What Do Vegan Families Eat?

Posted on May 13, 2010

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It is hard for most people to imagine any other way of eating than what they are familiar with. Often, upon hearing that I am a vegan parent, I am asked the question “What do you eat?” My usual response is to say, “Pretty much the same things you eat, only without the animal products.”

The easiest way to improve any diet is to keep things as familiar as possible.

The way to do this is to continue to eat the same types of foods except that you simply replace the unhealthy portions with healthier ones. For example: if your family likes fettuccini Alfredo, make it with a tofu cream sauce instead of dairy products. Or if you like meat on your sandwiches use some of the faux meats that are found in the produce aisle at most large grocery stores. Just make sure that 10 to 20% of your daily intake is protein and that you take a multivitamin daily. (See blog entry on nutritional vegan eating for more nutritional information.)

Many vegans and vegetarians are great cooks. There are numerous websites, books and videos with delicious recipes available to choose from. I am not a gifted cook and I don’t spend a lot of time preparing meals, so I keep things as simple and healthy as possible. My aim is to prepare the healthiest foods presented in the tastiest way while using the least effort on my part. It sounds like a lofty goal, but I have dialed in a few things that seem to work for my family and have learned some from friends. Here are some suggestion starters:

Breakfast:

  • Hot or cold whole grain cereals such as oatmeal, granola or even regular cereals in boxes depending on the level of sugar you want your child to consume. Can be eaten with soy/rice/almond/oat/hemp or other non-dairy milk of your preference.

  • Bagels, whole grain toast, English muffins, or any other healthy baked goods item along with vegan margarine (there are several brands out there, we particularly like Earth balance) and/or jam and peanut butter.

  • Smoothies made from fresh fruits, juices and with vegan protein powder added. I also like to add some flax oil to make sure that we get the healthy omega 3 and 6 fats for brain and heart health.

  • Tofu scrambles made with fresh veggies, nutritional yeast flakes or vegan-based cheese alternative.

Light Meals:

  • Whole grain bread with

o Peanut butter and jelly

o Vegan mayonnaise (the best I have found is “Follow Your Heart” which is found in health food stores) and faux meats, avocado, slices of baked tofu and veggies on it

o Hummus or any other kind of bean dip with veggies

o Grilled cheese alternative with tomatoes or other veggie

  • Miso soup with pasta or cubed tofu

  • Salad with a protein source of garbanzo/kidney/other beans, peas, cubed tofu, sunflower seeds, etc.

  • Hummus or other bean dip served with slices of pita bread/whole grain crackers and veggies

  • Firm tofu cubes with soy sauce drizzled over it (my child’s favorite)

Heavier Meals:

  • Hearty soups made with a vegetable base, beans or soy milk, barley, quinoa, lentils, etc.

  • Vegan sushi

  • Stir Fry with tofu or other faux meat over rice of your choice

  • Pasta with tomato/vegan pesto/soy cream sauce

  • Veggie pizza with cheese alternative

Snacks and Sweets:

  • Any and all kinds of fruit and veggies

  • Whole grain crackers with hummus/bean spread/cheese alternative

  • Refried beans with chips

  • Quesadillas with cheese alternative

  • Guacamole and chips

  • Smoothies

  • Whole fruit gelato/sherbert

  • Vegan cookies/brownies/baked goods

I used to believe that I needed to serve a variety of dishes each week, thinking people somehow need a wide range of foods to choose from. I have since learned differently; we do just fine eating the same, healthy dishes that work well for our taste, budget and lifestyle. Every so often one of us gets tired of something so we simply replace it with a dish that is equally nutritious.

There are so many healthy protein sources including beans, nuts and whole grains to choose from that it is easy to keep a balanced diet at hand. I would suggest taking out some vegan books from the library and/or check out some good vegan websites.

**If you are serious about changing your family’s diet, hang in there. It is said that it only takes 21 days for a new pattern to become habit. Eating habits run deep but tastes can change.  Try different replacement items. Not all soy milks taste the same. Make it fun to discover new textures and flavors for a more peaceful diet transformation.

(This list may be added to with new ideas from time to time, so you may want to check back periodically.)

Photo courtesy of Corel

© Jill Powers and The Feel Good Vegan 2010.

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