Eating a plant-based diet isn’t something that even crosses my mind anymore. It’s just what I do. But for those who are making the transition to a vegan lifestyle, it’s often recommended to go in stages, rather than all at once. There are several reasons for this. While a plant-based diet is nutritionally sound for anyone at any age, new vegans may want to gradually become accustomed to unfamiliar ingredients, expand their cooking repertoire, and explore new recipes before jumping in full-time. They may also need to familiarize themselves with how to best achieve their nutrient intake with plants, as well as learn how to deal with everyday pressures from both society and loved ones about their choices.
One thing I liked about Mark Bittman’s book VB6 was that it provided a sound approach to eating vegan the majority of the time (i.e. before 6pm). For many people still evaluating its benefits, it’s manageable to eat vegan for breakfast and lunch, and then not limit oneself to plants at dinner.
Taking the VB6 approach one step further, I’ve often thought that lunchtime is probably the easiest meal to follow a plant-based diet. Grains, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables and legumes can comprise a flavorful, healthy lunch that fills you up. Better yet, with all of the variety you don’t feel like you’re “missing out” on anything. So if you’re not already vegan, but thinking about taking steps toward a plant-based diet, lunch is the perfect place to start.
Whether you bring it or buy it, there are countless ways to enjoy a plant-based lunch. While breakfast and dinner options can center around animal products, lunches in the form of salads, soups, sandwiches and smoothies either start out as vegan or can be easily customized. For example, switch to a vinaigrette, as opposed to a dairy-based salad dressing. Substitute chunks of avocado on a salad instead of cheese. Or, enjoy a soup made with vegetable broth, such as a hearty lentil or a creamy leek thickened with potatoes for a satisfying main dish. You will soon find that with the right substitutions, you won’t miss the animal products.
Another advantage of a plant-based diet at lunch is that it doesn’t weigh you down. I mean, how often do you hear your coworkers saying, “I just overdid it on black bean soup and a green salad and I feel like I’m going to fall asleep.” Never! Because a balanced vegan lunch containing lots of protein and vegetables doesn’t leave you sleepy or weighted down. Simply by eliminating meat and dairy, you have fewer calories, less fat and no dietary cholesterol, which minimizes stress on your metabolic system. Eating whole, unprocessed plant-based foods at lunch leaves you energized and satisfied, ready to take on the rest of the day.
Be sure to consider the types of carbohydrates you include in your lunch. While carbs are present in just about everything and are needed for energy, foods like white bread break down quickly resulting in fatigue. It’s best to include plenty of fiber and protein in the form of nuts, legumes and vegetables to help prevent a rapid rise and fall in blood glucose, and sparing you the afternoon slump.
To keep your vegan lunch exciting, and to see how just how easy and enjoyable it can be, check out some delicious plant-based lunchbox inspiration from around the Web:
Vegan Lunches You Can Take To Work (FitSugar)
10 Vegan Lunch Ideas (The Kitchn)
Vegan Lunch Recipes (Eating Well)