Tips for Eating More Plant Based Regardless of Your Current Diet + Mint Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad
By Molly Patrick
Jun 9, 2015,
We create our reality with every choice that we make. I’ve made some shitty choices, that’s for sure.
The time in high school when my best friend and I made a beer bong and then used it while we were driving.
That wasn’t a good choice.
The time I decided to spend a summer in Alaska working at a Salmon cannery, canning dead salmon for 12 hours a day.
That wasn’t good.
The time I pierced my own nipples.
That was a choice that didn’t end well.
The time I drove 26 hours from New Mexico to Chicago, only stopping for gas to visit my girlfriend, only to be dumped shortly after I arrived.
That was one I should have re-thought.
We’re all human and to be human means to make crappy choices sometimes. But it also means that in any given moment, we have the ability to make a better choice.
Too bad I didn’t get that memo before the nipple piercing fiasco.
You’ll know when you’re ready to clean up your eating. Until then, just keep flirting with the idea. Flirting is fun.
Let’s dive in.
If eating a plant based diet means avoiding meat, dairy and processed foods, that leaves us with beans, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds to work with.
So then to enjoy all of the benefits that eating a plant based diet provides, all we have to do is swap out one group of food for the other group of food.
In theory, this is simple.
In reality, this sucks ass for most people.
And in my opinion there are at least three legit reasons why the execution of successfully transitioning to a plant based diet is way harder than what most people in my industry make it out to be. Let’s take a look in this week’s fuckery.
1) One day you’re happily sinking your teeth into a juicy burger and the next day there’s a salad in front of you. It’s anti-climactic — I get it.
2) You get home from work, you’re tired and stressed and you need to put something in your mouth NOW. Your kids are a hot, cranky mess of hunger and your partner is ready for a goddamn steak.
In this moment, the thought of creating a healthy plant based meal that you AND your kids and partner will be satisfied with is enough to make you lose your shit.
You see the pizza delivery magnet on your fridge and you reach for your phone. The decision has been made.
3) You know that person who packs her own lunch and sits in the corner eating hummus while the rest of the office is grubbing on takeout and making jokes about her?
Yeah, if you switch to a plant based diet, that’ll be you.
And it’s enough to make most people sweat with anxiety every time they hear the word chickpea. I get it. I’ve been Ms. Hummus aplenty.
So yes, switching to a plant based diet is daunting and it’s probably way easier to keep eating like crap.
But let’s resist that temptation. Let’s buck up and get cozy with the fact that change is hard, food is emotional, there will be hurdles to get over and you might find yourself in the corner eating hummus one day.
I guarantee with everything in me that these hurdles are temporary and the shittyness of these hurdles will never be as shitty as what your body will go through if your diet stays focused on foods that are void of what the body needs to function well – lots of nutrients and plenty of fiber.
When you’re ready to jump on the whole food lovin’, patchouli wearing, dream catcher makin’ bus, here are three tips to help get you started, along with specific action steps to put into practice.
Oh, and there’s no such inauguration hippie bus.
Though, I think I might start that.
1: Start with where you’re at right now.
Eating a breakfast of biscuits, eggs and gravy one morning and then switching to a green smoothie and fresh fruit the next is a set up for failure.
Now – some people are all-or-nothing types and this might be the best strategy for them.
But I’ve been doing this for long enough to know that most people need to dabble before they take the plunge. It’s like a pool. No matter how warm it is outside, some people need 30 minutes to submerge their entire body, inching their way in little by little until the water doesn’t feel like an ice cube.
Let’s start inching.
Starting today, add some whole plant foods to your diet, regardless of what your current diet looks like.
- Add a big green salad to dinner – even if that dinner is SpaghettiOs and a bottle of wine (lots of us have been there).
- Chop up some kale and put it in the bottom of your bowl before you ladle in your soup – even if that soup is cheesy gooey french onion topped with crispy croutons.
- Start making a green smoothie each morning. You can add itty bitty amounts of green leafy veggies at first and then add more as you get used to the taste. This way, if the rest of your day is destined for convenience foods that lack nutrients, at least you got a golden boost of goodness in the morning.
- Swap out cheese for guacamole when you grab a burrito from your fave Mexican restaurant – even if that burrito is wrapped in a white tortilla.
- Whatever you’re cooking, add in some green leafy veggies – even if it’s just a little. If you chop them up really well, no one will notice they’re even there. Chard, spinach and bok choy tend to be the most mild of the leafy greens in flavor. Collard greens and kale are next and then mustard greens, arugula (rocket) and dandelion greens have the most “green” flavor.
I could do this all day, but you get the idea.
The most important takeaway is this.
Don’t think of changing your diet as a diet. Think of it as easing into a healthy lifestyle and do whatever you can now, regardless of where you’re at in the process.
No excuses, just action.
2: Make these super easy swaps that won’t stress you out or take you too much out of your comfort zone.
If you’re not ready to go full on plant eater, let’s make a few simple swaps that will up the nutrient density of your overall diet without going bat shit crazy with it.
