Getting Started with a Plant Based Diet.

You can heal your body with plants. You do not have to become a victim of the American diet, animal agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and poor health. My mother had her first triple bypass surgery at the age of 39, more surgeries followed than I can count, and died at the age of 63. I am 47, surgery free, drug free, and healthy. I saved myself with plants and you can too. You can read my personal story at “The health benefits of a plant based diet.”.

You don’t have to take my word for it. There is a mountain of evidence showing that in areas where people consume more animal products there is more heart disease, more cancer, and more diabetes. Take the time to educate yourself.

 

It's not complicated and there are so many wonderful things to enjoy. Let's get started.

 

I would suggest easing your way into a plant based diet. This is a way of life. The goal is to nourish your body for optimal health and stop consuming toxic foods. It’s as much about what you choose to eat as about what you choose not to eat. Make it fun. Learn how to cook and try new things. Build on your knowledge and experience and go at your own pace. There are no hard and fast rules that someone is going to hold you to. Any positive change is a step in the right direction. Perhaps you want to start by giving up meat and dairy and continuing to eat fish. Perhaps you want to start by eating plant based meals during the day. I would suggest working your way up to it unless of course you are having major health problems. If that's the case, I would suggest going hard core vegan and never looking back. That’s my personal opinion based on everything that I have learned and experienced with my own health. I believe that optional nutrition and optimal health comes from a plant based vegan diet. 



My Personal Kitchen Staples

I try to get a combination of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and complex carbs everyday. You have to have a well balanced diet. Don’t do all carbs, all fruit, all veggies, all nuts, etc. Consume a little of everything. Your body needs it. It all works in harmony together. One nutrient is often relying on another nutrient to do it's job.

I’m going to include just enough detail to spark your interest. Please don’t solely rely on the information I’m providing. It’s incomplete. There is so much more information out there. Start researching and exploring food and nutrition for yourself. It’s fun and fascinating.

You will notice that I am highlight calcium and protein a lot here. This is because people have the misconception that if you don’t eat meat and dairy that you don’t get enough. That is completely false.

1. Raw Organic Hemp Seed - This powerful seed is a complete source of protein. 1 tablespoon has 5.3 grams. It also has 9 essential amino acids, contains Omega 3, 6, 9 and GLA, and also provides Calcium, A, C, E, D, B6, B2, B1, and Iron. I turn the hemp seed in to a powder using my Nutri Bullet or I just add the hearts to oatmeal or granola.

2. Flax Seeds - This seed is loaded with omega 3 (ALA). Among other things it helps improve mental clarity and cognitive function. 1 tablespoon of flax seed also has 1.9 grams of protein.

I turn flax seed into a powder using my Nutri Bullet.  I also occasionally use flax seed oil. It is recommended that flax seed oil is cold pressed, kept refrigerated and used within 6 months. Once it has lost it’s mild nutty flavor, it’s time to through it out.

3. Nutritional Yeast - A source of B-Complex Vitamins. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor. It can be sprinkled over food as a condiment or mixed into smoothies. In addition to this plant based source or B-Complex Vitamins, I will take a Vitamin B-Complex supplement. The only other supplement I take is D3.

4. Nutri Bullet - Seriously, I can’t live without it. It has 2 blades. One blade I use for smoothies, salad dressings, and sauces, the other turns nuts, seeds, and herbs into a powder. I use the NutriBullet to turn the hemp seed and flax seed into a powder so I can easily absorb the nutrients.  I sprinkle it on my food or I put it in a smoothie.

5. Fruit - I buy a mix of fresh, frozen, and a the occasional dried fruit. I always keep organic bananas and citrus around and then rotate fruit like berries or melons. I always try to consume a wide variety so that I’m getting all the nutrients I need. Don’t forget that all those colors represent powerful antioxidants. I really like frozen mangos and peaches but I keep frozen berries around as well. I use the frozen fruit in smoothies. Frozen fruit is really nice when you don’t have good options locally or in season. It also makes the smoothies nice and cold so that you don’t have to add ice. Right now, I have dried apricots and dates. I try not to buy dried fruit that has sulfates to preserve color and shelf life. I always remind myself that whole foods in the their natural state are your best choice. I snack on the apricots but I use the dates to sweeten things. Dried fruit is generally too sweet for my tastes. I eat it in small amounts.

 

Favorite Fruits

Avocado
- Yes, it’s a fruit. An avocado has about 4 grams of Protein, 18 amino acids, more Potassium than a banana, Vitamin C, Iron, B-6, Magnesium, Calcium, Fiber, Vitamin K, Copper, Folate, Vitamin E, and Pantothenic acid. Yes, they have a lot of fat. I don’t care! I eat avocados on sandwiches, in rice dishes, in salads, in pasta, in smoothies, and of course I love guacamole. It’s up there with my all time favorite foods.

