A Note On Moving to a Plant-Based Diet

I’ve always loved food. Pastas, meats, breads, and strangely enough vegetables have always been some of my favorites. Growing up I ate a lot of standard American stuff; my dad and stepmom took us out to eat a lot and occasionally cooked your common staple meals while my mom and stepdad cooked a lot of hearty meat-and-potatoes comfort food dishes. I picked up some cooking basics but regret not spending more time trying to learn in the kitchen. I started working at Burger King when I was 16 years old and have been in different food service jobs since then, which consistently served as a source of part of my diet. When I got to college I started experimenting a little bit with cooking but it was minimal to get by and I ate a lot of crappy food. When I got married I became super aware of how small my comfort circle of cooking was, and I’m thankful that my husband had his own set of skills and patience while I was still developing mine. Food has always been a big part of our relationship; he partially won my heart with one of our first dates where he made us fettuccine chicken alfredo from scratch. Another time he made me a bunch of bacon-wrapped shrimp and I think he ate like 4? Plants have been a nice little side dish for me almost all my life, and I’ve never been much of a salad eater.

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Needless to say, transitioning to a plant-based diet was a little on the foreign side. I already avoided most dairy products because it doesn’t do kind things to my body, although it took me a while to realize just how much impact it had. I tried going gluten free a few years ago for a few months to see if that was a trigger, but I had such a hard time that I gave up and didn’t give it an honest try. I realized that sugar is a huge trigger for me so I am learning to make things sweet without it. I slowly started trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet when I took a nutrition class, and at the same time started experimenting with different foods to see which ones were triggering for my migraine and which ones weren’t. My husband and I tried a juice cleanse this summer and I only lasted 3 days because I felt like I was dying and just juice isn’t sustainable for us. Overall I felt like I was failing at my relationship with food, but it was all a part of the process. Getting in tune with your body is so wonderful and challenging!

Aside from the physical aspect of eating, there’s the huge emotional part of it. My whole life I have used food to fill me in ways it wasn’t designed to, like trying to eat feelings or pain away. I still catch myself doing that sometimes, but I try to mindfully check in with myself and keep food in its proper place. Any relationship takes time and work and it didn’t get like that overnight so I can’t expect it to reverse overnight either.

A few months ago I came to the conclusion that the best diet for me to heal my body was a whole food, plant-based diet that was free of dairy, meat, wheat, refined sugar and processed foods. It’s been such a challenge to stick to and I’ve messed up on more than multiple occasions, usually paying for it with a pain spike if it was a sugar/wheat  indulgence (animal products I can’t correlate my pain as well with, but science shows eliminating them reduces inflammation so I’m giving it a try). I’m still baffled how I’ve seen over half a dozen doctors and my diet was hardly ever addressed, but I’m glad I know what I do now and can hopefully make that link more clear for others. My husband eats some stuff that I don’t, and making it work as a couple on a learning curve and a budget has been quite the challenge but we’re figuring it out. I do food mostly based around our schedule and my pain level; we go grocery shopping on the weekend for our staples and I loosely plan a few meals for the week. I do a lot of basics that can be easily modified based on what’s available in my kitchen, and I generally try to get as much good stuff in as possible. I like to keep things in easy access for snacks because it’s so important to plan what you eat and eat what you plan. I generally try to get my nutritional requirements throughout the day by loosely focusing on getting in different nutrient categories. For example, I try to make sure I get some citrus fruit in every day for vitamin C, greens for iron and other benefits, soy for calcium, and a broad range of fruits and vegetables for other vitamins and minerals. I also use quinoa, beans, legumes, tofu and other grains to add some bulk and other nutrients to my meals.

I’m learning that you can make so much with just a few skills and ingredients. Sometimes food in its simple pure form or close to it is perfect on its own, and other times making a complicated dish is worth the fuss. The “throw different foods and flavors together and call it a meal” method is one of my favorites. A lot of food can be thought of as base and modifications; the base recipe might change but you can get creative when you realize how simple the basics are and discover the many variations and flavor options available. I’m learning you can make cheese from cashews, caramel from dates, and so many other awesome ideas that I didn’t even know about until recently. It really is like a whole new world opened up to me, and I hope I can inspire others to explore it too! Here are some plant-based food ideas that aren’t smoothies or salads:

Breakfast/Snack/Desserts

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  • chia pudding parfait
  • fresh fruit
  • overnight oats
  • baked oatmeal
  • muffin tin veggie + chickpea cups
  • sweet potato with banana, nut butter, chia seeds, other toppings
  • sautéed greens with mushrooms, tomatoes, other veggies
  • fruit and cream quinoa bowl with nuts and seeds
  • smoothie bowls with all the good stuff
  • simple scramble with whatever you have on hand
  • fruit, nuts/seeds in nondairy milk (like cereal)
  • homemade granola and muesli
  • homemade energy bars and bites
  • muffins + breads
  • homemade trail mix with raw or roasted nuts and seeds
  • veggies with hummus
  • homemade dried fruit in the oven
  • cookies, brownies, pies, other tasty treats
  • roasted veggie chips, potatoes
  • baked sweet potato fries with peanut sauce
  • fresh juice

Main Meals

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  • tacos + taco bowls
  • sheet pan roasted vegetable tray
  • pasta with vegetables and coconut milk/pesto/cream/marinara/other sauce
  • veggie noodles with sauce
  • pad thai + other pho-inspired bowls
  • vegetable curry
  • stuffed mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes
  • veggie patties/burgers
  • bowl with mixed vegetables, greens, beans, grains and dressing/seasoning
  • simple roasted/grilled/sautéed veggies with wild rice
  • vegetable stir fry
  • sandwiches w/ all the veggies
  • lettuce wraps
  • veggie kabobs
  • veggie pot pies
  • soups and stews
  • veggie chili loaded baked potatoes
  • roasted vegetable pizza
  • personal eggplant/zucchini/mushroom pizzas
  • lasagna w/ brown rice noodles + roasted veggies + cashew ricotta
  • ratatouille
  • veggie “meatloaf” cups
  • baked zucchini boats
  • veggie fritters/nuggets
  • lentil veggie loaf
  • hummus vegetable wrap
  • crispy smashed potatoes/sweet potatoes w/ toppings
  • stuffed sweet potatoes with lemon roasted chickpeas + tahini sauce
  • veggie sushi
  • mexican quinoa casserole
  • veggie fajitas
  • orange ginger tofu w/ pineapple cauliflower rice
  • fresh spring rolls
  • roasted squash with filling
  • loaded potatoes/sweet potatoes with toppings
  • fried rice + veggie skillet

Some Things I Find Helpful

  • bake potatoes and store in fridge for quick use
  • chop veggies and store in freezer
  • make extras and freeze leftovers
  • prep quinoa, beans, lentils ahead of time
  • grate, chop, and freeze ginger
  • make freezer packs ready to go for quick smoothies
  • buy in bulk
  • eat seasonally
  • make sauces and dressings in bulk and freeze

If anyone has any other plant-based food ideas, I would love to hear them! How do you eat your plants?

With love, Katie

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” – Psalm 107:9

4 Comments Add yours

  1. deecanady says:

    Wow! I had no idea there were so many vegan options for food! You’re so inspiring! I love seeing your blog posts and how passionate you are about food! keep it up!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. deecanady says:

    Reblogged this on Your dearest mama and commented:
    WOW! wildly impressed with this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jessica says:

    These are some great meals and snacks! I’ll be coming back to this one for ideas 🙂 One thing to think about is I’ve heard soy can be a major allergen, and if you’re already dealing with health issues it might be worth looking into. Keep up the inspiring posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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