5 Expert Tips (+ 2 Recipes) for Eating Vegan-ish
As much as the word “diet” makes us cringe, sometimes there’s no denying that there’s a lot of junk we probably should stop putting into our bodies. Just look at what American kids are eating at lunch, or how quickly 2,000 calories can go down at a restaurant. But where to begin when it comes to cutting out the bad stuff is the hardest part. So we chatted with our girl Molly Patrick, a Brit + Co contributor and the mastermind behind Clean Food Dirty Girl, for some advice and tips. Patrick dishes on the Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet, which is basically veganism minus anything processed. One reason why we really dig her whole foodie philosophy is because she’s so not the type to preach about hard and fast rules, since diets aren’t one-size-fits-all. In fact, she doesn’t even see WFPB as a diet at all. “The brilliant thing about eating this way is that it’s not a diet, it’s almost an anti-diet. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. That’s it, our body takes care of the rest. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.” ;)
Debunking up a Couple of Myths
Patrick wants to clear up a few common misconceptions. First, protein intake is not a problem when eating vegan or WFPB: “All plants have protein, and some plants are considered a complete protein, like quinoa.” Second, she says, “If you eat a Whole-Food Plant-Based diet and drink lots of water, there is no need to do cleanses. All of the phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber act as a constant cleanse. Your skin will glow, you will lose weight, you will extract toxins and you will have a ton of energy.”
Sound good? Clean Food Dirty Girl is all about gentle guidance into the nutrition and recipes of WFPB, so as a taster, here are Patrick’s top five tips for making the change to clean eating. Oh, and to really whet your appetite, check out two of her delish WFPB recipes, which she says are “shockers (in a good way) to people who aren’t used to eating this way.”
1. Ditch the Oil and Sugar
In addition to cutting out meat and animal products like cheese and eggs, go the extra mile and stop using oil and sugar. “All oil is 100% fat and contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon, leaving it high in calories, low in nutrients and with zero fiber to boot,” she says. As for processed sugar? “It’s a hot mess of trouble. It increases belly fat, damages the heart, has toxic effects on the liver and it prematurely ages our cells.” Normally parting is such sweet sorrow, but with a truth bomb like that? Buh-bye, sugar.
2. Get Your Sweet Fix through Dates
So what’s a dessert-loving, sweet-tooth-craving person to do? Patrick promises that after a bit of time without processed sugar, you will find fruit and raisins just as satisfying. Her awesome trick is to use dried dates as a go-to sweetener for meals. “If you soak a couple of dates in hot water for 10 minutes, take the pit out and then blend them with some water, you’ll have a sweet paste that you can add to all kinds of different things that need a touch of sweet.” Check out our almond date energy balls for your next recipe.
3. Make These Simple, Savory Swaps for Oil
First things first: Get yourself a seasoned cast iron pan or wok and a jar of tahini. After that, Patrick says the swaps are actually quite easy — olives for olive oil, flax seeds for flax oil, fresh coconut for coconut oil, sesame seeds for sesame oil and so on. “You’ll be amazed at all the tasty things you can make, and how much flavor they have on their own without being in oil form.”
4. Stock up on Leafy Greens
It’s called the Whole-Food Plant-Based diet after all, so get those plants in your belly. Patrick’s favorites are kale, collard greens and rainbow chard, but they’re all pretty much equally good for you. “All leafy greens are rock stars and contain lots of phytochemicals, which are plant chemicals that actually repair damaged cells (and a whole lot of other things).” Change them up regularly to keep meals extra fresh.
5. Go Easy on Yourself
This is the “ish” part of eating vegan-ish. One of the standout features of Clean Food Dirty Girl is Patrick’s no-B.S., no-preach approach to healthy eating. “I’m not a fan of guilt. It isn’t productive, no good comes of it and it makes us feel crappy. I think that people should try to ease up and be nicer to themselves.” She’s not afraid to admit that Chinese food is her fave cheat meal, vegan doughnuts are a monthly treat and she’d take wine over too much protein any day, “because, WINE.” Cheers to that!
Mac and Cheese
— 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
— 1 cup carrot, chopped
— 1/4 yellow onion, diced
— 2 cups water plus another 3/4 cup, divided
— 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 10 minutes to 1 hour
— 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
— 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
— 1 teaspoon salt
— 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
— 1 box of gluten-free pasta (brown rice or quinoa pasta are her go-tos)
Instructions for Cheese Sauce
1. Place potato, carrot and onion in a pan, cover with 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.
2. After 20 minutes, add the veggies (and whatever liquid that’s left in the pan) to your blender.
3. Drain the cashews and add them to the blender, along with the nutritional yeast, turmeric, sea salt, garlic powder and the additional 3/4 cup of water.
4. Blend until the sauce is extremely creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes, depending on your blender.
5. You may need to scrape the sides down from the blender a couple of times for everything to get incorporated. Set aside for now.
Instructions for Pasta
1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
2. Strain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking. Return to pan.
3. Turn heat to very low, and pour as much cheese sauce as you want over the pasta. Add black pepper and salt to taste.
*Store whatever cheese sauce you have left over in the fridge and use within 7 days. You can make more mac and cheese or you can just pour it over steamed veggies and nom down.
Brussels Kale Salad with Tahini Ume Dressing
— 3 cups thinly sliced kale
— 3 cups thinly sliced brussels
— 1/4 cup tahini
— 3 dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
— 1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar
— 1/4 cup water
— 1/4 teaspoon salt
— 1 pinch red pepper flakes
— sliced almonds
1. Place the kale and brussels in a large mixing bowl.
2. Make the dressing by adding the tahini, dates (strain from the water and make sure the pit is out if it has one), vinegar, water and sea salt to the blender. Blend until creamy and smooth.
3. Pour the dressing over the kale and brussels and massage with your hands until everything is mixed together.
4. Sprinkle red pepper flakes and sliced almonds on top before you serve.
What Clean Food Dirty Girl recipes are you going to try out this week? Tell us your faves in the comments!