Whether you are just beginning or you have been eating Vegan for a while, it is easy to fall into the trap of going heavy on starchy and simple carbs. It actually happened to me when I first became Vegan. I did absolutely no research and I had no plan. I just decided at that moment, that I was giving up meat, seafood and dairy all at once.
I knew I made the right decision, to give up food that comes from animals in order to spare the lives of animals. So my heart was saying, “Yaaaaaay”. But my brain was saying, “Say what now?”
In the beginning I was a little lost, I did not know how to grocery shop. I did not have any plant based cookbooks or any online Vegan chefs to follow. I had no idea where to order takeout from. I didn’t even know where the nearest Vegan restaurants were. And I really didn’t have any Vegan friends to call on.
I managed to stay committed, but a big part of my diet was French fries, popcorn, crackers, breads, rice, corn, cereals, and processed junk foods. I often ate these carbs in addition to fruits and vegetables. But there were too many times when I was just hungry, so I would grab a bowl of chips for lunch. I made some bad choices, which often left me frustrated. Many new Vegans experience this and end up giving up.
I did not give up. I eventually learned how to eat a balanced Vegan diet. It did take time to retrain my brain. We are all raised to think of meat and dairy as necessary foods for us to be healthy. I did the research and found out that is not to be the case. You can absolutely cut meat, seafood and dairy out of your diet and still be at your physical best. Once I realized that and figured out what to eat, it actually became very easy to eat Vegan and to avoid the bad carbs. Here are some tips that may help you:
Learn Your Proteins:
There are plenty of plant based proteins to choose from. I did not realize this at first, so I ate lots of beans and nuts. Once I learned that I had more options, it made deciding what to eat much easier and more interesting. Start by adding nutritional yeast to your pantry. It is a game changer for adding protein to your diet. Here is a list of Vegan protein sources.
Give Tofu A Chance:
Tofu is your friend. I did not believe this before I became Vegan. I thought tofu was this bland, rubbery-like food item that had no place on my plate. But once I started eating Vegan, I had my first chickN fried tofu at a Whole Foods hot bar in Atlanta. The seasoning and overall taste blew my mind. I started to order it at restaurants that did things with tofu I had never imagined could be done… like tofu ricotta. Then I began to find my own recipes. Now I keep a package of tofu in my refrigerator and in my freezer. But it is important to buy the right kind of tofu. Check out my blog on Good Soy vs Bad Soy for tips on what to shop for.
Eat Some Healthy Greens with Every Meal:
This is easy for lunch or dinner, but breakfast? Well, spinach for breakfast may seem like a lot, but just adding a handful to a Vegan scramble or a smoothie or on some toast can go a long way to improving your diet. Sometimes, I will just make a side salad and eat that on the side of whatever I am eating for breakfast. Whether you are eating Vegan or not, you need to start thinking of food as something that can feed disease in our body or fight it.
Figure Out Bread Substitutes:
Once you find a bread made without any dairy or you make your own, it can quickly become your BFF. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and avocado toast were my go tos. But I soon had to cut back and find alternatives. Putting peanut butter on celery is a better choice. You can also use lettuce wraps or blanched collard green leaf wraps for grilled veggies, tofu or other plant based options. For pizza, try cauliflower crust but if you buy it in the store be careful of the brands that add eggs. Whole grain bread is not bad for you, just eat it in moderation.
Pick The Better of The Carb Family:
It is important to know that not all carbs are bad. In fact you do need carbs in your diet, so don’t eliminate them all together. Just make an effort to choose the healthier carbs in most cases. That includes whole grain bread and pastas, black or brown rice (instead of white or yellow), quinoa, oatmeal, barley and more.
Pay Attention to the Nutritional Value:
This is probably the most important tip of all. Start paying attention to what goes on your plate when choosing carbs and all foods. Brown rice is a much healthier choice than white rice. Replace that sugar with monk fruit sweetener, agave, coconut sugar or something else that is natural and good for you.
Making the choice to eat Vegan, does not mean you are automatically going to eat healthy. You have to make the decision to eat nutrient rich foods and then do your homework.