What Should I Eat? Step 1: Train Your Palate
If you've gained weight during Covid, you're not alone. For many people, there has been an average of 1.5 pounds per month of weight gain during lockdown. This is no doubt due to turning to 'comfort food' during these stressful times.
Like most people, I had stressful moments with family and work. When Covid forced me to work remotely, I was suddenly home with 2 teenagers cooking mac and cheese and corn muffins on the regular. Fortunately, I had learned how to manage my eating issues way before the pandemic hit. For that reason I was able to maintain my healthy eating habits and not gain any weight.
Dealing with difficult situations can throw any diet off the rails. But you can train your palate to enjoy whole foods that are delicious and nutritious without packing on unwanted pounds.
That's the magic of living the plant based lifestyle. It's a sustainable diet that will get you through living with teenagers, junk food, and a pandemic. Because once you learn to eat the right foods you enjoy, you can maintain your weight and stay healthy long term.
My husband asked me recently, "If you were stuck on a desert island what is the one food you could not live without?" His answer, pizza! Mine? My green smoothie!
There are no short cuts.
When I decided to go plant based, I was spending hours in the kitchen testing recipes and preparing foods that my husband and I would enjoy. I wanted to find perfect meals that tasted as good as chicken parmesan, pasta bolognese, cheese, and eggs. But I soon realized there is no such thing. What I learned was, we must first learn how to appreciate whole foods so that we can have a healthier relationship with all foods. During the transition, Instead of giving in to cravings, I would eat rice, potatoes and oatmeal to fill the void. I also ate salads, beans, lentils, fruit, tofu and eliminated all oils, fats and anything processed. I found some great recipes in the beginning, which helped me transition. Eventually, my palate started to adjust. After a while eating foods that were not plant based, with lots of oil and fat, didn't taste as good anymore.
Today my meals are much more simple because I don't need to make anything taste like (fill in the blank). I've learned to love eating a variety of healthy foods just as they are. And I have also learned how to make it as simple as possible, without spending hours in the kitchen.
But where do you get your protein?
The most common question I get asked since eating a plant based diet. Where do you get your protein? The truth is we don't need that much protein. Most adults need .08 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Most of the foods we eat already have protein, including vegetables and carbohydrates. The only time you should keep track of your protein is after you've achieved you weight loss goal through a well balanced, plant based diet. Then you can start figuring out how many carbs, proteins and fats your body needs to stay active and feed your workouts. But if you're trying to get healthy, lose weight and keep it off, your primary goal should be to conquer your food issues.
The fat you eat is the fat you wear.
If you're overweight, you've been eating too much of the wrong foods. Or your metabolism has slowed down because you're not eating enough of the right foods. It's that simple. You have to conquer your food issues before you can get to healthy. Because if you don't figure that part out, you will always struggle with your weight and it will be difficult to get a healthy and fit body.
My suggestion is start eating whole foods. Fill your plate with green vegetables, eat a variety of salads. Eat beans, lentils, and quinoa. Eat potatoes, rice, oatmeal. Eat some fruit. Consume as much as these foods until your're comfortably full. Do this for an entire month. Eliminate dairy, sugar, all oils and anything processed. There are plenty of plant based recipes on line to choose from (see some of my favorite recipes below). Eating plant based can be as easy as eating a bowl of white rice, black beans, salsa, guacamole and lettuce. This practice will change your palate and allow you to detox. Your body will be getting everything it needs and you will be reprogramming your brain to not crave foods with sugar, salt and fat to be satisfied. Even during a pandemic.
It's really that simple. You don't have to juice for 7days to "cleanse", you don't need to eat soup for 30 days, you don't have to starve yourself for 30 days. Just good, clean, wholesome food.
After 30 days, I promise you, you won't think these foods are boring or bland. You will crave salads, vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates. Do you know there are 4,000 varieties of potatoes? Try a different potato every week and pick your favorite (not french fries!). Mine happens to be Japanese sweet potatoes.
Here's what foods you should eat for 30 days to change your palate:
Cold Cereal such as Ezekiel Cereal, Engine 8, No sugar added
Pancakes – whole wheat, buckwheat, corn flour, etc. No oil, dairy or eggs.
Bean and legumes
Whole grain breads
Tofu and other natural soy products
Nuts and seeds (unless you have weight to lose then avoid for 4 weeks)
Avocados (go easy on the avocados as they are high in fat)
Salt and spices
Here's what foods to avoid:
Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, deer, buffalo, etc.
Poultry: Chicken, Turkey, duck. Etc.
Fish: Salmon, tuna, trout, perch, etc.
Shellfish: Lobster, shrimp, crab, etc.
Eggs: Chicken, goose, duck, ostrich, etc.
Milk: Cow, goat, sheep, camel, etc.
Cheese: Cow, goat, sheep, camel, etc.
Butter or Margarine
Fake Meats and cheeses: Hot dogs, sausages, burgers, lunch meats and nondairy cheeses.
Here's a look at the 10 items that are staples in my kitchen to make healthy eating easy.
Rice Cooker. We have a rice cooker and it has cooked rice in it five to six days out of the week. We eat rice almost everyday. It's easy, filling and delicious.
Beans and Lentils. We always have canned beans on hand. Black beans, garbanzo beans and lentils. All are great with potatoes and rice or tossed in a salad.
I make baked potatoes on Mondays and eat them all week. I prefer Japanese sweet potatoes and we eat them for lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast!
Buy mixed salad greens in bulk and either meal prep the salads in advance or have your favorite additions handy to throw together. Cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, olives, hearts of palm, avocado are all some of our current favorites.
Fat free salad dressing. Prepare fat free salad dressing in advance and keep in the refrigerator. Here's the recipe for one of my favorite fat free dressing (link).
Oatmeal. We love oatmeal. My husband and I eat it 6 - 7 days a week. Oatmeal with berries and a sprinkle of cinnamon is a simple nutritious breakfast to fill you up and give you energy all day.
Smoothies. I used to have a smoothie for breakfast every day for the better part of 4 years. I love them and never tire of them. Here is the recipe my favorite smoothie (link)
High speed spender. I love Vitamix and use it for smoothies, protein shakes, sauces, and soups.
Food processor. I love my KitchenAid food processor for making vegan meatballs, veggie burgers, and muffins.
Juicer. When Spring arrives I drag my juicer out of winter hybernation and make green juice 3 -5 days a week. They are delicious and very refreshing. Here's the juice. The Breville juicer is a great brand and the pieces come apart for easy clean up.
Here are some of my favorite plant based recipes:
General Tso's Tofu stir fry. This is so delicious! I eat it with jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. You can also sub spinach for the broccoli and it's just as good.
2. Shepherds Pie. This is filled with delicious vegetables, protein and carbs. Add a salad and you have a nutritious and complete meal. The entire pie can feed 2 people for 3 days!
3. Vegan Gluten-free Corn Flour Pancakes! These are incredibly soft and tender and taste like a super soft cornbread. They are made without any eggs, are oil-free and dairy-free and just 6 ingredients!
4. Plant Based Meatballs. This recipe was inspired by Chloe Coscarelli from her book Chloe Flavor. These meatballs are delicious in naan bread, with rice, or pasta.
5. Lentil Soup. I love to make lentil soup and eat it all week. I let it cook a bit longer so it's gets thick and more of a "stew". It's tasty, filling and the perfect addition to a plant based meal. The recipe is from Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet.
6. Edible Cookie Dough. These are little globs of deliciousness. Everyone in my house loves them and they disappear very quickly! They make a great snack.