Tomorrow (Thursday, March 20) marks the first day of spring. It also marks the internationally recognized Meatout Day. Participants from around the world have pledged to eat vegan on this day, in honor of animals, the planet, and individual health. The goal is to share the benefits and joy of a plant-based diet, and promote the widespread availability and expansive selection of alternatives to meat and dairy.
If you are interested in making a Meatout Day pledge, there is still time. If a single day seems too simple for you, but you’d still like to take things a step at a time, you can make a pledge to honor Meatless Mondays, dedicating every Monday (one day a week) to vegetarian or vegan eating. Or, you can always pledge to dive in head first and go all the way vegan, all the time.
If you are not quite ready for a pledge of any kind, but are still looking to migrate toward a plant-based diet this season, here are some simple, affordable, low prep, plant-based meals you can easily spring for. Yes, vegan food can certainly be exotic, elaborate, decadent, or even fancy, but it doesn’t have to be. Nor does it have to require great effort. The following staple options show that subbing out your typical meal with one of the vegan variety is not as daunting as it may seem, and can even be done all day, every day, if you so choose.
BREAKFAST: Spring for Oatmeal
Nothing starts the day off right like an invigorating bowl of oatmeal. From bright berries, to nut butters and even bittersweet cacao nibs, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of oats, and mixing up the perfect oatmeal is as easy as 1, 2, 3. With so many options, you won’t ever have to make the same bowl twice.
LUNCH: Spring for Salads
Contrary to a once held popular belief, being vegan doesn’t mean you are pinned down in your chair and forced to eat salads everyday; however, it does give you a prime excuse to spring for making the most of salads whenever you so desire. This can be done by layering a myriad of veggies, fruits, nuts, and legumes over a bed of your favorite greens. My bed usually features spinach, with the frequent inclusion of arugula. If you are looking for something that mirrors the texture of real meat, fear not. Faux chicken strips have come a long way. One of my favorite faux picks is Gardein Teriyaki Strips, widely available in the freezer section of grocery stores. While I don’t eat them all the time, I do invite them to my salad party on special occasions. Instead of using the packaged Teriyaki sauce included, I simply sauté on the stove in my own desired seasoning, and in a few minutes have chick’n grilled to perfection.
SNACK: Spring for Hummus
The beauty of hummus (on top of its deliciousness) is that it can be added to your salads, or it can be a stand alone snack, perfect for dipping. Although you can pick up hummus at just about any grocery store you frequent, and it is now offered in so many varieties your head may start to spin, you can also blend up your own. Having tahini on hand isn’t even a must. In fact, you can easily use peanut butter instead, to make a creamy, delectable spread. And if you start feeling bad because you ate too much, don’t you dare! This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich spread is doing your brain and the rest of your body good. You are right to proclaim “holy hummus!”
ANYTIME: Spring for Smoothies
As far as I’m concerned, smoothies shouldn’t be viewed as meal replacements, but rather day enhancers. A smoothie in the morning gets your day off to a nourishing start, whereas a smoothie after a workout helps you replenish, rehydrate, and restore nutrients. While I like to mix it up and don’t always go green, this Green Power smoothie is a comforting favorite.
DINNER: Spring for Sweet Spuds
Not hating on white potatoes, but, in recent years, my love for potatoes has switched over to the sweeter side. That’s right, health-boosting sweet potatoes. When I’m not using sweet potatoes to phone home (because you should never take yourself too seriously), you can find me baking up these sweet spuds, and topping with a spoonful of vegan butter.
A sweet potato sits on a plate nicely alongside any green or brightly colored vegetable medley. And there is always the option of serving it up with some BBQ tofu and asparagus. For a simple meat-like addition, along with their chick’n strips, Gardein makes some meatless meatballs that are also readily available at many grocery stores. Speaking of these meatballs, a sweet potato, steamed brussels sprouts with vinegar, and a side of said meatballs is one of my favorite post-long run recovery, or night before a long run fueling meals.
The above is a small selection of the straightforward wonders that can be crafted from plants—a mere morsel if you will. There is much more to come from this Vegan on the Run. But first, Spring Break awaits! Don’t worry, this break is one that will be filled with plenty of vegan eats made for the sharing.