I have heard over and over again from multiple sources that life is just a collection of habits. In other words, it’s the little things you do habitually that determine the outcome of your life. Being kind to other people on a regular basis tends to make you kind. Thinking little happy thoughts throughout the day tends to make you a happy person. Picking up a little bit every day makes it easier to keep the house clean (Though I’m the first to admit to requiring a serious cleaning session from time to time when things get out of hand!). Nonetheless, the more regularly you do something, the more automatic it becomes.
As kids we’re taught to say please and thank you, brush our teeth, and wash our hands before leaving a restroom. Once you’ve done it over and over again, you start to do it without even having to think about it any more. I’m sure most of you plop into a seat in the car and automatically reach for the seat belt, or check your mirrors reflexively before backing out of a parking space. It becomes so routine it’s not remotely challenging for you any more.
The same can be true of eating healthy! I often get comments about how hard it must be to eat the way that I do. The truth is that it was hard at one time. I had to think about it. A lot! I had to get creative and focus and learn. But that’s ancient history now. The foods I eat are so simple, and my new habits are so formed, it’s no longer challenging nor requires great effort. My greatest tip for people new to plant based eating are to KEEP IT SIMPLE! You don’t have to learn how to make cashew based cheese in your kitchen, or make a veggie lasagne every night in order to eat healthy. Simply start with the foods that you’re already familiar with that happen to be plant based, and repeat them over and over again.
For lunch most days I have a salad and soup.
For dinner I usually have cooked veggies with brown rice.
This may sound boring at first glance but I assure you there are so many veggies, grains, salad ingredients, and sauces out there that you’ll never get bored even following this simple plan to a T. Oh, and I’ve discussed quantities in previous posts, so I won’t go into great detail here but remember that these foods have far less calories than animal based foods, so you need to eat a lot more than you may be used to in order to avoid dropping weight too quickly! Sure I mix in quinoa pizza, a baked potato bar night, Guilt Free Waffles for breakfast, or taco casserole every once in a while but for the most part our meals are generally simple and easy to prepare. This is ESSENTIAL to success in the long term.
If this still feels impossible, here’s a quick checklist to help you get started.
- Make a list of 5-6 of your favorite veggies. I like zucchini, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and a medley I get at Sam’s Club that has broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.
- Have a potato party to find your favorite spud. Japanese sweet potatoes are my favorite sweet, and Yukon golds are my favorite white potatoes but there are dozens of varieties.
- Make a list of your favorite grains – brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc
- Make a list of beans and legumes that you tend to enjoy
- Learn a couple sauces that work for you. This may be the most challenging part, but it too is rather simple. Seek out a few recipes, try one new one a week til you find a couple favorites, then rotate them periodically.
- WRITE THESE THINGS DOWN!
- Hang up your chart in your kitchen or pantry and reference it whenever you need inspiration. You can list some favorite meals there too if that helps.
When it comes time for meal planning, check your list then mix and match. Pick a grain, a veggie or two, some legumes, and a sauce. You don’t have to have each of these things at every meal like you may have heard. Nutrient combining is pretty outdated as we’ve learned more about how our bodies can store nutrients. But you’ll be hungry if you’re only eating veggies, and you’re likely to feel bored if you’re only eating grains. Combining veggies, grains, and legumes is likely to help you feel satisfied and full.
Keep healthy food prepped and ready to use.
I can’t stress this enough. Your hungry brain will eat whatever food it has available, and it’ll usually choose the most calorically dense food available. If you don’t have healthy choices at the end of your fingertips, just forget about eating healthy. It’s just not going to happen!
As a result, you will almost always find the following in my fridge:
- Cooked veggies – green beans, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts
- Cooked rice/quinoa
- Chopped salad (more on this in an upcoming post)
- Fruit that is washed and cut up in ready to grab pieces
- Some kind of veggie and starch soup
These things can be done all in one day, once or twice a week. Make it a habit to spend a little bit of time brainstorming a simple menu and prepare some food in advance. It will save you loads of time trying to reinvent meals on the spot and you will undoubtedly make healthier choices.