor to create dressings or sauces, even tuna-less sandwich! You may think it is not possible to replicate tuna salad as a vegan. Yes, you can. The following demonstration uses flaxseed oil, which I don’t use, but some people love it for the Omega 3s. (I use ground flaxseeds to top salads and oatmeal and to add to smoothies)
I also have used cashews for fake Parmesan (take a handful of cashews and blend with nutritional yeast and salt-free Mrs. Dash table blend in a processor, process until it’s a powder). I also have used walnuts, coconut flakes and apple juice for a no-bake pie crust. Trust me on the pie crust, it is fantastic.