What Do Vegans Eat Anyway?

During the years of the Great Shift, our diets are evolving right along with us. Vegetarianism has grown in popularity, for reasons of both health and compassion for animals. I myself have been a vegetarian for 35 years and primarily vegan for about 12 of those years. People often ask me what I eat. Some ask the skeptic’s question “What do you eat for protein?” but others are really curious about what makes up a vegan’s diet. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a sample menu of what I usually eat in a week, with the disclaimer that this is not a recommendation or a framework from any particular dietary regimen. It is what I have come to from years of variations. I change things up whenever I come across exciting new recipes.

I became a vegetarian mainly because of a reluctance to contribute to the suffering and death of animals, but I was also concerned about health issues and sustainability. When I first made the change, I ate lots of eggs and dairy, thinking I needed to have that protein to make up for lack of meat. I soon discovered it was unnecessary because veggies, grains, nuts, etc. provide plenty of protein. In fact, recent studies have found that Americans eat too much protein, which can be detrimental over time. So I cut back on eggs and dairy until finally I dropped them from my diet entirely (except when I can’t access any other vegetarian options while traveling).

Vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, and legumes are the basis of my diet now. I was a raw-food vegan for several years, and my diet is still about 70% raw, but I have added back some cooked meals as well. 99% of the food I eat is organic. I also buy locally grown whenever possible, which is easy in the summers when local farmers markets have flavor-full, nutrient-dense organic vegetables and fruit.

Breakfast: Large fruit & greens smoothie that includes 1 cup coconut water, 1/2 banana, 1/2 orange, 1/2 pear, 1/2 apple, a handful of blueberries & strawberries, 2 romaine lettuce leaves, 2 dinosaur (lacinato) kale leaves (destemmed), a cup or two of spinach, 2 tablespoons ground flax seed, 2 tablespoons flax seed oil, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon each raw hemp protein powder and spirulina. Some people might be put off by the greens added here, but they really don’t overpower the fruit, and you can always adjust amounts to personal taste. (Greens are key health foods, especially raw—include them wherever you can.) Hemp, flax, and the other add-ins balance out the sweetness in the fruit and help to give me sustained energy for many hours.

Lunch: Protein smoothie: 1/3 cup almond milk, 2/3 cup coconut water, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 large banana, 8 walnut halves, 1 tablespoon each: raw pumpkin seeds, raw chia seeds, raw hemp protein powder, raw almond butter, flax oil. Blend on high for 1 minute.

Sample Dinners: Every night, I have an oversized bowl of salad that includes 4 or 5 kinds of lettuce, arugula, dandelion greens, watercress, sunflower sprouts, and dulse, with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, and ground raw pumpkin seeds mixed in. Main course could be one of the following: 1) raw basil pesto with cooked quinoa pasta; 2) cooked zucchini-mushroom-tomato sauce with crumbled tofu, served over quinoa pasta; 3) sprouted raw wild rice mixed with chopped raw carrots, red pepper, celery, zucchini, dinosaur kale, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice; 4) cooked curried red lentils with brown basmati rice; 5) raw veggie sunburgers with sliced heritage tomatoes; 6) quinoa avocado salad with raw red pepper, scallions, carrots, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice; 7) soups such as raw cucumber-spinach or cooked spicy black bean.

Snacks: Celery with raw tahini or hummus, nuts, fruit.

As I say, this is just a sampler of possibilities. There are dozens of wonderful vegan recipe books available, and websites such as the one for Kripalu Yoga Center offer tasty recipes from their kitchens as well (http://www.kripalu.org/article/270). Ultimately, the idea is to find food and recipes that are enjoyable and fun to eat. Tastes are very individual, but contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to eat vegan food that is both life-enhancing and delicious. Ultimately, you have to love what you eat because that energy is also digested with your food! Bon appetit!

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