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Coping Strategies

What is “Nutrient Density”?

 Examples of nutrient density scores. 70 calories of each food is shown here.

Examples of nutrient density scores. 70 calories of each food is shown here.

“Nutrient Density” refers to the ratio between the amount of beneficial nutrients in a food and its caloric content. Foods high in nutrients (like antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber) and low in calories get a high (favorable) nutrient density score, while foods low in nutrients and high in calories get a low (bad) score. 

The gold medalists

There is no single authoritative nutrient density scale, but all of the systems I’ve seen, whether on a 1 - 100 or 1 - 1000 scale, arrive at similar findings. When you look at the leaderboards, the powerhouses are always dark leafy greens like kale, chard, collard greens, and spinach. Dark leafy greens are low in calories and contain many antioxidants, calcium, nitrates, carotenoids and other phytonutrients. 

Also on the platform

Other low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetables follow, such as romaine and Boston lettuce, broccoli, artichoke, and cabbage. Some rankings might surprise you. Even whole foods like bananas, nuts, avocados, and brown rice rank low on nutrient density scales because of their calorie count—i.e., you can get equivalent amounts of nutrients in foods that are much lower in calories. 

The losers

Not surprisingly, fast food, processed food, oils, sugary foods, meats, dairy, and eggs are low on all nutrient density scales. 

Why getting lots of nutrients matters

Most Americans believe that lots of protein and low levels of fat and carbs are the keys to health and slimness. The obesity rate in the U.S. would suggest that these beliefs are not working. In reality, a focus on whole foods high in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other amazing micro-nutrients) would help improve our health. Nutrients help the body function properly, including the immune system and cellular repair mechanisms, which protect us from chronic diseases. People who call themselves “nutritarians” focus on eating as high on the nutrient density scale as possible.

For more information

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, MD, is the best known proponent of nutritarianism and the person who coined the term. He offers books, welcome kits, checklists, and cookbooks. You can download a .pdf copy of Dr. Fuhrman’s nutrient density chart

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What is “Caloric Density”?

Caloric Density photo FB friendly.jpg

If you don’t have to watch your weight, you can ignore this post. For the rest of us, the 99%, “caloric density” matters. 

Caloric density is the concentration of calories in a food, essentially the relationship between the food’s calories and its weight. Some foods have many more calories per ounce than others. For example, 

  • Vegan chocolate cake – 93 calories per ounce (1488 per pound)

  • Fresh apple – 14 calories per ounce (224 per pound)

Big difference, yeah. But we all could have guessed that one.

Some otherwise healthy plant-based foods are relatively calorie-dense. 

  • Oat bran bagel – 71 calories per ounce (1136 per pound)

  • Raisins – 84 calories per ounce (1344 per pound) (not too far off the chocolate cake)

  • Dry roasted mixed nuts – 166 calories per ounce (2656 per pound) (almost doublethe chocolate cake!) 

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables have the lowest caloric density, as we see from the apple example. Fruits and vegetables tend to have high water content, high fiber content, and low fat content. This means they provide a lot of bulk without a lot of calories. 

Grains

Grains are higher in caloric density than the majority of fruits and vegetables. Whole-grain and refined grains don’t differ much in calories, but whole grains offer more fiber, which slows the movement of food through your system. Fiber also regulates sugar levels and helps keep you fuller longer. 

Oils

Oils and butter are the most calorie-dense foods. Oil is 100% fat, and butter (even vegan butter) is nearly that, too. 

  • Olive oil – 248 calories per ounce (3968 per pound)

Avoiding hunger pangs

Caloric density matters if you want to avoid hunger pangs. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables means you can eat more and feel fuller. But you can’t live on fruits and vegetables alone—you need protein and grains too. Tilting the balance toward fresh fruits and vegetables and trying to include them in every meal and snack will help you feel satisfied. 

Using dried fruit and nuts between meals to stave off hunger can be dangerous if you really do need to watch your weight. They are deceptively high in calories, even though they are much healthier for you than chocolate cake. 

For more information

If you want a visual representation of the caloric density of dozens of foods, download this chart

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Food Neophobia? Yes, It’s a Thing

When you’re trying to get loved ones to eat your meatless dishes, we all know you have to meet them partway. If one or more of them is a food neophobe, you’ll have to be even more careful and strategic. Food neophobes may decide they don’t like a dish even before they taste it, because they’re automatically averse to any unfamiliar food. But many food neophobes want to eat less meat. If you can find the narrow path to lead him or her to new meatless favorites, you will both have reason to be proud. 

