How I Eat Vegan. (And you can too.)

I wasn't always good at this. The whole healthy vegan eating thing. In fact, to be blunt, I sucked. And not in a fast food, snack foods sort of way. But rather a hey!-which-new-wacky-diet-should-I-try-next way. It took me years to figure out how to truly eat in a way that helped me thrive from the inside out.

Going vegan was a big part of that process for me. But on the flip side, "going vegan" was one of the greatest lifestyle challenges I had ever faced. This was not a trendy 30-day diet plan. This was a forever thing. A, this doesn't just change what is on my plate sort of thing - but a this-changes-my-soul-and-spirit sort of thing.

When it came strictly to my diet. My plate. My meals. Everything I though I had worked so hard (since childhood) to figure out and perfect was flipped upside down and inside out. A new learning process began. And that process never ends.

So in today's post, I answer one of your most-asked questions: How I eat. This post has three parts: 1) On Being Vegan. 2) What I eat on a typical weekday. 3) Rules I Don't Follow.

OH! And for taking the time to read my long post I'll even reward you with a look at my smoothies book cover! Exciting!!!

Take a peek inside my day of eating + habits tips + recipe ideas..

What do YOU eat? One of the most-asked questions I receive from you guys is this: "Kathy, what do you eat? Can you tell me what you eat on a typical day?" Well I understand the curiosity. And while I've never been a "blog what I eat every day" kind of blogger. I understand the interest to discover what everyone else out there (blogger or not) is actually eating from day to day.

We can learn so much from watching one another - observing good (and bad) habits. It makes our internal dialogue go wild...

"I want to eat just like that!"
and "Wow, I would never eat THAT!"

"She looks great, I need to start doing yoga too!" and "Um, NEVER will I drink that much - she is a hot mess.."

Habits. Food. Trends. Recipes. To me, sharing is one of the most interesting ways of learning. Discovering ourselves in the process. But what works for me may not work for you. It is a cliche by now, but so true - we are all different and our bodies needs are so different. But sometimes just checking out what works for someone else can give you a clue, a hint, an idea that leads us in the right direction towards figuring out what does uniquely work for us.

PART ONE On Going Vegan. Eating Rediscovered...

If you are going vegan after a lifetime of eating not-vegan. You are literally flipping your world upside down.

Try my visual on what it is like to go vegan..

Try My Big Box Visualization. Imagine yourself holding a big wooden box. Now fill it to the brim with all the foods you grew up eating and feel familiar with. Everything. If you followed a mainstream diet your menu probably included non-vegan versions of: ice cream, mom's chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, scrambled eggs, pepperoni pizza, birthday cake, pasta with a sprinkle of cheese, buttered toast, kiddie cereal, pancakes, blueberry muffins, coffee and creamer, movie theater popcorn, buttery crust pies and things like like garden salads, stacked sandwiches, milky hot cereal, chicken stock soups, smoothies and more.

..pile it ALL in. Big, overflowing box you have there, right? So many options to eat! No thinking required to grab and go. Secure memories galore. Favorites. After all that childhood time learning how to eat, you really don't have to think much anymore.

Or do you?

Now take that big box and flip it over (pretend you have superman or superwoman muscles and just shake that thing empty.) Now flip the now-empty box back over. Clean slate. Well clean slates are a nice feeling, right? But wait a minute, you feel your tummy growling and you reach inside your box and it is empty.

Great. "What do I eat now??" .. Says the newbie or test-run vegan.

Well the truth is, and you may not like hearing this, but you do need to start all over. Rethink food. Rethink your favorites...

Love burgers? So do I. Sweet Potato Burgers.

Your go-to meals. Your quickie snacks, your protein boosts, your comfort foods and even your dessert cravings. And your journey to veganism starts .... NOW.

And, Fact: You will probably fail. At least once.

I did in the beginning. But failure is just a part of a normal journey towards a vegan lifestyle. Don't let one slip up discourage you. Because, I promise you, you really can live an animal-product-free life. And love it.

Need some proof? Example one: all the ladies I interviewed in my Veggie Girl Power Series. I mean really, does Rory Freedman look like a sad vegan in this photo? I think not..

Example two: ME! I never feel deprived. And at this stage in my journey, I rarely have to even think about figuring out what to eat. I've discovered a box-ful of new favorites and goodies.

I discovered I like to eat THIS..

And THIS..

And old faves can be VEGANIZED. Like pepper jack grilled cheez..

And I don't feel like salads are a compromise. I crave them.. Mango + Avocado + Mac Nut + Arugula Salad..

And eating out as a VEGAN doesn't have to suck (Brunch at Le Pain)..

Epiphany: vegan is the way to live! And a chocolate epiphany pie is yummy to eat..

