I often receive questions from readers here at Plant-based Cooking and on my Facebook page, as well. So I've put together this post, "Reader's Plant-Based Questions Answered," because I know if one person asks it, many others have the same question. Starting anything new can be a challenge depending on your knowledge level.
Starting a plant-based diet is no different. There are new terms, new ingredients, new ways of meal planning, and sometimes people are just curious about something. It can seem overwhelming.
I hope you've seen the Tips, Tools, and Freebies page. It has many articles that answer questions for people who are just starting on a plant-based diet. There are also freebies you can print and keep nearby for reference.
Some of these questions deserve a whole article and I am working on those... Read on to find the answers to these questions about eating a plant-based diet and please leave a comment here or write to me if YOU have a question that hasn't been answered. I'd love to help you out and this is an ongoing list. email@example.com
Questions from Readers About Eating a Plant-Based Diet
1. Getting Organized
QUESTION: I received your e-mail about what to expect when you begin the plant-based diet. What has happened to me in the last 5 weeks is I am down 13 lbs. and have more energy than I have felt in a long time. I am having some problems getting organized. I feel like every 3 days I'm at the store and seem to always be in the kitchen.
I work and of course, need to bring breakfast and lunch and then get home to cook dinner. Everyone has to do this, I just get panicky about getting everything organized and seem to always be looking for recipes.
ANSWER: Hi Linda, congrats on losing weight and having more energy! I know what you mean about organizing and shopping. It does take time. especially since you're busy with work, right? I'm in the process of creating a course to help people with just those kinds of things and your feedback is super.
Batch cooking can be very helpful and making dishes that last for at least a couple of meals so double recipes and then freeze leftovers for later... It helps to have plenty of glass storage containers on hand. Also, make sure you have enough grocers and/or a full pantry so you can pull together a meal from your staples. Then you'll probably only need to add some veggies or fruit.
Things that are great to batch cook are beans. Check out my black bean or my pinto bean pressure cooker recipes. Other items that are great for batch cooking are grains (brown rice, quinoa, barley) and veggies (roasting).
Here's an article that should help, "Plant-Based Meal Prep for Busy People: Five Tips to Keep You Cooking."
2. How to meal plan and shop
QUESTION: One challenge I have encountered is how much money to spend on what. I went crazy and bought so many fruits and vegetables the 1st week I threw almost half away. And I was lacking other common ingredients that were found in many recipes. Any advice on how to meal plan and shop accordingly?
ANSWER: Hi Bethann, You've asked a great question. It is a process when learning a new skill. Meal planning seems to be a challenge for many and I'm actually working on a course for this.
It may be a little bit of trial and error, in the beginning, however, if you have a stocked pantry you should be able to pull from it for meals. I have several tips and tools on this page which might help, https://www.plantbasedcooking.com/tools-and-tips/. One of them is my article (and download) on Uncommon Ingredients here, https://www.plantbasedcooking.com/uncommon-ingredients/. I'll be thinking more about how to help and writing an article that, hopefully, will give you more detail. Glad you're on board and remember with all things new, they do get easier.
3. Help for an exhausted mom
QUESTION: I am trying so hard to stick to this new way of eating but every time I get home from work it's almost 6 and I'm exhausted. Any tips for a single tired mama bear?
ANSWER: Hey Jessica, I hear ya. This deserves a whole article, but as a quick answer, I would say weekend meal prep, batch cooking made into freezer meals, salad fixins' from the salad bar, crock pot meals or pressure cooker soups/stews, and double recipes that last several days.
Phew... that sounds like a lot. It does take a little more meal planning, chopping, and a pantry full of staples to pull from. Once you get into the swing, it should be quicker and easier. There are some pre-made products that would help like Trader Joe's lentils or some soups and chilies. I love these over a baked potato.
4. On-the-go meals
QUESTION: My husband and I just started this way of life yesterday and are having trouble coming up with some easy take-to-work or on-the-go foods. Can you please give us some ideas for on-the-go meals as my husband is driving for work all day?
ANSWER: Since you’re new to eating a plant-based diet, you should think about what you would have typically eaten and remove the meat and dairy. Not everything works, but often it does.
