2015-08-04

My (Mostly) Vegetarian Diet

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist (shocker!). What I mention in this post are eating habits that have worked for me given my conditions and lifestyle. Therefore, what I say might not work for you!

To accompany my fitness story, I'd like to share the details of my mostly vegetarian diet. I not only eat mostly vegetables and whole grains, but I now also take in most of my carbs from vegetable sources and eat a lot of saturated fat. The result? More stamina when I workout, more fat burn, which has led to better defined muscles, and better digestion (my spastic colon couldn't ask for more).

Like fitness and weight, food is a popular topic of conversation now, especially when it comes to issues such as: Do eggs raise your cholesterol? Should you eat paleo? Is the Atkins diet a godsend? Stevia and agave nectar over sugar and honey? Is saturated fat healthy? Are vegetarians dying slowly from a lack of protein? The list of questions is endless and the debates rage on. 

My diet mainly consists of vegetables, healthy fats,
and grains.
Personally, I love eggs and oatmeal, but beef and pork tend to make my colon go crazy and I don't like processed foods like Stevia so a lot of "diets" and "good replacements" simply don't cut it in my book. Yet I noticed a few months ago that even the sugars in fruit and simple carbs made my blood sugar go crazy, especially in times of stress and anxiety. Plus, my digestive system was struggling. Therefore, I needed to change my diet to align with my body and soul (cheesy, but true). I've been eating this way for about a year, yet I'm not as strict when I'm on vacation.

I don't like labels, especially when it comes to eating habits, so I don't tell people I'm a vegetarian although I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I don't turn my nose up to meat, I simply prefer to not eat it regularly, aside from fish. Basically, my diet is as follows:

Yes foods (almost daily): eggs, protein from non-meat sources (e.g., beans, rinsed and recooked if canned; tofu), fruit (esp. bananas, apples, avocados, blueberries), vegetables (dark green veggies, squash, roots/tubers, starches), fish, plain full-fat yogurt, grains/oats (e.g., barley, oatmeal, millet), nuts/seeds (esp. peanuts, almonds, quinoa, flax), coconut oil, peanut butter (either homemade or the kind with, you know, just peanuts — no jelly swirl crap), honey, healthy snacks (e.g., plain popcorn; homemade snack bars), tea (esp. green, matcha, chamomile, ginger)

Sometimes foods (once a week or less): dark chocolate, chicken, turkey, cheese, dried fruit, bread (although I only eat certain kinds of bread or homemade bread), butter, vegetarian/vegan protein powder

Rarely/Vacation foods (once every few months or less): fried foods, snack food, milk/white/specialty chocolate, alcohol (haven't had a drink since last summer in Germany), milk, milk replacements (e.g., almond milk, rice milk), homemade jam, ice cream

Never-ever foods: refined sugar/sweeteners (e.g., Stevia, fake syrup, fake honey), beef, pork, fast food, pre-prepared foods (e.g., TV dinners), foods with high levels of gluten, pasta, store-bought jam/jelly, candy, store-bought juice, soft drinks, margarine, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, cereal, commercially produced vegan mock meats 

My diet gives me energy to workout and nutrients to repair my muscles on rest days. Additionally, when you're mostly eating whole foods, you stay full for longer and are less likely to overeat. Junk foods are made to keep you hungry, thereby encouraging you to eat tons of sugar and other nonsense you don't need. I suppose this is why I was able to wipe out a couple rolls of crackers in one sitting and still feel hungry when I was a teenager. It's much harder to eat three apples than to eat a family-sized bag of chips or two.

I think some people have a false perception that eating mostly vegetables and whole foods means you're "missing out" on delicious meals. I understand where these assumptions come from, but I find they're untrue. I enjoy a treat or two everyday, and while making homemade treats takes more time than buying a Butterfingers, if you take the time to make them in bulk so they're on hand when you want to enjoy them, it becomes effortless. Plus, your body will thank you later, right?

In America especially, I think eating a healthy diet — whether you include meat as a major component or not — is going to take a bit of effort. In my opinion, every adult has a responsibility to know how to cook for themselves; I'm not sure how you can ensure the quality of what you consume is high if you're getting it from source that does not completely reveal how your food is made. I believe every adult should have the ability to create two healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Don't like repetition? Learn even more recipes then! I think in this world of Pinterest boards and cooking websites there honestly isn't any excuse if you aren't living in a food dessert.

If you're still concerned about costs, I'd suggest not bothering to buy organic because whether food is organic or not in America (yes, even if it's from Whole Foods) is questionable. However, buying produce and making your own food is still better than eating out in my opinion.

Cooking is a major hobby of mine, so my meals tend to be pretty elaborate at times because I enjoy making them. However, especially when I have a busy schedule, I tend to cook staple foods in bulk so I can whack them in microwave when I'm hungry.

Below is what I'd typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times if I'm hungry between meals. I also list what my staple food items for eat meal are.