As a ten-year long vegan I have a VERY FULL BOX of goodies to munch on each and every day. Look at the process of filling your box (re: my visualization above) as an adventure! It is fun! You get to try new foods and rediscover old ones. Just check out my vegan shopping list for a look at some ingredients to try.

And anytime you start thinking "Darn it! This vegan thing is HARD!" Just do what I do .. remember why you started this journey in the first place. For me, it started with love. For fuzzy, furry creatures like this...

PART TWO: What I Eat.

Morning - Bedtime (typical weekday)

8-9AM (and this "wake time" varies greatly) I wake up and reach for water or coconut water. I chug it on an empty stomach to rehydrate. I either go back to bed to 'snooze' do some AM yoga or start working. I wait a good 30-60 minutes to let that liquid absorb into my body. And let my natural AM hunger kick in. I'll be honest, (right now) I rarely 'workout' in the morning during the week (PM exercise is a better bet for me) - but if I have a spurt of energy in the AM I'll embrace it before my main breakfast.

UPDATED! ..My new habit which I LOVE. Drinking my Goji Berry Lemon Tea upon rising. Recipe here. Then I wait about an hour or so for my first real food, aka "breakfast."

930AM Smoothie or oats. Those are my two go-to breakfast meals. I like simple breakfasts that are rich in fiber and hydrating. You will never see me munching on a dry granola bar for breakfast. My typical smoothie is LARGE in size. My latest obsession (if you follow me well) is matcha. This smoothie is my official breakfast of summer 2012 - so green and glorious...

This Banana Berry one is nice too..

And sometimes healthy smoothies - like THIS one - feel like dessert (thank you frozen bananas.)..

Need smoothie recipes?? Boy do I have them! Get info on my book 365 Vegan Smoothies from Penguin/Avery! Details here.

If I'm making oatmeal (or another hot cereal bowl like farro or rice) for breakfast (when I crave something warming and filling / lasting) I will make something like THIS...

I love bowls of oats topped with fruit + nuts + seeds..

I love to use a variety of grains. Farro porridge rocks..

In the cooler months, I'll often crave a latte made from soy or almond milk. I love pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas and even dark chocolate cocoa. Chai has also been a long-time obsession of mine. It helped me kick my coffee addiction for good. Now I only have coffee/espresso lattes on weekends. Usually out at brunch.

My Pumpkin Spice Latte..

Oh, and breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches and pancakes do happen (but usually these are weekend or special day treats)..

More on most mornings" + my 8 breakfast tips.

1030AM More water or coconut water to hydrate. I have a habit of popping papaya enzyme tablets after meals + I love Xylitol-sweetened gum between meals to pounce on any cravings. Chewing gum helps me deal with any nervous or anxious energy I have from a busy morning.

1130AM Snack time. My snacks vary greatly! Call me a fruit monster, I love snacking on fresh fruit - I usually keep some chopped and chilling in my fridge. Like summer peaches, pineapple, papaya, apples, grapes, citrus and more. A light fruit snack gives me an instant energy boost and fills me with some fiber / hydration + vitamins / minerals.

Another fave snack involves NUTS. Nut butters and whole nuts. On a busy day I will garb a handful of walnuts and start munching. Or some nut butter spread on toast. Those healthy fats keep me satisfied through the morning. And sometimes I grab something sweeter in nature - a muffin, maybe a cookie like THIS or even a nibble of a leftover healthy vegan dessert like THIS or THIS. Nibble and back to work.

If I want a cookie, I'll grab a cookie. Like these...

...more water or coconut water drinking.. best habit you can start!

130PM-230PM Depending how busy my day is and how hungry I am - I'll have a light, energizing lunch around this time. And again, this one varies greatly. If I'm not hungry for "lunch" I'll just keep my snacking habits up throughout the day until dinnertime.

But my ideal "lunch" includes something GREEN and something PROTEIN rich. Think leafy greens and beans or re-heated leftover tofu or tempeh from last night's dinner. Or maybe I'll pop a veggie burger in the microwave and eat it bun-free with a salad or some side veggies. Rice and beans are also a lunchtime craving for me.

A light salad paired with protein is a nice lunch. Just don't force feed yourself crap or something less than delicious. Feed yourself something you LOVE..

Miso-dipped Tempeh over kale - or wrapped up - yes that works..

Or some sort of sandwich, flatbread, pita or even bagel topped with fabulous vegan things. Guaca-Mango Bagel..

On chilly, gloomy grey days I reach for a cozy bowl of SOUP. So a few lunchtime examples: THIS and THIS and THIS.

Pea Soup. Homestyle. Yes please..

The key to lunch for me is keeping the nutrients dense and the portions small. I don't like to feel tired after lunch as if I have to plop down and "digest" for a few hours before getting right back to work.

