Want to be whole foods plant based vegan but loosing my way!! Help if you can...
I am very new here and this is my first post.
My partner and I have been a vegan for a number of years and for the most part I don't miss eating meat and dairy at all.
I am 38 and trying to exercise regularly with calisthenics and kickboxing (lockdowns allowing).
I would like to try to commit to the whole foods plant based way of cooking as at the moment I have fairly all encompassing cravings where I want to eat processed sugar based foods, processed vegan foods in general (fake meats etc), as well as carb heavy white breads and pasta etc.
I have spoken to two nutritionists about getting guidance for this but I haven't found them to be helpful really. One was fine, but uninspiring and the other just appeared to be pushing his own brand of supplements, he barely talked about "real" food at all!!
Anyway, I love food. I love flavours and textures and looking at whole food plant based recipes leaves me so cold. Steamed or raw vegetables, no oil, few varied sauces etc.
I feel like I'm starting to burn out a bit from it all.
I want to develop discipline and healthy habits that mean I don't turn to sugary snacks or eat a loaf of white bread a day, but I want to enjoy the food I am eating. I want it to taste of something. I don't want to be eating soup five days a week.
I am totally willing to accept that I will need to make sacrifices, or even just recognise that food tastes good in of itself and that it doesn't need to be fried or covered in a fatty sauce.
Can anyone provide any guidance or advice? Maybe a strategy to warm myself up to this slowly? Get rid of cravings first and then look to introduce whole food ingredients and cooking techniques into my life slowly, so that are reinforced?
Before I choose to be vegan food was "my thing", lots of fresh ingredients, unusual meats, offal, lots of restaurants, cook books etc. Becoming vegan didn't mean that stopped, but trying to seek a healthier lifestyle is making me think that most of the things that I used to enjoy and revel in are now, no longer "allowed". Is this true?
Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to read this long first message. I really appreciate any time anyone is able to give to my questions.
I understand you 100%! I took the course by the Center for Nutrition Studies and got really excited about WFPB food but neither YouTubers nor doctors nor any cookbook could satisfy me. I just started creating recipes on my own and ended up actually putting a lot of time into it. I went to learn in some of the best vegan restaurants in Berlin (and supposedly the world). They are not WFPB but I thought it'd inspire me and it did! I've been full-time exploring whole plant-based foods for 2 years now and the reason why I commit to it so much is that it does need time and dedication by a lot of people for a food culture to transform.
The foods we are used to from a conventional vegan diet and non-vegan diet all have a certain culinary standard that has evolved over time. It is not easy to quickly reinvent the foods that brought you joy with whole plant-based foods. I'm absolutely not saying that a wfpb diet can't match up. I feel strongly that whole plant-based foods appeal to our true nature and don't only have unequaled culinary potential but their charms act more deeply and the satisfaction we can get from them is beyond the quality of any other food I know. I have cooked multiple courses even completely raw vegan for 20+ leaving everyone amazed (and decided to work in non-vegan restaurants because it's just a much higher level) but even now, I still don't feel like I have a personal food culture that I'm completely satisfied with. This is a topic with depth. But every day, I discover something completely new that paves the way for great food in the future that hopefully inspires other home cooks and chefs.
My advice to anyone struggling to enjoy a wfpb diet is to focus on good cookbooks that celebrate whole food rather than wfpb cookbooks or YouTubers. For sure, it's worth checking them out but I haven't found anyone that I'd recommend and who consistently cooks good food. I can recommend Ottolenghi books, especially "Plenty", "Plenty more" and "Simple". "My New Roots", "Vegetable Kingdom", "Zaika", "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison, "The Vegetarian Flavor Bible" (not a cookbook) look good to me as well, even though I haven't worked with them that much. Many recipes are vegan (some books are completely vegan) and they just make you understand cooking with whole foods, above all with whole veg, in general. Often, you can just ditch the oil or replace with whole grains and you have a really delicious wfpb recipe right there.
