*Heads up! This post is for everyone, but it may appeal more to someone who is “first starting” a healthy lifestyle, rather than someone who’s been at it for a while.
If I tell someone I’m meeting for the first time that I’m vegan, the questions start rollinnn’ in. Though I get asked about a lot of things, some reoccurring themes I’ve seen over the years are cost, creativity (learning how to cook/what goes with what taste-wise), and the concern of eating enough food/nutrients.
I remember when I first went vegetarian, I didn’t like it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because I missed meat, it was more because I didn’t enjoy what I was making and I never felt full. When I decided to “cut something out” of my diet, my brain automatically reverted to think about what I couldn’t have all of the time, rather than what I could. It’s as if broccoli, carrots, and spinach were the only things I could think of to prepare, and steaming them or throwing them in the microwave was the only way I knew how. This obviously isn’t true…I just wasn’t educated on what foods were out there, how to prepare them to make them taste amazing, what flavors worked well together, and what my body needed nutrient wise to keep me full and energized.
Honestly, it took me years of meal prep and recipe testing to get to a place where preparing food for myself became like second nature. BUT, I now realize that if there would have been someone there to say, “Hey! Raw broccoli and black beans with salt and pepper will taste like shit, and that’s not a meal. Here’s how you can do this quickly and enjoy it,” it would have been so much easier and enjoyable. So, I’m writing this post in hopes that I can be that person for you. Even if you aren’t vegan, my go-to formula can help you. Though the formula is plant-based, you can add in anything you want. Just try not to take anything away because everything is there for a reason. (AKA, nutrients!)
FYI: This formula builds SIMPLE meals, which allows them to be quick and cost-efficient. This approach fits my lifestyle a little better than the fancy recipes out there (which I love dabbling into when I have time), but usually, I’m always on the go while working with a tight budget. In general, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are way cheaper than people realize (spinach/kale, beans, and fruit often come in at under $5 for large amounts).
gater’s easy healthy meal formula…the GGBV rule
Grains + Greens + Beans + Vegetable
Let’s break it down.
Whole grains, not refined. Examples: Quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, black rice, barley, farro, buckwheat, oatmeal. Depending on the grain, this part of the equation provides protein, B vitamins, fiber, and minerals. They also keep you full and make meals more substantial.
Leafy vegetables. Examples: Spinach, kale, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, micro greens, swiss chard, cabbage, and romaine lettuce. I love my greens, but unfortunately, they aren’t the best to enjoy alone due to the mass quantity you need to take in to feel full and STAY full. However, they taste amazing, and they are loaded with nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, flavonoid anti-oxidants, potassium…the list goes on and on. I try to have greens in every meal, including breakfast. They do nothing but help you, so I say, load em’ up! When I eat greens, I eat them raw, sauté them in coconut or olive oil, or roast them in the oven.
Beans provide taste, protein, texture, and substance. In order to feel satisfied after a meal that’s made of mostly plants, you need beans or anything of that nature that’s filled with protein, healthy fats, and other food components that energize you and keep your tummy happy. Obviously, the beans part of this equation is mostly talking about…well, beans. But in my mind, I categorize other things with them. Examples: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas (my personal fav), split peas, lentils, and edamame. Though they aren’t actually beans, I also umbrella nuts and seeds into this part of the equation, for they provide your body with many of the same nutrients (such as protein) and they keep you full. My go-to nuts and seeds are almonds, pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed. I often eat beans raw, or I add them to the skillet when I’m sautéing something.
I always add vegetables to my meals IN ADDITION to my greens. It’s super important to do this so you’re gaining optimal nutrients, eating enough food, and so you don’t get bored with the same meals over and over again. Spice it up! Try a food you don’t usually cook with. Examples of my favs: carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, onion, peppers, asparagus, radishes, zucchini, and beets. Roasting vegetables is my SHIT, but I eat them raw and saute them as well.
**Remember: When you’re preparing meals, you have the world at your fingertips. You can add spices, drizzle lemon, play with different ways to prepare it all, whatever. This formula is much more of a baseline or building block rather than a recipe, ya know? Many people feel overwhelmed when they try to start eating healthy; like they don’t even know where to begin. This is how I felt, at least. This formula is a great place to start when you’re getting your toes wet, and it checks off all of the important boxes so your healthy transition doesn’t seem impossible: cheap, filling, tasty, and versatile.
In good health,