Are You or Someone You Know a Food Neophobe?

Mikey.jpg

If you’re old enough, you might remember Mikey from the Life cereal commercial of 1972. His brother says, “I’m not gonna try it. Let’s get Mikey. Yeah, he won’t eat it. He hates everything!” (Watch the ad). Perhaps you’re not as bad as Mikey, but you like what you like, and you don’t appreciate other people pushing you to try things you’re not interested in.  Or are you on the opposite end with Anthony Bourdain? He’s the Food Network personality who travels the world in quest of culinary adventure, eating ant eggs, sheep testicles, and cobra hearts. Maybe you’re not the ant-egg-eating type, but you like trying a new dish on the menu, you jump at the chance to visit a new restaurant, or you lose hours on the internet picking new recipes to put on your stack.

If you or someone you know is more like Mikey, it may be a case of food neophobia. It’s a real thing, validated by years of research.

For people who are reluctant to try new foods, it’s not just at the moment of tasting that the dislike occurs. Hearing an unfamiliar dish name, reading about unusual ingredients, skimming a description of an untried food, or just looking at a new dish can all elicit a prediction of dislike. (My husband, Doug—a confirmed food neophobe—once said about a soup, “If I ate with a blindfold on, this would be better.”)  It’s often hard to tell whether a food neophobe’s dislike of a dish is because of the taste, or whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, a conscious or sub-conscious justification of the pre-tasting judgment. Fortunately, there are things you can do to successfully introduce new ingredients to a food neophobe, and I have some tips below.

Find out if you or someone you know is a food neophobe.

Take the test here (it requires only a few minutes).

Can Food Neophobia be Changed?

Food neophobia appears to be hard-wired in a similar way to personality traits. In one study of female twins, the results suggested that food neophobia is highly heritable: around 67% may be due to genes.  Like personality traits (extraversion, conscientiousness, etc.), food neophobia can be changed, but only to a degree. Increased exposure to new foods can lower the level of one’s food neophobia. But more experience with unfamiliar foods doesn’t completely counterbalance an innate and instinctive aversion to new foods, no more than learning to speak in public turns an introvert into an extravert.

Cooking for a Food Neophobe

If you are someone who is trying to introduce more meatless dishes to your spouse, partner, and/or children, you might have an increased challenge if there’s a food neophobe under your roof. I’ve found the following six strategies to be helpful in planning and serving plant-based dishes to my husband and other family members who fall on the neophobic end of the scale.

Introduce a new food in the context of a familiar dish

For a food neophobe, if there’s anything worse than an unfamiliar ingredient in a meal or dish, it’s an unfamiliar ingredient in an unfamiliar meal or dish. I learned this the hard way with my husband. For example, I first tried Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) in a new recipe: Mexican Pasta Skillet. After Doug roundly rejected it, I thought TVP would never work. But another time I tried TVP as the basis for a “meat” sauce to go on spaghetti, and he gobbled it up. The same thing happened with TVP tacos—no problem. Duh, he already loved spaghetti sauce and tacos, and he’d never had anything like a Mexican pasta dish.

Introduce only one new ingredient at a time

I’ve found the most success when Doug only has to confront one new ingredient at a time. Early on during our vegan dinner experiments, I thought I’d have an easy winner with vegan nachos. I made a “cheesy” vegan sauce from scratch and a taco-beef-like mixture made from meat crumbles. I piled the tortilla chips high and buried them in the taco mixture and cheesy sauce. Doug wanted to like them but couldn’t eat more than a few—too much change at one time for a food neophobe.

Make new food more enticing by serving it with a favorite side dish or sauce

Never underestimate how a favorite condiment or side dish can help a new dish go down. Doug loves mango chutney, sweet chili sauce, and ketchup, so I make sure to highlight the condiment when serving a not-yet-loved dish. Doug’s favorite side dishes work the same way. Roasted asparagus, baked French fries, fresh corn on the cob, and semi-homemade baked beans have all done their part to increase the acceptance of new ventures.

Give choices

Everyone tends to like a dish better if they’ve had a voice in choosing it. When possible, let them decide on broccoli or cauliflower, green or fruit salad, lentil or split pea soup, these leftovers or those tonight? There is a subtle shift of ownership to the person making the decision, and he or she is likely to be more pleased by the meal than otherwise.