Sometimes lunch just involves nibbling on whatever I am photo-shooting that day. Lucky for me, I certainly don't find it a challenge to get in the kitchen for lunch. But for those who work outside the home / kitchen-adjacent studio (which is most people) a pre-made or brown-bag lunch is essential. A few of my fave pre-made lunches are hand-helds like: THIS and THIS and THIS.

15 Sandwich Truths + my BBQ Tempeh Sandwich HERE..

Grab and eat lunch - vegan cobb salad in jar..

Or make a sandwich in the AM and look forward to it all morning long. Chipotle Tofu Sandwich..

And sometimes I'm just wanting a light SMOOTHIE lunch. And my smoothies vary greatly! I could tell you all 365 of my favorite recipes. But you will have to wait for my smoothie book to come out next spring / summer. For now, browse my index or get my smoothie App. Some of my fave add-ins include chia seeds, aloe vera juice, flax seeds, vegan protein powder (VEGA brand is great), spirulina and matcha.

I will usually take a few vitamins / supplements at lunchtime.

Note: on weekends I usually like to make lunch the largest meal of the day - instead of weekdays when dinner is usually the largest. Maybe a Sprout Sandwich making session. Or a Cali Club..

...more water drinking...

430PM Snack time. Again. If lunch was light, as it usually is - I end up wanting more snacks in a few hours. I'll usually indulge a craving. Or stick to something salty. I love soy crisps, kale chips, rice crackers. Salty snacks always inspire me to drink more water or coconut water - which again - is a great thing. Check out my Healthy Desk-Side Snacks.

Kale Chips. Spicy. Cheezy.

Other healthy snacks include hummus + veggies, non-dairy yogurt, homemade bars or muffins, fruit, more veggies, chilled edamame beans + tamari, avocado on toast + chili salt, nuts and more.

If I'm planning on an evening workout - tennis with my husband is my favorite choice - I will eat something a bit more carb-heavy to fuel up.

6-7PM Working ends (usually) and I either run evening errands or even better - WORK OUT. Tennis please! Long walks are also very nice. Anything to get me out of my studio space. Or if I'm doing a fancy dinner - I call "making dinner" my PM workout. Cooking is totally worthy of 'workout status.' This Pineapple Fried Quinoa sure was (hollowing out a pineapple = cardio)..

7-8PM Dinner. Dinner almost always includes a colorful big salad or some sort. My dinner salads are usually the vehicle to serve more substantial dishes like tofu, tempeh, grains, beans and more. I just plate them right on top of my salad in one big beautiful bowl. Macro Bowls are pretty fantastic...

Mexi-Chopp Salad

Fully Loaded Salads are my thing..

And if I'm skipping a salad - veggies always fit in somewhere. As a roasted, steamed or sauteed veggies side...

Like here in my Sumac Tofu plate. Tofu + Red Quinoa + Veggies = yes dinner..

I also love sides of soup at dinner. Lentil or pea soups pack a nice protein punch. Brothy soups are warming and hydrating.

My main-course-worthy Veggie Pasta Stew..

I also adore a baked sweet potato at dinnertime. Fully loaded too.

I usually like a side of bread or crackers with my soup or salad. Sprouted grain toast or tamari sesame rice crackers are my faves.

And light dinners are also nice. Summer Bagels..

I also love hot comfort style dinners. Mexican tacos and enchiladas, lasagna, pot pies, pasta, rice bowls, veggie burgers and more are all delicious vegan dinners. There are simply too many favorites to mention - so browse the entree part of my recipe index. OK, and THIS (homemade vegan pizza) recipe always makes me excited for dinner...

I usually try not to drink too much liquid with dinner. I sip. Helps my digestion, but again, everyone is different. A good hour or so after dinner I will usually chug some coconut water before bed or if it is cold outside, peppermint or bedtime tea lattes make me swoon.

Do I indulge? Oh yes. I do. Blueberry Cake...

I used to be a "must-eat-dessert-after-every-dinner" girl. Sweet tooth baby. A vegan cookie. Bowl of vegan ice cream. Slice of pie. Perfect cookie...

But lets face it, that is not the best habit to keep. So I am constantly trying to stomp my sugar cravings post-meal. I use my "chew-xylitol-gum" technique when needed. Otherwise, I just go for it and indulge.

Perfect logic: If you really want the chocolate cream pie. Eat the chocolate cream pie...

And when dining out, I usually indulge. I really can't visit Veggie Grill without splitting a vegan chocolate chip cookie with my husband, or a vegan cupcake from Native Foods. Or a Mallomar from Pure Food and Wine. Or chocolate Cake from GoBo. You get the picture. Life is too short to even try...

And the best part about my sweet tooth is the fact that vegan desserts are usually pretty darn healthy. So while they do add calories to my day - they usually include even more nutrients from ingredients like cacao powder, nuts, soy milk, grains and more.

Ch Ch Ch Chia Cheesecake + healthy blueberry sauce..