Fresh Berries - I love to snack on fresh berries, use them in smoothies, or add them to granola or oatmeal. They are loaded with antioxidants and fiber.

Bananas - My favorite bananas are actually apple bananas but I’ve only had them in Hawaii. Really too bad I can’t find them. Regardless, I eat a lot of bananas. I use them in all my smoothies and I snack on them as I work. Bananas have 1.3 grams of Protein, lots of Potassium, Vitamin C and and B6. They also contain fiber, Vitamin A and Magnesium.

Here’s a fun simple recipe for peanut butter banana ice-cream. I found it on youtube and it’s pretty freak’n good.

Blend the following:

• frozen bananas
• fresh ground peanut butter
• 1 or 2 dates

Sprinkle with Cacao nibs

Cantaloupe - I love melons and cantaloupe is my favorite. They are a great snack to enjoy at the office while I’m working. 1 medium melon has 1474 mg of Potassium and 4.6 grams of Protein. You didn’t see that coming did you? It also has Vitamin A, C, K, Calcium, Magnesium and a host of B Vitamins.

Mangos - I usually find really good mangos during the summer where I live but occasionally some will pop up. I’ve decided that buying Costco organic frozen mango will certainly suffice for winter. When I can find really good fresh mangos I love to make mango salsa, add them to salad, or just eat mango slices. I use the frozen mangos in smoothies. Mangos have over 20 vitamins and minerals and are extremely high in Vitamin A, C, and Potassium. Mangos actually have more vitamin C than oranges, you just don't hear much about it. They also contain Vitamin K and Vitamin E.

Limes - Oh how I love limes. I use them in home made salsas, guacamoles, squeeze them over burritos, and use them in all kinds of cocktails. This past weekend I used them in a Moscow Mule at the request of a girlfriend. I try to avoid carbonated beverages but I make the occasional exception. The perfect word to describe this cocktail is “refreshing”.  If you want to try it yourself it’s just ginger beer, lime juice and vodka over ice. Served it with a lime wedge. You can easily find recipes online. I can’t really follow a recipe myself. I also like to squeeze limes over other tropical fruit such as papaya, mango and banana. Sometimes I sprinkle it with salt. Limes are high in Vitamin C.

Lemons -  Where do I start with my love of lemons. First, they make me think of my mother who I lost several years ago. She simply loved all things lemon and even ate them straight up… Wow! I happen to be making my first attempt at growing lemons. They are growing in my office of all places. If you didn’t know. Lemons are notoriously easy to grow in containers. I am not to the point that I’m eating lemons straight up but I do love lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon pepper when cooking. Lemon zest over broiled asparagus with a little salt and olive oil is divine. This week during lunch I made a quinoa pasta with a ton of fresh dill, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper, a tiny bit of olive oil, and avocado. I also added some fresh tomato for color. This dish did not disappoint.

Tangerines - Where I live tangerines only show up around Christmas and I really look forward to it. I actually crave tangerines. Trader Joes has tangerine juice year round. It’s not always perfect but when it comes from ripe perfect fruit, I know and it’s the best things ever. I will confess a secret. This is how it goes down. I walk past the tangerine juice and something in my brain goes into high alert. I start to salivate and grab the smaller container because I know it will be more socially acceptable. Without hesitation I start guzzling the tangerine juice right then and there. Forget about waiting until you’re in the car. I have a complete, “I need it, and I need it now moment”…every time. What does that mean??? It’s so weird.

 

Oils - I have 3 staples

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Sesame Oil
• Avocado Oil

 

Vegetables - I buy as many different vegetables as I can and try to find creative ways to use them. It’s winter so I’ve already made roasted root veggies. It is so simple and so delicious. Keep in mind that ever time you choose to eat a vegetable, herb, fruit, nut or seed their is a health benefit.

 

Here are a few staples but I’m always mixing it up:

Frozen Peas - A half cup of peas has 4 grams of Protein and 36 mg of Calcium. Peas are great in salads, rice dishes, and pasta dishes.

Lentils - I don't have a lot of time to cook lentils from scratch so I buy them frozen. It's a quick way to add protein to a meal. Lentils are packed with Folate, Magnesium, Copper, Iron, and Fiber...to name only a few nutrients.

