What to eat... Overview
OK... so now you know what vegans don't eat: animals or animal products.
Let's talk about what vegans do eat. This post will give you a starting point to get you by until you determine how far you want to go with this, until you develop your own routine, and until I can post and give you lots more suggestions on great healthy ways to fill up your diet.
So, let's assume that eggs, dairy, fish, meat, and poultry are all gone, and you are facing a whole new adventure in eating. And, let's also assume you are looking for satisfying, tasty food as well as food that will meet your nutritional needs. First, I think it's much easier to think of yourself as a plant eater. Vegan has so many connotations, including causes you support, moral decisions you make, etc.; whereas, plant eater describes what you do.
In either case, know that you are headed for great good health. If you have any doubt about that, just think of some of the strongest, healthiest animals (gorillas, elephants, giraffes, etc.). They are plant eaters. If plants can sustain them, they certainly can sustain little ol' you and little ol' me.
What to Eat?
The simple answer is...fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. There are plenty of processed foods that are considered vegan, too; and you can continue, if you choose, to sustain yourself on those (we'll look at some of those products in later posts). However, you have a wonderful opportunity here to make a change that will transform your health, energy level and longevity by eliminating as many of the processed foods as possible.
For purposes of this post, I'm going to tell you what foods I eat. There are excellent books out there by experts that spell out examples of healthy diets. I'll put a list of some of my favorites at the end of this post. They all have recipes as well as general nutrition information, so you'll learn ways to cook for your new way of eating.
I eat 3 to 4 servings of fruit per day. I always include berries (usually blueberries). Berries are known to be rich in fiber, they help raise HDL (good cholesterol) and lower blood pressure. There is also research that shows that berries have a positive effect on bone density. They pack a punch. Other fruits to incorporate into your daily food plan are melons, apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, pineapple, papaya, etc. In the morning, I usually have old fashioned oatmeal, with bananas and berries. (See, that sounds normal, doesn't it?)
I eat about 6 servings of vegetables per day. Many vegetables can be eaten in any quantity you want such as lettuce, greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.), celery, cucumber, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) The more colorful the vegetables the richer they are in nutrients. They all have many benefits and provide for prevention from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Wait until you start reading more and more about this. You will be amazed at what plants can do.
Starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, etc., should not be eliminated from your daily diet just because you've always been told that they are fattening. It’s the condiments, sour cream, butter, cheese that we put over them that make them so fattening. I eat them daily.
Beans of all sorts are a great source of protein and of fiber. Fiber fills you up, so don't miss out on a daily dose of legumes of some sort. That could be beans, peas, black-eyed peas, chic peas, lentils, etc. I often put them on salads instead of dressing. I eat a cup of beans daily.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contribute to fat in your diet, and I don't mean that in a bad way. Sprinkle some in your diet, but don't overdo. Be cautious. I eat a tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily. That provides omega-3. And I eat a handful of walnuts or other nuts if I'm out of walnuts.
I eat no more than 2 servings of grain daily. Through my reading I've learned that whole grain breads are the best if you are going to eat bread. Other sources of grains include oatmeal, quinoa, millet, barley, etc. Grains are rich in fiber and fill you up. Be sure to avoid refined grains, however, as they are mostly stripped of nutritional value. Oatmeal is my grain for the day.
This is a lot of food for you to enjoy. If you're like me, you might see this list and feel overwhelmed. At first, I saw it as piles of specific foods in my mind but couldn't see a meal. It's time to be inventive. Over time, I have devised some go-to meals and you will too.
With this plan, I stay full, and feel great. I also use Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen app to remind myself to eat a well-rounded variety of food. It helps me make sure I get enough protein, calcium, and vitamins daily. The only supplements I take are B-12 and Vitamin D. I’m not saying you should do what I do. You will need to devise your own daily eating routine that works for you. I just give you this by way of example.
Here are a couple suggestions for books that will probably be helpful to you. They are all packed with information and with recipes.
Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Eat to Live Quick and Easy Cookbook by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
How Not to Die Cookbook by Dr. Michael Greger
Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina