Labels can be meaningless. There has to be a common understanding as to what the labels mean and only when they are communicated to someone who is thinking along the same lines are they worthy of distinction from each other. For instance lunch, dinner and brunch tend to refer to the time of day that we enjoy a meal, but the lines between the mealtimes are heavily blurred. Can you have brunch at 2pm, lunch at 3:30pm while someone else has their dinner at 1pm?
So does it refer to the size of the meal or the options on a menu. Most people won’t have a sandwich for dinner. Unless it’s called a ‘steak sandwich and chips’ or make that sandwich circular and call it a burger. Now it’s a proper dinner!? – Confusing! The same can be said for the blurred lines between our dietary preferences. Vegetarian, Vegan, Fruitarian, Raw Til 4, Paleo, Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian, Frappacino-Latte-Caramel…ian.
I don’t believe in shouting and screaming about my dietary preference being Vegan or telling everyone that they should eat Raw til midday or 4 if they can hack it or that meat eaters are cold-blooded killers. 🙂 What I do tend to shout about are the numerous reasons people thrive on a plant-based diet and the extraordinary health benefits that happy healthy eating brings.
I also don’t like insisting on naming specific exclusions to our diet because in fact, once we begin to incorporate plant-based nutrition into our day-to-day living and lifestyle, we focus more on the new and exciting dietary inclusions/expansions. The things we have incorporated since beginning a plant-based revolution have led us to discover a host of other ‘healthy/alternative’ foods that bring us so much goodness every day. When you begin buying Brazilian tree-ripened Papaya from the fruit market and top it with banana and Iranian Dates for your daily breakfast, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
However despite my proclamations above, I am writing this article to show how we eat so that those wishing to change their life style can eat in a more rounded, nutritional live-giving energetic way.
So what DO we eat? Here’s our own inverted food pyramid:
An abundance of Fruits: papayas, mangos, bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, cranberries, etc
SO many vegetables: kale, carrots, lettuce, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc
Tubers and starch vegetables: SWEET potatoes, yams, butternut squash, corn, potatoes (roosters, new all varieties), pumpkin, etc
Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, kidney beans, cannellini, black beans, black eyed beans, adzuki beans, red lentils, etc
Whole grains: amaranth, brown rice, barley, oats, millet, quinoa, buckwheat etc
Teas: fresh mint, lemon, lime, thyme, rose hip, fresh nettle leaves, etc
We never feel deprived in any way. Our ‘diet’ does not involve eating only fruit and vegetables, although the more fruit and veg the merrier. What can be made from super fresh ingredients from the shelves of the above pyramid are amazing. For example Sweet Potato fries, vegetable Lasagne, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Adzuki Bean Burgers, Thai rice Noodles, Lima Bean Soup, Chickpea stew, Black Bean and Rice Burritos, Polenta veggie Curry, and Spicy French Fries, Kale chips, Apple Oat crumble, Houmous, tahini Fudge, raw Cheeescake to name a few.
We don’t live on salads and refuse ourselves dessert – nothing could be further from the truth. We eat whole plant based filling meals. In the summer we eat way more fruit and have delicious whole-fruit smoothies and nice cream (frozen banana blended with dates) throughout the day. During the Irish winter we are drawn to our root vegetables and darker leafy green curries that sustain us and warm us.
We need to rid ourselves of the idea that the dinner plate must be based around meat. We have been taught (read ‘sold by ad-agencies’) that our best source of protein is meat, best source of calcium is dairy, best Omega 3 is fish and so on. And in some ways I blame the wholesale companies that sell Fruit and Veg as much as I blame the dairy councils of the world.
Why can’t someone please tell the world that all of the essential amino acids can be found in a daily diet of vegetables.
The ‘Need protein in every meal’ way of thinking is misguided and has caused serious harm to human health.
In fact the quest for protein, for example, has steered us toward consumption of animal protein in vast vast quantities. Meat with every meal is not enough. We now have to take 4-5 spoonfuls of Whey (read ‘the crap from the floor of your local cheese manufacturer) mixed with milk/water before heading to the gym to beat up on our self-esteem. In this quest, we not only consume protein in excess of our needs, but also dietary cholesterol and dangerous hormones that are only present in animal foods.
If we are choosing a well varied amount of plant based foods, we can very easily meet our nutrient requirements on a daily basis and there is no need for fear mongering. Choosing foods that are tasty and provide nutrients is very simple to do.
What to expect?
Prepare to sleep better, avoid colds/flus, look and feel lighter, watch allergies disappear, have better or more regular bowel movements and discover foods you may never have eaten that really agree with you. Not to mention avoid toxic chemicals, eg heavy metals, antibiotics and carcinogens contained in fish and meat – in short: Prepare to feel better about yourself by eating more (and better).
If these weren’t enough good reasons to substitute the food that makes you feel bad, think about all the animal’s lives you would be sparing –Then think about the pollution you would be preventing – agricultural activities that cause pollution include confined animal facilities, pesticide spraying, irrigation, fertilizing. Runoff from farmlands is one of the greatest threats to water quality today.
The easy way to see if you are eating well is stick to
eating the rainbow – notice the colour of foods on your plate – have bright beetroot, different coloured peppers, yellow mango, green kale leaves, orange butternut squash – If are you eating lots of colours, then you’re on the right track.
A well-rounded diet (a vegan one if you are up for it) will provide a healthy mixture of complex carbs, protein and healthy fats, as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber.
If you are having trouble thinking about what to eat there are tonnes of spectacular websites out there with so many delicious and tasty options and I hope to continue to post menu ideas on this website. I think banana ice cream (the one I adapted from this Rawsome Vegan Life and Susan Jane’s kitchen) has got to be the nicest ice cream I have ever tasted in my life. My previously carnivorous husband agrees!
Do not let your life’s script or your menu be decided by someone else. Take the power to choose your own path. Choose to eat well now, it is never too late to start to nourish your body and your mind by eating foods that are fresh, organic, clean and good for you.
After a while of eating like this, you will begin to feel the clarity in your mind, your increased energy levels throughout the day and your overall improved health. You will tune into what your body needs and when. This is often why I do not stick rigidly to breakfast lunch and dinner and will often just eat when I am hungry. This works well for me and it usually means I eat little and often and mostly plants. I think this is the way we were made to eat, get our nourishment regularly and thrive.
Best of luck if you are just starting out, feel free to comment, ask questions or let me know what you find most nourishing at the moment.
As for me I am off to have tapenade on pumpernickel bread with ripe slices of avocado sprinkled with chilli flakes, salt pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Yum.