Whether you are vegan (or plant-based) athlete or not, stock your kitchen the vegan way will help you. The vegan kitchen can be an addition to your other healthy items. You know that if you keep healthy food in your fridge and home, you will eat healthy food. Don’t leave the temptations of bad foods around you and you won’t eat poorly.
Healthy diet starts in the store. Actually, it starts in your mind first, but then when you go to the store, buy only foods that are supporting your health and your performance. By the way, don’t go shopping when you are super hungry or you will succumb to all the temptations. But you know this rule already, right?
Stock your vegan kitchen to the fullest, because if you don’t have healthy foods around you, you will be tempted to order a pizza or stop by some fast food place on the way home. A great variety of foods in your fridge and kitchen will allow you to be creative. In my book I always encourage you to “play with your food” (something that your mom was always scolding you for when you were little right?). I mean to be creative, don’t be scared to put different combinations of vegetables and fruits together. Experiment. All the different flavors create truly amazing experiences in your mouth.
Staples of the Vegan Kitchen
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be always in your home. Weather you are plant-based or the most carnivore athlete. Fruits are a perfect snack, perfect meal, perfect to-go-to when you are hungry and have nothing around. They give you energy and fill you with nutrition until you can eat a real meal. Same with the vegetables. Always have fresh veggies in your fridge and you will find yourself eating them more.
You should always have them in your freezer. They are conveniently peeled, washed, and cut. They are easy and quick to use.
Frozen fruits: I always keep several bags of frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries). My favorite places to get them are Costco or Trader Joe’s. I buy organic if possible. My other frozen fruits are mangoes, figs, pineapple, and bananas. When your fresh bananas are becoming too ripe and brown and you realize you won’t finish eating them before they go bad, cut them in smaller pieces and freeze them. You can later add them into your smoothies or make a delicious “ice-cream” by blending them in the blender with a little bit of coconut or almond milk. Yum.
Frozen vegetables such as peas, mixed vegetables, soy beans, corn, etc (I always buy organic) are a good “emergency” food for your stir fries or soups when you run out from fresh vegetables. I use frozen green peas a lot (adding them to my raw salads) because they are crunchy, sweet and contain a lot of protein.
Canned or dry beans
Using canned beans is much more convenient than dry bean, which take more time and more effort to prepare. If you use canned beans, choose a company that uses BPA-free cans (such as Eden Organic). Choose low or zero sodium versions as much as you can, and always wash and rinse them thoroughly before eating. You can find many different beans: black, lima, mung, navy, red, garbanzo, adzuki, pinto, soy, white beans and many more. You can also use black, brown, green, red or yellow lentils, and many versions of peas.
When I became raw vegan (I don’t cook any of my foods), I stopped using canned beans and legumes and I sprout them instead. I first soak them and then for a few days I let them to shoot little sprouts. They call this “living food” because they contain tremendous amounts of nutrients and enzymes. I use the sprouted legumes in my salads or any other recipes.
You can blend your canned (or sprouted) beans into a home made hummus or any other paste/dressing from other beans. Beans are a great addition of protein to your diet.
Compared to processed grains (like in cookies, cakes, muffins, breads, cereals, etc), whole grains are healthy and nutritious. Besides the most known wheat and oats, there are many varieties that are becoming more popular these days: quinoa, bulgur, farro, buckwheat, wheat berries, barley, rye, millet, amaranth, and many more. (I have the full lists in my “The Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle“).
If you are skilled enough to boil water for rice or pasta, you can prepare all these grains with ease and success. They add different flavors to your dishes and also different nutrients. Personally, I don’t cook my grains, but I let them sprout, just like my legumes, when I want to eat them. I must admit that I am a bit lazy with sprouting of the grains (and waiting for a few days) so I don’t consume as many grains as I used to.
Grains are inexpensive and easy to store and therefore an excellent staple for your vegan kitchen.
Condiments, spices, herbs
I love using spices and herbs because they add different touch to your meals. You can make your foods taste oriental, south European, south American… name it. I use both fresh and dried herbs and I have many of them at home. Again, I use my mantra “play with your foods” and I experiment extensively with spices and herbs, creating meals and flavors that I am often surprised what a yumminess is on my plate :-)
Since becoming raw vegan, I use less condiments (bottled sauces, marinades, dressings etc) because they often are not raw. If I want sauce, I just make it in my blender. But too often I just put all the spices directly into the meal, without “pre-blending” them.
Nuts, oils, seeds
To me this is the highlight of the vegan kitchen. I love nuts so much that I often lose control over how much I eat. Therefore, I am not having them as a staple of my vegan kitchen. For you, if you can control yourself and use moderation, nuts and seeds are an excellent addition to your meals, smoothies and as a healthy snack. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds… Add them to your grains, add them to your beans, add them to your vegetable salads or fruits salads. They are crunchy and always add a yummy contrast.
I often use coconut or almond milk in my meals, salads, smoothies or tea/coffee. You can make your own if you are into it, because it is very simple, or you can go to any store and find an amazing selection of non-dairy milks. Just find the brand and flavor that you enjoy.
Dried fruits and vegetables
A great snack when you have a sweet tooth and cravings for a cake or ice cream. The concentrated flavor satisfies you and is much healthier than processed sweets. You can buy dried fruits in bulk very inexpensively, or you can make your own in a dehydrator from fresh produce. My favorite dried fruits are dates (they are raw), raisins, persimmons, figs… and many many more. I love them all. Dried peas and carrots are my favorite vegetable snack to crunch on.
It is easy to have healthy foods in your kitchen, if you choose so. If you are not 100% plant-based, use all these vegan foods as your foundation, your base, your biggest part of the plate, and then add a little piece of your animal food that you prefer to eat to feel satisfied. You notice eventually that when you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, your body will be nourished, you will feel better, recover faster and perform stronger, and you make crave less animal products because you will feel satisfied with all the fruits and veggies in your tummy.
Now, take the first step and clean your kitchen. Get rid of all the processed and unhealthy foods and snacks, then restock it with all the staples that make a great vegan kitchen. Your healthy eating will become easy and effortless.