- Leftovers are great to have for lunch the next day so think about that when you make dinner. Invest in some containers and/or a thermos for hot food. Lasagna, quinoa bowls, spaghetti, beefless stew, soups, or chili would all be yummy. If you need a way to heat it up, the folks over at plantpurenation.com have a personal portable warming oven that might help.
- Salad jars are another easy, on-the-go lunch that can be prepared the night before. Dressing and heavy items go on the bottom. Leave room to shake when ready to eat. Here’s a how-to on those. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-pack-the-perfect-salad-in-a-jar-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-192174
- If you’re just starting on a plant-based diet are you eating meat alternatives like deli slices? You can use these to make sandwiches or make your own chickpea salad or veggie sandwich. Jarred roasted peppers, cucumbers, and hummus make a great one. See other sandwich options on my site here: http://www.plantbasedcooking.com/recipes/sandwiches/
- Hummus with veggies and crackers can make an easy on-the-go lunch. My hummus formula will give you lots of variations. Purchase tahini and use it along with chickpeas in many variations. http://www.plantbasedcooking.com/oil-free-hummus-formula/
- Hummus is also good in a tortilla or lettuce wrap along with deli meat or slivered veggies plus avocado and sprouts.
- Keep baked potatoes or baked potato wedges on hand and eat with catsup or homemade tofu cashew sour cream. It’s better than you might think. I also like salad dressing on my potatoes.
- Pasta salad: Macaroni Salad, http://www.plantbasedcooking.com/recipe/macaroni-salad/ Pasta with Spinach Pesto, http://www.plantbasedcooking.com/recipe/pasta-with-spinach-pesto/
- Veggie pizza…. yum. It’s even good cold.
- Of course, don’t forget fresh fruit and sliced veggies. A great dip to go with them helps!
- A handful of nuts has protein and fat which helps fill you up. An ounce or two per day is very good for you!
I hope this gives you a few ideas for eating on the go. Let me know how it goes and any other ideas you figure out!
5. Why would a vegan want to eat fake meats?
QUESTION: Sincerely an honest question. I'm plant-based and have always wondered why vegans who are so against the cruel treatment of animals, would want to eat food that resembles an animal as close as possible, such as vegan burgers, meatless bacon, pulled pork jackfruit, etc. Do they want to pretend they are eating animals? I just enjoy eating plant-based foods and I'm proud none of it even closely resembles an animal.
ANSWER: Hi Chris, Yes, I've seen this question before...and I think people eat meat-like vegan food for a couple of reasons. If they are new to eating plant-based, it may be easier to eat meals that they're familiar with. It makes them feel less deprived and it helps them to transition and eventually, hopefully, move away from meat substitutes which is a good thing because these can often be less than healthy.
Cravings can be very difficult to control and for some, eating this way can help. Sometimes it's because people have had a history of family meals, traditions, and memories and want those to continue. Vegans/plant-based eaters don't necessarily change their diets because they don't like the flavor of something.
As I'm sure you're aware, vegan and plant-based are different and people eating a plant-based diet usually do it for health reasons whereas vegans are taking an ethical stand. So it's complicated and I don't think they want to pretend. It's good to hear that you're so happy with your choices. Hope that helps a little.
6. Are fake meats OK to eat?
QUESTION: I am new to the plant-based world, and I wanted to get your intake on products like Gardein, beyond meat, and vegan cheese products. Do you recommend buying these products to eat? I am a H.S. coach that is always on the go so I need something quick.
ANSWER: These types of products would not typically be recommended for a plant-based diet, but if it helps you during the transition, I think it’s OK for a bit. They have more fat and additives than whole foods choices. If you are recovering from illness, have heart disease or diabetes, I wouldn’t recommend them.
I know quick and easy is something we all appreciate and there are a few tips I can share. One is to use the salad bar whenever you can. You can gather up the toppings or include lettuce the night before from the salad bar. Add some beans at home or from the salad bar and a container of dressing and you’re ready for lunch.
