As I approach the conclusion of my 30 Day Whole Foods Plant Based Immersion the most frequent question I get has far and away been WHAT DO YOU EAT!? (A close second is BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN!?)
No, I do not eat raw veggies, salads or fruit all day. And, YES, I absolutely get enough protein.
I am too big of a foodie to have made it 30 days eating this way without falling in love with the food that I am eating. These 30 days have made me a believer that you can indeed eat to live and still love to eat. Because of that I have no plans to stop eating this way anytime soon.
I have more energy than I have had in years, I’m sleeping better than ever, I feel lighter, my clothes fit much looser (I am not weighing myself intentionally but I know I have lost weight), I have better stamina, better mental clarity and focus, and I even feel much more flexible because I have less inflammation.
Oh, and I NEVER have cravings for meat, cheese or any fatty meals. I hardly can believe I just typed that myself, but it’s true. I often feel full, and I have zero food anxiety–when I am hungry I simply eat without having to count calories or macronutrients likes carbs or protein. For the first time in as long as I can remember I am actually in tune with my body.
People think going plant based whole foods (vegan) must be an incredible act of willpower. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have done my fair share of diets. I know what it’s like to dig deep and stay the course because you decided to or feel like you should (not because you want to). But, I actually want to eat this way because I feel so good. I have been around people eating pizza, fried chicken, burger, ribs, you name it. There was not a drop of willpower exerted in order to stick to eating this way. I just didn’t desire it. That continues to blow my mind and goes against everything I have experienced in my life.
I think what it comes down to is I’ve swapped my cravings for meat and dairy for a craving to feel better.
I know. This all sounds like some crazy sales pitch. I swear I am not getting paid by your local farmer’s market to say this stuff. A few weeks back I asked a local health coach and 30 year veteran of plant based eating (who actually beat cancer eating this way) why everyone in the plant based community was so friendly and passionate about freely sharing recipes, articles and documentaries. “We all feel so good we just want to pay it forward,” she said.
Nearly 30 days in and I see what she means. So this is my attempt to pay it forward and share the amazing recipes and local restaurants I’ve discovered along my whole foods plant based journey. I hope this inspires someone to consider giving this a shot. I am so glad I did.
Full Disclosure: I am a Licensed Psychotherapist, not a MD, Dietician or Nutritionist. I don’t consider myself a health expert. That’s why I hired plant based coach Sharon McRae to be my guide. I highly recommend having a coach to help you with your immersion. Having someone that is reviewing your meals, sending recipes, giving you feedback and encouragement has been truly invaluable! Many of these recs are thanks to Coach Sharron!
The Fab Five
These recipes are in a class of their own. I am still a foodie at heart and in order for me to have been this in love with plant based eating I had to be able to get fired up about food. The first week it’s easy to be scared about what you’ll eat. So just take my advice and make batches of this stuff. You won’t feel the slightest bit deprived and you’ll experience the immediate positive effects of plant based eating.
Big Bean Soup
I could eat this stuff daily. I love the thick and hearty texture of this stew like soup. Throw this in the InstantPot and add it to your first week of meal prep. You won’t be disappointed.
Recipe from Forks Over Knives : Here
Butternut Squash and Quinoa Chili
The first weekend of my 30 day immersion happened to be the NFL’s opening weekend. I had the guys over and during the games I was meal prepping this chilli in the other room. In between vegan jokes the guys smelled the aroma coming from the kitchen so I offered them a sample of the finished product. Minutes later they were scraping their bowls asking about where they could watch Forks Over Knives. Hours later one of my friend’s wives was texting asking for the recipe. This stuff is no joke!
Recipe from Healthy Girl’s Kitchen: Here
Mushroom Marinara over Grain of Your Choice
My first week I wore this recipe out. I made a big batch of marinara sauce from scratch (or bought fat free marinara from the store) and then added to the sauce as many mushrooms as I could chop up–cremini, baby bella, and even portobellos. I poured this big batch of mushroom marinara sauce over the grain of my choice. Early on it was polenta at nearly every meal. It was filling, very tasty and so easy to heat up. Eventually my coach talked me into subbing quinoa, wild rice or millet. The result? Same amazing taste but even better feeling afterwards.
Baked Falafel with Tzatziki Sauce
I couldn’t leave the falafel off the Mount Rushmore. Chickpeas are a huge staple of the plant based diet and everyone loves a filling meal that’s dunkable in sauce. Lucky for us this recipe is free of oil and full of flavor.
Recipe from Straight Up Food: Here
Easy Grillable Black Bean Burgers
This past weekend I hung out with my family. Luckily I was three weeks into my immersion because I didn’t bat an eye at the feast of ribs, mac and cheese, baked goods and everything else you could imagine. Before I headed out to the family BBQ I threw these patties together and then brought them with me so I could throw them on the grill. This recipe immediately sparked up conversation about plant based eating and once again made some believers out of family members.
Recipe from Minimalist Baker: Here
You are going to want to make sure you have these one’s on hand just about every week. They’re some of the cornerstones to the Whole Foods Plant Based way of life. What’s more you can eat them weekly and not get sick of them.
After years of low carb diets I avoided fruit like the plague. It’s sad to say, but during my 30 day immersion I ate more fruit in 30 days then I probably have in the past 5 years combined. When you reset your body by eating this way fruit tastes incredible. It didn’t take long for me to realize fruit was my energy food! I always had a piece of fruit on hand for in between sessions if I got hungry.
