Transitioning to a more plant-based lifestyle can be hard if you are not going full vegan. How do you make sure you’re eating healthy? How are you making sure you are actually mostly plant based? From what I’ve learned over years of “dieting”, until you have clear rules and monitor yourself, you aren’t doing as well as you think you are.
A food journal is a powerful tool. 5 years ago, I thought I was eating a really healthy diet and burning tons of calories in my workouts. When I discovered My Fitness Pal, essentially a food and exercise journaling app, I realized I was way off. It does take time to log all your foods but if you are new to nutrition it would be a great tool for you.
At the end of each day you can see a breakdown of the nutrients you’ve consumed. This is especially important for someone eating mostly vegan. It’s easy to rely on a small set of foods because it’s easy. People also tend to rely on wheat products, which should not be a staple in our diets (watch this doc on Netflix!). The lack of variety in your diet can lead to some nutritional deficiencies which is not good for your health.
As for tracking calories, it’s good practice but not my focus anymore. Remember that 1 calorie of fruit is not equal to one calorie of bread. The body processes these very differently. I don’t worry much about calories, and my weight has gone down with the transition of my diet to 80% plant based. I roughly track of daily calories in my mind, but I more track servings of produce. I like this graphic to help me with serving size, but I don’t like the inclusion of canned fruit or fruit juices. There’s SO much added sugar; eating fresh fruit or making your own juices is a much better alternative. At the end of each day, I aim for at least 5 servings. Usually I’m at 6 or 7.
So, how does it all come together? 80% plant based, all the right nutrients, and manageable with such a busy lifestyle?
My rule: vegan before dinner time.
I prepare smoothies for breakfast for the week on Sunday (I’ll share my favorite recipe soon!). It’s grab and go each morning, 2 servings of produce right away. I rely on lots of fruit, raw veggies and hummus for lunch, occasionally a vegan soup ( Spicy Roasted Carrot & Fennel Soup! Chilled Coconut Ginger Sweet Corn Chowder!) made also on the weekends. At least 2 more servings there. In the afternoon, it’s homemade energy bites and a cup of tea, giving me one more serving. By the time I leave work, I’m already at 5, and I feel great. I have energy all day, I don’t crash in the afternoon. Mentally I’m clean and bright too. My body is in tip top shape to enjoy my world and spread happiness to the people around me.
“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” – George Bernard Shaw
The afternoon snack is a very important one. I am usually craving something sweet, but I know it’s absolutely important to stick to the glycemic index at this time – otherwise I’ll crash, become moody, and probably eat some of the candy that is readily available to us teachers. I stick to the roasted nuts and dried fruits I keep in my desk, or, if I’m really on top of it, I eat the energy bites I’ve prepared for myself.
I happened upon this recipe on the blog This Rawsome Vegan Life. It turned out wonderfully! I like that these are raw – cooked produce does lose a lot of it’s nutrients. They are made with cashews, oats, dates and my own addition – chai spices. These were the perfect afternoon snack this past busy week at work. I shared some with my friends,, and these treats got an enthusiastic thumbs up.
The work time on these energy bites is about 30 minutes total, but it’s spread over about 12 hours. I put the cashews in water when I woke up, and then in the evening I processed them and formed them into balls. In the morning I took 10 minutes and glazed them and they were ready to go!
I also really liked these matcha ginger energy bites I made last year.
As always, I love your feedback. Questions and preferences for future post dialogue are always welcome. Wishing you a healthy, happy day!
Maple Chai Energy BitesPrint Recipe
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
4 - 8 hours before preparing, place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Set bowl aside in room temperature.
When you are ready to prepare the "dough", drain cashews. Place cashews, dates, oats, cinnamon, garam masala, salt and vanilla in the food processor. Process into a thick, moist dough - this may take a few minutes. Keep your hand on the processor at first! If it is crumbly, add some more dates. The dough should easily form into balls.
Roll into balls and set on a baking sheet, not touching. Put in the freezer until cold and firm, around 20 minutes, or until the time when you can glaze them.
To make the glaze: melt the coconut oil and syrup together on low heat. Whisk constantly until melted and then turn off the heat. Dip the solid, frozen balls into the glaze, tossing with your hands to cover each one completely. The glaze should harden right away as you place the ball back on the baking sheet.
Put them back in the freezer for a minute until the glaze has hardened, then repeat for 3 coats or until glaze is used up.
Store in the refrigerator. To be eaten cold, not frozen.
These bites can be stored up to 2 weeks in the fridge... if they last that long!