Repeat dishes that were acceptable so that they become favorites

I made the mistake early on of trying one new dish after another, without repeating any of the new dishes for months. Sometimes when we had a new dish a second time many months later, Doug rejected it. I eventually figured out that I needed to repeat any new dish that he liked within a month in order to lock it into his memory as safe and tasty.

Don’t say too much about the dish beforehand, and don’t be defensive or preachy

I recommend saying as little as possible about what’s in the new dish unless specifically asked—give it a nickname (“Dad’s New Enchilada Casserole”) instead of a clinical name (“Tofu-Quinoa-Poblano Enchilada Casserole”). You can cite someone’s praise about the taste of dish, or lightly talk about its healthiness, but don’t come on too strong. Perhaps the hardest rule of thumb is accepting the rejection of new dishes by your resident neophobe. It’s so tempting to whine, “But you love peanut butter! This sauce is mostly peanut butter; it’s on top of broccoli and rice, and you like those too!” Reasonable argument, but the neophobe is not responding to food on the basis of reason. I’ve found that no amount of arguing changes my husband’s mind once he’s decided. And the debating can make meal time more fraught with anxiety in the future. Better to calmly note the dislike and move on. Use your energy on figuring out how to win your neophobe over to the next dish.

Keep at it

The keys are persistence, baby steps, and understanding. If you’re cooking for a food neophobe, remember that somewhere deep in their brain is a strong distrust of new food—it’s part of their survival instinct. You can coax them to like new meatless dishes, and when you do, the accomplishment will be all the sweeter.

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Differences between Indian and Thai Curries

Viva la difference

Many of us love curries of all kinds. But when you stop and focus on the differences between Indian and Thai curries, you realize they're quite different, but in a good way. Some of the differences can influence your meal planning--e.g., Thai curries can be made more quickly than Indian, meaning they might be better when you don't have much time. 

Indian curries

  • Dry spices (coriander, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, black mustard, dried chilies, etc.)

  • More like a stew than a soup

  • Simmered longer

  • Served with basmati rice

 

Thai curries

  • Fresh herbs and chilies (lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallot, kaffir lime leaves, cilantro stems, etc.)

  • More like a soup than a stew (coconut milk)

  • Shorter cooking time

  • Served with jasmine rice

Make some!

Here are two classic curries, Indian Eggplant, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry and Gracious Vegan Green or Red Thai Curry. Enjoy!

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The Food Neophobia Scale

Please see my blog "Yup, Food Neophobia is a Thing" for an introduction to food neophobia and the implications for home cooks trying to get loved ones to eat more meatless meals. 

The Food Neophobia Scale (FNS) was first published with its background and validation evidence in 1992. Since that time it has been used as the standard measure of food neophobia in hundreds of studies. (Pliner, Patricia, and Karen Hobden. "Development of a scale to measure the trait of food neophobia in humans." Appetite 19.2 (1992): 105-120.)

It can be taken and scored in a few minutes. Circle your answer, then add up the corresponding points. (See what your results mean at the bottom of this post.)

1.       I am constantly sampling new and different foods

5  Disagree strongly

4  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

2  Agree moderately

1  Agree strongly

2.       I don’t trust new foods.

1  Disagree strongly

2  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

4  Agree moderately

5  Agree strongly

3.       If I don’t know what is in a food, I won’t try it.

1  Disagree strongly

2  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

4  Agree moderately

5  Agree strongly

4.       I like foods from different countries

5  Disagree strongly

4  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

2  Agree moderately

1  Agree strongly

5.       Ethnic food looks too weird to eat.

1  Disagree strongly

2  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

4  Agree moderately

5  Agree strongly

6.       At dinner parties, I will try a new food

5  Disagree strongly

4  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

2  Agree moderately

1  Agree strongly

7.       I am afraid to eat things I have never had before

1  Disagree strongly

2  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

4  Agree moderately

5  Agree strongly

8.       I am very particular about the foods I will eat

1  Disagree strongly

2  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

4  Agree moderately

5  Agree strongly

9.       I will eat almost anything

5  Disagree strongly

4  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

2  Agree moderately

1  Agree strongly

10.   I like to try new ethnic restaurants.

5  Disagree strongly

4  Disagree moderately

3  Neither agree nor disagree

2  Agree moderately

1  Agree strongly

Your total = _________

More than 20 points means that you are a food neophobe.

20 or fewer points mean you are in the food neophile category.

