I thrive following a plant-based diet. I’ve never felt more completely nourished and satisfied by food. However, the transition wasn’t intuitive for me.
My husband was motivated to make the change 10 years ago for health reasons and because of his heart-felt compassion for animals. I tried to talk him out of it, balking at such a “restrictive” diet. But after he pressed on without me and was able to correct his “hereditary” high-cholesterol and also improve his blood sugar control (he has type 1, juvenile diabetes), I committed.
The hardest part was finding new food to cook and eat, and having the strength, courage and wisdom to question and go against the big-food funded messages about the importance of eating animal protein that are a foundation of our country’s food culture.
Today, a plant-based lifestyle is much more mainstream, the health benefits have been well reported, myths about protein have been debunked, and as a result it feels much less rebellious. I used to cook chicken breasts 10 different ways for dinner, eat turkey sandwiches at lunch, cheese sticks for snacks every day. Finding new go-to snacks and meals is truly the hardest part. But once you do, the diet doesn’t feel restrictive at all, but rather a better and even more delicious way of life.
Here’s my top 12 new food staples:
- Coconut or almond milk—while not a source of protein, these milks are rich in vitamins, minerals and calcium, plus healthy fats.
- Hemp seeds—Add this nutritionally-dense complete protein to my smoothies, oatmeal, granola and pasta dishes too.
- Goji berries—High in antioxidants and also protein, these super berries are delicious plain or added to pancakes, oatmeal and cereal.
- Pumpkin seeds— A favorite for salads and tacos to add crunch and even more protein, zinc and magnesium.
- Lentils—Packed with protein, fiber and iron, lentils are great in soup, marinara sauce or homemade veggie burgers or meatloaf.
- Quinoa—Season quinoa and beans with taco seasoning and you won’t miss the beef. I also make quinoa instead of rice for all our bowls.
- Sprouted grains—I eat sprouted whole grain English muffins every day for breakfast. I love them so much I travel the world with them. Here’s a tip—toast them whole not split.
- Cheese—Cheese was our hardest food to give up. But today’s new brands make it easy. We love Kite Hill for their almond-milk cream cheese and raviolis, and Parmela Creamery for their aged cashew nut milk cheddar and mozzarella that melts perfectly for pizza and quesadillas.
- Nutritional yeast and Himalayan sea salt— Use this combo instead of parmesan on pasta or on popcorn for a cheesy B-vitamin, mineral-rich protein boost.
- Coconut oil—I use this healthy fat for all my cooking and baking.
- Hummus—on sandwiches or as a dip of course, I eat a TON of hummus.
- Avocado—eating half an avocado on toast, salad, in a smoothie or quinoa bowl fills me up like a piece of meat used to, but nourishes me in that way that eating food that’s alive only can.
Of course I eat an insane amount of leafy greens, and every kind of vegetable and fruit under the sun. I always ate a ton of peanut butter, but I definitely eat even more today. Most often by the spoonful. We eat a lot of beans and do eat the occasional tofu and veggie chicken strips too.
Two of my best girlfriends recently went plant-based and it has been a thrill to watch and hear how the change has improved their health—from clearer and brighter skin to more energy and an overall stronger emotional well-being. Like my husband’s and mine, their results have been dramatic, and seeing them has made me an even stronger believer.
Eating plants makes me feel more alive. It also saves animals lives and improves the health of our planet too. Find your new foods and see what it does for you.