Curious about the real food choices of self-proclaimed “healthy” vegans or vegetarians? Wonder if we’re all subsisting on carrots and smoothies? Enter my kitchen and dining room to see what I typically eat in a day. It might surprise and inspire you!
Real Food Vegan
I’m a big believer that eating real food is foundational to health and vitality. This means I’m avoiding like the plague the processed and highly refined food products typical of the standard American diet. I’m careful about ingredients and keep clear of additives like added sugars, emulsifiers, artificial and so-called natural flavors, and preservatives. Not to say I don’t have a slice of cake, a bag of chips or a cookie now and again but for the most part even my regular snacks and desserts consist of real foods that contribute to my health and energy.
My philosophy is to eat to live, not live to eat. 95% of my diet revolves around life-giving whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds and tubers. My daily meals have evolved to cover all these groups everyday or most days. I’m not eating bland, disgusting food either. I’m a foodie at heart and love, love, love food. Here’s what I eat while still keeping my taste buds in love with whole foods.
Typically I’m up between 6:30 to 7:30 am. First off, I drink a mug of filtered water from my Brita pitcher. This habit started thanks to Timothy Ferriss and his slow carb diet which got me onto the real food path.
Next comes breakfast and a mug of black coffee. Sometimes I sprinkle cinnamon and cardamon on the coffee grounds before brewing for a heady aroma and sipping experience. In the morning I almost always have a mix of whole grains, fruit, and nuts/seeds. Breakfast these days is regularly one of 4 meals:
Quick or rolled oats (not instant) with nuts and berries, a dash of salt and cinnamon. I really love to use blueberries and pecans. When I’m feeling decadent I add a teaspoon of cocoa powder. It’s quick and easy. In warmer months I make overnight oats. On colder days I tend to nuke my oats for 2 minutes and add the toppings afterward. I like quick, easy and nutritious. Using the stove for 20 minutes on steel cut oats before I’m awake with coffee just doesn’t happen. See my article What’s the Difference Between Steel Cut, Rolled & Instant Oats & Does It Matter?.
A new morning favorite is scrambled tofu “eggs”. I whip up a 5 minute tofu scramble using a dash of yummy turmeric and salt, then top with spring onions and nutritional yeast. They’re great too on whole grain Wasa crackers with slices of avocado. Sometimes I want sausage so I’ll heat up 2 Field Roast apple maple sausages as a treat.
Another new staple and favorite is chia pudding. It’s easy to make in batches. I then load mine down with nuts and berries. Typically I make mine with blended mango and pineapple chunks for a fantastic meal in the mornings.
Lastly, I sometimes eat Cheerios with bananas, sunflower seeds and either homemade oat milk or almond milk. I’d like to replace this with something less processed but it’s my transition food for my early days as a vegan and comes fortified with B12.
In general I like to use my breakfasts as vehicles for yummy serving of whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds. This gives me a nutritious mix of protein, healthy fats and carbs to energize me through the morning but also keep my tummy full and happy. This mix also protects my mind and emotions, providing my nervous system with magnesium and other nutrients for optimal brain health.
I’m not a big morning snacker. If my breakfast didn’t include nuts or seeds or even if it did, I’ll usually have a handful of nuts at some point in the morning. A staple is 2-4 Brazil nuts but I love a handful of cashews or macadamia nuts. On my counter is a bank of seeds and nuts and I’ll choose whichever ones I’m in the mood for.
I sometimes snack on a clementine or two if I have them on hand.
Generally though my morning snacks are light since I tend to eat filling breakfasts that keep me sated till 12:30 to 2pm. On the mornings I don’t feel hungry, I’ll skip breakfast and eat these same snacks before having an early lunch at 11am.
My lunches vary from day to day. They’re not extravagant but they are tasty and filling. This is the meal where I get in my legumes and pulses, aka beans, most often. I’ll also use this time to eat leftovers, make favorite dishes or experiment with new ones. Regular lunches include:
Lentil salad made with lentils, sunflower seeds, red onion, cherry tomatoes, peppers, windowsill mint, and homemade vinaigrette. The lentils cook in my rice cooker, leaving me to do other things. These days I leave out the feta but it’s still a super tasty, easy staple that I love.
Typically in cooler months I’ll have vegetable bean soups. Lately this means a white bean soup with vegetables like carrots, celery and greens. Sometimes I add ginger or curry for a truly warming meal.