 

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Invaluable Vegan Ingredient: Cashews

Cashews as Substitute for Cream and Cream Cheese

If you haven’t tried using cashews as a substitute for cream, you’re missing out on a healthy, tasty substitute. “Cashew cream” took the plant-based cooking world by storm about a decade ago and is still a fantastic way to please the palate while foregoing unhealthy dairy fat. Cashews can also substitute for cream cheese in dishes like Chili Rellenos, artichoke-spinach dip, and even cheesecake.

Cashew Cream Recipes

Here are some of the cashew-based recipes or links available on the site:

Gracious Vegan Creamy Tomato Sauce

Creamy Roasted Tomato Vodka Sauce

Creamy Artichoke Spinach Dip

Cashew Cheese Chili Rellenos

Vegan Penne Pasta Casserole

7 Ingredient Vegan Cheesecake

Cashew milk (Silk brand) is also a great substitute for cow's milk—it’s what got my husband off dairy. It’s thicker than most non-dairy milks. “Original” Silk cashew milk has only 25 calories a cup. We like So Delicious brand: 40 calories a cup and thicker.

 

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Invaluable Vegan Ingredient: Lentils

Lentils are one of the fastest cooking legumes (they’re tender in 20-25 minutes), they go well with lots of other foods, and they're super-healthy. Lentils are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, zinc, antioxidants, and folate. A diet rich in lentils and other legumes may help reduce cholesterol, hypertension, and the risk of prediabetes.

Check out these recipe recommendations for delicious lentil recipes.

 

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Invaluable Vegan Ingredient: Flaxseed Meal

Flaxseed meal is more of a silent partner than a big bold star in vegan cooking. It’s one of the most commonly recommended vegan egg substitutes in baking, because if you mix flaxseed meal (1 Tablespoon) and water (3 Tablespoons) and let it sit a few minutes, the mixture takes on the viscous consistency of an egg. You can also add a tablespoon of flaxseed meal to smoothies or oatmeal, or more than that to soups. Flaxseed meal occasionally takes a leading role: have a look at these Flax Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

The reason to find ways to eat flaxseed meal is that it’s so nutritious. This WebMD article tells you more. The fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids are just some of the great nutrients in flaxseed meal. 

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Invaluable Vegan Ingredient: Tahini

Tahini is a thick sauce made from toasted, hulled, ground sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are very nutritious, providing phytonutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids, flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants, vitamins, and dietary fiber.

  • Those of us who love falafel know “tahini sauce”; it’s a mixture of tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and water.

  • My favorite oil-free salad dressing is Gracious Vegan Oil-Free Tahini Dressing, where the tahini provides a creaminess that’s similar to ranch dressing.

  • Tahini is also a star in many dips, such as Real Simple's Red Pepper, Walnut, and Tahini Dip.

 

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Invaluable Vegan Ingredient: Vegetable Broth Powder

I cook a lot of soups—I love homemade soups. But I don’t have time to make homemade vegetable broth. The prices of canned and packaged broth put me off, because I use so much. What works for me is powdered broth. I use Seitenbacher’s Vegetable Broth and Seasoning, which is easy to buy on Amazon (I recently bought a six-pack). It seems expensive when you first buy it (over $4 for a 5-ounce can), but, at one teaspoon per cup for making broth, it lasts a long time. 

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Help! A Vegan is coming to Thanksgiving! 7 Easy Ways to Give Them Enough to Eat

When you agreed to let your son invite his girlfriend to Thanksgiving, who knew she was a vegan? Good thing you asked in time. Or maybe someone new is coming who has a dairy or egg allergy. Yeah, just about every traditional dish has eggs or dairy in it. Thanksgiving’s hard enough without having to make a bunch of separate dishes for the rabbit-food types.  

First, let’s level the playing field. If you aren’t sure what vegans eat and don’t eat, go to this site for a quick overview.

Second, let’s address the elephant in the room, or should I say the Tofurky in the room? I’ve been a vegetarian-then-vegan for 35 years and have never bought or eaten a TofurkyÒ Roast. It may be exactly right for some folks, but I prefer homemade fare, so don’t assume you have to go there.

Here are seven ways you can accommodate your vegan without spending a lot of extra hours on special dishes.

1.       Buy a pound of vegan butter (the most widely available brand is Earth Balance). Buy the four-bar pack instead of the spread, then you can use it in recipes (see suggestions below), and the vegan can use it like butter for spreading on rolls and melting on potatoes or other vegetables.  Earth Balance is available in most large grocery stores and it tastes better than you might imagine—don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

2.       Buy some non-dairy milk.  Most vegans like all varieties—soy, almond, rice, or cashew milk. Make sure it’s unsweetened so you can use it in recipes. Plus your guest can add it to coffee or tea over dessert.

 3.       Serve as many “accidentally vegan” foods as you can. Cranberry sauce is vegan, both the canned variety and homemade. Applesauce and green salad (with a non-dairy dressing) are vegan. Would you believe that Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are vegan? Yup. Homemade rolls usually contain eggs, butter and milk. You can either make a batch of Pillsbury rolls for your vegan or buy a nice baguette.

4.      Create vegan side dishes that everyone will likely enjoy. While some beloved Thanksgiving side dishes are not vegan, including Green Bean Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows, many excellent side dishes are vegan. Here are some suggestions for side dishes that are quick, easy, and have no “odd” ingredients. (In case you’re wondering, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup contains milk, and marshmallows contain gelatin, which comes from animal skin and bones.)

  • Green Beans Almandine: just a fancy name for green beans topped with vegan margarine and sliced almonds.
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes: delicious with margarine, salt and pepper. Just wash, dry, and pierce the potatoes with a fork. Bake in a 375° oven for about 90 minutes, until soft.
  • Candied Yams: You can substitute vegan margarine for the butter and you’ll have vegan candied yams.
  • Roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash: Roasting vegetables is easy. Wash and cut them into bite-size pieces, toss in olive oil (1 tablespoon per pound of vegetables) and salt, then bake at 425° for about 30 minutes. 
  • Other side dish recipes from the Gracious Vegan.

5.       Consider veganizing your mashed potatoes and/or bread stuffing. You can substitute vegan margarine and non-dairy milk for the butter and cow’s milk in your mashed potatoes recipe. These substitutes work really well, and I’d be surprised if any of the omnivores noticed the difference. If you cook your bread stuffing “in the bird,” the vegan can’t eat it. But it’s easy to make all or part of your stuffing in a baking dish. Just use vegan margarine instead of butter, and leave out the eggs if they’re called for (add a little extra liquid instead). If you want to go all-out, your vegan would love some gravy. High-end grocery stores might offer store-made mushroom gravy around Thanksgiving. There are also a number of dry mixes you can quickly whip up into decent vegan gravy, like Hain, Simply Organic, and Road’s End. You can order the packets online or find them in health food stores or organic sections.

6.       Don’t worry about a turkey substitute. If you provide your vegan with all or most of the foods mentioned so far, don’t worry that there’s no main dish for him or her. They won’t miss a turkey substitute, and, since they won’t experience the post-dinner turkey coma, the vegan can do the dishes for you.

7.       Make an easy vegan dessert. There are many vegan desserts that would be delicious, but if you need something fast, I recommend chocolate or fruit. You won’t believe how delicious silken tofu chocolate mousse is (here’s Nasoya’s Tofu Chocolate Mousse recipe). An easy fruit dessert is baked apples/pears or apple/pear crisp—just use vegan butter instead of dairy butter in your favorite recipe. Most grocery stores (Trader Joe's is great) sell one or more brands of vegan ice cream—for topping off the fruit dessert—just sayin’. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to veganize pumpkin pie.

Other desserts recommended by the Gracious Vegan.

If you accommodate your vegan in all or most of these ways, you will be making that person very happy. Despite the militant stereotype, most vegans are incredibly grateful for any and all accommodations at special meals. And the reward for you? You’ll have a great Thanksgiving story for future holidays: “The Year the Vegan Came to Dinner.”

 

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Your Resolution to Eat Less Meat

After a long day of work, you’re famished. You walk into the kitchen.  Yes, you should have stocked the fridge with healthy snacks like you read about, but you didn’t, and now you’re stuffing your face with something that's bad for you.

What about dinner? You’re so hungry, you want to go with take-out, but you know too much of that gets expensive and unhealthy. You decide to cook. You’re trying to cut down on meat, but almost all the recipes you know start with chicken or beef as the main ingredient. What’s in the middle of the plate if you don’t eat meat?

You can do this. And it’s worth it, for your health and your family’s. Your instinct about cutting down on animal products is right. There’s more and more evidence that meat, eggs, and dairy are major contributors to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and others. (For some reading materials on the health dangers of meat, eggs, and dairy, see here. For documentaries and videos, see here.)

It’s just going to take some planning, adjustment, and time for meatless cooking to become as second-nature as meat-centered cooking is now, but you can do it. Here are my top tips for making progress on taking the meat out of dinner.

