Going from "Junk-Food" Vegan
to Health Food Vegan
by Jennifer Van Alstine
have always loved preparing and eating good food. Ten years ago when I
first changed from meat eating to vegetarianism, I began exploring new
and different ways of cooking. Some five years later I became vegan and
once again searched for still other ways to prepare food.
These days I find it easy to be a vegan. The many choices of prepared
vegetarian and vegan foods almost equal the choices available for
meat-consumers. Walk through any health food store and look in the
frozen food section to see an almost endless array of frozen “faux-meat”
products. Until recently I have relied heavily on faux meat products in
preparing meals, so doing consuming large amounts of soy and wheat
gluten. In many ways, I considered myself a “junk-food” vegan.
Now as my body changes with the advancing years, I am again examining my
food choices with an emphasis on improving my overall health. Sure, I
could continue to shop for and prepare faux meat foods -- or I could try
to resist the temptation and most of the time prepare healthier meals
using fresh foods
Back to the Basics
have gone back to the basics, and so doing have asked myself, “What
foods are most beneficial to eat regularly?” I am also looking at foods
I should eliminate or cut back on.
Choosing carbohydrates. Choosing high-quality carbohydrates and
eating the right kinds of food along with the carbohydrates is important
for a healthy vegan diet. The major natural sources of carbohydrates are
grains, beans and root vegetables.
Whole grains are good sources of B-vitamins, fiber, and minerals
and are the staple of many diets worldwide. Grains keep their vitamins
within them for long periods, until hulled, roasted, or ground. Quinoa
and amaranth in particular also have high protein content. On the other
hand, breads other than those with freshly ground flour, should be
consumed sparingly because of the extra processing and fermenting
process that lessens the amount of vitamins and nutrients available from
Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and yams are less sugary
than other potatoes. Carrots, beets, turnips, and Jerusalem artichoke
have high starch content and can replace grains as the main carbohydrate
for a meal.
Beans also are largely starch and can take the place of grains or
roots as the carbohydrate for a meal. Although it is a bean, soy is an
exception and falls into its own category of high protein food.
Putting it All Together
Grains should be the foundation for every meal, and this change has been
one of the changes I have made in my diet. I have grains for breakfast,
grains at lunch and grains for dinner.
For breakfast, I usually eat oatmeal. Sometimes I mix the oatmeal with
amaranth, millet, or buckwheat. Of course, I add berries or other fruit
and ground seeds, along with a supplemental oil such as flax or evening
primrose. It is easy to sneak in the fruit, seeds, and oils at
breakfast, and it is so good for my digestive system.
For lunch, I usually eat something left over from dinner the night
For dinner, I start with brown rice and mix in another grain such as
quinoa. I think of how I want to season the rice and the meal with the
recommended spices and herbs. I begin by deciding if I will use a
garlic, onion, or ginger base. Then I use fresh vegetables and some form
of protein such as beans, tempeh, or tofu. I also again mix in the seeds
and supplemental oils with my dinner. Eating this way has so many
benefits for me. Not only does dinner (and lunch the next day) taste so
good, but it is exactly what my body wants and needs. Oh yes, and I also
include a salad with each dinner, where I can sneak in more fresh garlic
and essential oils in my homemade salad dressings.
Getting basic entails using more spices, herbs, and oils than I had
previously been accustomed to. I buy a little at a time. But once my
kitchen is fully stocked, it is easy to prepare meals from fresh
Spice it Up
If you are interested in following along with me, here is how I began.
My kitchen is always stocked with fresh garlic, onions, and ginger.
Next, essential spices include sea salt (in moderation) which is vital
to the flavor and absorption of foods; curry which contains powerful
antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, cumin, black/chili pepper
or paprika, which ‘wake up’ your digestive tract; and sweet spices such
as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, which add flavor and other
health benefits to most meals.
Following this, herbs that are high in antioxidants and digestive
stimulants include basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.
Lastly, oils for cooking include olive, sesame, coconut, peanut, or
other nut oils. Other oils to include as supplements are flaxseed,
borage, evening primrose, and hempseed.
Although these healthy basics seem simple to me now, it it took me many
years to arrive at this point of awareness. Of course, I will always
have moments of weakness when a veggie burger and fries is the simpler
and more convenient choice for dinner. However, for my overall health, I
prefer my food choices to be the basics: whole grains, beans/soy, fresh
vegetables, essential oils, seeds (or nuts). I feel healthier, have
actually lost some weight, and my body thanks me for it.