When you are first starting out as a vegan, following a plant-based diet can seem daunting. It is important to keep in mind the reasons why you are choosing to live this way, whether it is concern for all living things, for the fragility of our environment, or for your own health.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts about becoming vegan is changing the way you view food and cooking. Everyone has certain formulas they follow when making a meal, and they believe that what they have grown up with is the “right” way of doing things. For example, a lot of people consider it essential to include meat, dairy, or eggs in their meals. However, when you become a vegan, you discover new and creative ways of cooking. It takes a while to adjust your thinking to incorporate these lifestyle changes, and it can help if vegans share ideas with each other.
Some Ingredients for a Vegan Lunch
Veganism is sometimes known as a way to get healthy, lose weight, and lower your cholesterol; this cannot happen, however, if you are still consuming highly processed foods. Switching from refined grains to whole grains is one of the best ways to improve your diet. Your body needs the fiber and nutrition in whole grains to fill you up and keep you healthy. Try making a risotto with brown rice or a pilaf with quinoa for a satisfying lunch. Both of these grains have a nutty flavor and a pleasing texture. They are also gluten free, which makes them a good choice if you are sensitive to gluten.
Other grains to consider are whole oats, wheat, and rye. These can be ground into flour to make whole grain breads for sandwiches. You can make vegan whole grain bread at home or buy it at your local health food store.
It might seem surprising, but even vegans sometimes have trouble getting enough vegetables into their diet. It is important to focus on eating a rainbow of colors by including a variety of fresh, leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard), root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets), flower vegetables (brocolli, cauliflower, artichokes), and fruit vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes). When you're making a salad for lunch, sprinkle cooked or raw vegetables into the bowl. Add raw spinach to your sandwich, or throw leftover veggies into cooked brown rice and stir-fry it for a delicious lunch.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are a healthy part of a varied diet. They can be a great source of omega-3s, protein, and calcium, though they should not be eaten to excess, as they are high in fat. Make hummus with tahini (sesame seed paste) for a sandwich spread or dip. Throw some sliced almonds into a fruit salad for a side dish at lunch. If you'd like to reduce the amount of fat in your seeds, sprout them in a jar. You can add your own alfalfa, radish, or watercress sprouts to green salads or sandwiches for a boost of nutrition and flavor.
Beans or Legumes
These are perhaps what veganism is most known for--chickpeas, lentils, and tofu. Make a chickpea curry to take to work for lunch. Cook lentils into spaghetti sauce for a meaty texture and eat it with whole grain noodles. Stir fry sprouted mung beans with other vegetables to serve over quinoa. Heat up vegetarian refried beans to pour over brown rice for a quick, healthy lunch, or use sliced, smoked tofu as a tasty lunch "meat" for sandwiches.
Often when your body is craving sweets, it is really craving fruit. There are so many ways you can serve fruits--raw or cooked, by themselves or with another food. Throw some chopped peaches or mandarin orange sections into your green salad for a refreshing change. Make a fruit salad with your favorite fruits, if you have time, or just grab a piece of fruit out of the refrigerator, if you don't. Frozen fruits are particularly good for smoothies and desserts after lunch.
Be an Inspiration to Others
Once you've become used to fixing vegan meals, you can start to share your new knowledge with others. Leading a healthy, compassionate lifestyle is the best advertisement for veganism. If you are eating lunch with other people, you are likely to be questioned about your food choices. Take the opportunity to tell them all about the many benefits, including being kind to animals, reducing your carbon footprint, and increasing your personal health.