Healthy Vegan Meal Prep

Good morning and happy Saturday!

As some of you know, I started my first post-graduation job this January. After all these years of studying, it’s been an exciting change and I’ve been enjoying finally feeling like a working member of society! As anticipated, it obviously also radically changed my lifestyle – no more “insta-worthy” pancake stacks for breakfast, working in my pjs all morning, trying out new cafes in the afternoon, going to the gym anytime I want etc. etc.

This past month I’ve been getting up at 5.30 am, leaving the house in the dark, getting back home in the dark, having some dinner and going to bed between 9.30/10 pm. Definitely less time to do some of the things I love, and certainly no longer the luxurious option of being able to cook my meals throughout the day. To make my life a bit easier, I knew the time had come to finally delve into the fascinating practice of meal prep.

It’s early days, but I thought I’d share with you some of my meal prep routine so far.

 

SUNDAY MEAL PREP

This is the more “serious” meal prep, when I can make lots of different elements if I want to. So far my strategy has been to:

1. Cook a grain (like quinoa or millet) and

2. Throw some random things in the oven to roast. Then I combine these elements in my trusty tupperware and can:

3. add a dollop of hummus, mashed avocado etc. on the day, to switch things up.

During the week I miss having more time and energy to spend in the kitchen, so I try get a proper cooking session in on the weekend – especially on Sunday. By Friday/Saturday I generally have an idea of what this will be, so I have everything I need on Sunday.

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Meal Prep #1: To illustrate, my first serious Sunday meal prep involved cooking a batch of millet, while oven-roasting chopped sweet potato, pumpkin, plantain, carrots and turmeric-ginger cauliflower. I also quickly heated up some frozen peas (by simply adding boiling water from the kettle), which I added to the tupperware. At work, one of my colleagues offered me some of her gloriously pink beetroot hummus, which was the perfect addition. I now tend to have a tub in the fridge, to add some to my prepped meals. (No time to make my own hummus on a regular basis anymore…)

You can make this as simple or complex as you like – simply roasting up a batch of sweet potato and cauliflower and adding some hummus and fresh greens, or making more elements on the stove, like a curry. Last Sunday I went all out, also making a yellow lentil, pumpkin & kale dhal, flower sprout chips and quinoa, to combine with my oven-roasted goodies, beetroot hummus and avocado.

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(This is how I served it up for my boyfriend and I on Sunday – the copious leftovers I transferred to tupperware, and I still had some servings of dhal I could freeze).

 

SIMPLE WEEKDAY PREP

You probably can make enough on a Sunday to last you all week. I don’t like keeping leftovers in the fridge for too long, though, and my freezer space is quite limited. Instead, I end up doing another meal prep during the week. Difference to the Sunday one? It only takes about 15 minutes. Here are my favorites:

Meal Prep #2: Turmeric & Ginger Quinoa (an old staple) with carrots and peas. Minimal chopping, everything in one pot, no fuss. I like to stir through some coconut oil or olive oil at the end. Depending on what I have around, I add on to this or switch it up, e.g. adding flower sprouts a few minutes before the quinoa has cooked, or some hummus, leftover roasted veg etc.

Meal Prep #3: Mediterranean Pasta – I add wholemeal spelt pasta (usually I make two – large – servings) and 1 head of chopped broccoli into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for about 5-6 minutes. While this is cooking I chop 1 zucchini, 1 small aubergine and several sundried tomatoes (the kind in olive oil with herbs). When the broccoli pasta is done, I transfer it to a colander, then heat up one clove of crushed garlic in some of the olive oil from the jar of tomatoes. I add the diced veg and cook for a few minutes, adding salt. Once they’re soft I add the pasta into the pan, to mix all the flavors and also season with some mixed Italian herbs and maybe some smokey paprika.

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Meal Prep #4: Tahini Tomato Pasta – another old staple I often used to have as a simple post-workout meal. Basically you cook pasta with veggies of your choice and stir in tahini, tomato paste, some olive oil (and smokey paprika and/or cayenne pepper for some heat).

 

DESSERT/SNACK PREP

We can’t forget dessert can we? My favorite sweet treat to prepare has been my double chocolate cookies (pictured in the first photo). They are so quick to prepare (you can even have them raw if you’re really low on time) and full of nourishing ingredients. My only problem has been that I eat a lot of them on Sundays already, and don’t have enough left to last me through the week. For more healthy sweet treat ideas check out my breakfast cookies (for breakfast on-the-go or dessert – you can always add a bit of maple syrup if you prefer them even sweeter), fudgy feel-good squares (pictured below), chocolate-covered pitaya and PB&J energy balls.

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These options may not be quite as glamorous as the quinoa-sushi-burritos or soba noodle salads with peanut sauce and coriander I pictured myself making, after watching YouTube videos on vegan meal prep – but they’ve been working for me, keeping me nourished throughout the day without taking up too much of my time. I’m sure I’ll be adding on to this as I play around with more options.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and please let me know about your meal prep routine if you have one!

Happy weekend 🙂

xoxo

 

Thoughts on my first plant-based Christmas

As we’re almost at the end of our Christmas countdown I thought I’d share some thoughts about how I’ve been feeling in the run up to my first fully plant-based Christmas.