I personally ended up using a little oil in my recipes but always knowing what I use it for (heat agent, flavour intensifier, flavour medium, smoothness, etc) and trying to keep it at a minimum. I have created lots of delicious recipes that don't use oil and it was really interesting and challenging as a cook to do that. But you can certainly face some difficulties because that is pretty new territory.
One main thing to consider when cooking oil-free or low is that you need to find the satisfactory stimulation you can achieve with oil elsewhere. This is something one could write books about but generally, with vegetable dishes you want to focus more on lighter, floral notes. So incorporate occasionally herbs, fresh ginger, fresh or dried fruits etc in the finish (during the end, the more volatile aromas the more heat-sensitive they are)
Here are the two strategies that were difficult but worked for my husband and myself.
Our focus on our meals was difficult. To simplify it all. I just packed the refrigerator with ready to eat, ready to heat meals, at all times, it is stuffed full, that is my job. Once it is full we move on to the next strategy.
In the first strategy, we have bean dishes, stir fries, starches like rice/beans/cooked grains/potato wedges/cooked squash, also salad-big complicated ones with lettuces, tomatoes, broccoli, two kinds of diced pickles, cooked grain, rinsed cooked legumes, assorted chopped vegetables, and a tomato no oil dressing, oat 'cookies' sweetened only with fruit. Our fridge is always packed full. We eat when we are hungry, not at an assigned meal schedule.
The second strategy, is to recognize that in the past we lived to eat but that is not healthy all that focus on eating as the only source of joy in the world. Now we eat to live. We eat completely healthy, for our health, then move on to what gives us joy and happiness in life.
The source of your joy and happiness is where you put in your time. It might be a new hobby, like reading nutritional stuff (which I did for 2+ years), or take up a hobby like painting (which I started in December last year), or do metal detecting or copper hunting (husband's hobby), or put in a big garden (which we do every year), or spend time with the grand children or children, if you have that option, or volunteer in an area you have interest. Find a source of joy and happiness for yourself and stop focusing so much on how this or that meal needs to be the focus of your attention, because it does not need to be that. When you are hungry eat, move on.
So these strategies worked for us, and it wasn't a straight line, it was tough but we did it.
1. Eat to live, move on.
2. Find your source of joy and happiness, focus on that.
Good advice but...
We haven't heard or seen the OP for months. My mother used to have a phrase: like talking to a blank wall, which seems oddly appropriate here.
Not that other might benefit from your advice but maybe save it for the next guy who comes around and asks.
Actually I was just reminded of a joke.
A newcomer is escorted to a cell by three heavily armed guards. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, he notices he has a cellmate. All of a sudden, someone shouts, "71!" Everybody in the prison starts cracking up.
The newcomer asks his cellmate why they were all laughing. He responds, "After a while, we all memorized all the jokes. So we assigned numbers to them. Now whenever we want to tell a joke, we simply shout a number, and everyone knows what joke it is."
Someone shouts, "66!" and this time the new guy laughs with them. He asks his cellmate if he can try.
"Sure, go ahead," his cellmate responds.
"103!" shouts the guy. Instead of laughter, however, he gets only groans. "Was that not a funny joke?" he asked the cellmate.
"No, it was," he responded. "But you told it wrong."
I'm wondering if maybe we should do that with our answers. So next time someone asks about WFPB, Emma could say, "1", I could say, "15", Silva could say, "73" and you could say "101"
I subscibe to toe ccokbook theory. A cookbook is so easy to just take of the shelf and start creating. Using a cookbook for a long time will get you acquainted with WFPB and will give you many options to mix in your own style. For me, it is no use to be constantly be looking up recipes on Youtube and I don't watch videos while cooking. It's just not practical.
Anyway, a good dietician should be able to get you on your way on a healthy WFPB diet but the cooking will remain a thing you'll need to do yourself. Practice makes perfect.