Beets - A half cup of beets has has 1.1 grams of Protein, Cooper, Fiber, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Iron, B6 and Phytonutrients called Betanin. I love both the red and the golden beets. I serve roasted beets as a side dish or toss them on salads. I also juice beets when time allows. You can learn more about the health benefits of beets at the World Most Healthy Foods Website.  http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49

Okra - I am from North Carolina. I grew up eating fried okra. Not the healthiest way to eat it but oh so good. It’s not always available but when it’s fresh I buy it. I don’t make it like my grandmother did. It would never be as good anyway. I like to sauté it with chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic, salt and olive oil. I don’t cut it up. I just do a quick sauté and munch on a big plate of it, tossing the tough ends into a separate bowl. It’s dense and crunchy. It makes a satisfying snack or quick lunch. Okra has 82 mg of Calcium and 3 grams of Protein per cup. It also has Folic Acid, Vitamin A, C, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron and plenty of fiber. 

Spinach - I eat a lot of spinach because I love it but also because it’s extremely easy. I buy the oversize containers and I use big handfuls in smoothies, past dishes, or rice dishes. When more time is allowed it also makes a great stuffing for hand pies. If you want to get really crazy you can try the vegan spanakopita recipe that I tried in a previous blog post. Spinach has .9 grams of Protein and 30 mg of Calcium per cup. It’s also packed with Vitamins A and C, as well as Iron

Mixed greens for salad - During summer I buy a large container every week. I eat more salad during summer. In the winter it’s just not that appealing. I’ve started getting creative with salad dressing but a simple seasoned rice wine vinegar is perfect over mixed greens. I only use Marukan. I’ve tried the other brands. This is my favorite. Mixed greens are a good source of Potassium, Vitamins A, C, Calcium, and Iron. And yes, even mixed greens have Protein.

Tomatoes - In my opinion there is nothing better than a big slice of beefsteak tomato on a nice bread with a little vegenaise and a sprinkle of salt. I could eat those all day long. I also, love sun dried tomato for pizza and spaghetti sauces. They have intense flavor and make a dish feel very hearty.

Arugula - this is so good on veggie sandwiches or mixed with other greens in salad. Arugula has 100 grams of calcium per cup, It’s also loaded with other vitamins and minerals such as: Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, folate, choline, Vitamin K, Vitamin A and C.

Seaweed - is highly nutritious.  It contains iodine, lots of protein and lots of calcium. Try making a nori hand roll, a quick wakame salad, or add to soup.

Frozen Edamame (soy beans) - this is a high protein legume with plenty of calcium and iron. I sometimes just eat a big bowl of it with a little salt but it’s also good with brown rice and seaweed or added to udon noodles. I always eat fresh Edamame when I dine at Japanese restaurants. I haven’t figured out where to get fresh Edamame near me yet

Miso - I like red miso. This is such a nice way to warm up in winter. I find it very satisfying and very filling. I like to fix a nice hot cup of miso soup between meals at work.

Eggplant - I am crazy about baba ganoush. I just buy it from my favorite Lebanese restaurant. I keep saying I’ll learn how to make it myself but just haven’t gotten around to it. In my opinion baba ganoush, hummus, pita bread and salad makes a perfect meal. It’s also easy to eat at my desk when I’m working. 

Broccoli - has 93 mg of Calcium in per 1 1/2 cups, as well as Vitamin C, A, K, B-6, Folate, and Magnesium. Broccoli is so easy. I buy it precut and washed. I snack on it with a dip or sauté it with other veggies to add to pasta or rice dishes.
 

Here’s a super easy roast veggie recipe.

1. Wash and cut your preferred root veggies into small (roughly 1 in”g) pieces. 

I happen to have used the following the last time I made it:

• Peeled baby carrots
• Celery
• Red beets
• Golden beets
• Yam
• Red potatoes
• Parsnips - I am new to parsnips. I read to cut the tough centers out so I did. I was in a hurry so not sure I got that right but it turned out perfect regardless.

2. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, sea salt and a few cloves of garlic that I cut in half. 

3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

4. Place the root veggies on a baking sheet and spread them out. If you pile them up then they will steam rather than roast. 

5. Bake from 45 - 60 Minutes or until done. I think it depends on your oven. I used a convection oven and it cooked fast. A regular oven might take longer. I like to cook a lot at once and snack on them for a few days. 

 

Grains and other Nuts, and Seeds - I like things that are easy. I like snacking on almonds, walnuts, and cashews. I keep frozen organic brown rice (Trader Joes) and Quinoa/Kale (Costco) in the freezer, and granola in pantry. I also love pasta. I use several different kinds but my favorite pasta is buckwheat. Buckwheat is a good quality source of protein and it’s rich with amino acids. 1 cup of buckwheat noodles has 6 grams of Protein. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals. There is a ton of great information on the health benefits of buckwheat at The World’s Healthiest Foods website http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11


Here’s my go-to super fast buckwheat noodle recipe:

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil

2. Once water is boiling drop in noodles and give them a stir

3. Allow the water to return to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer

4. Cook noodles for 5-8 minutes until done to your liking

5. In a bowl combine rice wine vinegar (Marukan), Tamari (soy sauce), Chinese chili garlic sauce, and sesame oil in a bowl. I’ll just say adjust to your liking. Did I mention I don’t follow recipes?