Pumpkin Pudding
- healthy!..

As mentioned above, my bedtime includes sips of either water, coconut water or bedtime tea. I kind of love Sleepytime Tea (box w/ the cute bear + kitty snoozing on his lap) with a splash of vanilla soy milk, cinnamon and a tablespoon of maple syrup. And my day ends on a calm, quiet note.

Now that is a GOOD day. I'm certainly not perfect and have no desire to make you think I am. Sometimes I blow it. To many snacks, too many second helpings, too little water or too much sugar or caffeine. Or sometimes I let my blood sugar dip too low and boom = grumpy + starving! Bad combo.

And when I 'eat too much' it is not even that I eat bad stuff (lets face it, vegan food - even the decadent stuff - is pretty angelic compared to mainstream indulgences) but sometimes I do eat too much of those yummy things. Oh well. Life goes on and my body usually re-balances itself in a day or two.

Indulging is a part of my balanced freestyle vegan life. Because vegan cinnamon buns do happen..

TROUBLESHOOTING. Overeating - how to not do it? My best tip is one I call my "visualize and move on" approach. If I am going into a meal with a lot of yummy options I like to visualize exactly what I want to eat - portions and such. This way I can use my brain to stop myself once I know I've eaten enough. Since this can be hard to do sometimes, I always have a "move on" game plan. This involves having something to "move on" to after the meal is over. At dinnertime this is usually some good reality DVR'd tv or a good book, PM yoga or simply, bed + Zzzzzing. At lunchtime I usually have a set plan to 'move on' to specific work I am eager to get started on after lunch. Or maybe some play time with your favorite furry friend like my kitty cat Nelly - or like Nelly, maybe a sunbeam snooze is your after-meal delight..

Just remember to move on with your plans. And stop eating when you have fueled yourself. Remember the feeling of fullness usually take a few minutes to kick in so eating slowly can also help. Remember, you are eating to fuel your body to do the things it loves to do!

PART THREE: Rules I Don't Follow

* Counting Calories Nutrition info is useful - yes! But I don't work towards a number of calories per day, rather a feeling of being fueled and satisfied. Numbers don't tell you anything about how you feel.

* Banning Foods. OK, so yes vegan diets omit all animal products. But in general, I don't like to say I "can't" eat something vegan. Better plan: watching my portion sizes.

* Carb Counting. I love carbs. I thrive on carbs. Fruit, grains, starches like sweet potatoes - some of my favorite foods are CARBS. The high protein, low carb diet thing (tried it.) didn't work for me.

White flour bread bowl in all its glory. Vegan Clam Chowder in a Carb-Bowl...

My FAVORITE carb. Sweet potatoes. I love them STUFFED too.

* Low Fat Dieting. Low fat. Shmo Fat. I kind of love healthy fats for a few reasons. 1) When I eat them I am much better at controlling my hunger + I stay satisfied longer. 2) Fats in the form of vegan foods are usually loaded with nutrients like omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Avocados, walnuts, seeds, nut butters and even oil in moderation. I've tried the "afraid of fat" thing and it only led me to trouble. More on my fat-phobia in this post.

Would you like some espresso with your full fat coconut whip?..

* Rules. Following rules is not really one of my rules. Wait, what? .. OK so basically - not really into rules. In life or in my diet. Some of my best decisions in life could be described as 'breaking the rules.'

Eating for me, follow the signals from my body .. not a rule book. I'll gladly eat salad for breakfast, eat dessert for lunch and chug a smoothie for dinner. I really like the "everything in moderation" saying. I tweak it to say "Everything (vegan) in moderation." However, I do find much comfort in having a routine. So in short, rules suck, guidelines and routines are fab. I embrace a freestyle vegan kind of diet.

Seagull flying over the ocean kind of freestyle..

And while I most definitely will be vegan for life, I understand that my body is always changing and the foods and healthy habits that work for me today may not be what my body craves and thrives from tomorrow. Who knows, I could HATE my matcha shakes next week. OK, Not likely :)

Enjoyed this? Hope so! But interestingly, I did not just do this post for you guys. I did it for me! It is always a smart idea to keep a journal or write down your ideal day of food. Then note what you actually eat as well. It may sound simple, but it can really help you maximize your awareness of what goes into your body - where you are succeeding and where some nutritional holes may be. It also lets you know just how far away or close you are to reaching your nutrition GOALS!

And reaching goals = feeling good. And right NOW, I'm feeling pretty good about things.

So that is ME. Now I want to hear from YOU! Sharing rocks. So please, if you have time, I'd love to hear how your ideal day of vegan eating goes - comment away! And obviously, you don't have to be as long-winded as me :) Or add any comments you have on my day or food.

And for reading this loooong post - I will now offer up a tasty visual treat. A sneak peek at my Penguin Group / Avery smoothie book cover! So exciting for me!..

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