A whole food plant based way of eating is made up of whole plant foods (veggies, fruit, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) and some minimally processed plant foods, like tofu, whole grain bread, and soy milk to name a few. Animal based foods and overly processed foods (like oil and packaged snacks) are avoided when eating this way.
Because this way of eating focuses on whole plant foods, you will naturally end up cooking your own meals from scratch instead of going out to eat or buying pre-cooked frozen meals. Following our weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans is perfect for this because we tell you exactly what to buy and what to cook so you have yummy and diverse meals throughout the week.
But what happens if you’re following this way of eating and you can’t easily find or afford a certain ingredient? Should you just avoid that ingredient altogether? Should you find a substitution? Should you try to find it online? Should you make your own?
It all depends on the ingredient, your unique set of circumstances, and your reasons for eating this way. What I do know is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
Here’s a real example from my life.
Let’s just say I was craving a bomb-diggity burrito stuffed with refried beans and veggies and cheesy sauce goodness—because who doesn’t crave a bean burrito on the REGULAR? Let’s pretend I couldn’t find oil-free, gluten-free (I can’t eat gluten right now because of my skin), whole-grain tortillas where I live (we actually don’t have to pretend because I’ve looked everywhere and these do not exist on Maui).
Given my very first world conundrum, I would have a few choices:
- I could blanch a couple of collard green leaves and use that as a tortilla.
- I could turn my burrito into a bowl and skip the tortilla altogether.
- I could make my own tortillas from scratch, or make something similar (like today’s recipe).
- I could buy whatever gluten-free, vegan tortillas I could find and not worry about the oil (most tortillas are naturally vegan).
- I could skip making a burrito and eat something else instead (what? Not happening).
My decision would be based on a few different factors.
Do I currently have some collard greens in my fridge that I could blanch?
If I did, I would probably do this because it wouldn’t require a trip to the grocery store.
Do I feel like eating a burrito wrapped in a collard leaf or as a bowl?
Sometimes I really do, and sometimes I want to sink my teeth into a tortilla because it’s super satisfying.
Do I have the time to make my own tortillas?
If this was really important to me or I felt like spending extra time in the kitchen, I would find the time, otherwise, I would just buy some vegan gluten-free tortillas, even if they do have some oil in them.
Am I having someone over for lunch who follows a strict whole food plant based diet because of food addiction, heart concerns, or wanting to lose weight?
If I was, I would definitely blanch some collard greens for our burritos because that is the most nutrient-dense option.
These are some of the factors that would play into my decision about how whole food plant based to go if the ingredient I’m looking for (in this case, tortillas) isn’t available. The factors for you will be different because you have a different set of circumstances to work with.
One of the reasons it’s easy for me to stick to this way of eating is because sometimes, I don’t.
I never eat meat, dairy, or eggs because I really don’t want to and it never even crosses my mind as an option, but I do allow for some wiggle room when it comes to oil (and the occasional vegan, gluten-free donut).
For me, there’s an ease that comes with being able to color outside of the lines a little. But for some people, this is not possible because even a little oil or a bite of a vegan donut can lead to binge eating. This is how I am with alcohol. I can’t drink a drop if I want to stay sober, so I have to set and follow very strict boundaries. I don’t have that reaction with food, so, for me, this works.
We all have to do what works best for us. Not because it’s the “right” choice. Not because it’s what other people are doing. Not because a book or a blog said it was the best.
Because of all the humans alive on this planet, you are the very best one to decide what is right for you.
Sweet Potato Flatbread (oil-free)
Sweet Potato Flatbread (oil-free)
Makes 6 7-inch flatbreads
- 4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½" cubes (about 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes) (540 g)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour (240 g)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (about 20 turns)
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside for now.
Place the sweet potato cubes in a large stockpot, along with 4 cups of water (945 ml) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 6–8 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are soft.
Transfer the sweet potato cubes to a strainer and discard the water. Then, transfer the potato cubes back to the pot and allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, basil, and garlic powder. Set aside for now. Using a large fork or potato masher, mash your sweet potatoes until there are no lumps of potato.
Add the mashed sweet potato to the flour mixture and mix until a soft dough forms. This will take a few minutes. Start by using a spoon to stir and mash until everything is combined, then use your hands to knead it into a ball of dough. Don’t knead for long—just enough for the dough to come together.
Divide the dough evenly into 6 pieces (each weighing 120–130g) and roll each piece into a ball and set on a plate.
Sprinkle some flour on your counter and then, one at a time, take each ball of dough and gently flatten them onto the floured surface. Then, with a rolling pin, roll each one out to about 1/4 inch thick and 7 inches across (as best you can; don’t fret if it’s not exact). Carefully transfer each rolled out piece onto the baking sheets and cover with parchment paper so they don’t dry out.
Heat a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes and then place one flatbread in the skillet at a time and cook on each side for 2–3 minutes, until each one is cooked and has some brown spots on either side.
Cool the flatbread on a cooling rack and then place in a container and store any leftovers in the fridge.
Feel free to use gluten-free flour instead of whole wheat flour.