Okay, Now What Do I Eat?
As you begin your transition to a more wholesome diet, remember that tastes for foods are learned. You may want to begin slowly, by replacing high-fat dairy products with fat-free versions and eating meat less often. However, making a complete break from animal foods is so rewarding that it’s actually easier for most people.
All your needs for protein, calcium and other vital nutrients are easy to satisfy if you eat enough calories each day from a wide variety of foods. It’s that simple! The only nutrient deserving extra consideration is Vitamin B-12, which, since it is made by bacteria, is not naturally present in plants (or meat). Your B-12 requirements can be easily met by including a cereal or soymilk fortified with B-12, or a B-12 supplement twice a week.
Reduce or eliminate red meat, poultry and fish. Replace with health-supporting grain, legume and potato-based dishes. Or, start by giving yourself larger servings of rice, potatoes and vegetables at meals — and ever smaller portions of meat.
Increase intake of calcium-rich vegetables — broccoli, kale, collards, mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, black beans, chick peas, calcium-processed tofu, calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified orange juice and blackstrap molasses. Choose more raw fruits and vegetables: cooking destroys nutrients. Try for 50% of your daily intake as uncooked foods and gradually increase the proportion. Buy organic.
Reduce the “luxury” fats. Hydrogenated oils (like margarine) are artificially thickened vegetable oils that can damage your arteries and have been linked to some cancers. Gradually eliminate both butter and margarine from your diet. Reduce your use of cooking oils and oil-based salad dressings
. Switch to nonfat (or low-fat) versions of prepared foods (and dairy products, if you still eat them). Read product labels. Replace eggs in baking with two tablespoons of water per egg — or try Ener-G egg substitute
Replace dairy products with non-dairy foods
. Delicious milks, cheeses, and frozen desserts based on soy, rice, nuts and seeds are available in health food stores and many grocery stores.
Reduce refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, white rice, etc.) By choosing whole grain products and natural sweeteners (fruits, juices, maple syrup, etc.).
It’s easy – There is an endless supply of fabulous vegetarian recipes from many cultures. A wide variety of cookbooks are available in bookstores and health food stores. There are several lines of fast foods — pilafs, falafels, humus, “burgers,” “tofu-helpers,” etc. — for sale across the country. If you can’t find them in your store, ask your grocer to carry them — she or he is always looking for suggestions. Ask your favorite restaurant to serve vegan burgers, past dishes, etc.
Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks and Snacks:
Cereal Lovers - Try hot or cold whole grain cereal or granola with soy milk and fruit. Use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar. Try apple juice on granola –
- Try whole grain bread, toast, bagels, non-dairy muffins or specialty breads, with raisins or dates and nuts or seeds. Remember, even soy margarines have just as much fat as butter. Try apple butter, pure fruit jams, nut butters, humus or tahini on your bread or bagel.
Egg Lovers - Don’t knock scrambled tofu until you’ve tried it. There are easy mixes put out by several companies, as well as recipes in vegetarian cookbooks. Try sautéing cubed firm tofu with anything you would add to an omelet.
Other breakfasts - Treat yourself to waffles or pancakes made with soy milk — try using ½ banana in place of each egg — and smothered in fresh or hot cooked fruit. Make fruit smoothies with everything you can imagine. Use sweet fruit to make breakfast cobbler or pie and you won’t need to add sugar when baking.
Lunch or Dinner
- Whole grain
breads, avocado, grated carrots, sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes and thinly sliced cucumbers make great sandwiches. Try nut butters with pure fruit jams or humus with crisp sliced vegetables. Vegetarian cookbooks have great recipes for spreads. Falafel is delicious.
Salads - Most vegetables can be served raw, chopped small or grated in salads. Cooked beans (garbanzos, kidney, black, lentils, etc.), sprouts, seeds, nuts and avocados are excellent. Try salad dressings with little or no oil and/or flavored vinegars. Stuff your salad into pita bread and add tahini to it.
Pasta - Try all those special pastas made with wholesome grains, vegetables and spices. Experiment with marinara, pesto and tomato basil sauces. Try sautéing garlic, onions, summer squash, red bell peppers and tomatoes in a little olive oil — or in a little sesame oil and tamari (soy sauce).
Burritos or Tacos - Try beans (black beans are great), rice or potatoes, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce or crisp shredded cabbage, salsa, soy cheese, etc. Use soft corn or whole wheat tortillas. Find your own favorite combinations. Nachos con todo (with everything) is a great fast meal.
- Potatoes can be baked, steamed, mashed or home-fried. Try them with sauces, salsas, mustard, in soups or salads. Treat yourself to mushroom gravy. Remember yams and sweet potatoes.
Veggie or Tofu Burgers
- There are many varieties in stores. They are delicious and easy to bake, fry, barbecue or microwave. Tofu hot dogs are almost indistinguishable from the original. Pile on the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, tofu mayo and barbecue sauce.
Vegetables - Try stir-fried or steamed, served with brown rice, millet, barley or potatoes. Ad cubed firm tofu and tamari or mushroom gravy for a feast.
Pizza - Use whole wheat crust, tomato sauce, spices, soy cheese, and all your favorite trimmings. Try almonds, garlic, and fresh tomatoes.
Soups - Beans, lentils, nuts, veggies, grains, potatoes, tofu — anything is good in soup. Simmer your favorite vegetables for a few minutes and add a little miso for a quick treat. There are many brands of instant soups made with wholesome an delicious ingredients — just add boiling water, stir and wait.
Drinks and Snacks
Milks - Soy, rice, nut or seed milks are perfect substitutes for cow and goat milk. Carob, chocolate and vanilla versions are delicious. Watch out — some have added oils that make them just as high in fat as cow milk.
Juices - Many bottled organic juices are available all across the country. Look for local fresh-squeezed brands. Juice your own. Many vegetable juices are just as delicious as fruit juices. Be daring — carrot juice can be habit-forming.
Water and Tea - Add sliced lemons, limes, oranges or tangerines to fresh clean water. Try herbal iced teas and hot teas.
Snacks - Go for crispy foods like popcorn, pretzels, chips, fresh fruit, carrots, nuts, seeds and celery with almond butter. Enjoy cobblers and pies made from sweet fresh fruit, smoothies, non-dairy cookies and muffins, dried fruit, frozen fruit bars and non-dairy frozen desserts like Rice Dream and Tofutti. Avoid preservatives and buy organic.