Breakfast
Staples: eggs, tofu, bananas, plain greek yogurt, old fashioned steel-cut oats, quinoa, homemade gluten-free flour (oats and rice flour blended together)

Warm "zoats" (oats with grated zuccini)
with a bit of quinoa topped with
plain greek yogurt, honey, and blueberries.
Quick & easy. I think many people neglect breakfast because of time; they have to rush off to work or school. It's commonly said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and missing it is isn't a good habit. I don't know if this is true, but personally I like to have a filling breakfast so I don't feel too hungry later in the day; it keeps me from overeating in the afternoon and evening. If I know I won't have time to eat lunch, I like to have a breakfast full of whole foods that will keep me full for hours. Making breakfast days ahead or the night before prevents me from missing the first meal of the day. I like to make a loaf of bread during the weekend for the week ahead or soak my oats overnight so they're ready to eat in the morning either cold or microwaved.

Avocado toast with homemade bread and
a homemade sweet potato spread.
With a large green smoothie and
peanut butter on toast.
With a porridge of yams.
One food, many combinations. I usually make tofu scramble in large batches, typically 10 servings. It lasts in the fridge for well over a week, and is convenient to add to breakfast. Who wants to scramble eggs (or tofu) every morning? Doing this ensures I have a great serving of protein every morning. Pictured are three ways to enjoy tofu scramble. 


Over grits.
Elaborate weekend meals. During the weekend, I usually have more time to create breakfasts which require more effort. Therefore, I commonly have a full-course Japanese breakfast, which typically includes a large amount of vegetables. More frequently, I have a stack of homemade gluten-free pancakes.
A full-course Japansese-style breakfast packed with vegetables.
This meal is less than 600 calories, compare that
with a fast-food breakfast sandwich.
Sweet potato pancakes topped with
bananas and raspberries.
Banana oat pancakes with
raspberry sauce.
Lunch

Staples: Fish, lettuce, avocados, beans, tofu, rice, veggies of all types

Homemade plantain soft tacos
with lettuce and tofu scramble.
Veggies for volume. My lunch is usually smaller than my breakfast, yet if my workout is a high calorie burning routine, it can be a similar size to my breakfast or bigger. I tend to pack most of my veggies in my lunch because it makes my meal seem bigger and tricks my brain into believing I'm having a huge meal but it actually isn't a 1,000 calorie belt-buster. Plus vegetables keep me full well into the early evening. 

On workout rest days, I usually have a bigger lunch because dinner gets replaced with a snack.




Rice noodle salad with a myriad of vegetables and swai fish
over a bed of romaine lettuce.
Vegetarian Japanese-style curry with
carrots, sweet potato, baked tofu,
and zucchini.
A mushroom burger with
pumpkin fries.
Vegetarian Japanese-style curry and homemade veggie burgers are two of my favorite lunch options. I like making a huge batch of curry days before I want to eat it. (Tip: curry tastes better after it's been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days). Typically, I freeze half of the batch to eat at a later date. I do the same thing in regards to veggie burgers. I make a large batch of them, bake them with coconut oil (I like the "hands-off" approach of this method) and take them out of the freezer when I want to enjoy them.

Dinner

Staples: lettuce, vegetables and fish parts to make homemade soup
A homemade tomato and spinach tart.
This can be frozen and last several dinners.
A mozzarella, spinach,
and watermelon salad.
A Japanese-style dinner starring udon
in a homemade fish soup, co-starring
lots of veggies and side dishes.
Less is more. For me, dinner is the least important meal of the day. My dinners are usually one dish affairs with simple ingredients, like salad and soup. As I stated before, sometimes I replace dinner with a snack. This is simply because I'm usually still full from all the whole foods I eat midday. 

Weekend blowouts. Although my dinners are usually minimalistic, during the weekend I sometimes like to keep my meals light during breakfast and lunch so I can cook a large dinner.

Snacks
Staples: fruit (esp. bananas), dried fruit, nuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, dark chocolate, coconut sugar, oats

Matcha nice cream topped with a
gluten-free brownie.
Nice cream sandwiched between
two homemade, sugarless
oatmeal cookies.
Sinless treats. I don't like my desserts too sweet; therefore, sugar is not an ingredient I like to use, unless I'm making a dessert for someone else. I commonly use the natural sweetness in fruit, honey, or coconut sugar to make my desserts sweet. In this way, I'm able to recreate unhealthy desserts in a sinless way. 

My favorite snack is definitely banana ice cream, known among foodies as "nice cream". I love nice cream because it tastes just like ice cream but without all the sugar you'd find in commercially made products. The pectin in bananas make it creamy. (Tip: if you can find them, use apple bananas to make nice cream because the starch content is higher, therefore the finished product is creamier).  

As you can tell by this post, I love food! I love looking at it, cooking it, and of course, eating it. Nevertheless, I don't believe in consuming food that will kill me slowly; I have a weak gut as it is. Therefore, eating foods that nourish my body and are easy to digest is important to me. Hopefully some of my tricks and tips will help you as well!

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