It took me years to get into my current “aspiring vegan” groove. I was very fortunate to grow up with parents that culturally ate a Mediterranean diet, so what we ate was always pretty healthy, and my dad’s only rule for the dinner table was “where’s the something green?” There ALWAYS had to be something green, whether it was a salad, steamed broccoli, sautéed zucchini, you name it. Both my parents were also very into the concept of eating organic and local, long before it became a global trend. This was such a fortunate foundation for my future food and health endeavors, and it has stuck with me since. So, with this foundation I began on a health journey, partially out of curiosity and partially out of genuine concern for my health (preventative medicine, all the way). One bit of information led to another and eventually I concluded that a mostly plant-based diet was the healthiest way forward. Going vegan isn’t for everyone, and I will continue to insist, I am an aspiring vegan. I don’t think I could ever fully go vegan and I’m not sure if I want to. But I do want to be mostly vegan, and if I’m going to dip into the animal products, they better be worth it and high quality.
Living this way has taught me there are a few staples I need to keep in my kitchen to ensure that I am satisfied, healthy and inspired:
1) Fresh vegetables: I always have ingredients for a quick salad, something green for steaming (Papa Bill would be so proud), and raw veggies, like carrots, for snacking.
2) Starchy vegetables: Think things like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. They are filling, full of fiber, gluten-free (if you’re into that) and healthy.
3) Fruit: Fruit is the perfect breakfast, snack, dessert… it’s basically always delicious and perfect. Go for something seasonal and easy to snack on if you’re frequently on-the-go, and try to switch it up to keep things interesting.
4) Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, oh my. These guys are probably where the magic happens. They are high in protein and fiber, so they can make any dish considerably more filling and well-rounded and they’re fun to make recipes around. I’ve found that if I crave something like a meaty Bolognese, I’ll make the same recipe but replace the meat with lentils and discover something equally as delicious. And don’t even get me started on the health benefits…. “beans beans they’re good for your heart!”
5) Avocados: Oh my wow do I love avocados. Their creamy deliciousness seems almost too good to be true, but it is true. Very. My favorite way to enjoy avocados is either by make a guacamole and dipping raw vegetables (or corn chips), cutting one in half and eating it with a spoon, or by mashing it up with a bit of lemon juice and smearing it over a salad. They are versatile, ridiculously healthy and will make you turn up your nose to butter and cream.
6) Milk alternatives: I personally do not like soy milk as milk alternative… it can mess with your hormone levels (who wants that?) and too much soy can make you sick. Rice and oat milks are pretty readily available in South Africa, but be careful because most of them are loaded with sugar, so check labels carefully. My best is almond or sunflower milk. Good quality ones are hard to come by or very expensive. Fortunately, they can be made at home. Soak 1 cup of nuts/seeds in water over night. Drain. Blend with 4 cups of water until creamy. Strain through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth. Easy peasy.
7) Grains: Quinoa, Brown Rice, Millet. Those are my go-to’s. All are tasty, versatile, gluten-free and soooo good for you. Millet and quinoa are alkalizing grains which is particularly good, and all three have high protein counts.
8) Lemons and apple cider vinegar: Most savory dishes and all salad dressings require a bit of tang. These two ingredients are your tools. Fresh lemon juice (do not buy bottled) is alkalizing, high in vitamin C and so fresh and so clean. Apple cider vinegar in its RAW form contains a naturally occurring enzyme called ‘the mother’, the sediment seen floating on the bottom of the bottle, which is contains beneficial bacteria. Apple cider vinegar is high in vitamin C, B1, B2 and B6, is full of nutrients and aids weight loss. It’s basically a miracle elixir.
9) Herbs and spices: Fresh or dried, you need herbs in your kitchen to keep things interesting. Invest in some that you like and start experimenting with your recipes, you’ll find that homemade is almost always better and the health benefits that lie in herbs… well, I suggest you go here to get an idea of the amazing little secrets your spice rack is hiding.
10) Nuts and nut butters: raw, lightly salted, or in nut butter form, these puppies are delish and will often satisfy cravings. Just be careful with portions, nuts are very calorie-dense so a small handful is a good way to gauge a single serving.
And that’s that 🙂 But now this is making me hungry… Off to make a tomato lentil soup! Hope you all have a great day, tomorrow’s Friday! Woo woo woo!