I started my journey into healthier eating and living when I was in college, just a year before spending a semester abroad in Madrid. I had made up my mind that I was going to learn to prepare vegetables in a way that taste great so that I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about eating so much processed food—which, at the time, I considered the most delicious food. Each week I would buy a few vegetables that I had never tried, then find an enticing recipe on the internet to learn how to cook it with extra virgin olive oil (from Spain, of course). Within a few months I was eating all sorts of vegetables that I never knew existed, or previously thought I disliked. By the time I landed in Madrid, I was on the lookout for the most delicious and nutritious ways to cook.
As I move into my 7th year as a vegan, I am so proud to say that I feel comfortable and confident with my eating habits. Gone are the days when I would surf the internet for tips on eliminating bloating, improving digestion, boosting my energy with food, and losing weight. The great thing is, there are no magic pills, no fancy diets to follow, no tricky body hacks, and definitely no cleanses. The key to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship to food is simple: eat plant-based whole foods that are fresh, seasonal, and full of color.
It’s really that simple. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, nuts, and seeds. These foods are high in nutrients like fiber, protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Even more, colorful whole foods boast impressive amounts of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, anti-carcinogens, and anti-inflammatory compounds in our bodies. A colorful meal is beautiful to look at, but all that natural pigmentation tells you that your plate is bursting with nutrition.
Make sure that at least 80-90% of your meals and snacks are made with colorful, flavorful, and fresh whole foods. I like to make large entree salads with hearty kale or collards as the base, and beans, roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and grains to bulk it up, and a flavorful dressing to tie it all together. I also make wholesome soups, stews, grain-bowls (aka Buddha Bowls), pilafs, vegan burgers, and sauces using whole foods. The other 10-20% of the time I reserve for less healthy foods like baked goods, highly processed foods, and eating at restaurants. I think that balance of 80-90% super clean eating, and 10-20% less nutritious is helpful to avoid restricting your diet too much. You don’t want to cause stress in social situations, and when a junk food craving attacks. When you eat well 80-90% of the time you won’t feel guilty when you have some vegan ice cream or a slice of sugary cake.
I’ve also discovered the importance of choosing high quality local fruits and vegetables, and eating seasonal produce as often as possible. They are more nutrient dense and flavorful than fresh produce flown in from 2,000 miles away. For me, it’s more important that something be super fresh and locally grown than organic. Where I live, organic produce is often flown in from California, and reaches my kitchen days after being harvested. When I shop at the farmer’s market for local produce I’m buying vibrant fruits and vegetables that were picked 24 hours before making it to my plate. I’ve even started my own little herb garden at home so I can add delicious herbs to my meal without having to spend a dime or leave the house!
Learn about my favorite vegetables and how I started my own herb garden at home on the Olive Oils from Spain blog…CLICK HERE.