Many years ago, I decided to follow an organic raw vegan diet.
My decision to do this was prompted by the copious amounts of alcohol I was drinking and cigarettes I was smoking. I figured that if I was trashing my body with substances then I may as well go balls-to-the-wall healthy with my food (or what I understood to be healthy at that time).
My organic raw vegan diet lasted all of 9 days.
I struggled all 9 of those days, but the last and final straw was an unfortunate raw Pad Thai recipe that I found online. The strands of zucchini noodles were mushy and wet, the peanut sauce was flat and boring and the veggies were crunchy and cold. I wasn’t feelin’ it.
I wanted a big bowl of warm soup.
I wanted pasta that I could bite into.
I wanted stir-fried veggies.
I wanted baked tofu.
I wanted steamed broccoli.
I wanted a piping hot bowl of oatmeal.
I couldn’t do another day of cold food that fell flat on flavor.
My reasons for testing out a raw diet weren’t coming from a great place. I didn’t want to go raw; I wanted to feel less guilty for trashing my body, and I thought going raw would help achieve that.
What I really needed to do was stop drinking and smoking and fall in love with a plant based diet; hot soups, whole grain pastas, sautéed veggies, cooked grains and all!
Eventually, that’s what I did.
When making the transition to a new, healthier way of eating, the food has to taste good or your new way of eating won’t last. We have to eat several times a day, every day and if you’re dreading every single meal, it zaps the joy right out of eating. And eating should absolutely be enjoyed since we do it so often.
One thing to keep in mind is that taste buds are not stagnant. They have the ability to adapt and change, and the information the taste buds send to the brain also has the ability to adapt and change. This is why it can take a couple of weeks for people to enjoy whole plant foods when coming off from the Standard American Diet (SAD). This is also why super unhealthy foods are no longer enjoyable to most people after they are used to eating a whole food plant based diet.
And this is exactly why it can be tricky when switching to plants. You have to give it a couple weeks before you get an accurate idea of what healthy food really tastes like. If you get our meal plans, lucky you, you found an amazing resource for whole food plant based recipes that are consistently delicious and full of flavor.
If you’re brand new to eating this way and you’re used to eating fast food, meat, dairy and processed food then it might take a couple of weeks to fully enjoy the meal plans, but once your taste buds change, you are going to love the food more than you ever thought possible. I see it happen all the time.
When navigating new tastes, flavors, textures and ingredients, it’s helpful to understand the difference between flavor and taste because it can play a role in how you experience food.
Taste is what we perceive in the mouth through our taste buds.
There are 5 basic tastes:
1. Sweet (beets, cooked onions, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, fruit, etc..)
2. Salt (sea salt, miso, pickles, seaweed, etc…)
3. Sour (citrus, vinegar, sauerkraut, etc…)
4. Bitter (parsley, arugula, collard greens, celery, cranberries etc…)
5. Umami, sometimes called savory (tomatoes, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, vegetable broth, etc…)
Taste is limited to the mouth, which makes sense because this is where our taste buds are located. We can absolutely experience all of these tastes from whole plant foods, so we don’t miss out on any of these tastes when eating this way.
Flavor is much more complex. Flavor is a multi-dimensional experience made up of taste, smell, emotions, and the physical sensations felt in the mouth, like spice, texture and temperature.
You can think of taste as a violin and flavor as the entire symphony.
Taste is only one component of flavor and when you eat, there’s a whole range of other things going on that help determine how you respond to what you’re eating and whether or not you like your food. This is helpful to know because when switching to a healthy plant based diet, there are other things you experiment with, apart from the food, that will help you enjoy this new way of eating.
We want the entire glorious symphony at work, not just one instrument.
Here are some ideas to help get you started:
// When you plate your meal, make it look nice instead of simply plopping it onto your plate. This will appeal to your visual sense.
// When you’re cooking and eating, blow out any floral scented candles and unplug air fresheners that might interfere with the smell of your yummy homemade food.
// Play around with the texture of your food by having at least two or three different textures. If you’re having pureed soup, add some crunchy sunflower seeds and avocado. If you’re having a salad, add some beans, chopped nuts, and different raw veggies. If you’re having a wrap, add some chopped raw veggies and walnut parm. The more textures, the more interesting your food will be.
// When you’re having a meal that is meant to be hot, make sure you heat it up enough. When the meal is meant to be cold, make sure it is cold enough.
// Try to keep the kitchen and dining room an argument-free zone. If you’re stressed, angry or worked up when cooking and eating, your whole meal will taste off.
// Eat your meals at the table instead of in front of the TV, computer, or phone. Eating meals in front of devices drowns out the flavor of your food because your other senses are stimulated. All of the effort you put into preparing that beautiful plate of food deserves your full attention and appreciation.
// Keep your dining room and eating table clean and clutter-free. If you’re going to take the time to batch cook, give yourself the gift of eating in a clean space. It will help you focus on your food instead of getting distracted and anxious about the clutter.
// If you like spicy, add a shake or two of hot sauce or dried red peppers to add some spice to your meals.
There are lots of ways to enhance the flavor of your food that have nothing to do with the food itself. Looking back, that raw diet I tried out wasn’t underwhelming just because the recipes weren’t great (though, that was definitely a factor). I wasn’t in a good place in my life, and my surroundings and emotions had a big impact on lots of things, including the flavor of my food.
If you’re new to this way of eating, be patient with yourself and know that it’s a process to be enjoyed. You will find your footing. This is a lifestyle upgrade, not a flash in the pan, fad diet. If you’re not enjoying the flavor of your food yet, you will soon and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Now! Talk to me in the comments below and tell me if you’ve experienced the flavor of your plant based food getting better and better the more you eat this way.
Almond Taco Filling
Almond Taco Filling
- 1 cup raw almonds 150g
- 1 cup canned red kidney beans rinsed and drained (170g)
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder double it if you like spicy
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Place the almonds into your food processor and pulse for about 20-30 seconds, until the almonds are well chopped. There shouldn't be any huge pieces of almonds, but it shouldn’t be totally fine like flour either.
Add the kidney beans, red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, garlic powder, cayenne powder, salt and balsamic vinegar and pulse for about 20-30 seconds, until the mixture is mixed up. The consistency should be a bit chunky, not smooth like paste. Add salt if needed.
Place in a container and store in the fridge just like that. Use this mixture for tacos, burritos or salads. You can heat it up in a skillet or have it cold.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with flavor.