Grains are great on lettuce salads, too, and will help keep you full. Also, take advantage of the pre-cut veggies that are available at most markets. It’s the prep that takes time for most plant-based meals. Also pre-made foods, like lentils from Trader Joe’s and pre-made pasta sauce. Batch cooking of grains and beans on the weekend can set you up for the week. Then a quick tofu stir-fry or chili fixens’ and dinner is served.
Make overnight oats for breakfast. Basically 1/2 cup of oatmeal with your liquid set in the fridge overnight. Add your toppings in the a.m. Leftovers from last night’s dinner are always a quick lunch. And, there’s more I’ve probably forgotten. I’ll be thinking about this more as it’s a great topic for a blog post. Good luck on your journey! ????
7. Healthy eating for one on a budget
QUESTION: Can you suggest ways to eat healthy alone, on a small food budget, without waste?
ANSWER: My first thought is that it’s not much different eating alone than with more people. Eating healthy means removing processed food, meat, and dairy from your fridge and pantry. That’s a great first step. Then use an easy meal plan and go from there.
And fruits, veggies, beans, and grains shouldn’t break the bank. If you have a Costco or Trader Joe’s near you, they have great options for healthy cooking at a lower cost. Although Costco has large quantities, you can break them up and freeze portions to use over time. I love their packaged pre-made beets, frozen organic berries, and canned beans. Great savings there! Trader Joe’s has pre-made lentils and pasta sauce and frozen items that work great, too.
Eating a plant-based diet requires a bit more work with prep and planning… get your chopping chops going, in other words.
Also, I would recommend purchasing some glass containers that can be used in the fridge and for leftovers and a second or third meal. That would save you time, for sure.
I’m working on a 2-week plant-based starter meal plan and can share it with you when it’s ready. Hope that helps.
8. Veggies for your smoothie.
QUESTION: What are the most pertinent veggies to include in a smoothie? I want to make smoothies to have the greatest impact on my body.
ANSWER: Thanks for your question 🙂 I do love smoothies and recently started adding more veggies. I don’t even have this one on the website. It was actually inspired by a couple of smoothie recipes from Rhonda Patrick who is a biochemist and studies nutrition (although she is not exclusively plant-based). Here are her smoothie recipes. 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys86ZgjQQYg
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLQ63y5aTpo She’s a kick and really knows her biochemistry and goes into it extensively in the videos!
Here’s what she and I think are important for the best impact on your health:
Fruits: blueberries, sometimes frozen cranberries or strawberries, bananas, apples, tomatoes, and avocado (the last two are technically fruits).
Veggies: carrot, kale, chard or spinach, broccoli sprouts (my addition, not Rhonda’s), and sometimes romaine lettuce.
Honestly, I think just about any veg is good. You could also add cucumber, or cooked squash like pumpkin or sweet potato) and beets.
9. Need Help Getting Started
QUESTION: What would you recommend to try and get a better idea of how to eat? I'm looking for more options and flavors. I'm looking for help and direction for getting started.....and keeping it going.
ANSWER: Actually, your current meals sound good, but it sounds like you’d like more variety and flavor. I think your best bet is to do one of these…purchase a cookbook with a plant-based theme. You could try my cookbook, The Everything Plant-Based Meal. Prep Cookbook, Or print out recipes from the website that're easy, and you think you’ll like. OR, grab some meal plans from a Google search for “plant-based meal plans."
Don’t be afraid to eat sweet potatoes and whole grains and lots of cooked and raw veggies. Sweet potatoes are great. This will help keep you full and not want to snack. Although, a good snack is OK, too, like hummus with apples or with a little peanut butter.
To mix up your meals, I’d stick with the smoothies and oatmeal for breakfast, eat a large green salad with beans and veggies for lunch, and, for dinner, whole grains (rice, quinoa, barley, polenta) like you’re doing with tempeh or tofu or more beans or lentils. Don’t forget that sauces help a lot, too. Cauliflower “cheese” sauce and curries…
If you add a little more protein, you’ll stay fuller. You shouldn’t be concerned about tofu or soy. Maybe some of those are new to you… I understand it can take time to adjust to a new diet.
Don’t forget about veggie burgers, tacos with corn tortillas, burritos with whole-grain tortillas, pasta with veggies and chilies, and soups. You can make a large batch and have leftovers for a few days.