It happens at the most inconvenient times. A rumbling, followed by shakiness, grumpiness and judgment so clouded, an entire pizza seems like a reasonable portion-size. With lives so busy that we put bodily functions on hold to get stuff done, it’s hard to plan time for a meal - let alone plan the actual contents of it. So, what to do when you’re a hungry vegan on the go, or simply trying to embrace a more plant-based diet? Here are a few tips to change your daily routine minimally, while changing your lifestyle big time.
1 - Plan ahead (Just a little bit). This is as easy as reading a few labels on store-bought snacks during a single shopping trip. If you frequent one convenient store, take a minute to jot down a list of items that are vegan friendly. Your list should include one healthy item (fruit, non-dairy yogurt, raisins, nuts), one salty snack (pretzels, popcorn), and one sweet treat (dairy-free chocolate, anyone?). This covers the cravings bases, which is what you’ll be contending with if you’ve let yourself get super hungry.
2 - BYOP (Bring Your Own Protein). I’ve found myself in many situations where I’m with a crowd for lunch at a totally non-veggie-friendly locale. If your coworkers insist on a sandwich shop or greasy spoon, then a baggie of baked tofu, pack of vegan deli ‘turkey’ or even some roasted vegetables can save you from an uninspired side salad, BLT without the B, or soggy grilled cheese. Pack your protein and add it to a garden salad or sandwich roll with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion. Independent shop owners will usually rather you buy something small than nothing at all - but if you’re dining in, it’s nice to ask permission before “enhancing” menu items.
3 - Avocados. I find these powerful fruits to be so fulfilling, I don’t find myself craving dairy. Now, I’m not saying you should just grab a spoon and dig in (though, there’s certainly a time and place for that: the point of this little article is to help you live your life “normally”), but adding a few slices to a bagel or multigrain toast in the morning beats the pants off of cream cheese. Especially if you add a pinch of sea salt and a big slice of tomato. Take that, cream cheese.
4 - Switch things up. If making dinner is a chore, try to keep things quick and interesting, and as headache-free as possible. By having a few types of shelf-stable grains and a small selection of refrigerated or shelf-stable proteins on-hand, you can get inspired by local, seasonal produce (which you might happen to see while sprinting past a farmers’ market during your second job as a freelance dog walker... you know, before the gym and pottery lesson) without worrying what to pair it with. A few staples include quinoa, corn grits (polenta takes literally 10 minutes to make), brown rice, lentils, a can of your favorite type of bean and a pack of tofu, tempeh or seitan. With these items, you can mix and match for a variety of possibilities! I also like to always have a carton of dairy-free milk on-hand. If you don’t cook often, a sealed, shelf-stable carton is your best bet.
5 - Trick and treat. As a vegan, there are certain dishes that I once adored and no longer enjoy. And a life without lasagna, in my opinion, is not one worth living. So with a little experimenting (and a lot of tweaking), I can now enjoy homemade lasagna... with cheesy tofu ‘ricotta’ and ‘mozzarella.” It does the trick, and I get to look forward to a tasty treat all day. The best thing about baked dishes like lasagna, ziti and stuffed shells? It makes sense to use a big casserole dish, so you can make enough for lunch the next day, and still have some to freeze for a quick weeknight dinner.