Fitting A Plant Based Diet Into A Busy Lifestyle
When I began this journey to cure myself of IBS two years ago, I had a dilemma. My mother had always packed healthy lunches and cooked nutritious dinners, but now I was no longer able to eat wheat or dairy, I couldn't eat the foods I had always eaten. I couldn't eat the bread rolls she had made for me for years and I couldn't eat her cous cous salads, pizzas, dishes anymore either. After buying and trying out some gluten free breads, I realised that if I wanted to stick to this lifestyle I had to give up on my bread rolls and I was going to have to start cooking.
As a 16 year old girl embarking on her final year of high school, this was daunting. But I made small changes to my diet. I began eating oatmeal for breakfast instead of fruit and greek yoghurt and I started packing quinoa salads for school instead of my bread rolls. Fruit and nuts became easy snacks instead of crackers and biscuits and I started trying to introduce more vegetables into my dinners.
These days, managing my diet is an awful lot easier, it's second nature to me! I prepare things ahead to save time and I take snacks with my wherever I go, so I'm never left hungry. I thought I'd share some of my tips for managing a plant based diet, because I know how awkward it can be at the start!
Prepare grains like quinoa ahead of time.
It honestly makes life so much easier! I always cook my quinoa in bulk, that way I always have some laying about in the fridge for whenever I may need it. Cooking quinoa is seriously easy, I just bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a small saucepan, then I rinse 1 cup of dry quinoa in a sieve to get ready of the soapy residue that can give it a slightly weird aftertaste, then I add it to the saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes. You know the quinoa is done when the water is all soaked up, the quinoa seeds have gotten larger and soft, and you can see a little white 'tail' coming out of the seed. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place the lid on it, then leave it to stand until cool. Once it's cool, just fluff it up with a fork and transfer it into containers to store in the fridge. I use three cup-sized containers, so that way I have 3 lots of quinoa ready to throw into salads for an easy lunchbox.
Make large serves of curry/soup/stew on the weekend
This is an absolute lifesaver when you have some free time on a Sunday afternoon and you know you'll be too busy during the week to cook a proper dinner. Simply make enough for 3-4 portions, then put it into containers into the fridge/freezer and you have easy meals ready to go! I personally think curries and stews taste even better when they've sat in the fridge a few days anyway, the flavours really sink in!
Make your lunchbox the night before
Seriously. If you already have a busy morning, the last thing you need to worry about is packing a lunchbox. Make it all the night before and have it ready to go! Make sure you also have snacks, a water bottle and cutlery too, and have it all ready to go in the morning. I love stirfries with brown rice/quinoa, roasted vegetable pasta salads, quinoa salads with falafel and buckwheat soba noodle salads. I usually take a banana and something like a bliss ball or a handful of nuts for a mid morning snack, plus a big bottle of water, which I refill during the day, and some green tea bags!
Plan meals ahead of time and shop accordingly
When you go to the supermarket, don't just fill your trolley with whatever you see, have a list and buy what you need to make particular meals. Sweet potato fries with guacamole one night? Pasta with mushrooms and spinach the next? Roasted butternut squash soba noodle salad after that? That way you don't have to deal with the situation of staring into the fridge having no idea what to make!
Meals don't have to be difficult!
I post pretty looking food on Instagram, but I assure you, not all my food looks like that. Lazy meals are my forte. One of my favourites is quinoa with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, mixed together in a bowl with lots of hummus, lemon juice, fresh coriander and parsley and scattered with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast. it looks a mess but it tastes like heaven. Another easy lazy meal is a baked sweet potato. Make it sweet with peanut butter and cinnamon, or have it with mashed avocado or hummus! Mashed avocado on toast is another lifesaver when you don't have time to cook.
The important thing to remember is, this is a lifestyle change, not a diet! Don't feel as if you need to cook perfect meals all the time, just focus on eating a wholesome, balanced diet and your health will take care of itself :)