6. Rinse and drain your noodles, transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the sauce. That’s it.

You can enjoy the noodles alone or add spinach, green onions, broccoli and maybe a little tofu. With or without veggies, this is an amazing noodle dish that you are sure to love.

 

6. Vega One Protein Powder - A really nice vegan protein powder with dried greens (their website lists all the ingredients). 1 scoop has 20 grams of protein, 6 servings of greens, vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3 antioxidants, and probiotics. This product is non GMO, has mostly organic Ingredients, no soy and yummy flavors. It’s packed with nutrition. I like the Vanilla and the Berry Blast. I don’t always use protein powders but if I do this is my go to. Also, if your smoothie just doesn’t taste good, a scoop of their vanilla will fix it right up.

 

7. Balanced Greens - I like the pineapple coconut flavor. Balanced Greens knows the power of plants to heal the human body. This is an organic, non GMO, raw food powder. The Ingredients are Organic Barley Grass, Organic Wheat Grass, Organic Spirulina Organic Alfalfa, Organic Rosehips, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Lemon Peel, Organic Non - Active Nutritional Yeast, Organic Beet Root, Organic Spinach, Organic Kelp, Organic Pineapple Coconut Flavor, Organic Gum Acacia, Organic Stevia Extract, and Probiotics: Lactobacillus, Planetarium, L. Casei, L. Acidolphlus (3 billion per serving ). I mix this in water, juice, or put it in my smoothies when I need a boost.

 

8. Plant Based Dairy Alternatives

There are some great dairy alternatives on the market these days. I have to remind myself that these are altered from there natural state and that I shouldn’t over do it but it’s nice to have these options when you want a treat.

Cashew Cheese - My favorite is Nu Culture Garden Herb Cashew Spread and there is another good one with Paprika. I have tried several different kinds of cashew cheese. Most of them are really good but I tried a sliced pepper jack cashew that I wasn’t impressed with until I melted it over toast. It melted beautifully and completely changed the flavor. I’m telling you this so that you don’t give up on a so so cashew cheese until you’ve tried melting it.

Chocolate Cashew Milk - Who doesn’t want chocolate milk? LOVE IT.

Low Sugar Cashew Milk - This is so fresh and creamy. I really like that it's not too sweet and has a nice flavor.

So Delicious Chocolate Truffle Cashew Ice Cream. If you have not tried this, it is going to blow your mind. I feel like I was waiting a lifetime for someone to come up with a non dairy ice cream that tasted like real ice cream. Trumpets please… it has arrived. There are several flavors. The Chocolate Truffle is just my favorite.

Rice Milk - this is good for granola and sometimes I’ll use it in coffee.

Almond Milk - I don’t drink store bought almond anymore because I prefer the cashew milk but I will say my girlfriend makes homemade almond milk and it is amazing. I plan on trying that out myself when I have some free time. I also want to try making cashew cream. A lot of vegan recipes call for cashew cream instead of heavy cream. I’m thinking cream of mushroom.

Vegenaise - This is non dairy mayonnaise. Honestly it taste so much better than mayonnaise that I don’t know why you would eat anything else. I prefer the “Original”. It’s great for sandwiches, dips, and salad dressings.

Earth Balance or Smart Balance - I use this instead of butter.

Unsweetened or Sweetened Coconut Milk Creamer - I use this in my coffee and in recipes that ask for cream.

Daiya New York Cheezcake. I didn’t think I would like this because it I don’t like their faux cheese but wow! A home run by Daiya. I will be buying it again.

A note on Soy Cheese, there is some controversy around highly processed soy products due to the hormone like effects. I'm not going to get into it here but I do avoid processed soy food such as soy cheese and soy milk. I don't really like soy cheese anyway.

Take it easy with the fun alternatives. There is still a lot of sugar and fat in these tasty treats. That being said, I never feel like I am depriving myself of anything because I have everything I want.  Adopting a plant based diet has never been easier.

Start Cooking your way to Health. Follow our "Plant Based Recipes" board on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/consciouscart/plant-based-recipes/

 

Thanks for reading. I hope to have another great post for you soon.

Julia Rudisill
Conscious Cart

Save yourself, save the planet, save another. Eat Plants!