Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jules Clancy of Stonesoup.
Growing up on a sheep farm, eating meat was a big part of life.
It was just what we did.
The first time I heard about vegetarians, I struggled to understand why someone would be crazy enough to stop eating meat. So you can imagine how my first encounter with the concept of veganism left me more than perplexed.
No cheese? Or eggs? How do people survive?
These days I get it.
Reading The Simplest Diet for Lean Fitness recently on Zen Habits, I was inspired by Leo’s commitment to healthy vegan eating. He almost had me convinced to abandon my bacon-loving ways. Almost.
But rather than biting off more than I could chew, so to speak, I’ve decided to take another leaf out of Leo’s book.
I’m starting small by going vegan just one day a week with Meatless Monday. Maybe you could take this first step too?
How To Take The First Steps To A Healthier Diet
1. Don’t over-commit. As with all habit change, the smaller you start out, the more likely you are to succeed. Just try Meatless Monday for a while and take it from there.
2. Do your research. When I went vegetarian for a month last year, I struggled with my energy levels. It was only after consulting a nutritionist friend that I realized I wasn’t getting enough iron or protein. After upping my intake of green leafy veg and chickpeas I was back on track. Healthy eating takes more effort than just cutting out animal products. I can’t stress how important it is to prepare for the change.
3. Seek out simple recipes. Wholesome, delicious food doesn’t need to have an arm-long list of ingredients or take forever to cook. Keep an eye out for simple healthy recipes. They will make your new way of eating even more pleasurable.
4. Use healthful convenience foods. While we’d all love to cook our own beans from scratch and buy our veggies fresh every day, it’s not possible for everyone. There is another way. Canned beans, tomatoes and lentils can be just as nutritious as beans cooked from scratch. Frozen veg like spinach, collard greens and broccoli are another great way to make sure you always have something healthy in the house.
5. Explore your local farmers markets. Getting in touch with where your food comes from is a brilliant way to not only save money, it can keep you inspired and excited about your new way of eating. It’s also a great way to learn about the seasons and how produce naturally varies during the year.
Recipes for a Day of Eating Like Leo
Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats
Breakfast can be difficult if you’re addicted to cereal and milk or yoghurt. These oats are a life saver. They take a little while to cook but are well worth the effort for their creamy soul-satisfying comfort. The cinnamon really brings a big flavour hit and the flax seeds provide one of the best vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
I could eat these oats every day, just varying the accompaniments to keep it interesting. I’ve used frozen blueberries and brazil nuts here. You could substitute in any nut, seed, berry or even bananas, raisins or other fruit.
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 handful brazil nuts
1 handful blueberries
1. Combine oats with 3 cups water, flax seeds and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, or until the oats have thickened.
3. Divide between 2 bowls and top with brazil nuts and berries.
Big-Ass Avocado & Almond Salad
If you prefer to wash your own leaves, please do so. Look for a mix containing kale and spinach if you can, although pretty much all salad greens will be lovely.
Feel free to play around with the accompaniments. Different nuts are a great place to start but you could also add other vegetables such as halved cherry tomatoes, shaved raw fennel or zucchini.
Lemon or lime juice can make a good alternative to balsamic vinegar in the dressing.
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
1 bag prewashed salad leaves
1 small avocado
1 handful raw almonds
1. Combine balsamic with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Toss leaves in the dressing to coat them evenly.
3. Halve avocado lengthwise and remove the stone. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh into little round chunks and arrange over your salad.
4. Scatter with the almonds and dig in!
serves 5 – 6
Loosely based on Leo’s 3 Bean Vegan Chilli, I’ve simplified the recipe to fit my own 5 ingredients philosophy. Feel free to play around with the types of beans you use. They’re all good. A can of lentils or two would be right at home here as well.
The longer you simmer the chilli, the better your flavours will come together. It’s fine after 15 minutes but 30 minutes or a little longer is preferred. It’s also one of those things that improves with age, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch and eat it over a few days. Great for lunches too.
Please use the chilli in the recipe as a guide. If you like it fiery, by all means add more, but remember it’s hard to undo something that’s too hot!
I like to serve in bowls with a green salad. Some wholegrain bread or brown rice would also work well.
2 brown onions, peeled & chopped
2 cans red kidney beans (14oz / 400g each), drained
2 cans black beans (14oz / 400g each), drained
3 cans tomatoes (14oz / 400g each), drained
2 – 4 teaspoons chilli powder
1. Heat a few tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and golden.
3. Coarsely chop one can of red kidney beans and add to the onion.
4. Add remaining whole beans, tomato and chilli powder and bring to a simmer.
5. Cook over a medium high heat, stirring every now and then for 15 minutes or longer if you have the time.
6. Taste and season generously with salt, pepper and possibly a little more chilli.