(Guest Post by my husband, Andrew)
Eating a bowl of kale might be healthy, but it won’t keep you satiated for long. Neither will eating some baby carrots.
When starting out eating plant-based, there’s a common misconception that all there is to eat is spinach, kale salads, and veggies with hummus. Or, that that’s all you should eat. This “salad misconception” often leads rookie plant-based eaters down the wrong path from the start. While these greens and things are really important to eat, after a week of eating what they think is plant-based, many people, especially a lot of males I know, are plagued with constant hunger and low energy levels.
When I first went plant-based in 2016, I experienced the same situation. Constant hunger. Constant food anxiety. I used to wake up in unsettling worry about what I was going to eat for lunch and dinner. Will a quinoa-wrap for lunch keep me full? How many bananas are you allowed to eat in one day? After a handful of hangry meltdowns, I’ve got it figured out. You need more sustaining foods. It took some time, but once I had this down I never worried about hunger or lack of food again. On one hand, my body certainly has adapted to this new way of eating. But I’ve also learned to keep specific foods on hand that keep me full, satisfied, with sustained energy and are easy to access at all times
No vegan protein powders, no overly processed soy-sausages, no fake meats. I’m talking real vegetables, grains, and starches to keep you satisfied through your day. Before we get into the foods, let me say that this is based on my personal experience. I’m not a nutritionist or doctor. I’ve read many books on the subject, such as The Whole Foods Diet and How Not To Die, and will always link to peer-reviewed research when necessary. If you’re interested in the science-backed research of plant-based eating, check out some of our favorite researchers such as Dr. Colin Campbell, Dr. Michael Greger, and Dr. Neal Barnard.
If you’re a male or anyone with a bigger appetite and you’re looking to try a plant-based diet, here are the food items I suggest keeping in your fridge at all times.
I’m not going to sugar coat it. I used to hate brown rice. I thought it was tasteless with a grainy and chewy texture. But living in Asia converted me into the biggest brown rice proponent ever. It’s everywhere and it became a staple in our home. I quickly realized how filling and satisfying it could be. At the beginning of every week, we’d whip up a huge batch of rice in our Tatung rice-maker and it was a life saver. We now keep cooked rice in the fridge for easy access all of the time to eat with simple veggie stir fries, curries, or tofu. Sometimes, we toss some peanut butter on brown rice for a hearty little snack. Okay, maybe only I did that.
While nutritious and filling, the best part about brown rice is the price. At any standard grocery store, the generic brand of brown rice is always at a super affordable price. Or even better, go to a bulk store like Sprouts, where you can fill up on brown rice with your own reusable bags. Our suggestion? At the beginning of your week, cook two to three cups of brown rice. Keep it in a glass food container in your fridge. Then you can easily throw it in with some easy vegan meals like a Thai Green Curry, Tofu Stir-Fry, or Lentil Dal. Filling and delicious!
2. Potatoes/ Sweet Potatoes
All starchy foods help keep you full, but potatoes are certainly easiest to find. And the most affordable. Plus they are incredible for high energy levels and staying focused throughout the day. Potatoes, or sweet potatoes, are easy to boil up and throw into rice bowls, pastas, curries, salads, and stir-fries. Making your meal more satiating and keep you full.
But why complicate things? Potatoes are damn delicious all by themselves. Make a whole baked potato, or take a few raw potatoes, slice them up, mix them with a little olive oil and salt, and throw them in the oven on 425 for about 20 minutes. Voila, you now have oodles of tasty potato fries to nibble on throughout your week. Although we bake ours to keep in the most nutrients and flavor, we received a potato bag as a gift that allows you to fully cook a baked potato in the microwave in under 5 minutes. If you’re in a time crunch and on the go, these bags are a great solution.
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “beans”? Before my plant-based days, I always thought beans were bland and tasteless mush in cans. Seriously. But alas, my perspective has changed. So much. Beans are a magical addition to a plant-based diet. And with such an extensive library of bean choices available, they are a no-brainer add to your daily meals. Chickpeas. Lentils. Soybeans. Cannellini beans. All beans packed with nutritious fiber and a perfect addition to any lunch or dinner.
You can buy fresh beans and cook them yourself, but that can take some time. We try to do this, but canned beans are really where it’s at for us right now. Especially if you are looking to save on time. Most canned beans are under $1.00 per can as well, making them one of the most affordable ways to satiate your hunger.
And they are incredibly versatile. You can add beans to anything. We often make an Indian Dal out of lentils because it is so quick to make, or throw a can of chickpeas into a weeknight curry. And don’t forget that tofu is made from soybeans. Although it may seem intimidating to cook, there are many simple recipes to give it a trial run, like this Tofu Scramble. Tofu is one of my favorite plant-based foods. It’s rich in protein, extremely filling and can be used on sandwiches or tossed into a stir fry. If it’s your first time cooking tofu, make sure you buy the “extra-firm” type at the store.
In America, there is a common (and dangerous) misconception that carbohydrates make you fat. And that’s why so many people stay away from foods like bread, rice and potatoes. If you’re trying to lose weight, know this: eating fat makes you fat, carbs don’t make you fat. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. It’s science.
Bread is extremely low in fat, around 0.9g per serving. I eat hoards of bread every week and I’m the most fit I’ve ever been. We try to buy bread that has very few ingredients, like 3-4 or less to ensure it doesn’t have a lot of chemicals or other fillers in it. My suggestion is to keep a loaf of bread around at all times. It’s a perfect go-to snack to keep on your counter. Eat it with peanut butter, sliced avocado, or just all by itself. It’s a filling little snack when the hunger starts to irk in.
If you’re in Colorado, we have a local homemade bread shop in Denver that has some killer sourdough.
I eat cold, raw oats. Every day. That may not sound too appealing, and as an ex-every morning egg eater, I understand where you’re coming from. But, over time your taste buds change on a plant based diet and now I love oats. First, it’s a sure winner to keep you satisfied until lunch. Second, eating the same meal every morning saves brain energy. At least for me, less decision making in the morning is certainly better for everyone.
Third, it’s all about the toppings. Here’s my morning recipe: Pour about ¾ cup of raw oats into a bowl. Then top with sliced banana, a sprinkling of granola, some cinnamon, and unsweetened almond milk. Simple and delicious. The other benefit of oats is their price. Extremely affordable. I suggest buying a big canister of Quaker Oats or fill up your reusable bags in the bulk section at grocery store like Sprouts. Oats are one of the foods we have to refill on most often, as it truly is ingrained as a daily routine.
If you want a little more variety in your breakfast, try mixing up your fruit toppings and granola flavors. Blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are always a worthy addition. Packed with antioxidants and adds a subtle sweetness to your morning. Or, instead of cold, heat the oats on the stove with a little water or plant-based milk. Overnight oats are always a winner as well.
Eating plant-based certainly has its challenges. But if you stick with it for the long-term, there’s potential for a wealth of personal health benefits. To increase your chances of sticking with a plant-based lifestyle, you have to make sure you feel full and satisfied at every meal. If you keep your pantry stocked with brown rice, potatoes, beans, bread, and oats, you’ll be in good shape to keep your plant-based journey alive.