- sprouted grain bread instead of “whole” grain bread
- brown rice instead of white rice
- sprouted or whole wheat tortillas instead of white tortillas
- organic corn tortillas or blanched collard leaves instead of whole wheat tortillas
- pre-made whole wheat pizza crust topped with your own fresh toppings instead of frozen pizzas
- steel cut oats instead of instant oatmeal or sugary breakfast cereal
- almond, coconut or soy creamer instead of regular half and half
- fresh berries instead of sweetened jam or jelly
- organic unsweetened non-dairy milk instead of cow’s milk
- almond butter without salt or sugar instead of peanut butter
- brown rice or quinoa pasta instead of white pasta
- date sugar instead of regular cane sugar
That’s enough to get you started. Making these swaps will give you more nutrients per calorie and less empty, nutrient-void calories that will never do your beautiful bod any favors.
This weekend, do a scan of your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see which of the above items you have that could use an upgrade, Beyonce style.
3: Understand and be patient with your taste buds.
There are around ten thousand taste buds in the human mouth.
They live on the tongue, on the roof of the mouth and in the throat. Each taste bud has receptors for each of the five tastes:
- umami (sometimes called savory)
The taste receptors are designed to tune into the presence of each of the five tastes and send signals to the brain telling us what we’re eating, and whether or not its delicious.
This is all dandy and helpful, but the taste bud party can be shut down quicker than a high school keg party when we eat lots of processed food filled with salt, sugar and fat.
It’s not that the taste bud receptors get physically dull like they do when someone smokes. It’s that foods high in salt, sugar and fat (and especially the combination of all three) affect how the brain processes each taste to determine whether it’s a bland gross crappy taste or a yummy delicious taste.
Think about it this way. If you give a raw foodie a perfectly ripe organic strawberry just picked from the garden, they would put it in their mouth, close their eyes and get a tremendous amount of pleasure from it. To this person, the strawberry would smell and taste really sweet and bursting with juicy strawberry flavor.
They would open their eyes, thank you with a smile, and put that strawberry experience in the same category as orgasms, veggie spiralizers and food dehydrators.
Now – if you gave that same strawberry to someone who frequents McDonald’s regularly and drinks soda on the daily, they would not have the same experience or reaction.
They would eat the strawberry, and be left unsatisfied and annoyed with you. You see, to this person, that same sweet juicy strawberry would taste completely bland and boring.
When the majority of the diet consists of truly healthy food, healthy food starts to taste really yummy and the more of it we want.
When the diet doesn’t consist of truly healthy food, our brain doesn’t process it as being yummy, so we feel that it tastes like cardboard.
Am I saying that vegan food has gotten a bad rap about tasting like cardboard all these years when really, it’s taste buds and brain signals that have been responsible for that nut loaf tasting like shit?
Well, that’s a big part of it, but it could also be that the nut loaf really did taste like shit.
A lot of people have no clue how to make vegan food taste good, and that hasn’t helped with the cardboard stereotype.
Just know that if your diet isn’t made up of whole plant foods, and things like kale and raw almonds don’t taste good to you right now, they’ll start to taste better the more of them you eat (and the less of everything else you eat).
And if you keep it up, one day you’ll be walking down the street when all of a sudden the craving for a salad will hit you.
And you’ll stop and be like:
What the fuck? I’m craving a salad? Shit – I’ve turned into a hippie. But I feel really good, my cholesterol is down and I have way more energy than I did even in my 20’s. I guess being a hippie is okay – now move out of my way people, I need Romaine and I need it now.
The body knows what it needs. The brain just tends to get in its way.
Okay beautiful, next week I’ll have more no-bullshit plant based tips and tricks for you.
Today’s recipe is like the perfect french kiss. The flavors meld into one another with ease and tenderness and you’re left with trembling thighs and needing more.
- 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa 515g (recipe in link below)
- 1/4 cup red onion 35g, finely diced
- 1 cup cooked black beans - cooked fresh or from a can. Make sure to drain and rinse your beans if they are from a can. 170g
- 1/2 cup fresh mango 120g, diced
- some diced avocado to top each serving
- a sprinkle of almond slivers to top each serving
- a handful of arugula for each serving rocket
- Juice from 1 lime 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 date take out the pit and either soak in hot water for 10 minutes or simmer in water for several minutes. This will soften it up
- 1 garlic clove grated
- 1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves 4g
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Cook your quinoa and make the dressing while the quinoa is cooking.
- When the quinoa is done cooking, transfer it to a large bowl and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes.
- When the quinoa isn’t super hot (but still warm), add the dressing and stir just until it’s combined. Adding the dressing to the warm quinoa will help the dressing soak in and keep the salad moist and never dry.
- Add the onion, black beans and mango and gently stir.
- From here, place a handful of arugula on each serving plate, add some quinoa salad, and then top with dressing, diced avocado and almond slivers.
- Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until smooth.
I hope that you have a happy week. May it be filled with lots of good choices.
plant based, plant based recipes, quinoa, wfpb, whole food plant based, whole food plant based recipes
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Do you just blend all of the dressing ingredients together?
Would you store the salad after you make it or assemble just before eating?
Hey Maureen –
You got it! Just put all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
You store the salad after you assemble it 🙂
Let me know how it turns out!
Made this tonight to accompany the family’s grilling and it’s so damn good. It’s a big deal for me to find something I love that will also fly as a side with the fam’s meat! Yay! I am one proud VegHead tonight! Thanks, Molly 🙂 xo
P.S. I used red quinoa and it’s pretty awesome looking!
That’s what I like to hear! Thanks for swinging by and letting us know about your yummies!
Maybe add “blend dressing ingredients until smooth”? For folks who don’t usually roll with CFDG!
Thanks for pointing that out, Stacy! We’ve adjusted the recipe to be clearer. ~Karen