You can get your fresh fruit anywhere but with all the local farmer’s markets I recommend going to one weekly spot and finding the best fruit. We now have a local farm stand that we buy our fruit from weekly. It’s pretty cool to go back every week and pick up what’s seasonal. Not to mention one gigantic bag is the cheaper than the price of two Chipotle burrito bowls and lasts me the entire week.
Oat Groat with Fresh Fruit and Mixed Nuts
See, you get to learn a new word, and type of food, that I guarantee you’ve never heard of–oat groat. It’s just fun to say–so much so that it’s even got thrown in the rotation of the many affectionate nicknames that I have for my son.
So why not just eat oatmeal you ask? Okay, I was the one that actually asked that question. Coach Sharon explained that oat groat is the grain that is unprocessed (It goes: oat groat—steel cut oats—rolled or traditional oats and then quick oats). For oatmeal it doesn’t get less processed than oat groat. This stuff comes out looking like brown rice with a little softer texture. Every morning I threw everything from strawberries to peaches, bananas and apples in it and would then top it off with a small handful of unsalted mixed nuts for extra flavor.
Recipe: In the InstantPot set to manual 20 minutes. 1 cup of raw oat groat to 1 cup of water (or unsweetened almond milk) ratio. Quick release after 20 minutes. If you want to get creative throw in cut up apples or peaches and let those flavors cook into the grain.
Forks Over Knives 2 Minute Homemade Salad Dressing
This stuff saved me countless times. Have you ever tried to find an oil free salad dressing? Good luck. Outside of buying the dressings on Forks Over Knives online store there basically are none in the stores that are oil free. While you don’t have to be oil free to be vegan it is advisable if you are trying to eat the Forks Over Knives plant based way.
This homemade recipe is true to it’s name. It takes 2 minutes to make and it’s so delicious that I started going through jumbo containers of salad mix every couple days. This dressing will make you look forward to your salads.
Recipe from Forks Over Knives: Here
Collard Greens and White Bean Soup
“You’ve got to get your greens in!” This was Coach Sharron’s biggest feedback to me after my first week. This salad saved my life. I would throw as much greens as I could into the InstantPot. I’m pretty sure it even helped me fight off a cold. While not the tastiest of recipes this soup is practically a super food cocktail.
Recipe from Fat Free Vegan: Here
This garlic spread may be one of the hottest products at the local farmer’s market and grocery scene. Vegan, gluten free and sugar free this spread with a handful of simple ingredients in an absolute game changer. Who needs avocado toast when you can spread a little of this (a little goes a long way) on a piece of Ezekiel bread loaded with sprouts and veggies? The spread also makes a great topping on black bean and falafel burgers too. Made locally in Sac this versatile product makes the transition easy.
Yelp It: Here
Two Ingredient Cookies
I don’t get much of a sweet tooth but every once in awhile we all want something to cap off our final meal. These “cookies” made up mostly of bananas and oatmeal made me completely forget about the real thing. You can even add chocolate chips, raisins, walnuts. Get creative.
Recipe from The Burlap Bag: Here
When you are following a plant based whole foods diet many people assume you have to stop eating out. In some ways you stop wanting to eat out as much because you enjoy the food you are preparing at home. But, if you’re like me and you enjoy the local dining scene don’t worry. You ABSOLUTELY can still eat out. Most restaurants now have vegan options, and you’d be surprised how many love to accommodate even the oil free vegan requests.
In Sacramento we are known as The Farm to Fork Capital so there’s a plethora of options to chose from. You might not be from Sac, but I recommend joining Facebook Vegan groups, checking out Yelp and just spending some time googling. You’re sure to find some amazing options. These are the best of the best here in Sac. Keep in mind I live and work in midtown so I am biased to those options on the grid.
Pushkin’s Restaurant: Sacramento
This place is beyond amazing. I could eat here daily and never get sick of the options. From the Adult Grilled Cheese to the Vegan Benedict this menu is about as legit as you can get. It’s also completely gluten free.
Yelp It: Here
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op
I could not survive without this place. They have every grain and vegan substitute you can possibly dream up. Not to mention their hot food cafeteria and deli caters to vegan options. You can’t go wrong with something from the buffet but if you really want your mind blown try the Chipotle Sweet Potato Sandwich. Un. Real.
Yelp It: Here
Ask anyone around town and the first vegetarian restaurant that comes to mind is Mother. Known for their culinary creativity this gem of downtown Sac is a must for everyone, especially those new to the vegan scene. The Nut Burger will make you want to ditch the meat–and keep in mind I was someone that ranked beef burgers for sport prior to this immersion.
Yelp It: Here
Such a cool spot. This was the first vegan place I ever tried–yes, it was the Falafel Burger that made me a believer. This menu has a wide range of vegan options with something to suit any mood or any pallet.
Yelp It: Here
Andy Nguyen’s Vegetarian Restaurant
One of my friends who did the immersion with me swore by this place. Not being a big fan of Asian food I brushed it off. That was a big mistake. Don’t let the hippy named dishes like Limitless Compassion and Self Nurturing Chow Fun fool you. This place will make your head spin trying to figure out how they managed to make Asian food taste even better without the meat.
Yelp It: Here
Ready to Dive in? Read Dr. Mondo’s 30 Day Plant Based Immersion Primer