My belief about nutrition is about abundance, not restriction.
I’ve found I’ve thrived more on a plant-based diet than my previous omnivorous diet because my food choices have drastically increased. I find myself craving foods I’ve never liked or would have never eaten in the past like beans, peas and spinach to name a few… I maintain a healthy relationship with food because I mostly see food as fuel and I don’t beat myself up mentally if I find myself eating a cookie or two, or ten.
Those exceptions are rare and I listen to my body and it’ll usually tell me “hey that wasn’t good, you’re going to feel like crap now”.
Body image was always an issue for me starting in middle school. I wanted to be thin[er] like some of the girls in higher grades. I wanted to be pretty like them (by that time I had hit puberty and had terrible acne). I would buy tons of makeup products and facial washes actually thinking “this is it, I’m going to be as pretty as them”. I would skip out on desserts in hopes of having thin arms and thin legs. NOTE: I never had an eating disorder growing up. I spent so much time constantly worrying about that.
By the time high school hit, I had more confidence about myself but there was still a voice saying “you’re not pretty/thin/good enough”. That would only subside when I started weight-lifting many years later. I was obsessed with having abs after high school. I would indulge in fatty foods, fried foods, soda, alcohol and feel bad when my “abs” were flab. Even when I was vegetarian, I was still consuming fatty foods like ice cream, cheese and milk. I didn’t think about my health.
When I decided to live vegan, [after the initial learning period] I noticed I wasn’t gaining extra fat around my mid-section anymore. I didn’t even lose weight as most people would think. My body fat decreased but my weight was pretty much stable. My relationship with food and body image are now in sync paired with the weight-lifting because I see changes happening with my body and I feel incredible and proud that I am able to do that. I feel in control with that aspect of my life. I trust that my body knows what it’s doing when I provide it with great quality fuel.
One of the biggest challenges with a plant-based “diet” is overcoming the myth and questions about protein and dealing with friends, family and strangers when they find out “I’m the vegan”.
Yes, if you’ve never thought about nutrition before and now you’re vegan, you will have to do your research since you are replacing such a huge part of your food choices. Yes, even if you think about nutrition, it’s always best to do more research.
I’m not worried about getting enough protein because I know if I eat enough, chances are I’m getting much more than I need. All plant foods contain protein, just in different amounts.
Some protein packed foods I eat are:
- Vega & Clif Bars (if I’m in a pinch or feeling lazy)
- Plant-based meats (Beyond Meat Chicken Strips, Gardein, Tofurkey products)
- Protein Chocolate Pancakes with peanut butter on top (my favorite)
I have a post outlining some nutrition levels of plant sources of protein HERE.
I usually don’t do recipes, I like quick easy meals. What I do instead is gather the “backbone” (oven temperature, cook time, basic ingredients) and then add whatever else I want to a recipe. Some of my favorites are:
Tofu/bean Tacos with Daiya Cheese & Just Mayo
- I used Giant’s Organic Brand of “Baked Beans”. Heat them up on the stove for a few minutes on medium.
- Pan fry pieces of tofu using coconut oil until the sides are light brown on medium.
- Combine ingredients in the tortillas of your choosing.
- Add Daiya dairy-free cheese (however much you want).
- Add a dollop of Just Mayo to each taco.
Gardein Szechuan Beefless Strips
- Cook two cups of organic long grain brown rice.
- Pan cook 1 package of Gardein strips with coconut oil.
- I use Bird’s Eye Asian style frozen veggies. Follow directions on package.
- When all ingredients are ready, combine however you want, and consume!
Plant-Based Food Prep
- Cook two cups of brown lentils.
- Cook two cups of quinoa.
- Lightly pan cook Beyond Meat chicken strips with coconut oil/
- Lightly steam frozen corn and peas with water. Can add a pinch of salt.
- Divide meat portions based on box serving size. Divide quinoa and lentils evenly between containers. Do the same for the vegetables.
- You can add a sauce to it for flavor, I hardly did because I wanted a super nutritious meal ready to go.
Vegan Protein Smoothie
- 1 cup of: Juiced two high quality oranges (or use organic fresh orange juice if you don’t have a juicer).
- 1 scoop of Vega Performance Vanilla Protein
- Handful of frozen strawberries
- Handful of frozen mangoes
- Just enough water for your own likening of consistency.
- Blend and voila!! Get hydrated and nourished at the same time.
Additional Nutrition Tips
- Don’t be afraid of [complex] carbs!! Our body needs energy and going low-carb isn’t sustainable. When you deprive your body of what it needs, binges happen and that could set you back further than where you started!
- Eat, eat eat! The average person needs 2,000-2,500 calories per day and even more depending on your activity level. The arbitrary number of 1,500 puts your body into starvation mode and it tells your body to hold onto fat. It’s not worth it!
- Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the “healthy wagon”. We all treat ourselves with junk food or need a rest day or two from exercise. Realize that this behavior is normal and get back on track.
- Remember why you changed your lifestyle and stick with it. You never know who you are inspiring or motivation.
Stay tuned for next week’s “Body Care & Training” post by Kim Moffatt!
to Optimal Performance in Sports & Life!
Thrive is a long-term eating plan to help all athletes (professional or not) develop a lean body, sharp mind, and everlasting energy. As one of the few professional athletes on a plant-based diet, Brendan Brazier researched and developed this easy-to-follow program to enhance his performance as an elite endurance competitor…Click HERE for more details.