Top Tips

Cut down gradually. Don’t revamp your dinners all at once. Try new recipes once or twice a week and treat them as experiments. This is a marathon, not a sprint. See my collection of recipes chosen carefully from hundreds of websites and tested to make sure they’re tasty and reasonably quick.

Be good humored if you meet resistance. Some family members may voice displeasure with the new dishes, or the idea of going meatless in the first place. I recommend avoiding arguments or long explanations about the benefits. Just be breezy about it, telling them you’re experimenting with new recipes that are healthier. If you think they’re willing, have them watch one or more of the documentaries or videos about the connections between diet and disease. Deep down most adults realize that meat and dairy aren’t very good for them, but they may not be ready to say that.

Don’t immediately use tofu, tempeh, seitan, or other meat substitutes. I’ve seen many family members turned off by these ingredients, especially at first. There are plenty of recipes (like the ones in my collection) that don’t call for these ingredients. On the other hand, some new products, like Beyond Meat, have become popular. They have several different beef and chicken varieties and might be worth a try if you can find them.

Supplement entrees with side dishes and salads. To avoid complaints that the new dishes aren’t filling enough, make one, maybe two, easy side dishes that will fill out a hearty meal.  

Please comment below, ask questions, or send me an email to let me know how it’s going. Keep up your spirits. If you’re like most of us, you grew up in a household where dinner centered on meat. You inherited family recipes whose main ingredient was meat. Websites and magazines churn out hundreds of new recipes every day featuring meat as the main ingredient. It isn’t easy to un-do all that. Don't give yourself a guilt trip, and do this gradually but consistently. Best of luck!

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First Week of Eating Vegan

You’ve decided to decrease your meat, eggs, and dairy. Great!  You’re in good company—with celebs Ellen DeGeneres, Christie Brinkley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and 3+ million other Americans—making a strong commitment to life, health and the environment.

So, um, what are you going to eat later today … and tomorrow… and the day after that?

I have a suggestion that will keep it simple for the first week (or two or three—whatever) as you more deeply explore meatless, egg-less, and dairy-free eating. 

Create a Go-To List

My suggestion is to create a go-to list of foods you already like that happen to be plant-based. You can use this list when you’re racking your brain over what to eat—when it seems like there’s nothing you can choose from. Meatless eating will become easy and second-nature after you get the hang of it, but a list can help at the beginning so you eat tasty, satisfying food when you start.

In my opinion the go-to list shouldn’t exceed about 20 items—any longer and it might become cumbersome.

I’ve provided some examples below. You’ll need to create a list that works for you. I recommend carrying the list with you on your phone or a piece of paper. It will come in handy.

Check out recipes and menus on this site for more ideas. I’ll be adding ideas for additional quick breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We don’t want to get too fancy the first week or two. Keep it simple, keep at it, and give it time to become your way of life.

Best of luck as you embark on your new path.  Please enter any questions you have in the Comments section and I will answer them. 

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal or cereal with non-dairy milk

  • Toast with jam and/or Earth Balance vegan margarine

  • Toast with hot baked beans (Heinz and others sell vegetarian versions)

  • Smoothie with non-dairy milk and silken tofu instead of milk and yogurt

  • Power bars: NuGo bars, Clif, Simply Protein, Go Macro Macrobar, ProBar Meal, Larabars

Lunch

  • Falafel

  • Hummus sandwich (add lettuce, tomato, onion, oil & vinegar; add roasted peppers or sun-dried tomatoes, etc.)

  • Peanut butter sandwich (add jelly; add vegan mayonnaise and pickle or tomato)

  • Tapenade (olive spread) sandwich (add roasted red pepper and basil; add marinated artichoke hearts and roasted sunflower seeds; add hummus and greens)

  • Minestrone soup

  • Black bean soup

  • Gazpacho

Dinner

  • Vegan chili

  • Bean & rice tacos, tostadas, or burritos with guacamole instead of cheese or sour cream

  • Pasta with marinara sauce (add eggplant)

  • Thai vegetable curries

  • Indian vegetable curries (ask them to use oil instead of ghee)

  • Chinese vegetable stir-fries, lo meins, moo shu, or fried rice (some restaurants add eggs, so be sure eggs are left out)

Snacks  

  • Carrots, apples, celery, hummus, fruit, nuts, trail mix, crackers, popcorn (no butter), rice cakes

Sweets

  • Fruit, sorbet, Oreos (yes!), Taco Bell Cinnamon Twists, dark chocolate, Nutter Butter Cookies

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