In honor of Charlie Hales proclamation of March 20 as Portland’s Meatout Day, I’m encouraging people to go vegan for the day. I recently transitioned my own diet to a vegan diet and can attest that the biggest challenge is planning. Here are a few meal ideas and tips for having a fun and successful Meatout Day.
This is the meal that starts us off for the day. Though the appellation of “the most important meal of the day” is slipping, there is evidence that skipping breakfast is associated with increased risk of obesity and obesity related diseases, especially in young adults. Here are some of my favorite options for vegan breakfasts:
- Raw green smoothie. This one is so easy and great if you don’t have time to sit down to breakfast. Fruit, greens, water, non-dairy milk and a little protein powder or hemp seeds are the base recipe. Try my favorite: ½ cup peaches, 1 banana, 1 cup water, 1 cup almond milk, 2 cups spinach and ½ scoop of vegan protein powder (available in single serving packets from health food stores). This provides ample fiber, protein, flavor and liquid to keep me satisfied and energized until lunch time.
- Breakfast burrito. Instead of scrambled eggs and cheese in your breakfast burrito, add refried beans and avocado along with your favorite toppings – throw a few extra veggies in there, too! If you are gluten free, this is easy to modify with corn tortillas.
- Yummy bowls, also known as veggie sausage and vegetable scramble. Sauté onions, carrot, zucchini or your favorite vegetables. Separately cook or warm a veggie sausage or burger patty, then slice the patty and mix in with the vegetables. Add yumm sauce and salsa or your favorite hot sauce. This might be a less familiar idea about breakfast, but I’m always encouraging patient to start their day with vegetables, because it can be hard to get recommended amounts in if you only eat vegetables with one or two meals.
- Another option is hot or cold cereal, including granola with nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, non-dairy milk or non-dairy yogurt. Check out Rip’s Big Bowl for ideas.
- DON’Ts – I don’t recommend starting out trying to eat tofu scrambles for your vegan breakfast if you don’t already like, eat and tolerate tofu. A tofu scramble can be a delicious and satisfying breakfast, but if you are used to eggs, this might be a big leap. I also always recommend consuming only organic soy and sprouted or fermented products whenever possible.
My office is closed for an hour for lunch, but this is often when I return phone calls and deal with email requests from patients, so my hour lunch sometimes gets as short as 15-20 minutes. Here are some lunch ideas for which time is no barrier:
- Hummus and vegetables – It does not get much easier than this. I sometimes just take a knife and small cutting board with whole vegetables so I only cut up what I feel like eating in the moment. Cherry tomatoes require no cutting and can be dipped directly. I’ll sometimes add a small bowl of blueberries or some pickled carrots for variety.
- Burritos or yumm bowls – just like what I mentioned above. The bowls can also be made with beans of any kind.
- Salads, sandwiches or leftovers. I enjoy leftovers frequently and try to plan my dinners so that I have enough food for lunch the next day or two. I don’t do a lot of salads or sandwiches for lunch, but I see this on a lot of patient meal lists and consider that these could easily be made vegan. For sandwiches use a yummy spread, tasty mustard or condiment instead of mayo and cheese and pile on the veggies with or without a vegan slice. For salads, use a dairy free vinaigrette dressing and use toppings like pumpkin seeds and beans instead of cheese and chicken.
Meal planning is a constant work in progress and I always smile when I review my patient’s intake paperwork – I see the word “varies” a lot for dinner. As well I should. Dinners can be a great opportunity for trying lots of fun meal ideas. Anything you can eat for dinner can be created in a vegan version, though, so have fun with this meal or look down below and reward yourself with a meal out to celebrate your plant based diet for a day. Here are a few ideas for how to make some healthy plant based substitutions.
- Burger night – Make black bean patties instead, skip the cheese and mayo and spice up your burger with a tasty mustard or hot sauce.
- Pasta – Serve your pasta with lightly steamed vegetables (think: asparagus), lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper for a fresh taste. Make a pesto with nuts and basil, omitting the cheese or using tofu for a creamy taste. If pasta means mac and cheese, you aren’t out of options, but I do consider this very subject to personal taste and maybe one for more experienced chefs!
- Soup – There is no shortage of vegan soup options. Here’s one of my favorites: Spicy Peanut, Eggplant and Shallot Stew. It’s creamy and very filling.
- Tacos or Tex Mex – Tex-Mex inspired flavors are a staple at my house. I’ve grown very fond of this recipe for a vegan nacho cheese sauce that is included in many of my meals. With that and beans instead of meat, there really isn’t anything less complicated!
- Check out this site for some great vegan recipe ideas for dinner.
I’ve found that many restaurants are able to accommodate a vegan diet, even though they may not be a strictly vegan establishment. Most burger joints and bars have some kind of veggie patty, at least in the Portland metro area; ethnic restaurants almost always have a vegetarian or vegan option; and I’ve even been known to have a satisfying meal of side dishes. I encourage you to try a vegan restaurant though or to order a specifically vegan dish. It’s fun to broaden your horizons and usually the dish that was designed meat free is much better than one that is substituted together. I can’t list every restaurant that offers vegan options, but here are a few good options and links to resources to find more.
- Native Foods -Located near our Tualatin location, this fast-casual restaurant is 100% plant based.
- La Vida Veggie – I have to give a shout out to this great lunch spot in Beaverton. Plant based with raw and gluten free options, the proprietor gives back by making homemade vegan tamales once a month to be distributed to the homeless. It’s not just the good feels, though, the food is delightful!
- Veggie Grill – 100% plant based, fast-casual, located in Beaverton.
- Departure – For a special evening out, visit this bar/restaurant located atop the Nine’s Hotel downtown Portland. They have a dedicated vegan menu. Don’t miss the Brussels sprouts – they are worth the trip all on their own!
- Vegan Pizza – For those of you that say, I could be vegan except for pizza, I was with you until I recently discovered the wealth of vegan pizza options in Portland. I’m in the midst of touring the city’s many vegan pizza options, so instead of listing just one, I’ve linked to an article reviewing them. Bon appetit!
- Yelp – Use the search feature to find vegetarian or vegan options near you
- Happy Cow – A listing of vegetarian and vegan friendly restuarants
Let Us Know How It Goes
Give us a like on Facebook and let us know how your Meatout Day goes. I’ll be online much of the day and will try to answer any questions you might post there!
Interested in learning more about a vegetarian or vegan diet? NW Veg has many great resources on their webpage including a Veg101 Class that is offered twice a year. I have personally attending this class and recommend it. Attendees in the class include people with all kinds of diets just learning more together about plant based nutrition and every class offers a demo and delicious samples. If you’re ready to take the plunge and are concerned about your health or nutritional status, feel free to make an appointment to meet with me and we can review your health history, risk factors, goals and diet to ensure a healthful and sustainable transition.