While I was dairy-free this time last year, I was still eating seafood and it was therefore much easier for my family and I to agree on a common meal. Lacking a traditional Christmas dish we decided to infuse the culinary part of our festive celebrations with the spirit of a Greek summer, making us potentially the only family to eat grilled octopus and french fries on Christmas Eve. We all took part in the preparations, my mother by making the vegetables, salad and fries, my usually cooking- and all things raw and glibbery-averse sister by preparing the two octopuses (did you know they have beaks??), which my dad then grilled, and I by making a crumble for dessert. We all agreed it was one of the best Christmas meals we’d ever had.

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This year we have opted for the same thing, the only difference being that I won’t be able to join in the hellenic inspired fare. I didn’t think I’d mind that much, being so used to doing my own thing back in London, but I’ve found myself starting to feel a bit glum about the idea of us not all enjoying a common dish. This even more so because we will be having a Christmas brunch on the 25th and I saw the same problem arising – my Dad and sister making some sort of eggy, cheesy concoctions, my mom probably having bread and salmon, maybe some yoghurt with fruit, leaving me to make something for myself that no one would be interested in trying.

I’m writing this post not to moan, however, but to share what I’ve suggested so that this years’ Christmas meals don’t leave me feeling excluded. To start, I’ve taken over the side dish to our Christmas Eve meal, replacing the (rather boring) spinach my mom would have made with these delicious looking maple roasted hazelnut sprouts from Deliciously Ella. And for the Christmas day brunch I asked my family which of my suggested dishes they’d be most likely to try – the winner being vanilla pancakes (chia pudding, oatmeal, homemade granola and even chocolate pancakes were sadly rejected). I’ve also suggested making some guacamole, which the others can have with their eggs or salmon while I can spread it on some toast. Finally, I’ll be making something my family always liked in the past: sweet saffron maize rolls (replacing the butter with coconut oil and the milk with rice milk, which shouldn’t change taste or texture too much).

These are all small things – switching a side dish, adapting flavors so that they are more likely to be to everyone’s taste, adding a versatile spread that everyone can add to their meal, and modifying an old favorite that everyone is sure to like – but they are definitely making me feel much more excited about Christmas meals with my family.

While it can be practical and easiest for everyone to just do their own thing, having some common things to share and enjoy together is definitely much more in the spirit of Christmas. And, as I realized today, it’s not too late to make some changes if you’re feeling unhappy at the prospect of Christmas dinner. You may not get everyone to agree to a kale salad, nut roast and a raw chocolate log (would have loved to make this!), there are always healthy and delicious options that everyone can enjoy.

Happy Christmas prepping!

xoxo

Whole Plant-Based Eating: My Personal Philosophy

Whole plant-based eating refers to a diet centered around whole (i.e. unprocessed) plant foods. Sometimes confused with veganism (which is a lifestyle not a diet), whole plant-based eating is generally adopted by people because they believe that it is healthier and not primarily because it benefits animals or the environment. This is why you may see honey used in plant-based recipes, but not in vegan ones. Another difference is the emphasis on “whole” foods. While it’s possible to be vegan by subsisting on fries and soy ice cream, a person eating a whole plant-based diet will avoid or minimize refined sugar and processed foods, such as ready meals or supermarket cookies.

For the past few months I have been eating this way and loving the way it makes me feel. Knowing that I’m nourishing my body with good foods full of nutrients that won’t spike my blood sugar or deposit lots of cholesterol in my arteries gives me a deep sense of satisfaction from my food, that lasts even after the pleasure from actually eating it has subsided. By eating this way I’m also discovering new and exciting foods (purple sweet potato, maca, tempeh and almond butter, to name a few) and incorporating more of some familiar foods (e.g. oats, beans, broccoli, flaxseeds, turmeric), bringing more variety to my diet than before.

Eating food that is not only good for you, but also delicious is in my eyes the ultimate win-win situation (what’s not to like about having chocolate pancakes for breakfast while providing your body with proper nourishment?!). To me, whole plant-based eating is a celebration of tastes and textures, flavors and flavonoids, abundance and anthocyanins and no compromise indulgence. All this can also be a wonderful creative outlet, as it has become for me – experimenting with new foods, finding ever more interesting recipes and creating own ones.

I have also found that a passion for delicious and nutritious food can be incredibly social. Since starting this blog and my Instagram back in the summer of 2016, I have connected with so many wonderful people – both through social media and in real life. My move to London in September of the same year enabled me to (finally!) attend events by bloggers and brands I had previously been following from afar and I have been lucky enough to make amazing friends who share my passion in this area. Plant-based eating and health and wellbeing in general are something more and more people care about and therefore have the potential of bringing people together.

Let me, however, add a disclaimer to this seemingly unquestioningly pro plant-based lifestyle. What we eat and don’t eat is very personal and, of course, highly individual. I don’t believe a fully plant-based lifestyle is right for everyone, and it may not even be unconditionally right for me either. While I do believe that the more plant-based and homemade meals the better, we should all eat in a way that makes us feel our best – physically and emotionally. Food should be a source of enjoyment – not something to beat ourselves up about or to impose strict and miserable standards on. Right now, a fully plant-based diet makes me happy and I will continue eating this way for as long as feels right, without feeling bound by any labels.

Finally, let me end this by saying: Whoever you are and however you eat (vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, ovolactovegetarian, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, plant-based or, as my Mom likes to say, simply “normally”), I hope this blog inspires you to eat some delicious, nourishing food and maybe try out something new.

 

xoxo

 

Reading Tip: If you’re interested in reading about the benefits of eating lots of yummy plant food, check out How Not To Die, by Dr. Michael Greger (it’s what kick-started my journey to plant-based eating).