I’ll have a bean salad of some sort for lunch in warmer months, like a chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad or white bean salad.
Lately I’ve been make zucchini or sweet potato fritters with homemade dips. They’re super simple, delicious and quick.
On lazy days I’ll heat up veggie spring rolls and make a dipping sauce. The spring roll brand I choose is Jennifer’s Garden, which is great ingredient-wise: no unpronounceable ingredients or dodgy additives.
For a drink I’ll have a second cup of coffee, tea, water or coconut water.
Since I tend to eat one bowl or one plate meals rather than make side dishes, I often have a snack around mid-afternoon and a second coffee or tea.
My favorite snacks lately consist of homemade fig and olive tapenade on whole grain crackers or whole grain bread.
Other snacks might include:
- Corn, zucchini or sweet potato fritters
- Guacamole, salsa or bean dip and toasted and cut corn tortillas.
- Energy bites – chocolate chips, peanut butter, and chia are my favorite. It’s like eating chocolate chip cookie dough!
These are all really tasty snacks that fill me up and make my taste buds happy. They’re quick to make, simple but flavorful and satisfying. Usually I’ll also have a second cup of coffee or a tea in the early afternoon if I didn’t have one at lunch.
I’m an early eater. Generally I’m eating around 5:30 to 6pm at the latest. It’s rare for me not to have finished eating by 6:30pm. For dinner I usually eat fairly light meals served in one bowl or plate, and rotate through a number of favorites. In a week I’ll usually eat most of the following:
- Bean soups
- Veggie and tofu curries over rice noodles or rice
- Potato or sweet potato “fries” steamed with a bit of oil in a pan with season salt and herbs. I’ll eat them with a homemade dip or ketchup.
- Yellow curried potatoes made from potatoes steamed with a bit of oil until done, then curried with turmeric or curry powder, coconut milk, lemon juice and topped with windowsill herbs like cilantro, basil or spring greens. I cook them with French beans and sun dried tomatoes. These are incredibly flavorful!
- Ramen is my lazy meal. I use Lotus Foods because their noodles are made with rice flour, not wheat, and their ingredient lists are short and recognizable, not a paragraph of chemicals and weird preservatives. To the ramen I’ll add kimchi and a dash of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
In terms of drinks, I’ll have water, coffee, tea, or coconut water. I’m trying to drink more chamomile tea in place of caffeinated coffee and tea after 6pm since they inevitably make me sleep poorly.
I don’t eat large meals so usually I’ll have a snack around 7pm or before 8pm, which is when I try to limit all food and drink. My typical snacks over a week include:
- Dark chocolate
- Snacks mentioned earlier like fritters, tapenade, guacamole, salsa, and dips
- Seaweed snacks
- Energy bites
- Grapes or clementines
- Rice cracker with peanut butter and sprinkled with nutritional yeast
- Chocolate chip cookies made with a mix of buckwheat flour and almond meal if I’ve made almond milk recently. I make mine with small amounts of honey, no sugar.
I’ll also sometimes have chamomile tea, coconut water, kombucha or water as an accompaniment to my snacks.
Real Food For the Win
There you have it – what I eat in a day! On any given week, I’ll almost always eat all these foods and meals. As you can see, this lifestyle is pretty wholesome and real food is the star. I’m lucky that I have the time and freedom to cook most of my meals but even so I don’t slave away in the kitchen. Most everything I make takes 10-20 minutes and fits in one pan. If it’s going to take longer, it goes into the rice cooker. This is how I cook my beans and soups. I’m always trying new recipes and my regulars change with the seasons.
I’m not perfect so I’ll occasionally buy a bag of veggie straws, kettle chips or cheese puffs but in general I never buy junk food or candy beyond the rare bag of chips since I much prefer my whole grain crackers and assorted tapenades and dips for snacks. Now that my taste buds have reset, store bought junk and snacks just don’t taste as good as the treats I make.
I love real food and being in the kitchen cooking or experimenting with new dishes. My favorite errand is a trip to the grocery store. It’s my happy place! I love that the foods I elect to eat nourish my body, mind and spirit – which is the guiding principle behind what I eat. I can’t imagine ever going back to the processed life that created so much pain, illness, stress, uneven moods and depression, indigestion and fatigue in my life.
If you like what I eat or want more ideas, I post a number of my meals and snacks daily on Facebook and Instagram @mybestlifesecrets.
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