How To: Figuring Out What to Eat

This has to be one of the most common questions that vegans receive from others.  “So you don’t eat beef, pork, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, milk, or dairy – What the heck is left to eat??”

Well, the answer is – EVERYTHING else!

The four ‘new’ food groups as released by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine to the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services in 1995 are as follows:

1) The Whole Grains Group – includes whole grain pasta, bread, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.  These are all an excellent source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and protein.

2) The Vegetable Group – includes leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, squashes, radishes, eggplant, onions, and so many more.  These are an ideal source of vitamins and minerals, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and calcium.

3) The Fruit Group – includes bananas, oranges, apples, pears, peaches, cherries, berries, etc.  Look to fruits for a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants.

4) The Legume Group – includes beans, peas, soy, lentils, etc.  Excellent places to find protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and minerals.

The truth is that there are SO many different kinds of, grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes that it’s impossible to even list them all.  Ironically, I could easily list all the different kinds of meat and dairy in a few sentences.  The fact that everyone (yes, myself included at first) seems to be stumped for what’s to eat if you cut out meat and dairy is some excellent insight to the way that our minds work.  We are so programmed to focus our meals around a meat and dairy entree that it’s easy to feel lost when you take that away.

The solution is simply a shift in perspective.  It’s simply a matter of opening your mind to the magnificent world and flavors of grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes.  They’ve been in front of us all along, but living in the dark dreary government funded shadow of factory farmed meat and dairy.  To maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet with the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, all you need to do is focus on variety.   A variety of grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes is truly all you need to consume.  It’s ok to eat the same types of meals each day, but it’s important to mix up the ingredients.  Variety is the spice of life – so much meaning in one little phrase!

And in case you forget the food groups, here’s a fun mnemonic device:
GVFL – GVegan For Life = Grains, Veggies, Fruit, Legumes.

You wouldn’t expect a Porsche to perform to its full potential on lawnmower gasoline and oil, would you?  Quit expecting peak performance and a pain and illness-free life if you’re fueling your body with junk!  Here are some suggestions to fill yourself up with high quality fuel all day long:

Breakfast: Whole grain cereal with (alternative) milk and fruit
Cereal: You can choose from hot or cold oatmeal, rolled oats or steel cut, Kashi or Grape Nuts for starters
Milk: You can choose from soy, almond, rice, coconut, or hemp, and each come in a variety of flavors
Fruit:  Use whatever’s in season – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, bananas, raisins, craisins, dried cherries, etc

 AM Snack: Piece of fruit or vegetable
Fruit: Apple, banana, pear, peach, grapes, berries, plum, etc
Vegetable: Sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber, pepper, radishes, tomato, etc

Lunch: Sandwich with hummus, veggies, grains, beans, dressing – this can vary from a lite tasting fresh veggie sandwich to a tex-mex burrito
Sandwich: Whole grain bread, low fat wrap, pita, flatbread
Hummus:  Anything from homemade hummus to store-bought flavors including garlic, lemon pepper, roasted red pepper, tomato, etc
Veggies: One or several including: cucumbers, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, kale, sprouts, peppers
Grains: Maybe you have some leftover quinoa salad, rice, or tabbouleh
Beans: Just a sprinkle will do – lentils, black beans, pintos, kidney beans
Dressing: If desired, this is another great way to mix up flavors.  Try mustard, soy sauce, salsa, terriyaki, or flavored vinegars

Afternoon Snack:  Nuts or whole grain crackers
Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.
Crackers: MultiGrain Crackers, Seed Crackers, Whole wheat crackers such as Triscuits

 Dinner: Veggies and sauce over grains or perhaps beans over grains
Veggies: Peppers, eggplant, bok choy, kale, spinach, mushrooms, onions, carrots, radishes, sea vegetables, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, etc
Sauce:  So many ways to please your tastebuds – try soy sauce, indian spices, thai peanut sauce, different kinds of curry, or flavored vinegars
Beans:  If you didn’t get your beans in with lunch, be sure to incorporate them into dinner!  Lentils, black beans, pintos, navy beans, chick peas.  Many of them can be tossed into  dinner entrees and they’ll take on the flavor of whatever else you’re cooking.
Grains:  Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, whole grain pastas, etc

So why eat from the new food groups?  Abundant vitamins and minerals, appropriate protein, sufficient complex carbohydrates, plenty of fiber, satisfying flavors, tremendous variety, and minimal processing.  You’ll also find your body easily and naturally working its way toward your ideal body weight.  You’ll have more energy readily available.  You may nap less and sleep better at night.  You will no longer experience mood swings and energy highs and lows.  You may become more pleasant to be around as a result.  You will be lowering your chances of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and the lengthy list of side effects that come with these food borne illnesses.  You’ll be eating real food, as your body was intended to!

What’s left to eat?  Loads and loads and loads of Grains, Vegetables, Fruit, and Legumes.  YUMMY!!



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